we almost have a cabin

Now that the goats, ducks and three flocks of chickens have houses and coops and paddocks and playgrounds and runs, we’re back on cabin rebuilt and rehab. And we’re almost done! Yeah, that makes just over two years but it’s been worth the wait. We’re super excited to have some friends over for a celebratory feast. The above photo is the “before” shot when we very first moved here. It’ll be a while before you get an exterior after shot.

Finn’s room has been taped, mudded, textured and primed for months but he only recently decided what color he wants to paint the room. Purple. That’s what happens when you allow a 16 year old to choose paint color (his last bedroom was Batman red with a super hero blue ceiling). Our only stipulation was “it will have a white ceiling” this time. Oh, and “not black” because yes, he had wanted it black. So… purplish it is. Rosy eggplant? Purple Queen Zinnia? I have no idea what you’d technically call this color but I actually like it. The back wall where are the built-in closet and desk will be wasn’t painted but we decided that since it’ll be a fair amount of time before those are built, we ought to just paint it purple for now. Hopefully Finn and I will be working on that within the next day or two and can get a better shot of what the color actually looks like because that picture is a little off.

The living room is now fully drywalled, taped, muddled and primed. After much vacillation we decided to go with Wasabi for the living room color. It matches our new rug and will make us smile. Originally we wanted Frothy Curacao but that’s almost exactly the color of the bathroom. The kitchen will be Kinetic Teal with white upper cabinets and beadboard backsplash with butcher block counters. I’m kind of thinking of doing the lower cabinets a darker hue instead of white but we shall see (thank you Pinterest for the inspiration!). I’m going to start painting the cabinets soon, though the kitchen won’t be completed probably until next year. We’ll have a fridge and a stove but the lower counters, cabinets and sink will be a future addition. Probably spring along with siding.

I originally wanted to do the kitchen cabinets like this, but that might be crazy over-the-top. What do you think? So I’m thinking maybe the tiny little built in shelves between the cabinets. I wish I knew who created this so I could get them credit friend emailed the picture to me.

This is a really old picture and none of the counters or lower cabinets or sink or anything exist. I just wanted to show you the little built in. If I don’t do the mini built-in shelves like the photo I’ll definitely be painting my old buffet similarly (and another matching table that just miraculously happened to be here and when we moved here).

I don’t know if I shared but the bathroom was painted a long time ago, sink installed, etc. Outside of the kitchen, there’s lots of little things we still need like light fixtures (we will use the old ugly ones temporarily), a mattress for Finn, etc. We just want to get our butts in there! Trim is mostly primed and some painted. It will be going up this weekend after we paint the walls which we will either be starting tonight when Paul gets home with paint or tomorrow.

Soon, we’ll post an abundance of unveiling photos. We were going to be moving in next week but we have torrential rains and snow on the horizon. No fun. I’m not moving couches and beds and things in the rain, thank you very much.

goatboss. goatmom. goatcrazy.

I didn’t realize it until the day after but we finally got our first goats on our 2-year anniversary of moving here! Meet Juniper Skye and her aunt Flora.

Flora, in front, may or may not stay here for long. My little Nigerian Dwarf Jasmine will be here in a week or two and then we’ll see. Flora may go home to be bred and one of her sons may come here or another auntie, older sister or mom of Juniper. We shall see. I absolutely adore her and she’s head-over-heels in love with me as well (she cries if I get more than 3 feet away from her) but she’s kind of a meanie to Juniper and if she doesn’t get over that nonsense, she’ll have to go back home when Jasmine arrives. My goal is to get her to chill the heck out because she’s in milk and what an amazing treat that is. She gave us an entire half gallon yesterday!

Juniper is my girl, 3/4 Toggenburg, 1/4 Nubian. She was born on one of my best friend’s farms down the street and I claimed her as my own before she even came into this world. She is amazing beyond words! She hasn’t been handled much and was very skittish the first day but she’s really warmed up to me and now lets me pet her 89-91% of the time and will eat out of my hand. That’s in less than 48 hours. My friend says I’m a natural and I may just need to raise/train all the babies between our two farms. Yes please! So on that!!

Paul kicked ass and finished building their house a couple hours after they got here. He is amazing! The whole thing, with the exception of screws, door hardware and some of the two-by-fours was totally free. Or trade. We are huge barterers around here. We traded pears, duck and chicken eggs for a mountain of wood pallets and barn metal, a hen for some more wood pallets, duck eggs and hugs for some plywood and were gifted a piece of suntuf for a skylight. Then I traded more duck eggs for grass hay and grain so we can just get a little bit at a time until we actually have a place to store it all (that’ll be in the shipping container when we finish the cabin and it’s not full to the hilt with furniture, art and music supplies). Actually we’ll probably build a metal shed. That may be faster. I need to come up with some sort of fundraiser like jam sales, art or healing sessions.

I laid out all of the pallets deciding how I wanted to make it and had Finn help me do the first hole to sink a peeler core a couple feet deep to slide to the corner pallets over for super strength and stability. Paul did the rest because apparently my designs are better on paper. He asks me questions about structural engineering and I stare blankly so he takes over. He’s the best husband I’ve ever had! (Only husband ever and it will obviously remain that way because he’s the best.)

I’m going to build a little covered feeding area off the right side of their house. And then it’s on to building their play structure. A goat playground is totally necessary! And the hammock to watch them from. I make chicken playgrounds out of branches, twigs, pallets and random things all the time but this is going to be so much more fun. Paul won’t let me use the chainsaw (because he’s smart!) so I need to wait and get a bit of help on that, but I can do all of the other necessary cutting now that he has adequately trained me on all sharp power tools. 🙂

Here is a picture of Jasmine, purebred registered Nigerian Dwarf, from a few weeks ago. Her birth name is JasmineJade but I call her Jasmine Meadow. Both girls were born in March, the 1st and the 8th, and that means more female Pisces energy up in here. Everyone needs more of that! I haven’t been able to pick her up yet because the breeder does shows at the state fair and some of the girls got a cold. They can spread that and it can develop into pneumonia so we’re waiting until her entire herd is 100% healthy and well before we bring her here. That’s why I borrowed Flora to begin with but now I like the idea of having three goats until I breed Jasmine next April or so. Then whoever I’m borrowing can go home if desired and I’ll have another baby goat. Juniper will be bred in summer for a spring 2020 baby. Hopefully they aren’t all boys because I don’t plan on keeping more than one, which we will make a wether. Any other boys either will be sold, traded or eaten. (I still haven’t even processed my own chickens yet so can you imagine me processing one of my baby goats!? Yeah, not happening, though it makes me feel more homesteady talking about it. Of course if we have another apocalypse like we did last year for any longer than a couple of weeks, all of that changes.)

Since bringing the stanchion over, all non milking creatures are loving it. Scruff the chicken first and then baby Juniper. Flora, the only one that needs it, isn’t terribly fond of it but yesterday was our second milking and it was infinitely better than the first. Day one was bucking bronco. Day two was finding her favorite back and butt massage spots and getting her to mellow out a bit.

Oh yeah, here’s the skylight. This will give them extra warmth in Winter as it’s south-facing but they’ll still stay cool in summer due to the angle and the trees overhead.

Excited so many people will be here to meet them this weekend. Pretty much all of our favorite humans will be here to celebrate all the things worth celebrating, like Paul’s 40th birthday, goats, life and all other good things. ♡

summer abundance, and a year of eggs

We/I haven’t posted in eons, again. It’s not that farmstead life is slow or uneventful, but rather bursting at the seams and overflowing with amazement, awe and sheer but-kicking busyness.

That chicken coop I posted about before and promised a part two of its free construction and completion? It’s been done since the next day, sans paint, and so far has housed three rounds of babies, totalling 25 in all. We’ll be moving it to the garden sometime within the next week or two for my impending Swedish Flower Hen breeding endeavors (three out of four are laying, and the last is 6 weeks younger). The older girls are not yet 6 months old but by Spring, I’ll have plenty of hatching eggs and chicks available. If I ever end up painting the coop, I’ll post photos. But the main chicken coop, Cluckingham Palace, still isn’t painted either. Or the goat house, but that’s another post.

Despite our late start, our gardens are thriving. And the late start was not my fault. I had almost 200 (or 300?) starts die during our winter storm with the implosion of our greenhouse under snow weight and round two mostly became squished by neighbor cats thinking I planted them cozy plant beds. We have been harvesting and eating and even selling an abundance of zucchini, crookneck and yellow squash, round zucchini, lettuce, kale, rainbow chard, onions, tomatoes, green beans, purple beans, peas, herbs, chives, potatoes, cucumbers and a little bit of broccoli and cauliflower. The latter weren’t fond of our almost a hundred degree days in April and had a rough start. But I planted a ton more (plus more beans, greens, roots, etc.) so it’ll be great.

This also was the first year we got raspberries. We only got 6 but next year we’ll have 6,000. We got tons of blueberries and still are from some of our late season bushes, mountains of blackberries which is one of my favorite foods, and loads of plums, but mostly from friends and neighbors — we had a couple dozen of our own. Pears and apples are too many to keep up with. Oh and we had heaps of figs and some cherries. The deer ate most of the cherries along with all of our peaches and nectarines, mountains of apples from our baby trees and most of our plums. Not just the fruit but the leaves and branches. Thanks deer! I think I’m going to relocate 95% of our orchard in autum when the ground is nice and soft and the trees are more dormant so I can put 10 foot fences around them to allow them to establish themselves, then take the fences back down.

I’ve been loving doing lots of small batches of canning this year. So far I’ve done spiced fig and golden plum jam, garlicky Plum barbecue sauce, blackberry jam, apple pie Jam to use in baking or for the guys to put on French toast, blackberry apple spice jam which I only did one jar of because it was leftovers that wouldn’t fill a jar and I just added to it. Interestingly enough is pretty awesome. I’ve also done apple pear sauce, a crapload of pickled cucumbers and zucchini, and spiced plums. I still need to do some more maple bourbon plum butter and blackberry pear jam because those where everyone’s talk to favorites last year, along with pickled apples and 700 more apple sauce, plus salsa. I found a recipe for zucchini bread jam which I may try as well because we have so many zucchini! Oh, I also did pickled green beans. Pro tip: don’t pickle purple beans. They end up looking like long wrinkly alien appendages.

A couple of weeks ago was our one-year anniversary of when my very first chicken started laying eggs. I kept track because I wanted to see how many eggs we received from our girls in a year. It was kind of silly to count because we had anywhere between 8 and 30 layers at any given time with hatching out new ones, selling old ones, etc but we received exactly 3450 eggs in year 1. That’s 287.5 eggs per month, or 66.3 eggs per week on average (just over 5.5 dozen). Yay girls!! I only have a couple of weekly chicken egg customers but it’s perfect. We’ll have more laying hens this year so I’ll be able to sell more. For a while there we couldn’t sell our duck eggs for the life of us. We were giving them away by the dozen because our girls lay 20 times more than I read their breeds will lay. Now though, things have changed. We have waiting lists for duck eggs. We only have three ducks, one who is special needs and rarely lays, but we get over a dozen a week. It’s so funny when people now offer to prepay for eggs that haven’t yet been laid. So we are getting four more ducks. Three girls and a boy so not only will we have duck eggs for eating, we will have fertile duck eggs for hatching and ducklings available to anyone who wishes to buy them. Our duck breeds: Cayuga, White Layer, Saxony, Black Swedish and Chocolate Indian Runner. This autumn we should start breaking even on egg sales. Meaning we make as much selling eggs as their expensive food costs. Spring, especially with hatching eggs, chicks, ducklings and rare breed pullets, will mean I’m making a little profit. I think I’m profiting regardless. We used to spend a minimum of $56 a month on sub-par organic grocery store eggs.

I babble. Anyway, that’s what we’re up to. Just living the dream. I’ll do another post here in the next day or two (or month) to tell you about our new goats and likely share stories and photos about our impending gathering with friends and family. A bunch of people are coming down from Portland and it’s going to be lovely.

ducks, ducklings, and a waterfowl oasis

Last year we we so excited (and a tad nervous) to get our three ducks but they have been the most amazing and fun (absolutely hysterical) addition to our ever-growing farm and homestead. Our first three are a Saxony named Stella (below), a Black Swedish named Frida (above) and a Chocolate Runner.

None of these crazy quackers have laid a single egg yet, but we love them none the less. They’re just about to hit 7 months old. Tip: don’t buy ducklings in June because it will be too dark by the time they’re ready to start laying.

We (Paul) built them the most precious house with a shady veranda… and apparently I never got a completed/painted photo of it so I’ll work on that once the torrential rains die down for a minute.

This year we decided to add three more ducklings which quickly morphed into five. In about a month an a half, we’ll have a Cayuga, a White Layer (because I’ve wanted a “Jemima Puddleduck” since I was little), a Khaki Campbell and two Welsh Harlequins (a boy and a girl).

Their current house will become the chick and mama hen(s) nursery and the duckies’ new house is in the works — we just have to add a couple of laying boxes on the back, a little footer at the base of the front door opening so teeny littles don’t escape and a roost bar or two. It’ll be fantastic, and totally separate from the other “big chickens”.

Because there isn’t a huge amount of shade in their new homeland, we got a bunch of fast growing shade trees to plant around the area to create a duck (and potential future goose) waterfowl oasis.

I planned on digging a big pond for them and to serve as irrigation for garden watering but upon sharing my idea with the neighbor, I found out that due to the proximity of our property to the creek, we’re not allowed to create any permanent water feature. I looked it up and they were right! Good thing I found that out before rather than after. Instead, we are buying a huge stock tank and burying it, putting river rock around the edges. It’ll definitely beat their little kiddy pool but we’ll probably leave that for them as well.

They’ll still be allowed to free range with their chicken siblings, but these duckies will have such a lovely new home, especially as the trees start growing in. I’m still working on planting them.

Stay tuned for baby duckling photos in mid-February!

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I see I wrote and never posted a blog post again. And now it’s mid-February. And of course we just got a call from the breeder that our Welsh Harlequin ducklings are not available for our hatch date and our preferred types won’t be available in unison until June. What a bummer!

But in good news we have duck eggs!! They started laying Sunday before last, starting with a pretty green egg, presumably from Frida, and laying one single egg every single day since. It’s the weirdest thing. All the new ones have been white so it seems like maybe Frida started and now Brunhild and Stella are taking turns? Or she just wanted to practice with a green egg and is now laying white? I have no idea. But we get one duck egg a day and it’s pretty awesome. Paul prefers duck eggs to chicken eggs so I have deemed them all his but will sell a half-dozen here and there to anyone interested.

the farmer, the grave digger, and plans of sustainability

We learned *a lot* about our land and different climate this past first summer. I didn’t realize garden zone 9 and garden zone 8b were as different as they are. When we first moved here we made a One-Year Plan… which was pretty lofty and, in retrospect, extremely comical. Now we have a Five-Year Plan based upon realistic goals and desired outcomes.

We never wanted to be “just a farm” but a homestead. Finally, we are well on our way to that level of self-sufficientcy. In the first year, we have completely stopped buying garlic, berries, a lot of fruit, jam, fruit butter, syrup, eggs, chicken meat, peas and most herbs (my cilantro didn’t grow so we bought some once). These are all things we now produce ourselves on our land and every little bit helps. We’ve hugely cut down on buying summer and winter squash, greens, onions, apples and other fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds which we consume *a lot* of, potatoes, beans. Plus I make our own crackers, cookies and baked goods, much of our bread and “snacks” like gluten free apple cinnamon corn bread:

There are a few things we’ll never produce ourselves but this means tiny, infrequent shopping trips (some we could grow, we just don’t really want to… at least not yet):

Things have shifted a bit though. We were both going to be farmers once we got here. But oddly, that was never the original plan but only developed once we were here. I was just going to be the farmer and Paul was going to do whatever he wanted to do (music, bow making and woodworking, car stuff…). But as universe would have it, we’re back to the original plan of me being the sole lady farmer and him doing something else. In this case, that something else is a grave digger. We needed money for the aforementioned coffee, chocolate and dish soap so he stepped up. And I’ve got the animal tending, homestead garden and farm growing, meal planning and cooking, etc. When I need help with heavy lifting, he’s on it, and all the remodeling and rebuilding is his too (though I help with taping and mudding, do the painting and design things like the kitchen). We’re an awesome team.

As far as crop selling, we’re starting small and sticking to selling herloom garlic and herbs, heirloom tomatoes and excess fruit to start, plus having a small seasonal farm stand with excess veggies, fruit, berries, herbs, garlic, eggs and such. We have a prospective buyer for our fresh culinary herbs and garlic already too, which kicks much ass, as well as a small handful of weekly egg customers in the works. (Soon we’ll have enough egg customers to coverall all chicken and duck feeding, bedding and supplimental costs with enough left over to go on a hot date each month. Heck yeah!)

Within the next five years, the plan is to never have to buy any of these things again:

Yup, that means we’re getting goats. And sheep, and meat rabbits. Plus I’ll raise 3 to 5 turkeys a year to put on the table. We’ll eat our “extra” chickens (boys and mean girls) and do a batch or two of meat birds per year. But this is all over time. This year probably will only include meat and extra chickens, and two goats. Five more ducks come in February (hatching on my birthday — imagine all the impending Pisces goodness around here!!) It’ll be a year-and-a-half before we have goat milk because “we” (which in this case actually means I) want babies. Two Nigerian Dwarf doelings to be precise. They are the best for milk, butter and cheese. Not all goat’s milk is good for drinking. These girls will taste more like cow milk than anything else. No thank you on super gamey goat milk. Been there, done that. Though really a mama already in milk and tw babies would be ideal.

Maybe in 2020 we’ll add a couple of sheep (the fella above was Gabe from our friend’s farm down the street — we loved and ate him) and some meat rabbits, then in 2021, honey bees and a miniature cow (see how I snuck that one in?). Pacing ourselves is good. Lamb is good too.

It’s amazing how much things have changed in only one year (plus 4 months) on the farm. Our love for this place and gratitude overflow more and more with every passing day. I’m so glad we spent the bulk of the first year focussing on our orchard because we won’t have as long to wait for apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, persimmons, apricot, yuzu citrus, almonds, and walnuts. We also planted 18 blueberries, 3 blackberries (not as if we didn’t have enough already), 8 red raspberries and a golden raspberry. This year we’ll be adding a couple of figs, elderberries, mulberries and if we’re super lucky, a couple of Meyer’s lemons. Next year: cranberries and currants gallore!

Another part of our dream/vision is making this into a small off-grid farm community. Building a tiny house for another family or couple to live in, adding a loft dwelling above the future workshop for one of our manfriends to make his own. Sharing of the work and bounty and weekend feasts. We have that with our neighbors already, our next door family, and are thrilled to be able to expand that love one of these years.

We’ll also be potentially offering retreats and workshops for natural building (cob, earth bag, etc.), permaculture and vermiculture, homesteading, chicken and duck and goat keeping, bow making and archery, art, music and shamanic retreats, wild edible and foraging classes, etc. It would be fantastic if that could fund our solar. Let me rephrase: It *will* be fantastic when we’ve earned enough to fund our solar endeavors. How long could it possibly take to save up $30k? 😘