Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homestead Updates

It's 10 o'clock- much later than I want it to be and me awake, writing. I should be asleep, but I am not. I am too tired to sleep. I have begun this post, erased, and started again many times over the past month. It is not that there is nothing to share, but I am tired, my feet are swollen and my back and shoulders ache from the other pressing needs of the day that keep me away from writing. Finally, I have a minute to do so and just enough concentration to make a stab at it. I know that many of you are fighting through your own physically demanding, emotionally turbulent, and mentally exhausting days. In the unavoidable way of water seeking its own level, it is a comfort to know that you are all out there... somewhere.

Now that I am here, can you believe I don't know where to begin? The simplest way to order my mind is to just focus on some homestead updates. Let's see where that takes us...

Homestead Updates:

First of all, I want to share the news of a new arrival. Last Sunday passed, Sean raced into the house, called, "We have a baby! Come quick! I need you!" before returning to the barn. I threw my feet into my boots and followed him outside. My brain was thinking, "Finally! The ducks are hatching!! But, what is the urgency???"

The urgency was that Jane had surprised us with the birth of twin kids. One was stillborn and the other was so small I feared for it's life. The new kid weighed in at just over 2 pounds; our smallest kid born was in the 6 pound range, previously. We moved Jane and the kid to our birthing stall and assisted Jane's efforts to clean our newest addition, gave her some extra grain, molasses-laced water, and cleaned away all the soiled hay from the other stall. This was not Jane's first delivery and though she was disinclined to nurse the kid, she was taking an interest in her offspring, the weather was warm and clear, and there was nothing we could add to the situation, so Sean and I left them to get acquainted.

By morning, the kid looked much livelier, though she was still smaller than we would have ever imagined. Jane had a healthy appetite and we saw her kid, which we named, Naomi, nurse lustily. As the days passed, Naomi grew more and more used to us and our routine. Since she was so tiny and Jane did not mind, I often slipped Naomi inside a baby sling and kept her close to my heart while I completed my outside chores. At nearly a month old and weighing a whopping 6 pounds, the sling is used less these days...

Another interesting development happened about a week after her birth. Sean called me at lunch with an update that he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he had caught Naomi urinating... finally. (When doe Mommas nurse their young, it never seems like they stand still for long. This always worries me a little. But, if there is good output, then it stands to reason, that there is good input. Sometimes, that is the only way to know for sure that a kid is getting enough milk.) His bad news was that Naomi is, in fact, a lad. We decided to name him Zacchaeus. That makes, 3 does and 2 bucks born at Lally Broch Farm this year.

Almost finished in this picture.
Garden Beds: One of the largest projects this year was building our raised beds in both the front and back yards. Having sold 4 CSA shares, the pressure was on to get all the seedlings we'd begun in the ground and transplanted. A really fantastic friend of ours offered us some soil to help fill the beds, which we gladly accepted. To date, we have taken 9 trips with the pickup and will have to make at least 3 more this season, in addition to what we had brought in from the garden supply store. It has been hard on the lower back for sure. We are very grateful that Sean's father is here, though. Daddy Dale and I have been able to load dirt and take some trips while Sean has been working during the day, freeing him to tackle other projects in the evening hours between work and bedtime... like adding a new permanent pasture for the does under the trees.

New Pasturage: Keeping our nine does together in the pasture from last year worked for only a few weeks until they ate themselves out of field and we began supplementing with hay- not ideal considering the expense. Having the ability to let them graze supervised in the back yard most days, helped offset the expense, but also increased the amount of time we had to spend keeping them from eating the garlic bed, my hostas, and pretty much anything else they took a fancy to try. We knew that adding another large area of pasturage was going to happen this year, we did not anticipate how quickly it was going to be a necessity. Good fences make happy goat owners and this was no exception. It took Sean and I and our son-in-law, Justin about 10 hours to complete this project. I am very happy to check this one off the "to do" list.

Ducklings Hatching: One of the happy events of the last month has been the steady trickle of baby ducklings hatching. We are up to a total of 8 new ones born. Four of them have gone to a great new home at a neighbor's house just down the street. The other four have taken up residence in the front yard with the geese. We are hoping that they will all be hens since I want to add to our ranks of duck's for egg laying next year.

Sean at the Belfast Art Market with me last Friday morning.

Belfast Art Market: We have begun to participate in the Belfast Art Market each Friday from 9am-1pm. It has been such fun to meet so many talented artisans and crafters. Of course, it is especially nice to meet the folks who purchase my jewelry, soaps, scents, and other farm items offered there. Seeing someone love a piece that I loved creating means so much to me. Last week, a woman came by the market and spent some time trying on pieces for fun. The glow of her face when she tried on each new piece touched my heart so much that I gifted her a pair of earrings. Can you imagine how pleasant the surprise for me to see her again this week, wearing the earrings and loving them still? And, if that wasn't enough, she confided that having been diagnosed with Lyme Disease a while ago, she gave away all her earrings because they caused her such pain to wear, but she has been able to wear our earrings without discomfort. We both got a little teary!

If you are local and in the area, please, stop by to visit with me. I truly enjoy meeting future friends. ♥

Bangor Chicken Swap: Our friend and neighbor hosts the local Tractor Supply Company "Chicken Swap" which is open to anything farm related. There are vendors with chicks, hens, roosters, ducklings, turkey poults, seedlings, plantings, soaps, bunnies, you name it- and we're there, too- when we can make it. At the last swap, we found good homes for 2 of the 4 roosters we brought with us, sold several pieces of jewelry, and received a special order for some initial pendants. The sun stayed with us until the afternoon, which was surprising as it has rained hard at most of the other events. That hasn't prevented other vendors from coming and visiting with each other, trading livestock and stories. The Bangor Chicken Swap is open the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month at the Bangor Tractor Supply Company store on Broadway. You can find them on facebook, too.

To be completely candid, this month has not all been rainbows and butterflies. We had our first (and hopefully last) fox casualties and are missing 3 chickens from our flock. While washing dishes, our eldest daughter, Caitlin spied what she thought was our little Buster dog in the back yard. Realizing the creature in question was bigger than Buster should be, she called me over with, "I think that is a fox!" I didn't believe it, but she was right. We raced outside to chase him off, but the door to one of the chicken tractors had already been ripped off and the chickens were loose in the yard. Cait and I gathered them up and settled them in the main pen. Then, to be safe, we removed the other hens from the other tractor, too. He hasn't been seen again and we are hopeful that he has moved on. To be safe, until the chicken tractors are made more secure, all our chickens are residing in the main coop and yard for now.

Upcoming Events: With Daddy Dale and Momma Twombly visiting until the end of September, Sean and I are planning on leveling the first floor of the barn we framed and sheathed last summer/fall. Additionally, we'll all be working hard to finish the 2nd story and get the roof on. In my dreams, I can see the barn sided, painted a lovely red with cream trim and sage green doors. The reality is that making the barn pretty will probably be a project for 2014. But, we are gaining and if we can finish the upstairs and fill that with hay in anticipation for winter, this homesteading family will be thrilled.

Finally, I am counting down the days until August 13th, when I will resign from the fantastic job I have held these past 7 years in anticipation of home-schooling these teens through the end of high school and farming full time. Meanwhile, I am working more than usual at that job and consequently, have very little time left to catch you all up. I hope you will please, please bear with me as we transition. I am capturing pictures of all the goings on and will be very happy to share them with you as I can find the time to do so. ♥

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. We are sure glad you stopped in.
Sean and Sonja ♥


  1. Lovely to hear your updates - I love the heartfelt and reality of it all, the trials, the disappointments and the joys all make homesteading worth it. I'm honored to be able to read and feel your hearts from all the way over here.



  2. That is one precious fella you have there, he is so stinkin' cute, and Seany Sean ain't half bad either. HE HE! I am so glad ya'll are getting so much done. August is a big month! Between your wedding anniversary and being able to stop working outside of the farm that is cause for major celebration!!!!!
    That was so touching about the woman with Lyme Disease being able to wear the earrings you gifted her, and her loving them so much. It is awesome that she can wear them, and that you both were lifted up with the exchange of your beautiful art work.

  3. Enjoyed the update, especially the story on your little buckling :) Excited for you on your move to full time farming, and will be interested in how it goes - planning to do likewise soon. Keep us posted! Lesa

  4. That was a great summation! I look forward to seeing all the pretty things tomorrow at the Farmer's Market/Art Festival in Belfast and also Saturday at the Celtic Festival.