Tuesday, November 26, 2013

And *THAT* was November...

I cannot believe how quickly time feels to be passing. It is almost as if I can watch it lay spent; little minutes and hours, used, mingled with torn out days from a calendar all in a jumbled pile on the floor. Perhaps it is only because we had (and still have) so much to do this past month preparing for winter and shows. Perhaps it is only that it is already 9 pm and tomorrow's morning comes much too early for me. To be completely frank, part of my lack of posting lately is that I am so busy living our life, working the farm, and growing our business, I have no energy to spend the time necessary writing about it. For the first time in many years, I stopped journaling; stopped the nightly ritual of writing that orders my mind for rest. Whatever the cause, I have been sorely remiss in posting for us. This is a deficiency I hope to amend.

At the end of October, we hosted our first Open Farm Day. Some 52 guests visited with us for the day. We prepared for 100 people not knowing how our advertising had been received. We were pleased to have as many guests as we did. Sean demonstrated how to milk a dairy goat for interested ones; some bravely tried their hand at it. I showed a small group how to make our goat's milk soap from scratch and then assisted anyone who wanted to make soap samples to bring home for themselves. My sister, Kelli, spun fiber into yarn on a hand spindle and spinning wheel for interested spectators. My favorite part of the day was answering questions and sharing how we keep our flocks and herds here on the homestead. Sean thoroughly enjoyed helping people to make apple cider with the borrowed, antique, hand-cranked apple press, aching arm muscles and all.

   

Before our "Farm Day", Sean and I gleaned as many apple trees as we could find from willing neighbors and abandoned fields (with permisson, of course). We picked Macintosh, Granny Smiths, Wolf River, Red Delicious, and tart yellow apples. When mixed, these made the most delicious apple cider- 10 gallons for me to freeze and preserve for our family's winter use and 10 additional gallons to age in carboys until they became hard cider perfection.

With winter fast approaching, there has also been wood to prepare for ourselves and friends. One Sunday afternoon was spent assisting with the cutting and stacking of several cords of wood with friends. Bringing in wood is no easy task, but it is better accomplished with friends.

Our own wood situation is a bit of a concern. We mitigate our need for heating as much as humanly possible. The heat does not come on until November 1st and goes off again in March. We keep the house in the 60's when it is just ourselves at home and dress in sweaters and warm socks. With careful husbandry, we get along with using just a few cords of wood each season. But, with all the other demands on our time; running the farm and preparing for and attending craft fairs and art markets, we are really behind in getting ourselves ready for this year's cold. The meager two week supply of wood living in the barn makes procuring wood, splitting, and stacking it a real priority.

At the beginning of the month, we met a reporter from our local Bangor Daily News newspaper named Brian Swartz. Brian visited us early one morning and interviewed Sean and I for a story about our Mosaic Eggshell Jewelry line. There is a saying that says, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Good publicity is even better. Brian's positive article was published a few days ago (Read it Here) and immediately resulted in us getting several new orders from our Etsy shop and FB page. How exciting!

We've attended craft fairs or art markets every Saturday for the past 2 months and have been mostly well received. The craft fair at the Airport Mall is a two-day event; Friday from 9 am to 8 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. We enjoy meeting new friends and displaying our products, but it makes for very long days for us. If you are local and are interested in seeing our wares in person, we've signed up to be at the Airport Mall again December 13-14 and December 20-21. These will be our final craft events of the year. In addition to participating in these other venues, I arranged and hosted an Art Market to help support my mother's fight with breast cancer. A talented group of 19 local artisans and I were able to raise more than $800 to help her with on-going medical bills.

With all the events we've attended, we have been creating jewelry as fast as our little hands can!

In between all these demands on our time, Sean and I stole a day to drive North to Littleton, Maine to visit our friend, Carla at her growing dairy farm. Our mission to pick up the last addition to our goat farm for the year, a lovely Lamancha doeling named Classy was successful. She is a sweet tempered lass to be sure. There was a bit of transitioning for her to be accepted into the herd, but after about a week or sorting who was who, Ellie, Delilah and Classy have all become fast friends. She and Asher will make such beautiful kids in the years to come.

The final touch on our barn project for this year was building and installing three doors; one between the buck's stall and their field, another between the doe's stall and their field and the last between the horse's stall and her field. The weather dropped into the teens with wind chills reaching the negative digits, just in time for it to be as miserably cold as possible for us to complete this last project. We could not wait or put it off, not with the cold expected to last and the wind whipping directly into the opened stalls. My legs stopped feeling the cold after about an hour's time into our work. It was miserable work made more so by frozen fingers, clumsy and numb, but it had to be done. It took us nearly 5 hours in the frigid cold to complete, but once finished, the barn was snug and cozy and its occupants are as safe as we can make them for the winter ahead.

Even dressed in layers and warming up inside by the wood stove periodically, I still managed to get a mild case of frostbite. When we finished and went inside for the night, I changed into warm, comfy pj pants. My legs and feet were bright red- like the color of a cooked lobster and ice cold to the touch. My youngest, Meg, helpfully drew a warm foot soak, but I could only stand to have my feet in it for a few seconds- it felt like sharp little icy needles were stabbing me all over. It took a couple hours to thaw out, but I eventually did with no lasting harm. I have a pretty good pain tolerance, but I have never felt like that before and hopefully never will again!

Sean took some time this weekend to put in more green metal posts to secure the buck field from Asher's repeated escape attempts and freed him from his "time out" lock down in the milk room. It also allowed us space to build a temporary pen for Ebony in the barn. It is much handier to have all the critters housed in the barn once the snow flies instead of having to dig paths into the back yard to get food and water to them morning and night. Having these things finished feels good and with the exception of our wood, puts us in good standing for winter to come.

So far, Ebony seems to be pleased with her new digs. What they lack in size is made up for in warmth. Charles and Simon (our barn roosters) and their small flock of hens visit her when there is food to be stolen and have taken to roosting along Ebony's 2x6 pen boards at night. Our Miss Piggy has not been used to waking early in the morning to a chorus of crowing 2 feet from her head nor to the clanging of milk pails and the bleating of goats being milked, but seems good-natured about the change. She issues a disgruntled grunt or two from under her mound of hay and then resumes her snoring. The addition to Ebony in the milk room gives the does pause each morning when they take their stands. They stop short and eye her snoring mound of hay suspiciously but grain in their buckets coaxes them to take their places and milking resumes uninterrupted.

So, that is where we are and what we've been doing. Things are moving along as they do. We are getting prepared for winter, slower than we'd like, but steadily improving matters. For the first time ever, I am looking forward to snow- if only for the quieter pace of less to do in gardens, in the barn, and selling our wares. A rest of sorts before Spring returns and with it a flurry of new activity.

I hope this post finds you all healthy, wealthy, and wise. ♥ Thanks for visiting with us today.
Sean and Sonja ♥


4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed the post tremendously! So glad you were not permanently damaged by the frost bite!

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  2. Meredith/GreenCircleGroveDecember 2, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    So nice to have you share your adventures and have an update. What a busy autumn you've had!

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  3. A couple of my hens abandoned the chicken coop to sleep next to my pig, Doink. They snuggle in next to him every night. We're preparing for single digit high temps later in the week. It's nice to know they'll be keeping each other warm!

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  4. So glad you did not give up your journalism completely! I really enjoyed your recap of October, especially the Open Farm Day and the BDN article. That picture of Ebony and the rooster was heartwarming. Hope you're all feeling better.
    Becky

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