It’s cold here on the homestead.
Unseasonably cold for December. With the windchill, the temps are well below zero. They have been for almost a week and will continue to be so long into next week. The water pipes in our kitchen froze- something I’d expect of a 175 year old farmhouse, except the kitchen was a new addition in the 1980’s and whoever built it, skipped on the insulation. For an old house on the tippy top of a large hill where the wind always blows, in upstate NY where temps linger below freezing for months at a time - and they cheaper out on the insulation. It drives Joe crazy, my perfectionist handyman. I think it adds to the romance of the place, but water pipes that pour water at the command of a handle – turn are nice too.
The coal stove’s been working overtime and we’re staying warm. The fresh snow and bright sun that shines through the large hickory-framed windows are a balm to the frigid temps. It really is beautiful here.
I’ve decided to dedicate this post to a season by season account of what went on around here in 2017. Silly perhaps because I usually can’t remember what I ate for dinner, but helpful because documentation of such events usually is, and I need to get better at it.
So here goes! Consider this our Christmas card of sorts, to you my dear readers:
Winter of 2017:
-We were gifted some money for Christmas and decided to spend it by taking the whole family on an overnight adventure to a real hotel (gasp!) with a real pool (double gasp!). The kids were super excited. We loaded up the van and excurded to Albany, NYto visit the New York State Museum (which is FREE and awesome, btw), and then headed to our hotel, which I’d found a GREAT deal on. Except the reason I’d found such a great deal is because it was gross. Ugh. It did have a pool, but it was so cold in the pool area (think windows that had frost on the inside of them), that the pool experience was short lived. The rooms were in poor condition and we slept with one eye open I’m pretty sure. We headed home the next day grateful for the fun we had at the museum and grateful for our, if not fancy, cozy and familiar farmhouse.
-The baby (Gunnar) started crawling. And also eating solid foods. Bananas made him gag, and still do.
-Connor shot his first fox and learned how to skin and tan his first hide. This all fascinated his siblings, obviously.
-I drew an elaborate plan for the garden- and planned to utilize a method we’d never tried before. I perused seed catalogs, sitting up in bed late into the night, and ordered from Baker Creek, https://www.rareseeds.com/, as well as Plant Pollinator.
-We sold 3 pregnant goats and our buck, and traded another for three little pigs.
-We bought one registered pregnant Alpine doe- I took the 15 passenger (front wheel drive) van and the three girls to pick up “Jubilee”, who happened to live far down an unpaved road. It was snowy and icy and the van got stuck. The farmer woman who sold us the doe pulled us out with her tractor. It was a memorable experience.
-We hemmed and hawed over how many meat chickens to raise. And kept hemming and hawing until spring when I made an impromptu trip into town and came home with (I think) 100?
-Baby goats! We ended up with 7 bucklings and three doelings as is about our typical, of course. Always more bucklings. We were hoping for a doe out of our new registered doe, but got a buckling, and were also surpised at how good a mother little Jubilee was. Her little baby boy was her life! You couldn’t even get her on the milkstand to give her some grain without her bellowing and fighting to get down and back to her baby boy, not a single grain touched, and if you understand how much goats love their grain, you’ll understand the magnitude of that.
I had to assist our older goat, Whisper- who’d been accidentally bred when the buck jumped the fence to get to her. She ended up with twins who, I realized after a long hard labor, both wanted to be born at the same time. I had to “go in” and push the boy back so his sister could be born. After that, it all happened very fast- slip came the girl, and slip came the boy. Whisper was alright and immediately started doting on her babies despite her traumatic birth experience.
-Chicks! You read about that above- I came home one afternoon with about 100 chicks and we dove in. Unfortunately, the nipple waterer system we use for them upturned and got many of them soaking wet just a couple days after getting them. Because they were so little still and because it was still cold out and despite there being a heat lamp, we lost a lot. Probably about 25. That was the worst chick loss we’d ever experienced.
-Garden! I set to work covering half our backyard with cardboard, many, many, many wheelbarrow-fuls of spent hay, compost, manure, and woodchips, and hours and hours and hours later, we had a backyard covered with big brown lumps of raised beds. We weren’t really sure how it all was going to turn out…
The kids and I started seeds indoors and later them moved them to a makeshift cold frame I fashioned out of an old double window pane. It worked marvelous! We were so excited. And near the end of May, we worked diligently to transplant them all into the garden.
-Racoons. Something began picking off our laying hens one by one each night. So we set up surveillance (teenage boys with guns and camo and flashlights), and we got em. But not before he wiped out 1/3 of our flock.
Pigs- Near the end of spring, our three little pigs had grown to bacon size and were ready to go. They sure are fun creatures to raise. Expensive, but fun. Such quirky personalities. We had some drama getting them loaded onto the truck and Joe had to build a chute. When all was said and done, we sold one and a half, and kept the other one and a half for ourselves.
-Lucas, whose speech has been delayed, got ear tubes. It was determined that although he never had ear infections, he had chronic fluid in his ear, affecting his hearing. His speech is slowly improving.
Charlotte turned 7. I turned 39, Connor turned 18, Joe turned 39, Gunnar turned 1, Ava turned 13, and Lucas turned 3. Whew!
-I started this blog.
-Our best milking goat got sick very suddenly and died. We think it was grass tetany- too much fresh grass at once. It was the first time this happened to us, and our second goat to ever die, and was very sad.
-Connor revealed a HUGE bulls-eye rash on his leg. “Uh, Mom? This has been here for about a week. It keeps getting bigger and is starting to really hurt, should I worry?” !!! Oy. He ended up with a fever and flu like symptoms- the whole nine yards. But after antibiotic treatment he was re-tested and came back negative for Lyme’s Disease. Thank you Jesus.
-We took our annual trip to the Adirondack Mountains- a place I’ve been visiting every year since childhood, and a place I never want to leave once I’m there. Enough said.
-We started harvesting from the garden, which turned out so much better than I had expected. For the first time ever, I was easily able to keep up with the weeds (because there were hardly any), and I harvested enough to freeze and can a good amount.
-We processed and sold all those chicks we had bought, after they were raised on pasture on our lower field for 8 weeks. We sold many, and kept the rest for ourselves.
Garrett had jaw surgery and was in the hospital for three days and recovering for 2 months after that. He took it like a champ, as usual.
We picked armfuls of wild chamomile, plantain, chickweed, st john’s wort, comfrey, and yarrow and hung them in bundles to dry around the farmhouse.
-Gunnar started walking.
-Garrett turned 16, and got his driver’s permit.
-Connor graduated from high school.
-We sold all the goat babies, leaving us with just three adult does – the least amount of goats we’ve had in a long time. We’ll always have a few milking goats here (how could we not?), but we’re planning, and making room for something new…(no, I’m not pregnant).
-We finished harvesting from the garden- we were still so pleasantly surprised with how well it did. All the tomatoes ended up with blight though (a lot of tomatoes), but when a friend heard about this he showed up with four large boxes full. Bless him. I was processing tomatoes for three days straight.
-And then he came with grapes, in which I spent three more days. Grape juice, grape pies, grape jam, grape all over my kitchen. Not complaining.
-I had my first speaking engagement! The coordinator of a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group saw my blog and asked me if I would come speak. And so I did. And I was so nervous until God gave me just the right words. Love it when that happens. I really enjoyed it, and got so much positive feedback. Who knows if there will ever be a second experience, but I’d say the first was a success. To God be the glory.
I was asked to be a monthly contributor at https://www.virtuousmama.org/. I’ll be writing mostly on spiritual motherhood. Look for my first contribution in January!
Lucas was potty-trained. It took one single morning and was done. We are now down to ONE child in diapers. Can I get an amen?
-Brenna turned 10.
-We got a puppy! We welcomed, Nell, an Australian Shepherd/ Border Collie. She fits rather nicely.
Isaac turned 6 (2 days after Christmas, which technically isn’t fall anymore, but had to include him, too!)
Well there you have it. If you’re still here, thanks for reading and my apologies for such a long post! I suppose it was a productive year after all. I’m glad I took the time to recount much of what happened even though I’m sure I forgot to add several things. I’ll wake in the middle of the night remembering something important, no doubt.
If the momentum continues, look for a post of our homestead resolutions for 2018, perhaps next week.
Thanks for reading, and may you all enjoy a happy and blessed New Year filled with loved ones, successes big and small, growth from your failures, and the peace and joy that can only be found in Christ Jesus.