Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Because I want to remember...

It's seems like I haven't been in the mood to post lately. I think there are a few factors to has been busier than normal...good busy, but busy nonetheless, home life is always a dance, balancing that work, family, and farm. I suggested to a friend/fellow blogger this morning that sometimes writing a blog post will help you/force you to remember the good things in life...and maybe it will help you move past some of the bad. I thought I would take a moment or two to go through some of the things that have been going on around Fresh Egg's Farm.

I feel like the farm offers us some consistency in our lives. No matter what else we have going on, the animals will need fed/watered/hayed, the garden grows and the lawn needs mowed etc. etc. etc. I'm thankful for that, although at times it's stressful to be in the middle of another project (or blog post) and realize that the goats are bahing for their food and to be let out. I force myself to make time for pasture, from time to time - because I realized that for a bit, I was more or less going through the motions of feeding and letting them out to pasture and not stopping to enjoy them. Now, I make sure that, when I can make time for it, I spend at least a few minutes in the pasture, talking with my animals, scratching their heads, giving them hugs and snuggles and laughing at their antics. They make me happy.

Our birds are FINALLY acting like real chickens! Each day, it's like an Easter egg hunt at our farm. While we have two nesting boxes, which they seem to want to sit in together and fight over, someone (ahem, Andy, our Blue Andalusian...I'm looking at you here), likes to find her way into the turkey's side of the coop and lay her eggs over there. I don't know if the egg laying sneaks up on her and she just doesn't think to get to the nest in time or what...crazy bird. I did have the opportunity to watch her lay an egg though. This time, she was in the nest, I thought something might have been happening and she kept getting comfortable and then wiggling around and repositioning and the next thing I know - she pushes out an egg! I've never witnessed that before. What an honor and an amazing thing to watch. We are getting lots of eggs now - which is AWESOME...but you know has been so busy, we haven't even had the opportunity to TRY them. Can you believe it? My plan is to make some sort of lovely egg dish for dinner tomorrow, so we can all try them together. It's very exciting for us. The eggs are light brown, dark brown and white...hopefully soon we'll get some of the Easter eggers (they lay blue/green eggs) and can round out the look of our egg carton.

Our garden is better this year than it has been in the past - although we still got it in too late and I know some serious changes we need to make...I'm excited about future gardens. We got lots of tomatoes from the garden, although we could have gotten more, if we had staked up the plants like we should year. We finally got some pumpkins - which will make sweet decorations and maybe a pie or two (yay fall), although we've learned about trellising and will likely trellis the pumpkins and year. We've also seen super cute trellis options for beans and such (I think Mark is going to be busy, building trellis options for our garden...I'll help, but he is super builder). Garlic and potatoes were great too, although we know that we could get a better crop with a few adjustments. Next year, our gardens will be different and better.

In extremely exciting news...we are getting ready to harvest honey for the very first time. We have decided to open this experience up to anyone that wants to come out. I hope we'll have a few takers that want to learn about the experience with us. The plan is to take off all the honey frames either the day prior or earlier in the day of extraction, so that the likeliness of someone (other than us) getting stung is limited. Yesterday we got our bottles - we decided to get a case of the 2# glass jars and a box of 50 of the 2 ounce little bears. The bears are more of a sample size and the 2# will be for us and if we have extra to sell. I have no idea how much we will even be able to pull off of the hive...I'm hoping for a billion pounds, but we'll likely get around 20 :-) I'll share another blog post after the extraction party.

So I've had to force myself to look at all of this good, because we also had something extremely terrible happen here. Our LSG (livestock guard dog), Ollie, passed away, extremely tragically and unexpectedly. He had been digging his way out of the pasture lately and we were afraid that he'd get into the road, so we made the decision to put him on a long lead, that would allow him to go between the barn and the pasture. Unfortunately, he tried to jump a portion of the fence that we'd been using as a makeshift barn door and got hung up and ended up hanging himself. The boys and I were coming home from picking up the boys from school and as we drove down the driveway, we saw his body hanging from the fence...we thought he was just struggling...but he was already gone. Our hearts are broken. His body is being cremated and his ashes will be spread under the bush where he liked to lay with his flock.

To end this post on a happier note, I want to remember this past weekend. Mark gave me a weekend getaway, for my birthday. He purchased a weekend pass, for each of us, to attend the Mother Earth News Fair, in Seven Springs, PA.  First, Mark and I have only been away, on our own - without kids, without it being for work etc., since we've been married - well, this is the third time. In 17 years. We even spent a portion of our honeymoon visiting with our older daughters (their bio-mom still had custody, at the time). So, when I say "We needed this time away" - you know I'm speaking the truth. Second, the weather was a perfect way to enter into Fall. The air was crispy and cool, with hints of the warm sun shining through. A thunderstorm and heavy rain made for perfect snuggle weather on Saturday. We watched the leaves turn colors over the few days that we were there from just a touch of orange here and there to bright oranges and reds streaking through the entire treeline. It's such a beautiful area. We were happy with the hotel and the food we ate. It was such a nice time...But finally, it was awesome because of the content of the Fair. It is a three-day event, at a ski-resort, in PA - there are vendors, both inside and out, showcasing their sustainable living goods. Throughout the day, they offer many breakout sessions with a WIDE variety of topics - from authors highlighting the content of their books to seed saving to live poultry slaughter/processing and everything in between. We walked away from the event with a renewed sense of excitement about our farm and our journey. We've been second guessing our poultry slaughtering methods - but when Daniel Salatin, yes, SALATIN, as in Joel Salatin's son, as in Polyface Farms fame - processes chickens, using the exact same method that we do, I think we are good. And when the person teaching how to make goat milk chevre cheese, is also using the exact method we do, again, we are good. In addition, it got us thinking about the future of the farm. We, as stated above, need to better set up our garden - perfect our seed starting and saving processes, perfect our planting/transplanting methods, add/take advantage of all our spaces by putting in cold frames and raised beds etc. While we are perfecting our gardening methodologies, we need to also perfect our "putting up" methods. When we were at Mother Earth News Fair, we had the privilege to listen to Niki Jabbour - "The Year Round Vegetable Gardener" author and Sherri Brooks Vinton - "Put 'Em Up" author and look forward to ordering their books. While we were there, we bought some delicious kettle corn and maple syrup. We bought Gage some tea - he's been getting into the idea drinking more natural herbal teas. For Cora, we got her a bunch of seed packets to get her started on her bee garden - she wanted a garden of her very own and I think that giving her the bee garden will help her understand pollination, beauty, bees, seasons etc. Drake was honored with a gift from a vendor. The gentlemen were so impressed with Drake's confidence (his willingness to crochet on the bus, without fear of being made fun of etc.) that they gifted him a skein of beautiful light olive green yard (50/50 mohair and wool)...he has already made a hat with the yarn and it's really "him". Finally, it was good for me to see some excitement from Mark, about our farm. He's so even tempered that I'm not always sure what he thinks of all this craziness, but he seemed just as pumped about most things as I felt. Which makes me even more excited.
...and these are just a few of the things that I want to remember.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sept. 1, 2013

Whew - I finally have a moment to sit and write. What a crazy past couple of months we have had. I'm not sitting because here is nothing left to do and I've checked everything off my list, it's more like my body said, "yea, you're done" and gave me dizzy spells this morning - so I won a nap and an afternoon on the couch, resting. I get it, I've been pushing too hard. Not enough sleep, lots of work, lots of go-go-going. I'm thankful for this moment and the relaxation, although, my mind is racing with all of the things I should be doing/want to be doing. Here's some of the things we've been up to...

My work has been insanely busy lately. I manage a program and have one staff member reporting to me. She has been shipped off to another one of our programs for a few months, which means I am left to work both her job and mine. In addition, we've been up to our elbows putting together a proposal to continue my program for another two years - the proposal was submitted Friday afternoon and fingers crossed, I will be working here for another couple of years!!! (although, I have got to do something about these 12 hour days)

Speaking of work, my company has invested in a number of employees, working to gain our PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. In order to take the exam, we need to have a certain amount of Project Management experience, logged training hours etc. My company hired an organization to provide us with a project management training seminar, which is AWESOME - but it also meant two trips to Portland, OR. I spent a few days in Portland, came home for a week and spent a few more days in Portland. I got to spend time with some of my co-worker/friends. It was a great time, with lots of learning, but I missed my family SO much, I always do when I'm gone. 

As most of you know, Mark finally got a full time teaching job, working as a Second Grade teacher. SO EXCITING! But it also means that we needed to sort through the previous teacher's MANY, MANY years of teaching supplies and try to make his room his own. He picked an ocean theme (perfect to represent our previous years in Florida). During that week home from Portland, I'd spend all day working and then head over to Mark's class and help him until late at night, getting him classroom set up. By the time open house hit, it looked amazing!! Now he's been teaching for a couple of weeks and doing a great job!

The day after tomorrow, the kids go back to school. I find it unbelievable that Gage is going to be a sophomore, Drake in seventh and Cora is going into 4th. Our kids keep growing into these awesomely amazing people, right before our eyes. I'm a proud mama and so excited to see how this year goes for them. I'm sure that they will do great. Drake and Cora are going to be students in brand new buildings. We were able to tour them this past Friday - and they are AWESOME...with air conditioning and everything!!! This summer has been a bit of a whirlwind - Cora had her concussion and most recently had her tonsils and adenoids removed (just a day or so before I left for my first trip to Portland). I worried so much about her while I was gone - but she is a very strong little girl. She healed up nicely and is back to her old self. Gage and Drake have transitioned from boys to young men over the summer - they have both grown leaps and bounds. Gage is already taller than me and Drake is getting close. Crazy.

This summer we've had the awesome fortune of eating much of our own fruit. We've had black caps galore, our first apples (EVER!), a few handfuls of peaches (AKA the most delicious peaches I've ever had!), a pear is hanging on the tree, nearly ready for picking and all the remaining trees are healthy as can be. We even have a number of baby lemons growing on our lemon tree - which I cannot believe, since we just bought it and replanted it in the spring. We've enjoyed strawberries (after we realized the damn turkeys were eating them all, before we could get to them). It's been a great year for fruit.  Soon, we'll be harvesting walnuts and it looks like some pecans too!

Finally, let's talk chicken...those little b!t$#es are holding out on us. We should be getting eggs, we've provided them plenty of daylight and outside space, we've built in lovely nesting boxes, that get ignored, I mean, that's cool...we'll just keep feeding you ladies. We'll go capture you when you escape your yard area and want to discover areas of "Narnia"(the wooded area near our house). You just hold out and not worry about giving us the eggs...because ya''s not like it's your purpose on our farm. Grr...Hopefully soon.

Hope all of you are doing well in blogland. Rumor has it that Fall is coming ready?