Adding Mosey to the Menagerie

Yesterday, Philip and I moved through a local pet store, gathering things we needed for the new puppies – ours and our in-laws (Mosey and Dexter, respectively). A pair of Nylabones, tiny collars with tags that have their names and our phone numbers, piddle pads (with scented targets), a crate for Dexter, a couple of stuffing-less toys (Meander guts stuffed things in seconds), and lots and lots of puppy food.

Goat lifting. :)

Olive is not a lightweight girl.

Then, we got cat food for our five cats, compostable cat litter for the indoor kitties, and dog food for Bella and Boone. (Meander already has a stockpile.)  By the time we were done, we could barely turn the cart.

We had already loaded 50 pounds of chicken feed and 50 pounds of goat feed in the back of Trapper the Subaru, and we were definitely low-ridin’ as we headed off to get the food we needed for the two humans in this menagerie.

Come April, we’ll be adding 15 chickens to this mix and then – for now – we’re done.  In time, we hope to bring in a couple of alpacas and maybe a German Shepherd to the dog pack.  But now, our cart – and our lives – feel full.  It’s glorious.

It’s also a lot of food.  :)

Come June, we’ll be putting up a barn to give the goats and dogs more places to get out of the weather, and Philip will have a workshop there so he can build the other things we need here. (This weekend, he whipped up a chicken feeding station from some scrap wood.)  We’ll have space to put in stainless steel tables for goat cheese (in the future), and I’m hoping to acquire an old spinning wheel so I can turn the cashmere gals’ fiber into yarn.  Really, it’s so exciting.  So very exciting.

But today, my excitement is going to wrap itself around a little round puppy belly when we pick up Mosey at 11am today.  For years, I’ve wanted a basset hound.  I can’t really say why beyond the fact they are absolutely goofy looking, laid-back, hound dogs.  At Christmas each year, Mom would buy me a basset hound calendar, and I’d stare at those droopy eyes and ears and dream.  Another of my life’s dreams come true.  

Plus, we get the added bonus of having his brother Dexter live with my in-laws.  Whew, that’ll be 7 dogs between us.  That’s a lot of pup.

So stay tuned to our Facebook page for puppy pics and day to day updates on things here on the Farm – a little bit of peaceful here in the Virginia foothills.

May your day be full of all the joy found in goat hooves, kitten paws, dog tongues, and chicken feathers. 

 

If you’re interested in supporting the work we do here, we’d love that.  Please check out our Farm Store, or visit our Etsy shop – if you need a custom order of crochet or cross-stitch, please let me know. I’m happy to see what I can do that matches my skills to your budget.

And local folks, we have fresh eggs – just $3 a dozen. :)

 

Candles, Books, Bankies

So sorry I missed posting last week.  Our friend Kathy was in town, and I just forgot, honestly, in the joy of having her here. 

Goats at God's Whisper Farm

The goats do geometry in the pasture. We call this one “arc.” (Note, Acorn has secured the prime spot in the form.)

Yesterday, Philip and I deep-cleaned the farmhouse.  The idea was mine – even though typically Philip has much higher standards of clean that I do – and was prompted, I think, by the mud outside.  Normally, I love winter, but these wet, cold months this year have begun to weary me already, the slipping through mud to feed the goats, the chicken run thick with mud and poo, and Boone’s incessant need to put his giant muddy paws on my legs.  I’m ready for spring, particularly to see what comes to life with color in this new yard of ours. I’m hoping for scads of daffodils and snow drops.

But in the meantime, when most of our hours are spent inside, I’m working to make this place as cozy* as possible.  To that end, I have 3 things I have worked to include in each and every room:

  • Candles – Philip bought me one with the scent of old books for the reading room.
  • Books – Something for people to pick up and peruse should they set a spell.
  • Blankets – I called them “bankies” when I was little, and that term has stuck. Our house is not always warm, but I hope the blankets keep things comfy for everyone.

I also want to get live plants into as many spaces as I can because they help keep the air clean but also because they create a sort of atmosphere, too, don’t you think?

So here, in these slowly growing days, we are taking these hours to shape our home – for us but also for you – so that when you visit, you find the comfort, rest, and reflection time you need.

What makes a room feel particularly cozy to you?

*By the way, Mosey the Basset Hound puppy will arrive in a week or so.  We’ve already begun calling him Cozy Mosey.

 

We have lots of great events in store for the farm in the coming months, including a crochet class in February. We hope you’ll join us for some of them.  Check out the full list here – http://godswhisperfarm.com/events-down-on-the-farm/.

A Productive Holiday Break

It’s amazing what can be done when we slow down.  That’s the lesson I’m taking from the last two weeks of relative quiet here on the farm.

The original chimney in the summer kitchen at God's Whisper Farm

The attic of my new office in the original summer kitchen.

We’ve had time to think and work, and we’ve made a lot of progress on several projects:

  1. We have a plan for our barn.  It’ll be, we hope, a 40′ x 60′ single story, pole barn and will include space for the animals to get out of the weather as well as to store their hay, a workshop for Philip that will allow him to do woodworking and car maintenance, a bunk room for visiting guests, a full bathroom, and a large performance space for writers and bands to perform.
  2. We have completed most of the major work on my new office.  We had to do some major cleaning since no one had emptied the attic in this space for decades.  We found bags and bags of antique shoes.  (If you know someone who might appreciate this treasure, we’d love to hear about them.) Plus, the critters had been cozy there.  But now, the space is clean and just need a little plumbing removal (I don’t really want a toilet flange in my office.), paint, and electricity so I can move in.
  3. We organized the winter kitchen. The basement in the oldest part of the house was the original winter kitchen.  (My new office was the summer kitchen.) Philip spent some time this week organizing it and rehanging the old mantel over the fireplace there.  It’s a great storage spot with lots of stories to boot.
  4. We researched basset hound puppies.  Stay tuned.
  5. We picked up some cable spools from our friend Jane at Spring Gate Farm. The goats have loved them.  (Check out our Facebook page to see some pics.)
  6. We created a plan for the farm store in the old voting house.  We’ll be selling eggs and crafts and other items that our family and friends (including you, if you’d like*) in this beautiful old building by the road.  My goal is to get the place in shape by late spring, so we can sell surplus produce there, too.
  7. We scheduled the upcoming writing retreats here on the farm.  Two one-day retreats in May and June and then a weekend retreat in July.  I’m so excited.

We’ve also just relaxed a lot.  (I’m pretty sure my Hallmark movie total was 8 as I cross-stitched my way through the season).  It’s been a good time, one we need to replicate more often.

How about your holiday? Was it restful?  Productive? Too stressful to even remember?

 

*We’re looking to fill our farm store with homemade arts and crafts.  If you’d like to have your work included there, drop us a line. We’ll take items on consignment with our share being only 10% of the sale price.

 

A Year of Abundance

Our Farm from the Hill Yesterday, I walked up the big hill in front of the farm to the cemetery.  Dinwiddie Tucker, who was born in our house and played professional baseball, has a white marble mausoleum there. And I was hoping to find some other graves, particularly those of the people who were enslaved here 150 years ago.

As I climbed, the cows moved toward me like a wave, their huge eyes wide. A tiny calf – just days old – took shelter behind her mama.

I looked back at our farm and thought – “This is abundance.”

We have been given so much this year – 6 goats, 2 dogs, a flock of chickens, and a new farm that is full of history and story set in a place and community that will long hold us tight.

***

Effie Tucker is buried in that cemetery, too, next to her brother.  Effie lived in our house for all of her 94 years. She was the school teacher at the school on the corner, and when I got to the post office and tell people where we live, they say, “Miss Tucker was my teacher.” It seems she taught everyone in Radiant, and everyone here gives her the honor of memory.

I was pleased to see her grave there – carefully carved and modest next to her brother’s tomb.  That seems fitting.

In that small cemetery surrounded by wooden pickets, 5 or 6 graves marked with field stones sit quiet.  Perhaps they are the early graves of the Berrys and Yowells, perhaps the resting places of the enslaved people that worked on our farm.  In 2015, finding out ALL the stories of this place will be one of my central focuses.

***

In rural places, abundance is quiet.  Decades full of children in your solitary classroom. The tribute of a community to a person who became briefly famous. The stones that hold up the room in which I now sit and write these words and those uncarved to mark the graves of those not forgotten.  A tiny calf suckling in the near silence of a December morning.

For these our many blessings we are grateful.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

The Simple Things

We own 15 acres of land here – a gift we have been given the honor of caring for.  Most of that land is pasture, long opened up from the native oaks, cedars, and poplars that once covered it.  The hillsides are etched with the tree lines that have remained with fences or spring heads.  150-200 year old cedar tree

Yesterday, we walked down to one spring and greeted our neighbor’s cows – two gals round with babies, who stared at us, flared their quarter-size nostrils, and waddled on.  Philip had found a huge cedar tree just above the spring – 150-200 years old and wide around as two of us hugging it.

One of the reasons I love that man is that he takes such deep joy in such simple things.

We and our fathers gazed at that lovely beauty, and I wondered whose hands had also slid on that bark – farmers, enslaved people, tired women who wandered out from the house on a cool winter afternoon for just a few minutes of the kind of break that only crisp air can bring?

Beyond the cedar, the bright, crimson droplets of barberry dangled – an invasive species Dad tells me, and yet, it is beautiful – all that color against the beiges and grays of winter.

We spend more time walking the land – trying to figure out just where our property stops, marveling in the abundance of firewood we can gather, breathing.

Later, we we all stand in the hay field on the other side of the house – pink and orange flags marking the footprint of what will be our barn – I am caught breathless by the great gift that it is to have found this place, to have come to it with a man who dreams just as big as I do, to have parents who help and marvel and celebrate with us.

Olive and Acorn, the dwarf goats, jumped up into the swing set and watched – cuds dancing the whole time. And Bliss, our biggest, goaty gal, danced, her cashmere coat warm, her feet light – bucking and leaping as if to say, Isn’t this all just amazing – this life?  All this joy in so much that is simple.

 

Stay tuned for more details about the barn and for ways you can help us “raise” it.  Plus, we have some writing retreats coming up in May and July, so check out the schedule here.

 

Quiet Days and Barn Dreaming

I’m sitting in the reading room now, the Christmas tree lights on, the stove pinging, a clock ticking.  This quiet rest has been a few weeks coming now.

Maybe a barn like this?

My dream would be to have a two-story bank barn like this one. Like it?

We’ve been pretty quiet about this blog and on our Facebook page of late. . . farming, work, living . . . they sometimes make words about those things need to sit silent for a while.  But we are busy here, gestating, maybe. Thinking through our next thing.

We are talking about building a barn here on the farm – a place for the animals to stay out of the weather – the dog houses we have will only work for so long – a shop for Philip to do woodworking and work on cars, a hay storage area, and a performance space – big enough for readings and concerts.

Last year this time, we were talking barns, too, back at the old farm, and while we’d still be thrilled if Ramsay Restoration could do our work, we realize that our dream may have to be scaled back a bit – reclaiming material is a beautiful but very expensive thing. So we dream anew – a bank barn, a one-story barn? We’re just not sure yet.

But we do know that a barn will be here . . . and we do know we’ll need help with it, your help if you have it to give.  My vision is that we have a virtual barn raising for this building, a fundraising campaign that culminates in a giant potluck dinner, reading, and concert in the new building.  What do you think? Would you like to help us throw up a beam and hammer in a nail by donating a few dollars?

We may be moving that route in the spring, so stay tuned. . . Meanwhile, Xander is crowing in the day, and Meander is under a blanket in my grandfather’s chair.  Philip is still sleeping, a bliss for us both on this quiet Sunday of Advent.

May your day be full of quiet moments and HUGE dreams. 

 

Our Hardest Week Yet

If our week was written in diary form, it might look something like this:

A kitten naps on a Great Pyrenees

Sabeen and Bella, a reminder of why all the work is worth it.

Monday – a 3-story hemlock falls into the goat yard, missing goats, dogs, house, and fence by inches.  Philip spends Monday evening cleaning up (while Andi has a speaking engagement) so that we can get to animals and so that they don’t eat too much hemlock.

Tuesday – Philip is sick from the strain of Monday and yet prepares for work anyway only to see the dogs loose in the front yard.  He returns them to pasture, and then, they escape again.  Philip captures them again and has to take to the couch because he’s not feeling well. Later, our neighbor tells us that the hemlock Philip carefully placed in our burn pit might injure his cattles, who graze nearby, so they move all the hemlock for the second time.  Philip feels awful; yet, he and I must  capture the dogs and patch the fence 4 more times that day.

Wednesday – Dear friends are here for the night, and P goes to work until snow closes his office.  The dogs escape again, this time in snow, making their location harder to ascertain.  They are reinstated into the pasture, and we commence patching the fence more and more – tools used – boulders, boards, fencing, briars.

Thursday – I wake Philip because the dogs have escaped again.  We patch more and manage to keep them in the pasture while we enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving with them. Also, we watch Dumb and Dumber. 

 Friday – I wake Philip again when the dogs come over the gate in the front yard. I’m able to contain them but need Philip’s help to mend the gate.  Despite our boycott of Black Friday – in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and because we think it’s a little nutty – we head to Tractor Supply to buy the necessaries to put up electric fence.  We are about half-way done with the fence when we hear a ruckus in the chicken run and find Meander chasing and carrying our chickens.  We lose Rose to fright or injury.  Meander spends the day inside, and we spend the rest of Friday hanging the electric fence. I am asleep by 9:15.

Saturday – I wake Philip again because this time Boone is trying to squeeze himself into a space about as wide as my thigh and has required that I lift all 140 pounds of him so that he doesn’t break the paw he has gotten stuck in the gate slats.  We spend the morning building a 5′ gate out of solid oak that he can not climb, squeeze through, or push over.  A few hours escape to a local craft fair and lunch with Philip’s Mom.  Then, we return to install the invisible fence around the chicken run only to find that we don’t have the necessary battery for Meander’s collar that makes the fence effective. We visit 4 stores to get the battery and come home at 9pm.  We are both dead asleep by 10pm.

Sunday – I wake at my usual 6:30 and find everyone sound in their pasture.  Meander tests the invisible fence and quickly finds it working.  I feed and water everyone while Boone tries to nose past me out the gate.  He does not succeed. Everyone is safe and sound. . . . although Boone put forth his best effort to climb that fence.  Now, I’m on the couch with Meander – who is wrapped like a burrito. Philip slept until he awoke naturally, and Xander the rooster is crying victory, victory, victory.

Sometimes, I suppose, it takes a great deal of strife for us to be grateful for the rest, huh?

By the way, if you need advice on electric fencing systems, gates, or predator protection, let us know.  We have knowledge we never wanted to gain, but we’re happy to share it.