2015 Reflections/2016 Goals

Each year about this time I reflect on the past year’s successes and failures. Doing this helps me be in tune with myself for a moment. Time goes by so fast and days blur into weeks. It’s important to take a step back from time to time and reflect; to see what worked well and what didn’t.

We resolved to build our farm in 2015 and that we did! We added three sheep and five goats along with nine chickens. Our ram will be going in the freezer soon and we’re going halves with friends on a pig, which is being raised up the road. We built a nice coop and added a room for the goats on the back. Eventually the boys will head out there permanently, but for now everyone lives happily in the barn.

We expanded our garden and are still enjoying the bounty. We love to cook and try new recipes and 2015 was a banner year for that. We made all kinds of new things, tried all types of new recipes and canned, jammed and froze a bunch of yummy stuff.

I wanted to be published by now, but quite frankly growing and maintaining a farm was a lot more work than I had anticipated. I am working on my second manuscript but it isn’t even close to being complete. I’m okay with this. I have been writing for our local paper on behalf of the Agriculture Commission, which has been fun. I’ve stepped down as president so I can focus more on my writing and farming, but I am still active in the organization.

I’m now blogging on our new farm website along with this blog and I’m finding that while I am writing, I’m not writing my novel.

What I did accomplish was having fun. The whole year of 2015 was magical. We brought home two two-week old baby goats in April and had the best time of our lives. They are amazing and even though they have grown up so fast, they will always remain our little ones. They were so much fun we had to add more.

We raised our chicks and now get tasty eggs every day and sell enough eggs to pay for their food and upkeep.

The ewes we bought in March should be pregnant now and we are expecting babies this spring. That is if the ram did his job. Apparently, it’s hard to tell when a ewe is pregnant until they are almost ready to give birth.

We also met new people and made new friends. Our neighbor who helped us with Jack this year has become a good friend. We met many farmers in the area who we have started doing business with. We met another goat farm just five miles down the road and we hope that we will be fast friends with them, too. We met many people who we purchased animals from and who we would be willing to buy from again. Let’s just say our social circle has widened.

For 2016, our big goal will be to build a barn. Using the barn attached to the house to keep the animals isn’t working for me. Every time we open the door I can smell the barn. We also track in a lot of hay and dirt. While it does allow us to check on the animals without having to trudge out in inclement weather, a detached barn out in the field will be much better. It won’t be big, but it will be practical.

I may put this blog on hold for a while and focus on our farm blog and my writing. There is only so much time in the day. This blog has really helped me work on my writing skills and has allowed me to try new things. I love it. But a girl can only do so much.

I am very much looking forward to 2016. I am hoping it will be just as good as 2015 with lots of fun, food and baby animals! At the very least, it should be interesting. With all the plans we have already have scheduled I can tell you 2016 is going to go by too fast. January brings the farm expo and February there is a goat breeding and birthing class we want to attend and I would love to go to the beekeeping classes and start a beehive. Late March should bring the baby lambs, June and July should bring baby goats and learning how to milk. And let’s not forget the garden. We will definitely be expanding that again.

We are planning on taking cheese and soap making classes this spring. The AG Commission will be hosting a hands-on chicken-processing clinic in June, which we will also participate in. We have also become members of the Small and Beginner Farmers organization in our state.

On top of all this we both still have our “full-time” off the farm jobs. Phew!

So, yes, 2016 will be busy, but very very fun!

 

 

 

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Another Christmas

I’m stressed…the holidays do that to me. Every year I tell myself this is the year I will get excited. This is the year that will be magical. This is the year I will enjoy my friends and family. That we will get out and enjoy all the fun things going on.

This year I had to really push myself to even put out decorations, but I knew if I did not, then I would never get in the spirit.

Perhaps it is because no matter what relationship I’m in (or not in), the whole process falls on my shoulders. Would we even have Christmas if it wasn’t for women?

I finally got my better half to bring down the tree from the loft. Yes, a fake tree on a farm. But with everything going on it is just easier and I don’t have to worry as much about the cats knocking it down.

In addition to being in charge of decorating the house, I am the one who sends out Christmas cards, shops for gifts, wraps and bakes and who ensures that everyone gets the same amount.

There are so many things going on this year, and many that I typically attend. My better half is a bit of a home body and trying to get him out lately is a chore, so I’ve missed a lot of the fun.

Each year, the city of Concord hosts a Midnight Merriment where the stores on Main Street stay open until Midnight and there are lots of sales. It’s a lot of fun and even somewhat romantic with the lights and music and party atmosphere. But we didn’t make it this year.

I did get to have dinner and drinks with a couple of friends. That was nice and I would like to do more of that. Staying in touch with friends is hard under the best of circumstances.

The warm weather and lack of snow isn’t helping much either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; but, well, what’s a New Hampshire Christmas without a little of the white stuff?

We are still working out the details of Christmas, but it looks like we’ll be spending the better part of the day at home. We plan to cook a nice roast, which I’ve already ordered from the local beef farm down the road. It should be very romantic with Christmas music, good wine and the fun of cooking together.

Once the holidays are over, I’ll feel better. The New Year always brings with it a sense of reflection and renewal and that is what I need most of all.

Jack’s Adventure

So Jack’s adventure continues. A few weeks ago we had his horns surgically removed. You can check out here to read about how that came about. We had hoped his wounds would heal and everything would be fine. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

Sure enough, first one side then the other became infected. Our neighbor works for the vet we use and when we first noticed something was wrong we asked her to take a look. From there we have embarked on a two-plus-week journey fighting to keep Jack from succumbing to the infection.

Twice a day our lovely neighbor has come over to help rinse out his wounds with Epsom salt and warm water. This has helped remove some of the infected tissue and I have become a little more tolerant of looking at pussy wounds.

We are also using a new antibacterial spray (which costs a mint, by the way), which has really helped with the healing.

On top of all that, we are giving him penicillin shots twice a day. The good thing is that both my boyfriend and I have learned how to give our goats shots. This is something we’ve wanted to learn from the beginning and will really help when it comes time to do spring shots. It also brings us one step closer to becoming more self-sufficient.

Our neighbor has warned us that this will be a long haul for Jack. He has been such a good boy and much more tolerant than some people would be for all the poking and prodding and spraying going on. He gets lots of treats for his good behavior and has found a new love for apples.

We’ve learned what it takes to take care of our goats both the cost and the time. Early mornings up before dawn to give him his treatment before we get ready for our “real” jobs. Then back at it again in the evenings. Most farmers wouldn’t have bothered. We’ve already spent more money on him than he is worth, but he is our “Jack” and we love him to pieces.

Over time we have seen some improvement. Jack continues to be a great patient, but he is not out of the woods yet and we are not stopping until he is a 100% on the mend.

The Never Ending Illness

After the bout of coccidian with Pearl cleared, we settled back down into normalcy only to come home last Friday night and find our Jacob, the ram, covered in poo. Poor guy had the runs so bad it was liquid and he was covered. We brought him in and washed him off. He wasn’t thrilled.  Luckily he is only about 50lbs and not the 250 lbs he will be when full grown.

We called the vets right away to get the dosage of Corrid for a five-month-old ram and started him on medicine right away. Sure enough, Saturday had our wether, Jack, with the runs. *Sigh*

We aren’t taking any chances so EVERYONE is getting medicine. We’re hoping we caught this thing in time.

Our Newfoundland, Elli, had a UTI and had to go to the vets to have that tested. Poor girl is clearly not feeling good.

Will this ever end?

The heat wave is gone and the weather is leaning more towards fall than summer. The days are very nice and the nights are cool, perfect for sleeping. Still, across the way just down the dirt road is a maple tree that is half covered in red leaves. Man, how summers fly by.

The garden is giving forth its bounty and we have several large jars of pickles already. Is there any better smell than pickling spices? My kitchen smells amazing.

I shredded enough zucchini to make eight loaves of zucchini bread in the freezer and still have a few zucchinis left over. The tomato plants look terrible but they are loaded with green tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, but the plum ones are taking their time. I have a few jalapeño peppers just waiting for the fresh tomatoes to make salsa. If we get more pickling cukes we may try making a sweet relish. The butternut squash is just about ready to pick and the corn, peas and peppers are just about ready. Looks like we’ll have a pretty good haul this year.

It’s been so dry this summer that some people are having their wells go dry. We haven’t had that happen yet, but we are trying to be very careful with water. Running out would be bad, especially with some very hot thirsty farm animals.

My parents visited and I gave them some of my homemade ice tea. They loved it. I also let them try a new orzo dish I made for the first time. It has fresh basil, mint, zucchini (cause you have to use it up some how), cherry tomatoes (see comment on zucchini), olives and feta cheese. It only has three tablespoons of lemon juice and one of olive oil, so it is light and tasty and it’s really good warm or cold. My stepmother liked it, but my dad is a bit of a picky eater.

We’re going to enjoy as much as the summer as we can. We didn’t make it to the 4-H fair in Belmont or the old homes days in town, but the Hopkinton fair is in a couple of weeks and I rarely miss that fair. It’s one of my favorites. This year we also plan to make the Deerfield Fair, which is one of the oldest fairs in the state. It’s usually pretty mobbed, but we’ll give it a try. Remember…we aren’t really crowd people.

If you are interested in a refreshing drink for summer, try this one…

Cindy’s Homemade Ice Tea Mix

Instant Ice Tea mix – any brand will do

1- 1 ½ cups orange juice

1 Lemon

1 Orange

About 6 mint leaves (give or take depending on preference)

Make the ice tea according to the directions on the package cutting back the amount of water you use for the orange juice. Take the lemon and cut in half. Squeeze one half into the tea mix and slice up the other halve. Add the lemon slices to the tea mix.

Slice up about half the orange and add those to the tea mix.

Add the mint leaves to the tea mix.

Put in refrigerator and let set for at least an hour.Fill a glass with ice. Fill with tea mix and garnish with one or two leaves of mint and a slice of orange.Enjoy and repeat!

Wallis Sands Beach

A bit crowded at the beach.

Since Dennis is starting a new job, last Friday was the last chance we had to have an “official” vacation. His daughter had borrowed the kayaks, so we opted for a trip to the beach.

Since we only live an hour from the coast, I make it a point to get out to the ocean at least once a year. I love the waves and the smell of the salty air and let’s face it, there is nothing tastier than New England seafood on a hot summer day.

We took the road that took us to Portsmouth then south to Rye and Wallis Sands State Park. It was packed as we had an official heat wave that week, the first since 2013. The tide was high and that made for limited real estate on the beach. Still, we found a little spot and headed in to the waves. At sixty-eight degrees the water was a bit chilly for Dennis, but I thought it was nice and it didn’t make my ankles numb. We aren’t crowd people though and after a couple of hours we decided it was time to go.

We headed to Petey’s for lunch. They were mobbed, too, but we found a seat on the patio at the bar. We drank Cokes and ordered two friend seafood combo plates. It was delicious.

We took the side roads back home past old New Hampshire farms and wide areas of hay fields. It was warm, the sun was shining and everything was perfect.

We extended Pearl’s medicine a few extra days as she wasn’t quite back to normal on Friday and the vet said we could continue until we saw improvement. We took the three girls out for a romp through the hayfield letting them munch as they went.

As the sun settled in the evening, we took Jacob our ram out and gave him a good brushing. He is still shedding out his coat and we thought we’d give him a hand. He is such a love and enjoyed the attention and the good rubbing he got.

Saturday and Sunday brought drier weather with a nice breeze, though it was still very hot. We headed to a different farmer’s market Saturday morning to check things out. It was small and they didn’t have what we needed, but it was a beautiful ride through hills past the big lakes and an old town village.

We spent most of Saturday getting errands out of the way so we could stay home and relax on Sunday. Well, relax isn’t exactly the word I’d use. Dennis worked all day on building the nest boxes for the chickens. The hens should start laying in about a month and we wanted to be sure they knew where they needed to lay.

I pulled up the zucchini plants from the garden as they were just about done and had the powdery mildew stuff they had gotten last year and we didn’t want it to spread to the other squash and cucumbers.

Somehow we ended up with a gourd plant. We thought it was a summer squash when it first started to grow so we left it. It flowered and nice yellow fruit began to grow, but as they got larger it was clear it wasn’t summer squash.

The corn is doing well, if I can keep the Japanese beetles off of them. They are also enjoying the pea plants and sunflowers, too. There isn’t much that kills those little suckers. We just continue to squash them when we can.

I shredded enough zucchini to make eight loaves of zucchini bread this fall and I froze the currants, as we still don’t know what to make with them. We still have nine zucchinis in the refrigerator and several cucumbers. Dennis was talking about making more of the sweet pickles to use up what we have, but I also want to try the zucchini pickles before those go bad.

The next big thing will be the tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes are so heavy they have fallen over, tomato cages and all. We have tons of plum tomatoes but the plants are turning yellow and the leaves are turning brown and falling off and we aren’t sure what is happening. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the fruit will ripen soon so we can start canning.

I picked four big bouquets of lavender flowers and have them drying in the barn. They smell heavenly and will be great for adding to soaps or potpourri. I need to do the sage, oregano, basil, time and mint next.

It will be strange having Dennis working full time again. I’ve come to enjoy having him be home. The extra money will be nice, though and we are already planning the barn and what color to paint the house.

Once the barn and fencing are all up, it will make things a lot easier. We have already talked about tearing down the existing barn to add a garage and little shop where we can sell our farm goods and antiques. Dennis will still need a workshop somewhere. Off the garage, perhaps?

It’s hard to believe it is August already and if the weather app on my phone is correct, temperatures will already be back down in the seventies come later this week. Typically, by the second half of August you can already see some of the leaves change.

The Belknap 4-H Fair is this coming weekend and the big Hopkinton Fair is the first weekend of September. The Deerfield Fair, also a large Fair, is the first weekend of October.

Not that I want to rush summer, but sadly we only have a month left, “unofficially.” And that, my friends, is very sad indeed.