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.
June. ANNABELLE HAS A PUPPY!
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!