Ben Hewitt so often is able to write exactly how I feel. His words are the ones I would write if I could put my thoughts into something as cohesive and understandable as he does. His simple, rich way of life is one I am working towards…slowly but surely.
This post in particular struck me as so applicable, especially this time of year.
I get up each morning, drive to work, and during those 8, 9, or 10 hours (not including my two hour daily commute), someone else owns my time and I give it to them, for a price, both monetary and psychologically. While I’m at home, working my farm, concentrating on my animals, the land, my gardens, my time is mine and I do get lost in the moment. And I love each moment I am lost in.
But, for me, it is an exchange. I trade my time at work for money, so that I can “buy” that time back at the farm. Do I wish it was different? You betcha. I’d gladly trade my “saleable” time at work for more of my own time at the farm. But, if I didn’t give trade time for money at my job, I would not be able to live at my own pace, on my own time, at home.
This time of year especially when I want to spend my time in my own way at my farm, in the dirt, in the garden, in the woods, with the animals or just enjoying my piece of the world, I am instead spending it at an office. I frequently have to remind myself that I make the trade because without one, I could not have the other.

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Old Man Winter is a comedian

Hello? Mother Nature? We are not amused. Please take the wheel back from Old Man Winter and send him to bed, please? He’s up way past his bedtime.ImageReally? Saturday, it was nearly 60* and I was ready to break out the short sleeves and margaritas.

ImageNo enjoying margaritas or reading a good book in the warm sunshine any time soon.

ImageJust add snow and your faithful, playful dog and any chore can be fun! Kayleigh (my daughter) eagerly slipped into her coveralls and went to work clearing the drift from in front of my car so I can get to work. Nala was right there helping, bouncing through the foot deep snow like a bunny. See the mess in the middle right of the photo? That’s where my husband used my truck to clear part of the driveway. We DON’T have a snow blade. He likes it when it snows…it’s as good an excuse as any to do doughnuts and play.

ImageMy daffodils are NOT amused.

ImageGabe and Teddy are NOT amused, either. But they are snug and warm in their blankies.

If you have to, just give the Old Man a hot toddy and send him packing. He’s worn out his welcome.

Drooping blooms

Spring is officially here…doesn’t that mean the temperatures are supposed to follow suit? We’ve remained below freezing, but that hasn’t stopped things from trying to bloom and bud.

My daffodils figured since the days are growing longer, it must be time to wake up and open their pretty yellow heads to welcome the sun.

Yeah. Not so much. Just ’cause the sun is out doesn’t mean it’s warm.

ImageThese poor guys…the freezing temperatures have wilted them. I don’t know if they will recover this season. The blooms were frozen as the sun came up. I expect they will be slimy by the time the sun sets tonight.

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So sad, drooping daffodils, the promise of spring an ugly lie. It’s like spring poked its head out, teased with a brief warmth and sunshine, then slapped us in the face and yelled “JUST KIDDING!!!”

Tonight, there’s snow in the forecast and lingering freezing temperatures. Last year at this time, it was 80 degrees and the farmers were busy planting corn. What a difference a year makes.

We candled, and it was good

My daughter and I candled all 40 eggs last night, eight days after we put them in the incubator. I have never candled eggs before, so, I spent a good hour on the internet researching what we should be looking for when we looked into those eggs.

At first, I didn’t think we would be able to decipher what we saw. The room was very dark, so, no pics unfortunately. It took us probably 10 eggs to finally get good at figuring out what we were seeing inside the shells. Some of them were easy, others, because of the dark shells, not so easy.

We saw blood veins, we saw dark little eyeballs, we saw hearts. It was very, very cool! A couple of them even moved for us while we were watching. I think we got pretty good at spotting veins and eyeballs pretty quickly. We’ll see how good we became in a couple of weeks when they hatch, or don’t hatch.

I fully expected to only find about half, or less, viable and growing. Instead, we found only three that had to be removed from the incubator, and once we figured out what we were looking for, identifying those was easy. Only one was unfertilized (yay roosters! You are doing a good job!), one was cracked and dead and the third one had a very apparent blood ring in it. We put check marks on the eggs we were fairly certain are growing and alive, and Xs on the ones we weren’t so sure about.

We will candle them all again next week to check progress, and the week after that, we should have a hatching, barring any problems between now and then!

We are pretty excited about this first hatching. Kayleigh was a little bit “grossed out” by the eyeballs in the eggs because she’s never really seen an embryo up close and personal, but I think it’s pretty darn cool that you can peek inside and see what’s going on.

Gardening is SO much work! Why bother?

The goal of the 2013 garden here at Bramblewood Acres is to grow enough produce not only to satisfy our need for fresh veggies (a salad for dinner, freshly plucked from the dirt is our typical spring/summer fare) but also to be able to preserve and freeze enough of what we grow to get us through the year.

Why? Well, first and foremost, homegrown just tastes better and I like knowing what’s in that jar of pasta sauce or green beans and knowing what happened every step of the way. I know what goes into growing each veggie, the effort, the compost (thank you chickens, rabbits and horses!), the time, the sweat, the blisters and sunburn, and I do believe I enjoy it that much more simply due to knowing the history of each jar, each vegetable. In each jar, I’m not just eating something delicious and pure that I grew or raised, I’m rewarding myself, one jar at a time, for hard work and diligent effort.

And that feels darn good.

Secondly, I like knowing that the things I’m feeding my family grew a few steps from the house, not Mexico or Argentina or Taiwan. I don’t use a single chemical in the whole process, which translates to pure, clean, healthy food at the end of it all. Whether I I can it, freeze it, dry it, or eat it right away, it’s all the same pure food it started out as. Except for a little dirt and bug poo, it’s 100 percent as Mother Nature intended. I get extreme satisfaction knowing I can grow, share, and eat varieties of plants that most people have never heard of, much less put into their mouths, and to me, that’s pretty awesome. I love sharing my bounty and enjoy seeing people’s faces when they bite into something homegrown and can truly taste the sunshine, rain, and warm summer days it took to create that food.

The driving desire to grow and raise your own food is hard to describe to those who have never felt the urge it or don’t have the passion for it. There are so many factors that go into it and unless you get it, you won’t understand why I will spend an entire hot, humid, icky summer day sweating in the garden or a long, cold day fixing pasture fencing, snugging up a chicken coop or butchering rabbits when I can just take a trip to the grocery store, and, with next to zero effort, fill my pantry and my refrigerator.

I do it because I get a great amount of satisfaction that we can be mostly self-sufficient and feed ourselves. I like that very much. I like depending on myself and I am fulfilled when I look back on a hard day of work and see a job done and done well. It is hard work, but it’s hard work well worth doing, in my opinion. I like knowing exactly what’s in my food and where it came from, no questions any where along the line from planting to harvesting to preserving.

Here’s to the 2013 season and hoping all goes well enough that by the end of summer, I’ll have shelves full of canned goods, crates of potatoes and onions, a freezer full of homegrown meat and heading into the winter comfortably stocked.

Small things

Things are starting to warm up and dry up, which means it’s getting closer and closer to getting outside to plant! We did seed and roll two of the horse pastures on a beautiful, sunny, nearly 70-degree day yesterday, so that’s one big (and very needed!) job done. Today, we are fixing the ruts in my arena, prepping ground for asparagus, prepping ground for onions, potatoes and mixed greens and sectioning off an area of the chicken coop for the geese and turkeys. Busy day! I’m glad we got the pastures done yesterday, today is chilly and windy and tomorrow is supposed to rain.

Babies are popping up beautifully!

ImageTomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, thyme and eggplant. The peppers, not doing so great and nothing yet from the sage or rosemary. I even have the darn things on a warming mat this year, and the peppers are still refusing to cooperate. Grrrrr…may be buying pepper plants this year.

And, babies hopefully popping out soon!

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They are “due” on Easter. This is our first attempt at hatching our own eggs so we’ll see how it turns out. I tried candling a couple today and couldn’t tell what I was seeing inside, but, they aren’t quite a week in the incubator, either. We fought with the temp for a couple of days, it went up to 102-degrees a few times, which may or may not have baked the babies. We’ll see. There are 40 eggs in the incubator, all from my hens so, whatever hatches will be mixed breed ‘yard chickens.’

Osiris is my daughter’s cat. He is King of the House and pretty much does whatever he wants and sometimes picks the oddest places to sleep.

ImageMy onion bulbs, Osiris? Really? Sheesh.

What almost spring brings

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Colorful!

The ladies are at nearly 100 percent production again, thanks to the longer days. I love the variety of colors we get, its always fun to try to guess which eggs came from which chicken. I think the huge dark brown ones are from the black and white cochins.

A few new babies have joined our household. We got six more laying hens: Three Americaunas and three Anconas. Plus, two Tufted Roman geese and two bronze-breasted turkeys. The geese, Max and Ari, quickly bonded with my daughter and they follow her like a momma goose. Very funny. They will be pets/guardians. The turkeys are Thanksgiving and Christmas. You figure it out!

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Max and Ari with “momma.”

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Thanksgiving and Christmas checking out the goose “momma.”

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The whole flock exploring the family room. They are interested in everything! They are all the same age, but the geese are growing like crazy.