Thursday, January 31, 2013


Today is my one-and-only sister's 17th birthday.  You can read about the day she was born here.  It was a bitter cold January day, much like today.  And since I fawned over my parents in my last post, I thought I would give a love-fest for my dear sister.  Remember earlier this week I told you that I think my parents are practically geniuses?  Well my sister definitely got those smart genes!  This May, she is graduating from high school a whole year early!  And I won't tell you her ACT test scores...but they are AH-mazing!  Basically, sister's got brains, and looks, and creativity...she must take after her older sister as well. :) 

Two years ago, she blew everyone out of the water with her off-the-cuff maid of honor speech at my wedding.  She didn't really know that she was supposed to give a toast until about the day before the wedding and at that point she was insistent that she wasn't going stand up and say anything in front of 140 people.  Joey's best man had a goofy speech that he recited from a printed sheet of paper.  And then my sister stood up, took the microphone and knocked it out of the park with a speech she made up on the spot. Joey's dad joked that he had worked on his speech for weeks and couldn't believe her last-minute words.  Not to mention that she made Joey cry as I walked down the aisle to her playing the harp.  

My sister is idealistic, she's got big dreams, and she has the stubbornness and the grit to see them through.  If she wants to grow up to be an organic and sustainable farmer, I know that's what she'll do.  If she wanted to kayak the oceans or become the world's next great poet, she could do it.  She could do it all.  Seventeen is a great age of hopes and dreams and possibilities.  

To my sister: The whole wide world is at your feet, Moo!  Enjoy this year of changes and opportunities and don't be afraid to take a wrong step, we're always here to catch you!  Love you forever and ever, especially when you bake me cookies.

Now here's the surprise: we're celebrating more than one birthday today!  Just this morning we got quite a surprise when one of our ewes gave birth to a lamb!  It was quite a shock as we weren't expecting to start lambing so soon, usually our lambs are born in March.

The lamb was born sometime between 7 am and 8 am this morning because when Joey fed the sheep before going to work at 7, there was no lamb, and he didn't notice any signs that the ewe was in labor.  Around 8 am, just as I was getting out of bed, I heard a car pull into the driveway.  I looked out the window and saw Joey's co-worker dropping him off and I wondered if he got sick and had to come home.  I rushed downstairs in my pajamas and bathrobe to see what he was doing home.  He was supposed to be dropped off at the truck repair shop down the street so he could pick up the semi truck and drive it to pick up a load of fertilizer, but he wanted to go to the bathroom before he got in the truck for the day.  So his co-worker dropped him off at home and then I was supposed to drop him off at the truck repair shop.  Because it's only a few blocks away (and I just don't really care) I was just going to wear my pjs and bathrobe to drive him down the street.  I went to go warm the car up and Joey remembered that he forgot to water the chickens this morning.  I was sitting in the car when he ran up and started waving his arms for me to come to the barnyard.    

He yelled, "There's a lamb!"  I yelled back, "What?!"  I thought he was joking.  I turned off the car and ran to the sheep yard.  Sure enough, there were four ewes and one lamb.  We figured out that the lamb belonged to Molly (our favorite) and I looked and saw it was a girl.  I ran into the house to try to find the scissors and the iodine for the umbilical cord on the lamb and the bottle of nutridrench.  I found the scissors and the lambing kit from last year, but couldn't find the iodine and nutridrench.  When I got back to the barn, Joey was working on building a lambing pen for mama and baby and told me that the iodine and nutridrench were right there on a ledge in the barn, probably frozen.  We got mama and baby into the lambing pen and added a thick layer of clean straw for bedding and warmth and hung a trough of water for mama.  We gave Molly a little extra hay and then watched to make sure the lamb was doing o.k.  Joey felt her mouth to make sure it was warm and it looked like she had milk on her mouth.

By that point, Joey had been home for almost 50 minutes now and had to get going so I drove him up to the truck shop and then drove home to get ready for work since it was now 9 am and I had to open the library at 9:30 am.  I checked in on Molly and baby one more time before I left for work and took this picture of them resting.  Molly is a good mama and is shielding her baby from the bitter winds coming in the front of the three-sided barn.  This is her third lamb so she knows what she is doing.

Since it is my sister's birthday I am going to let her name this little one.  I hope this lamb is a sign that spring is around the corner.  I just wish Molly had the lamb two days ago when it was 60 degrees instead of 18 with a windchill of 1 degree F.  We will be checking in on these two many times over the next few days to make sure that baby is staying warm in this cold weather.  Joey went to the hardware store on his lunch break and bought a new heat lamp that he will set up when he gets home from work.  During my lunch break I rushed home and checked on the lamb and used a staple gun to hang a thick blanket from the front opening of the barn to prevent a little wind from blasting the lamb.  Hopefully she's a strong little one, just like my sister, who came home from the hospital on a bitterly cold day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Restless Monday

I'm feeling restless today; cooped up, and trapped like a caged animal.  It's almost 60 degrees outside right now, an anomaly in January weather in the midwest.  I have the window open at the library.  I can hear gushing streams of water at the car wash across the street.  This sound, combined with pregnancy hormones, makes me have to use the ladies' room very frequently.

But the window will remain open.  I need to go over and stick my face against the screen every once and a while and soak up the smells of wet ground and fresh air.  I'm definitely growing a summer baby.

In other news, we finally joined the modern world of ease and convenience and got a dishwasher!

Also, this weekend, my long-held belief that my father is the most capable, resourceful, and down-right bad-ass man on the planet was once again confirmed when he installed previously mentioned lifesaving dishwasher in my old farmhouse with old plumbing.  And don't even get me started on how brilliant my mother is.

You know how when you were a little kid and everything your parents did was an amazing feat of knowledge and skill? And you believed they were the smartest person in the whole world?  Well, at three weeks away from 26 years old, I can still tell you without a doubt that my parents are awesome.  You know your dad is the most interesting man in the world when he has to show the guy at the hardware store which is the correct tool and how to use it to cut a length of copper tubing after the guy uses the wrong tool.  Mosquitoes refuse to bite him out of pure respect.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about google Dos Equis' The Most Interesting Man in the World commercials)

Now I can add "install a dishwasher" and "fix old plumbing" to my growing list of skills.  Changing a flat tire still eludes me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cabin Fever

January is almost over and cabin fever is hitting me hard.  I'm cold and tired and sick of being cold and tired. I want a good, juicy tomato, not some mealy, pink excuse from the grocery store.  I want watermelon juices to drip down my chin and sweet corn kernels stuck in my teeth.  A cucumber with salt, eating green beans while I pick them, checking under a canopy of leaves for a round melon.  (Notice this is all food cravings; I'm cold, tired, and HUNGRY.)

In this cold weather, all I am growing is a increasingly hungry baby.  I've got to break out my seed trays and grow lights soon.  I am increasingly hungry for a little green right about now and my only surviving houseplant (an african violet) is not enough.

Last weekend, I took the train home and then drove with my mom and sister to the University of Wisconsin in Madison for a weekend-long course on growing vegetables for markets.  It was a long Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that kept us inside from the 5 degree weather and got us excited to break ground, break out our gardening gloves and get a head start on spring.  While the wind blew outside on campus, we learned about high-tunnels, hoophouses, tractors, weeding, pests, selling at market, and creating business plans and budgets for small market gardens.  We left with a lot more knowledge, confidence, and excitement for the coming growing season and making our farming dreams come true.

 We took our new ideas back to our suburban backyard (mom, dad, and sister) and our small in-town acreage (me and Joey), and hope to work on our farming skills for the day (someday soon) when we finally buy our dream farm.  For the past year or two, my parents and sister and Joey and I have been plotting on how to make our small farm dreams a reality.  In the past few months we have started looking for areas where we could find an ideal farming situation.  It will probably take a few more years of planning but the dream is starting a small vegetable, flower, honey and wool farm where Joey, my sister, and I can create a livelihood and my parents can retire close to their children and grandchildren.

It may be a few years down the road, maybe sooner, but it is something nice to dream about during these cold, dark winter days stuck inside with dog-eared and pen-marked seed catalogs and mountains of books on gardening.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Year, New Adventures

Happy New Year!

It's been a while since I've written but I have been busy working on a little project here at our little farmstead.  And by "busy" I mean I have been exhausted beyond words...because we are adding a baby to this crazy mix this summer!

I am 14 weeks into this little adventure, so I am hoping that now that I am through the first trimester I will be getting some energy back.  Cold weather and early sunsets have not helped my energy levels, but they have made a great excuse to curl up in sweatpants and refuse to move from the couch every evening after work and all weekend long.

My winter-time dreams of spring and summer are even stronger now.  Usually around January I start getting excited for gardening season again and immerse myself in beautiful seed catalogs.  And by the time February rolls around, I really want to travel away from the midwestern climate.  Growing up, my mom always got cabin fever by the end of January, leading to family vacations to warmer climates in February.  This year, Joey and I are trying to stick to an extremely tight budget in order to pay off some bills and save a little money before baby comes, so I don't think a tropical vacation is in our sights this year.

But we have much to look forward to as we curl up and hibernate away the rest of winter: garden planning and planting, new spring lambs, finishing the upstairs of our house, working on a nursery, my sister's graduation from high school, and baby's arrival sometime in July!  It's going to be a good year.