A Season In Retrospect: part III—Summer

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Summer in the north is go-time.  It’s a theatrical production we prepare for all winter and then have only one chance to perform.

The days are long and warm (and yes, buggy, but that’s part of it).  Working in shorts and short-sleeves is not taken for granted, and that abundant daylight must not be wasted.  This is the time to capture and store solar energy in many forms.  Again, “if you’re not preparing for winter now, you’re late.”

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An idyllic summer image.  Note vacancy.

Besides the usual tasks of growing lots of vegetables and trying to keep up with the flood of goat milk, we had some bigger ticket items on the docket: build winter housing for the goats, fence a lot more land, build a big wood shed and stock it…

We had our frenetic agenda and stuck to it, but alongside it things purred along naturally: bees darting and buzzing, goats nipping ripping and chomping their pasture, the scratch scratch peck of chickens…plants silently growing in the garden, the silent growth of the forest, the cycles far greater than ourselves as we scurried about and fretted…

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The loons down on the lakes crooned their haunting nighttime calls, hawks and buzzards and osprey and eagles soared above, winds and rains washed and thrashed the leaves of trees, and thunder echoed in the valleys around.  Winter is a time of resting, stillness and contemplation; summer is a time of aliveness and growth.

A Season in Retrospect: part II—Spring

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It’s only in looking back through photos of the past year that I can more clearly see how much we actually accomplished here.  This is a reassuring exercise, since my eye is constantly drawn to what is still not done (or not done well enough, or broken…)

This year was one of exciting progress, but also one of a thousand long-overdue 10-minute projects (sharpen that chisel, fix that crooked fencepost, get that lumber pile out of our yard, fix that flat wheelbarrow tire, move that poor bike out of the rain already…)  It has been such a monumental effort to establish a homestead from scratch, that we’ve constantly pushed these little projects off until “later.”  Probably if we were more efficient, or focused, we could’ve kept up with our loose ends along the way.  Well.  Such is the great learning curve (a.k.a. “life”).

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Unplanned project! Carport-shed annihilated by crazy thunderstorm

Last winter was long and snowy and lingered far into April, and we were leaping at the door to get things started outside.  Most of our big projects of the year involved building, which required that the ground be thawed and dried out.  Not knowing what else to do until then, I spent many hours slogging through wet snow, knee-deep, cutting firewood and clearing land.  It was at least 10 times more work than waiting a few weeks for the ground to clear.  But I had to do something or I might explode (and now we have 2 years of wood stowed away).

Life sure was good in our new high tunnel though.  With snow still deep outside, the spinach was erupting out of the ground with the lengthening days and the balmy indoor weather.  We kept the goats in there for the winter, and they too thrived in the bright, warm conditions.  Plastic does, at times, make amazing things possible.

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Once things did finally melt and dry out, the first order of business was to prepare a chicken coop, as we had chickens arriving in April.  Like the farmers of old, we took the path of least resistance and dragged our wood shed over to hitch onto the back side of my little workshop, put some boards and a door on it, and were ready to go (knowing now we would of course need a new wood shed before long).

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wood shed-turned-coop

We scrambled to get our creamery built and did finish it, but ultimately concluded it was one thing too many to go online with it for the year. We instead decided to focus on fencing new land and building quality winter housing for the goats.  Care of the animals comes first and foremost for us, and everything else resolves one way or another.  We spent the season honing some cheese recipes, working out kinks with the creamery space, and will hit the ground running this coming spring.

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The finished creamery, ready to go on-line in 2016

 

Before we knew it, it was Real Spring—bees, blossoms, bright green grass, bright green trees, bright green weeds in the garden…

We kept the goats off the main pasture as long as we could to let it grow in, and finally cut the 4 expecting moms loose on it on a glorious day in May.  It was the kind of day where you can’t take a bad picture, and all you want to do is lay in the warm grass and listen to the bees in the apple trees and watch the hawks soar.  But, a Puritan guilt grips you and you know a long, warm day (without bugs, no less) can’t be wasted in idleness. “If you’re not preparing for winter now, you’re late.” In Maine, this mantra applies year-round.

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And then…goat kids!  I don’t think this will ever get old.  It’s like having a bunch of new puppies every year.  We call it the goat vortex—you suddenly realize you’ve been watching their antics for hours, having unwittingly blown off all your worldly obligations (or that’s your story anyway).

All of the kiddings were “textbook” goat births, if there can be such a thing.  They were fast, easy and without any hitches.  We are fairly hands-off when it comes to kidding, but when we know it’s imminent, we can’t help but hang around and watch.  The moms are in their own world and never seem to mind.

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The kids were all big, hearty, and full of vigor.  And two-thirds girls! We’ve had amazing odds over the course of several years, with overwhelmingly female kids.  It’s only a matter of time before we have a run of bucklings.  But for now, we’ll take the good fortune.  The two bucklings went off to play with (human) kids at Broadturn Farm’s summer camp (even spending some luxuriant time on an island off the mid-coast, though I hear they had a wee ordeal stranded by high tide on a rock outcropping). Each doe then had one doeling apiece to raise for the season (leaving a ton of extra milk for us!) They were excellent mothers, and the 4 doelings are looking like promising members of our dairy herd.  They will be bred at the end of this season, and will become mothers themselves the following spring.  Kids just grow up so fast these days…

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The flood of milk!

As always, spring ramped up quickly into full-blown summer.  Check back soon for a recap of our summer on the hill in Part III.

A Season in Retrospect: part I

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I know this in not really how blogs are supposed to work, but somehow once the snow melted, the days got long, and spring hit its stride, sitting in front of a computer to send pictures and quips off into the cloud became less pressing than growing vegetables, milking (but first building a milk parlor), making cheese and yogurt (but first building a creamery), cutting firewood (but first building a woodshed), fencing, and a thousand other projects great and small that could only be accomplished during the warmer months.  This is a roundabout way of making excuses for not posting a single thing here for over 9 months.

Well. Besides routine animal chores and snow removal, our outside work is done till spring.  We’ll be chipping away at indoor projects like replacing the saw horses in the kitchen with actual cabinets and (maybe) cleaning and installing a set of storm windows as we enter the third winter in the house.  But otherwise, we’ve got lots of time to sit by the fire while soups simmer to ramble on about this past year.  Perhaps images of flowers, lush pastures, and ripe tomatoes are more appropriate to share in this time of whites, grays, and browns than while they’re actually unfolding.

We hope the depths of winter find you also hunkered down in some version of a warm little nest as winds crash through the trees outside.

More ruminations to follow soon.

 

Welcome to our Blog!

Welcome to the blog section of our website!  Now, blogs have always seemed pretty self-indulgent to me, and we’re both fairly private people by nature.  But, given that folks have voluntarily chosen to follow us, it seems like we ought to deliver something.  So, here you will find mostly reflections and musings, probably waxing poetic or philosophic at times, while keeping the business side of the farm relegated to other areas of the website.  We’ll aim to post regularly, without forcing it or being overbearing.  Check back from time to time to see what we’re up to.  We hope you enjoy looking through this lens at our life here on the hill.