As we hunker down for winter and prep for Thanksgiving this coming week I thought I’d do a little write up on what the fall activities have been this past month here at the farm.
As all homesteaders know, there is a constant need to upgrade and ‘optimize’ the utility of the farm; particularly space and structures. So this last month Mike has done quite a few things to improve our overall workflow here at the farm to tend to the animals better and more efficiently.
First, he built an overhang off our ‘mini-barn’. This is our fourth barn if you can believe that. It’s a small one but is closer to our main house and will be insulated on the inside so my does can birth in winter early and stay warm. He is adding overhangs to it so that we can have cows utilizing this barn’s overhang so the horses can go down in the horse barn where the cows have been. It’s a better barn with less ‘mud’ which isn’t great for the horses feet. So there is one wing of overhang now and we then moved our rabbits and chickens to this location so it was out of view of the drive up to the main house. While we love chickens, LOL – it isn’t the best curb appeal. Below you can see the overhang where the laying boxes were added (later than this picture was taken) and Mike is putting up the two pens, one for rabbits and one for chickens. The rabbit pen has a chainlink floor so the bunnies can’t burrow out. The chicken pen we later added bird netting so the chickens can’t fly out. Mike will next add a much larger overhang on the other side of the mini barn for the cows to go under.
We were able to then let our turkeys free range around this facility which is inside a seven acre mountain woodland and pasture. They are pretty much just friendly birds and they like to hang around Mike along with all our kittens.
We were also able to get our greenhouse fully enclosed for the winter right in the nick of time. The temperatures are getting down to the high 20s at night now and I am very motivated to have a garden year round this winter in our greenhouse. I was able to get all our greens out of the gardens before first frost. I blanched them all and bundled them into balls that I froze. Then I take the frozen balls and put them in ziplocks and remove the air. I keep those in the freezer for greens all winter long. The reason to freeze them first on balls on cookie sheets is to allow you to take a meal sized ball out without it being frozen in a clump with more greens than you can consume in one meal.
We also resealed our root cellar. It was sweating too much condensation and we think we had a leak. So, we completely pulled off all the dirt that was atop the inground root cellar and re- tarred the whole roof and then set down more waterproofing membrane. Now we proceed to bury the building roof again. That was sort of a frustrating effort but well worth it. We have a great deal of food in that cellar.
As you can see below, our tiny cabins have been taking a lot of work. I have been busily staining them. Here you can see the deck has been stained with a clear water sealer deck protectant to preserve the wood. The deck will turn a beautiful golden honey with this stain and the board and batten walls are being painted a dark walnut. The roof and trim will all be a forest green. I have a long way to go finishing staining this cabin. But, the good news is the areas where the water splashes is all done.
My family came out to visit for the first week of November which was very fun. It gave us the chance to relax a little and explore the area. Here is a stunning shot of where we took my family that overlooks the whole smoky mountain range. This is the land where we have our log mill and mill all the red oak for all our projects here at the farm.
We took them backwoods-ing from this ridge along the ridge line via a steep and winding dirt road to our mill. I was a tad stressed out to say the least as you can really slide on clay around here and the roads we were taking weren’t really ‘roads’ per se. And there was steep drop offs on both sides. It was quite the adventure and we all said later once we got to our mill in this crazy adventurous way ( I had to literally walk and not be in the truck I was so nervous), that we’d never forget that off-road ‘trip’ in our lifetimes.
Annie, my step mom and I, had great fun decorating one of our cabins here at the farm. They got to stay in the Hickory Cabin while they were here. Annie and I put up this awesome mural on the bedroom wall which was so much fun and looks so great. We had decorated the whole cabin right before they came. Mike made a beautiful black walnut coffee table you can see there from logs he milled on his mill. I still need to do rustic curtain rods and things but for a week’s worth of work, the cabin turned out cute.
My dad also spent time designing a house while here that connects this cute cabin to the garage next door and allows us to convert both into one larger home should we choose in the future. My dad and I have always designed the homes I’ve lived in since I’ve been an adult. It has always been fun to imagine houses and barns and then build them. They turn out so beautiful. Mike and I worked with my dad to build our addition on our main house that turned out so beautifully here at our farm.
We all celebrated our daughter’s 25th birthday together and were shocked at how fast she’s grown. 25 years goes by really really fast. They headed back to the Pacific Northwest and we began to focus on the farm again in earnest as winter is barreling down on us hard.
We have a good friend who works the 1000 acres where our mill is. He climbs and removes trees. We had him come out and take down two huge trees near our house. You can see them in the picture above. He took out the tall hickory behind the fire pit and the tree to the right o the house where you see the green leaves. Both trees would land on the house in a severe storm. Thank the Lord we did take them down because though they looked healthy, they weren’t. The hickory by the fireplace was rotten inside the trunk up 20 feet. And the tree to the right of the house was a twofer. There were two major trunks coming out of the base. Between those two trunks it was rotten. So, in a storm the tree would have split, with the heavy one which was leaning into the house, crashing into our master bedroom. That one would have been deadly. So, the Lord is good. And, like all great things here in the South, we barter. So instead of taking payment for this massive amount of work, our buddy is wanting a trade of lumber from Mike’s mill. And that!!! is how we all roll around here. We trade skills and services amongst friends.
The next huge adventure after the tree falling was getting our cow to the butcher. This is always sad for us. We love our animals so much that it is terribly hard to have butchered something you have cared for every day for multiple years. I always get a bit teary during this process. But, we raise our own beef and grow organic so we take control of our food destiny by growing our own. There is a sense of awareness of life and death and an appreciation that goes with being part of this process. Folks who eat meat but aren’t connected to the life/death cycle of it don’t have the same appreciation I don’t think, of the food supply or the sweat and love that goes into it…nor the empathy for the animals themselves. Maybe they do. I don’t know. It sure doesn’t seem like people are too aware of the food supply and its shortages nor the role of farmers anymore.
Rosie gave us a little girl Stormy this spring. So, Rosie’s legacy continues on. Next fall we will have to take Archie to the butcher. I have bottle fed him since he was a little guy. He loves to follow me around. That will be sad too. But, at the same time, I am thankful for the food on our table and the work we put into healthy living. We have two girls – Annabell and Stormy. So, they will continually be bred so they will live on at the farm.
One of my next big projects is processing the hide. We kept the hide and I will scrape it and process it over the coming months. That is hard work but a skill I am trying to become better at.
On other fronts, I am busy drying all our medicinal herbs from our daughter’s company ReWild Co. ReWild makes natural soaps, salves, balms along with eco-dyeing and more. We raise all our own source product here. I am also dehydrating squash for long term preservation. I have also done seed saving for all the food we grow here at the farm so that I have seeds to use for next year’s garden.
When we aren’t busy busy busy trying to get the farm ready for winter we have been able to just relax at the farm and enjoy this year’s beautiful fall colors. Here are a few photos of the stunning colors this year.
As if we aren’t busy enough, I volunteered to watch our daughter’s godson for the entire month of November for four days a week from 7am -3 or 4pm. It’s been so much fun watching him as it brings back such great memories of my own daughter at his age. He loves the animals at the farm so much. It just confirms for me the power of animals and value of farm life to the little ones. Here he is trying to get out of the house to get to his favorite little kittens.
All in all, it’s been a great fall season. Mike and I are so tired but we go to bed thankful. We ask ourselves do we want to slow down, and the answer to each other is always no. We love what we do every day. We want a bit more time to play but on the other hand, us working together on all these amazing projects is our idea of fun. People think we are crazy and ask us why we work so hard. We always say, what’s wrong with work? There is this huge reward on the back end of work and in our case it’s this beautiful farm. It is absolutely beautiful and peaceful here. We don’t have to ever leave our farm to be happy. All we need is right here.
I hope you all are having a great fall. And, for those of you who are, or who are thinking of, homesteading — I can say, when you have an amazing partner willing to roll up there sleeves with you — well, it’s an amazing life. And, it is an amazing legacy. Our daughter is 25 now. She says she’ll raise her kids on the farm. This little guy right here??….as he bonds with one of our kittens, will likely spend years upon years at this farm. He walks (wobbly but walks) in the grass to our foal while our kitten Sampson walks by him. Sampson holds his tail up high and Sturgill holds the tail like a cane. And, they walk over to our mare and her foal together. It is the cutest thing ever. Then he waves at the horse and foal and they blow on his hair to smell him and say hi.
This life, at least to Mike and I, makes sense. It’s rewarding. It’s not complex, but rather simple. It provides for all our needs. It is beautiful. It is peaceful. It is hard work. It builds a sense of accomplishment and pride. It gives us lots of goals and inspiration which is our fuel everyday. It is my best life. I am happy here.