Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Necessities"

I remember the first winter that I even partially heated using a wood stove. The work was unfamiliar, but it was an immediate infatuation. The smells of the logs and the smoke. The heat depended on me, on my actions. The way that the wood stove forced every visitor into the living room, for ambiance and comfort. The strength that I built from hauling wood daily up from exceptionally steep stairs, and stacking cords. It changed me from someone who thought passively about where the heat came from by turning a switch, to an active participant in my own daily survival.

I am not reflecting on this because our new stove is being installed. Or because it was part of what set me on a path to examine my relationship with every seemingly passive necessity, which lead me to farming. But because I hadn't really thought about my water before. I've always had a well, and sometimes it ran low- but in my first world privilege I've never really had to go without water. I know that much of the world does.

As Kim wrote, we are still working to get the plumbing running in the new homestead. On Wednesday morning, I got up before five because I needed to be milling flour by eight thirty and had to run to the new house. By a bit after six, I was lowering a lantern down the spring house with a cup of Stewart's coffee by my side. With a painters extension poll, I slowly scraped the sides of the spring house looking for the pipe that runs into the farm. I had a variety of tools, from a dustpan to a bucket, to a shovel which I attached to the extension poll in turn to clear away debris. (Side Note: it's common for spring houses to need this type of maintenance, and it doesn't affect water quality.) Over an hour later, the spring house looked fairly clear, and I was running out of time. I've never experienced water in this active way. I will say, that for the moment, since we still aren't lucky enough for it to be working inside, it's not quite the love affair that the wood stove created.

Keep your fingers crossed for us folks. It's getting down to the wire.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hangin' Tough

Not just for the New Kids anymore!
I'm off all this week from work and had high hopes of being able to paint and clean the ol' house. Not so much, however. We're still trying to get the water flowing the right way, which is proving to be a challenge. The contractors switched their attention to the woodstove today, which should be ready to be fired up (pun intended) by this evening. Another plumber out to the house tomorrow and we're just taking it day by day here. We had a visit at the cabin today also from the internet company to fix a down line.They fixed that in no time which is good, we'll take what we can get.

So I'm home baking bread from our old standby recipe, the Master Recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. So easy, so delicious. It's technically for a boule, but I prefer to put it in a loaf pan for sandwiches etc.
So we'll have bread for the week! So simple, just good flour(that Ejay milled!), salt, yeast and water. Google the book title for their website, which is awesome. I'm also watching my fill of movies on our Netflix, currently "The Best and the Brightest starring Neil Patrick Harris and Amy Sedaris(my personal favorite).
So that's really the day in a nutshell. Ups and downs. I had a breakdown moment yesterday where it felt like everything was just stalling, but today I guess I have a little more perspective. Just gotta keep going! And maybe get in a good New Kids on the Block tune every now and again.
Kim

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

We had a really lovely Christmas. For Christmas eve, we started at 6:30a.m., which is about the time we usually start anyway. There were gift baskets to make, presents to wrap and food to cook. We made homemade pasta for lasagna (from flour I milled and eggs we grew) to bring to a family celebration. If I do say so, it was delicious. On top of that, Kim was practically a full time baker with the number of breads she made. Also delicious. Making things from scratch is undoubtedly more time consuming, but there is a rhythm to cooking things slowly and it was well worth it. We buzzed about our tiny kitchen, doing dishes in between rounds of oven shuffling. It was an evening filled with good food, good company and even a reading of the Night Before Christmas.

Christmas day was slightly less busy, but only slightly. We were terribly spoiled with thoughtful gifts, and came in second in a family trivia contest. It seems as though everyone enjoyed their homemade gifts, and I don't think either of us is sad to have a break from our knitting needles now that Christmas is over. We started making gifts in June with canning, and knitting started in July. Luckily enough, the cabin we currently rent is next door to an amazing yarn shop. Even though we had great yarn to work with and planned ahead, Santa's sweatshop needs a break.

We had really, really wanted to spend Christmas at the new farm. This obviously wasn't going to happen given that we only got power on last Tuesday. Our last day in the cabin is officially January 15th, and I'm counting the minutes- with anticipation and nerves.

We have packing to do, but the house also isn't currently livable just yet. The contractors were up there working on Friday, installing a new water pump. When we called for an update today, we found out that even with the new pump there just wasn't very much water pressure. So we went up there to try and track down the spring-source for the house. The house doesn't have a well- it's just spring fed. Well, we found the source- annnnnddd about three feet of silt over the pipe. After consulting with Kim's dad, who has a similar water set up, there is nothing to do but hand bucket out the silt and then try to snake out the pipe. We're losing time to clean/paint and finish the indoor maintenance, which we can't do without water. The plumber seems helpful- but doesn't have that much experience with this type of system. I'm nervous about getting it running and we are going to have to call the previous owners to be sure that the spring we found is the correct one.No one is going to bucket out that silt but us, either. I don't mind doing it but trying to find the time to do that and coordinate with the plumber is tricky and frustrating.

We also still don't have heat. There were some hiccups with the stove location, and we are just crossing our fingers at this point that it gets done this week.

It's just one of those days, where despite the feeling deep in our bones that this is what we are meant to be doing getting it done feels impossible. I want more time, and to be present when the contractors are starting and working on projects. Maybe it's the control freak in me, but I just feel like things have been at a molasses pace. It's also the week between Christmas and New Year's, which means that no one really wants to be working.

I know these feelings will pass, and I hope we will find solutions quickly to the various speed bumps to necessities in the house. But for tonight, a glass of chocolate red wine (a gift) is in order and allowing ourselves to feel a bit weary. I think that maybe recognizing the frustration will help us keep moving.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twas three nights before Christmas

Twas three nights before Christmas, and all through the farm,
All our creatures were stirring, in various barns
The stockings weren't hung by the chimney with care,
'Cause we still have no wood stove (which doesn't seem fair)

The puppies are nestled though, on our futon,
I think they are dreaming of a much bigger lawn
With me in warm flannel and Kim all in black,
We're impatiently waiting to get through all the flack,

Contractor Bob keeps calling with house matters,
That would cause even the coolest of cools to shatter
Oh but we're not complaining that is for sure,
Because the dream that we have is the sweetest of lures,

We've given notice of moving from our warm little cabin,
Now it's just time to start all of the packin'
Before we move though there is much work to do,
Painting and cleaning and fence building too!

And then there's the planning for next years growing,
Livestock and seed orders, we can't wait to be sowing!
Folks are still sending their deposits in,
We hope that by January we'll have enough to begin

This week has been full of victories sweet,
Electricity, almost water, and a New York LLC!
Yes there are set backs and challenges large
And of course nothing good comes free of charge

But I know we can do it if we stick together,
And you know what they say about those birds of a feather
So on this eve with the holiday approaching,
We've a few things to say without any coaching,

We are lucky and get on with our work with a whistle,
All our doubts blow away like the down on a thistle,
You will hear us exclaim without being contrite-
Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

Monday, December 19, 2011

What's that you say? Electricity?

Oh yes. Well....in theory. Tomorrow we've got an appointment with Central Hudson to come out to the farm house and hook up the electricity. You've read about our (mis)adventures with them previously, so to say I'm skeptical is an understatement. BUT, I'm trying to stay positive about this, so tomorrow I'll be out at the house with my coffee mug and a smile....waiting for my promised power.

With power, we'll be able to install the woodstove and get the water flowing. And then....the MAJOR CLEAN begins. I'm going to start referring to it as the MAJOR CLEAN because it denotes the sheer size of the job and it makes me think of a mop with a mustache and military hat. Two-fer. The MAJOR CLEAN will entail buckets of bleach and water, more or less sloshed in every corner of the house and scrubbing the walls, floors and ceilings to prep for the painting. The MAJOR CLEAN will be followed by the SUPER PAINTING EXTRAVAGANZA. More on that though when we get there. No carts will be put before horses in this project....I get too excited.

More to come when we've established that we're allowed to have the lights turned on. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
Kim

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rollercoaster

Getting the farm house running is finally starting to look like a reality. Central Hudson gave us a date after 6 weeks of calling near daily for them to come and install electric meters. Once the meters are installed, they can turn on the power. Power = hot water. It also means our contractor, who has been standing by for weeks can install the wood stove we refinished, get the plumbing up to speed, and, of course, the lights.

Since we are still without these little essentials, we are closing in on the work we can actually get done. The house desperately needs the kind of cleaning that requires shop-vacs and exceptionally hot water. I wouldn't say no to the convenience of a belt sander for refinishing some of the floors either. And of course, the cold doesn't help us to pull the kind of long hours we would like. So tomorrow may be a short work day. I don't mind working in the chilly weather, but when there is very little progress to be made without essentials (it's too cold for the paint even to dry properly) it just makes you feel defeated. So keep your fingers crossed folks, we are anxious to really get to work.

Of course, renovating the farm and building our business just isn't enough. We are also planning our wedding. So today we took a trek down to the potential caterer for some sampling. I can't actually remember the last time we went out for a meal that wasn't pizza. It was really great, and included fresh homemade potato chips. I think we're sold as long as they give us a price we can handle.

Oh, and it's a week til Christmas. We've been making gifts since early July, and aren't quite done. We are holed up this evening finishing up and wrapping. We have packages ready to ship on Monday to loved ones we won't see. As I mentioned earlier, we aren't religious. But we do believe in showing that you care, and celebrating family. Plus, we love to give presents. I like the cold weather, it makes the ground look refreshed and ready to be worked another season. I like glowing lights. I don't like spending copious amounts of money we don't have. But I do like eating chocolate chip cookies and watching White Christmas with my in-law family (which was our Friday night). We're kind of old fashioned in that way, I guess.

knitting duffel bag


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jeff bridges

Take a listen! This is what's playing this morning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPUruNFEds0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cold Boots

One of the numerous reasons I am looking forward to our new digs is for the ample space for a mud room.

Currently we reside in a 500ish square foot cabin on a sheep farm. It is intensely charming and cozy. However, due to the gritty nature of my job, I keep my eh- fragrant farm items on the porch. Coveralls, boots etc. This morning, I forgot to bring my chilled footwear inside to thaw on my return trip inside from checking the rabbits.

Lucky for me it doesn't take long for my day job milling flour and managing small scale livestock for my muscles to warm me up. Though I really wish I hadn't forgotten that second cup of coffee!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We get by with a little help from our friends

Weekends are not a time of rest for most farmers, and we are no exception.

Right now, we both hold full time jobs during the week, so Saturday and Sunday are crucial catch-up days.

This weekend was much chillier then last, so on Saturday morning we dressed in thermals and snow gear to head up to the farm for the day. We had a quick lunch packed, and new pandora station programmed in the iPhone (yep, still tech geeks, even with the livestock).

The goal was the removal of some hideous wall paper and to begin clean up. By noon we were frozen through, and ate lunch in the truck with no real ambitions to continue on much longer. Temporarily encouraged by some homemade brownies, we pressed on. The work is fun and worthwhile, but we were losing feeling in our toes despite the many layers.

Just then, Kim's aunt appeared with heat, some additional tools and an abundance of good cheer to move forward. After setting up a new propane heater, she kindly assisted in the preliminary clean up and offered words of wisdom of the value of sweat equity amongst other things. It was, in no other words, ( and from someone with no religion )-- a godsend. With her help and motivation the afternoon passed quickly and productively.

The reward for our labor was that we spent the evening getting into the Christmas spirit and decorating our current abode. The electric company has made our move impossible before the first if the year. We may as well make the best if it!

We decided to spend Sunday resting, as we had been going so many days in a row we had lost count. The work of a farm, and rural living in general... is never ending. If you don't practice self care, it will swallow you whole. Even satisfying work requires a recharge day. Well, at least that was the plan.

Our "rest day" looked like this:
-Dog awake at 6 to pee
-Both dogs so nuts we walked them at 7
-Quick breakfast
- Start chilli for dinner
-Water rabbits
- Two loads of laundry at generous in-laws
- Retrieve hay from barn, feed sheep and give grain
- Collect eggs and feed chickens
- Move rabbit hutch, set up heat lamp for night time, feed
- Put up porch Christmas lights
- Dishes and house hold chores
- Clean cat boxes, feed, fresh water
- Make Christmas cards
- Work on gifts (we make all of our gifts)
- Dinner for dogs and people

Now we are curled up, with cocoa and the latest in our own little movie marathon. Sure, it could have been more restful in a traditional sense. But our bellies are full, our laundry is folded and all of the animals are content. We got a bit of holiday cheer, and all is well. I'll take it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brief Introductions

You can find out a bit about our farm and goals in the 'About' section on the right hand side of the blog. But we thought we would also begin with a little bit about who we are, and why you want to stick around and keep reading.

Even if you haven't ever stepped foot on a farm, there is a place for you here. Yes, we are going to talk about sheep, and chickens and DIY renovations on an 1850's farm house. But we are also going to share what it takes to build something you really believe in, from the very smallest scratches up. We will share what music is blasting on the radio while we are Christmas crafting, and what's for dinner after a day cutting wood. We haven't got much in the way of material possessions, but we have a wealth in odd experiences- including making many mistakes along our way. Farming has offered us an outlet to feel whole, and we want to share the quirky, the muddy, the hilarious, and the down right challenging with others.

We have been searching for a place to start our farm for about a year now. This time last year, I was unemployed after leaving a job in political organizing for a farming job. The job just didn't work out. Kim kept us both afloat, and I searched for a farming internship to hone what had previously been self taught skills in agricultural pursuits. I found an internship, and then another job in agriculture.

The goal was to find a place to set up shop for a year-round CSA for next growing season. This was not an easy search. On a ridiculously tight budget and in no position to buy, we were at the mercy of land owners. On top of this, we relocated to be closer to family in the beautiful but notoriously pricey Hudson Valley, New York.
For months, we toured rentals and listings from county land conservancies. Some were too expensive, some had too little infrastructure and some came with too much character on the land-owner side. We were just about to give up for next season when we answered a listing that seemed all wrong. Only half interested, and after an especially challenging summer, we drove out to meet a landowner. Imagine our surprise when we pulled up here:




It was, hope.The owner of this beauty is fantastic, and the facilities were just what we had in mind. It's not a cliched walk in the park though, this old girl has been empty for a few years. Which means she currently has no electricity, no heat, and no running water. Which is why it's in our budget to lease it. But the potential here is intoxicating.

We needed a place where we could practice our methods of farming, which err on the side of slow but steady production -- with the health of the environment, farmers and animals always in mind. And here it was, staring at us with chipped paint and a solid frame.

Now we just need to make it work.