Monday, December 31, 2012

Lessons from 2012

We survived our year from hell! Here are a few more lessons learned during 2012: 
  • Don't whine - just get the flu shot 
  • When you live in the country, be prepared to go without water and/or electricity for a while. 
  • We love the NRCS!
  • Farm porches are good for parties
  • It's going to be wet, dry, and windy and there's not a darn thing we can do about it
  • No matter how strong the fence, our cattle will get out
  • Progress is messy
  • Projects ALWAYS take longer than originally planned and are directly related to Murphy's law
  • Our beef is tasty
  • "Everything will be alright in the end, so if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end." 
  • Finally, most importantly, we have a lot of great friends and family who are willing to offer up their homes, throw a few hay bales, build bathrooms, cut loads of wood, and go running after tractor parts. Thank you!

We are really excited about some big plans for 2013, there will be many more lessons to come. Thanks to everyone for reading the blog and your support through the past year. 

Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Christmas Card Outtakes

These photos did not make the cut for our annual Christmas Card, you'll see why.

In April the barn door fell off, and it's still laying there.

 Badger only eats grass-fed Scottish Highland beef. He's also very spoiled.

Moving chickens! (They're fine, they like to be upside-down.)

Farmer John's new ride!

Awkward cattle

Coco had to ride with a generator from Illinois to West Virginia. She was not too happy about that situation.

Finally, this is what we look like while riding in a convertible at the beach- no overalls or muck boots to be found!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guinea rescue

Farmer John dropped me off at the farm after school today before he headed back to town for some errands. It was raining - because it's always raining. I heard a bit of guinea squawking as I went in the house, but that's normal. This was the scene I observed from the kitchen window:

There was a guinea inside the chicken yard. Not a big deal, except that it was panicking. It was running back and forth in front of the fence, to the point where it had made a long muddy rut. It was also making panicked-guinea noises (use your imagination here). There's no telling how long it had been trapped inside the fence, but the rut was pretty deep and the guinea was soaking wet and muddy. During it's entrapment it had forgotten to!

I decided to try and rescue the pitiful thing before it got dark. Once inside the fence with  the panicked guinea I learned that guineas may be dumb, but boy are they FAST! We did quite a few laps of the chicken coop, in the rain and mud, before I took a break. 

After taking care of the chickens I decided I needed the right tool to finish this job. Farmer John's fishing net is generally the tool of choice for catching poultry around here. However, I couldn't find Farmer John's fishing net, so I grabbed a rake. The guinea and I did a few more laps of the chicken yard, this time in the POURING rain and with the rest of the guineas watching from outside the fence. (Imagine even more squawking) 

Finally I was able to use the rake to catch the guinea against the fence and grab it. Then I set it outside the fence and it ran off to join the rest of its flock. My favorite part was that cow just stood and watched the chaos while chewing her cud. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The weather (and cat names!)

It's been raining here. And it seems like it's been raining for a very long time. I would like this rain to turn to snow, and Farmer John would just like to see the sun again. I realized just how damp everything is when I went to the woodshed a couple days ago. 

There's mold and mushrooms growing all over the wood! I remember last year when it was so damp that we had some funky purple mold on some of the logs. But, I've never seen mushrooms growing like this before! We have our fingers crossed for drier weather soon. 

Also, thanks to everyone for the name ideas. We decided to stick with the beer theme and the "B" theme. The boy (top) is Barley and the girl (bottom) is Belikin. Of course we've already started to use some nicknames - Swarley and Belly. Thanks for all the comments and fun ideas! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

An update

Yes, we're ok. Don't worry. I've just fallen behind with the blog recently. Here's the update:

I went to Belize for a week! Some friends and I went to visit our friend Anna. Caves, a citrus farm, river swimming, Mayan ruins, snorkeling with sharks and stingrays, and lots and lots of laughter! 

Farmer John took care of the farm. Which included supervising rail installation on the bridge, major clearing and repair of fences after the summer derecho, moving cattle onto new pasture, moving chickens onto their winter spot, and cleaning out the barn in preparation for winter feeding. 

He also acquired two new cats. They are keeping Beast Lite company and I think they'll fit in just fine around here. We don't have names for them yet, any ideas? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Our Year from Hell

Just over a year ago we were giddy with excitement about our bridge project. The abutments were in place, we'd lined-up help from a pipeline company, and the bridge was on the way. Then, after a long day of bridge work, we found out the bridge was too short.

That was the beginning of what we've dubbed "Our Year from Hell".

Our too-short bridge was a source of stress and frustration. The very warm winter meant that all the ground that was ripped up turned to mud. We called ourselves "mudpeople" for several months. 

At the same time we were dealing with the bridge construction project, we had a pipeline crossing our property. Equipment was all over the place, and we fielded phone calls and visits from the company reps on a daily basis. We spent a long time looking at our land being ripped apart.

Next, our well died. We spent two months without running water, and waited for our new well to be drilled.  Then we waited for the water to clear. That stretch of time was exhausting.

Our next hellish time came during two weeks in July. A storm knocked out power and water in the midst of a heat wave. There was damage all over the farm.

Finally, our beloved Beast is gone. We miss him terribly.

I've been waiting to write this post for a year now. When I sat down the other night to find some pictures to include something struck me. Yes, there were many challenges this year. Yet, all those challenges led us to a better place. 

We have a bridge now. The railings are coming soon. We can drive to our house in all kinds of weather and hauling all kinds of things. It was worth the wait. 

There is a gravel driveway that leads to the house. We don't have to hike through mud, and park the car in a bog - luticoles no more!

The pipeline is done, all the equipment is gone. Although our land looks different, it is starting to recover. The pipeline provided finances for future projects (and vacations!) as well as lots of wood. We will have easily accessible wood for the next several years. 

We have a new well. Our water is now safe to drink, and runs clear. Having a good source of water is priceless - and hopefully we won't have to pay that price again! 

There have also been a lot of good events at the farm throughout the year of hell. 

We were able to sell four beeves this year. All the work building fence, putting up hay, building a chute, hauling water, and chasing rouge calves paid off. We covered some of our expenses and have a freezer full of delicious beef

The garden was a success. We ate well all summer, and are still harvesting. Our freezer and shelves are full of preserved veggies. 

A farmer's market started in New Martinsville. We were pleased with the response from the community, and feedback from our customers. It's encouraging as we think about future farm plans. 

The cabin has the start of a bathroom. We've made good progress over the past few weeks and are looking forward to continuing the work. 

So, we are calling "Our Year of Hell" officially over. Although there have been a lot of hardships and hard work, looking back - we've been blessed with a lot of progress and beauty. We have big plans ahead and can't wait to see what the next year brings. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ready for winter

Yesterday we worked on wood. Farmer John and Uncle John cut up several big logs. 

Two truckloads went to Uncle John's house. He'll split up the large chunks there. Two truckloads were split here and loaded into the woodshed. 

The woodshed is full, the woodstove is clean, the weather is changing. Bring on winter, we're ready!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Time to vote! (again)

Remember when we finally got our bridge?  It's doing quite well, and has really changed our lives. 

Now it's time to add railings. We are going to have steel posts attached to the bridge (vertically) and wood rails attached to the posts (horizontally). The posts need to be painted before they are welded to the bridge. 

Which of course prompted the question, "What color?" 

What do you think? When we head down to hardware store, what color should we pick?* Time to, once again this week, make your opinion known. (Feel free to use the "Anonymous" option in the comments section if you want to keep your vote a secret.) 

*We've actually already picked a color, so your vote won't really carry any weight, but go ahead and throw your opinion out there! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

A reminder

Tomorrow is election day. You're going to vote right? Unless you've taken care of that oh-so-important civic duty a bit early this year.

In the morning we'll be heading up the road to our favorite polling place - a garage. Click here to read about our primary election voting experience.

I also found this article today about other odd places to vote. Do you have a fun polling place?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Night

Clyde out trick-or-treating tonight. Much more trick than treat. 


Our cat Beast is missing. We noticed on Saturday that he wasn't around. We were outside a lot working on the cabin, and he wasn't getting underfoot - which isn't like him at all. He's disappeared before, and been gone for about a week. I'm worried about him, and wishing he'd come back from his adventure. 

In the meantime this guy has seemed pretty lonely. We've been giving Beast Lite a little more love recently and he's even come in the house for a visit. Everyone is hoping his brother returns soon. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Here comes Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is on her way. Much of the East Coast will be affected, and I hope people are listening to the warnings and getting ready. 

We may get hit with some wind, rain, and maybe snow. We aren't too worried, but we are prepared. 

After the storm this summer, we took some steps to prepare the farm for emergencies. The first step was to make sure the animals would be alright. We worked with NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) to install a spring development and water tanks. 

We have three large tanks that the cattle can access from different pastures. As long as the spring is running, and it always is, then the tanks will have water. No electricity required!

I'd also gathered some supplies over the summer. We have plenty of water for ourselves, along with some food and first-aid items. If the winds are strong enough, I wouldn't be surprised if we lose power. We are grateful that this storm isn't going to hit during a heat-wave, and we can stay cozy by the wood stove. 

Good luck to everyone in the mountains and East of us. Batten down the hatches and hold on!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Final Harvest?

Last week we got our first hard frost. In preparation for it we picked as much as we could from the garden. 

We harvested all the green beans, green peppers, eggplant, and basil. 

We then proceeded to eat green beans every day for a week, and slice and freeze the peppers. 

This is the latest we've ever had these crops, which means the second plantings really paid off. There's still more in the garden that can tolerate colder temps and some frosts. We'll be eating from the garden for a few more weeks at least. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

A day in the life

We have a friend that is good at reminding me, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed, that Farmer John and I are working four full-time jobs between the two of us. Most of the year it doesn't feel like that, but the past two months have been busy. I kept track of how we spent our day a few weeks ago. 

4:45 – Mollie wakes up (because I haven’t been sleeping)
5:45 – Both of us get up and get ready for work
6:30 - Wake up Badger, who is always sleepy in the morning, take care of dogs
7:00 – Arrive at work
8:00 – Fill student’s brains with all kinds of important stuff that we hope they’ll remember tomorrow
3:15 – Mollie meets to plan after-school tutoring program, Farmer John brings tools to school and works on our car in the parking lot
5:00 – Arrive back at the farm, take care of dogs
5:15 – Get beef order ready
5:30 - Deliver beef and visit with customers in town (Thanks Scott and Linda!)
6:00 – Visitation in Paden City (We’ll miss you and your music Mike)
6:45 – Mollie washes and packs eggs, Farmer John takes care of chickens and cats then starts coals for grill
7:15 – Cook dinner, prep for Farmer’s Market
7:45 – Dinnertime – steak, leftover garden salad, and corn from Scott’s garden
8:10- Clean up, take care of dogs
8:20- Get ready for work tomorrow, collapse on couch
9:05 – Goodnight!

This was an average day for us. We usually have meetings after school, then try to get into town in the evenings for any errands and to go to our gym. Our days are busy, and we wish we had more time to work on the farm. However, everything always seems to get done one way or another. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Birthday!

This is reason #1,617 why I love Farmer John. Happy Birthday to my favorite Lumberjack!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wood weekend

There's a quote by some old-white-guy that says wood warms twice, or three times, I'm not sure.  But, after this past weekend I'm convinced it warms SO MUCH MORE than whatever he said.

First there's the hauling out into the field.

Then comes the cutting into stove-length chunks. 

Then, inevitably, there's the fixing of equipment. And, as was our case this weekend, there was the trip to the hardware store to buy a new chain and some sharpening files. 

Next Farmer John got warmed up by splitting lots and lots of wood. He was so warmed up that he broke the new handle on the splitting maul. 

Which meant another trip to town for a new handle. However, the old-white-guy standing next to him in the handle aisle recommended that he just by a new maul. "Hope you're not buyin' that for a splittin' maul. It'll break right at the end." Farmer John took his advice. 

We were back in business and the warming continued with the loading of the truck...

the unloading of the truck...

and the stacking.

Finally we loaded the truck for the fourth time, and cleaned up all the tools.

Thanks to our hard-working wood crew we have half a winter's worth of wood cut. By my count it's already warmed us eight times, and we haven't even burned it yet!

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