One Man’s Junk

I have been buying lots of things lately. Animals, feed, fencing, and a whole host of miscellaneous items I never knew I would need. Need, of course, is relative to the fact that we now have a farm. We have chosen this crazy adventure in sustainability so I know that these needs will be less as time goes on. In our short six weeks here we have discovered why old farms have so much “junk”.  As you start to repair an old barn, tinker with an automatic waterer that isn’t working, or try to get the old tractor running, you quickly discover that having a barn full of junk would actually be a useful help to the project. In an effort to avoid any big box store as much as possible, I discovered a wonderful opportunity…the farm auction. When an old farmer passes away or moves away or simply cannot continue with his intended livelihood the farm auction becomes the most effective way of clearing out the old barns of their dusty, decaying treasures. Essentially everything that has been collecting for a lifetime is sold in a day to the highest bidder. It’s great for the newbie farmer who has so little, yet sad that a lifetime of stuff can often be sold in a few hours. My heart is nostalgic for what this day often means.

I went to my first auction a few weeks ago. After observing for more than an hour I thought maybe I could try my hand at this game of chance. I am naturally super cheap, and also not a gambler so as I identified items that i had interest in, I was firm in my top price in my mind. I didn’t realize though, how exhilarating bidding on an old chicken plucker could be. The auctioneer was kind to me as he could probably tell that I was new at this game.  That, and I was the only woman interested in heavy machinery, so I stood out a bit I suppose.  Alas, I lost on the chicken plucker, but I was able to score a giant water trough for the cows that could also double as a bathtub.

Cows at Trough

I’m sure that some of these auctions have lots of antiques or collectibles, but I’ve been frequenting the ones that have farm related equipment. These are our most pressing need so I am hopeful that I’ll be able to get a great buy some day on a small tractor or some other item that will add value to our budding homestead. This past weekends auction proved more successful.  This one had lots of large woodworking tools, which I don’t have use for, but an old sander, a router, and an electric stapler will prove useful.  Especially when I paid $15 for all of them.  My final purchase of the day was a pile of old lumber.  It was most likely an old building that had been torn down, but it was housed inside a barn and looked to be in very good shape.  Slightly more savvy at this auction thing now, I felt like a pro bidding and winning my pile of lumber.  Again, being the only woman there, apparently several gentlemen were wondering what I was doing there, and what on earth I needed a pile of old lumber for.  Finally, one inquisitive man approached me and asked what this pile of junk would be useful for.  See, most people, and possibly myself before this endeavor, would have viewed that lumber as junk.  But we need a goat stand, and buying all that lumber brand new would have been costly.  As I find to be more and more true, one man’s junk is another woman’s treasure.

Pile of Lumber Goat Stand

Autumn morning

“The morning air was at it’s coolest just before the light touched the dark.  When the light rose the birds opened the scene as the leaves fell.  I sat quiet and waited.”

As the sun is barely cresting the horizon I am heading out to visit all the babies in their fields. Our new heifers are huddled next to the Goat Barn, a sign that they are settling in to their new normal. The goats are anxiously awaiting their morning rations. They push at me as I bring in their food, like the starving kids they are.

The rooster is still nestled high up in the apple tree, I’ve beat him at his morning wake up call. His hens are anxiously awaiting their release. As soon as the coop is opened they race around the front yard, spreading their wings as if they might fly. They are barely interested in their feed tray, the heavy dew has brought so many new delicious offerings up from the earth.

Of course the piglets are still asleep. Snoring loudly in the morning light they only awaken when I dump last nights dinner scraps in to their trough. Then the squealing begins. As they rush to me these little cuties turn almost violent, fighting for their fair share of the good stuff. One comes up from the may lay with potato skins on her nose only to have it snatched off by another.

This is morning. The dew is heavy and the air is crisp and clean. As I walk back to the house I hear a leaf fall through the tree.  There are no devices in this scene, no urgent expectations, no vibrations from impending texts, no phone calls to return.   This is the extraordinary morning we have been blessed with, full of beauty, on this peaceful autumn morning.

Hog Heaven

We have never raised a pig. Living in a house full of bacon lovers, a pig seems like a perfectly acceptable animal to raise so that we can in turn have some pasture raised pork for the brood. Upon the move in, our first project was to begin cleaning out the old “pig barn” so we could plan for the arrival of our two pigs. Two seemed like an acceptable number, just like Noah we said, two of every animal on the homestead.
When you’re the new farmer in town the neighbors take notice.  Add that to the fact that our brood may resemble an episode of Duck Dynasty and people definitely talk.  I’m finding that animal acquisition, actually any farm supply acquisition, is firmly stuck in the “word of mouth” club.  When our new neighbor came over with an offer of two “club pigs” that a friend of a friend had a few extras of, the Hubby happily agreed to move them in to our newly forming pasture.  We set the fencing, the neighbor brings over two pigs, happy homestead.

Pigs in Barn IMG_5281

The problem here is that I had already been researching a heritage breed pig that we thought would be great additions to the homestead and found a local farmer that was utilizing some natural methodologies… and I had already spoken for two of them.  So maybe we’re doubling Noah now.  Two pigs, four pigs, is there really a difference? My amazing friend, who already does this farming thing well, volunteered to join me on the trek to acquire two Berkshire pigs to add to the mix.  Arriving to this new, much larger farm, we were a bit starry eyed as we took in all the infrastructure that surrounded us.  Again, in my state of constant distraction by all the pretty animals, I briefly heard the gentleman tell us that our two pigs were a female and a castrated male.  Farming life lesson…ask about the sex of your animals BEFORE you show up to buy them.  And then if you’re me, ask again because you may not understand.  I back up my SUV, open the crate, two farm hands load the pigs, I pay, I’m chatting, I’m overwhelmed, the pigs are pooping in the crate, in my car, oh happy day I just bought pigs, homestead here we come.

At the homestead we unload these sweet little piglets.  Mind you they’re 40 pounds each, but yes that’s still small and they’re still sweet.  The new Berks meet our little pink pigs and everyone immediately seems to get along.  Really, four pigs will be great! My friend and I are watching this beautiful interaction of the pigs discovering their new happy pastured home.  None of our pigs have come from pastured upbringings so we’re marveling as these animals discover fresh grass and forage for the first time.

Berkshire Pigs Pigs on pasture

Suddenly my friend observes something different, something unintended, two little parts that will quickly change the course of the homestead…a lovely, in tact set of testicles!  Yes, somewhere in the talking and distraction and observing and poop, I have managed to overlook that one of the Berkshires was in fact NOT castrated, and is in fact a fully functioning male.  Of course now that we have him home, we know that we can’t send him back, he was meant for us, our little Happy Accident.  Thankfully we have time to prepare, we will have time to separate him from the pink girls, and time to prepare for spring piglets.  So two pigs, four pigs, pregnant pigs, baby piglets, whatever.  We’re here for the natural process of life, we just figured we would ease in to it a little slower,  but it looks like Hank, our Happy Accident, will be quickly helping us create our own hog heaven.

Hank the Pig

rooster sue

A Boy named Sue

The only animal on our homestead that we raised prior to living here was a chicken (and a dog, but if you know our dog he doesn’t really count).  Our chicken endeavors have been more than traumatic to all of us, and definitely not the idyllic experience you believe will occur when you see some adorable coop on Pinterest.  Please do let those beautiful coops inspire you though.  Chickens are a true joy and one of the easiest endeavors in to knowing where your food comes from.

In preparing for the homestead move we knew that we would need at least a dozen layers in order to keep a steady supply of eggs handy.  Feeding a family of ten is no small task.  When an opportunity to add a few birds to the flock became a reality, I never even asked specific questions, I just planned the pick up and headed over to my friend’s farm.   Of the four birds we got, one was a rooster. With minimal hesitation this new creature came home and the reality of my decision sank in.  For our non chicken owners, it is possible to have an all female flock.  Those girls will lay eggs almost daily, there’s just no fertilization that has occurred, in other words, no baby chickens.  Hubby and I resolved through the consequences of the decision and decided to keep this new young boy who very quickly showed us what his intention in life was.

As the weeks have passed we have grown fond of him.  He’s big, loud, and sleeps in the tree instead of the coop, but his purpose is definite.  He knows his lot in life and he revels in it.  It’s a beautiful process to witness.  Sometime in the future one of the girls will go broody and we’ll let her sit and fulfill another purpose too.  The life cycle process will most likely be filled with joy and sadness as we watch nature take it’s course.  Sometimes you find yourself in a circumstance that is not where you intended.  It is here that you have choices, decisions that can continue or redirect the course.  We weighed the outcome, we know the end result, and we won’t wake up one day and say “How’d I end up with 50 chickens?!”  Our decision is mindful and aware.  We know that when the chickens start hatching next spring it will be the result of a rainy September night…the night I decided to bring home our boy named Sue.


The Journey

The beauty of the word journey is that it describes the process.  There is usually a beginning and an end, but the beauty is in the midst of the movement.  It is within that midst that we begin this adventure.  Many years ago, each in our own way, we found that the pace of life, the pursuit of physical things, and the choices we made to get there were no longer sustainable.  It was overwhelming, exhausting, and empty.  We decided to begin to pursue this life with intention that reached beyond us. We chose a decidedly simple pace and tried to out give our blessings.  In that process, we rediscovered our faith and found joy in the simple, the peaceful, the imperfect.  We’ve found beauty abounding in every facet of life, we just had to strip away the clutter that was hiding it.

In the midst of the search for effortless beauty a passion was ignited, a passion for food and sustainable living.  Following that pursuit we began searching for a little bit of land that would allow our family to continue to grow.  That journey has been long, filled with anticipation and waiting, frustrations and new awareness, all in the beautiful unfolding that has brought us to this place.  Here we will grow our food, raise our own animals, and treat the land and every living being with respect, because we know God has only loaned us this privilege for a time.  In turn, this land and all it possesses, will feed and grow our family in ways we have yet to imagine.

So welcome to our journey.  Welcome to new experiences, new understandings, new adventures.  We know there is much to learn.  We know there will be difficulties.  We know there is beauty that surrounds us at every turn.  And in that knowledge we proceed with joy.

We hope that in sharing our journey, our readers will also in turn find the simple beauties that already exist in their lives.  We hope that those we touch will think more consciously about the daily choices they make.  We hope that those who have an interest will in turn learn about the necessity and importance of their food and the land from which it comes from.  Again, welcome.  Welcome to our journey, settled between the twin hills.