Friday, August 16, 2013


On my own now. From eight to five Monday through Friday anyway. If you can call being here with six children on my own. We're in another transition. Life is full of em, eh?

For 6 months we labored side by side all day and into the night. So much time together. So much work and struggle and triumph and laughter and strife together. Always together.


Yet what a sissy I am to be grieving a little, in his absence now. His new job has been so good for him. He goes off happily each morning, oblivious to the little pit of emptiness lying deep in my soul watching him go. He comes home smiling each evening, obviously reveling once again in the breadwinner role. I'm so happy for him. Yet this morning, walking through the dining room I caught a glimpse of the empty porch swing and felt a little wave panic (?), grief (?).

Each spring and summer morning after the first pressing chores of the day were done we would meet on that porch swing, drink coffee and discuss plans for the remainder of the day. It was nice. And now it's no more. For the foreseeable future, Joe will get up and go to work, as most men do. That brief time in our lives is gone for now. And I wonder why I spent so much of it, moody and brooding, and anxious over things past and to come rather than just enjoying his company and companionship and help. And boy do I miss the help! But it's mostly his company I crave now. Ah, hindsight.

But this is a good transition. Just takes some getting used to, is all.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

6 Months

It's been six months since that bitter blizzardy day that we rolled up the drive, took out the power lines with the moving van, unloaded boxes with weary frozen hands, found rats in the oven, lit a fire in the fireplace and claimed this place ours. Tucking ourselves into cold unfamiliar bedrooms that night, wind howling eerily outside, boxes scattered, still so much to do; I had my doubts. But here we are, the filth and exhaustion and wondering behind us and I can't imagine myself anywhere else. This house, so unloved previously, has become a home again and is slowly regaining her grace and beauty.

So far we've refinished two bedrooms, torn out most of the upstairs carpet, painted some wood floors, replaced the stairwell, and yes, we have a new oven. We filled two dumpsters with the garbage left around and happily bid it goodbye. We also set lots of fenceposts and ran new electric through them, reconfigured the barn, built a milking stand to accommodate 4 goats at a time (though we still only milk one at a time), built 4 portable broiler chicken pens, a portable chicken house and a run in shed. We birthed 9 healthy baby goats, milked their mothers, and raised butchered and sold approximately 200 (so far) broiler chickens. We started a new flock of laying hens to see them eradicated in one night by an unknown predator, and any day the piglets are coming to be raised through the fall. Spring brought vibrant forsythia, fragrant lilacs and 3 blossoming apple trees. Early summer brought fragrant old rosebushes into bloom, and we discovered that many bushes we thought were overgrown weeds were actually abundant raspberries. Blackberries and wild grapes grow around old wooden fence posts running down the front pasture. And we've hiked the property numerous times; each time wondering at the beauty and discovering something new. We've caught several puny fish from the pond and countless other amphibians. We went to market with our soaps, lotions and salves for a couple months and realized it really wasn't worth the time and effort with so much else going on.

But we also learn that plans change, life gets rearranged and then rearranged again to accommodate a more manageable "day to day". We had originally wanted to turn this into a working goat dairy. It would be our full time work and we would revel in it. We had the opportunity to buy a large herd of registered dairy goats and realized at the last minute that we just weren't ready for the commitment and uncertainty that making a primary living off the farm would bring. So much uncertainty, huge commitment. We weren't ready. And if we're being honest we may never be. We may never grow beyond raising milk and meat and eggs for just ourselves because that is the level that we're most comfortable at.

And so Joe has found a job. A nice short 3 miles away at a large Christian radio station. It's been good for him. We'll continue to farm, and if we do want to go bigger eventually, maybe growing slowly is the way to go about that. Less shock value. More stability. For now we continue to work and sweat and play up here. The pigs are coming, more soap needs made, work on the house continues, homeschool plans are underway. Charlotte is out of the crib and into a toddler bed. She seems to be leaving the "terrible 2's" and 3s behind and emerging as a charming, giggly, smart little thing. Isaac runs with the big kids more and more each day rather than clinging to my side. Connor is taller than me and has an interest in a girl (don't tell him I told you). He wants to take drum lessons, and Garrett, guitar. Ava will continue with piano and possibly theatre. She and Brenna are hoping we'll add a horse or two someday soon to the farm. Hopefully Brenna will learn to read this fall.

Change is good. Change is hard. Life is good, and life is hard. God is good and carries us through it all. Who knows what the next 6 months will bring?


Monday, April 22, 2013

There is Beauty

We bought this farm at a price we could afford because it needed work. Grime, brokenness, and trash were abundant. It was overwhelming and a little depressing to move into a place that had been so little cared for.
Just a fraction of the garbage we've collected since the ground thawed

But we saw the beauty that could be. And we kept seeing it. And we're still seeing it now.
Sometime, someone, cared enough to plant daffodils

I love this old outhouse.
We've created a new campfire pit. Can't wait to make new memories around this
The pens are built and the first chickens are on pasture.
 Now, there's sunshine and green grass

And the kite-flying is GREAT here



Monday, April 15, 2013

Cheese! You can Make Too

Cheese making is in my future. Of  that, I can say more confidently now. I tasted my first "aged" goat cheese a couple nights ago and it was love at first bite. I went a little crazy in the gourmet cheese section of Wegmans and purchased three kinds, actually: Humboldt Fog, which is an aged tangy, moldy bleu type cheese, Garrotxa, similar to Romano or Asiago I would say, and a Sweet Vanilla Cardona Cheese, which was the mildest and had a faint buttery vanilla flavor. Yummm, all three. My favorite was the  bold Humboldt Fog. Worth each and every of the $6 I paid for the small wedge. Anyway, I came away quite excited. See, I love our raw, fresh goat's milk. And I love the farmer's cheese I make from our goat's milk. But I just haven't cared much for any of the Chevre's (soft, fresh, cultured goat's cheese) I've tried. Too goaty. Yes, I just said that. And since the idea of becoming a semi-serious cheese maker has been kicking around in the back of my mind, and since I bought this book: Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers
by Gianaclis Caldwell
 and have drooled over the pages, I figured I better discover whether I even like the stuff or not. Are ya with me? 
And I do.
 I even chose them over the dark chocolate cake that night. And happily! Gasp! I have hidden what's left in a corner of the fridge so that it's all mine. And I really like to spoil my children with good food. But I just love this cheese too much. It's mine. I've had so many requests for cheese that now I've ordered the cultures and it's time to start learning, darn-it. And now I know I'll like it. And I'll even play around with different Chevre recipes too, cause I really want to like that.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. For the last few years, this recipe has been my old standby solution for the Spring and Summer too much milk in the fridge need space now (!), dilemma. Well, this and yogurt, and ice cream. But I'll save those for another day. This cheese is yummy. And really easy. And the good news for you, readers, is that you can be a cheese maker too. Use any milk you want! Just not ultra-pasteurized. It won't form a good curd. Here's the recipe if you wanna give it a go :)

Ingredients: 1 gallon whole milk, 1/3-1/2 cup vinegar or lemon juice (I like vinegar results better), and salt.
That's it!

Let's make cheese:
Heat your milk (slowly, while stirring frequently) to 190 degrees F. The milk should just be starting to really bubble/foam up. Do not bring it to a full boil. Remove your milk from the heat and SLOWLY stir in your acid (vinegar or lemon juice). Don't overstir. You should notice the white curds start to separate from the yellow-ish whey. Cool. Let it sit (don't stir here) for about 20 minutes until you really have good separation. Then ladle your curds into a cheesecloth (or muslin, or even pillowcase) lined colander. Let drain there for a few minutes, then add salt to taste, gather the ends of your cheesecloth at the top and tie together and hang your sack of cheese to drain ( I use a long wooden spoon handle over a pot) for 10 minutes to a couple hours. Depends on how firm you want your cheese. We like to eat it tend to devour it while it's still warm, so it never gets hung long! Man, it's good warm! At this point you can refrigerate it for a week or so. Some say the taste improves after a day or two in the refrigerator. But I like it fresh! This cheese doesn't melt well, but is great in salads, on sandwiches, and even chunky on pizza or focaccia. If it makes it past your kitchen counter, that is.
Ladling the curds
This is not my picture. But I love the simple-ness of it. Though I can't help thinking, "what did the poor cheese do!?" Does it not look like a hanging? Lol.
Our finished product.
Have fun!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Saturday was my birthday. The 35th one. Brenna's worried I'm getting old and has been all the more clingy because of it. Silly girl.
Joe took me out to lunch as a treat. Getting there with six clean kids was the real treat. Here's a little peek into what's usually involved in getting our six kids out the door and looking halfway decent:

It took me the better part of the morning to get them all cleaned up from their morning outdoor play. As I took the littlest ones out to the van, I noticed that:
"a" the carseats were not in the van where they needed to be, and
the goats needed water.
 I sent Joe for the carseats, set Isaac and Charlotte down next to the van with a stern warning not to move, and set out for the water bucket. It took all of 72 seconds to refill the goats' water. But in that time, Charlotte in her pretty white sweater and pink leggings had settled down in the middle of a mound of fresh dirt, and was digging her little heart out with her clean little hands. Isaac, not to be outdone, had toddled up the porch steps and was trying like a brave little one year old to climb right back down them. Except he doesn't know how to climb down yet. And all I see is the concrete pad awaiting his little head at the bottom. And both Isaac and Charlotte are in opposite directions. And of course neither are paying attention to my frantic screaming. (and my morning coffee has worn off long ago) Obviously I run for Isaac first and am glad to say that I saved him from certain peril once again. But by the time I reached Charlotte her white sweater was a pretty shade of mushroom grey, with matching hands and face. By this time, my oblivious  awesome husband had finished with the carseats and turns, smiling at me, proud he's done something to help, right about the same time Ava shows up ready for lunch, in her pajama pants. The girl that wears dresses to do her barn chores. Oy. After all this, lunch was a lovely affair. Isaac flirted shamelessly with the waitresses.  And Joe and I made up over vegetable lo mein.

The pulsator on our milking machine broke. Not two weeks into using it. Joe's hoping it's minor and has ordered a rebuild kit for it. In the meantime, we're back to milking by hand, and thankful we don't have 50 goats just yet.

Joe broke ground on the garden a couple days ago. Hard, backbreaking work, even with a tiller. It needs done a couple more times before we can plant, but it's started. Maybe someday we'll have a plow. Today we discovered that the small overgrown field next to the barn was REALLY soft (it's been frozen up to this point).  Under the sod, we found black compost about a foot deep. Gold. Must've been where the cows from years past were kept, waiting their turn to come into the barn for some fresh hay and a milking. I was busy much of today digging that out and transporting it by wheelbarrow-ful to the garden plot. Again, backbreaking. Again, can someone say TRACTOR? Oh well, the physical labor is exhilarating. Joe says I'll be as skinny as a supermodel in no time. Uh huh.

Meanwhile, Joe's been busy tearing out old fencing and setting new.

Setting fence posts. Man's work.

The babies are growing fast. The kids love to get them out to play each day.

Sorry for the blurry pictures. It's just so much easier to carry my iphone around than the lunky camera.
Until next time,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Last of the Kids

And as quick as it began, it was over. Kidding season. Of course, we only had three does kid this year, so not like a whole farm-ful or anything. It was a year for bucklings. We got five. And two doelings. Of course we'll keep the doelings as we are in the process of building our herd. Slowly. Two of our bucklings have already gone as pets to some farm friends. I was so happy to find them a good home. Brenna was so sad to see them go. Sadder than expected. I found her crying after they were carted off to their new home. Sweet, shy,sensitive Brenna. She seems to feel things on a different emotional level than the rest of us. Or maybe she's just five. Either way, I hope she's able to adapt to this way of living and come away not too scarred. Today, we received our first batch of broilers. In 8 weeks they will be dinner. How to break this to her gently? We've told her if she wants to play and make friends with the chicks, then stick to the laying chicks. They'll be around longer. I love her sensitivity and am pretty sure that I was that way once upon a time.

Joe with our last two bucklings. Cuties. All three.

We've moved the laying chicks to our outdoor brooder house. And they're doing well. Already almost all feathered out and big! Today the broilers went in our "extra" room in the house where they'll be for about a week before moving into the brooder house with the others. Within a couple weeks they should be out on pasture permanently. We'll receive 50 more broilers about every three weeks until fall. Chicken anyone?
Inside the brooder house

Brand new chicks, fresh from the mailman

Easter weekend was lovely. And it also happened to be Charlotte's 3rd birthday. Double the celebration! It started Friday morning with some out of town guests we hadn't seen in a couple years. They arrived early as we were coming in from milking. I was embarassed by my barn clothes, my undone hair, the chores that needed tended to before we could visit, and had hoped to get a shower before their arrival. Growing up, my mother was meticulous. She was an excellent housekeeper, hostess, and mother. Her children were always clean, her rugs always vacuumed. I didn't grow up on a farm. So, I'm still getting used to the fact that my life is going to be just a little messier than hers. And that's ok. We settled in with our old friends and had such a nice time together. And they didn't care that I hadn't showered, and that the milking buckets all sat in the sink. The rest of the weekend was filled with family and how nice it was to pile most of our loved ones in the dining room for an Easter Feast/ birthday party. I'm so grateful for my large dining room and for those that I love filling my house. Happy Easter- He is Risen!

Today, Spring arrived. And so it was time to set up the trampoline. Something the kids have been begging for since we moved in, in the dead of winter.

Ahhh, Spring. I knew you'd come. Someday.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Dandelion's Acre Farm Welcomes its First Babies

And I've just accidentally deleted all my pictures! Boo.
This post will have to be photo-less. How boring for you.

Amelia, one of our Saanen/Alpine mix does kidded effortlessly on 3/16. Two bucklings. The first kids birthed on Dandelion's Acre Farm. We were so hoping for at least one doe so that we could add to our herd, but such is the way of nature. And Farming. These two little guys are so cute and playful, and I am happy to say will be going to a dairy farm to be raised as pets. One is black and white like his father and the other, pure white with the face of a little lamb like his "maaa". The kids have all loved bottlefeeding these brothers. Good practice- because two more of our does will be kidding in the next few weeks. Maybe twin girls next! (?)

Our first order of day-old chicks arrived. These are the laying hens, not the broilers yet. We ordered an egg-laying assortment because I like variety. I can't wait to collect the brown, green, blue, and white eggs. 20 weeks to go! It's always so much fun when the chicks first arrive. Little fluffy peeping balls of cuteness. I'm hopeful they'll survive the baby, toddler, dog and cat who have all taken an immense interest in them.
Joel Salatin instructs in his books to always be very calm and whisper around the chicks from day one. And NO carrying around! Sorry Joel, we seem to have some trouble maintaining that level of control around here.
Well, this is our 4th batch of baby chicks since we started chicken-ing. And we've not lost a one yet. I'd like to think it will make them hardier.

Kids and chicks, and kids. There's not much cuter.

I stopped in a neat little herb shop to pick up some organic dried comfrey for our comfrey salve yesterday. And I made a friend. Andrea Reisen is eclectic and a little eccentric, and I loved her immediately. Her and her husband Matthias have been farming their 30 acres for 30 some years. And they have the cutest little shop filled with dried herbs grown on their land. They also make tinctures, and teas, salves, raw honey from their bees (got me some of this too), and hold classes on sustainability at their farm. We hit it off immediately. I was there for an hour. And Dandelion's Acre Goat's milk soap will now be carried in their shop.

Our first craft show of the season is tomorrow. Excited for this. We'll be at the Campbell/Savona high school from 10-3. Come on out and visit!

ps- I promise cute pics of the babies next time. If I can manage not to delete them in the process.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Does not Work Well with Others

This is hard. Working full time with my husband.

Navigating together as full-time parents, farmers, and business partners. Parenting is not new to us. But doing it together 24/7, is. And when every time we try to calmly work out a business decision we're (surprise) not seeing eye to eye on, and the 5 year old trips and falls flat on her face and starts wailing, the 8 year old needs help with a math problem, the teen and preteen get into it, while at the same time the toddler tries takes it upon herself to pour herself a glass of milk and the entire carton ends up on the floor, and then the dog and the baby and the toddler are all wading through the giant milk puddle... well then, it's just hard. And now we're out of milk.

Isaac, stop eating the soap.

Farming is relatively new to us and I struggle letting him take the reigns and be the 'boss-man' because it was my dream to begin with. I've had the passion for years and my tattered, ear-marked copy of Carla Emery's "Encyclopedia of Country Living" proves it. When we bought our first home on an acre and a half, I couldn't wait to turn it into a mini-barnyard, complete with compost pile and large garden. Joe saw our long acreage as the perfect driving range. Needless to say, we've not always had like-minded ideals. This is a new passion for him. He was incredulous when I first told him I wanted some chickens for my birthday (6 years ago). Ridiculous, he told me. Out of the question. Yet being the awesome husband he was, he went out, hammer in hand and converted our shed (the same one he kept his golf clubs in) into a chicken coop. Love him. And then came the goats, and convincing him to let me till up just a little more of his yard each year to expand the garden. And then last year he took a real interest in the soap making, and the garden, and he would let me sit and read excerpts of "Encyclopedia of Country Living" to him while he weeded the garden. And now here we are on our own farm and his own tattered and ear marked copies of all Joel Salatin's books are laying around. I should be so lucky. I am so lucky. But instead, so much time is being wasted on deciding between his way of doing things and mine. Still. And it's hard to step back and let him lead.
If we had to write references on each other they both would inevitably say, "does not work well with others." Hmph.

But ultimately, I desire to be under my husband, not above him. This is where we're both happiest, and, well, it's biblical. So learning to be submissive while being in partnership is hard too. And I'm going to make him read this so he understands just where I'm coming from and where I want to be going.

 I love ya honey. We can use the boxes you like for packaging the soaps. Now let's go disbud those baby goats.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

Sometimes the waiting is the hard part.

Waiting for the first kids of the season to be birthed...

Waiting on seedlings to emerge in the greenhouse...

Waiting for the last of the snow to melt and warmth to return...

Waiting for farmer's market season to begin...

Waiting for the first order of spring chicks to arrive...

In the meantime, we'll keep doing puzzles and such,
 resting up,
 making soap,

and hurry up and wait for what's sure to be a very busy time.

Coming soon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Beginnings

It's been a while and though I thought to start a whole new blog, I decided to continue from where I left off- 21 short months ago. Here's what you missed:

Isaac Samuel, our sixth child and third boy was born, 12/27/2011
Isaac, now a jovial 15 month little chap with silky blonde hair who likes to throw away all my clean laundry. Here he is with beets all over. He loved his fresh garden beets last fall! His siblings call him Bubby. Or Sammy. Or lately, Colombus, because Mommy gave him the cutest little homemade bob haircut, poor kid.

And, we bought a farm, 2/13/2013

Our farm, brand new. To us brand new. Built in 1870 and much lived in since then. And with so much living yet to be done here, Joe has encouraged me to start this back up as a way to look back and remember some day. And if it entertains you along the way, then...

Moving day was the pits. Blizzard conditions. Not enough help due to the fact that we had 3 days notice of our final moving date. Several excited children about- at least double the number of adults. Too much stuff. Rats in the oven. Power lines run through by the moving truck. Our new house filthy. But we made it. We're here, and finally breathing again and not doubting our sanity so much 4 weeks later.

Our plan is to farm this place. Really farm. As in jump in with both feet and eke out a living for ourselves farm. All shock aside, seriously.

They say there's no money in farming. We're sure to find out. Our plan is to sell directly to the consumer- pastured poultry, raw goat's milk, our soaps, lotions, and hopefully cheeses soon. And the teenager *always* needs to eat, so I think we're gonna grow a hog or two. We promise to keep you abreast of all that's going on here, for as we get this ol farm up and running we'll also be renovating the farmhouse...
And exploring the land...


Much work to be done. And it starts early. G'night.