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Category Archives: autumn

The First Day

It’s the first day of gun season, and Husband’s alarm sounds at an early hour.  He is up and out the door quickly to drive to the next county to hunt on his dad’s property.

I sigh and roll out of bed, too.

In the distance, I hear a gun shot.

My running partner is out of town, and I’m not sure I want to brave the first cold weather of the season without her.  At the same time, I don’t want to be a wimp.

I pull on my running tights, my sweatshirt, my shoes, my gloves, and my ear warmers, and I hit the road.  The sunrise is at my right shoulder, and diamonds sparkle in the frosty grass.

I inhale the cold air and watch the breath clouds form in front of my face.  Up the road, past the fancy newer houses, toward the older farm homes.  I glance over toward the sun, and there he is.

A buck, just lying in someone’s yard.

Not dead, but very much alive.

Not hiding from a marksman’s eye.

Not poised, ready to spring away at the slightest sound.

Just lying on the ground, legs tucked under him, enjoying the scenery.

I slow down, and we watch each other as I jog past.  Then I stop, cross the road for a closer look, and still he lies there, his two small antlers pointing toward each other.

Is he injured? I wonder.  Why does my presence not spook him?  I see no signs of distress, no wounds.  He is bright-eyed and alert.

A sneaky little sucker, I decide.  If he’s in someone’s yard, he’s far less likely to be shot.  If he’s out of the woods, then… well, he may think he’s out of the woods.

It’s the only time I’ve witnessed the convergence of the literal and figurative meanings of an idiom.

Finally, he stands, but makes no move toward the trees.

Deer also seem to have marked hunting season on their calendars.

I leave the wily buck and continue my run.  Over the next few miles, I hear more gunshots.

Husband isn’t the only one scoping out dinner.

May it be a worthy contest between the hunter and the deer.

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Autumn on the Little Farm

Well, howdy.

It’s been a while.

School started and swept me away from pretty much everything else. I’ve been busy, but I’ll let you know what’s been happening.

The chickens are getting big! We’re getting about three eggs a day, though at least one of those eggs is still very small – more like a quail egg than a chicken egg. But we’re just about to the point where supply is keeping up with demand. Now that the days are shorter, we need to get a light with a timer inside the chicken house so that the girls will keep laying through the winter. (If we’re feeding them, we expect them to keep feeding us!)

eggs

We currently have five rabbits: Bear, a buck who is getting old and may be just about past his usefulness; Brownie, a young buck whom we hope is virile; Licorice, an older doe who seems a bit lethargic lately, but who is still a good mother; and Fawn and Chocolate Chip, two young does whom we hope to breed as soon as they are old enough. Licorice is due late next week, and we’re hoping for a good litter of kits.

Our front yard, which I have taken to calling the meadow, never got mowed this year. (Last year, someone came and mowed it for the hay.) We’ve been lamenting how all that grass is just going to waste because we didn’t have a way to bale it. And then my amazing husband went to YouTube University and built his own baler! Now we can mow the meadow and bale it for use for the chickens and rabbits. It’s late in the season this year, but we’ve managed to get about half a dozen bales made. Next year, I’ll mow it earlier and we’ll bale a lot more. (In fact, we may be able to get two cuttings out of it if I plan it well.)

hay

Husband is planning the house building project. He made a model of the house and he’s scouting out trees in the woods to fell and cut for timber. He’s looking at attending an advanced timber framing workshop in June (he attended the basic workshop this past June). The internet browser is crowded with tabs of various tools he wants.

house model

Autumn on the little farm is lovely. The woods is just beginning to turn orange and the dry leaves rustle in the wind. Days are warm, but nights are chilly and cozy under the blankets. I spent part of today collecting kindling from the yard so we’ll have plenty for our fires this winter.

I’ve put away the summer clothes and pulled out fall and winter gear. We’re keeping wood stacked close to the house, and in all ways getting ready for the cold weather. I hope we’ll be able to keep ourselves and our animals snug in the coming months.

It’s only November

It’s only November, but I’m thinking of spring.

We need to gravel the driveway. With each rain or melting snowfall, the drive becomes more and more two muddy ruts.

I hope to plant at least two fruit trees in the spring. Cherry and pear are at the top of the list. I need to find a good nursery.

Already, I’m eager for seed catalogs to arrive. To be honest, we usually get our seeds from Rural King or other local retailers. But I like to browse to see what I might like. I already have a list going, and it includes lettuce, cabbage, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, three kinds of peppers, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, carrots, beets, tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini. There were onions and pumpkin seeds in our compost, so perhaps we won’t need to plant either of those. I’d also like to plant basil and cilantro, and maybe some chives.

My mom has promised me strawberry plants, and my husband has promised me a strawberry patch, so that’s on the list of things to do as well.

This place could benefit from some flowers. I want to focus on plants native to this area, and I need to figure out where to get what I want. Coneflowers, Back-eyed Susans, Sunflowers, and Butterfly Weed for the open areas, and maybe Columbine, Bloodroot, Irises,and Larkspur for the wooded areas.

Before the summer is too far gone, I’ll need to get out my canning and freezing supplies to make sure they are in good condition and that I have plenty of what I’ll need. I’m also considering buying a food dehydrator. (Won’t dried cherries be nice?)

We’d like to install a composting outhouse and perhaps an outdoor shower for all our summer activities, and I’d like to get a volleyball net up.

So how will I fill my winter while waiting for spring?  Researching and reading about fruit trees, gardening, and raising chickens.

It Begins to Feel Like a Farm

Today, I mucked out the stables.

Okay, not exactly.  But I did clean out the rabbit colony (a job that was long overdue.)  This involves going in amongst the rabbits with a snow shovel, scooping out all the straw and rabbit droppings, and heaving it into a huge wheelbarrow.  Once it was clean, I put down fresh, clean straw — nearly two bales — for the rabbits to burrow in and rest upon.  Now that it’s getting colder out, I want to make sure they have enough bedding to help keep them warm this winter.

After that was done, I carted the old bedding out to where the garden will be.  Rabbit droppings are supposed to be really good for a garden, and the manure isn’t hot like horse or cow manure, so you don’t have to let it sit for a year.  You can put it right on your garden.

Of the new rabbit babies, we are keeping one.  We aren’t sure of its gender yet, but we decided we could use either a buck or a doe.  We don’t know the age of our breeding buck, and our does are hit and miss with breeding, so we want to replenish our stock.  The young keeper, named Brownie because s/he was the only brown rabbit in a litter full of blond ones, is now living with the does in the colony.  If we determine Brownie is a doe, that’s where she’ll stay.  If we find that Brownie is a buck, we’ll set up a cage for him.

Brownie’s litter mates are together in a cage, awaiting their their fate.  They are still well taken care of, with plenty of food and fresh water.  But they will not last much longer.  It is time to get them into the freezer.  I need / want to learn how to tan the hides, too.  I have found an article online about how to do it, so I’d like to try that sometime.  I just don’t know if this fall is the time.

We may need to say goodbye to a couple of our older does, as well.  There are a couple that we’ve bred more than once with no luck.  One of them is on her last chance right now; if she doesn’t kindle in the next month (she is due in a week or so), off to the butcher block she goes.

Once we get chickens in the spring and get the garden plowed, Dove’s Crossing will feel even more like a farm than it does now.

Autumn Into Winter

To the east, the land is open, and we spent a summer and fall watching beautiful sunrises. Now the sun rises later, and I am either away at work or deep into weekend tasks when it peeks its face over the distant trees.

Now that the leaves are down, however, we can see some lovely sunsets , which before were hidden by the western woods.

sunsetThe weather has chilled, and frost glistens on the grass in the mornings. The frost also mocks me as it covers my car windshield, laughing that I can’t park under a roof these days. I bundle up and work quickly, trying to keep circulation going until I can get into the warm car and be on my way.

Flurries fill the sky these days, and I watch from inside the house, under a blanket. Indoors, the thermostat is kept low but the furnace is the only heat source because the fireplace still smokes until an extension can be added to the too-short chimney. Tea often accompanies me, and incense or candles burn to give the room the illusion of warmth.

Secrets fill the house these days. I spent a Saturday driving all over town to get Christmas gifts. In a new house, new hiding places must be found, and I hope Stephan does not stumble upon what I have hidden from him. I wonder where to put stockings and whether to get a tree now that the kitten is big enough to get into absolutely everything. And with her penchant for tearing paper, I wonder where even to put the gifts.

Busyness fills our lives these days. Stephan is in the most hectic part of the year for his work, and I juggle the household chores – mine plus the ones he’s too swamped to do – along with teaching and attempting to keep students at least a little motivated until winter break. The young rabbits are growing, and we plan for the butchering, all while hoping another doe will kindle in another week or so. Hunting season has begun, and although the deer population is small this year, I know my husband will go out in the spirit of Pa Ingalls to provide meat for his family. Meanwhile, I make lists of pies to make for Thanksgiving, lists of supplies to purchase for the creation of family Christmas gifts, and lists of tasks to be completed around the house.

It will be our first winter in the country, and we are looking forward to it.

We Think We Have Decided

The First Fall At Our New Place has been mostly consumed with Stephan moving his business from the warehouse he rented for the last six years to the pole barn next to our house. There was much to be done. Decking to be built, freezers to assemble, compressors to hook up, lighting to install, drywall to hang, and a lot of equipment and furniture to move. In the midst of all that, Stephan had the biggest job he’d ever been contracted to do.

Not much else has been getting done.

But the shop looks great!

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The carving area, with all the tools.

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The CNC machine.

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The freezer Stephan built.

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Right now, it’s messy, but under some of that stuff are the two Clinebell block makers.

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The office.

As I had mentioned, one of our rabbits gave birth (the little ones are happily hopping around the colony these days), and we welcomed some friends who visited from California in order to attend her college homecoming. Oh, and I’ve been mowing as often as I can in order to mulch the leaves that have been falling from our multitude of trees.

There have been other things going on that are invisible from the outside – things just happening our our heads. We’ve made a couple of decisions.

First, we determined the plan for the cottage we’ll build. This cottage is where we’ll live while our main house is being built. After that, it can be a place for visiting missionaries to stay, or for friends who want a little getaway. Eventually, it may house a pair of elderly parents.

We’d originally thought about a very tiny home of about 200 square feet. We had thought we’d use a shed plan and convert that into a house. Then, Stephan found some small house plans from Tumbleweed that were really cute, and we decided that 200 square feet might feel awfully cramped. We looked at a few, and finally decided on the Bodega.

Image from Tumbleweedhouses.com

(The name puzzles me. Isn’t a bodega a grocery store in Spanish? Anyway, we think it’s a cute house.)

Next, we had to determine where to build it. We had originally thought to put it back in the woods, but then we thought about the issues that the many trees would create. First, it would make the house darker because of all the shade. Also, when the trees age or when there is a storm, there would be the danger of trees or limbs falling on the cottage. Additionally, the added distance from the well might make running the water lines more difficult. Stephan thought of putting it between the pool and the basketball court. I didn’t think it would fit, but we measured it, and it would fit just about perfectly. I was concerned, though, about the close proximity to those two features. It didn’t seem very nice to me to be smack in between the two, especially since the pool fence would be right outside the eastern windows, blocking any view. (Stephan proposes removing or changing the fence so it is more aesthetically pleasing, but I’m wondering about legal and insurance issues with that.) I suggested putting the cottage to the west of the basketball court, nearer the woods. It would be far enough from most trees that the cottage would still get plenty of light, especially from the south, and far enough from the pool to give it a more spacious feeling. It would still be close to the well, close to the clothesline, and close to the main house.

The site for the cottage.

The site for the cottage.

So it may not look from the outside like much is happening, but much is happening, nonetheless.

First Day of Fall Break

Fall Break began Friday afternoon, and I have a week away from my students’ faces. Today, though, I spend a couple of hours grading papers, planning lessons, entering grades, responding to students’ emails, and editing and uploading articles for the middle school newspaper.

Stephan is incredibly busy trying to get his business moved from the small warehouse he has been renting for six years to the pole barn on our property. It has taken more time and money than he anticipated. I’ve been wanting to help, but there is so much I don’t know how to do. I try to remind myself that I can help by making sure his laundry is done, by cooking dinner and cleaning up, by taking care of the dogs. I can help by making sure that he doesn’t have to worry about those things.

He always wants me to relax, though. “It’s your fall break,” he said. “You should take it easy.”

It’s hard for me to take it easy when he’s working so hard and feeling stressed out.

So I volunteer to make Monday Night Dinner. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is something.

I finish my schoolwork for the day, and I plan to go out on the porch to write. And then I remember that months ago, I planned to mend something that belongs in Stephan’s shop. I put down my notebook and my pen and I go to put an iron-on patch on the item.

And then I find out that the item is not safe for ironing, and I melt a big hole in the fabric.

Plan B quickly forms, and I patch the item by sewing a piece of cloth on the holes. Then I have to clean blue goo from my iron, then iron the rest of the clothes that have been waiting for a month to be ironed. Next, I assemble the item that I had repaired (for a few moments, I am sure the cover has shrunk in the wash, but I finally get it on the frame.)

I return to the house, realize that I might not have enough beans soaking for the bean soup, and so add more. Will mung beans taste okay in navy bean soup? I don’t think more navy beans would have time to soak enough to be soft for dinner, so mung beans it is. I really should have planned this out better. Just like I really should have tested the iron on a small part of that fabric instead of just plopping the whole hot metal appliance on top of the melty fabric.

Back to the barn to see if Stephan needs more help. I have only an hour to spare before I need to start cooking, but he gives me one small job to accomplish. I am on the verge of another, but then the ice delivery arrives, so I am dismissed back to the house. (I likely would be in the way of the four or five guys unloading three-hundred-pound blocks of ice.)

Toss the rest of the bag of mung beans into the bowl of soaking beans, and now I have no idea how much is actually in there and whether I will need to add more of everything else. Chop up the carrots and onions, and since I don’t have celery, dig in the cupboard for celery seed (will it taste the same? Who cares? With the mung beans added, it won’t be the same anyway), add the garlic. Unload the dishwasher.

I sit down for a few minutes and try to write. It’s not the best writing, for sure. I’m feeling nervous about the bean soup, even though I know our guests won’t complain even if it’s a weird soup. I’m noticing the temperature fall as the clouds cover the sky and my wind chime continually sings in the constant breeze. I’m wondering if the noise of it bothers my neighbors. I’m realizing I should probably take a shower before I get dinner started.

I turn and glance out the window to see the bright golden maple tree in the back yard, the leaves fluttering to the ground in the wind.

I think that perhaps I should have mowed today.

People come for dinner, and the soup is fine.  We talk, we clean up, and they leave.  I sit in the living room, listening to the sound of hammering and the whine of the circular saw from the barn.  The breeze blows through the house, ruffling the papers on the bulletin board and fluttering the leaves of the houseplants.

The first day of fall break is nearly over.