June – Blending in…

Our barn was completed back during the winter when the weather wasn’t conducive to a coat of stain. But the winter snow and spring rains started to weather the wood, so we needed to make it a priority.

It seems like every project around here comes with the need for a new piece of equipment, which is what got us into this predicament of needing another barn in the first place. All this equipment needs a place to be stored. This new equipment – a paint sprayer – definitely earned its keep.

After two days and six gallons of stain, our rough-hewn pine boards now look like cedar. The barn looks more established, like it has settled itself on the farm and blends in with the trees. My forsythia wreaths stand out better against the darker stain and give it a pop of color. But… never to leave well enough alone, now I think we need little black shutters on each side of the window. That will be the next project.

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Getting the equipment ready.
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One side done – three more to go.
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Trimming out around the doors.
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Just about done – and check out that great looking garden!
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The dark stain makes the wreaths stand out. We need the Vinca to fill in on the hillside, and I think black shutters on the window will finish it off!

June – Here a goat, there a goat…everywhere a goat-goat

To take a line from Old MacDonald’s farm – we now have goats here, there and everywhere. I’m not sure how that happened. We had just two goats – Heidi and Peter. They are brother and sister. Heidi is a year-old doe, and Peter is a castrated male (because male goats stink and are aggressive, and we just needed a companion for Heidi). But, I thought we needed to add another doe. We were in search of a baby so it would be a year younger than Heidi – to liven things up around here. And, because eventually I’d like to have goats to milk so I can make cheese for something to do in my old age – so I need females (does) to make babies and give milk. You know, Biology 101.

A friend sent me a link on Facebook to some sweet looking babies at a farm about an hour from here; we piled into the truck with Arianna, took a dog crate with us and off we went. Somewhere along the way, our plans derailed and we came home with two one-year-old does. They were so cute, how could we say no. Hei-Hei (which is weirdly close to Heidi) took an immediate liking to Arianna and followed her everywhere. We didn’t want Hei-Hei to be lonely and feel left out when we introduced her to Heidi and Peter – so it seemed like Hei-Hei should bring a friend. Rory is also a year-old goat with a shiny black coat. We renamed her Black Beauty.

Black Beauty was a bit more skeptical of us and needed some coaxing to leave her pen, so we decided it was safest to put her in the dog crate. With two goats to transport home, Hei-Hei got to ride in the backseat of the truck with Arianna who didn’t seem to mind sharing the ride.

When Hei-Hei and Black Beauty met Heidi and Peter there was some excitement in the barnyard.  Everyone was running around, checking each other out and butting head; but then Pono (the miniature horse) kicked up his hooves, reminded everyone that he “rules the roost,” and everyone settled down. Now, they are inseparable, bunking together in the barn, grazing together in the pasture and giving Pono a headache as he tries to keep track of four goats!

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I never thought I’d see the day – a goat riding in Chris’ pick-up truck.
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Our two new beautiful goats.
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The “herd” enjoying the pasture.
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Feeding time – on the picnic table of course. Where else would you have a goat picnic?

March – Warmer – Inside and Out

Maybe we’ve finally turned the corner and spring will “March” in this April. The grass is greening, the daffodils have buds and the days are ever so slightly warmer.

But it’s what inside that is keeping us warm! We finally found a solution to our living room fireplace. From the beginning, it has been a struggle. It is on a north-facing wall against a steep outside slope, so getting a proper draft going always meant using a hair-dryer to blow hot air up the chimney, followed by bouts of smoke filling the room, opening multiple doors and “fanning” them to circulate the air, dissipate the smoke, and coax the fire to draft properly.  The fireplace has a shallow fire box, and a very tight throat. I didn’t know fireplaces have throats, but apparently, ours is a problem. And if all of that wasn’t enough of a problem, we couldn’t close the damper at night until the fire was completely out – so any heat we did have, went straight up the tight throat of the chimney.  We looked into getting a fireplace insert about a year ago, but nothing would fit in our tiny space.

Finally – we found a very cute (and very small) Vermont Castings wood stove that fits just right – it is the Goldilocks of wood stoves.  Even better – it was last years model, end of season and on sale! After two days of four guys trying to figure out how to install this – we could start fires to “season” the stove. We could only burn a small fire and let it go completely out – repeat three times – before really firing it up. We are now in the firing it up stage, and the temperature in the family room has sky-rocketed from 66 to 76! I might have to give up my flannel pajamas and fuzzy blanket.

I can hardly wait for next fall so we can stay warm all winter long! And guess what Chris is doing today? Chopping wood!

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A fire in the fireplace — it looks pretty, but it wasn’t very warm.

 

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It’s a tiny thing, but fits perfectly – not sure how Santa will get down this chimney though.
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What a nice fire! And finally, a really warm family room!
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Time to chop more firewood!

February – Throwing off the Blanket

We are finally starting to show some signs of warmth around here. The snow is melting, temperatures are flirting with the 40’s some days, and it’s almost time to start my garden!

The blanket of snow on the greenhouse roof was headed south, so I started seeds. It’s  too cold in the greenhouse to give them a good start, so this year we are starting them on a germinating mat under a grow light in the basement. Things are starting to pop already.  By the time they are ready to transplant to larger pots and harden off under some real sunlight – the greenhouse will have warmed up – I hope!

Another sure sign of spring are the blue hoses attached to two of our maple trees. They aren’t sugar maples, but they are maples – so that’s close enough. Last year we started too late and got about one cup of maple syrup by the time we boiled down all the sap. This year I may have jumped the gun, but so far I have three gallons of sap – and the whole month of March ahead of me. Maybe this year we’ll get two cups!

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The blanket of snow is on the move – spring must be on the way.
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If you look REALLY close, you can see some sprouts – spring MUST be almost here.
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How much maple syrup will we get this year?

January 2019 – Feeding the Birds

We are blessed with an abundance of birds around here. This time of year the cardinals congregate on the bird feeder, the wrens and snow birds flit around and we still see an occasional woodpecker. It’s not the time of year for the bluebirds or the goldfinches – they add their color to the flock in the summer.

The ones that stick around all year long have become accustomed to being well fed. Chris keeps the bird feeders full for the birds, and the dried corn gadget is full for the squirrels. But this time of year, with cold weather looming, they need an extra treat.

Our neighbors recently butchered their cows and gave us a considerable amount of the fat – the suet. We ground it up, cooked it down to get the impurities out, mixed it with birdseed and some corn meal – and now our birds are eating Gourmet suet blocks.  They say Thank You with their chirping and flitting (and even fighting – while they try to get to the last crumbs – until the next block of suet arrives).

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We ground up the beef fat.
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Cooked it until it melted.
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Strained out all the particles
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Added some cornmeal and bird seed and let it harden in some sheet pans.
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And cut it into blocks the perfect size to fit in those suet feeders – Happy Birds!

December – What Santa brought!

And what to our wondering eyes did appear – but a new barn! It’s a pole barn with a gravel floor; perfect for storing all those extra “implements” we seem to have collected since we’ve been here on the farm. There is plenty of room for the big tractor, the lawn tractor, the grader, the tiller and a myriad of other things like spare bee equipment.

But the barn isn’t all about farm implements – it also has a loft… with a ship’s ladder to make it easy to climb up there. And once you’re up there, the little window gives a bird’s eye view over the tree tops. It’s the perfect place to hang out with Arianna – and Hannah too when she gets a bit older.

The barn came festooned with Christmas wreaths – the perfect touch for the holiday season. And now I’m looking forward to spring when we can pull all those farm implements out of the barn and get busy in the garden!

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Bit by bit it started coming together.
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And then it got a roof.
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And then some rough sawn boards and battens.
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Some trim work.
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And it looks like it fits right in on the farm.
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Arianna can hang out up in the loft.
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When she’s not busy driving Opa’s tractor.
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And the doors look perfect all decked out with Christmas wreaths.

December – What is Santa bringing?

We were away for a week or so visiting family over Thanksgiving, but apparently Santa was busy at the farm.  He left sleigh tracks back and forth on the front yard.  I think his reindeer were practicing their take-offs and landings.  But the curious thing is that Santa seems to have delivered a load of pine boards.  I wonder what he’s building us for Christmas?!?

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Santa’s sleigh must have been really busy brining our Christmas present.
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I hope Santa is building us something nice.

But that isn’t the only strange happening here on the farm. This was my view out the window this morning.  I guess Pono (the horse) was standing on Peter’s back (the goat), who was standing on the picnic table – all to get a better view of what Santa is building!

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Strange happenings on the farm.