2014 plans, waiting for winter to end


This morning I had goat milk in my coffee. I admit, even though I am not a milk drinker, I love fresh goat milk, especially when it cools down my coffee faster! The taste in May’s raw milk is incredibly sweet, alarmingly so. I’m used to black coffee, and so adding milk that is naturally super sweet is really a nice change.

I don’t think we’re alone in hitting the winter wall/cabin fever/restless and hopeless feeling. After I hit that point in early March, before my goat May was due to kid, I decided I just had to get away and went to visit our dear friend Heidi down in Iowa. She had a few days off work and we had such a relaxing time just being- eating, doing chores, talking, reading, planning the next meal, walking, doing some yoga, and then talking the night away drinking beer. My lovely 2 night stay turned into 4 nights away because the alternator in the Subaru crashed. Luckily, and quite magically, this happened while I was at her place, after we had just returned from a beer run at the Sattre Store (I swear I did not make it happen!) If my car had died on the way down to Iowa, or on my way back home, things would have been much more complicated and horrible. Thank god for Heidi putting me up a couple of extra days and for her excellent mechanic fixing the car up on quick turnaround for pretty cheap!

But I came home and spring hadn’t arrived. Since spring is still not here, and it’s now almost APRIL- there’s been really no relief in stir-crazy. In fact things have gotten worse in all honesty. As usual, we’re already wondering if we’ll make it through next winter financially. Our farm is paying it’s own bills and providing for our really basic needs, but we have 2 big goals this year: buy health insurance and build a small cabin/house.

Health insurance is still a so-so need, the only reason we’d need it is in an emergency, I haven’t been to a doctor in over 12 years. Our tiny income certainly puts us on the list for state heath care, but that wait-list is still very long due to our idiotic governor refusing federal moneies to upgrade to Medicaid’s new options (I probably have that wrong, but that’s the basic point of it.)

However, we simply MUST upgrade our living situation in order to continue on here. Our current house is super exasperating in it’s energy inefficiency and cramped-ness. As we prepare for spring, every square inch is being put to farm use. I crave and need a private “me” space; no longer is the corner of the livingroom an option- it’s now a walk-in cooler. The basement “she-cave” worked well when the furnace was running earlier this winter, I got a TON of writing done down there! Now with $5/gallon propane however, the furnace is permanently switched off and the basement is a literal cave- very cold and damp. Not encouraging or conducive to productive writing work.

So we’ve been planning our new house during this never-ending winter. Drawing diagrams, calculating ideal square footage for this and that. Andrew’s been calculating the various options pricewise. We thought of building with stone, since we have mounds of it available, but even though a stone house would super beautiful, it would not be warm unless we did a ton of insulation in between the walls- we need to build something that will be warm. Besides having to build 2 walls that would be very susceptible to sinking into the ground without proper skills and money invested, we’d first need to collect and move around millions of pounds of stones. That in and of itself will be a full time job- not something we have to offer- we first and foremost need to be farming during the growing season, not dealing with all that rock. We decided stone for a first homebuilding project is just too exhausting to contemplate and potentially devastating if it didn’t work. We looked at earthships, cob, pole buildings as possibilities, but it keeps coming down to a) ease of construction b) economical and c) WARM. We are now back to stick framing a small cabin, hopefully with 2 floors.

As we debated and reviewed and estimated all the various types of building techniques for our new house, we keep coming to the realization that we have no way to actually fund it. We’re planning to spend the little bit of extra we have in the bank, but we will still be falling short by quite a bit. Every estimate is looking like 20 grand, plus all of our labor (and Andrew’s folks help.) I told Andrew that we can’t worry about the money, we have to have faith- our farm plan is to be making more net profit this year- we have to have faith we will be ok financially. We both do have faith, but during this snow laden spring, it’s pretty hard to muster a die-hard faith in what we haven’t even achieved yet.

So back to work. We prepared the pine forest perimeter today for the pigs’ giant forest run. Once the snow melts, we’ll be installing fencing panels around about 2 acres for them. We made another big, nervewracking expenditure on the 50 hardcore cattle panels, but we just had to bite the bullet and invest. Likewise with our first installment of permaculture trees and bushes (hazelnuts and chestnuts) coming soon. We HAVE to invest now to see the benefits in the long term. Money, money, money.

After chainsawing and dragging trees away from the fence line area, we started work on the brooder for the ducklings arriving next week, I could tell Andrew was getting really stressed. I said- you need a break. You are run down. All this worry. The planning. We are at that point right before all the real crazy starts- you need to have some time to yourself and get out of here for a bit. Last week he’d tried to arrange something to get away that fell through and I said- just go get a hotel room and take a load off, it doesn’t matter where, or that it will cost money- we need you to be healthy and rested, especially before the season starts. So off he went, and thank god, he said his stomach pain disappeared just when I told him to GO. I hope he gets the time and space he needs to reflect and compose and seriously just relax away from the always hungry and demanding “farm baby.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing all afternoon, taking breaks to check on everyone, greet an unannounced visitor (urrrr) who came to return jars from the dilly beans he bought from me last fall and show him the pigs, get the woodstove going, eat an early dinner, do late afternoon chores, then tuck the ducks in for the night. It was getting dark as I sat with the laptop writing, my back warming near the woodstove, when I realized that I’d nearly forgot to go milk May! I’ve been kind of on a 7 o’clock cycle, give or take, as her daughter is also “milking” her. But lucky for me, Molly’s fixated on one teat only, so that leaves the other side usually totally full of milk. I suspect she’ll discover May’s other side at some point, but Molly is still so little she can barely tap into May’s massive milk quantity. I pulled on my big puffy coat over my overalls and grabbed 2 quart jars, then walked the icy slanted path alongside the van, and then headed over to the goat shed. May came running out, but skittishly ran off as she is apt to do. I have a length of twine on her collar to tie her up when I milk as she’s been being a spazz lately. If she can’t see her baby when I milk, she charges away from where I sit crouched next to her. This is why milkstands have headgates, to hold the milkee in place. Molly is much more rambunctious now and scampering all over the place, often where May can’t see her. Now the little doeling has become a mountain climber extraordinaire and leaps on my hunched over back while I milk, sometimes ending up awkwardly on my shoulders! She’s a beautiful and darling baby, although initially Molly was taking after her skittish momma. Lots of snuggles and pets and strokes along her back and legs is helping change that.

Tomorrow I work on the next ACRES article and am planning to make lots of soap. Now, where do I cure more soap? The soap curing shelves upstairs are already full!

Molly’s hilarious new trick!

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