Even though this farm is our dream come true, there is always work to be done, chores that can't be ignored, even on those cold, winter mornings. Here are some photos in case you need convincing.
Winter on the farm can be very hard on people and animals alike. Snow and ice increase the time and energy the humans need to take care of the critters. But no one can deny that a snow storm creates a beautiful picture.
The snow storm of Winter 2016-17
Snow was about three feet deep. It took all day to get chores done and make paths to all the places we needed to get to, to care for animals.
Shoveling path to small barn.
Path to the barn
5' High Fence
Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.
~Dwight D. Eisenhower
“The milking machines sounded tranquilizing, and there was the collegiality of seventy animal spirits thriving, warming the barn with cud-chewing, nose-snuffling, and sisterly mammalhood.”
~Edward Hoagland, In the Country of the Blind: A Novel
“And if the world went to hell in a hand basket-as it seemed to be doing-you could say good-bye to everyone and retreat to your land, hunkering down and living off it.”
― Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses
Some of nature’s most exquisite handiwork is on a miniature scale, as anyone knows who has applied a magnifying glass to a snowflake. ~Rachel Carson
The snow storms of winter always yield to the storms of spring and the promise of lush pastures and warm sunny days
2017 Spring Storm We had a bad storm two weeks ago and it took down one of the maples in our front yard. However, we were very lucky. The tree really didn’t do much damage other than the dog yard fence. It hit the roof and skylight in the living room but didn’t break anything. -- Thankfully, we tend to plan ahead for situations like the storm. Our solar back-up kept freezers and refrigerator running, allowed us to watch our favorite TV programs and provided plenty of water for showers and flushing the toilet. There were some ‘stinky stories’ from those who didn’t make sure they had water once the power went out. We also had a good heat source in our wood stove and used that to keep hot water ready for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. In the end, we were out of power for four days. There were some minor inconveniences but we had little real problems keeping the animals and us happy and content. The key to our comfy survival was careful planning for emergencies. Our advice to everyone is PLAN AHEAD!!!!! Storms, floods and other natural disasters happen all the time and there is no guarantee they won’t happen to you.
We did suffer some minor hardships. I had to do dishes by hand
The pork chops were ‘locally grown’ and they were the most tasty pork chops we have had in a very long time. We felt a bit guilty enjoying the power outage so much since it did create terrible hardship for many in the area.
You might wonder why there is a picture of Frank barbecuing pork chops when we started talking about storm damage with the photo of the tree against the house. Well, the storm also took out our electricity so we had no way to cook since we have an electric stove.
2017 Summer One of the Summertime job is filling the hay mow. Gemini Farm doesn’t have enough land or equipment to make our own hay so we purchase hay from local farmers. When the hay is ready to cut and the weather is right, we must drop everything and fill the barn. Whether we had a party to go to or we planning on visiting friends, everything is postponed to put hay in the barn. It is that important to the smooth running of any farm. Most people work regular hours and can plan around those hours. Farmers are at the mercy of the weather, the needs of their animals and when their crops need to be harvested. In this photo the mow is about 1/5th full....a long way to go before we can relax and know the animals will have enough for the winter
Spring Cleaning: Most people think that cleaning a barn involves pitch forks, shovels and rakes, and in general that is true. Stalls need to be cleaned regularly. But just like we have ‘spring cleaning’ in our homes, barns need those huge spring cleaning jobs. The pony ‘run in shed’ protects the ponies from winter and summer weather and once a year needs a huge cleaning. We end up with dump truck loads of wonderful garden manure which we offer for free to anyone who would like it.
Every day there is something to do on the farm to keep it running smoothly. Unloading feed for all the critters is a never ending job that that happens rain or shine. It isn’t unusual to get a half a ton of feed at a time.
Rodeo loves to watch what all the humans on the farm are doing. In this photo he is supervising bringing the firewood to the house and keeping an eye on the fields at the same time. It is true that cats LOVE high places. Don’t worry, there are several safe ways for him and all his other friends to get down from the roof. A friend of ours came over to help pile the firewood. There is nothing more satisfying in the middle of winter than knowing there is plenty of wood to take the chill out of the living room.
Wood stoves are a fixture in most farm homes. Once you experience the steady heat of the wood stove you will never want to be without one. Whether you curl up to read a good book or have a cup of tea while watching TV....the fire in the wood stove makes a house a cozy home
Spring and summer bring eggs, and if the hens are in the mood (and broody) baby chicks. This is one of the banty hens hatching her last summer litter.
The newly remodeled shed now provides a small room with wood/coal heat, a run in shelter for goats or sheep, and a run in shelter for horses or goats.
Pirate was born here and is a cochin mix rooster. His name is Pirate because he lost an eye in a battle for hens with another rooster a few years ago. He is one of the lucky roosters that has a home for life. Most roosters must end up in the freezer and then the stew pot simply because roosters love to fight and will kill other roosters that live on their farm. Roosters cannot usually be pets and can injure other roosters, children and pets because of their instinct to fight to protect their flock and for dominance in the flock. There are exceptions to this rule but those of us who live with roosters know that a happy barn yard is a barn yard with one rooster. The dream of saving all chickens...including roosters...is a dream that isn’t logical, practical or humane.
On the bright side, our flock of chickens do a great job eating ticks and fly larvae. They love table scrapes and sunning themselves on any day the sun shines. And of course the hens produce eggs for our table that are ‘free range’ and almost organic. We reward their efforts by making the farm an old age home for chickens instead of sending them to auction or worse when they stop laying eggs.
Strawberry waiting to be taken off the milk stand. We are currently milking two goats on the farm. We drink the milk, donate excess to rescues that need it for kittens and puppies and provide milk for a family who have two children who can’t drink goat milk. We take care of their goat and milk her for them and we get to keep the excess milk for our use.
Goat milk is naturally homogenized which makes it easier to digest. The goat in the picture is a LaMancha Saanan cross and has been milking for about a year and a half. We have no plans to dry her off (stop milking her) and hope she will continue to milk for several years. This method reduces the need to breed every year and that means we are not producing more goat kids that need a home. Very few people want to take the time or make the commitment to milking every day so finding permanent homes for goat kids is difficult. Because the farm is about rescue, we had to find a way to prevent unwanted births. Extended milking, instead of the normal ten-month lactation and then produce another baby and start over, is the perfect way to enjoy healthy goat milk without contributing more animals to a world that doesn’t need any more.
Snow on the farm means snow removal. Frank was able to shovel the walks but couldn’t plow the driveway because the ground didn’t freeze and underneath the pretty snow was mud. Fortunately, we didn’t have to shovel the driveway as the weather was warm enough to melt most of the snow.
The first hint of spring and the geese are on their way to the pond for a little swim.
When we think of a farm we think of barns and fields and domestic farm animals. But the farm is almost always a stop on the travels of the wild creatures that live near us.
This is a ‘game camera’ photo of a doe (sorry about not catching her head in the photo) and last year’s fawn. The photo was taken mid Dec 2016.
This bald eagle was checking out the fields about a mile from the farm. On one hand, it is exciting to have this bird back in the area. On the other, large birds of prey present a real danger to chickens, ducks and even cats. They are an efficient predator and I am sure one of the reasons that feral cats in colonies sometimes disappear.
At two in the morning, we are snoozing but many of the creatures on the farm are busy finding food and posing for the game camera
The front of our house had a giant maple tree but lightning hit the tree and it took about ten years for the tree to be so unsafe that we had to cut it down. I think I mourned the loss of that tree. But the result was a flower bed that flourished now that the sun had access to the area. I didn’t plant many flowers in years past but a couple years ago I started planting them where ever there was an empty space and I loved the results. Flowers brighten our world. Notice there is a brand new baby maple tree planted just a few feet from where the old one stood.
More flowers to brighten the front entrance to the house.