Friday, January 30, 2009

The Farm Chronicles - January

This post is the first in a series. I plan to write a year-long account of our life here, in monthly installments.

It might seem that not much would be going on here in January. That is hardly the case! It may not be the "busy" time, but there's still more than plenty to do. In addition to all the regularly scheduled tasks that demand our attention - chores, broken things to be fixed, etc. - this is the time for cleaning, planning, organizing, acquiring. This is when we more or less map out our year (or at least the first few months) and take stock of what we have, what we lack and what must go.

We got an early jump on it on New Year's Day, which was spent working. It was sunny and fairly warm, and we were offered trailer loads of building materials and firewood that we just couldn't turn down. We were exhausted at the end of the day from all the lifting and carrying, but it was worth it. We made off with tons of useful stuff and the exercise made us feel good after many weeks of holiday sloth. That same week, we picked up our wood stove. Naturally, it was sunny and a balmy 80 degrees. We spent the next day installing it, which was just in time, since that night we were back down in the thirties, and facing two days of freezing rain. It didn't take long to decide that it was an excellent investment, and improved our quality of life many times over.

The animals aren't bothered at all by winter here. Our winters are mild and our summers hot, so it's in the summer that they tend to hunker down, finding a shady spot for a siesta. Winter is another story, though. The two ducks that had made their way to the pond came back to the house this month, had a nice little chatty reunion with the other two, and finally showed them where the water is. Their new routine is to all spend the night at the pond, take a swim in the morning and spend the day up near the house. In the late afternoon, they all head back to the water for the night. It's quite amusing to see the way they travel as a single unit - they really are extremely charming. The chickens are as enterprising as ever, and are still uncovering new territory to scratch and peck at. We've seen quite a bit of wild animal activity as well. Hawks are plentiful and fly low over the pasture looking for mice every afternoon. We've also had a flock of wild ducks move in. They fraternize freely with our Muscovies, and everyone seems to get along.

It's common during this time of year for work to be disrupted, usually by unpredictable weather. We can have a day that's sunny and in the 70's and make plans to get all sorts of outdoor work done, only to find that the next day is 40 degrees and 25 mph winds. Such is life. We are nothing if not adaptable. There are some things that simply must be done, however, like splitting wood. This takes some planning. We must, as the saying goes "make hay while the sun shines".

My mom came to visit and see the place for the first time this month. It forced us to do some panic cleaning, but that was fine. All through the holidays the house had been terribly neglected. I'd like to point out that we are still normal people, and we do normal things. We read, watch TV, pay bills, eat lunch and so on. We could have been doing any of these things when my mother arrived, but oh no, not us. We were splitting wood and cleaning out the chicken house (I can shovel manure like nobody's business). I was amused - it almost gives the impression that that's all we do out here.

Our day jobs are the reality that keeps our bills paid and keeps us connected to the outside world, and at least for now, I feel like I still really need mine, but I can feel the desire to keep doing it slipping away. I had a particularly rough week with work this month. Nothing major happened, mind you, but I realized that I would rather be doing almost anything but sitting in front of a computer. I consoled myself by snapping some beans and collecting kindling, and felt temporarily restored. Taking this time to plan the garden also helps to combat the malaise, and although I know it will undergo constant tweaking, it feels good to have even a rather fluid plan in place

Did I mention that winter is a time for acquisitions? Goats officially got their slot on the program this month! They won't come home until probably mid-March, but there are three Nubians in the pipeline for us. We've had fun playing with them, but we also spent a long and very tiring day at their current home, disbudding the kids and practicing milking the adult does. You know you're cut out for this sort of life when this is the way you choose to spend a Saturday, and you don't mind that it's 34 degrees and you've spent the whole day outside and are now covered in milk, urine and the smell of burned hair. If you can get through a day like that and still come back for more, good on you - you're home. Bringing home goats of course means barn cleaning and supply gathering. We've decided to take the opportunity, since we must clean out the animal barn anyway, to rent a dumpster and simply clean up the property generally. I've never been so excited for anything to arrive in my life as I am about this dumpster. There's so much stuff here that needs to go, that was never ours in the first place, and getting it all gone will be satisfying beyond measure.

In the planning and organizing department, we elected to join ARBA. Hopefully it will provide some good information, education and networking possibilities. It's difficult to get to know people when you live in a rural area, so joining organizations like this can sometimes be quite beneficial. We also got signed up for some spring classes to further our homesteading education. My husband has a class on wood turning, and I'll be attending a much needed beekeeping course and a two-day gardening seminar, both of which I'm really looking forward to. I devoted some time to the inside of the house, cleaning up and organizing the upstairs room, which really increased our usable space. There was also some revamping of the household budget, which seems to be a semi-annual ritual, and a determination to do a bit of belt-tightening, which seems to be a sign of the times. At least I can say for now that the belt-tightening is strictly a preventive measure.

Some other notable events occurred this month. The swearing in of our new president, of course, as well as my husband's 40th birthday. We had some nice visits with friends and family, and some nice quiet times to ourselves. I'd love to offer some clues as to what February might hold in store for us, but I honestly have no idea! Maybe I'll get to catch up on some reading.

Yeah, right.

1 comment:

  1. This was such a charming read, Tara! And - I know I say this in practically every comment - but once again, I so envy your situation! You're making it happen and that's so awesome. Maybe I'll be down that road some day in the future!

    My great-great-great grandfather kept a daily journal (a date book with two or three lines of narrative). He was a farmer in Kansas in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While this is much longer than his typical entries, this is the sort of thing he would do at the end of every month and at the end of the year. It's such a treasure for my family. Maybe this will be a similar record for yours.