farming, Uncategorized

April Already

So much happens on our little farm within a day, it is hard to pause and pick up from wherever I left off. I knew it had been a few months since I sat down to write something about the going-ons in the coop and in the pastures. It’s late by my clock, but if I don’t get something down, I’m afraid I never will. Zoe my sweet dog is laying on the floor, she is banned from the bed tonight because she decided to roll in a fresh pile of horse manure. I do have a white kitty sleeping beside me, who I believe is making the dog jealous.

Still can’t quite believe I haven’t written since October. The entire winter and beginnings of Spring have flown by. We got a pig and lost her. Retired the old mower and got a much-needed upgrade. I’ve cleaned fence rows, hauled firewood and more water than I care to recall, and watched the Robin’s come and descend on the fields. We had frost and snow and sleeting rain, and finally some sunshine. The daffodils have bloomed and gone, but the fruit trees are just beginning to flower. And the grass is finally, finally green.

The biggest change around here, by far, is the work done on the house. The loan was approved in late January, and we had the windows replaced on February 15th, which is the best post-Valentine’s Day present I have ever gotten. Well, maybe that and chocolate strawberries from my Dad. They are currently at a tie. Soon after windows came new siding, a beautiful sage green, with new patio doors, soffits, and fascia board, which I didn’t know existed until a few months ago.┬áMy mother came the week of the busiest repairs, and cooked all kinds of treats for the crew. To top it all off, we got dark brown gutters to match the roof. Speaking of roof, we had leaks over the front porch and rain in the dining room that disrupted my March birthday plans.

I did end up exploring the attic though, and discovered a poor dead bird that was promptly removed. My wonderful barn-roof repair man saved the day, he and his neck brace arrived with his brother to lay new sheets of metal, and we decided to close in the front-porch ceiling with barn wood. Of all the work we have done so far, that may be my favorite. Each board is a different color, width, and texture. It brought the porch back to life. And I will finish putting water sealant up as soon as the temperatures stop dipping back to the low 30’s. We may even have snow next week, if you can believe that.

There is still more to do, though, which is just part of renovating an 80+ year old farm house. It has been incredible to see it reborn, and to see all the decisions and planning come together. Currently waiting on a new door to the basement, and the stone mason to begin work in early May. We did pull down some beautiful, hand-laid stone walls, which I hated to do. There were two partial walls in the front, and one wall by the back patio door. Since we have not had gutters on the house for several years, there was a lot of water damage and you could see where the stone was leaning away from the wall.

I am always hesitant to replace original things like that, because they are such amazing pieces of this farm’s history. But the fact that I was able to pull them down with a crowbar says a lot about how unsecured they were. Fortunately, all the mortar chipped right off, and I have been able to use a lot of the stone around the house for new flowerbeds. Several people have recommended building a fire pit from the rest of the stone, but I would rather not have something else to weed-eat around.

Once the new stonework is done, I plan to get a truckload of mulch and give our very neglected flowerbeds some TLC. By that time, we will be ready to plant the garden, and I have a feeling that the summer will fly by too. While the winter was long and cold and dark, it is the time to rest and plan and dream up new ideas and projects for warmer days. For now it is spring, and I am thankful. I’m ready for more green, more mowing, and more planting. We have 3 chicks that hatched over Easter weekend, and I will be writing about my 6 baby ducklings next time. The days are getting longer, and the fireflies will be here before I know it. It’s a miracle to watch the farm be reborn each year, and each year it seems to be more beautiful than the last.

farming, Uncategorized

A Sight to See

I had some very dear friends of mine come visit the farm the other day- she was in town to visit her father and brought her daughter along. We walked all over our 18 acres, up and down the hills, across the creek and through the chicken coop. We saddled up Sadie’s mare and I led them down the road. We watched the sunset from the field with the red barn, talking the whole time. It was wonderful to see them. And I hope they understand why I left a perfectly good life in Savannah Georgia to live on a farm full of mud, animals, mud, poop, mud and hay.

It made me want to see the farm from their eyes, to try and picture experiencing it for the first time. I grew up visiting the farm, we would come up over Christmas or on Summer Break. It’s always been beautiful to me, it has always felt a bit like coming home.But I can tell you what I thought when I first moved here, when I knew it would really be my home. It was something along the lines of “I have a loootta work to do” – in a good way. Inside the house, we had some major bathroom and kitchen renovations ahead. There was wallpaper in the bathroom, dining room, and the living room.We had way too much furniture in the house (which is not a bad problem to have), and it just wasn’t working.

Outside the house, I wanted to be in 12 places at once. I would start sorting one thing, and halfway through get caught up with another. I would look around and make mental notes like “Okay we need to re-string that barbed wire fence, I need to take that old tiller for scrap, which reminds me of the trailer frame behind the coop that needs to go too. I’ll have to get the trailer lights fixed. I can get a new shovel while I’m at Lowe’s, Sadie can go with me and we can pick out paint for the dining room. That toilet next to the chicken coop needs to go to the dump, so does that old Jacuzzi my Uncle salvaged from cleaning out a house years ago. I should mow. I should weed-whack the front bank. I should clean fence-rows. I should gather fire wood. It’s past lunch, I need to eat something.”

You get the idea. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to do anything and everything all at once. The first few months I lived here, I had enough money saved and didn’t have to find a job immediately. Those June days were long and full and wonderful. I learned a lot. I learned to wear the right boots for whatever job I needed to accomplish. I learned to drink a lot of water, a lot of Gatorade. It didn’t wake me long to discover that no matter how efficient I was, I had to stop and eat at some point.

There wasn’t really a routine at first, it was just all-out cleaning, sorting, and trips to the county dump. Sadie didn’t have to be at work until 11, so we would make breakfast for Nana, eat together, and feed the animals. Once she left, I went out the back door and stayed busy until 9pm. When she got home, we would eat together and I would tell her and Nana what I got into that day. It usually involved a trip to the dump, scrap yard, or thrift store, cleaning the barn, mowing, burning brush,going to the feed store, getting gasoline for the ATV, stopping by Lowe’s, you name it. After we ate I would stretch out in Nana’s bed, bone tired, and head spinning with what I could do the next day. Nana would pat my leg, smile and nod. She was married to a farmer – she knew.

I don’t want it to seem like Sadie and Jack did not take care of the farm. Don’t read this and think I came to the farm and saved it. It saved me. Sadie an Jack farmed together longer than I have been alive. They put out huge gardens, canned it all, cut hay off the pasture, raised battle calves, had goats, chickens, and a team of Belgian horses. They cut and hauled wood, my Aunt cooked for every church pot-luck, and my Uncle was a master carpenter. They were a force to be reckoned with, and I would not be here without them.

After my Grandfather died, my Nana moved to the farm. Then my Uncle retired and his health began to fail. He had COPD, which is a horrible thing. Sadie worked full time, cooked and cleaned and took care of both of them, and still managed to raise chickens and keep horses. I don’t know how she did it – I certainly couldn’t. Then my Uncle James moved in to help care for the farm, and really started bringing the farm back to life.

We lost both of my Uncle’s within 3 months of each other. That’s when I knew, I knew that I needed to move here and help. And I haven’t regretted one minute of the crazy, sweaty, muddy, blistered and splintered thing. Sadie has taught me so much in these past 20-odd months. She is a rock, and this place would not still be here without her.

My friends visiting didn’t know much of this, they didn’t see the old tractor we sold, the old go-carts I scrapped for metal, the dog-lot fence I ripped down one Friday afternoon with a crow-bar. They didn’t see the hole in the shower wall, the floral wallpaper, or the old blue leather couch that we replaced with a beautiful antique one. The hours my mother spent hanging paintings and curtains, cleaning window sills with toothbrushes, or all the gallons of paint my family went through helping me paint over old paneling, yellow walls and patched drywall.

They didn’t see the old trees or stumps we cut down, hauled, and burned. A pasture full of sleek Quarter Horses that my Uncle left behind, the 14 horses we sold to other families, or his big green truck in the driveway. I hate that they didn’t get to meet my Nana, her beautiful blue eyes or her soft, wrinkled hands holding theirs.

But they got to see the young green grass coming up from the ground.They saw the trees in bloom, and a house that has become our new home. They saw my 40-some chickens, our happy cats and dogs, our 3 shedding horses and our fat donkey. They saw a full and rushing creek, the knockout roses we planted around the house, the shed stocked with wood for winter, and a pantry stocked with canned veggies from our garden.

I hope they saw the beauty that I see. I hope they understand why I moved here, why I could never imagine leaving, and what I mean when I saw this place saved me. There is still more to do, there always is, and that’s part of the reason I love it. I am needed, I am grounded, and I am responsible for this land and these animals. I want to build stalls in the barn, I want to build a new chicken coop, to re-side our house and plant more roses. There are more callouses and splinters to come, and I am looking forward to every single one of them.