Friday, December 31, 2010

The benefit of the doubt

It's been about six weeks since we figured out our pullet was really a cockerel. In that time we've gotten a lot of advice for "dealing" with the fact that he's male. Most of the suggestions were slaughter. I had a hard time justifying killing our rooster just because he has the wrong gene for our farm. Being male isn't a death sentence and it's not an excuse for unnecessary slaughtering. It's not his fault we picked him out. Remember our goal here at HeartSong is to reconnect with our food, give it the best life possible and treat it with respect and compassion.

Truth is he's been a good rooster. He keeps his girls from straying too far from the coop. Or herds them back when they go too far. He sings to them when he finds tasty morsels and generally just struts around the barnyard as if he was four feet high instead of just the single one. I have noticed him becoming a little agressive with the girls whenever the desire to mate falls on him. Which is pretty darn frequently. But that's nature for the most part, I think. Cant' fault him that.

Up until yesterday I've let him be and he's lived his life being a rooster and all that it encompasses. But then he walked across the invisible line I've drawn for him. I told myself that as long as he was "good" -meaning not agressive- that he could stay. I have heard people say they have roosters that are just fine and dandy, perhaps Coco is one of those. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Heck, having my girls brood their own chicks was a neat idea up until he attacked Amelia.

Now every time I look at him I am mentally guaging his weight for the pot. Her scratches on her face, neck and shoulder will heal and there probably won't be scarring but Coco has dissolved my trust in roosters.

Out of the fourteen still brooding in the bathroom, the roosters will be the first to go. Farm lesson 64 well and learned. This weekend his time is up.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Providence and The Princess Bride

Sometimes things that you want desperately in the little crook of your heart to work out just don't. Though there might be reasons for it, all in all it's just the way it's meant to be. It's hard when it comes to pass that whatever it is won't  come to pass. It hurts a little in that organ in your chest.

All week long I've been emailing about some special little babies for our farm. When the gauntlet was falling and purchasing was emminent suddenly the price per animal changed. It rose nearly 200% and shot those babies straight out of my price range. I felt a little used, a little hurt, a little like I was being taken advantage of. I'm a brand spanking new farmer. Still ruddy in the cheeks from birth. I'm just now learning what the upper most tip of farming life is like, even if I've jumped in with both feet.

I left the house this morning wondering if we'd ever be able to start with anything more than chickens and rabbits, dairy heifers are out of our price range, sheep won't be available until late next year. We're not allowed pigs and horses wern't really ever considered. Even the milk goats in our area are now too pricey. My heart was heavy with disappointment.

After I came home I decided not to give up. There had to be someone looking to sell us some healthy baby goats at a reasonable price in my area. I searched Craigslist again and lo and behold an ad from December 6th popped up that I hadn't looked at. For some reason none of my searches pulled up the ad which was for baby goats in my city (which is pretty amazing since the entire town is less than 3 miles wide).  Actually, even more amazing is that they're literally the next block over. Behold Providence. Within hours I had a car load of human kids, feed, milk, hay and two darling baby goats.

They are Nubian/Boer mixes. I met their moms and saw where they lived. The more white  on the left is a four week old doe we named Buttercup and her future boyfriend on the right is 2 week old Westley. The breeder was wonderful and invited me to come back or call if I had any problems or issues or needed advice. I could even bring them back over if they wouldn't take the bottle so they could help me hands on get them to feed.

I'm a little nervous. These are the largest animals we've had so far. They're official livestock, not back yard chickens or fluffy rabbits most people keep for pets. But even under the nervousness and excitement of taking this enormous step, I feel confident the path of the Universe worked itself the way it was supposed to. Even if I had to go through a little bit of rocky travelling.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Monday we spent the afternoon nailing up fencing around the barn. Dear lord that was a lot of work. My hands are sporting some nice wounds from splinters and sharp edges of the fencing. The hardest part was when the boards vibrated as we hammered them. I think I'm still feeling the reverberations. 

We're getting the area ready for small livestock since it was previously a horse barn. The owner had left some precut field fence that we're using on the paddock. We'll have to sink some of our own money into the pasture to have that usable for our purposes. I'm not sure we're at that level yet. Though this weekend we might be adding a couple new babies to the farm so we might need to ante up. I'm not going to get my hopes up yet on the babeis and spill the secret but if it works out it'll be a huge step forward for farm endeavors. Cross your fingers it works out. I really want those babies.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nut Fluke?

The kids ran into the house with excited screams. They had found the biggest acorn ever and it was cause for celebration. They brought it to me and to my surprise it wasn't an acorn at all but what I believe is a hazelnut. So, we donned our coats and set off out to find where they had discovered this amazing nut.

We tromped through the forest and dug around the bases of at least three dozen trees before stumbling upon a treasure trove of them, all at the base of one particular tree. The girls raked the blanket of crunching leaves away and plopped nearly two dozen into our basket. But here is the odd part...I'm fairly certain that tree isn't either a hazel or chestnut. I pulled a leaf from both the large tree and smaller bush that were the only two for yards in the area and compared them to Wiki's photos.

So, I'm asking for your advice or insight. Did we stumble on some odd nut fluke (no one has lived here for a few months but us) or are one of these leaves actually from one of the trees these nuts could come from?

Also, if you know, what are the nuts anyway? (Don't mind the smaller acorns, those were Emmy's contribution to the basket since she couldn't find any of the larger nuts)

Farm Girl

One of the reasons I wanted to farm was to reconnect myself and my children to our food. To instill in them a sense of responsibility to what they eat and to understand that as meat-eaters there is a huge sacrifice connected to dinner that is more than just filling their tummies.

Farming takes work. Lots of work. Sometimes doing things you don't want to do just to ensure that the animals that will sustain you later live a life filled with a freedom and health they'd otherwise be denied. Explaining that to kids is hard. Especially young kids. With the addition of the fourteen new chicks the understanding that not all of these cute, fluffy balls of chirp will stay on our farm long is a harsh reality. The connection to a chick in a cardboard box and a breaded chicken nugget can be a confusing and treterous path.

But as with gardening for sustinance, caring for animals is something we are learning. We have plans to grow beef calves for slaughter, raise turkeys from poults for holiday dinners and release our dependency on store bought chicken and eggs. And we have decided that -as we grow and learn this farm life- if we can't do the things we have done in conventional grocery store society with respect and care that we just won't do it.

I hope the children grow up understanding the sacrifice and the fact we might become vegetarians.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Christmas Eve morning broke with the fields covered in sparkling frost. The four new chicks I bought myself for the holiday were merrily chirping away in the master bathroom. I filled their bowls and talked to them so they'd know my voice and set out for the outside chores. The air bit into my jersey knit jacket. This girl isn't used to tromping more than a few steps to tend the animals. The chickens in the barn strutted into the yard without a mind to the temperature. They wanted their breakfast, the icy bits were just frosting. I needed to get a move on and the wind helped me get my chores done that much faster. It was the day before Christmas, my mom was on her way and I desperately needed Benedryl and butter.

Alex -my oldest- and I set out on the twenty minute drive into town for our essentials. Everything took longer because everyone else was hunting down those frantic last minute things, too. We took our time and my mom beat us home. When I came inside the house was in an uproar, there was a present in the house I needed to see.

Ten more chickens greeted me with tiny chirps in the doorway. The five Americaunas and five Red Broilers were added to the box with my two Barred Rocks and two Rhode Island Reds. I'm not sure which was better, the chicks or the acceptatance and encouragement of my dream from my mom.

We ate, presents were shared and before I knew it they were headed back out. We're a good three hours from where we lived before when we were only three houses away from each other. The rest of the afternoon was spent tending animals and building an off-ground structure to place the rabbit cages. I mucked out the old horse droppings from the stall and made a small compost pile for the garden. The entire time our four birds were clucking and chittering about what we were doing, walking under feet and being shoo'd out of work areas. It wasn't the hinderance you'd imagine. The personality and curiosity make for comical watchings.

When darkness fell Leeloo was anxious and thrumming to run. This land is a veritble smorgasboard of scents for her to trail and track through the grasses. We have to keep her on a leash or run else she'll be in the woods and lost on a scent before she even realized it. I took my coat and grabbed her leash and let her pull me around at a breakneck run. It was exhiliarating and made me realize how out of shape I truly am.

She caught the smell of something that had her darting full-speed for the forest. The single outside light casts an illuminated circle that just bites the edge of the barn. We were headed past that into the inky black that coats the trees and land like a sheet. I didn't know what scent she caught and coyotes are notorious in these woods. My heart beat faster with something more than just excitement. Perhaps ancient self-preservation reared up in me but whatever it was had me throwing my entire body weight againt the desires of my fifty plus pound dog. We veered back into the safety of sight without much fuss and slowed our gait till we were still as could be with both our chests heaving in the bitter air. My heartbeat pounded in my ears as I rubbed her down.

It was a good day, so far different from what I'm used. But good in a way I hadn't really had before.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

This past year has been something else. At times I thought we'd never move forward and maybe were even going backwards. Other times inching forward so slowly I thought I would go crazy. Our goals seemed unobtainable. The hurdles too high and close together.

There is still a long, long way to go.

But we've made it this far -further than we thought we would. Here's to what rounded out to be a good year and for even bigger dreams fulfilled in the next.

Thanks for sticking with us. For believing in us. 

With Love,
From our farm to you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Settling in

This may sound weird but the air up here is different. The scents, sounds, temperature and mood are all set to a lazy pace. The metronome of my heart beats too fast for this world.

I woke up to a brown wet Saturday. The air was crisp and studded with the call of crows that serpentined sleepily through the land and sky. In the distance I heard a rooster singing in the morning and it wasn't mine. How odd it was to be near other chicken owners. When the cows started their part -the distant moos the bass line of the tune- it was like my own HeartSong was finally rounding out. Finally finding it's pitch, lyrics and beat.

This morning was another drizzly day, it seems we picked the wettest weekend in December to move. The sky was a sheet of white-gray and the crows welcomed us awake again. I find myself quickly becoming used to this life. I donned a coat and tromped through the dead grass to the barn in the back. The animals are coming today so a tour of the barn was needed. The two stalls need to be cleaned out and the rabbits will need a platform for their cages built. Otherwise, the barn and surrounding paddock looks good. We'll have to tack up some wire sheep fencing when the lambs come since it was built for horses. Though it should be fine for the cow we intend to visit later in the month, if all goes well she'll be home with us sometime in Januray.

The list of "To Do" is rapidly growing but the work doesn't feel like a burden. I'm excited over it. My spirit thrums with eager anticpation. Once we get the settling in done I think I'll feel ready to begin.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Tomorrow is the big day. Well, one of the big days at least. This 150 plus mile move is going to take more than a day to complete but tomorrow is the day for me. I've already started packing up the trailer with the as-is table I just picked up from IKEA. A couple returns and a gift card stuffed into my driver's side door handle wishing me a Merry Christmas from a stranger while I was grocery shopping and I have an actual table for all of us to eat at this holiday. It might not be new but I couldn't be happier.

I'm freaking out just a little. Little enough to push it back to the further reaches of my mind where it's easy for it to hide behind the frantic last minute packing and even frantic-er childminding. The new farm seems to be a fantastical dream. A perfect orb floating on the thermals of high hopes.

I'm quite a bit afraid it will burst.

It is such a huge step to go from a couple chickens and rabbits in the city to three hours away from friends and family with calls in to a lady with a pregnant cow. I'll be honest here, I've never actually touched a cow. In a few months I could be watching -and possibly assisting- one birthed in my own backyard. It's not just a little bit frightening.

Questions pop into my brain at random moments. Like yesterday, while I was getting juice boxes to help stave off thirsty screaming children in the car my mind reached out and whispered to me "What if you can't do it? What if you don't even like cows?"

"Pishaw, brain. Of course I'll like cows...right?"

Here's another confession...ready? I've only once had raw milk and I was about five. Right now my life is built on concepts and ideals that in all honestly might just not work out. And currently, there is no Plan B. Hell, Plan A is a bit loose itself to be honest.

Though one thing is for sure, tomorrow we're heading out. Here is our good-bye to the lights that ooze twilight over the city night, the sirens screaming at all hours, the homeless folk on every corner I've come to recognize by intersection, the friends I never got enough time to really connect to and the ones that are more family than friend, the grocery store within walking distance and the houses close enough to touch with arms outstretched. Good-bye to zero-lot lines, paved roads home and the skyline pockmarked with mile-high buildings and turbulent air traffic. Good-bye to my house that's seen home two of my five kids and the neighbors I love, the church I've called my spiritual home these past four years and the streets I tromped in my wild youth.

Hello, my new country life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Pre-Farm Farm

I thought I'd share some photos of the pre-farm with you all. This is the property we've decided to rent while we're working on our land. To be both closer to our own property and to have Rob able to come home at night instead of just on the weekends.  It was a hard decision to make, delaying the move to the land another year, and it wasn't made lightly. But when when we saw this property listed and spoke with the owner we just knew it was what was right.

I'm nervous to move so close to the holidays, I've been slacking in the packing department with our move date quickly approaching on the 18th. I'm excited too, this is a step in the right direction for us, a place the kids can have room to play and where we'll be able to forward our dreams and ideas for the farm.

I can't wait to fill the barn up with animals.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turn this rooster off

Coco is crowing All. The. Time. starting at 3 this morning he has felt the need to declare his territory every hour on the hour, or sooner if he likes.

I'm not sure what to do. We have three weeks until we move (eighteen days really) and we're not legally allowed to have roosters. Now I know why.

What to do?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Sometimes while you're travelling down the dusty path of life you are given certain truths. You take for granted what someone tells you, what you've heard or think you remember. You can go about your business knee deep in falsehoods and never even know it if you never bother to glance at your feet.

Recently, I discovered a falsehood. A mistake if you will. Though this wasn't intentional or sneaky or sly it opened my eyes to the realization that there are still some things I take soul deep for granted, just because a stranger told me so. And just so much I still don't know.

In my last post I invited you to meet the girls of our backyard flock. I have to apologize to you for passing on the misconception in the title post.

Coco is in fact not a girl. A new truth we learned three nights ago when we awoke to a distinct cock-a-doodle-do at five in the morning. That glorious crow opened our eyes to other behaivor and traits in our dear Coco that are very blatantly male.

Her...I mean his comb is quite a bit larger than the others. He pushes out his neck feathers into a mane when he's scared, fighting or irritated. He's quite a sight bigger (and always has been) than the girls. He's got beautiful green hued black tail feathers much longer than the other three. His feet are enormous. And then there was the tell-tale crowing which repeated this morning.

We did not want roos for a specific reason (mainly that we can only have 4 chickens in the city but agression was also a factor) so all these signs of testosterone have been ignored because I was ignorant of what a rooster really does and is. Being a first time chicken owner and not wanting roosters I never researched roosters, I had no idea of their behaivor and looks. I took the word of the feed store (and the extra pricing to have a sexed group of chickens) as an unfailable truth. But human chicken sexers are not free from error. No one is.

There really isn't much to do about it at this point. If we had discovered she was a he earlier we would probably have just sent him off to freezer camp, but for the past four months we've repeatedly told the kids these four would not be eaten. I would like to at least keep one truth in tact.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meet the Girls

It's been three months since we expanded our city farm to include actual livestock. Wow, what a difference three months makes. I was so nervous to invite those little puffball chicks into our home. I felt everything had to be "just right" and then when out and bought them before we were really ready. Such is life, it never is what you think it'll be.

L to R: Caramel (Cari), Coco and Lemonade (Lem)

 But I have to say that even with the issues we've had with them pecking and rushing to build a coop when they quickly outgrew the rabbit cage in the laundry room, adding chickens to our home has been quite a wonderous thing.


For starters, chickens aren't stupid. They're not. When they cock their head and focus one beady little eye in your direction sizing you up, you know intelligence lay within their peanut sized brains. Yes, they're flighty and get distracted easliy but when you're low on the food chain and 99% of your day is made up hunting for your dinner, you really can't blame them for it.

Lemonade (or Lem)

The learning experience for the kids alone has been worth the occasional stomps in chicken shit. Chasing the chickens around the yard to get them back to the coop has been more fun than our trip to Seaworld. And then there was that time Coco escaped into the house...

Caramel (or Cari)

They're resourceful, friendly and low-maintenance. Their food is cheap to free and they gobble up kitchen scraps like mad reducing our need for feed, boosting their vitamins and elminating scraps that would normally just be waste. They're not laying yet but I'm hoping for eggs sometime in January.

One abrupt decision on a hot August day and I can easily see myself owning chickens for the rest of my life, who would have thought.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two baby steps forward, one the left?

I'm nervous writing these words. Yet, excited as well. After much talking we have decided to find a rental house. The bone between us in our marriage isn't holding up as well as I'd hoped. The nearly two year deployment only a year ago still has us on shaky footings being separated again is too much too soon. We're straining to be a couple which isn't good for anything.

After reviewing our finances the cabin just isn't going to be ready any time soon. With Rob needing to come home, to see his family on the weekends it leaves no time for working on the cabin even if we could get to supplies. No electricity means no work can get done and even after that there just aren't enough hours in his day to get it done. Work, where he's staying and the cabin are a triangle away from each other, each leg a good hour drive. And gas is an expensive commodity to burn in such large quantities.

So, we've decided to rent a mobile home in the backwoods near our land. While it seems like this would hold us back from our dream of having a farm in 2011, the owner is fine with us having livestock and the ten acres the house sits on even has a barn with running water and an already fenced pasture. The payment is more than manageable and will still leave us with money to work on the cabin and the ability to actually get to it within a reasonable time frame leaves even more incentive to get it done.

We've given ourselves a year to work things out, to get the cabin ready one hundred percent and rebuild our marriage. Sometimes life takes you in a direction you weren't expecting but needed regardless.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Holiday Sale for my Blog Friends

I'm running a sale in my Etsy store. Trying to gather up a little holiday gift money. All purchases done in the store by Friday November 12th with the words BLOG FRIEND will get 30% off their purchase OR free shipping. Please specify which you prefer and I'll send a revised invoice through paypal.

I have some great stocking stuffers! I'll also continue to list the PDF apron patterns as they are sold so anyone that has been wanting to try it out can.

Thanks for everyone's support this year.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why nothing has gotten done yet.

A few months ago I posted how our shipping container was broken into. The (enter expletive here) used bolt cutters to slice off the regular keyed locks we had. So, we scoured the internet and found a special lock for shipping containers that wasn't too ridiculously priced.

We got the new lock, drove up and installed it and haven't had a problem with breaking in yet.

Actually, it's such a good lock even we can't get into it.

So, Rob called the company that makes it, gave them the serial number off the lock and wouldn't you know it, the retailer that we bought it from sold us a defective lock. One the manufacturing company has listed as returned for defect.

So, Rob had to go buy an angle grinder to get the lock off. But wait, the angle grinder is electric and we don't have service yet. Well, we'll just use the generator...oh, wait. The generator is inside the shipping container.

Yes, just another day here in our world.

While we've been trying to figure out how we're going to get power to the grinder to get the lock off so we can have access to the flooring for the cabin that's inside and everything else we've stored up there (tools and whatnots), we haven't done really anything else. The electric papers need to be notarized, something they didn't tell us beforehand and since Rob doesn't live in Tampa anymore so we have to do it on the weekend when he's back but it's in the works. The electrician set up to do the pole is on standby until we get our papers in order.

Rob asked around and the same wonderful people he's staying with have an uncle with a generator that let us borrow it for a couple hours last night to get the lock off.  He had to pick up gloves and a face shield so he didn't get maimed while cutting through the thick metal.

Now we have to send this back to the company to get a working replacement lock.  It's all these little things no one tells you about that tend to come up. The broken lock has prevented us from getting into the container which means we couldn't get tools out or flooring, we couldn't store materials or bring much up to the land that couldn't afford to get stolen if someone had the idea to break into the cabin. We've literally wasted weeks just because of this minor set back. And this is why nothing has gotten done yet.

Be prepared, folks. When setting out on your adventures, realize things will come up that you would in no way be able to fathom beforehand.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My new logo, what do you think?

Thanks everyone for the wonderful words of encouragement from my last post. With the move coming up so soon and little work being done thus far, I'm just a little tense and strung out emotionally. I will be breeding our Angora Rabbits for the first time in November and have a plethora of fur I need to process for sale. One of the reasons we got into the rabbit business was to well, generate business and since we started with our first buck in January this year we haven't done a single thing but love them up.

They're not pets, they're livestock. They need to start earning their keep around here.

I made up a logo for our farm based on the fact we will be a fiber production farm. I added in the sheep even though we're not getting them until later next year. Presumtuious? What do you think? We do currently have wool we will be processing to sell, it just isn't our wool.

What do you think of the logo? I wanted something that stood out but was simple and could be printed inexpensively. I think it portrays the essence of what we'll be farming. If you have a better idea or suggestions for the logo please let me know! I'm not that good with graphic arts.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's all in the wording.

It's not a shed, it's a cabin.

It's not a bucket toilet, it's a eco-friendly composting commode.

It's not 57 square feet per person, it's reducing our carbon footprint.

It's not run off, it's low impact water accumulation.

Over the course of this past week I've gotten a lot of good advice about how we spin our non-conformist ideas to the consumer friendly masses. I've been worried, down-right nauseated, that someone will get "good intention" and make a stink over our new living arrangements causing us trouble with the state or government regarding the kids.

I've had an overwhelming desire to shut up. Seal my lips. Not eep out a word about our exciting and life altering plans. Even on the "anonymous" internet. So, I've been thinking of turning this blog private. I want to share with others that are looking down the same long road we have stepped down but I also have to be careful and keep my family safe.

Ideas, recommendations or just general comments are always welcomed though politely phrased message are better received.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

So it begins

A few hours ago Rob left for North. Nausea, nervousness, excitement and general disquiet have been filling us both these last few days.

It's happening. We're moving. It's inevitable now.

What wild, crazy thing have I gotten us into this time? Though I feel in my heart that trepidation before any life-altering event is called for, when you're experiencing it, well, it doesn't feel so great. When I mention to others what we're about to embark on I usually get glazed over looks that tell me it's time to shut my mouth. Lots of smiling and head nodding at appropriate times. The fact is what we're doing is radical. Monumentous, so far from the norm that there just flat out is no appropriate response from those that do not share the calling.

"You're going to what?" "How are you going to do that?" "Where will you get this?" Comprehension of our dream is sometimes difficult for others to grasp no matter how much explaining we try and do. Actually, over-explaining has gotten us into many an akward conversational situation.

Crashing through barriers of social norm is a harrowing, frightening thing to do when you're going head first into the blockades. For the longest time it's just been all talk. We want to do X. The factor of X still sometimes even unclear to us. But it's been only wanting. Yearning.

Yes, we bought land but again that's not a really concrete step. Lots of people invest in land they never use. Yes, we bought a shed and a shipping container for the future idea of creating a home up there. But no work has been done as of yet. Making phone calls isn't a solid thing. Gathering information for use later is just words in a book. Living so far away and still having a job here, it has still felt like a pipe dream, a maybe, a want that would probably never come to life.

Until Today.

Today somehow makes all the work and talk we've been doing real. Rob no longer lives in Tampa. It's a fact. It's concrete. We will be following him within a few short months or sooner. We are moving to the land.

So it begins, there is no more wanting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

He Found the Marker

I just got a call from the technician at the electric company. The plat map saved the day and he's found the corner monument. They're sending me paperwork to approve the pole being set (no cost to us) to bring the line across the street and onto our property. We can have that completed as soon as next week. I'm working on the budget right now to factor in the pole we do have to pay to put up.

I'm hoping for next week on that also. We can have electric in as little as a week. Hallelujah!

Monday, October 4, 2010

More Electrical News

If it seems like I am only ever updating on the electric progress, it's because it's the craziest process ever. I could just wait and say "Oh look, the electric is on." and never delve into the meat of the issue but I think that would do you a disservice. For those that have dreams like ours, that want to take the role of building from scratch into your own hands, the honest truth is what you need.

We are still about a third into getting the electric turned on.

We have the permit. The application is in at the electric company. What has taken us so long (and by long I mean hours of phone calls. Hours.) is finding an electrician permitted in our teensy county and that also puts up electric poles. We finally found someone and his rate isn't all that bad. We're looking at $450 for the meter, pole, box and installation. The price for the pole and delivery alone from the one company that sells them was almost $250. I don't think another $200 for maneuvering a twenty four foot pole into a hole in the ground is asking too much. Really, I don't know how we'd do it otherwise. And I'd rather pay him the $200 than spend it in co-pays when we drop it on ourselves.

The other problem has been the electric installer finding the monuments that mark the border of our property and our neighbors. The problem is he can't find them. In order to get the service to our side of the street, he has to put up a pole in the 10' easement between our plots. I've had to have the company we bought the land from mail over the plat map which took time. The electric guy will be going back out tomorrow hopefully, to see if he can now find them with the map in hand. If not, more delay will occour as we try and find them, call the real estate agent if we can't so he can try and find them and if he can't get the original survey company back out to find them or put them in if they didn't do it to begin with.

All this takes T.I.M.E. the biggest commodity we're dealing with right now. We have too little of it and life is demanding too much. As of Monday Rob lives and works in Gainesville. He's staying with a friend. Hopefully, we can get the shabin ready by the end of October.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fully Fleeced

(raw alpaca fleece)

We have been researching the viability of becoming a fiber farm. We're almost 100% certain we'll be getting Gulf Coast Sheep late next year. This past weekend I had an opportunity to visit a fiber convention. The Florida Fiber In is a great (free) yearly event for all types of fiber enthusiasts. I met so many people that knitted, spun, crocheted, owned fiber stores, owned animals, and processed fibers. I made contacts and forgot all my business cards at home.

Even with all the chatting and eating and demos and more chatting, I still was able to finish one bobbin that's been sitting on the wheel for weeks. I'm pleased with my progress on the wheel. I'm getting good at creating a consistent, uniform thread. I'm starting to tell the differences between fibers by look and feel.

Like this Merino/Tussah silk blend. I picked this up to make a scarf for me for the winter. I'm still not confident (or have enough fiber) to create product for sale yet. So, much of what I spin now is either practice or personal projects and gifts. I hope within the next six months to a year I'll be able to offer spun yarn for sale and within 18 months offer raw, rovings and yarn from our own animals.

Here is that same roving spun up. For this I'm going for a thick/thin variation. I'm purposely making it this way. I love the subtle colors.

As for the sheep, I have a date with a flock in early October. I'm over a hundred pages into the Living with Sheep: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Flock book and it's just a wealth of information. Now, I'm exploring the logistics and budget for our own flock of sheep. Trying to decide if we want to keep it simple or jump in fully fleeced.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

in the details

In my exhuberance yesterday to announce Rob's acceptance of a new job offer I suppose I was a little vague in the details. The new job is up near our land which is currently about three hours one way from where we are now.

We're hurrying to get the electric service started but the steps to get it done just flat out take time to accomplish. We're pretty sure it won't be up by the October 11th new job start date. So, we're scrambling to figure out where Rob will stay, when we'll join him and how quickly we can get the shabin done to at least give him a place to eat, plug in an alarm clock, sleep and shower. Being late, starving and body odor might be a deal breaker on the new job.

Right now we're also a one car family. Rob's Trooper died a few months back and his mom and step-dad have been godsends lending us their spare vehicle but car repairs are taking a back seat to living arrangements. The cost of the fix is much more than a cheap A-to-B car so we're looking around for something he can drive back and forth to work while he stays up there. We have a few more weeks we can borrow and then we're back to one again.

We haven't decided when exactly we're going to join him. The shabin completion is tantamount to moving. I have to have stairs to the loft, I can't just chuck a three-year-old up there to sleep. I have to have some semblance of a toilet for midnight potty runs. We're working on it, but again it takes time. That damn clock is frustrating to no end.

I'm digging through everything we own as I plan the biggest yardsale of our lives. Our weekends are filling up quickly between now and the 11th. We're working on getting it done. The next few months are going to be some of the busiest, hardest, tension-filled and agonizingly powerless months of our lives. So, if I'm grouchy, absent, vague or unavailable I apologize in advance.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

oh my...

He got the job. Now the three week countdown begins.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Living with Sheep

I got this book for my birthday. It came in the mail today and I'm already fifty pages into it. It's a great book for the very, very beginner shepherd.

Now, ask me why I need a book on sheep.   :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three weeks

We've had our girls for three weeks now. They were probably about 1-2 weeks when we got them. They've morphed from cute fuzzy chicks to ugly ducks. It's amazing to have the kids get a first hand look at the growth cycle of a chicken.

They're gawky and loud. They make a mess and smell terrible in their small rabbit cage in the laundry room. The chicken tractor is currently being built, hopefully by weeks end they'll be outside where they can enjoy the large selection of bugs Florida has. They sure do love the worms I dig up from under the rabbit hutches. The kids were grossed out the first time one ate a bug. But now they understand that will make good eggs so they cheer on the insect eating with more gusto than I ever imagined possible.

They all have names now. The white is Lemonade, or Lem for short. The dark black and white is Cocoa. The medium brown is Jenna and the light brown is Cari, short for Caramel. I have no idea why the majority have food names. Perhaps, it's something subliminal, though these girls won't go to freezer camp unless they have issues.

We're switching them to a whole grain diet as soon as I gather up everything I need. It's more expensive than traditional bagged feed but I like that I could eat their food. That seems right considering I'll be eating their eggs. There is also the added benefit of no feed waste.

We're constructing a simple A-frame movable tractor which will be plenty for the four we have now. Though if we want to expand we'll have to build a real coop. I'd like to make one with roational grazing pens. Possibly with a broiler side and a layer side but we'll see what happens.

The timing of these birds wasn't ideal but I can't imagine not having them. I wonder what another three weeks will bring.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A slow dance

Today is an busy day for us. Though I don't get to actually go do any of the exciting things that are happening the emotions are still running rampant through me regardless.

Rob woke up earlier than early and headed north before I was even awake. Directions and cash in hand he headed up to the Building Department to get our electric permit for the land. At ten thirty I got the call that it went off without a hitch. We now have permission to get electric set up for the shabin!

It's still a slow dance to completion. Still so many steps to figure out and finally take. Next we have to take this permit to the electric company. They'll schedule a technician to place a marker on our property where the smaller electric pole needs to be set. Once the pole is set up the building department comes and inspects it and we get the go ahead to have the electric company run power to the pole. We run our electric off that ourselves, attaching it to the breaker box on the outside of the shabin.

While we wait for all this we have to run the electric in the shabin walls, insulate and panel or drywall. It's still a long process but it's getting completed one small step at a time.

The other exciting new is that Rob is up there to be interviewed for a job about forty-five minutes from the land. This is one of the major road blocks keeping us where we are. He has a stable job with good pay and benefits but its just too far from where we want to be. This is the second interview after an over the phone one last week. We're hoping it turns out well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Not giving up.

We've been doing a lot of research lately. Information is a double edged sword cutting a swath through our ambitions. While earlier last week we felt our hopes of farming in Florida had been reduced to a mere pipe dream, the barriers have uncovered alternatives we might never have found otherwise.

Building a home from scratch with our own hands and plans is now purchasing a mobile home. Is it everything we wanted? No. But what is more important, a dream home or any home for our dream?

We had planned to build a single barn but may now have either multiple smaller structures closely positioned or premade buildings delivered to our site.

The Merino sheep we wanted have been replaced with Gulf Coast Sheep. A breed that is currently on the near extinction list. Breeding our own small flock of these fits in much better to our region plus adds much needed members to the less than two thousand sheep currently in the world. Conservation of a species speaks loudly to my heart. Plus they have wonderful milk, wool and meat. There is also a breeder within an hour or so of our farm.

Though we still worry "what next" whenever we have to make a phone call, the resulting challenges are being met. We will have our farm, we just have to get a little creative.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Of phones and chicks. And lots of rain.

The rain has been constant over the past few days. It ranges from overcast with a few cool, fat drops to a gray deluge and can change either way in an instant. I love it. I love hearing the pitter patter pat on the roof top. I love feeling the tiny cold splashes hit my skin when I go out to feed the bunnies. Everything is damp and so vividly green it's almost surreal.

It feels like a new beginning. As if the rain could wash away the panic and fear and dispair.

I've come to hate the phone and the uncertainty that flows from the other end. But I have to plug away at the calls that need to be made to secure our future. Even if I don't like some of the results.

We did get the okay from the building department to live in the shabin. Though we still have to find out from environmental services how human waste disposal will work. Sometimes the calls are just funny in an ironic-not-really-"fun"-funny way. Like the water management people not knowing what graywater is. Really, I had to explain it to three people that are in successively more important jobs and then got the number for another entire division because they still didn't know what I wanted to do.

But still, there are good things around me.

The chicks are doing great and my nervousness is slowly dwindling. They've been here a week and a half and their wings are almost completely feathered. Their tails are sporting little feathered beginnings. I've given them a short perch and they love jumping off of it, flittering their wings in hopes that they might fly. The dark chick -who is still namelesss- has taken to perching on top of the feeder jar. She sits up there like queen of the coop, no one else dares take her spot.

I have never encountered the personalities of poultry before. It's quite an astounding things to behold. I have one chick, Jenna, that will come to greet me whenever I go into the laundry room. She's so brave as to jump on my hand if I leave it still for a moment. She is curious and interested in the world outside her cage while the other three cower in the corner or scatter wildly as if I've loosed the cat in their domain.

It's a good feeling to hold these little darlings in my hand and think of what relationship we'll have in a few months. And to hold hope in my heart that both of us will be on our farm soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Now I know why

there are so few small farms in Florida. The state makes it impossible for anyone of moderate income to build a house without first taking out a mortgage and leveraging your soul.

On the phone yesterday talking with a man that has a Ph.D. in architecture, I was informed that a 36' square, dirt floor barn for livestock would cost roughly eight grand for the plans. The ones we bought from Stable Wise are now useless because they have no Florida licenced stamp of approval. That no one that has a licence would risk authorizing use of these plans (which are CAD drawn and up to codes of just about every state) without completely redrawing them and assessing a hefty fee.

The past week, after getting our letter from the mortgage company, I've been optimistic that we have a place to go, that with a little work we'll be okay. We'd be on our land, how could things be bad then? We've been uplifted by the support of strangers. We started stingily doling out the little resources we've been blessed with by buying things to make the shabin habitible.

Before buying the land we did our due dilligence and found out what it would take to get a house built. The packet from the building department seemed pretty straight forward. The papers from the sale were cut and dry. The building department never hinted that anything they told us to do would be tens of thousands to accomplish just to get a hundred dollar permit. We didn't delve into the real meat of building a house. We never imagined that Florida's new laws would make building the small home and livestock barns utterly impossible.

So, where do we go now? What do we do? We're looking into mobile homes, looking at amassing a debt we didn't want. Then even contemplating leaving the state, selling the land and heading to areas where laws are less restrictive. We wanted security with buying land, a place to weather out the stormy economy, a place to leave our children when we die but lawmakers and beurocrats have decided that unless we have hundreds of thousands of dollars at our disposal, we're not entitled to have that security. The hurricanes a few years ago have left the state in ruin. No one wants to accept responsibility for buildings and those that will step up to the plate (mainly architects) are going to want a lot of money upfront for "putting their necks on the chopping block" when disaster strikes. The insurance companies want a scapegoat and have somehow goaded the lawmakers into making that happen.

According to the architect I spoke with, there are no "stock plans" to purchase, that each home needs to be evaluated, the soil tested for stability, wind loads calculated by the new standards. Even without a mortgage or insuring the house, or ever intending to sell it the state won't allow for anything to be built without these restrictions.

So, today I will research more, scour the Earth for a solution. A mobile home on the land might be a possibility, I have some calls out to different places to see what will be.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The beginning of our hydration system

There is a key component to farming and homesteading that is more vital than central air during a Florida August.


Hydration for our bodies, our livestock. Fluid to clean gardening clothes and cast iron dishes and sweaty, dirt-smeared skin. Liquid to hose down sprouts and clean off udders.

Without water there will be no homestead. Without water there will be nothing to farm and no one to farm it.

Out on our land we are off the city grid for sewage, water and trash removal. By taking building into our own hands we've cut out the middle man that would arrange a well to be dug for us. Even hiring a well-digging company is out just because of the ridiculous expense. This puts establishing a working, economical, safe water system in our hands.

We will at some phase be hand-hammering a sand point well and attaching to that a manual pump. This water should be clean and clear enough to drink without a heavy filtration system But given the drought prone area we live, we can't rely soley on a well dependant on top-soil run off. According to our watershed management department, we're allowed to harvest as much rainwater as we want without needing any permits or inspections.

This is largely Rob's project and he requested I get this book for him The New Create an Oasis with Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems - Includes Branched Drains. The Shabin will have a greywater bog that the shower and bathroom sink will run into. We'll be engineering a 500+ gallon water filtration system using these two 250 gallon tanks we bought used this weekend. They were previously housing vegetable oil for a bio-diesel but are food grade and as long as they are rinsed out properly will be fine for our intended use. This water will not be suitable for drinking but will be okay for washing, showering, etc.

Rob has been working on the diagrams for placement of containers, runoff over flow and filters. But this is the beginning of our hydration system. One of the integral parts of our venture.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Electric Progress

Yesterday, I spend an enormous amount of time trying to figure out the steps to getting the electric turned on. It's a convoluted dance with far too many steps.

At least two parts were accomplished in hours of phone calls. The paperwork for the new service installation has been filled out. And we have a permanent 911 address.

We have an address.

Oh. My. God. We exist. On a map somewhere is a little dot with our names attached to it. If you were on our property and broke your leg you could call Emergency Service and they could find you. This one little thing feels so monumentous. Now, we feel real, like a stuffed rabbit that got loved too much.

God knows, there's a lot of love around us right now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I think we're being shoved.

I have said again and again that I think we need a push -something monumental- to get us out on our land. I don't think I realized what I was asking for. Yesterday, I think we got shoved.

We've known for awhile that foreclosure was heading our way. The bank just stopped working with us midway through a modification, denying us because of their clerical errors, yet still very happy to continue to take payments. Even going so far as to asking for more than our monthly due. One month they asked for a rounded up full amount twice so we could prove we really wanted the house while they filed incongruent paperwork, case managers mysteriously left and verbal agreements were never documeted. Even though beforehand you're given a voice-recorded message saying the calls are taped, somehow they don't have access to these tapes and cannot go back to verify anything.

All in all it was a big huge mess. Yesterday, they finally threw down the gauntlet demanding payment in full by the begining of September. Obviously, that's not going to happen. The bottom line is we're losing the house, we have at least until September, maybe October even. But we need a plan and need to take the momentum of the push and move forward as fast and hard as we can.

We weighed our options. We could rent but we'd need thousands down and a place for animals. Many places don't do pets at all and want first/last/security. We could rent and get rid of the animals, something that really doesn't jive with us. Then we realized this might be the push we need to get out there. Take our money and put it into getting the shabin ready instead of saving just to move into a place.

No, Rob doesn't have a job out that way yet. We'd have to figure something out for that but he's calling on some jobs he has resumes with and we're letting it go that it'll work out however it needs to. The sooner we're on the land, the sooner we can start farming it and maybe not need that full time job.

So, today I'm sick with a headcold and it's all really quite a lot for me to even comprehend right now. I know we have friends we didn't know of and hope. Mix those together and I think we'll be alright.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Water Pump

The land doesn't have a well yet. We're planning to try our hand at pounding a sandpoint well ourselves and attach a hand pump. The other option is having a well dug by a professional which includes a price tag of about $3500. If we had the well dug it would include an electric pump. We don't have electricity yet which would be an additional $450 or so to set up. This isn't an option for us yet but we still need fresh drinking water while we're visiting the land.

I looked into buying or renting a water cooler holder but they're so expensive and if you want hot or cold water lines to function you have to have electricity. The cheapest one was also $40. While hunting up solutions on Amazon we came across this Dolphin Manual Drinking Water Pump.

For easy transportation (it comes in a little box), price and function it's a fantastic addition to our shabin. The bottles don't need to be tipped upside down (I can't be the only one that spills about half the jug attempting this), the pump easily snaps together and simply threads onto the bottle neck. There is a little learning curve to pumping, as the suction on the upstroke after depression continues to pump water through it but it's easy to figure out. The pieces come apart for easy and small storage back into the box it comes in. The longer neck also makes it suitable to position over a basin to use as a "faucet".

We did have to purchase the jugs from the grocery store. Filled they were about $12 a piece, $6 for the water and a $6 deposit on the jug which we'd get back if we turned them in. We were going to try and find them used but also need the caps for transporting such a long way.

I'm actually quite keen on the idea of keeping these. Using them to ration our water supply for washing but we'll see how it goes. Either way, this pump is a great investment for adding "running" water where there is none.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If the heat doesn't kill us

the spiders might.

Anyone know if we need to be afraid? Other than the fact these guys are about the size of my palm and breeding, of course.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August is too. damn. hot.

Yesterday, we made another day trip up to the land. The going on twelve foot high weeds had to come down, we needed to put the new break-into-this-NOW lock on the shipping container, and we just really wanted to be out there. Getting bogged down at home, being so far away, getting frustrated that the house designs keep. constantly. changing. makes it hard to see the forest for the trees. We forget entirely what our forest looks like. That it actually exists and isn't some figmented dream of our hearts.

We loaded up the trailer and by nine a.m. was on our way North. There is a bush hog driver just around the corner from our land. We talked to him last time we were up. His price was a little higher than the last guy but he wouldn't charge a travel fee so it evened itself out. We had to meet him at noon. Nine a.m. was cutting it close but somehow, even with the myriad of potty breaks and multiple re-tyings of the tarplin, we made it up with a few minutes to spare.

I have been deluding myself. I will own it right here and now. On hot, sticky days I have been falsely consoling my heart that our land runs about ten degrees cooler than where we are now. That those ten degrees will make it easier to farm our small bit of the Sunshine State. That sheep, wool covered bunnies and pumpkins won't wilt to nothing in the swealtering madness. Oh, I was so terribly wrong. The truth of the matter is that August in Florida -anywhere in Florida- is just too. damn. hot.

It was miserable. We brought up two 5,000 BTU window units that we powered with the generator. In the four hours were were there I think their combined Max-temp-high-fan output cooled the shed about two degrees less than the atrocious conditions outside. The kids were red faced and saturated with their own sweat. We laid in motionless lumps. I was nauseous and had a headache by hour three. I think if we had stayed longer delusions and body tremors might have set in. We bought plenty to drink; water, tea, powerade, and lemonade. But we couldn't get it in at the rate it was perspiring out.

While the heat pushed us down on our knees, it also brought the reality of building a home with our own hands crashing down.

How, dear God, are we going to do this? With only a scant few months of amiable temperatures to work with, how are we ever going to build a home? Farm the land? Even pounding fence posts and planting trees now seems too difficult a chore. All this land, and more with only our hands to shape it?

But we're nothing if not creative and resourceful. Our ideas of using concrete block instead of frame have been modified. We're reconsidering using shipping containers to complete at least two sides of the house. A smaller foot print is in order. Trees have been added to the budget to shade the shed and our home.
The window units will have to be replaced with a heartier system. Yes, we're changing the floor plan yet again. Yes, we've been knocked down a few pegs back into the hot hands of reality. But we're not out of the fight yet. The bell hasn't rung, the counts aren't even close to being made.

After the one section was mowed the girls and I took a trip along the edge where the forest wilderness now meets the meadow. It didn't seem so hot outside. The wind gusted past cooling our sweat beaded skin. We took a slow pace, no need to rush, as we explored the animals and plants that inhabit our land with us. The girls were awed by spiders and birds. The sweet smell of dog fennel was sharp and soothing. The sky was shining a bright blue peppered with fluffy white clouds as we walked.

The heat didn't seem so bad then. Only another aspect to consider. Now we know. Now we modify our ideas, form a new plan of attack without forgetting how August sucker punched us.