The Farmhouse Year in Review 2011


January. The goats sync deliveries and we have babies, babies, and more babies at Stringtown Rising Farm. For a time, I bounce between bottle feeding Sprite’s baby and holding her down so she will nurse. Eventually, she decides to be a mother after all. Following my previous year’s obsession with getting the goats pregnant, I’m happy–and tired! I also start planning the first Chickens in the Road retreat, and my younger son, Weston, is accepted to West Virginia University. How can I have another one getting ready to leave the nest??

February. I begin developing the downstairs project and my ideas of hosting workshops and farm stays at the farm. Meanwhile, I finally come to terms with the Bad Baby and work out a trading days compromise with BP in which Glory Bee and I agree to share the milk. Glory Bee and I are, like, totally almost friends. In other news, we’re covered up with snow and I’m hiking up and down the driveway to my car, and sometimes being completely snow-stuck.

But by now I’ve learned. I’m stocked up and the fire’s burning hot in the woodstove. Just another winter at Stringtown Rising!

March. The mud! THE MUD!

I think it’s the worst mud year ever. I’m sure that’s true! I post a muddy hoof guessing game because the mud has sent me over the edge. But at least it’s not snow! I plan a little herb garden with a gate, learn to make liquid soap, see work start on my duck ‘n’ buck yard, and dream of spring.

Our beloved Boomer disappears, and we miss him deeply.

April. Guess where I am?

Charleston, South Carolina! The kids and I take a spring break trip to see Ross, my future submariner. It’s our first real vacation in years, and we have a blast. It’s also my one-year anniversary of getting a cow, and I think about my cow back home the whole time. It’s hard to take a vacation when you’re a farmer. It’s also the month I get goslings, which I’ve wanted for a long time, and the month the new duck ‘n’ buck yard opens for business.

May. We get a pig! And we lose our elderly dog, Dookie, to old age. And I get a milking machine.

It’s a revolutionary change in my routine. I’m glad, so glad, that I had the experience of milking by hand for a year, but switching to a machine makes my life so much easier.

I make one of my favorite little “nothing” videos–“nothing” in the sense that Seinfeld was a show about nothing. “Nothing” really important happens in the video. It’s just a moment of pleasure in the sights and sounds of the farm.

A moment to remember that it really is a special way of life.


The lamb is so cute, it has to be illegal. I name her Minnie Belle and promise Annabelle that she can keep her forever. Miss Crazy Jacob has her first lamb a few days later, a ram lamb, and we have two. Meanwhile, I find a surprising number of raspberry patches on the farm and begin an obsessive effort to beat the birds to the berries. My walks with berries for my daily collections becomes one of the highlights of my month as it gives me an excuse and a purpose to ramble around, throwing myself into bushes and clambering recklessly on steep hillsides. It makes me feel like I’m 10 years old, and I really enjoy it and never want the berries to end.

Did I mention the obsessive part?

It’s also the month Beulah Petunia puts a flower behind her ear and I launch my effort to get her bred by taking her to the bull. As if the month wasn’t already full enough, Weston graduates high school as a National Merit Scholar, on his way to WVU on full scholarship.

July. While I try, and try again, to get BP bred, I wonder whether Nutmeg will ever have her babies–or if she’ll just blow up.

I’m raising my first meat roos, and every spare moment I can find is spent on my downstairs project as I paint and paint and PAINT. I have so many dreams for this space.

August. Nutmeg has babies!

But BP….has nothing, as far as I can tell. We keep trying!

I make some tough decisions about my focus for my farm, combining my separate Fainter and Nigerian Dwarf goat herds into one by selling all my Nigerian Dwarf bucks. I put Mr. Pibb, my Fainting buck, together with the Fainter girls and Nigerian Dwarf girls to raise purebred Fainters and registered Fainter crosses. I also downsize the sheep population. My farm is still “under construction” as I continue to learn how to be a farmer. “I couldn’t list all the things I’ve learned in the past three years if I tried. And I don’t know how long the list is of the things I don’t know. I’m only on my second pair of chore boots.” I’ve never typed truer words than these.

September. CITR Retreat 2011 is a blast! I was scared to death to do it, never thought I’d live through it, then had so much fun, I decide to do it again.

Back on the farm, Glory Bee turns one–and she’s still not weaned! After months of trying to get BP bred and trying to wean Glory Bee, it appears the cows are in charge and my farmer skills still need a lot of work. At least I’ve got these guys under control:

I can make them stick their tongues out any time I want to!

October. I head back to South Carolina for Ross’s Power School graduation, and back home, I bring in a preg checker, who tells me BP isn’t pregnant. I ponder what to do next while I keep trying to wean Glory Bee, this time with a calf weaner. She doesn’t like it–or me–much for it.

I’m uncharacteristically quiet on my blog as I make an unexpected decision and keep it a secret. I also arouse unexpected speculation as a result. (Sorry about that!)

November. I make the big announcement.

I’ve moved to a 100-acre farm with lots of pasture for my animals, a cute little 1930s farmhouse, and a big red barn–and a separate studio where the “downstairs project” dream of workshops and farm stays can live on. Welcome to Sassafras Farm. (If you somehow missed that post, you can read the whole story here.)

Shortly before moving, I have my last significant farm experience at Stringtown Rising Farm butchering the meat roos. Wow.

December. I start settling into my new farm, and my new old house, diving into repainting the entire house and moving bales and bales and BALES of hay, with a few minor calamities along the way (like a plumbing blowup).

But with all my kids home for the holidays, and new dreams to build, nothing can keep me down. I love this farm, and I love this farm life. I end the year surprised every day the turn my life has taken–but grateful for it and for your support. Thank you for being here!

My favorite photo of the year:

I have learned so much–and have so much yet to learn. You never know what lies ahead in life, only that it will be happy, it will be sad, it will be worth the experience. It will be an adventure.

This is my now. (And my other favorite photo of the year.)

We’ll find out what happens next together! Come with me!

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


  1. UlrikeDG says:

    What a ride it’s been! It seems like only yesterday you were learning to milk Clover by hand. Those posts made me laugh so much! I can’t believe you’ve left Stringtown Rising behind, and yet Sassafras seems so perfect for you that of COURSE that’s where you are.

    Here’s to another year of… everything!

  2. Hlhohnholz says:

    I have very much enjoyed riding along with you for this year, and sharing in small part your triumphs, joys, sorrows, tears, frustrations, & heart-rending decisions. Thank you for the privilege. I can’t wait to do it all over again next year!

  3. Capriccioso says:

    What a journey our lives become! Special thanks for bringing us along on your journey. You have done it all with dignity and a sense of humor…an example to all. When I came to the last picture today, I was filled with love for a little girl we watched grow along with you! (as did your sons!) For that, you can be most proud! The animals will come and go, gardens will flourish or not, farm chores will get done, homes will be decorated to our lking, but our children make life worth living and they give us strength when we could have given up. Your children have watched and learned from you. “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one anyday…” Let the New Year begin!

  4. native daughter says:

    Somehow I found your blog in 2008. Twas my dream to return to WV too. I tried selling my house for 3 1/2 years in a poor economy and dreamed about the homeland thru you and your adventures. It’s what kept the dream alive. Finally made it with alot less money and a little further south (Virginia). I’ve still got that dream. Found a nice lil place I’m fixin up and when its done I’ll start over again. Sell in a better economy and head up the hill. Meanwhile I’ll learn from you and keep dreaming.

  5. Flowerpower says:

    Suzanne, you got nowhere to go but up! Your blog is part of my day….and I missed it when you weren’t writing. All that being sorted now…here we still are with our noses pressed against your windows seeing what new stuff you can get in to! :happyflower:

  6. Andrea.tat says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog this past summer (One of the few good things to come out of this doompit desk job) I have been on here almost every single day since discovering it, though I sometimes forget to sign on, and on workdays it honest to goodness helps me get through.

    I wish you the best in 2012, may every year be a time of new and exciting opportunities, and even better than the last! Thank you for sharing so much with us all! :cowsleep: <- my favorite emoticon ever

  7. mamacarpenter says:

    WHAT A YEAR! Honestly, i eat breakfast and read your blog everyday. Then it seems like I can make it through another boring office day…

    but my question is, What about Cookie Doe? did she ever deliver? I would love to see a post about your pig! We raised a couple of pigs when we were first married and loved them. I could not eat “Burrito” when we had him butchered. Lesson learned: never name your food! (or scratch his tummy when you come home from work.) My pig was totally spoiled! :pinkpig: I am planning on getting goats someday, thanks to you. But I am learning from your “lessons” and will get some kind of escape-proof fencing.

    Mama Carpenter :snoopy:

  8. oct4luv says:

    Happy New Year! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. :heart:

  9. Rose H says:

    There are times I don’t comment, but I always read, follow and enjoy your posts and tales. A few bumps in the road this year, but I’m sure you’ll have a smoother ride down this very different road. I wish you and your lovely family, and of course all those farmyard critters a happy and healthy 2012.
    :woof: :sheepjump: :moo:
    Rose H

  10. BrownsFan says:

    Happy New Year to you and your family Suzanne. I look forward to sharing your adventure in 2012!

  11. tractor57 says:

    Life always has odd twists and turns. Thanks for sharing life on your farm.

  12. CarrieJ says:

    I remember all of it and can’t wait for 2012! I got to attend the 2011 retreat which really changed my life. I have become who I am at 42…it’s taken a while to realize I’m not a city girl but a city girl who wants to be a farm girl. Someday…I will have chickens. Good luck to you in 2012 and I hope to see you at the retreat. My excuse…new farm = different party on the farm 🙂

  13. denny144 says:

    I’ve been living the farm life vicariously through you for a year now and have loved every minute. Your blog is the very first thing I read duuring my lunch break and I’m always bummed if something prevents me from going online. I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings for you and your new farm. I’m thrilled that you choose to share your life with us. Thanks!

  14. NancyL says:

    I loved this and every post! You always impress and amaze me – you take life by both hands and a boot if necessary and make it a wonderful one for you and your kids. They, too, are amazing! Thanks for sharing all of your adventures!!!

    Nancy in Iowa

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