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.