Blog

Summertime Blues and Greens

DSCN3538

Well, hello again. I know, I know, it has been awhile. I have repeatedly reminded myself that I am supposed to be writing on a regular basis and staying on top of this blogging thing. The problem is this: I have a farm and it gets a little crazy around here. At present there are 35 ducks, 33 chickens, 12 goats, 3 geese, 3 rabbits, 2 cats and 1 dog who reside on our farm with us. These characters require a great deal of our time and attention. It’s a full time job year round, however summer is downright exhausting.

In the Pacific Northwest we have to make up for the short hours of daylight through the winter.  We look forward to summer when the days are drier and the sunlight lasts much longer to get a large portion of farm work done. At the season’s peak the sun doesn’t set until almost 10pm and we make the most of our time planting, building, repairing and protecting it all from bugs, predators and the sometimes bi-polar weather conditions.

This year July was drizzly and cool with the occasional day or two of blaring heat scattered here and there. This inconsistency made gardening a little challenging to say the least. Each summer day offered a new opportunity of problems to solve, we were constantly battling slugs, aphids and birds to protect our herbs and veggies. While the pumpkin patch was hit hard and the cauliflower was a complete loss we still managed to end up with a thriving garden.

There was a point in the middle of this hectic season that I found myself getting discouraged and a little bummed out. The summertime blues as you will. The drizzly and  cool days spoiled more than a few plans and put a damper on my mood. Then one day I pulled into our driveway after a trip to town and discovered a peacock in my front yard and my outlook began to change. This ostentatious bird was strutting around as if he owned the place. He spent a couple months flirting with the goats and chickens while displaying his glorious tail feathers as if he was doing us all a great favor. He honked and made loud, distressing calls that drove Farmdog crazy.  I am also pretty sure he snipped off most of my sunflower shoots and bean sprouts but despite it all, I liked having him around. He seemed to be a living piece of art and we enjoyed his presence on our farm.

I don’t know where the peacock came from, it was a mystery we never solved. He graced our summer with his beauty and gave us a bouquet of his tail feathers to keep. He left just as abruptly as he arrived. It would be easy for me to be downhearted about his departure, the same way it was almost impossible to fight the discouragement from the lack of sunny days, my garden disappointments and the exhausting work load. “Almost impossible” and yet somewhere in the middle of it all I made a decision to fully embrace and enjoy each day for what it was. I challenged myself to notice and be grateful for all the good things around me.

It isn’t a simple feat to look past bug infested Brussels Sprouts to appreciate the thriving  cucumbers and the abundant flower garden or embrace a difficult lesson from a hard loss as a valuable gift but it is a worthy endeavor. Applying a sunny outlook to the blueish hues of disappointment enables the ability to see the green of new life and growth happening within and all around us. This summer hasn’t been what I expected it to be, but I’m glad. I have gained so much more by choosing to see the difficulties and problems as an opportunity to grow stronger, deeper and more grateful each day.

The adventure isn’t reaching the end destination but in the journey to get there.

 

 

 

Project Runway

There has been a lot happening on the farm the last couple of months even though I was remiss to share the progress we have been making on this blog. I apologize for seemingly falling off the planet, but I assure you all is well and thriving here at the busy Smith Farmhouse.

It was sometime in March that we attended a one day extension course from WSU on growing your small hobby farm to a small business. There were great ideas presented on using the resources on your land, including making maple syrup from our broadleaf Maple trees that we have growing here in the PNW. We were actually successful at our first attempt at making syrup but I will have to share that story with you in a later post. The most important point I took home that day was the location of our well head in relation to our animal pens.

100 feet is the distance that your livestock should be kept from your well, mine were well, much closer. Can I just be honest and say that they were pretty much on top of it? We actually built our initial pens connected to our well house. This is what happens when you get keys to your new house the same weekend you get a small herd of goats and convenience completely clouds out your common sense. Sitting there in a small classroom setting all I could think of was how we were going to get everyone moved as quickly as possible. This was an especially difficult task with baby animals being born, hatched and brought home at a rate even I was getting overwhelmed by.

We hatched a plan, which I have dubbed “Project Runway“. We may not have used scissors and thread but there was an abundance of material needed to “Make it Work“. We gathered all of our pallets, not the color palettes mind you but wood pallets that every good farmyard has hidden somewhere and started constructing ducks houses and chicken coops.DSCN2455

DSCN2457

We decided to build at the base of the hill next to our goat pasture so we could create a  “runway” strip of free range pasture for our flocks, hence the title of our project. Along with the whole actual farming thing you have to manage the social media aspect and find creative ways to attract attention, so there it is…. my attempt at it anyways. So, we decided on erecting three 12′ x 36′ pens with an access gate between the 2nd and 3rd pen. In each pen we included  a 6′ x 3′ house and an an additional 3’x 4′ house in the middle pen.

DSCN3330

DSCN2891

For fencing, the decision was made to use 2″ x 4″ welded wire instead of poultry wire. The cost was almost the same and it gives us more flexibility to use the pens for other livestock in the future and a greater strength for protection. It was not an easy task to roll out wire on a slope, thats all I am going to say about that because there were enough words shared during the process. We did our best to keep the lines straight and level but all in all it has character, that is the nicest way I can say we did our best and we are happy with the outcome. I would apologize to all the perfectionists and professionals but hey, they don’t have to live in it so I won’t. I am more than happy with how it turned out and it gets the job done so if you are one of those who get a little dizzy with lines that aren’t level just squint or look away and you will be just fine.IMG_2025The project was a success because we stayed in budget and nobody got hurt, and most importantly the ducks and the chickens seem to really enjoy their new enclosures. They now have trees and bushes to hide under for protection from predatory birds and relief from the summer heat. One of the bonuses of the completion of this project is that Farmdog now has access all the way to the goat barn and can enlarge his area of patrol. He especially enjoys chasing away the birds who try to steal feed and the occasional egg laying on the ground.

DSCN3438

We may have intended to attempt this project at a later date but I am glad we were forced to do it this spring. It is going to make such a huge difference to our farm and help move us closer to becoming the self-sufficient farm business we want to be. This will mean many more projects ahead, maybe not quite as big as this one but who knows… they might even be bigger! We may face difficulties from the mistakes we make along the way, but if we learn from them and move forward, we are stronger and wiser for the experience. So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because not even trying is the biggest failure of all.

(At some later point I will write about another big project we completed… Chicken Tractors! You can get a little glimpse of them behind our very happy ducks enjoying their new home.)

IMG_1992

 

A Change of Face

meB&Wsmblog

I tried to write in February, I really did. I sat down multiple times trying to express my thoughts but I just could not get any words out. It isn’t because there was nothing to say, on the contrary there were so many things happening, that honestly, it overwhelmed me.

It was the first time I sincerely felt like giving up, putting down the pitchfork and packing it all up.

This farm life isn’t always joyful, there are times it can be pretty tough. The reality can be sickness, death and lonliness. February was all those rolled together and a bit more. We lost a duck, (one of my favorites) to a bald eagle attack and two more got sick and died.  We also got, for us, a lot of snow. We are used to lots of rain and an occasional inch or two of snow, but this was 8 inches that made everything harder including the  loneliness. When you begin your life on a farm you plan for many things, but the isolation you may encounter can be an unfriendly surprise.

I mean, it’s hard enough to leave when everything is going well but, it is just about impossible when you are managing your animals in the snow and the eagles are looming about like a huge dark cloud hanging over your dream wanting to devour it. I don’t like to admit I am feeling down or in any way negative about life in general, so it’s extremely hard for me to share this in such a public way. My heart wants to look for the best and encourage others to find their joy in the simple things we all can be grateful for. Even though it is difficult, I know it’s important to be authentic and honest as I communicate my experiences. Painting a picture of a perfect and easy life is not only deceptive, it can be discouraging to those who are comparing their own situation and struggling to attain such an impossible likeness.

So, I am determined to take off this February face and shed the gloomy melancholy that has permeated my attitude and emotions for the past few weeks. I realize there is so much to look forward to: spring and sunshine, baby goats, fresh garden vegetables, the list goes on and on. I am going to focus on the good things and not the bad (like having to wrangle two naughty and stinky male goats that just broke out of their pen and are attempting to join the lady goats). If you are wondering… yes, that just happened.

It’s may be a challenge but here’s hoping to a much improved March face.

The Best of 2018

This past year on the farm was filled with so many highs. Of course there were a few lows as well but I don’t really think you can fully appreciate all the best things in life without the contrast of those low points. I suppose it’s the storm before the rainbow that allows us to fully appreciate it’s wonder.  2018 was truly wonderful and full of wonder!IMG_1231

We started the year deep in mud as is usual for us in the Pacific Northwest, it may not always be fun dealing with the muck but it does provide some great photos.

February gave us a little break with some snow!

I am pretty sure Farmdog napped most of the month of March!

but we did enjoy a few sunny days…. its not all rain and snow here.

April was all about the ducklings… and watching them grow!

and Farmdog was still finding lots of time for those naps.

In May we planted a garden, collected eggs, raised meat chickens and milked goats.

We actually milk goats year round …. but the days are getting longer now, so I have more day time and that allows me more time to take pictures.

In June we hatched a tiny Call Duck and some Serama Chicks

and our garden was doing great, we even added a pumpkin patch.

but most exciting for me was finishing my first book!img_1216

In July Buttercup delivered triplets…

We started having our farm to table dinners…

and Farmdog was still getting those naps in.

and Orange Cat has this napping habit as well…

In August Gilly delivered twin doelings

It was our most difficult birth we have had on the farm. Our first doeling was breach but was a strong girl. Her sister had a cleft palette and was unable to survive. It was a hard experience but we learned a lot. We decided to keep Gilly’s surviving doeling “Millie” in our herd..img_4411

We also added two new barn kittens “Jake and Abby” to the farm.

In September the pumpkins were really growing

and so were the kittens and their relationship with Farmdog

and I had my very first book signing.booksigning

In October we welcomed our very first grandchild “Harper Mae”

I turned the big 5-0…and it’s ok… really Fifty is just a number.

We harvested A LOT… and made CHEESE and gathered so many eggs I still don’t know what to do with them all!

November was filled with family visiting from out of state. Meanwhile the kittens and Millie were getting bigger, and our little Harper Mae as well.

With the cooler weather comes the bread baking… which causes the waistline to grow bigger as well. But, I have to say it’s definitely worth it.

November was a time to slow down a bit , enjoy family and be Thankful. For the first time I think in forever I decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving… and then it was DECEMBER:

It’s been a great year and we are incredibly grateful and looking forward to the amazing opportunities we will encounter in 2019. I’m pretty sure Farmdog will still be taking those naps… img_1546

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!

Dream Big

HarlequinSwanIf you have read some of my posts or followed me on Instagram you will already know that I have quite a few ducks on our farm. I believe the count is currently at twenty-two.  With this sizable flock, my summer was largely spent keeping plastic baby pools filled, dumped and filled again with clean water. If you don’t know, ducks are messy, really messy. Our resident chef, aka my loving husband calls them “cement makers”. They make mud, lots of mud and then stamp it down with their little webbed feet. Despite this fact, I love them…. I love the sounds they make, I love seeing the bonds they make with other ducks, but I mostly love watching them play in the water.

It only took a couple summer months of constant water refills before I knew we needed something big, something much larger than what we working with. So, we hopped in our small pick-up and headed to the feed store. (On a side note, for those of my friends who live in the city and don’t know where to get themselves a pitchfork or a cool pair of overalls, the feed store is the farmer’s Target or Walmart .) Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves with a three hundred gallon stock tank strapped in the back of our truck. The volume of the stock tank is greater than that of our truck bed so, I will let you imagine what we looked like driving home.

Our stock tank is awesome, it allows for more than one or two ducks to swim at the same time, which is a great plus if you enjoy watching ducks as much as I do. If for some strange reason we decide not to have ducks, (but why would we?) we can make ourselves one of those cool cowboy hot tubs you see all over Pinterest. That of course, would be after a major cleaning, because as I have stated before, ducks are messy! I was reminded of this fact the other day while I was performing my monthly draining of the duck tank. The faucet valve didn’t work and I had to use the shop vac to suck out the murky green water. After too many fill and dumps to count, I reached the bottom, a thick layer of muck and bloated eggs. What most people don’t know is that ducks, especially young ducks will often lay their eggs while walking about or even swimming. Filling and dumping the shop vac is unpleasant enough, but I seriously began to reconsider my decision to have ducks while sucking up their stinky sludge.

It is easy to forget in the difficult times why we do the work, why we push through the muck and mire, wear the bumps, bruises and blisters, just to go to bed at night exhausted, wake up in the morning and do it all over again. When I fill the tank with fresh clean, although somewhat sulphur smelling well water and the ducks begin to dive in and splash around with excitement, I remember why. It is in these moments I am filled with joy and inspiration. I watch my flock raising their wings as if they are majestic swans and recognize the wondrous beauty of this simple moment. With one captured second of complete bliss, I can creatively share my dream with others. When I do this, it grows and becomes even more than I could have ever imagined.

Dream big my friends, work hard and push through the difficulties to achieve it but, when you do, don’t forget to enjoy it. For in doing so, you will surely inspire others to do the same.

Balancing Act

balancedKatz

I’ve always tried to do my very best at what I set out to do, the problem is, I often struggle finding the correct balance. My tendency is to go a 100 mph, deplete myself and then come to a complete screeching halt. I am able to get quite a bit done in a short period of time but then lose momentum trying to recover from exhaustion. It’s all about balance, I need to live with a 100% all in attitude without trying to give everything and everyone 100% of me a 100% of the time. Learning to choose who and what to invest our time and effort in is an important part of life. It all comes down to balancing priorities if I truly want to be at my best, doing my best work and living a joyful and fruitful life.

This past summer I worked really hard to complete my first children’s book, my last post We Wrote a Book has more about that. While completing the book, there were still farm chores to do: feeding, cleaning, birthing, milking, etc. I also spent quite a bit of energy finding new ways to develop our farm and trying to discover how to be self -sufficient in the future: farm to table dinners, growing a pumpkin patch, and creating new products to sell. In addition to these responsibilities, I have a part-time graphic design job and a multitude of family and friend relationships to care for as well. It is physically and mentally exhausting, honestly there are times I am completely overwhelmed. Sometimes, I feel like one of those circus performers who spins plates on sticks with a tremendous pressure to keep them all from crashing to the floor.

Staying focused is especially challenging when I allow myself to compare my life, priorities or achievements with someone else’s. Social media can inspire but it can also derail us by offering an edited snippet of another’s life or accomplishment. We don’t see the whole picture, all the hard work, struggles, frustrations or loss behind a pretty photo or a well-worded comment, just say’n. I know that I am not alone in this struggle, I hear and see so many others burdened by an abundance of “things to do”. Constant busyness seems to be a rampant social disease that is robbing so many from living a fulfilling life.

For me, farm life helps to bring my important priorities back into focus. It requires me to slow down and be more thoughtful, which allows me time to appreciate what is truly important. Knowing what is of real value and eliminating the extraneous labor that sneaks into my daily life is the key. I do realize that as I continue to seek the right working balance I will be cleaning up some broken plates that fall to the ground. Going forward I think I am ok with that. Who knows, I might even piece together the broken shards to create a mosaic of sorts.

 

 

 

We Wrote A Book

IMG_1220Our book is now available to purchase on Amazon! Farm Dog is trying to take all the credit but it has been a true group effort from all the sweet and silly farm animals that live here on the farm. There was even a little help from me, the Artsy Farmsy Girl and of course the Chef who keeps us all fed!

We are so happy to share a little bit of the fullness we experience from living on our farm, with you and the special children in your life. We hope you will enjoy getting to know and love all The Smith Farmhouse Characters . We will be keeping you posted on what they are all up to and also the new characters that have joined us.

If you click on on the Farmhouse Characters tab at the top menu of his webpage you will find more information and pictures about all of us that live here. We will also be adding new stories in the days to come. We look forward to hearing from you, we love answering questions about what we do and why. We also love to encourage others to know where there food comes from, to find a local farm to visit and to support those that work hard growing and raising quality food for our tables.

We appreciate all your encouragement, your comments and book purchases. It allows us to keep plowing forward, doing what we love: gathering the fullness from our farm and sharing it with others!

If you are interested in purchasing The Smith Farmhouse Characters you can click here