Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gone too long...

Hiya friends,
It hardly seems possible that it has been almost 5 months since my last blog. Surely, it was just day before yesterday when I said, "Oh, I'll write another one tomorrow...". Summer sure can keep you hopping on the farm. Now that the cool weather has moved in, I have just a tad more time to catch my breath. Let me try to recount our summer in a few paragraphs...

I guess I never blogged about one of the most momentous events so far on the farm. Shaasta, our mini-LaMancha goat gave birth to twin girls on March 9th, Tilly and Luna. They are just adorable. Tilly needed a little help to get out in the world and Luna came sliding right out, no problem. They're as tall as their mommy now.



We put in a HUGE garden this summer. When I say 'we', I guess I should say that I put in a reasonable sized garden and my step-dad thought it should be about 3 times the size I planned. Oh, and once he helped me get it planted, it was time for Ma and Pa to head back to Arkansas to take care of some things! I was a bit overwhelmed. Next, our tomatoes started showing signs of leaf spot. It's a nasty fungus that starts with round dark spots on your tomato leaves. The lower leaves start dying and the fungus progresses up the plant. Our tomato crop was pretty much a bust. I'll most likely plant them in raised beds or the greenhouse next year, as it takes 4 years for the fungus to die in the soil. We did get lots of beans from the garden.

That leads to the next adventure. I learned how to can. Boy, that is some hard work. I know it just seems like 'cooking', but it keeps you hopping. I spent several days canning. We put up pickled beets, pickled okra, tomatoes in sauce and wholes, chili sauce, and beans. If you haven't tried canning before, get a Ball Blue Book and a canning kit. It's a great feeling to put up your own food for the winter.

We had our first hogs butchered. Nigel was our Old Spot/Large Black cross and Mr. Humphries was our Old Spot feeder. We filled our freezer with pork goodness. We have been eating a lot or pork and not complaining. It is wonderful. The bacon is out of this world, and unfortunately, we are out of it :-(  We have three more hogs ready to go to the butcher in December. One is sold. We'll try to sell a second and keep one for ourselves. These are two Yorkshires and a Hampshire. Next time, we'll be back to Old Spots. We had a hard time finding a husband for our sow, Martha. He came all the way from Georgia. Luckily, we were able to meet his previous owners in Kentucky. She's very excited to be betrothed. She just wishes um, he would get taller, quicker...
,
We finally got our hoophouse finished in time for fall. A hoophouse is an unheated greenhouse. We'll be able to grow plants that can tolerate cool weather throughout the winter. This includes root vegetables and many types of lettuces/greens.
We are also currently raising a few cows for beef. We buy them as calves from the livestock auction and bottle feed them until they are weaned. Billy, our first steer, is about 6 months old and getting huge. We call him 'Billy', because it was written on his eartag when we purchased him. He's like a 500 lb. puppy dog with horns. He's very friendly, but you should never let your guard down for a second with such a large animal.

 We also have Count Chocula and McCartney who are still on the bottle. We feed them a mix of milk replacer and goat milk. They do very well on it.

We are now up to 14 goats! Animal Hoarders, here I come. No, they are well taken care of and have plenty of space. We finally got our pasture fenced with a lot of help from Pa. The animals are having a high time in their expanded digs. We even took a trip to NY back in May to pick up Jill from the Beekman Farm. It was such a pleasure to meet John Hall. He raises some spectacular, friendly goats.
Me and Jill
 Here's a pic that has most of our goats. We have quite the herd now. We love them all so much. They really bring more joy than you can imagine to our lives.
Oh, shoot. I almost forgot. We have a line of soap! Chad and I come up with all of the scents, and we have a master soapmaker, Margaret Neff from Nature's Touch Soaps, who makes the soap for us. We are in several retailers and a bed and breakfast. We also have an Etsy store where you can purchase online.

We recently made the decision to give up television! Honestly, it hasn't been that difficult. If there's something we really want to see, we can always watch it online. We just found ourselves wasting too much time in front of the TV. There are so many more things we could be doing that would be productive. We just have to make sure that we have downtime. You will find yourself worn out if you don't give yourself some.

I think I have hit on the major points since my last blog. I am going to do my best to be a regular blogger. I hope they're as much fun for you to read as they are for me to write. We have the beginnings of our website up as well. Visit us at tiltonhollow.com. There are links to our store and this blog. There will be a lot of content added over the next few months. It's great to be back!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The fight for good food...





Hello friends,
It has been way too long since I last blogged. I'm trying to do better. This post isn't going to be a catch-up post. This is going to be more of a vent/rant. As all of you know, we moved to the country in search of the good life. We found it in spades. We decided we wanted to share some of the good life and help pay some of the bills. We want to sell our pork which is raised on pasture naturally as opposed to crammed into metal buildings, never seeing the sun, getting shots of minerals because they can't root them out naturally, and crammed full of antibiotics to prevent disease in these unnatural conditions. We had our hogs butchered at a USDA inspected facility which allows us to re-sell it.

I called the county health department. We have to have a freezer to transport the pork to and from the market. We've transported the pork for hours before in a cooler with ice and it was still frozen rock hard when we got home. The best part is that the freezer doesn't have to be running, it just needs to be able to run. How is that different than a cooler. The permit is $167. The county guy told me that I also have to have a permit from the state to store frozen food.

So I call the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Their permit is $50. They have to come out and inspect the storage area. The freezer has to be dedicated to the meat you're selling (can't be used for the rest of your food). We have that. There's one thing wrong with our freezer situation. It's in our house. You're not allowed to have the freezer in the house. It has to be in an outbuilding. We have an automatic, natural gas generator for our house. It doesn't power any of the outbuildings. The guy goes on to say that there are other common sense rules like no toxic substances stored on top of the freezer or dogs running around doing their business in the freezer room. I say, "That's not common sense. Common sense would tell you to put it in the nice clean temperature controlled house with a generator instead of the dusty outbuilding that who knows what can get into." I get the "I don't make the rules speech.".

All I want to do is share my pork with the world and make a little money in the process to keep the farm going. I will jump through all of these hoops against my better judgment. I'll probably end up running power from the house to the milk house. I hope that having a freezer in the milk room (processing, not where I milk the girls) won't cause me not to be able to do milk.

I get that we need to keep our food supply safe. If I thought for a millisecond that these rules are working, I wouldn't complain. I know that they are not. You just have to watch the local news to find the latest food-borne illness that these rules didn't protect you from. It's time for a food revolution in this country, and I hope to be part of the vanguard.

Do you want to get your pork from someplace like this:

Hog CAFO
Or someplace like this:

 Which side are you on in the food revolution?






Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dueling Vinegar Pies

Last weekend, my mom, step-dad, and sister went to the livestock auction with me. On the way home, we stopped at a little restaurant in Martinsburg, where we lived when I was in 1st/2nd grade. This place has the type of food you would find at a dairy stop, but it's more home cooked fare. My mom was reading the daily pie selection on the chalkboard. "Oh, you have vinegar pie!". They have what???? That sounds disgusting. My granny used to fix it for my mom when she was a kid. They only had one slice left (you mean people actually ate it?), so my mom bought it for my sister and me to split.

We finished our meal and it was time for dessert. We also had a piece of hickory nut pie. I tried that one first. It was good. It was almost indistinguishable from pecan pie. Now, it was time to trie the vinegar pie. It looked like the filling was kind of custard-like and the top looked like a sugary, crunchy layer. I'm not afraid of trying new things, in fact, I rather enjoy it. I'm glad I wasn't afraid to try it. It was delicious! It's not quite as smooth as a custard, but similar. It has an almost citrus taste, and the crunchy layer on top was a nice contrast to the filling.

I did a little research on-line about vinegar pie. I read that the early settlers would make it after their store of canned fruits had run out over the winter. There are more recipes than you can imagine. I decided to make one. I've always been a Pillsbury pie crust guy, but I figured it was time to make them from scratch. I read a few recipes and settled on this one. I really want to try one with lard. David at Spring Hill Farm is going to let me know when they have some in stock. On a side note, I'm on the list for a couple feeder pigs once he has some ready. Ohiofarmgirl has done too much raving about them. I just had to try them.

I decied to start with this recipe for the vinegar pie. The one that I had tasted didn't have any of these spices in it, but this one sounded good. You cook the filling in a double-boiler until it's thick and then pour it in a pie shell and bake. It came out very dark, since it has cloves, cinnamon, and allspice in it. It reminded me of a really good homemade apple butter like my grandparents and great-aunts used to make. It was very different from the pie I had tried, but still good.
Contender #1
My pie crust recipe made two crusts, and well, this pie just didn't blow me away. I did another Google search for vinegar pie and saw a picture in the 'images' section that looked a lot like the pie I had first tried. I clicked on the picture and found this recipe. It's actually a page for gluten-free recipes. I used regular flower and a pie crust. This one came out looking just like the one I had tried. For the most part, it tasted nearly identical too. I think I may cut back on the sugar and vanilla next time I make it, but it was DELICIOUS.  I used some organic apple cider vinegar with 'the mother' in it. The mother of vinegar is a mixture of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that gives vinegar some great properties. Do you know all the wonderful things that vinegar can do? If not, I suggest you do some reading. It really is amazing.
We have a winner!

You really should try this pie. Take a look at some old recipes. This pie is incredibly easy and inexpensive to make. My pie crusts turned out pretty well, but they're far from perfect. Any of you have any great tips for making homemade crusts? I'm betting the lard will really help.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ode to Cheryl....


Monday night, I was walking out to the barn to gather eggs. It was oddly quiet on the walk. Generally, my two Chinese white geese, Cheryl  and Dodi, greet me loudly. I saw one of them with the ducks. That sent out the message that something was wrong. They're never more than a few feet away from each other. I did a quick scan. I saw white on the other side of the pond. The white wasn't moving. I dropped the egg basket and ran to whomever it was in the pond. I got there and it was Cheryl. She was dead. I pulled her out of the water and saw blood on her head. I looked closer and saw some large puncture marks. It was horrible. I checked out Dodi and he had some puncture wounds as well, but he seems to be doing okay other than being very traumatized. I'm pretty sure it was dogs who did this. I'm pretty sure a coyote would have taken them to eat and the puncture wounds were too large for any of the other typical predators around here.


I had raised Dodi and Cheryl(my nephew named them) from goslings along with a third. I had to put the third one down when it developed a horrible neurological condition. That strengthened my connection with the other two. I always wondered why people kept geese because they're often quite mean as the get older. These geese were my best farm friends. They would jump up in my lap and give me goose hugs and kisses. I'd give them dandelions and we'd talk about our days.
Day I brought the little fuzzballs home.


They always made me this happy!


As they got older, they did get mean to most other people. They pretty much were only nice to my step-dad and me. If the target of their aggression would stand their ground, the geese would usually back off. Their aggression wasn't limited to humans and included dogs and goats and most other birds. None of that mattered a whit to me. I still loved them. They would always greet me when I came home from work or any time I walked outside. Tonight, it was very, very quiet when I got home.
This was when they still liked Chad

Here's the awkward stage between fuzz and feathers

Cheryl before she got her bump on her bill

He doesn't turn his back on them any more. There's Chipmunk who we also lost last year.
Cheryl sometimes didn't mind the paparazzi

But when she did....

Well, she let you know!

Here's a beautiful picture of them taken by our good friend  Cherie Helman
Cheryl, I am a better person for having know you and will miss you more than you could ever imagine. Goodbye, friend...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Aromatherapy for pigs and Wile E. Coyote impersonations

Since moving to the farm, I've tried to use things that are more 'natural'. I've been reading up on medicinal herbs, aromatherapy, and things of this nature. I'm a big fan of Molly over at Fiasco Farm. She has completely embraced natural healing and even sells medicinal herb mixes for goats.
Well, last week we experienced our first case of hoof rot in our goats. I did a little research and found that tea tree oil is a treatment for hoof rot (also for dandruff and I put it in my shampoo). I trimmed away as much of the dead material on the hoof and put a few drops of the oil on the affected area. It may have been my imagination, but Millicent seemed to be getting around a little better that afternoon. We're applying it twice a day.

That got me thinking. I have noticed some scaly skin on Nigel, our Old Spot/Large Black pig, in his ham region. I've been applying it twice a day for him as well. It's definitely improving. As an added benefit, the barn smells better too.

One of our Black Copper Marans(breed of chicken) pullets(young female) got out of the fence and decided to take up residence across the road in the neighbors' pine trees. When they're in the barn, they come running to me because I = feed. Since she has heard the call of the wild, I = The Warden. My first attempt was to rely on the Pavlovian conditioning I've imposed on her. To set the scene, I'm in my plaid, fuzzy robe wearing pajama pants and muck boots. I went to the barn and got some cracked corn in the scoop I always use for the chickens and my butterfly net (and you thought the scene couldn't get funnier). I go over to her new home (with the net behind my back). I shook the scoop and did my usual 'heeeere chick, chick, chick'. Here she comes! It works! I let her eat for a bit and ready the net. I wait for her to bend down and peck up a few more kernels. Swoosh goes the net. 'Bock, bock, bock', goes the pullet as she runs back to the pine trees. "Grrrrrrr" goes the farmer as he chases after the chicken, followed by lots of wheezing and coughing. I love getting reminded by a chicken that I'm not the spring chicken here...

Once I was able to keep enough oxygen to get the wheels turning again, I came up with an even more brilliant plan. Chickens are flock animals, right? Well, I figured she might come around one of her flockmates. And no, I wasn't going to end up with two chickens on the lam....really. I took a length of twine and tied it around the 'bait chicken's' leg. I took her over to the runaway chickens new abode. We sat there for a while with the bait chicken trying to untie her leg. Little Miss Runaway started heading our way! I wasn't going to try the net again. I was sitting on the ground by the bait chicken. This time I was going to go for the leg with my lightning reflexes. Yeah, see the last sentence of the previous paragraph. The chicken is still on the loose. I went out with a flashlight tonight to see if she was roosting, because they're easy to grab when it's dark. No such luck. Tomorrow, I'm trying some bird seed and an Acme anvil. Stay tuned.

This is a video of the first time the pigs ventured outside. They just look so happy. It breaks my heart that so many pigs never get to be a pig. They are locked in buildings and many never even see the sun, let alone root in the dirt. Our pigs will get to be 100% natural pigs. Tell me they don't look happy. Now the goats on the other hand look terrified LOL. It gets more interesting about 15 seconds in or so...

video


I have some exciting news. Chad and I worked on the scents for our line of goat milk soap. We came up with two scents and we're going to do one that is unscented called Raaw ;-). We'll decide the mixtures of all the ingredients that go in with the goat milk. We found someone to make the soap as well. We really like her bars. We'll use our own goat milk as soon as we have some....c'mon Shaasta and Staar. It's really fun coming up with the recipes for the soap.

What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Crazy ducks

I got ducks back in the spring as about week old ducklings. Of course, they start laying just as it turns cold. They lay in one or two communal nests, and I guess draw straws to see who has to sit on them. I just let them sit and took a few eggs here and there, 'cause you know duck eggs are great for baking.

I never dreamed that they would hatch out in this weather. Well, they did....on a 16 degree day. I found out when my dog came running into the house with what I thought was one of her squeak toys. As she got closer, I could tell it wasn't her squeak toy. Yep, it was a duckling. She didn't kill it, it just didn't make it because it was too cold. I couldn't believe it hatched. There were actually three. None made it. That hen is going to be a good brooder in warmer weather if she can hatch them when it's this cold.

We've been seeing a lot of the sad side of the circle of life recently. Hopefully, we'll get to see the happier side soon with the arrival of several healthy doe kids. On a side note, I'm still being entertained by the pigs. I think it's mainly because I don't know much about them. They're vicious little beasts to each other, and all they do is eat, sleep, and poop. They're coming around to us, probably because we usually show up with something they want. Gotta keep the bacon happy. We'll get them on pasture soon where they belong.

What's going on today in your world?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The pigs have landed...

They're here. They're here. Saturday, I made the two hour drive to H and H Farm in Norton, OH to pick up my registered gilt (young female) and two feeder (bacon) pigs. The Hoffman's have a beautiful farm where they raise heritage hogs, turkeys, chickens, and Limousin cattle on pasture. I also picked up some of their pork to get a taste of what I was raising...more on that later.

I loaded the pigs into a dog crate. I had originally planned on only getting one feeder but decided if we do get into a farm market, it would be nice to have some to sell, so ended up getting two feeders.
Now, I'm here to tell you that a two hour drive with three pigs cuddling in a crate is not a pleasant experience. the pigs didn't seem to mind. They like to snuggle together when they sleep. After about an hour, the heat went off, as it was only enhancing the smell. That's when I remembered that Chad had bought me a Carhart hat with a pulldown facemask and it was in my pocket! I drove the rest of the way home looking like a bank robber but was in olfactory bliss.

Let me introduce the pigs:
Martha
Nigel
Mr. Humphries
Since these pigs originate from England, we tried to give them British sounding names. We love the 70's British sitcom, Are You Being Served, so named one after Mr. Humphries. Martha is named after Martha Stewart. Nigel just was the most British sounding name we could think of.

Martha and Mr. Humphries are both pure Old Spots. Nigel is 1/2 Old Spot and 1/2 Large Black. The Large Black is another heritage breed that is also listed in critical status by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. I really like the looks of Nigel. He's only a week older, but considerably larger than the other two.

We have the little porkers in the barn until we get the pasture all squared away for them. I never realized what a vicious world it is for pigs. They do not like to share at all. They take turns standing in the middle of their feed dish and biting the ears of the others that try to eat( just like in Mr. Humphries picture). I'm finding that pigs can be a bit picky too. They don't like raw carrots but scarf down cooked ones. I've taken to throwing all the cooking scraps into a pan and boiling them. Yes, I'm cooking for pigs. Trust me, it will all pay off in the end. Yesterday, I fixed them a nice, big bowl of oats for breakfast.

Now to the important part, BACON. I bought some bacon, sausage, and a roast with the pigs to see what I was in store for. All I have to say is, if that was bacon, what the hell have I been eating the rest of my life. It was nothing like Oscar Mayer. It was thick and meaty and substantial. It was delicious. It also didn't have any ingredients in it that weren't completely naturual. I can't wait to try the rest.

We're really hoping we can make a difference with this breed. We can't let them just fade off the planet like so many other species. I think we're in the middle of a food revolution where people actually care what they're putting into their bodies. I'd be very proud to be part of that revolution. Pigs weren't meant to live in closed up buildings never seeing the sun except maybe when they're loaded on the truck to take them to the slaughterhouse. They are meant to root around in pastures and forests. The stuff that you buy on slabs of styrofoam wrapped in plastic is not what pork is. It's some engineered product that we are told is pork. If you don't already know, you'll see when these pigs become pork.

Are you going to be part of the revolution?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Today is one of the sad ones.

This morning we were running around a bit hectic. Chad is playing a benefit show in Columbus, so we were taking care of the animals before we left with Ma and Pa. I was feeding the goats and I noticed that Esmerelda was bleating a lot and not coming over to eat. I went over to pet her and check her out to see if anything looked wrong. Well, something definitely looked wrong. She had something about a foot long hanging out of her lady parts. The lighting wasn't the best in that corner of the stall, so I ran to the house to grab a flashlight, towels, and Chad. It's amazing how fast you can move when that adrenaline is pumping.

I called the vet and found out who was on call this weekend. It ended up being Dr. Monica from the Fredericktown vet clinic. Pa was in the stall with Esmerelda when I got back to the barn. He's seen lots of farm critters give birth in his many years. He said it looked like what comes out after. Dr. Monica agreed. We talked a bit more and she advised that if I was comfortable with it, I should try to go in. I knew that day would come and definitely hadn't been looking forward to it.

I pulled the membrane we saw out. You should only do this if you've been advised by your vet or have WAY more experience than I do. I examined the membrane and saw something odd. I examined closer and realized that Esmerelda was miscarrying. It was a fetus that wasn't very far along. I called Dr. Monica back and she said that I didn't need to go in, just watch and make sure she was ok and looked like she passed everything and to give her penicillin twice a day for the next 3 days. I thanked her again and sat with Esmerelda hoping I was providing at least a little comfort to her.

Shortly, Esmerelda started pushing again. I figured this was just after birth. It ended up being another kid that was breech. This one was much farther along. In fact, I was hoping there might be a chance that it was alive. It wasn't. It was a little billy.He didn't have fur yet, but had the coloring on its skin.He looked likehe was going to be colored just like his mama.

I called Dr. Monica back just to let her know the whole story. She said it was very odd to have the two fetuses of different development levels. I asked her if we should try to milk Esmerelda if she develops and she recommended not to. We'll keep a close eye on her and pamper her even more than usual over the next week or so.

It's interesting looking at everything in hindsight and all the a-ha moments. Yesterday, Esmerelda was very talky which is unusual for her. Her teats were bigger which we missed. She recently had pinkeye. One of the types of bacteria that cause pinkeye can also cause abortions.

You have to take this as a learning experience, but it's very sad. The farm can be a brutal classroom at times. I'm sad for Esmerelda, sad for us, and sad for the little kids. We'll bury them in a nice spot so they can go back to the earth and nourish the farm they would have called home had they lived. It's all very cyclic on the farm.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

That's some pig...

I'm working on training the barn spiders on web writing. So far, it's just a bunch of cobwebs. The time is steadily approaching when we're going to pick up our first pigs. We decided on Gloucestershire Old Spots. They are a heritage breed out of England. They do well on pasture and were once called orchard pigs, as farmers kept them in their orchards to glean the fallen fruit. Legend has it that their black spots are bruises from falling apples. They are classified as critical by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. There was so little genetic diversity in the stock in the US that they used a cyclic breeding schedule where only certain color groups are bred together to build up genetic diversity.

We are getting a gilt (young female) for breeding and a feeder from H and H Farm in Norton, OH. We're hoping to be ready for them by next weekend. Last night, Jo sent me pictures of our little gilt. She's some pig....
Look at that face! Look at that length!
Look at that ham. Hopefully, she make lots of little piglets with nice hams as well.
Look at that bacon, look at that loin. OFG, you drooling yet?
Some pig....
We're very excited to start raising pigs, as well as a little nervous. We're also very happy to help preserve such a wonderful heritage breed. The feeder we'll be raising is an Old Spot as well. I plan on using them to help me wrangle some invasive Japanese Knotweed and get our gardens ready for spring. We will have plenty of eggs and hopefully whey to help with the feeding. I'm going to use Ohio Farmgirl's method for growing out a pig on the cheap. I'm going to try to arrange a visit to Spring Hills Farm which is very close to me. David raises Tamworths on pasture, another heritage breed on the ALBC's list in 'threatened' status.

On a side note, we got enough good alfalfa mix hay to last the winter and probably spring for our goat girls and the kids. The hay that we had been getting just wasn't up to par. It was way too dirty. We went to the Danville livestock auction and won a load of 67 bales for $5.50 a bale. In some parts of the country, this would be a steal. We were paying $4 for the crappy stuff, so it's not too big a jump. The girls are certainly loving it.

We're enjoying spring-like weather here in central Ohio. I'm sure we'll pay for it soon. We have everyone out of the barn whether they want to or not to enjoy this fine weather. We have some chickens that just don't like to go outside. I have a feeling that it's due to rooster politics.

I know we're enjoying the spring weather. What's it like in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lost and found...

My mom and step-dad have been visiting since before Thanksgiving. They're staying in their travel trailer parked out by our barn. It's bigger than our first apartment. We love having them here, they're very helpful around the farm. They love the farm. My step-dad is a good ole boy from the Ozarks of Arkansas. He has never met a stranger and has done just about everything.

He gives us lots of farm advice and works hard. He sometimes tends to do things his way and most of the time that turns out okay. He's the one who went to the livestock auction and came home with a surprise alpaca...

In my blog from earlier this week, I told you that we were going to be getting pigs soon. When I got home from work/school last night, he told me that he had stopped by the local sawmill and bought some wood for the pig barn and they were going to deliver. He got a really good deal on some 'irregular' lumber that wasn't quite standard. He's great at finding bargains like that.

He told me the sawmill guy asked how the 'banker and the telemarketer' were doing (I'm not a banker, I work for a bank setting up their telephone line and Chad works for a health insurance company dealing with doctors' offices around claims and their contracts). Immediately all the stories that he could have been telling them are running through my head and I picture burly lumberjacks rolling in laughter at our shenanigans. My step-dad said, "Oh, they're lost." The lumberjacks stopped rolling and looked at me in shock awaiting my reaction. And then I snapped out of my daydream.

That struck right at the heart of me. I wasn't mad, hurt, or anything like that. Lost? I couldn't think of a word that would describe the way I feel less than 'lost'. In fact, I would have to say that if anything, I feel 'found'. At no point previous in my life have I had a more clear picture of what I want to achieve and I think the same thing goes for Chad. We look back and can't believe the progress we've made and the things we've learned. We both have a burning purpose in our lives that we've never had.

After I mulled it around a bit, I was a little hurt, but not much. Whatever hurt I felt didn't stick around very long. My step-dad has a huge heart, unfortunately, it's not in control of his mouth muscles. I think maybe we just do things differently than he may have done them. Neither one is right or wrong, they're just different. In fact, I ended up a little grateful. It helped me realize just how lucky we are to know exactly what we want and to be on the path to it.  That is a wonderful gift that I think many people don't get to experience.

I think Chad and I may need to put on our fanciest duds and do a little shopping at the sawmill.... We don't want to deny those lumberjacks their laughter ;-)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year in Review

I think too often we focus on the things that didn't get done in the preceding year. I've found myself doing that often since moving to the farm. I decided to inventory what we did accomplish and was pleasantly surprised...

First and foremost, we bought a house. It wasn't just any starter house either. It was my dream house in the country. For Chad, I think he thought it may end up being his nightmare house, but he finally learned how wonderful it is to live in the country. I told him until I was blue in the face, actually, I was more red 'cause he wouldn't just take my word for it and pack up and head for greener pastures. He is hooked completely now. We've both been happier than we ever dreamed possible. When people ask me about living on the farm, I say, "I've never worked harder in my life and I've never been happier".

We acquired a barnful of animals. While this may not sound like an achievement, it really is. We've learned so much about the animals we have and luckily for them, most of it has not been at their expense. Most of the animals, we got by choice. Taabitha, we got by accident. Most of you haven't met Ivy yet. She is our first alpaca. My step-dad went to the livestock auction one Wednesday and came home with her. Who does that? An alpaca is not a typical surprise gift! Well, she was surprising, I'll give him that. She's very entertaining, and we've grown fond of her.

We've started Tilton Hollow on the road back to becoming a farm. In the coming year, we hope to provide most of our own food and a little extra to sell. We should be having goat kids(which means creamy delicious goat milk) in the next couple months and we will have pigs any time now. We plan on raising and breeding Gloucestershire Old Spots. We have a gilt(young female) and a feeder(raised for meat) coming in the next few weeks.

So, when you take a look back, don't focus on what you didn't get done, focus instead on all of the accomplishments. What you didn't get done either isn't important or it can stay on the to-do list. We sat down today and made a list of 2012 goals. I'm a firm believer that you can't get where you're going if you don't know where that is. I like to write my goals down on a piece of paper or put them in a computer file that is visible all the time.  I like to keep them in the forefront so they don't get forgotten.

In closing, we did suffer a couple of losses in 2011. We lost a super sweet little banty hen, Chipmunk. She was one of the original 8 chicks I got at TSC. We lost her partner in crime, Puff. He wasn't very sweet, but he was spunky. All in all though, it was a great first 'year' at the farm and we're looking forward with great excitement to 2012.

What are your goals for 2012?