A Century Old Beauty

One of the endless blessings of our farm is that we have multiple barns and outbuildings.  It was overwhelming at first, to think of all the space and maintenance, but we’ve slowly found our way in to what each one is good for, and how we can use it to be productive.  The “newer” ones are actually in poorer repair, but the old beauty remains as standing the test of time.  We estimate it to be about 100 or more years old, and it’s stature is quite assuredly the showpiece of the farm.  Historically, it is considered a bank barn, with an extension built for storage.  Practically, we’ve used it as storage for the hay off our top pasture for the past three years. The bottom level has housed every baby chick in the brooder.  We’ve had goats birthed in it, chicks hatched in it, and a number of wild birds and bats that call the creaky old rafters home.

When we first looked at our property, we were awe struck by the size of the structure, by it’s quiet beauty, and intrigued by the stories it has lived through.  Fast forward a few years and that intrigue and wonder has only grown, as has our affection for it.  To consider the fact that this structure has survived through world wars, through droughts and floods, and through generations of families who have depended on it’s purpose is an awe inspiring thought.  As we spend time, real, quiet, uninterrupted time inside this barn, the amazement just grows.  Each beam, hand hewn, probably with wood from this land, carefully placed to build it’s frame.  Each joint, hand carved to fit into the other, all without the modern conveniences we so readily run to today.  Each slat, nailed by hand to the sides, so carefully placed together that from the outside the weather stays out, and from the inside, the light shines through so brilliantly that electric lights aren’t even needed.  A tiny man door, nearly invisible to most, with a simple latch, that allows someone to sneak inside without opening the massive doors above.  Stepping inside is like standing back in time, and yet standing in it’s present relevance and purpose, all at the same time.




img_8267We imagine the stories it could tell.  Hundreds of cows likely flowed through the basement in the glory of the 70’s when the milking operation was in full swing.  Hay bales have been stored for years, hay grown from the pastures right behind it, kept in the proper temperature and humidity to keep it all winter, despite whatever chaos may e happening outside it’s walls.  A storage room, likely for feed, tucked neatly inside, that has kept the surplus of the summer safe keeping for winter.  A loft above, undoubtedly climbed upon, and played upon.  And even now, in between the bales of hay, a lone chicken, definitely not the first, chose this barn as her safe haven to hatch a clutch of eggs.

img_8266It’s a life of simplicity, function, purpose, and security.  An inspiration to us all, standing right in front of us, our century old beauty.


In a good way

Somehow the kids all ended up in our bed last night watching the Olympics on our small bedroom tv. In between the races, we were all laughing and realizing how much happened in our weekend. When the finally went to bed, my husband and I reminisced about our wonderful family filled farm weekend. Our weekend began early Saturday with prepping for chicken processing. All the kids are involved, plus a few extra friends that we appreciate so much.

It’s moving pretty efficiently at this point, the day goes so quickly, and it never feels like work. By mid afternoon we clean up and have a few drinks. Kids headed off to the pool, enjoying every splendid moment of a perfect day. I took a walk through part of the property I had never seen! Hubby cleared it out last week and I was eager to see what was back nestled in the woods. We finished the day with homemade pizzas gathered around the kitchen table, filled with laughter and exhaustion combined.

Sunday we were out early to church, hubby had of course already done the feed circuit. We stopped at our favorite farm stand for fresh veggies on the way home.  We made homemade waffles and bacon for brunch, and talked about our plans for the day. We headed back to the processing room and bagged and sealed about 100 of the prior days chickens. Labeled, weighed, and inventoried, they were promptly trucked to the freezers. Meanwhile, we decided to open the farm for any customers who might want to come buy fresh chickens and eggs, so the kids set up the table, and got ready for that.

Right on time, customers started showing up! This was our first time, so of course we were excited to meet them and share our little piece of heaven with them. My beloved Kathleen came over too, she and her husband would spend dinner with us in celebration of a successful weekend. We laughed and talked some more, roasted a few chickens for dinner, and headed to our bed for snuggles, ice cream and Olympics.

This weekend was glorious. I mean perfectly, happily, glorious. We worked hard, but we did it as a family. We played, laughed, and loved. I never dreamed when we started this crazy adventure that this kind of simplicity would overwhelm my very existence. To me, this is what life is all about. It is so full I am bursting at the seams. It is hard, but wonderfully rewarding. It is work, but work with a true purpose. We are different, but in a good way.


All the kids are home from school and I try to soak up every second of time. After all, January is breathing down our neck, our work busy season is quickly approaching, the activities will be in full swing, and before we blink it will be spring. Knowing all this, I try very consciously to be so very present during this time. I took two weeks off from work and determined to shut out the busyness of the outside world. We have baked so many cookies and breads we are out of sugar and butter…and I had overstocked.

Our holiday week has been spent enjoying the strange 60 degree days, clearing some stalls, moving the pastures, baking cakes and cookies, wrapping treasures for each other, and lots and lots of laughs and naps.  This winter hibernation was made all the sweeter by the unseasonably warm weather.

The usual antics have ensued as usual also. For some reason our solar fences quit giving out a charge. It didn’t take the pigs long to figure that out, so we’ve been chasing them more times than I’d like to remember. The newest antics have involved the big cow, Lala, who also figured out her fence wasn’t hot. Seeing a pig in the yard is one thing, seeing a cow standing in your driveway is far more unnerving. Seeing a cow at 10:30 in the evening makes for an exciting end to the day.

Although I know we have to, I’m sad that our two week vacation is coming to an end. The kids will be back at school, we will all be busier at work, and more than half our animals will be ready for our first round of processing. Reflecting on our year, it has been one of the best, most unanticipated years of recent memory. It has also been full of unknowns, full of changes, and full of blessings. Looking ahead, there are still lots of unknowns, lots of possibilities, and lots of adventures ahead. I’ve found a strong peace in these unknown adventures. I still have no idea how so many pieces will fit together, but I’m determined not to worry about it.

From our homestead to you, happy New Year. May you look back on the blessings you received all year, and look forward with anticipation to the unknowns that lie ahead. And if you haven’t already, I hope you find true time to enjoy the blessings that surround you and find a way to end this weekend refreshed.

Figuring it out

IMG_5909Some people think we are a little bit odd. After all, who really WANTS to move to a farm? In my daily conversations, the most common question I hear is, “How do you know what to do?”  And my answer is always, “I don’t. ” I grew up in the suburbs, as did hubby. He visited a family farm, but beyond that, neither have had any real exposure to farming.

We have spent the past few years learning about growing vegetables, ready lots of books on alternative farming methods, and asked others lots of questions. The wonderful thing about animals is that they are fairly forgiving. As long as you feed them, they don’t talk back about what you didn’t do.

The biggest learning curve with the animals has been the goats. Every farm has a goat, so why not? Of course we have 4, so as usual, I’ve over done the normal. I also had no idea what male goats were like…I mean no idea. The intention is to breed the goats, have some babies, sell off the babies, and have goats milk from the girls. Goats milk has lots of uses around the homestead: milk, soap, cheese, chicken snacks. The breeding process however, had been less than beautiful. I don’t know what I expected when it came to animals breeding, but the goats have helped me realize it’s not pretty. We have tried to integrate the goats over the past few weeks, but none of them really succeeded. Boys ran around chasing the girls, girls wanted nothing to do with the boys, girls broke through the fence and ran up the hill, boys butt heads with each other trying to fight over the girls. Basically it was the equivalent of teenage boys fighting, except with goats.  So we gave up. We figured we would leave the process for another day or another week or whenever we decided to have at it again.

Yesterday when Hubby went down to the Boys barn for their morning feeding, Timmy was gone. Not sure where he ended up he figured he must’ve broken through the fence and would return when the food was there. He was even more surprised when he headed up to the girls barn and found Timmy hanging out inside their locked gate. He would’ve had to broken through an electric fence, gotten into the barn and scaled a 5 1/2 foot wall.

Once again, the lesson on the farm is to just let things be. We keep learning that the more we leave things alone, the more we realize the animals know what to do without our intervention. We are still not really sure what the proper methodology for integrating goats is, but the goats sure know what to do. Today the girls walked willingly down into the pen and everybody was happy to spend the night together in the same place without any breakouts. So maybe now we will get some baby goats.  I guess the animals will help us figure it out.


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.

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.