Sunday, December 15, 2013

Animals in the snow

The sheep, apparently, don't mind the snow. In fact, Clara rather likes eating it.

The goats want nothing to do with it.

The people avoid it by sitting near the fire, playing board games and drinking homebrew.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dark Friday

For the second year in a row, Bill and I will be turning off our computer (which is also our TV and radio) during the week of Thanksgiving. It is a happy respite and digital detox that helps us recenter for the winter and reconnect with life off line. On Friday, we will also be leaving our lights off all day. This may be loosely based on Earth Hour, an international event where people turn off their lights for an hour on a specific day. Mostly, we do it because it is fun.

We have a collection of hurricane lanterns, a bunch of real books and a collection of board games. Also, we really enjoy spending quiet time together not just next to each other. When the computer is on it is an easy distraction, but when its off we don't even miss it.

We call this event Dark Friday, in contrast to Black Friday.

If you'd like to join us in spending the day after Thanksgiving continuing to be thankful for what we have, rather than battling to acquire more stuff, I'd love to hear how you plan to celebrate.

There are lots of people who will be celebrating in a similar way, but they call it Buy Nothing Day and it is an international event calling attention to rampant consumerism in the western world. If you'd like some more resources related to a low-impact holiday, check out Buy Nothing Christmas and Center for a New American Dream.  

I hope you all have a lovely, rejuvenating Thanksgiving full of the people and moments that matter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Oh the weather outside.... creepy. We are currently in a high risk area for tornadoes today. This means there is a 30% chance there will be a tornado within 25 miles of any given location within the high risk area. We are also warned that there may be 50 mph winds outside of the main storm and hail.

Fortunately, we are prepared. We've got water and blankets and flashlights, batteries, storm radios... in the basement and all the animals are locked  up for the day. Last week Bill also cleaned out the garage, so our cars are actually in it for the first time since we moved in. This, we hope, protects them from hail and falling branches.

Also last week, Bill replaced a very broken pane in a living room window.

All the storm windows are shut, the kerosene lamps are full of oil and we are snuggled in for an afternoon of game playing and weather alert listening.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Winter Prep

It has been getting colder at night and we've all be preparing for the long winter. Wool socks have been washed:

Corrie and Sugar Pie are practicing snuggling for body warmth:

And squirrels are stashing walnuts in our woodshed:

In trees:

And on fence posts:

Totally secure. This must be a very trusting squirrel.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Frosty Fall Morning

Lots of work was done around here this week, and I was going to tell you all about the wood hauling, garage cleaning and beer making (and smoke detector battery changing - change your batteries when you change  your clocks!), but when I went out to wake up the animals this morning everything was frosty and foggy. I thought you'd like to see that more than you'd like to see piles of wood, or de-walnut-shell-ified garage floors.

Martha, being dignified:

Rose has recently decided that people aren't all that bad and she'll now eat grain from  my hand, chew on my coat, and stare at me as if to say "why is there no grain in your hand?"

Kaylee started climbing on the straw bales again this week. Her ability to reliably climb was the last sign we were waiting to see for her full recovery. She's still a bit smaller than Saffron, but watching her jump on top of the Barn Mountain warms my heart.

Group shot! Everyone says "Good Morning."

"Now, feed us grain, Woman!"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Missing "s" Game. AKA, the post with an anti-lisp and no understanding of plurals.

(The "s" key is no longer working on my keyboard, so I'm pasting it in this intro for your information. I may leave it out a bunch in the post below because it is slowing me down. If a word doesn't make sense, check to see if it is missing an "s." I know you can do it! I've seen how some of you text.)

I learned in Herpetology that if you drop a frog into really hot water, it will realize omething i wrong and jump out, but if you drop it into temperate water which you lowly heat up, you can boil the frog and it won't realize it i dying. Along thee line but in revere, Bill and I often pend many night hivering before we realize it i time to turn on the heat. But, ometimes in Autumn we take a trip and come back to coldness, giving u a clear indication that it i time to make fire. Thi wa one of thoe year. There i a firing burning a I hare the photo with you.

Thi pat weekend we went to Rhinebeck for the NY heep and Wool Fetival. It i the firt year where I've known lot of fetival-goer and had a great time meeting o many lovely, happy knitter.

Of coure, I bought tuff too.

There i ome ock yarn in there and a few kein of heavier-weight longwool for hat. (Now that miing "s" i uddenly noticeable, eh?)

My firt top wa at Into the Whirled for pinning fiber. When I wa holding it all in my hand, thi pound felt like a lot, but now that I'm far away from a purchaing opportunity, it doe't eem like enough.

I alo picked up a fancy pindle. I've been practicing on a "tudent pindle" which i large and brutish. My new one i a Bosworth made of Red Cedar. 17g/.6 ounce. In ampling, I can tell that it i more refined and allow me to pin much finer yarn. I like it. It make me feel more dainty.

It wa a good trip!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chili and chickens (and goats)

I'm not a very good food blogger and always worry I make things look far less appetizing than they are...but here's what we've been eating this week - local chili:

It's totally time for chili. The beef was purchased directly from the farmer the tomatoes and peppers are from our garden. Bill made the bread and the beer is a home brew. Yummo.

These pumpkins have been dedicated to the highest purpose to which a squash can aspire - pumpkin ale. We bottled it this week and just have to wait a bit while it carbonates. Waiting!!!

This is Minion, the youngest chick we have. He was odd and unexpected and is still totally attached to his mom even though they should really being going their separate ways by now. Basically, he's a big baby.

On the other side of that coin are the Patooties (as in Cutie Patooties), a pair of chickens that were raised by a turkey along with their sister Duck (who clearly has identity issues). The turkey hen is not convinced that her babies are big enough to be on their own yet and is still trying to mother them. The Patooties rather think they are sheep, though, and spend most of their day in the pasture.

The goats are doing well:

Whenever I see these kittens playing or cuddling together it makes me unreasonably happy that we could keep them together. When we went to the Humane Society we knew we wanted "up to two kittens" and  chose these guys because they were the only siblings. I mean, all the kittens were adorable and any that we brought home would have been wonderful, but these guys tug at my heart strings. I'm sure they don't remember, but they had a tough go early in life and whenever I think I of the long, cold night they spent together abandoned outside Animal Control, and the illnesses they battled through as result, I am so glad they still have each other for snuggling. And biting. And squirrel watching.

Friday, October 4, 2013

26-Year-Old Me would never believe this post

One of the side effects of having a farm and only one income is that we travel way less than we did when we had two incomes and zero farms. This is to be expected - and here's the part where the 26 year-old version of me gets skeptical - I don't mind it. I actually rather dig it.

For the first few years of farm ownership (when we had two incomes but were working on our plan to give up one of them), this bothered me a bit and I grudgingly thought about how we used to travel and how we weren't doing that anymore. Consider:

We spent my 29th birthday in St. John snorkeling, drinking rum, and enjoying a tropical paradise even as a plethora of spring break hooligans invaded the campground, including a young gentleman who chose to make monkey noises whenever he laughed. Very loud monkey noises all through the night.

We spent my 30th birthday in New Zealand being amazed at volcanoes, glaciers and wine. In between those birthdays we were fortunate to take two additional short vacations (Vegas and Iceland) and visit with our families in NY. Plus, we lived in DC at the time, so every day held opportunities for local tourism. Except for eating fabulous food, my most fond emotional attachment to living in DC was having the responsibility-free lifestyle and ability to travel to new places.

After my 30th birthday, we took our life in a different direction, and a year later I was shoveling poop out of a barn in Indiana. I don't know if I realized at the time that the barn would eventually hold turkeys...or that I would find turkeys to be a giant pain in the butt...or that I would ever utter the sentence I whispered to Bill earlier this week.

Are you ready?

Bill left work early one day and stopped at the cheese store, a beer store and a cupcakery and brought home these delights.

We spent the evening eating, playing games, and tending to the animals. As we walked out in the twilight to put the farm to bed for the evening, I told Bill I had a delightful evening and it felt like a vacation - just the simple joy in having a couple of extra hours together and sharing food that we don't have often, made the whole day feel special. Also, I was really, really pleased that we could have a vacation where I dressed in pajama pants for dinner and didn't need to interact with TSA.

I realized that I didn't miss the opportunities to travel at all. (That's not to say that I wouldn't take a free trip to Rome if anyone out there wants to offer...)

I think it takes practice and mindfulness to find honest joy and contentment in the really simple things, and to be pleased with where you are and not just where you wish you were. I am so very, very fortunate to know many people who have cultivated this sort of outlook and I thank them for their influence on me (surround yourself with happy people!).

It may look like it was just a few hunks of cheese and some cupcakes, but really, it was a revelation.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is this really a job?

On Monday and Wednesday of this week, I spent nearly the whole day splitting wood. Check it.

Monday morning:

Monday evening:

Wednesday evening.

A few things to note:
1) Some of this is cherry, so it smells FANTASTIC
2) Yes, I do periodically stand in the woodshed admiring the growing pile
3) We have an electric splitter, so I'm probably not as badass as you're thinking, but it was still a ton of work with much wheelbarrowing involved.

Splitting this wood - all of which is from trees that fell on our land as the result of storms - provided me with a clear example of why we're doing what we're doing. I was confident when I quit my job of our choice to live this sort of life, but it could seem a bit odd to others. There are not a lot of 2013 examples or cultural norms of a woman having no job and no children (it's rather the antithesis of "having it all" by the common current definition). So, I was pleased to realize how directly all this wood splitting could be used to explain the choices we've made.

We (Bill and I...and Sugar Pie and the cats) have a need to keep our house warm during the winter. It's one of those basic requirements that even Thoreau, the king of simplicity, would call a "necessity of life." Previously, I would work at a job that paid me money that I would then exchange for heating fuel in order to meet this need. It was a very fossil-fuel intense process. A car transported me to work, where I sat at a computer for most of the day and earned a paycheck that allowed me to purchase propane gas to be blown throughout my house using a furnace fueled by coal-powered electricity.

An alternative way to provide the heat we need during a cold Indiana winter (and the method that was used when our house was built), is by burning local wood. Now, instead of spending my day earning money to buy propane to heat my house, I spent my time providing heating fuel in a more direct fashion - one that also makes much less use of fossil fuels (the chainsaw and log splitter, and even some of the person-energy rely on fossil fuels in some way, but I am confident it is far less than the previous method). So, even though Childless Woman who Earns No Money is not often considered a job or even a productive choice to make, I think of the work I do here as an employment of sorts - one that meets the needs of my household while making fewer demands on community resources and our environment. It is a weird, but totally viable way to spend a week day.

On a less philosophical note...Kaylee wants you to know that she is feeling better and cavorting around the field at will.

Clara wants you to know that she is still the cutest thing in the barnyard.

Bill and I went apple picking for our anniversary yesterday...

...and added this photo to our collection of arm-length snapshots.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

15 years...

September 26 (tomorrow) marks 15 years of JoBi. Over those 15 years we've taken many photos with the camera held at arm's length to capture a day or a background we wanted to remember. Sometimes, we even handed the camera off to someone else for an additional photo.

To celebrate our 15th (dating) anniversary, I made a little slide show of some of these photos. I expect this may only be of interest to our mothers, but if you'd like to see the video it is below. Bill calls it "The Documentation of Our Chins Getting Bigger."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Those other sorts of weeks

I suspect when most folks think about farming they envision physical labor under a beautiful blue sky in a heavenly pastoral field. There's the freedom of working for yourself and the joy of not being tied to an electronic device. It's a peaceful image.

This is true of most weeks on the farm. I love it.

There are other weeks though, that are a bit more stressful. We just got through one of them.

Kaylee, our goat with the funny know her:

She's the timid one. A bit smaller than Saffron, but a tough little goat. About three weeks ago she started limping and falling over for no reason. We probed her legs and thought she had pulled a muscle, so we locked her up for a few days of rest.

(Try keeping a 5 month old goat restful. Just try it.)

After a few days she wasn't getting better. In fact, she was getting worse. So we called the vet. By the time he was able to come to check her out, Kaylee wasn't even able to stand on her own. I was terrified she'd get dehydrated and was out in the barn every 20 minutes propping her up near the water bucket. She remained perky, was eating and pooping well, but she continued to lose function in her front right leg.

Our vet suspected she had a weird, rare parasite or virus that ended up in her nervous system. He wasn't sure if we could help her, but we threw the goat medicine kitchen sink at her - two shots a day along with an oral dewormer for 5 days.

She started to improve every day, and keeps reaching new milestones (today she got both legs up on the second rung of the barn gate for the first time in weeks). She's been running and head butting and can keep up with everyone now, though I still worry about a relapse. It seems like she is going to be ok and we're impressed with her tenacity. I have now formed a rather strong attachment to her, but she's recovered enough to remember that she doesn't really like being hugged and keeps evading my embraces, which both delights and saddens me.

During Kaylee's downward phase, when I was going to check on her at regular intervals, one of our ewes died suddenly. I have read about sudden sheep death, but found it totally shocking nonetheless. On one trip to the barn Donna was totally fine, scampering about and vexing me by trying to escape from the pen to chomp on mulberry leaves. 45 minutes later, without any warning, she had died. We're not sure of the cause yet. We took her to the Purdue diagnostics lab and should be getting a report soon.

Donna was nearly 6 years old, which is middle aged for a sheep. She was the crazy-looking, loud-mouthed one. Even though we only had her for 4 months, we liked her and are glad we got to know her.

(Donna on the left. Her lamb Clara is in the foreground.)

So, it was one of those weeks. It's hard to face the realization that we don't control everything, but figuring out how to deal with these emotions and move forward is part of our learning process.

We're learning.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Winter is Coming

This past week has been Winter is Coming week. Bill took a few days off and we've been stockpiling important things for the coming cold.

Hey! It's hay! We have a pile of hay that we (mostly Bill) scythed this year, but it's not enough for the entire winter, so we purchased some bales as well.

We've been stacking wood too. Last year we got a small electric splitter which is tied with our chicken plucker as one of my favorite purchases.

This is about an hour of splitting. Not nearly enough yet! Some of that wood is cherry, which means our shed smells amazing. 

Lastly, I've been doing a little quilting. Having my own craft room and working on project bags for my little Etsy shop has reacquainted me with my sewing machine (and fabric shops), so I'm hoping my quilting bug returns. I'm machine quilting a pepper quilt I started when we first moved to Indiana.

The archived process of making this quilt is on my very first (I think), rather old blog. Here's the best photo from the series:

We have lots more work to do before the snow (I hope!) flies, but we've gotten a good start.