A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife (and why homesteading is the best life)

The early morning dawn brings with it the sound of roosters crowing around the village. The smell of wood smoke fills the air as the fire comes alive with a whoosh in the wood stove to start the day. A kettle of water is put on for coffee. Out into the early morn, a scarf pulled around the neck, the chickens are let out. They scurry by and gleefully pounce on scratch being thrown. Next up are the goats, and the sound of “mah”ing brings a smile to the farmer’s face. The sheep try to body check the others out of the way in order to get to the hay first. The sheep are distracted while the goats are led to their stanchions in their turn. The gentle sound of milk hitting the metal bucket methodically starts the day and inspires prayers of gratitude. A sleepy farmer can easily balance their head against the warm side of a goat happily chomping on sweet feed. Back inside, the milk is strained into half gallon jars and placed in the milk fridge. Boiling water is poured over fresh coffee grounds, and the cats and dog are fed and watered. Hot coffee is poured into a mug.

This is the average morning of a homesteader. If one has children, then they are tending to the youngsters as well. This was our life during the first years of our homesteading. For the last four years in the city, we have not been able to have anything but chickens, but here on our new farm, we are happily plotting the loafing shed and the pasture fencing for the “mah”ing of goats and the low “mom”ing of sheep. (Have you actually heard farm animals? It does make you wonder where the children’s books came up with their animal sounds.) We have homesteaded in each place we have lived, from country to city and back to the country. We build the infrastructure of our homestead and farm. The wood stove is coming in two weeks. The fencing this week. The loafing shed in two weeks. The goats and sheep? When we find them. Most likely in the spring. And our hen continues to crow.

Our 1st homestead

The rest of the day for a homesteader is filled with satisfying chores. Keep the fire going. Plan supper. Make bread. Clean the house. Plan what to pack for hubby’s lunch tomorrow. Care for animals. Do laundry. Hang on the line. In growing months, tend to gardens-plan, plant, weed, harvest, preserve. In winter months, catch up on sewing, make Yule presents, craft, crochet, and write.

There is a joyful cadence to homesteading. A well versed schedule of chores, work, play, and rest. Of being present. Immersed in the cycle of life and death, joy and pain, intensely taking part in the life before us, and savoring every bit of it.

My granddaughter always chooses what she wants to me to order (everything)!

Yes, from old fashioned skills come real peace that truly cannot be found anywhere else. We step back from the craziness of the world, and stoke the fire, make cheese, harvest grapes, bake bread. We spend less, save more, have a lower footprint, and a lighter heart. We tend to be heathier, eating fresher food, breathing fresher air, making real connections with neighbors and holding family close. We appreciate and communicate with the natural world. We teach others how to do the same.

The joyful sound of newly canned preserves, their tops popping tight, lining the counter. The smells of manure, hay, wood smoke, coffee, bread, roasted chicken. The sight of mountain views and sunsets and skies of stars and baby goats entering the world. The feel of a sheep’s fleece and how the yarn slides through one’s fingers at the spinning wheel, and a soft kitten’s fur against one’s skin. The taste of really, really fresh, homegrown food and drinks. The sound of the baby laugh when the dog licks her or the squeal of delight as the older child finds the perfect pumpkin in the patch.

Our first homestead when we farmed the whole yard!

Yes, this is why we homestead. It is why we come back to it each time we move. It is truly a good life. For us, it is the only life.

Starting a Farm and Homestead (Pumpkin Hollow Farm adventures continue)

“And just like that, we are homesteading again!” Doug said as he walked into the house after work. Two pressure canners were sputtering on the stove, twelve quarts of homemade chicken broth within. The house smelled wonderful. I was in the process of making cheese. We ate tortellini en brodo alfresco while pointing out where we should put our Pumpkin Hollow Farm sign. Yes, just like that, we will be farming again too.

The first real homestead we had was gradual; first a garden, then chickens, then goats, we learned one thing at a time. The next thing we knew we were practically living off grid and cooking on a wood cook stove! We have learned a lot over the past decade. I waited to see if Doug wanted to homestead and farm. I didn’t want to just jump into it. After all, it is an expensive adventure to start and it is a lot of work. He keeps talking about breeds of goats, and wethered sheep, and plotting the grazing section and where to put our vineyard…we went and picked up fencing for goats and sheep. We’re in. Homesteading isn’t just a job or a lifestyle, it becomes a very part of you.

I couldn’t remember how much it cost to have farm animals (besides chickens), it has been four years since we have had goats and sheep (that is how long it has taken us to get back to the country). This blog holds, not only my memoir within it, but so much information that I constantly resort back to. I looked up “How Much Does it Cost to Have A Farm Animal” from the first year I started this blog. I was pleasantly surprised to see that prices have only increased about 20%. I did expect higher. We should still be well in our budget to feed some more furry kids that give milk and fiber.

I have been visiting local vineyards. Grapes grow very well here and I would love to start my own winery. Even if it is just for me and my friends to start. A lot of folks focus on one thing, maybe beef, or chickens, or vegetables. They aren’t all over the map like I am. I want to have a vineyard, use my own plants to dye my own fiber from my sheep, create beautiful crocheted and sewn pieces to sell, have a huge pumpkin patch, a large garden, have milking goats, and still leave land to be wild and a safe place for bunnies. (Gandalf loves bunnies. They are as delicious as the chickens, apparently.) I love to have variety. That way, I always have what we need and my creative expressions can change as well. I am not going to get burnt out having sheep if I only have two!

When plotting your homestead, first write out what you would like. Garden? Chickens? Ducks? Remember that poultry will consume everything in their path, so they have to be separate from the garden. Goats? They will eat trees down to nothing so the orchard (did you want an orchard?) has to be fenced away from the cute ruminants. Do you have a niche you want to focus on? Don’t think of money while you are writing down your list. What do you want to do? Then draw out your land (even if it is a quarter acre or in the city) and sketch in where you will put everything. Decide on priorities based on money and time to get things started.

Then note where you might make extra money from your homesteading adventures but always have a back up plan. That is the most valuable lesson we learned over the past ten years. Pumpkin Hollow Farm continues on! Our family is excited.

Where are you at in your homesteading adventures? My granddaughter, Maryjane, has loved our farms and has made so many memories. I want to have Grammie and Pa’s farm for her and her sister. So, it’s not all serious here. Homesteading and farming should be fun.

Anthropomorphizing Goats and Breech Babies

Throughout writing this blog, I have been adamant about having upbeat writing.  I delete negative comments.  I try to only write positive and humorous articles and keep you laughing as we dictate the pages of our history.  It seems as if many of you have become family.  Friends.  You have entered our lives through the portals of social media and writings and live each day as it unfolds for us.  You have watched our children grow, our granddaughter be born, this farm come into being, and have cheered us on and rejoiced as corn grew and animal babies were born and adopted.  There have been a few articles as the ebb and flow of life come upon us.  The death of our daughter’s dear friend, chickens killed, dog died.  It is a part of the life of a farm and one I didn’t fully understand when I decided upon the most upbeat, fun, and humorous blog I could muster.  Overall, I hope that I have given you a fun blog to read each day.  Something to brighten your day, to live on a farm even if you don’t, or to nod your head in knowing if you do live on a farm through my stories and antidotes.

petting goats

I often anthropomorphize my animals.  Anthropomorphize is a literary term used to demonstrate giving animals human feelings and characteristics.  It is often used as folly as opposed to reality.  A term that hints that animals don’t actually have feelings.  I can tell you right now, folks, that every single one of my chickens has a different personality just as my cats do.  It is wonderful to live among so many sentient beings.  To share my life and days and time and memories with so many animals.

Loretta

We have all been waiting with baited breath as I have cried wolf so many times for Loretta to give birth.  Loretta is a small, black goat, the size and stature of a basset hound with the personality of a young child and the firm belief that she is a dog.  She follows us everywhere.  She helps Doug with the morning chores.  (Helps is relative.)  She cuddles and gets excited to see us.  She greets people that visit the farm.  She was to be our mascot as I would like to do more children’s programs here at the farm.  She is a perfect farm animal.  Loving and sweet.

We found out she was pregnant when I posted a picture of how big she was on the blog and my friend that gave her to me rushed over.  Sure enough she had accidentally been bred when my friend left her at a boarder’s.  She was not quite one year’s old so we prepared for possible problems but stayed optimistic.  Twins.  We just couldn’t wait to see those tiny black goats running about.

She went into labor yesterday morning and the two babies ended up being one large boy.  Jill came over again to see what the hold up was and realized the large boy was breach.  We tried everything yesterday.  The vet, her experienced friend, back to the vet.  A foot stuck out of her backside for hours until she was able to get in for a C-section.  The baby had ruptured her uterus.  She wouldn’t be able to have any more babies and the baby within her died.  We cheerfully said that would be fine, she can be our mascot for the farm!

She was in dreadful pain last night as we checked on her.  She was dead this morning.

I hope that this news will be one of just a few snippets throughout the years of bad news.  That it will be highly unbalanced with great news.  Babies being born, adopted, corn growing, family growing, farm growing, beautiful prose, memories, and funny recollections of farm life.  But in real life, I suppose, there are the sad moments as well.  Today is a sad moment.

Rest in Peace Loretta.