Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Journey to Simplicity Continues

I am officially 'closing' this blog as we have closed the chapter of our lives about small acreage farming (for now).

Our metamorphosis to simplicity continues here:

If you are so inclined, please follow along on our new journey as we strive towards using and owning less, saving more, and finding freedom.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Farm Reprieve

My foot in a splint while we are waiting to see a temporary car for me.  I took this photo using the '70's' option on Instagram.  Neat!

Because of what you see in the above photo, the sale of our farm has been postponed.  A week ago Saturday, I was carrying a bin of hay (heavy!) out to the goats when two of our three dogs ran into me causing me to lose my balance.  I tried to recover while still holding on to the hay but my right foot slipped in the mud and somehow ended up underneath me, twisted upside down.  I felt a snap.  I screamed in pain.  I laid in the mud while the dogs tried to lick my face, crying.  I had worst-case scenarios running through my pain-addled brain..."I'll never run again!".  I was close to correct!

That morning, my husband was not home.  I didn't expect him back for about 4 hours, so I knew I had to figure out a way to at least get back in the house.  Turns out, I could move my toes and put some weight on my heel.  That was good enough for me...I finished my chores (the goats still needed water!) by limping my way around and got back inside.  Right then, my husband called asking me to pick him up because he had to leave the truck for work.  I didn't think I could drive (this was my right foot!) but when I tried, it was ok.  I picked him up, we ran some errands and by the time we were done, the truck was done and I drove the car home.  By mid-afternoon, the swelling and pain was too much to bear and we went to the ER.  X-rays ensued and they said I'd broken my 4th metatarsal.

When I saw the orthopedic surgeon the following Wednesday, he had more news for me.  Yes, 4th metatarsal was broken, but that wasn't the worst of my troubles.  I also damaged my Lisfranc joint and will need surgery.  They have to essentially put my joint back together and hope it heals properly.  If it doesn't arthritis will ensue and probably necessitate fusing the joint.  If that happens, I will never run again.  BUT, that's getting a little ahead of things.  For now, I have surgery scheduled for Thursday (3/15).  We'll just worry about that for now.

All my runs, triathlons, bike events and hiking trips for the summer have been cancelled.  The sale of our home will have to wait another year.  We have too much to do and there is no way only one person could do it...never mind the actual moving process itself.

The road to recovery will be long.  I will walk it (or crutch my way down it) as best I can.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Potential Farewell

I've been putting off writing this post for a long while now.  It almost feels like failure...or, at the very least, admitting defeat.  Basically, we've decided to sell the farm.

Before I get into any other explanations, I feel that it's important to say that we both LOVE this lifestyle.  We love having and taking care of the animals.  We love learning and growing as we expanded what we were doing.  We love having fresh eggs, fresh raw milk and sweet, entertaining and happy animals just outside our back door.  We love planting new things.  We love harvesting (well, some of us do!).  We love that our food was grown with our own hands only 100 yards from our kitchen table.  We love the quiet of the country, the subtle buzz of the bees and even the dust of the neighboring farms on a hot summer day.  We love having prehistoric looking bison practically in our backyard on a foggy morning.

We don't love the long commute to anything.  Seriously, my work is 40 minutes away on a good day.  Everything else, including the grocery store, gas station and feed store is at least 20 minutes away, often further.  We don't love watching the miles rack up on our car.  We don't love that a quick dinner out costs us a minimum of 2 hours of our time.  We don't like (ok, I don't like) that we have to drive to go for a run.  I don't like that my pool is 45 minutes from me.  We don't like that our house is sucking us dry, financially.  We don't like that we live on a road that is MUCH busier than it should be considering it's location and that the intersection at the end of our driveway is a constant source of crashed cars into our yard (or the neighbors).  We don't like that the abandoned church/school next door is falling down, covered with 'no trespassing' signs and yet has 3-phase power supplied to it.  We don't like that we have a basement that is free of water only due to the constant work of two sump pumps.  One fails, and we will have an indoor swimming pool.  We don't like that the roof leaks, the septic system needs replacing, and that we have no idea what crazy expensive thing will need to be replaced next.

But ultimately, it came down to acknowledging that farming is a full time job.

Unfortunately, we both already have full-time jobs.  And as both of our responsibilities expand at these jobs and travel gets more frequent, we are realizing that we have less and less time to care for the farm.  It becomes even more obvious as we realize that we still haven't started (or ordered) any seeds yet for this year and it's already March!  Garlic didn't get planted last fall.  We lost most of the tomato harvest to a frost while we were out of town.  None of the fruit trees are pruned yet.  We've had the supplies to make soap and beeswax candles in our basement for almost 2 years now and haven't made either yet.  We just can't keep up with the things we already have going and there is ZERO time to add new things to our list.  Adding and learning new things was one of the biggest draws to this place.

The flip side is that we cannot yet afford to just quit our jobs and do this full time.  That would be ideal, but since both of us got our start in our careers kind of late, financially, it just isn't possible at this stage in our lives.

The plan is to list the house come May or June.  In the meantime, we have to replace the roof (ouch!), replace the shower in the master bath, replace the front door and replace the carpet in the main living room (or have it cleaned professionally).  If we cannot sell the property for enough money to pay off the loan and the Realtor fees, then we will stay, but I don't think that'll be the case.  And then we start looking for something closer to the city.  We will be looking for a good sized yard so that we can continue to keep chickens (it's kind of a requirement in Portland, right?!) and then we will focus on the things we never had time to do here.  On a personal note, we plan to see more of this amazing state of ours, get in better shape, race more triathlons (me, anyway!), bike commute, and spend more time fostering our relationships with our friends and family.  On a the sustainability side of things, we hope to finally get a good working herb garden in place, learn about and implement rainwater collection, grey-water systems, solar power and worm composting (again).  Oh, and we'll finally have time to make some soap!

The most important part of this change is that we will put together a real and functional long term savings plan so that we can afford to buy the small farm again when we are ready to retire.  And with this in mind, for the first time in my life, I find myself actually looking forward to retirement.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

And now there are 4...

 Our Pygora goat Buddy (pictured above) has a new home.  He was really bulling our smaller goats making it very hard to keep the smallest goats well fed, so we had to re-home him.  Luckily, we found a nice couple not too far away who had recently lost one of their Pygoras and was hoping for a new one.  They had one left who was very lonely, so Buddy came along at the perfect time for them.

They've kept us abreast of his progress and he is warming up to them.  He gets along well with the other goat, too.  His name is Jerry.  Buddy and Jerry - sounds like the makings of a 50's sitcom!  Anyway, we are pleased that he's happy and actually serving a purpose again.

The remaining 4 goats (Pepper, her baby Penny, Daisy and Dollar) are all doing well.  We are still milking Pepper but having some difficulty keeping her from nursing Penny through the fence.  No matter what we do, they find a way.  Luckily, keeping Penny well fed keeps her from drinking too much milk so we are still getting plenty.  This coming weekend, we are going to look at how we can create a third goat area so that we can rotate them a bit better (to allow the pasture to freshen!).

We also now have two ducks on our farm.  Meet Luna and Butterscotch!  Luna is the black one and this photo does not do her justice - she is glossy black with gorgeous green undertones and a blue stripe on her wing.  Butterscotch actually came with the name Buttercup because she was a yellow duckling, but somehow her name morphed into Butterscotch.  They are currently sharing the same fenced area with our dogs, but they do poop on the deck, so we will have to come up with something else.  We'd be OK with letting them totally free range (they are less destructive than the chickens) but for the neighbors' three jack russells that would love to have duck for lunch.  I think that total property fencing may have just moved up a few notches on our priority list.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aphids Suck

The first two years we had this garden, we grew gorgeous Brussels sprouts but before we had a chance to harvest a single one, aphids found them. They left the other brassicas alone though so we got a good harvest of broccoli and kale, totally aphid free. This year, we opted against the Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, it appears that in the absence of Brussels sprouts, aphids are perfectly happy infesting the broccoli, kale and cabbage that we did grow. I'm most disappointed by the loss of cabbage because we had some BEAUTIFUL heads forming!

We'd tried using non-pesticide type remedies in the past. Companion planting with lavender (which grows very well here) didn't help. The aphids were unaffected. Setting up two little lady-bug homes in our garden to encourage lady bugs didn't help either. I've seen all of one lady bug in our garden in the past 3 years. Chickens would probably eat ahpids, but they'd also eat our garden and I can't take that chance. (Chickens also love slugs by the way, but chickens sleep at night when slugs come out, so they are a terrible option!).

A little online research turned up an easy solution. Apparently tomato leaves (of the nightshade family) are poison to most bugs. You can make a 'tea' of tomato leaves to use as a pesticide. It's safe for humans and pets, but deadly to bugs.  The problem is that it's deadly to ALL bugs, so you'd also lose any beneficial bugs in your garden.  Since we don't have many of those, I figured it was worth a shot.  My plan was to only spray brassicas.

So I pulled off about two packed cups worth of tomato leaves and coarsely chopped them.

Then I added hot water and let the mixture sit overnight (or about 8 hours).

I then strained out all the leaves and poured the liquid into a clean spray bottle we had. I added plain water to fill the bottle (about another cup) and voila - organic tomato pesticide!

I immediately went out to the garden to try and rescue our brassicas. It took almost half the bottle just to spray our two kale plants. Then I tackled the least infested of the cabbages. The cabbages that were the worst, I just pulled from the garden. Same for the broccoli. Actually, it was as I was spraying the broccoli that it occurred to me that we DO have one beneficial bug in our garden...our bees! I totally hadn't thought about the bees, but I was careful to not spray any flower at all, so hopefully it won't affect them. I'd feel awful if I accidentally killed our three hives!

This was two days ago. Tonight will be my first opportunity to investigate the results. I promise to report back. Keep your fingers crossed for me that this worked!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And then there were 5...

On Monday evening, we took Polaris and Skylark on a LONG drive from our place to their new home. We found a couple with a good amount of land that were looking for some goats. They'd just lost one of theirs to coyotes, so they needed new ones to be companions to their lonely wether. As we had decided to not breed Skylark any longer and since we didn't need another wether around our place, the two of them went together. We drove them ourselves so that we could see the conditions of the new place. It's really nice and I think they'll be happy. They'll have a small Alpine wether as a companion and a small female boer-cross as well. Two acres just for them with plenty to eat and places to explore. The couple were very nice and very affectionate with their goats (which Skylark will appreciate) and I think we made a good choice.

While I'll miss her to some degree, I know that she'll be happy there. I really hadn't formed much of a bond with Polaris, but I'm glad that they went together as he's still quite young and seemed to welcome the security of a familiar goat when introduced to the new surroundings.

The remaining goats are doing fine. Pepper is providing us with milk, but she has continued to find a way to nurse Penny (the other little black goat baby!) through the fence that separates them. We've finally decided that we cannot thwart her, so we are going to outsmart her. We ordred an 'udder sling' that kind of works like a bra for goats. It's designed to help goats with low hanging udders from getting injured on the ground, but it can also be used to help discourage sneaky goat babies that should be weaned already! Hopefully this will help as we just don't have the room to put more distance between the two of them without investing in some fence changes that we are not financially ready to tackle just yet.

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 months = many changes

I cannot believe that it has been 5 months since I last posted on this blog. Due to the directional shift that my life has taken lately, I cannot pretend that I'm going to turn over a new leaf and begin posting like a regular blogger going forward. I would sincerely like to, but I must be realistic and I know that I just don't have the time.

That said, I miss the part of my life that this blog was representing. When others ask me when I'm going to update this place, I think not about the camera full of photos that I have not uploaded or the piles of recipes that I've collected to try, or the times I've thought about documenting another aspect of our 'farm life'....I think about how much I miss it.

Before anyone gets all concerned on me, we still have the farm. We still have seven goats (yes, the most recent babies are still with us for the moment!), we are down to only 9 chickens and one rooster, and we are up to now three beehives, one of which my husband captured on our property when a swarm showed up a few weeks ago. We still have a garden, we are now using the new barn and I'm working on the start of an herb garden that has culinary herbs in boxes hanging from our deck railing and medicinal herbs growing in the flower bed in front of our house.

So what has changed? The big whopper is that I have a new job. I am now the College Program Manager for my company and as such, I'm building a college program (we had none!) including an internship program and a solid college recruiting effort. We hire predominantly masters and PhD level graduates, so I will have the opportunity to use my technical background as a way to connect with the hires, with the hiring managers and with the professors at the schools we target. I will be doing a LOT of travel and therein lies the biggest change to our lifestyle. I travel, my husband takes care of the farm and neither of us have time to blog or cook or do half the things we used to do around the place.

We are working on scaling back and considering where our future lies. At this point, we don't see a whole ton of changes in the immediate future as we have no intentions of attempting to sell our place in the current real estate market. We've also got entirely too much that needs doing around the place before we could even list it (like replacing the wood stove and doing some work on the septic system). I think that for now, we are going to just work on scaling back a bit. To that end, we are working on finding a new home for Buddy, Skylark and Polaris (the boy goat baby pictured above). We will keep and eventually breed Penny (the girl goat baby), Daisy and Pepper (again). Dollar will be kept as a companion and because I cannot part with him. He's my 'little guy' who is actually the biggest dwarf goat we own! He's sweet and super easy to manage, so he'll be a good companion goat when we have to separate someone for some reason (like weaning). For the chickens, we are going to rethink how we house them. Each time we build a new coop/run, we learn something new, so eventually we'll get a system going that is virtually 'kink' free. All the remaining girls are still laying, but considering that more than half of them are now three years old, their production has significantly fallen off. This is a good thing for us because the egg load is now manageable.

The fruit harvest is looking good for this year so we've sent out feelers into our local community for anyone wishing to glean our fruit. Basically, we'll harvest what we want for ourselves and then send out a email to a local collection of people who will come and pick the remainder of the fruit for themselves (or for charity). All in all, I think we are making good progress towards getting on top of all we need to do and learning to have fun as well.

Just so no one thinks it's all work and no play at our tiny farm, that's not the case. We have a sea kayaking trip and two hiking trips planned still for this summer and two different people lined up to watch the farm while we are gone. It's all about balance, right? We just have to learn to build up our balance muscles a little.