thank you, and to know another (little) chicken.

i will not be able to adequately articulate the effect of your kindness and uncommonly encouraging words here. you have all been so unabashedly supportive about us starting our own farm and it gives me/us such extraordinary strength to have you say such things. and strength is needed as it has recently dawned on me that we have no idea what we are doing. but that topic is for another day. today, i simply wanted to say, thank YOU. we are thrilled and anxious and our hearts are beating very very quickly with anticipation of this move. just five more weeks today. five more weeks until we are farming on our own.

so for today, i wanted to continue on with my endlessly fascinating (sarcasm intended) features on the sparkling personalities of the chicken coop.

and today that personality is a little hen christened mary catherine, but affectionately called egg. egg is my pocket chicken. she is, quite literally, a third the size of her colleagues. and so, she fits --nearly--in my vest pocket. i'm not certain why she hasn't grown since november but it doesn't seem to be bothering her at all. she is fierce. and cunning. and a survivalist. and a Love Bug. she is the only chicken that lets me scoop her up for a snuggle whenever i please. i think she likes the relative safety of my arms. she knows, from the experience of the every day, that i will not drop her. that i will not pluck out her tail feathers with my nasty little beak (you bastard chickens can be sooo cruel). that i will not bully her away from food.  i usually give her a handful of grain in my arms so she can dine undisturbed. i bring her to the water fountain and give her several minutes of bodyguarded drinking.

but she takes care of her self. she has a brilliantly selected roost in the coop that she claims hours before the rest think about sleep. it is up at the top of the perches. right by the heat lamp. there she sleeps in  safety and in warmth while the others jostle on the lower rungs. she isn't afraid to venutre outside for nourishment but as soon as she realizes she is being bullied she flees back to the safety of the Top Rung.

she is a little peanut of a chicken. and julie (who snapped the photo above on friday) would also tell you as much. and nick is starting to come around to egg too. i'm not making any promises but we haven't had a house chicken since the days of sweet florence and it just may be time again.


for greener pastures...

i have been wanting to tell you about this for some time now. but, as ever, my more practical, logical, better, half, nick, thought we should keep things to ourselves until those who Need To Know were told (as in...landlord, boss, moms and dads). and until things were as Definite as they may possibly be.

and now They have been told.

and things are more Definite than not.

we have given our jobs our notice. we have written our landlord the move-out day. we have broken the news to our sweet families.

we are moving to vermont. in six short (long?!) weeks. we have found a modest two room apartment for rent in a barn. on a property occupied by three beautifully aging hippies. and their four dogs, two donkeys, two heifers, and one horse.

with 250 acres. and permission to do with those acres whatever we please. and a dairy barn. and swimming ponds. at the end of an ambitiously long muddy road. at the top of a mountain. in a sweet village just 42 carefully timed minutes from montpelier.

here we will farm. on our own. answering only to one another and our braying animals. starting Our farm. on beautiful borrowed land. it is the beginning of what will hopefully be a very long Life on Land.

it wont be easy-peasy...but i think i have talked about that enough here for your poor eyes and ears.

we will rely on nobody but ourselves, our intellect --or what is left of it-- our marketing wise-ness, our animals health and good spirits, the weather, the soil, the grass, our neighbors, other farmers, our family, and friends....oh that sounds like a heavy amount of reliance does it not?

i suppose i mean rather to stress the absence of the obvious and painfully frightening sort of reliance...the paycheck. every mistake will be on us. and likewise will every success.

but this is us. beginning our farm. making the step from backyard chickens and farm jobs to something more tangibly our own.

so six weeks to Pack it Up and wish boston farewell. third farm move in one year. oh that thought is exhausting seeing it in writing.

so here we go. i do hope you will all stick around to watch the fun and the chaos. and wish us a healthy amount of good luck.

in photos:

1. crossing one of the hay pastures with rudy and his new friend lucy. 

2. the sunlight in our new home. 

3. an outhouse. our outhouse. holy-moly this will be one for the books.

4. rudy. resting. he's not quite sure he's ready for farm living again. 

5. several inherited milk pails outside our new parlor. all we need is the cow.

6. nick looking quite handsome in my sunnies. 

7. it was the beginning of mud season for vermont of lower altitudes, but still a fair bit of snow up on the mountain.

8. milking parlor entrance that is frozen shut right now. 

9. rudy concerned about the barn renovations.


we spent the weekend atop this little mountain. scheming. planning. dreaming. my parents were also in vermont this weekend and came up to see us up on this mountain. my mom said it does the soul good to see me there. my soul certainly feels good up there. perhaps its the altitude. but i think it may be a bunch of things. vermont certainly is seeming more and more like the place where we ought to be.

so very much more to tell you on this subject. but it must wait until tomorrow.

for now, i can only say how deeply grateful i am for the overly kind and supportive responses i got from you all on my last post. i hate to show too much negativity on this blog. i try very much to focus on the light and beautiful side of things. but i had to get that off my chest as i felt i was about to boil over on the topic. so....proverbial weight has been lifted. and thank you for your understandings and your support. as i said last thursday we would be sunk without it.  and i mean that. so, thank you.

and i must must bake 3 cakes this week! yeesh, how quickly this will get away from me!?

until tomorrow. 


let us farm, with peace.

i've had a hard time forming this as a cohesive thought in my head. so i beg your forgiveness if i seem, at best, indecisive.....and at worst, defensive in this post. but i have just about reached my limit of the Well Meaning (friends and family) telling us. warning nick and i that farming will be a hard life. i am so tired of hearing the tone of their voice get serious and slow and low. as though they are talking to a pair of half wit relatives that don't seem to get it. i am so tired of the concerned eyes and the slightly furrowed brow they give us as though we are something they now have to count in their worries.

we get it. at least i think we do. we get that life is tough. that farm life is going to be tough. that it is a life of commitment. that it will be a life of modesty. of relative poverty. or worse even abject poverty. we get that cows need to be milked once, twice a day. every day. that sheep need to be shorn twice a year. and then there is all that wool. and that gardens need your constant vigilance. that weeds will overtake you when you let your back turn. we get that winters up north are colder than cold. that our hands will forever be the most aged parts of our bodies. we get that our backs will suffer. that our shoulders will carry the weight of years of hay bales, of bags of feed, of the worry for the farm.

we get that our bodies are our livelihood. we get that a turned ankle will put one of us down and in turn much more weight on the feet of the other. we get that bringing babies into this world will be doubly tough. that our children won't have shiny things. that our children will learn to milk a cow or slaughter a chicken before they learn their multiplication tables. that our children will need to work hard to get scholarships to go to a good school. we get that the farm doesn't give us heath-care. we get that nobody will be there to cover us on sick days. we get that there is no 'time and a half' on holidays. on weekends. on nights when you are making yogurt so the milk doesn't go to waste or planting rows by headlamp.

we get it. i really think we do. and i appreciate all of the Well Meaning for their concerns. it is good to have objective eyes. it is good be challenged. i know that they all love us and want us to be safe and happy and well fed. and i know that we won't be able to do any of this without the love and support of every one of them.

but i also want them to know, that we will be o.k. that we can do this. that they need to have a bit of faith in our chosen life. because this life is a life that has made me (and i think i can safely say, "us") so intensely happy. i have never felt more natural. more at peace. more at home. than i have while on the farm. while working with the animals and tending to the crops. this life will be a good life. for rich or for poor. we are trying to do good not just for us but for our community. wherever and however that forms. and i think we can do it.

there have been many friends and family and parents and sisters and brothers and even internet-formed friends that are wildly supportive about our endeavors. and i do not mean to diminish how that has helped us by writing this rant. their support means the absolute world to us. clearly. we would be sunk without it.

but for all the career and life changes i have made in my short 28 years...farming seems to strike a nerve in the very people we love. nobody ever gave me a talking to when i started working for a major bank. and very few ever questioned my motives when i joined facebook. nobody ever warned me of the sun's dangerous beams when i worked for summers as a lifeguard. they never told me that my weekly manicures and pedicures in new york were a colossal waste of money. and most everyone thought it was fantastic when we quit our jobs and moved to france for the winter without any idea of how we would proceed. but so many of our loved ones have taken our turn to farming as a personal affront of some sort. and i don't know how to reconcile this.

i suppose i need to accept that some of the people in our lives will always think of small farming as a fool's errand. but i just need a little break from the negativity. i just need a couple of uninterrupted moments of the universe telling us we will be good. that we will do good. and that that is good enough.

so we are off to vermont for a long weekend and some positive planning.


the planning of the garden...

nick and i are going to have our own garden this year. which is a first. we are usually working and tending to gardens of others. so we will plow our own plot this year. which has me very anxious. and very excited.

i am, by all accounts, already a bit late on ordering my seeds. yikes. who knew you had to think about the garden in february? is there no rest for the weary farmer? but this week i am to finalize my seed order and send it out to the garden gods. 

nick and i aim to grow as much of our  vegetables as we are able on this little plot of garden. which means planning way ahead to crops that will store well all winter. 

i have consulted just about every book we own. which crops are good neighbors. which crops give each other stds. which the honeybees like best. which the root cellar likes best. 

it has been one of the most exhaustive planning events of my short farm life. but i find myself so very excited to see it all unfold in by our hands in the cold earth. i'll write more about my 2012 garden plan as the days get closer to the Last Frost. for now, let us await the arrival of the seeds like little february gifts of summer.

are you growing any form of garden this year?


a commercial...

julie sent me this today. a chipotle commercial she saw last night during the grammys. i've never eaten at chipotle but i have to say it seems like a pretty progressive chain for fast food.  a bunch of their managers came to visit our farm in north carolina so that they could see how pigs and cows ought to be raised (as in on Pasture and with Love). and we had a couple of chipolte managers swing by our farm store in boston last week to inquire about ordering wholesale veggies from us for them. i don't think this restaurant chain is stalking us. but i do think they are making some legitimate moves towards sourcing better quality foods. as in food that was raised properly.

and as julie predicted, this commercial made me tear up. though i'm such a horridly predictable target. nothing like pigs to push all my buttons.

i'm not trying to be a mouthpiece for chipotle. i don't particularly care if you ever patronize their restaurants. i certainly haven't.

i just ask, as always, that you support and love your local farmers. please.


playing hookie

i needed a day off from the farm store this morning. and so my darling boy obliged and went in my stead. i needed a day to romp with the animals. and flop around at home. there was washing to do. writing to tackle. dishes to be ignored. waters to fill. bedding to be fluffed up. eggs to be collected. and fresh air to breath.

so i am home/farm. and nick is store/town today. it is a nice switch up for this thursday. i get to be on the farm/home friday through monday. i don't know why today was so important to me. but it was. because there IS nothing quite as satisfying as Every-Now-&-Then staying away from the place where you are expected to be. is there not? certainly. definitely. on days when spring is singing from every corner such as today.

in photos: 
1. while the gardens are empty we supplement the chickens' diet with food scraps from the nearby organic co-op. i drop it down. they loooooooove it. chaos ensues. 
2. chicken feet.
3. oddly, my favorite corner of the house. and i cannot eat, or read, or sleep, or write there.  and a drawing of dad's.
4. outside lunch of rooster stew, cheese & mustard crackers from mom, apple cider, and finalizing my seed order with a final check with root cellaring.
5. picnic-ing never goes the calm & pleasant way i envision when rudy brings his ball.
6. mung bean sprouts a brewin'.
7. for a couple that makes their current business raising laying hens we have a shocking lack of egg cartons. as in, none. eggs tend to teeter on every surface.


a mom, her mom, and their cake

i got to take a night a day and a night on the island with my parents last week. which is always Exactly What i Need. my mother and i made a cake. naturally. and we chose a cake that my mom hadn't eaten since her mother, jane, used to bake it when she was a little girl. pineapple upside down cake. which we both agreed sounded pretty gross. especially since the original recipe calls for maraschino cherries to fill in the middle of the pineapples. WHICH on second thought would have added a nice spot of color. BUT on the first thought we decided to do without. 

and...it was shockingly delicious. perhaps not so shockingly when you pour the butter and brown sugar into the pan and then plop the batter on top. no, it should be obvious then that such confectionery combinations will be, in fact, delicious. the pineapple was actually a pleasant tangy cut through all the sugar. 

and so without further ado 

the golden sponge pineapple upside down cake  

from the antoinette pope school cookbook 
adopted by my grandmother jane lee jones
italicized comments by me

the batter:
6 egg yolks {save those whites!!}
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 t baking powder 

beat yolks till thick and lemon-color. add sugar a little at a time and continue beating till very light (about a minute). add vanilla. then slowly add boiling water. last, pour in flour, baking powder & salt all at once. stir till smooth

the topping:
1/4 c butter
1/2 c brown sugar
5 slices pineapple rings {preferably canned if you want to go true 1950s on the cake}

melt butter and combine with brown sugar. pour into bottom of round cake pan. place pineapple rings over the sugar-butter mixture. make this into as pleasant of a design as you are able. pour cake batter over it all.
bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.
when done, allow cake to cool for 5 minutes then invert onto a cake plate. allow to cool. 
serve with a whipped cream topping

**save those egg whites!! to make meringue. whip the meringue for thirty minutes (or as long as you can stand) with a healthy amount of confectioners sugar until you form Stiff Peaks. once this has occurred drop TINY dollops of the white fluff onto a greased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown. be sure they are tiny so that they cook all the way through. 

i cannot bare the thought of throwing out Half the Egg when my hens have worked so hard to get them to us. so do find some use for the whites if you don't want to make meringues. 


putting off the week...

just this sort of day. getting in on the veritable pig pile in the back pen. well pig and cow and farmer pile. i do think bella is the only cow that knows how to snuggle. monday is for putting off real farm work. and cake baking. and writing anything substantial. it is just for snuggling animals.

see you on the flip side.


isn't it odd...?

it is too strange. the combination throws be back several years. but more than a lifetime ago. spring time and city working. it peaked to 60 yesterday....february 1st....in boston. joggers were out in full force. the city dwellers were coatless. we got several more people signed up for the summer's CSA....confused or optimistic about the current season.

i had to document the date with candied hearts. just so future-me wouldn't think i was bluffing about the warmness of february.

i shouldn't be grateful for this weather. i should be sad and scared of our changing climate. i should be mid-tirade on our crazily indulgent and dirty lifestyles that are changing the world like this. i should be telling you stories of trees and plants that are being tricked into budding with the mild temps. how they will inevitably be set back by another frost. how this effects certain farming practices like falling dominoes.

but i am grateful for this weather. i am so grateful for a mild winter. this winter we came into prepared enough but not completely comfortable with the housing and pens we had set up for the animals. neither of us were totally sure how things would work out. and now because of the lack of snow our chickens are still able to go outside. bella has been able to spend all but a handful of nights sleeping at the mouth of the pigs' hut. we haven't had any problems with frostbite on the roosters' combs. we haven't had to visit the farm in the middle of the night to stoke the woodstove.

perhaps it doesn't have to be so uncommonly warm. perhaps it could snow a bit more before we are thoroughly into spring. i remind myself that winter isn't over. the last frost date isn't until mid-may after all. but this has been a particularly calm re-entry to farming in a new england winter. giving nick and i much needed reprieve as we settle into the northern climate.

what is your winter shaping out like? 
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