Friday, October 20, 2017

Jasmine's Passing

We laid Jasmine to rest next to our young apple orchard, in view of the stream that marks the boundary of her field. Our hearts are in a million pieces and right now, I don't know when or how we will begin piecing them back together. But this post is not about loss.

It is about thankfulness. Deep, honest thankfulness.

We had three days to prepare for what today would bring. Three days to say what we wanted to say. Three days to capture pictures and memories. To feed treats and brush mane and tail. To whisper the feelings in our hearts. To hold each other and shed mutual tears. In some ways the waiting was torture but in the most important ways, it was an irreplaceable blessing and I am so very thankful to have had them.

I owe a large debt of gratitude to Jasmine for helping to mold these daughters of ours into the awesome young people they are. Jasmine taught our daughters lessons in life that have become embedded into who they are. She taught them to be adventurous- to swim over their heads, to ride bare back, to love whole-souled. She taught Caitlin that if you want something badly enough, with hard work, you can achieve it. (Caitlin got her first job at 14 to buy Jasmine.) She taught the girls a work ethic. (Chores and feeding happen whether or not you feel up to it.) Caitlin grew up and got married. Meaghan inherited the care of Jasmine. Another life touched. More lessons learned. Jasmine has been Caitlin's best friend, Kristen's companion, and Meaghan's diary. And in the end, she taught them that unselfish love sometimes means letting go, even when you want to hold on.

Jasmine's presence in our lives was a gift. She helped to ease the girls into a new home and life with Sean. Caitlin worked side by side with Sean to build Jasmine's first stable here on the homestead, a 12x16, single stall affair with a small tack room. They fenced her pasture together, forging a stronger bond as they worked together. To keep Jasmine company, we welcomed our first goats to our homestead- two bucks; Asher and Jedi, gifts for Kristen and Meaghan (because I was afraid of horses and did not think buying another one would be a good idea for us.) How that horse and her companion goats changed our lives for the better! Ten years in the making, but our homestead has grown to nearly 40 goats; our barn has grown to a two-story, 20' x 30' structure with six stalls. We make feta and herbed chevre and goat's milk soaps. I teach classes to others who want to make soaps. Our Lally Broch Farm products are available in 19 shops across the United States. Jasmine changed our lives. Completely. She helped make us homesteaders.

She taught me to overcome my fear of horses. I learned how to feed her and brush her. In the end, I could clean out her hooves all by myself. I learned to rub down her knees and ease her arthritis pain. I learned how to massage her forehead to help her relax and sleep under my hand. Jasmine and I learned to trust one another. I was never one of those "horse-girls" growing up, but in my 40's, I very much became one. I fell in love with Jasmine for her strength and power and beauty and dignity.

This has been one of the hardest days for our family to live through. But, it was one full of love, too. And, I am thankful for that. I am thankful for the faith we share and the God who comforts us with his care. I am grateful for the kindness shown by our spiritual family. One brother prepared a place for Jasmine to be laid to rest with his tractor; countless prayers have been offered on our behalf. I am thankful for the many comments of support and kind words from folks we only know through our Lally Broch Farm Facebook page. I am thankful for our neighbor who delivered field stone so we could build Jasmine's cairn. I am thankful for our amazing veterinarian, Dr. Tanja Ebel, (Apple Creek Equine Medicine) who helped us lay Jasmine to rest, quickly and painlessly. I am thankful for Sean. Though grieving himself, he was our rock today.

There will be another post that shares how we spent our last days and the considerations of laying her to rest. We will share that aspect not to sadden you, but to help those of you who will face these same decisions. You may decide to honor your companion differently and that will be okay. But, our preparations may help bring you comfort if ever you have to face this day.

We are exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We are going to be closed until Monday to care for one another.

Thank you, friends, for sharing our journey.
~ Sean & Sonja

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Ornamental Bittersweet wrapped around a dead tree branch.
The Bittersweet reached
almost all the way to the
top of this evergreen.
One of the things I look forward to each year is foraging for and collecting bittersweet. The pretty yellow berries pop open to reveal a small bright crimson interior. I love that they last that way for many months. Their colors perfectly reflect the best autumn has to offer. They just make me happy.

I make garlands by twining the willing tendrils around themselves and drape them over shelves and cabinet tops. I fill mason jars with sprigs to create tall center-pieces for my kitchen table. I make cheerful wreaths for our door.

In our first foray of the year, Sean and Kristen came with me to my favorite spot to collect our bounty. Sean was a great help in untangling its mass from the pine tree it was strangling. After we got to spend a few minutes visiting with Kristen's grandmother, Nancy.

On Thursday, I brought three wreaths with me to the Bucksport Bay Farmer's Market and they were well-received. I think I will bring more with me this week. :) That meant another trip to collect additional vines and berries. This time Meaghan and Kristen went with us. The girls helped me while Sean worked with Nancy to tame some unruly greens in her yard. We selected a spot where the bittersweet grew closer to the ground, thinking it would be easier to reach, but our selected patch was guarded by other long vines clustered with red berries and wicked thorns determined to leave us bloody for our efforts. I am calling us successful, since once more the back of the car came home full to bursting with lovely bittersweet, but all three of us girls are sporting punctures- especially me.

If you are interested in a wreath for your home, I would be delighted to create a special one just for you. They are all different and measure approximately 16-20" across. The cost is $20 plus shipping. Or, if you are local and want to select your own, you can find a selection at The Not So Empty Nest in Bangor. (I'll add other shops as I know wreaths will be available in them.)

Do you have ornamental Bittersweet growing near you? Do you ever collect it?

While we were out and about, I captured some images of Autumn from our neck of the woods. I hope you enjoy them...

Leaves turning colors



One of my favorite views. 

Sprigs make lovely center-pieces in a mason jar. 

What a difference a couple days can make. The trees are all beginning to change color.

Thanks for visiting with us. Hope you come again soon! ~Sean & Sonja ♥

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Autumn Greenhouse

Before the frost, our eggplants were healthy and thriving. 
Greenhouse end wall all buttoned up.
Last night, as forecast, for the second time in three days our night time temperatures dropped to 28*-30*. Though the temperature rebounded today and is anticipated to stay unseasonable warm through the rest of the week, some of our outside garden felt the brunt of the frost and withered. Our tomatoes took a big hit~ even some of the ones living inside the greenhouse.

Sean and I used ducts tape to enclose the plastic around the ends of the greenhouse walls, but cold seeped through and touched the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. It appears that the damage is contained to just the tippity tops of the plants. Seeing the damage, Sean modified our plans and installed cardboard along the inside of the greenhouse ends, taped plastic along the outside and stacked bales of mulch hay across both end walls. He also set up a heater inside the greenhouse. Sean's modifications worked beautifully. There was no further damage to the delicate plants inside the greenhouse. Today I cut back the dead limbs and harvested what I could so as to not lose the nearly ripe fruit for the season. The design is not pretty or permanent, but it will get us through until he can build proper panels for the open bits.
Outside tomato plants are mostly gone. The fruits can be salvaged for marinara and salsa.
Peppers survived.
Inside the greenhouse.
I am hopeful that the plants may recover. If they don't we still have plans to replant cold tolerant veggies inside the greenhouse. I got a book about greenhouse design at the Library to help us understand how to use our newly built greenhouse to its best advantage. We have never had a successful winter garden. We may fail this year, but we are not going to let that prevent our trying. Thankfully, the stinging nettles, oregano, mints, lavender, thyme, onions, leeks, and other hardy veggies made it through. With the warm snap, we may have time yet to harvest edibles for a few more weeks.

Images from around the homestead today...

Mister, you are NOT allowed in the potager! 

Aquila is a beautiful Red Breasted Bronze tom. 

Becca and Phoebe

Our "Clean up Crew" made short work of anything green on these branches.
Miss Meaghan helped me with feeding Jsasmine this afternoon

This is what Pastured, Free Range looks like.
We don't eat our animals, so I can also add "Happy" to the list.

Benjamin *really* wants some romantic times with the does. He spent a while calling to them and blowing raspberries in their direction. Not this year, lad.

Turtle play time was supervised by Kristen today. Master Chief Donatella gets supervised outdoor time each day.
Thanks for visiting with us today, Friends. We are happy you're here.

~Sean and Sonja ♥

Friday, September 29, 2017

Summer Update

The fencing has helped, but not completely
prevented chickens from helping themselves
to the herbs and veggies in our potager.
How can it have been 5 months since our last post???

Oh, right.... we live on a working homestead. Well, in the past five months a few things have happened.

Our outside garden was planted, weeded less than it should have been, produced decently considering how dry the summer has been (and the lack of weeding), and will shortly be prepped for winter. The greenhouse garden is still in full production and the tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, egg plants, basil, cantaloupes and beet greens living there are doing well. We only have it half planted, but we have plans to start peas, salad turnips, lettuces, more onions, kale, spinach, and other cold weather crops. This is our first year with the greenhouse at the homestead and we are anxious to see what we can grow in there and for how long.
Cantaloupes are growing well. This one is HUGE!
Score! 60+ pallets to use for fencing! 
The little buck's pasture got expanded by
30 new pallets. 
We were gifted 60+ pallets recently and spent some time using them to expand the current pasture spaces for the big bucks, our young bucks and we are now working on adding a third pasture in the wooded area for the does. (We have such an issue with barber pole worms that we are hoping to be able to practice pasture rotation as part of our plan to manage parasite loads. More on that in a later post.) The pallet fencing works decently for us. It keeps the goats contained (for the most part), is relatively quick and easy to install, it is cost effective to build and maintain, and replacing damaged sections is easier than patching wire fencing or replacing posts. An added advantage is that as we obtain more pallets, we can expand the current fencing without too much of a hassle. I really like it. I will love it when we finally are able to paint the exterior so that it looks finished.

Lip curling, urinating on their heads, calling loudly... Rut is upon the homestead...
Benjamin is enamored with Becca & Cassie.
Not this year, Lad.
The goats themselves are doing well. This year's kids are healthy and growing. The Momma does are still producing milk at a decent rate. The boys are making fools of themselves trying to entice any doe willing to spend some time with them into their yards. They have been unsucessful thus far and I have hope that we may be able to control who is bred for the first time... ever.

Our plan is to make the following introductions:
In October~ Asher and Cassie, Leah, Eve, and Phoebe (if her new owner wants her bred before she goes home.) Kids will be born in Feb/March.

In November~ Elijah and Sarah, Keziah, Atarah, Becca and Tabby. Kids will be born in March/April.

That will give us 8 bred does this year. Compared to the number of pregnant does we had last year, it will be a much smaller season for us. We are looking forward to that.

Jordan hatched a white Silkie chick.
The birds had an interesting season. They produced eggs at a decent rate, but we only ended up hatching two nests of ducklings, one clutch of Silkies, one hen hatched a nest of two chicks, another hen hatched one chick, and one turkey hen hatched two chicken chicks (one didn't survive, though). No turkey poults, guinea keets or goslings hatched this season. We don't use incubators; the birds hatch their own nests, so it is interesting to see what they do. We are enjoying the additional Silkies running around the homestead, but I can be honest in saying that I missed having baby turkeys. They are my favorites.

Jasmine was diagnosed with Cushing's disease and arthritis in her old lady knees in June. Our vet, Dr. Tanja Ebel of Apple Creek Equine prescribed Pergolide Mesylate and VetriBute for her. In addition to these, feeding her senior grain, hydration hay, and rubbing Actic Ice analgesic gel on her knees has done wonders for our old gal. Nothing is going to turn back the hands of time, but Jasmine has put on some weight and is holding her own.

This little black male is still available for sale.
Bella had her first (and only) litter of bunnies this summer. She presented us with five kits; three gray and two black. We had them all spoken for, but for different reasons, two of the buyers cancelled. So we still have two bunnies available for adoption. Sean helped me expand the current hutch so we now have an upstairs for the girls and a downstairs for the boys. Once the last two bunnies find their forever homes, the girls will have the run of both upstairs and downstairs.

Student soaps curing
The retail part of our homestead is growing. Our products are now available in 19 shops spanning seven states. We hope to grow to 25 shops by the end of the year. And, our classes are filling each month. We offer a Soap Making 101 class in two locations. Starting in October, we have added a Soap Making 2 class and a Feta cheese making class. I am enjoying meeting new students and helping them to learn how to make cheese and soaps for themselves and their families. We have committed to five craft shows in November and December. You can find us in person at:

Sunshine Club Marketplace~  November 4th, Bangor Shrine Club, Bangor, Maine
Market at McKay's Research Station~  November 5th, Unity, Maine
Zonta International Craft Show~ November 11th, Brewer, Maine
Winterport Craft Show~ November 18th, Winterport, Maine
Rollie's Early Bird Craft Show~ Dec. 2nd, Belfast, Maine

Wyandotte style bracelet set in hand-crafted sterling silver.
One of 20 available designs.
Plus, we developed and launched two new products and partnerships. Our eggshell jewelry got a face-lift with the addition of locally crafted sterling silver bales, bezels, settings, and findings from the very talented hands of Bethany Coulombe of Sweet Sincerity. We now offer bracelets, rings and earrings in styles we could not create before. I am so proud of these pieces. And, your response to them has been touching. Thank you. Plus, we added our Farm to Fashion Totes line. Not your average totes, these are fully lined with recycled canvas, boast a large inside pocket and soft, colorful handles. They are available locally at Silkweeds, Tiller & Rye, The Not So Empty Nest, The Local Variety, and Marsh River Cooperative. We're working to list them online, too. Finally, we started making organic herbal tea blends in July and you love them: all seven varieties! We sell out nearly every Farmer's Market. I cannot fully express how much your support of our homestead and the products we create on it means to our family. But, I can say, "Thank you" and mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Time has just flown by! I hope it has been kind to you and your loved ones.
Thanks for visiting with us, Friends.

~Sean and Sonja ♥