News around the farm…late November

Lately, we are swimming in chicken.

We buy meat birds from a friend and had already stocked our freezer for the year. However, I had hatched 2 batches of chicks this summer and we purged the roosters as their rooster-ness became apparent. Then with the new hens coming on (they aren’t laying eggs yet, but we should have some soon!), we decided we could decrease our older hen numbers because not all of them are laying. John culled 9 of them and we are still getting almost the same number of eggs. That’s a lot of chicken.

Then, a neighbor called and wanted John to kill her old hens (15?), in exchange for the meat. They were eating so much and not laying at all. Read: looooong cooking time. And this week another neighbor called with the same dilemma. Maybe we don’t need to buy meat birds! Someone else do all the raising and grain feeding, and we just get to jump in at the end?

On a bigger note, farm organization and simplification has been a theme for me the past few months.I felt like we could improve what we’re doing, making it more streamlined and thoughtful. There is, as always, so much room for improvement. I went to see a few other small farm set ups, talked to people about what they have and how they manage it, and now I’m considering how to apply it.

Of course downsizing was the first order of business. We went down to 3 mama goats and one boy that we hope to cull soon. We decreased our hen numbers since we had new hens coming on, a constant process. We beefed one steer and then we made the hard decision to beef a heifer as well. For cows, we had Lila plus her two heifers, but we don’t need 3 cows having babies- we aren’t set up to manage that. One heifer had horns, bullied the other cows (because of those horns), and was also unpredictable. It’s hard because you expect to keep heifers. We tried to sell her but no one else wanted horns either (understood). Then, someone approached us wanting a whole cow for beef and the decision was easy. Although at times I had fought to keep this cow around, I feel good about this decision. She made me feel uneasy, and goodness, why on earth are we keeping something that makes us feel uneasy! My mantra around the house is that if it doesn’t bring joy, get rid of it. Applies to the farm as well.

When I looked at small farms, most people I visited had a similar set up to ours. We have several buildings so we’re hauling things from one place to another and we are using the buildings we inherited. However, I clearly got why people of old had a big barn with all their stuff in it. When I saw a set up like that, it clicked. Chores are at least 10 times easier (and this person was totally organized…amazing). I saw the perfect set up but there is literally no way to do that here with our current buildings. So, now we have our next goal….

As to farm-improvement ideas, here is what I have:

  • free choice kelp for the cows and goats…I’m still working on this goal from last year, because I had trouble sourcing it at a reasonable choice with shipping, but I’m closer.
  • building up our garden soil with more than just compost, doing a soil test and applying the micronutrients that we are specifically deficient in.
  • a bigger barn with most animal activity and storage centered here: grain, hay, chickens, goats (with birthing stalls), cows (with milking stall), and any animal tools. To go in one place in the winter and do all chores would be amazing and way more enjoyable. This is a big and expensive one!
  • a piglet (or 2) in the spring for rooting up the manure pack in the animal shed. Cleaning this out is a huge chore each year and a pig could do a lot of the work for us.

That’s what is new in our neck of the woods (on the farm at least!). As always, we are so thankful for this farm and these gardens and animals.


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As my posting here has become less frequent, I have wondered if this blog is still valuable. It started with the need to evaluate what we were up to, think it through a little better, and chronicle our journey as we were seeking to “put down roots”. At the time, we lived in NY, had 2 kids, and were thinking of starting a farm in Maine. And here I am, almost 5 years later, with 4 kids, two more moves under my belt, and living on a homestead.

Two big anniversaries just happened…Monday marks 4 years in our current house- a record for us! And it’s 10 years since we finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. It feels like we’ve lived in our house way longer than 4 years and that we finished hiking yesterday, because that’s how time plays tricks.

Although 4 years marks settling into a place and putting down roots, it’s not like I’ve now arrived! A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned “remaking your life” and I felt somewhat haunted by that idea. My life isn’t awful in some massive way that needs fixed, but I am constantly remaking my life. It’s easy to change externals (I could move to another place, say, but do the same sort of thing there, which wouldn’t change me much), but it’s harder to change from the inside. We can intend for it to happen or it can be what happens to us. It can be little things that change us or big events. I see this remaking as a positive thing; I am becoming more myself in the growth, knowing my mind better, and living out what I believe (at least that’s the goal!).

I journal faithfully, but writing here is different and fun and it affords me a little perspective. On my own, I have a terrible memory of the past! I am writing to think and observe and try out ideas (and remember) and that’s good for me.

If I want to keep writing, where do I go from there? My life won’t suddenly be different tomorrow or after Christmas and I’ll have time for everything! A little more intention? Using little moments instead of waiting for big chunks? Are my priorities just all wrong?

I listened to part of a fantastic podcast yesterday about decluttering, and the hosts chatted about decluttering not only our possessions- that’s a start- but purging obligations and relationships and any other “good” things that are getting in the way of the best things for us. We (I!) can be focused on adding things in all the time and never taking away. Oh, did that hit home! We have to know our mind and heart and what we are to do and then we can clear away the excess. I think I’m closer than I was 5 years ago, say, but I likely have a lot of excess in my life and not just stuff! The hosts of the show encouraged that the easiest place to start is possessions. I have to dig a little deeper instead of just scratching the surface of my clutter. By getting where it’s uncomfortable, I am going to grow and learn and know my mind and be changed and yes, remake my life in bigger ways.

That’s what this is about for me. It is good for me to acknowledge my mission. Perhaps we have already “put down roots” in some sense and that portion of external change isn’t happening, but I guess I can say I’m now learning to root deeper.

Does this idea resonate with you? Have you ever latched on to the idea of remaking your life? Have you thought about decluttering more than possessions; if so, how did you get there?

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Captain Fun is 4!

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There is no question who the fun department is around our house; it’s Sammy all the way. Sammy wakes up each morning with one thing on his mind….and it’s fun. He has that little gleam in his eye and everywhere he goes, people seem to pick up on that. Sammy is the one to watch.

Sammy is the one who insists on wearing shorts and Bog boots every day of the year regardless of weather. Shorts make sure he doesn’t get too warm and Bog boots make sure he doesn’t get too cold. It works.

Sammy is the one who talks in silly voices and throws out funny sayings. For a couple weeks he growled or mooed at me in response to every question I asked, knowing that I understood what he was saying each time. And I did.

Sammy is the one who bounces and bounces and bounces. He loves to run fast and if he ever wants to dance, I would definitely encourage him because he has great body awareness, rhythm, and style.

One of my favorite things with Sammy is playing ball. His eyes light up fantastically whenever a ball is in the air. He loves throwing the ball. He loves catching the ball. The whole experience is magical to him. It brings me so much joy to watch his face.

Sammy has a fantastic imagination and quickly transitions any moment to a made-up setting. I love that his relationship with Micah has been growing and he really takes on that big brother role. He walks with an arm around Micah, shepherding him. He lifts Micah up if needed. He does a pretty good job of it. But if Micah isn’t around, Sammy transitions right back to little boy- he’ll ask me to carry him, for example.

Sammy wanted a cowboy party for his birthday, because who doesn’t love a cowboy party! The funny thing is that he was so insistent on it and then when the party time came, he didn’t want to dress up. (Yet, he was the world’s most amazing cowboy for Halloween. He literally galloped the entire night…and just for himself- he didn’t do it for anyone to see. I love that kid!) As a bonus, Grandma and Papa were there for his birthday…hooray!

Here are Sammy’s birthday questions:

How old are you? 4 (he held up 4 fingers…he’d been practicing for weeks!)

What do you want to be when you grow up? batman

Where would you like to live when you grow up? Massachusetts, in the country

What is your favorite thing to do? fight

What is your perfect day? Sunday, because it is

What would you like to learn about? making bacon, sausage, hamburgers, quesadillas, and red peppers

What did you do for your birthday? open presents, eat cake and ice cream, cowboy party

Who is your best friend? Mommy, Daddy, BenBen

What is your favorite thing you did this year? legos


food bacon

vegetable carrot

drink lemonade

animal cows

book Berenstain Bears

song The Bear Necessities

color blue

school activity Talking about paintings

toy legos

game Memory (he picks it EVERY week for game night)

restaurant pizza

holiday 4th of July

movie Mary Poppins

birthday present cowboy hat and vest, remote control car, fishing pole

Where would you most like to travel? America and Washington DC

What are some of your wishes for this year? go to Africa and Alaska, the biggest state

We love you, Sammy!

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In October

October goals…

  • play tennis twice
  • harvest and save some garden seeds (new for me!)
  • hike to freedom (walk of part of the Underground Railroad in our area)
  • kayak the river (never done this in the fall)
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • bake brioche and macaroons with the kids
  • stargaze twice
  • take the kids to the indoor pool (so hard to do but always glad I do this)
  • long run
  • work on finishing more of the IAT in our area
  • monthly family adventure
  • start writing a badge for Frontier Girls

October was fantastic! I have been waiting and waiting for some elusive “fall routine” to come into place and it never did, yet we do have a routine…it’s just different than what it’s been in previous years. I have to own that our days are different than what they were last year or 2 years ago or whatever standard I had in my head. Where mornings used to be filled with playdates and afternoons were at home, now we never have playdates and our afternoons are filled with set activities. It sounds silly likely, but that makes for very different days and very different things that we (or I) accomplish. I love what we are doing, but I always struggle with those trade-offs and what it means that I am not doing.

In October, my parents visited for a week and my dad built a playhouse for the kids. It’s amazing. I worried that I wouldn’t see the kids anymore because they want to live in the playhouse (of course!), but Hannah assures me that they will need meals occasionally.

We harvested the last of the garden. I saved seeds for kale, peas, beans, and pumpkins (yay!). I changed around some perennials to make my flower beds better for next year (because moving plants is what I do). We set up a fish tank. We started fiddle (Hannah, BenBen, and I). The ice skating rink is open and we’re skating strong. I made homemade deodorant and shampoo that I absolutely love (oh happy day!).

I also realized that I need to read blogs. I gave it up for awhile, but then I realized how much I learn that I actually apply from reading them. So, I am diving back in, but to a much more streamlined list, only the 3-4 writers that really give me great things to chew on.

From the bookshelf…

  • Food and Faith by Norman Weirzba
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

November goals…

  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • for fun read-alouds with the kids daily (a long-time habit I am embarrassed to admit I lost)
  • ice skate once a week
  • bake macaroons, a tart, and a pavlova with the kids
  • long run
  • monthly family adventure
  • take the kids to the indoor pool
  • keep trucking on making Christmas presents

What are your plans for November?

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Checking back in

As always when it’s been a long time since I have posted here, there is so much to catch up on that it’s hard to know where to start. I have not given up blogging. I have no excuse for not writing except I haven’t gotten it done.

I have several posts to write: a farm update, Sammy’s 4th birthday, how I did on my October goals, our new playhouse and my parent’s visit. For today though, I’ll just say hello. So, hi!

When I don’t know the right place to start, I’ll just start somewhere. I am still getting up early and loving it, although it is HARD. With the time change, I thought I could get up earlier, but I decided against it. If I’m too extreme, I’m less likely to keep the habit and 4:45 is borderline extreme anyway. I love the time for reading, a small amount of exercise, Bible study, and journalling. On any given morning, Micah could be terrorizing the house (and breaking stoneware…don’t get me started!), so even with getting up early, it’s not a given that I actually get time to myself. However, I am trying and taking initiative and that’s all I can do. I cannot guarantee outcomes.

We have a nice but flexible school routine. I give Hannah a weekly checklist, and although time budgeting is not yet a strength of hers, the list helps both of us to get a handle on what we need to accomplish each week. We do a little morning time as well with books we read together and my hope is that we do this 3 times a week. BenBen told me months ago that he wanted to read, but with a little work with him I determined that he doesn’t want to learn to read, he wants to be reading. A huge difference. Until he wants to learn to read, any time I spent is wasted for both of us. He’s just not there yet (and that is totally okay!).

In the past couple months, I finally followed through on a few little ideas that I had considered for years(!). I feel so satisfied that I finally purchased a library card for another, bigger town; the kid book selection is exponentially greater, even more important now that Hannah is reading chapter books on her own. Otherwise, I was going to be purchasing a lot of books. We have easily gotten our $30 worth already. I also feel satisfied that the kids and I are going to a chiropractor for wellness. I was hesitant because I didn’t know what the cost would be and instead of asking, I just didn’t do it. Like usual, my fears were unfounded. I only had to pay for the initial visit (which they charged me half price because I paid cash) and the rest is covered by insurance. It’s been so positive for all of us. My kids love going and I think they benefit. For me, she is working on my knee that gives me trouble when I run long distance; the thought of improvement in this area is so exciting to me. 100 mile run, here I come!

Journalling one page a day is still completely helpful. For all that I don’t write here, my journal is going strong. Yay! It gets easier every day to fill my page and the reflection truly helps me to know my own mind better. A couple weeks ago, I realized that I missed making idea lists- for me, this is a helpful habit. I’m not making them every day, but I am doing them enough that my mind is more fresh.

I am still intermittent fasting. I am not running (sadly), but I hope that with food preservation done for the year I can find a window for it. I do want to make Christmas gifts for the family again this year. Some  of my ideas are realistic and some probably are not. I’m starting with the easy ones, and starting now, so we’ll see how far I get.

Last week we got a fish tank started. I had halfway wanted one for awhile, but I have a gazillion hair-brained ideas like this, and not all of them are worth pursuing. When a friend found a $3 tank with a filter and heater (a steal!) at the thrift store and offered me free fish, it was time to make the leap. I did have to buy a few things for it and I decided that we should get a light to enjoy them (if we have them, we should do it right!), so it wasn’t a free venture, but it wasn’t that pricey either. We all love it!

And as always, I am working on clearing out more clutter. I have been working on this for the past 5 years at least. Add a fish tank. Take a few more bags to the thrift store. There is always something new coming in, and not all of it is by my choice, but that is how it goes. It is easy for me to focus on everyone else’s clutter problems (I have an 8 year old girl with tons of “treasures”), but I am instead working on my own issues. And I have them! My way of decluttering is definitely in layers and I have made a lot of progress. I committed 2 months ago to a bag a week, and I have more than done this. It’s humbling how much we still have despite my efforts. The thing I am learning is how hard it is to know my own mind and my own priorities and the things that truly bring ME joy. I have to know myself and knowing myself is extremely hard. What speaks to me? It doesn’t matter if it’s valuable or everyone else thinks it is something I should have- I have to know what brings me fulfillment and makes this home and my life what I want it to be. I love clear, uncluttered spaces and although I am not there, I am all the time getting closer. I love the fish tank on the counter and I’ll get rid of some other things that don’t bring me the same smile.

What have you been learning lately?

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In September

Fall always has me with what feels like 100 projects to finish. All the things from the year that I haven’t gotten done converge somewhere in September/October and my head starts to spin. Usually, my thinking goes something like, “I’m going to finish all of these projects today.” Then the next day, I say the same thing. And the next day, I say the same thing.

Meanwhile, I’ve not done one of them.

And somewhere about this time, I decide to scrap some of these projects and I recommit to doing one project each day. Only one. In the end, I will do that one project each day and I’m way further ahead than thinking I’ll do it all in one day which will never happen. I do this every year.

One more example of my life being about learning the same things over and over again.

September goals…

  • kayak twice
  • volunteer at the Common Ground Fair with Hannah
  • go to family camp!
  • hike with the kids to Chimney Pond at Mt Katahdin (next year, we’re on for the whole thing!)
  • figure out better chore and farm routines
  • play tennis twice
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • bake brioche with the kids
  • stargaze twice
  • long run
  • work on finishing more of the IAT in our area
  • take the kids to the library
  • family vacation!

Family camp felt like a huge success. Because of animal chores, John was not able to go (sad!). The kids and I had a fantastic time and it met the expectations I had for family camp for sure. It was simple and about hanging out and the kids can’t wait to go back next year. I didn’t feel a deep connection to the camp the same way I have at some, but I have no complaints, the other families were wonderful, and we had a very positive experience. I’ve not found anything comparable within our state, so I think that’s our place!

I would never trade having a farm, but having a farm does limit what we can do. For right now, I am fine with that. One drawback is limited vacation time or breaking vacation into chunks. Thankfully there is a lot to do within a half-day’s drive of us! We went to the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec for a short camping trip and were blown away. We hiked to a waterfall and we hiked up one of the taller mountains….and saw a herd of caribou (yes, actual reindeer!) grazing at the top. Vacations don’t have to be long to be fantastic.

Another very positive and new September happening was volunteering and camping at the Common Ground Fair. I love the fair and all the rural skills and activities. I’ve wanted to volunteer before, but with the kids’ ages, it seemed hard to coordinate. This year, Hannah volunteered with me in the children’s area. We loved it! I would like to volunteer somewhere else next year, just to get a different experience, but of course Hannah wants to do the exact same thing. We’ll see!

October goals…

  • play tennis twice
  • harvest and save some garden seeds (new for me!)
  • hike to freedom (walk of part of the Underground Railroad in our area)
  • kayak the river (never done this in the fall)
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • bake brioche and macaroons with the kids
  • stargaze twice
  • long run
  • work on finishing more of the IAT in our area
  • monthly family adventure
  • start writing a badge for Frontier Girls (just for fun!)

What are your plans for October?

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When my perspective is the problem

I am the queen of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

For at least 3 years, I have been getting up at the same time of the morning and trying to do set tasks and meeting failure. I start the morning grumpy because I haven’t accomplished all I wanted, yet I wasn’t getting up earlier, wasn’t changing my expectations, nothing.

I was absolutely sure that neither me nor my expectations were the problem. I had gotten up kind-of early and I had a right to finishing certain things before everyone was up.

I wish I was making this up.

The trigger for me thinking differently was a conversation with another mom who gets up early and what she does with her early mornings. For some reason, I saw it all in another light as she was talking. Not that I wanted her routine- I didn’t. But I realized that I could do things differently and maybe my expectations should be different, not only that I should be doing less, but maybe that my time would be better used doing other things. It was revolutionary.

I’m still playing with the particulars, but my days have been off-the-charts better by just looking at the same situation with a different perspective.

I am getting up earlier (it’s hard). I changed how I do my reading (and what I’m reading). I added a little exercise and stretching. I want to get to the point where I am also dressed for the day before the kids get up, but I am concerned about too early of a wake-up time. I do still have to actually function during the day! I am still not accomplishing everything I want to, but it’s better. I’m closer.

Even getting up VERY early, I am amazed by how “little” in some ways I get done. Everything takes time. I have to make definite choices and accept that by doing some things I am definitely not doing others. Oh, it’s hard to grow up!

I love my early mornings…that is, after I’ve been up for about 30 minutes!

Can you relate? Any issues you found were just a problem in your perspective?


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