2010 – Laying the Foundation

It seems like every year there’s one big thing that gives shape to my life.  In 2005, Will bought the restaurant.  2006 was the year of the wedding (ours and 5 others).  2007 was all about work – Will bought a second restaurant, I took on a new role that handed way too much responsibility to someone my age and busted my butt to prove worthy.  2008 was all about being pregnant and welcoming Alston into the world.  2009 was the great transition to our new lives as parents – me going back to work, Will trying to run the shops from home while tending to the babe.  2010, as you may have guessed, was the year of the house.

But, because we couldn’t stop at mere homeownership, we dove face first into low level homesteading by acquiring way too many animals way too quickly.  Let’s recap, shall we?

June 2: Close on house, Watson is the only critter component of this family of four.

June: How many rooms can you paint in three weeks?  Turns out the answer is 6 plus 6 closets, assuming you also refinish the hardwood floors and renovate your kitchen, but only if you have friends as amazing and helpful as we do [read: thank you]. Day old chickens and ducks arrive; take up residence in our basement.  Oh yeah, and we officially move in on June 30.

July: Ducks and then chickens move from the basement to the shed to the existing chicken coop while we build more permanent housing.  Will finishes the duck house, ducks move in, won’t use the ramp to enter said duck house.  Won’t swim in the pond.  Plant 2 raspberries, 2 blackberries, and one fig tree.  All 27 chickens and most of the ducks killed by a stray dog… the day before the electric fencing arrived.

August: 3 replacement ducks and 30 guinea hens arrive.  We agree to purchase 2 (which eventually becomes 3) pigs once they are weened in 8 weeks.  Will lines the pasture’s existing 4 post horse fencing with hog wire.

September: Replacement chickens arrive.  Hoop house is erected to serve as their permanent home within the confines of the fenced pasture.  Guineas moved to pre-existing chicken coop which is refortified multiple times after a few more run-ins with nature.  Purchase 5 Border Cheviot lamb ewes.  Pig house is built and electric fencing installed in preparation.  Alston starts preschool.

October: Pick up three Tamworth piglets.  Adopt two cats to ward of mice from the stockpile of animal feed now living in our basement.  Throw a farm party to show off the petting zoo that is our lives and play with our newly acquired apple press.

November: Foster (probably permanently) a breeding pair of Toulouse geese.  Pre-existing floating deck is converted to a run in shed for the sheep.  Pick up a rescue Great Pyrenees to guard the pasture.

December: Borrow a ram to mate with our ewes, bringing us temporarily to 6 sheep.  Build a house for the guineas in the old chicken coop.  Plant 16 apple trees.  Collect our first duck eggs and along with a glass of homemade cider, savor the first tastes of success.

By the end of our first six months on the farm, we have 29 chickens, 6 ducks, 15 guineas, 6 sheep, 3 pigs, 2 geese, 2 cats and 2 dogs.  Will built a duck house, chicken coop, guinea house, retrofitted run-in shed and pig house.  We planted 21 fruit bearing trees/bushes that should produce in years to come.  It was the year of the house alright, but not just the 1903 farm house we happen to inhabit.  In 2010, we’ve tried to turn our measly 5 acres into a home for the 68 of us.

I suspect the theme of 2011 will be reproduction/production.  Here’s hoping next year’s recap includes lambs, piglets, chicks/ducklings/goslings (we’ve hatched ourselves vs. bought from a nursery), and more vegetables and eggs than we possibly know what to do with.  If I don’t at some point write a post about being absolutely sick of canning, I’ll consider myself a failure.  I guess the more optimistic way to put it would be, won’t it be great to have next year’s Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas goose be something we raised ourselves?  To have a whole hog bbq for our farm party and have that pig be ours?  To have a freezer full of tomato sauce from my own garden and not my CSA subscription?  Yup, I’m ready for 2011.

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