In February of 2009, my husband and I bought our first home located on a few acres in Johnson, Vermont. We live here with our dog, Ollie, two cats: Elvis and Atticus, six Nigerian Dwarf goats: May, Chutney, Poppy, Juniper, Willow, and Jokers Wild, and about fifteen laying hens. And to top it all off we welcomed our daughter, Isabel, into the world on January 11th, 2011.

We're slowly updating our 1850's farmhouse while steadily working towards a healthy, meaningful, self-sufficient life together.

This blog details our endeavors along with our successes and failures- all in good fun. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!


May and I enjoying some sunshine


Another year of firsts.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, August 30, 2010 2 comments

Last year had been a whirlwind of firsts.  Our first house, marriage, goats and chickens.  We made it through in full force last year and haven't slowed down yet.  Kyle and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary this year.  We had decided not to go overboard in the name of frugality- so it was a day without cards or flowers or gifts.  We both agreed afterwards that this had been a mistake, but we're good at learning from our mistakes.  Days like that, the day of two lives joining together as one, should always be met with a celebration of some kind.  Our wedding day had been perfect.

Its hard to believe that over a year has passed already since we tied the knot and I'm beginning to realize just how quickly these years are passing now.  So much has happened in the past few years, especially in this past year.  I look back to where I was five or six years ago and compare that to where I am today and I am exceedingly thankful and satisfied with the difference.  Life has a purpose.

I've said it before, our life is no picnic, we work hard at our jobs and we come home to work hard some more.  We have to work through disagreements and sometimes have our days where we just don't get along.  But things are always worked out.  We're two peas in a pod- two very stubborn peas.  The kind that keep coming back in your garden year after year despite how sure you are that you got them all out at harvest time.  Yeah, we're those peas.

Kyle and I have always shared our goals and our dreams with eachother- so even early on in our relationship we talked about our feelings about money, relationships, marriage, and even children.  We are lucky that we share the same views on all these things, it has made our relationship much smoother.  (As I said before: two peas.)  Instead of arguing about what to do with our money we get to focus on more important things, like how old Meryl Streep is or how long it takes to drive from our house to New York City.  You know, stuff like that.

After giving it lots of thought, we decided to take action on one of the previously mentioned topics of discussion.  We're having a baby.  This was one of the main culprits for our lack of anniversary-celebration this year, I admit, we had all these fun activities for the day planned but as my "morning sickness" lasted throughout the day it made it difficult to want to eat out or take the kayaks for a swim. 

SO!  Now that the cat is officially out of the bag I'm hoping to get back into my regularly scheduled blog posting as I've got tons to update you all on regarding the house and nursery.  Talk about renovation nation going on at casa Senesac- we're pushing to get the entire second floor finished by the end of the year!  Plus the dining room!  OH and getting our chimeny/woodstove installed next month!  Plenty of goings-on and I hope you'll stay tuned for all the long-overdue updates!

So folks, thats the big news that I've been holding on to.  My estimated due date is January 26 (which puts me at almost 5 months right now).  You can see in the picture below I've started "showing" as it is so lovingly called- note the elastic waistband pants and my prepregnancy t-shirt that just isn't long enough anymore.

A Frustrating Loss

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, August 26, 2010 0 comments

As I mentioned in a previous post, we clipped our chickens' flight feathers a few weeks ago.  It was great for a few days; they stayed in their pasture.  After the initial few days of perfectly behaved chickens, just a few were found on our front yard but then as the days passed more and more would be found outside their fenced-in area.  They stuck to just our yard for quite a while, but lately they have been venturing further and further away again as they did before we clipped their wings.

I'm not sure what to do at this point.  With almost fifty chickens a movable "chicken tractor" seems like it would have to be too large and cumbersome to work.  It may be a combination of a few small holes in our fencing that need to be patched and the fact that they can jump up on our wooden gate to escape, both of these things need to be fixed in the next few weeks.  Hopefully that will remedy the problem because we suffered our first loss yesterday due to a wandering hen.  The poor thing was hit by a car when she walked all the way down the road to where our relatively quiet dirt road meets a paved road where people drive way too fast.  It was no suprise, it was just a matter of time really, but it's just so frustrating.

I just don't get it.  We have tons of grass, sun, shade, and plenty of dirt and pebbles in our driveway.  I don't understand what keeps calling these birds away from our yard.  I hope we can get them corralled again soon, I'd hate to lose anymore.

A Quick Farm Update

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, August 16, 2010 2 comments

We recently inherited another ten chickens from our friend who moved a couple weeks ago.  Along with the Buckeye and Barred Rock laying hens were four Buckeye roosters.  As I helped Stu unload them from the back of his truck I was a little nervous; we're on pretty good terms with our neighbors and we'd really prefer to keep it that way.  I stood there at the fence after he left, watching the dynamics of the flock to be sure there wasn't going to be any huge fights, especially with the roosters.  They are still young enough that they haven't developed their spurs so they can't do as much damage.  Things settled down fairly quickly after some dueling here and there with some of the larger Australorp hens and the roosters.  I'm hoping that we'll be able to keep one or two of the roosters so we can replenish our flock, but we'll have to wait and see how noisey they are once they settle in.  It seems like they're doing their job, though, because for the past few days one of the Australorps has been happy to stay in one of the nesting boxes.

The goats are doing well.  Juniper's leg healed fantastically and she's gotten to where she doesn't have a limp and can run and jump just as well as the other two girls.  I feel a small sense of accomplishment with that.  Our attempts at milking Chutney were a bust.  Between her unwillingness to stand still and the small size of her teats due to being a first freshener made it infuriatingly difficult to get much milk.  We've been considering investing in a larger goat that would be easier for us both (especially Kyle since he has larger hands) to milk.  But we'll see how that goes.

The second swarm that stopped by one of our trees left last weekend.  Kyle had just finished building the top bar hive and we placed it under the swarm.  It was getting late in the day and we were both exhausted, so we thought we'd give them the night and the next morning to think about checking out the hive on their own before trying to drop them into the box.  The next morning we awoke and found that they had left.  Our own hive is doing well, though, we're ready to take a few frames out to harvest a bit of honey.  Kyle is hoping it will help with his allergies- the poor guy has been congested for weeks.

Finally, our garden.  I was so excited about the garden this year; I was so determined to make it a success.  Well, my friends, you know the saying about good intentions, right?  Unfortunately we've met some difficulty here as well.  We went down to the garden last week to find something had chewed the stalks of our tomato plants that had been doing so well.  They were lost.  Not only that, the black beans are being systematically attacked by something as well.  They were looking great a few weeks ago, but I checked them one day to find a patch of the bed had been demolished, then a few days later, more plants were gone.  I'm not sure what we'll be left with, but I'm not holding out much hope.

The few plants that appear to be doing amazingly well are our summer squash, carrots, beets, and potatoes.  Of course, its hard to say what is going on underneath the potato plants, but I can only hope they are doing well.  Hopefully we'll have enough to save for seed potatos for next year.  Seeing our difficulty with this garden for the second year in a row, we've decided to re-evaluate our garden plans.  Being such non-green-thumbs, why did we decide to take on such a large plot?  Well, because it is there and we were determined to make it work.  Under other circumstances, perhaps if we didn't have the goats, chickens, house renovations, full time jobs, and a multitude of other things, we could have pushed through and made our garden a success.  But, we're too new at this and it was just unrealistic for us.

So, next year we're going to do a smaller garden.  Smaller, but happier.  We're considering moving it up to be right next to the house, on our small, south-facing lawn.  There, not only would it be potentially safer from critters (because the dogs are up there more often), but it is closer to the spigot so we don't have to drag five hoses all the way down the hill and back to water it when necessary.  But my favorite reason for moving it is that we'd be able to see it easily from our picture window.  When things are ripe we'll know sooner so we can grab them and we'd be more apt to weed more often if we see it every day.  So we'll start small and once we get the hang of that, we'll add another bed or two, and so on until we get to where we want to be.

So thats the plan my friends.  Just because things aren't going well doesn't mean we throw in the towel, we take a step back and see what we're doing wrong and what we can do to improve.  We'll get there.  Rome wasn't built in a day, right?  It takes time.  We'll get there.

Swarming Season

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, August 5, 2010 0 comments

Wowzers.  A few weekends ago, Kyle and I got home from a neighbor's funeral to find a mass of bees flying around the truck.  I was immediately concerned that it was our bees so suited up to check on our hive.  After checking a few frames and being satisfied with what I found on my hive inspection I went back up to the house to enjoy the show.  The sound of tens of thousands of bees flying through the air was amazing.

After just a few more minutes the chaos of flying bees quickly turned into a solid mass that had attached itself to a couple branches in one of the trees next to our house.  I stared up at them and wished that they had landed on a lower branch where we might have been able to transfer them to a second hive (not that we currently HAVE a second hive...but I had plans to whip up a quick Top Bar Hive).  I mean, FREE BEES people!  Seriously!  How could I pass this up?

After a few days of trying to convince Kyle to build this new hive for me he finally began.  The main box was mostly finished, we just needed the top bars for the bees to build their comb on.  Well, the day after this first part was completed the bees had left.  They had found a suitable new home somewhere and were nowhere to be found.  I was seriously bummed.

But last night, Kyle went out to play with Ollie in the back yard and came back into the house to say that there was another swarm of bees in the yard.  This time they are on a smaller tree, and quite low to the ground.  I didn't get a chance to get down there to check it out, but I'm hoping they'll stick around for a few days to allow us time to try to finish the hive.  Then, perhaps I will try to physically move them to their new home.