The Writer

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I know how the memoir will read, it will be filled with humorous stories that make the reader laugh out loud, and ones that make the reader’s breath catch and tears well, and ones that make the reader cheer, and want to visit our new farm.  It cannot be written yet.  Next year with full intention and intense motivation we will purchase our forever farm.  It will likely be in town, in the small town we have lived in and loved and have our shop in.  Then the circle for this writer will be complete.  I will use my favorite writing techniques, foreshadowing, flashback, and will provide the reader through plenty of laughs and can’t set the book down moments, a true vision of farming and homesteading and will be an entertaining text book of novel-like prose, from our first farm to our present.

Elizabeth Gilbert, one of my favorite authors, wrote that she is a writer and she must write or she will die.  I nearly jumped off the couch upon reading it, “YES!”  That is how I feel.  In my darkest moments I considered never writing again, quitting this blog, living a private life, but no, I am a writer.

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There is no privacy here, folks.  One on one I speak openly and embracingly.  More than two people and I am introverted and Doug does all the talking.  But on paper and with keys I am an outgoing and open friend, farmer, homesteader, mother, lover, grandmother, ex-model, future farmsteader, chef, hard worker, plant healer, coffee loving teacher of all things I know.

Writing, the very thing I threatened to quit, is the very thing that got me through.  I write so that I will not die.

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I encourage you, my dear readers, that if you even love to write a little bit, start a blog.  It will increase your life and how you live it.  WordPress has free blogsites.  I can’t wait to read what you write.

Scenes From Our Farm

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Tank takes a “selfie”.

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Henry Higgins impressing the ladies.

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Buttercup enjoying the sun.

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Watermelons starting to dream of summer.

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Isabelle wanting more sweet feed.

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Signs of the season.

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Priya and Elsa playing together.

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Irene, Nellie, Sylvia, and Cleo taking a break from standing in their water.

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Six week old Priya playing among the sticks.

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Today the bees are in a swarm around the queen.  Hopefully they can get established!

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Garlic coming up beautifully!

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St. Francis keeping watch over the farm.

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The Java ladies enjoying their new digs in the bathtub away from the ducks.  They were tired of being drenched!  Latte, Mocha, Macchiato, Espresso, and Decaf are so pretty!

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Lettuce starts peeking through the soil.  Hopefully they will be ready for market!

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Twila having a snack in between causing mischief.

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Welcome to the farm!  Come by and visit!

 

 

Where’d This Farm Come From?!

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A few years ago I vowed to have a farm by the time I was forty years old.  I would put it out to the universe and God and watch it transpire with hard work and quite a bit of blessing.  In forty eight days I will be forty years old.  Bummer, no farm.  My vision was of a hundred acres, a blend of woods and pasture.  An old farmhouse, a barn, and a few scattered outbuildings.  Sheep, chickens, ducks, goats, and alpacas, maybe a cow, would meander lazily in this romanticized setting.  Fresh milk would be brought in the warm kitchen early in the morning.  Colorful eggs would sit next to the stove to be fried up for a farm breakfast along with homemade toast.  My husband would come in after caring for the animals and we would enjoy each other’s company over fresh pressed juice.  Then we would go work in our extensive gardens that serve to sustain us and also act as farmer’s market wares.  Such a life.

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This made me look around.  After Doug and enjoyed a breakfast of fresh, pastured eggs and warm bread, with homemade juice pressed from Aunt Donna’s grapes.  This was after I helped Doug check on Loretta’s labor progress.  We fed the goats, chickens and the alpacas.  The ducks, a few more chicks, and ducklings will be here soon.  The new baby kid jumped around the pasture enjoying the warming days.  Our seeds arrived in the mail.  Enough seeds to feed a small army should it be necessary.  The quarter acre we allot to our gardens will be overflowing with over forty varieties of vegetables and fruits and almost equal amounts of medicinal and culinary herbs.

Our House

We may not be able to buy a hundred acres.  We may be in an old farmhouse that is a rental.  Our outbuildings consist of a garage and an ancient chicken coop.  The dog runs freely through the chickens, scattering them to and fro.  The sheep two doors down baah their good mornings.  The hoop house in the neighbor’s yard on the other side of us is coming along nicely.  We live among like minded folks.  Our makeshift basement root cellar still has plenty of sustenance within its concrete walls.  The weeds are just starting to peek up in the pastures.  By golly, this is a farm, isn’t it?!

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I thought by naming it a farm name (Pumpkin Hollow Farm) it would be facetious but I no longer feel like I am pretending when I say I am a farmer.  The IRS sees our occupation as farmer.  We sell vegetables, fruits, herbs, products made on this farm which in fact makes us a farm.  Perhaps my description and vision of what a farm included was not fair to what the essence of a farm is.

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Small farms are good because they are easier to keep up.  There is little space for Doug to mow.  No need for large machinery or equipment to keep in good repair.  We do not have to hire anyone to help us with our apothecary or our farm.  It is a lot of work, but we can handle it ourselves so we can keep this farm running on a moderately low income.  We do not have to make as much money to keep our farm.  My original version of the farm I would have when I was forty would be quite pricey and time consuming.  We have just enough as it is.

goat houseIt is a blessing to be on this humble farm.  And a farm it is.  Bret’s little brother at family dinner replied to this discussion as only a seven year old could, “It’s not a farm, you don’t have a cow!”

For the Love of Ducks!

Wouldn’t that be a fabulous exclamatory sentence?  “For the love of ducks, get in here!!”  I might start using that.

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I have been talking about getting ducks for years.  I have researched them and coveted them.  Nancy had some ducks this year that she inherited.  They were called Chocolate Runners.  They looked like Walt Disney himself designed them.  They looked like bowling pins, slightly slanted, running about in a pack.  They were so comical and so mesmerizing, Doug and I could not keep from giggling as we watched them.

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The things that have kept us from getting ducks are as follows:

1. They are supposedly noisy.  I have tested out my neighbors though and they seem to be immune to a barking dog, bleating goats, humming alpacas, clucking chickens, and an uproariously loud opera singer named Henry the Rooster.  I think they can take a few quacking ducks.

2. Do they need their own coop?  I only have one.  They get into water and may make a mess of the water bowl.  However, the chicken water bowl is my mixing bowl stolen from the kitchen.  (The dog has one, the cats have one, I really do need new mixing bowls!)  So, they can’t make that much of a mess!  I was told today at the feed store that they do eat pine shavings which is less than good for them and that I will need to use straw, which is more odorous, but I suppose I can change it more.

3. Where am I going to get a pond?  I live in town for duck’s sake.  We talked about getting the water feature in the yard fixed that has long been out of use.  It was rotted, holy, and non-working when we moved in.  A child’s swimming pool in that area though could work.  The gal at the feed store said my chickens will drown.  She underestimates the intelligence of my chickens.

4. What the heck do they eat?  I thought maybe layer feed was layer feed but water fowl have their own feed.  Keeping that separate could be an issue.

5. Are they going to catch sight of the fairgrounds and fly south?  Apparently Runner ducks like Nancy’s can only fly three feet up so they aren’t going very far.  Other breeds can have a few feathers clipped with sharp scissors on one side and that takes care of that.

6. How many eggs do they lay?  Cause I have enough free loaders around here.  Duck eggs fetch $8 a dozen at the nearby farmers markets.  Depending on the duck breed, they can lay anywhere from 50-330 eggs per year.  The meat breeds don’t lay as many.  Runner ducks range between 150-300 eggs per year.  More than some of the chickens I have.

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Feeling confident, I went to the feed store and pre-ordered my ducks.  Two blue Runners and two chocolate Runners.  Straight run.  Eek.  I asked what if they are all boys?  I can bring them to the animal swap if I don’t want to kill them myself, the clerk says.

Folks, I cannot even put my old, decrepit, eighteen year old dog to sleep for crying out ducks.  How am I going to butcher my ducks?  I will pray for all girls.

I have two choices now to think about.  I can leave them in the same coop as the chickens, keep both their bowls of food there and hope they opt for the correct one for their species.  I can put the swimming pool out by the old water feature and hope the chickens don’t drown.

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Or, I can put them in the goat yard with their own coop.  Maybe there is one on Craig’s List.  They can run around with the goats, have their swimming pool, and I can hope the goats don’t break into their food.  I can totally see Loretta chowing down on duck feed.

I have until April 11th to figure it out.  The ducks arrive then.  This is becoming more of a farm every year!

Barnyard Snapshot (and goat mid-wives)

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If you were driving down the Kiowa-Bennett Road you might be distracted by the thoroughfare as it zips across the country, the rising speed limit sign ahead.  But, if you were to look quickly to your left before leaving the town you might startle yourself wondering if you just saw what you think you saw.  A puppet?  A marionette?  A Jim Henson creation?

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I, myself, walk past the back door, catch a glimpse of them in the back yard in my peripheral and have to look again.  “Dad,” I announce, “We have alpacas in the back yard!”

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They love Doug.  He is the keeper of the hay.  The keeper of the morning grain.

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They also love my friend, Kat.  When she comes over she is rewarded with kisses from Natale (the brown one).

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“Which one is pregnant?” Kat asks.

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“The white one, Katrina.”

“Then the black one is way too fat!”

Do you have anything to eat?

Do you have anything to eat?

Indeed, Loretta is a little short and chunky.  Maybe she is a stress eater, I do not know, but we are working on trimming her waistline.

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Katrina is going to kid next month or early March!  Even though I know she will likely do quite well on her own giving birth, we have to be ready as goat mid-wives, an occupation that may not be recognized on our tax return, but a job description of a farmer nonetheless.

  • Paper towels
  • Iodine or betadine (very important to dip the umbilical cord in)
  • Snot sucker to suck out their airway
  • Ob gloves just in case

This is the list Jill gave me.  I am as nervous as a first time mother!  Last year we waited impatiently and excitedly for Maryjane to be born, this year we wait on goats.  Twins perhaps?  There will be a tremendous amount of cuteness over here, folks.

This Year in Farmgirl School…

I am inspired by so many things and people.  From the Amish countryside to the Tuscany hills, there are people and principles there that appeal to me.  Perhaps the aspects that I so desire are the same.

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I am inspired by simplicity.  In having few material items.  More meaningful open spaces that are easy to care for and easy to feed a crowd in.  The openness and simple beauty of an Amish home.  The old worn villas in Tuscany where the doors and windows stay open, if possible, and streams of light and outdoors dance across the tiles of the homes filled with family and friends and wine.

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An emphasis on family, friends, and spirituality from Catholic to Amish, a love for community, a devotion to family, a loyalty to friends, and a love for God all speak to me.  To take the time to sit down and enjoy the company of those close, to pass a loaf of homemade bread, to pour another glass of wine or lemonade.  To be interested and care about what is happening and to share in the richness of these various ribbons of people gifted to our lives.

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Homemade food.  Tapestried gardens, local, fresh, healthy farmed, real food.  The taste of just pressed olive oil, or crisp kale from the garden, of earthy potatoes baked with cheese, or chicken just roasted with sprigs of rosemary and sage.  Locally made red wine or glasses of refreshing iced tea.  Things grown from our own hands or from a local farmer or artisan.  Knowing where our food comes from, proud of its origin in the back yard, or from nearby.

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Self sufficiency, or better, local sufficiency.  A can-do spirit.  I can get eggs from my back yard.  I can grow a bit of wheat.  I can put up vegetables.  I can harvest my fresh fruit.  I can grow mushrooms.  I can savor my own herbs.  I can….As my friend put it in a recent post when describing her grandparents’ farm, “The life of self sufficiency turned into a life of dependency.”  Profound words to me as most of us have been born into a life of dependency.  Being an incredibly independent free spirit makes me desperate to be able to provide more for myself and my family.

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Arts and beauty.  From paintings and pottery to home spun yarn and homemaking arts, I am inspired by them all.

Out here, folks do tend to move a bit slower, have less material items, and are comfortably Christian without the annoying evangelism.  They are friendly, and community minded.  I farm in town so that perhaps more people will be inspired to grow their own dinners and see that it can be done out here.  I do have dinner with friends and close family often.  I have many more arts to master.  This will be an even better year.

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This year in Farmgirl School we will be learning a host of new things.

We’ll become bee keepers.  We will not be afraid of a few ten thousand bees.

We will create a corn fence around the front yard.

We will grow an entire garden’s worth of produce in five gallon buckets.

We will create a portable orchard.

We will learn how to be market growers.

We’ll show you how to start a farm from a business perspective and succeed with farm diversity.

We’ll be playing midwife and welcoming in new kids next month.

We’ll master the art of creating hard cheeses along with other dairy products.

We’ll be shearing large unlovey animals.

We’ll master the art of spinning.

We’ll color roving with plants.

We’ll create lovely fibers and then learn how to make sweaters and socks and they will be straight and even!

We’ll be hoping for farm hatched chicks.

We’ll expand the Apothecary garden and teach you more about natural cures.

We’ll visit a local Amish community.

We’ll host a food swap.

We’ll entertain more.

We’ll have some laughs, some mishaps, some roaring successes, and we’ll learn.  Come learn with me.

Welcome to Farmgirl School.  This year is going to be fun!

The Unlikely Guard Animal

Pop quiz!  Who is the best guard animal here at Pumpkin Hollow Farm?

a. Bumble the greyhound

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b. Henry Higgins the rooster

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c. Aretha the slightly off chicken?

This is Aretha's identical twin. I don't have many pictures of Aretha cause she crazy.

This is Aretha’s identical twin. I don’t have many pictures of Aretha cause she crazy.

Our new neighbors were a little worried when the alpacas came to live in the back yard.  They were concerned that their dogs would never stop barking.  They have an Akita mix and a Pomeranian.  Sooo, probably a good guess.  They aren’t out all that much, so it doesn’t seem to bother anyone when they are out barking.  Their parents always stand out there with them to make sure they don’t find their way out of the yard.

Doug went out to talk to them yesterday and show their daughter, who was visiting, the farm animals.  The dogs weren’t making a peep.  Our neighbor explained that last week the Pomeranian was barking her little head off at the fence when along came Aretha.  She came running full speed to the fence barking herself!  Her full eight inches of stature topped with the crazy mop of white feathers flying everywhere must have been terrifying for the pup.  A barking chicken.  The Pomeranian ran behind her dad’s legs and hasn’t said a word since.  You tell ’em, Aretha.

To read more about our confused and slightly crazy, but pretty darn cute chicken click here or here.

Farm Animal Housing

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Well, the cat’s water in the room behind the kitchen only has a thin layer of ice on it this morning.  It’s warming up!  Folks, can you believe how cold our country has been this last week?  When the wind chill hit -23 I was pretty certain I had been transported to the North Pole for Christmas.

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I worried about the farm animals.  I was certain we would lose a chicken.  Their water was frozen within minutes after bringing a fresh bowl out.  Their heat lamp did nothing to help.  I figured little Ginger might just be a popsicle when we went out in the morning.  Yesterday, Sophia let Doug know her displeasure by flying up to his hat and staying there.  She was hitching a ride into the house.  Enough was enough!

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The alpacas have their three sided shelter that has been perfect for them.  The hay bales, tarps, and protection from the south and north winds has been enough for them.  They walk around with snow covered faces chewing their cud.  Happy as reindeers.

Introducing Ferdinand!

But the goats originate from Nigeria.  I felt like they should probably come inside and stay in the living room.  My friend, Jill, that gave them to me laughed.  They will be fine, she says.  Just look for excessive shivering.

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Backtrack three weeks ago right before we brought them home, I went into the garage to clean it out to make it into a barn.  You have to be creative when you live in town (even if it’s in the country) and want to be a homesteader.  There are no barns on this property.

However, when I walked in the garage, I got a shot of reality.  A pile of holiday stuff took up one corner.  Andrew’s belongings took up a full side of the garage that he doesn’t have room for yet.  Gardening items, clothes to grow into, boxes of photographs….this was not becoming a barn.

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I jumped on Craig’s List and looked up goat housing.  Up popped up these igloo looking things that were for calves or goats.  I had seen them around the county so I called to see how much and how to get it here.  The gentleman on the other end of the phone was a jolly man with a great many goats.  He said that he had even gone out and sat in the igloo during a snow storm and was surprised at how cozy it was in there.  For two hundred dollars, I didn’t have to clean out the garage.  Sold.

He proceeded to give me directions to his place.  Directions that would lead me next door to Emily’s boyfriend’s family’s house.  Certainly a small world.  We started talking about when I could pick it up.  “Well, not Saturday,” he says, “We have a craft show at the middle school.”

“Oh, we’ll be there too!”

He asks what we sell.  They use our arthritis medicine for their dog.  They sell soap.  They were next to me the whole season at the farmer’s market!

Small world indeed, and I found what I needed.

This cold has had me terribly worried, but each time I look out they are snuggled together in their igloo, running out to get treats or kisses.  I am impressed.

This is a great way to house goats if you are short on space or want multiple houses in different yards.

No barn necessary!  (I do hope to have a barn on our next homestead though!)

Stay warm out there, folks!

Goats: Take 2!

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Most of you have read about our adventures with two of the most adorable goats (on the couch) that God ever put on this earth.  Less cute running down the street and through the fairgrounds and hanging out at the neighbor’s house.  For six weeks we bottle fed, adored, cuddled, cussed under our breath, and showed off our newborn goats at farmer’s markets.  They were fun, but we couldn’t keep them in the yard.  So, for their own safety and the sanity of our neighbors and ourselves, we sent them back to my friend, Jill’s house.  They went to a loving new home.

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Fast forward four months.  The fence is higher, the holes in the field fence smaller, anything near the fence that can act as a spring board is put up.  A new gate separates two pastures.  The alpacas and chickens in one, the new goats in the other.  Their expensive weather proof igloo is in place and we are ready for our second try at goats.

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Jill dropped off two of the most adorable goats (we think all animals are the most adorable), one expecting late February.  They follow us around the yard, let Maryjane pet them, and are very good tempered.  Not near as wild as the little buggers we had last summer, and not quite as loud.  They are content and playful, soft and sweet.

Look who wanted in this morning!

Look who wanted in this morning!

It’s beginning to look a lot like a farm around here!

A New Sing Along

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To the tune of “Christmas is Coming”:

The alpacas are coming

the goats are getting fat.

Please put a penny in the farmer’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny,

then a glass of wine will do,

if you haven’t got a glass of wine,

then God bless you!

Tomorrow we go meet the alpaca vet, and watch as one of our poor boys gets gelded.  We will learn to trim nails.  We will lead our other boy around since he has been practicing on the halter.  Natali and Ferdinand will come home Sunday.

Loretta and pregnant Francesca (our second try at goats) will come home Monday.

Do wish us luck!