Missing in action

So, thanks to a combination of being at the height of harvest, and in turn preserving season, and what little creative juices I have left channeled into a few household and craft projects that desperately need finishing before winter sets in, this here blog has seemingly been abandoned. From the end of August to the beginning of October we hit our busiest time of the year. Kicking off with my birthday we then have 6 birthdays, usually a wedding or two to attend, throw in some other assorted autumn festivities such as harvest festival, local fiber festival, grape and apple picking…and holy crap we have 7 straight weekends completely booked.

In the madness of it all I have a lot of posts written in my head but have yet to find time to sit down and type them out. In the mean time, I have been working on a little time-lapse photography, of sorts, to help demonstrate what we do with our feeder pigs while waiting for them to reach market weight.

When we decided to homestead, a huge driving force was the astonishing cost of clean, grass-fed meat, not to mention the astronomical pricing of anything labeled certified organic. Vegetarians we are not, with the exception of PJ, who declares meat to be “yucky tasting and bad smelling,” so we knew that our ideal of wanting to know where our food comes from meant that we would most likely raise our own pork, beef and poultry. It was the logical next step, after Kevin began to hunt, and a responsibility that we treat with great reverence and, in turn, do not take lightly. So, we aim to give them a good life, filled with lots of fresh air, sunshine and the food they are meant to eat and in return they will, eventually, sustain us.

Our pigs are Gloucestershire Old Spot crosses, a heritage breed, like all the other livestock residing here on the farm. Tamworths were our first choice, owning to the fact that they are referred to as the “bacon breed” and everyone here, including the otherwise self proclaimed-vegetarian 4 year old, really, really loves bacon. But alas, there are no Tamworths to be found around here and ones about a 3 hour drive away have a waiting list two years in advance and 10 people deep. So GSDs it was! We also chose a heritage breed because of their superior rooting capabilities and their ability to thrive on pasture. While they still receive a large helping of local, organic grain every evening to speed up weight gain (mostly because we got them so late in the year and this crew has no interest in over-wintering our porcine friends) we want them to be mostly grass-fed. Since their arrival, our compost pile has been void of any green matter or food scraps, all of which finds its way into the slop bucket and then out to the pigs. They have also been the beneficiaries of any of mishaps resulting from my initial foray into cheese making, which thankfully takes the sting out of failure…no milk wasted during my learning curve!

We picked this group up just after they were weaned, back in late spring, and quickly sent them to work tilling the barnyard after a short quarantine in the barn. When moving day rolled around we decided to set them out on a bit of pasture reserved for garlic planting later this fall. With the help of a portable solar charger and some electronet pig fencing we have our own rototilling crew. We broke the area up into three sections and here is an example of what happened in each section in the span of four to six days, depending on rainfall…

Here is Day 1 about 10 minutes after we moved them onto a new section:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

As we move through fall and into winter we will turn them out onto each garden row after we pull the final harvest and allow them to turn over the soil and winterize for us, a job that would take Kevin and I the better part of a week to accomplish on our own. Many people have said to me, when they find out we are homesteading and striving to raise all of our own food, that they could never raise an animal and then send them off to the butcher, not to mention eating them for dinner. I, however, find great peace and solace in knowing the life that my dinner lived and being assured that it was a good one and that it had minimal impact upon the earth.I also know that sometime late this winter, over a dinner of pork chops, roasted garden potatoes, sugared carrots and homemade applesauce we will give thanks and marvel at how these pigs are not only feeding us but also, tilled, weeded and fertilized our garden, provided lard for soap making and entertained us daily with their antics. For as hard as it is to raise an animal from birth to table, I wouldn’t trade those blessings and assurances of traditional living for a shrink-wrapped grocery store package of unknowing any day!

Catching up

I had been tossing around the idea of starting this blog for awhile, as a way to chronicle all the goings on around here. I kept coming up with reasons to put it off, “I can’t come up with a good name, I don’t have extra time to sit down and write” and many other excuse that are too numerous to count. Thanks to constant bugging prodding from Kevin and gentle nudges from other friends and family, here it is. So, I needed to find a good way to catch everyone up on what has happened here on the farm since last November and this picture post is what I came up with. My hope is to be able to focus, in more detail, on the individual aspects of our homesteading life in the coming weeks. You know, in the spare moments between preschooler requests, toddler needs, animal chores, garden weeding and harvesting, food preserving, meal making and all the other “to-dos” that come with this simple life.

I’m also slowly working on the look of the blog and have been constantly tweaking it, so, if it seems to change every time you stop back you’ll know why.

Okay, here you go, the quick version of the past 9 months here on the farm. The amount of time it will take you to look through the photos is about how fast it felt while we were actually living it. Time flies and all that, ya know?

A little bit of our little prairie, covered in a morning frost.

Not long after moving in we discovered that there were gorgeous sunsets almost every night.

The first animals to arrive at the farm were the guinea fowl (above) and 10 Cayuga ducks. (Below)

During the heat wave, in March, we were able to get a head start on tilling up the garden and Dad’s hops yard, with help from our neighbor down the street.

The veggie garden, which we calculate to be about 2/3 of an acre, plowed, tilled and ready to be planted.

Planting peas, the first seeds to go in the garden of our new homestead.

The next arrival on the farm was Lilac, our someday dairy cow. We bought her from an organic dairy farmer, her farm happens to be right around the corner from us.

Next to arrive were the heritage breed piglets who will be pasture raised to market weight and then put in the freezer. Any extra meat, exceeding what we can eat in a year, will be sold.

Here are the first three, of our now 18, Shetland sheep. From Left to right, Hershey, Dessie and Hope. They are here not only to eat grass, giving Kevin and Dad a break from constantly mowing, but to also provided me with fiber to process and spin into yarn. Hopefully, this will make feeding my knitting habit much less expensive.

The growing garden in May.

Some of our laying hens outside the mobile coop that Kevin built for them. One hen has started to lay tiny brown eggs.

Free ranging on pasture will make for tasty and healthy eggs.

The first pullet egg next to Henrietta’s pale blue egg. Henrietta is the Americauna hen we inherited from the previous owner.

Some goodies, picked from the garden just a few days ago.

What’s new in your neck of the woods?

Here we go…

A view of the house, barns and livestock shelters from the ridge in the back pasture.

This first blog post, of mine, is an invitation of sorts. We want you to come with us on this new adventure of ours and the best part is we will be doing all the heavy lifting and poo hauling while you get to sit back, relax and enjoy your daily visits to the farm!

For quite a while, it has been a dream of Kevin’s and mine to start homesteading. To get back in touch with the earth, to know where our food comes from and to be sure that it only traveled the short distance from our backyard to our kitchen, not hundreds of miles like most store-bought goods. At the same time, my maternal grandfather had decided, that at 88 years old, he was ready to sell the home that he and my late grandmother had shared for over 50 years. My parents intended to share their home with him, if he agreed. After many discussions, weighing both the challenges and joys that would lay ahead, we decided to search for a large home with individual living spaces for all of us. A home, with enough land attached, that allowed us to pursue our need for a self-sustaining lifestyle. I hope that this blog will help keep our family and friends updated on our day-to-day experiences, no matter how busy this farm life becomes. I also wish for it to serve as a reminder, to myself, when the days get perticularly hard, how beautiful and blessed this life of ours truly is and to create a written journal for our children. A journal that will remind them of one wild adventure that their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparent, dove head first into, seeing the great promise that laid ahead and the wonderful memories that waited to be made.

I’m sure it’s not going to be easy but I guarantee there will be fun, moving, happy, trying, difficult and often hilarious moments. That’s life after all. So here we go…life in a big, crowded,¬†house on our own little bit of prairie. Won’t you join us?