The Farmhouse Year in Review 2014


The year in highlights!

It snowed a lot last winter. As in, a LOT. School was closed more than it was open, and it was Morgan’s senior year. Seniors don’t have to make up snow days, but she was upset anyway because she loves school! Looking back at posts from last winter gets me worried when I remember all the troubles I had with frozen pipes and all the times I had to carry buckets from the house to the animals. And that time that the water at the barn AND the water at the house was frozen at the same time. I had to haul buckets of water back from a neighbor’s house to get water to the animals. But since then, I’ve installed three new gas water heaters (in the studio, in the house, in the cellar–where frozen pipes has been a serious problem in the past and those pipes run to both the house and the studio), laid in tons of wood, and made various changes to help the animals get water, too. The new gas heaters and the wood will also prevent me from having the problems I had last year when my furnace went out twice.

I still don’t think I like looking back at posts from last January, though!


On to February! Wait, that was so much like January…..
In real life, you cannot skip entire months. However, in review, you can! Let’s just pretend February didn’t happen! We didn’t like it.


Glory Bee had a baby! My delicious little Moon Pie. I absolutely fell in love with Moon Pie and she helped me turn the corner in deciding I really wanted to start my own little beef herd. I wished I hadn’t sold Dumplin to my neighbor.

In April, I brought home Boer goats, having decided to re-start my goat herd in a different direction. The snow was finally gone, and it was green again. Time to start farmin’! And it was also the beginning of my workshop season. In 2014, I had more retreats here at Sassafras Farm than ever before–seven all together, from one- to five-day retreats, this was a big year in expanding my workshop business. (I’m planning more and new and different ones for 2015!)

Also in April, my father died. My mother died in 2010. I feel like an orphan now.

Weston surprised everyone by joining the Army and I took him to Pittsburgh for his swearing in before he was shipped off to Fort Sill for boot camp. Back at home, I learned to mow and weedeat the yard. It’s a really big yard, so this became my really big job for the rest of the spring, all summer, and into the fall. But wow, did I get in shape mowing this upside down hilly huge property!

Meanwhile, Morgan was finishing her final days of high school….and getting ready for–

I milked Glory Bee twice a day most of the summer, and on into the fall. With so many workshops going on, it took a lot of milking. I love that routine, but Dumplin and Moon Pie were often sullen with me over the separations from mommy. Morgan left to explore Morgantown (where she would start attending West Virginia University in the fall) and I wrote letters every day to Weston in boot camp.

I had a different kind of “mister” in 2014 for Glory Bee–I tried artificial insemination. It’s way past time to have her checked. I hope she’s bred. I had her AI’d to a black angus named Night Off.

And I went all the way to Oklahoma for Weston’s boot camp graduation.
This was his choice, and I’m very proud of him.

I also got a big delivery of two trailer-loads of round bales, switching from doing all square bales as I have done in the past. This was the beginning of a variety of adjustments I made with the help of my two hired men to make winter jobs on the farm easier for me to manage alone. I also finally got comfortable with driving the tractor! SERIOUSLY. As long as I’m on dry, flat ground.

Maia made several appearances in 2014, at libraries, and here (above) at this community bazaar. Have goat in tutu, will travel! Ross also had gotten a four-wheeler, which is living here at the farm, and following my success with the tractor, I learned to drive the four-wheeler! Which was even MORE fun!

A BIG project this fall was cutting down, hauling, and splitting firewood. After the winter before, which had been filled with disasters, I was determined to prepare better than ever. I ended up with enough firewood for two winters, probably, though that will depend on how this winter goes! I was also continuing workshops every month, and milking Glory Bee twice a day.

And…. Getting ready for–

–my book to come out in paperback!
And in case you don’t have your own copy yet, You can get it in hardcover, e-book, or paperback!

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Not all was wonderful in October, though. My dear Georgia passed away–if you missed it, I wrote about her here

In other news, I was able to buy Dumplin back from my neighbor and I started planning my beef herd.

I purchased myself a 30-30, getting ready for deer season. I didn’t get one, but we did catch a poacher! I also got myself a 20 gauge over-under shotgun and started squirrel hunting. The creatures of the woodland are pretty safe so far, but I’m really enjoying the learning process.

Ross was home from the Navy for Thanksgiving, and we had a great time!

Weston came home for Christmas. I had Ross and Morgan home at Thanksgiving, and Weston and Morgan home for Christmas. With two sons in the military, it’s difficult these days to get all three home at one time, but I take what I can get!
And in December, I got a Chinese Crested powderpuff puppy. I adore her. She’s my “baby” to replace Morgan (I like to tell Morgan that because it annoys her) or she’s my therapy dog….or something….


2014 was…..a year. This is the part of my annual “year in review” posts where I say something about how excited I am about the year that I had, but I had a hard enough time just thumbing back through the posts to find something good to say about each month, much less sound very excited about any of it in summary, so how about I do what I do best when I do it. Say something honest. Those of you who are longtime readers here know already that something was off this year, I’m sure. It’s clear to everyone (most of all me) that my writing has not been regular or up to par in any way. I’m sure some readers got frustrated with me and wandered off. Others of you, bless you, are patiently waiting for me to get a grip. Me, too. (Where do I get this “grip” thing? Does Amazon sell it?) I was involved in a long-term relationship the last couple of years, and I spent most of 2014 being lied to, cheated on, and devastated. I survived this year, and that’s the best I can say about it. But, every year is a new opportunity, a new challenge, and a new page to write fresh. I don’t know what 2015 has in store yet, but I’m thinking it can’t be worse. Let’s turn the calendar page, shall we? I’M READY.

Go back in time:
The Farmhouse Year in Review 2013
The Farmhouse Year in Review 2012
The Farmhouse Year in Review 2011
The Farmhouse Year in Review 2010
The Farmhouse Year in Review 2009
The Farmhouse Year in Review 2008
The Farmhouse Year in Review 2007

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A Squirrely Obsession


The two-week buck season in West Virginia is over now and my current obsession is squirrel hunting. Around here, the people I’ve talked to who go squirrel hunting use either a shotgun or a .22. Ammo for a .22 long rifle is getting hard to find. I’ve tried using both my .22 and a 20 gauge and have had no luck so far, but I’ve only tried a couple times. Squirrel season runs until the end of January, though, so I have lots of time left! There is another doe season at the end of December, so I’ll be attempting to shoot a deer again then, but so far, based on my hunting endeavors overall, the creatures of the woodlands have no need to fear.

I’ve tried for two years now to shoot a deer with no success. I’m inexperienced, of course, and also tend to get caught up cooking over Thanksgiving week with my kids here and don’t get out as much as I want to. It’s a challenge, and I’ll keep trying. I have now gotten to skin, gut, and butcher several deer–between family and neighbors letting me practice and learn on what they’ve shot. (If someone tells me they’ve shot a deer, the first words out of my mouth are CAN I GUT IT?) I’ve learned to hang deer. I’ve learned to skin and gut them. I even gutted, skinned, and quartered a deer in the woods, and I did one, entirely–from skinning and gutting to butchering, with nothing but my pocket knife. Then I went to Cabela’s and bought a proper set of hunting knives. Because doing the whole thing with a pocket knife was kind of ridiculous!

One of these days, I’m going to finally shoot my own deer, so all this skinning and gutting and quartering practice is so that when that day comes, if I’m alone, I’ll know how to handle the deer. It’s what to do with the deer after that seemed the most difficult to me. I can always try until I eventually manage to shoot one, but I need to know what to do with it afterward in case I’m alone. I feel pretty confident about that now, and I really love that sense of confidence. Occasionally, I do butcher a goat–but I’ve always taken them to a processor. (Same with deer–we’ve always taken them up to the high school for processing in past years.) I love having the knowledge to process my own meat. I’ve always liked the idea of raising my own meat, but to know I can process it myself, too, is an amazing thing. Despite my lack of actual success in bagging game so far, the past year or two of educating myself about firearms and hunting and processing has been a huge confidence boost, and it presents an ongoing challenge that I really enjoy. To me, it represents that next step in learning how to be self-sufficient.

I wish I’d learned more about hunting when I was a kid. My dad took my brothers hunting, but never his daughters. Those were the days when life was a little more sexist. But it’s never too late to learn! And so, in the midst of all my deer hunting efforts, I got to thinking…. How do most people start hunting? Often, as kids, and that often means squirrel hunting or other small game (such as rabbit). They’re plentiful and the season goes on for months. This offers more opportunity to learn to hunt and to practice processing an animal. People don’t talk about squirrel hunting as much as about deer hunting, it seems. Deer hunting is like the big excitement! But since I’ve gotten interested in squirrel hunting and started bringing it up around men–hired men, neighbors–I’ve learned that quite a few men do squirrel hunt, not just as kids but as grown men. (I’ve yet to meet a woman around here who squirrel hunts, but I’m sure they’re out there! But I tend to talk to more men than women anyway.)

So, these days, I’m like a kid, learning to hunt, and working on my squirrel skills. I’ve watched all kinds of squirrel hunting videos. I talk to every man I meet about squirrel hunting–what kind of gun do they use, and if they use a shotgun, what kind of ammo. Some people will only use a .22, but a lot of people also use a 12 or 20 gauge and find that easier even if you have to pick out the lead shot. (And as I mentioned earlier, .22 ammo is actually a problem to find anymore.) And did you know they make squirrel calls? I’m going to get one and try it out. And, of course, I’ve been inhaling squirrel recipes. I’ve eaten squirrel before, and like it. I just watched a video with a squirrel fricassee recipe this morning and it looked delicious!

I’m going to get a squirrel. Soon. I’m determined. Do you squirrel hunt? If you do, tell me about it! I’m obsessed.

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  1. vacation

    November 26, 2014 - Nabbed!

    Me, hanging with my new Marlin 30-30, ready for hunting.

    First of all, I need to apologize because I took vacation without saying I was taking vacation. That was because I was so into my vacation.

    However! I’m back and with excitement.

    This Monday started the two-week buck season here. We have had a non-stop problem with poachers here since we moved in. Yesterday, it came … Continued…

  1. IMG_3504

    October 29, 2014 - The Log Splitter

    I’m such a fan of this log splitter!

    I’d never seen such a thing before!

    I had a HUGE pile of logs waiting to be split. My winter preparations this year are based on issues I had last year, which include my furnace going out twice, and each time I had to wait a week for the needed part to come in. Meanwhile, it was pretty cold … Continued…

  1. IMG_3397

    October 6, 2014 - The Conductor

    I wrote this post a year ago before the hardcover of my book was published. I’m re-running it today, the day before the paperback version of my book is released, in Georgia’s honor, edited to add links to some of my favorite posts on the blog about Georgia. I hope you’ll click through to the links and enjoy!

    I’m so proud of my book, and so … Continued…

  1. IMG_2332

    October 3, 2014 - My Dear Georgia

    I’ve waited several days to write this post. Partly because I wanted to give time for the immediate family to be notified, and partly because I needed some time myself to put my thoughts together. Not that I can ever put my thoughts together properly in this case.

    The obituary, written by my cousin, Mark Sergent.

    Georgia Pauline Sergent, 84, of Johnson Creek, Walton, West Virginia … Continued…

  1. today9

    October 1, 2014 - A Ride in Stringtown

    I took a ride to Stringtown recently with my friend Jerry on his four-wheeler, and a four-wheeler is the way to travel this road, let me tell ya.

    I hadn’t been out there in about a year, and things have changed. There’s a new owner, an English fellow. Yes, really. I don’t think they intend to keep livestock as they’ve torn down the goat house … Continued…

  1. blogsize

    September 29, 2014 - Available October 7!

    It’s almost here! Here’s the new paperback cover.

    It was a cold late autumn day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse–as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked … Continued…

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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