Looking Back To See Ahead

It’s funny sometimes what things make me happy.

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Sometimes it’s such simple things. Last night was the first time in a long time that it felt like I had Em back. The Em I fell in love with. Although she’s still sick, we were able to actually lay in bed and snuggle. We talked, not about anything, just talked. It was so nice. For the past few months all I could do was worry and pray I didn’t lose her. I’ve tried to work and keep the bills paid while at the same time being both mom and dad to our kids, trying to keep enough laundry done so we all had clean clothes, keep food on the table and still be her nurse.  She was always too sick to talk and hurt so bad that even me touching her bothered her. I was always too tired myself to do more than just pass out when I would finally get in bed. No one other than her and I know how tough it’s been. Now she seems to be improving and it makes me so happy. I’ve missed my mildly crazy, impossibly chatty wife.

We have talked in the past and both of us want what we had in our old home in Mississippi. A quiet place where we can relax, watch our children play and grow, and where we can have our critters. Simple. Peaceful. Quiet.

Today out of the blue she texted me a picture of some black-faced sheep. It led into the whole “Honey? What do we need with a wool sheep? Aww its cute! But what do we need with it? I love you and I bet you could find me one…or two. well, I guess you could learn to spin wool. Connor will be old enough to help you in a few years…” conversation. I had to laugh out loud. It was like old times. I’ve always been the serious one. She’s the spontaneous one. I’m quiet and always thinking ahead and planning things, she is always pulling pranks and making me laugh and forget what I was doing. Now we seem to be getting back to where we were before she got sick.

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Tomorrow I’ve got to get up early and go do a side job then come home and work at the sawmill for a while. Then Sunday morning I’ve got an appointment to go pick up the keys and sign the contract on the farm land. I’m excited. It’s going to be a ton of work, but I’m so looking forward to Em and I getting our life back. We can have a garden and our critters again. Fresh eggs. Baby goats. Pretty flowers. I should be dreading all the hot, back-breaking work ahead of me but I’m actually looking forward to it. I love doing things where I can see the change day to day. It’s a catch 22 in a way. Work is slowing way down so  should be able to have lots of time to work on the place but it also means I’ll be struggling to be able to afford to drive back and forth. It will all work out though. I’ll see that it does. I’m a country boy and am old enough to know better while still too young to care.

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Life is good. I might be sick, but it won’t last. I might be broke, but I’ll make a living. I might be old, But I still have dreams. We have a good life. We have wonderful kids, a roof over our heads, a place to start our farm again and we have each other. We have faced adversity and overcame it. When I sit and watch our kids play I know that we are so blessed.

I’ve made a good start on my seed list so far. I can’t really finish it until I get enough of the farm cleared to take some measurements and decide where the garden will be and how large, but I know what I’ll be planting if not how much. In the next week or so I should be able to print a list of the crops and which week it will be planted. It’s a complicated thing figuring the planting dates for each crop, the germination date, the harvest dates, the companion plantings that go in with it, succession planting dates and still make sure I have a steady output at the times I need it. Lots of non farmers think its just a matter of planting a seed and waiting but it is so much more. I also have to figure in the organic levels, PH levels, water needs, fertilizer needs, sunlight hours needed per crop and whether or not it needs supports, netting, stakes or fencing. Farming is at least as much art as it is science.

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One Of Those Days

It’s turning out to be one of those days. I’m pretty sick today and between the heat and having to worship at the porcelain throne I ain’t getting much accomplished. I have bills that have to be paid, but I just can’t seem to get out enough to scrape anything up. 

  
I noticed a lot of my blog posts are missing. Just “poof”, gone. The vacation post and several on cooking and one on building outbuildings. I have no idea what happened. I know I didn’t delete them and no one else is supposed to be able to. I guess it’s either WordPress doesn’t like me or I should have got the paid version lol. 

  
I’ve been thinking that sometime in the future I should probably get someone to set up a real website. It would be nice to be able to have everything in one place and not have such limited storage. To have pages like I see on other peoples sites where you can click a link to see pages like “pictures of the farm”, “pictures of our critters”, “how we grow our produce”, “contact info”, and stuff like that. Something with links to a blog, Facebook and other stuff. I’m such a technical idiot though I’d have to hire someone to do all the setups and teach me to use the cussed thing. And I’m sure it will cost a lot of money I don’t have. My wife could probably do it, but I don’t want her doing anything as sick as she’s been. 

Any of my tech friendly customers or freinds want to take on a project like that in trade for produce, meat, eggs or woodwork? Didn’t thing so. Oh well. 

  
I know if I ever want to be successful in this modern world I’m going to have to figure out a way to get some publicity for the things I do. Produce, woodworking, the critters both farm animals and our pets and exotics. I have no idea how these people get thousands of hits and freinds. I don’t even know hundreds much less thousands. 

My sister wants me to write how-to e-books and sell on Amazon for a few bucks each. I don’t know how and I dang sure ain’t no writer. One of my daughters suggested a YouTube channel with short videos of different things around the farm like how to care for chickens, how to ferment kraut,  raising mealworms for poultry food and such. I can barely watch YouTube and have no idea how to post anything there. I also don’t see how I could hold a camera and do that stuff at the same time. Plus who in their right mind would want to watch me do any dang thing? I’ve had several people tell me I needed to write a book using my blog and all the other stuff I’ve written over the years. While I appreciate their support and optimism I just don’t see myself as having anything to say that matters and that anyone would care to read. It still amazes me I have like four “followers” on here. 

  
In the past week I’ve had two people offer to help with a seed fund. That sorta floors me. I don’t see a lot of positive in the world anymore and here, out of the blue, two people offer to help me buy seeds for a crop that might or might not ever grow and get harvested. There’s still good out there. It’s amazing timing too because even if I start fairly  small it’s still going to cost several hundred dollars just to buy good seeds in a good variety. 

I do wish sometimes I was better at all the technology stuff. 

  
I really need to sit down and get my seed list figured out, make orders from each of the companies I trust and do business with, and get a true idea of what crops will be planted between now and the first of the year. 

But it will have to wait. Tonight I just want to snuggle up with my wife and try to relax. 

  

Older Projects

It’s been a scorcher today. I don’t feel like I got much done, but I did get a new blank dug out of the pile to make a new bench. 

I love working with wood and like to make interesting stuff out of things most folks would just throw away. This old wood stove I thought made a cute planter at the back of our incubator shed. It has moss rose growing in the top, English ivy in the bottom door and variegated monkey grass in the stovepipe. It’s much fuller now, this picture is a few years old. It was out behind our old auction building in a pile of scrap metal, but I decided it was worth more to me as a planter. 

  
Here is a bench/coffee table I made for my mom last year. The base is a massive piece of a cypress limb and the top was made from a piece of gnarly diseased Drake Elm. It turned out being one of my favorite pieces, even if it did take my almost 8 months to build. Sometimes being a perfectionist is a bit of a headache. I actually made it for her to sit out in her flower garden, but she put it inside and uses it for a coffee table. 

  
This planter was made from a naturally hollow cypress limb section. It just had character and was begging to be a planter so I obliged it. It’s simple. It’s nothing special. But I like it. 

  
I was walking through the pasture this spring and noticed a neat old camphor limb laying near our burn pile. I thought it looked like it wanted to be a plant stand. So with a little work and some rounds and a base slab from a larger camphor log it slowly came to be. My friend Pat has this in the corner of her dining room now and she loves it. 

  
We have made lots of little benches and tables. Oak, camphor, pine, cedar, bottlebrush and other exotic and common woods. This one is cypress with lighter knot pine post legs. My father in law made this one, I just helped deliver and set it up. Its representative of many we make though. 

 
 These were just some smaller ones that I thought looked nice. 

  
  
I wanted to post some of my cabinetry but couldn’t find any pictures on this phone except the picture of one full of home canned veggies. I wish I had better pictures because I remodeled my entire living and dining room in knotty white pine. Everything is built in from the entertainment center to the wood box for the heating stove. 

  
I’ve already posted pictures of the old barn I rebuilt on other earlier posts. Here is another of the hallway though. I love the way it turned out. You can see the lumber is a mixture of old used rough sawn sawmill lumber and painted finished lumber in all different sizes. The bar across the front is an antique buggy axle and if you look close you will find an old Colt pistol frame and even an antique catcher’s mask hanging on the outside. What you can’t see from this picture is my prized “hopalong Cassidy” paper milk carton which is on the inside up high out of the weather. 

  
And a bull pen/catch chute I built for my father in law. This was taken before it was finished. It was made out of some pretty massive boards we cut on the sawmill out of old electric poles. It will definitely hold a bull. Or an elephant for that mater. 

  
You can see the hay rack and the start of my pigeon coop in the background of this picture. It was built onto the back of my hay room in the equipment shed. All I had to do was pitch a bale through the opening in the back wall straight into the hay rack. It sure saved a lot of hauling. It worked good for our horses, the family milk cow and the goats. The round thing you see in front of it is a compost ring. 

  
I’ve even built a few rodent breeder racks for the store. I need to make a lot more of these if I ever get the right lumber cut. This was my own design as I had never seen one that had all the features I wanted. Not only do they work well, I’ve had several individuals ask for me to build some more to sell. It’s on my to-do list. 

  
I’m always working on something. I love building and turning junk into useful items. I can’t abide waste. Even the little short pieces I can usually build something out of even if it’s just a boot jack or a bird house. 

  
I’ve got to go pick up some old oak trunk sections out of a lady’s yard in the next few days…. I wonder if they would like to be turned into something useful?

We will see. 

New Beginnings 

What a wonderful day!

  
When we moved to central Florida in January of 2013 we had to give up our little farm. Emily and I both loved it so much and we were so happy there. Because of my croahns disease and the economy forcing us to close the auction business, we made the hard choice to move to her hometown of St Cloud Florida and start over. We still own the house and land there, but there was just no way to move all the animals and infrastructure so we sold off all the livestock, packed away all the supplies and the like and moved. 

We brought a few things with us, some show poultry, one of the horses and Lily’s pony, our dog, just a very few things. Over the past couple of years something killed the chickens, we rehomed the horse and pony and basically are down to almost nothing as far as farm critters. I’ve had a small garden here, but between floods, droughts and insects it hasn’t done much. Plus it desperately needed the soil built up and an irrigation system. 

  
We have been desperately looking for a place since the first week here. We’ve came right down to signing the papers twice on homes, but backed out at the last minute because they just weren’t “right”. We are still looking for a home, but I decided a couple of months ago to go ahead and try to just find a place I could farm, even if I had to rent or lease it. All I’ve ever needed is a place to start. A place where I can raise my crops and my livestock and not be limited on space or the types of critters I could raise. Again, I’ve looked at maybe a hundred places from an acre on up, some the owners even offered to let me use free of charge, but they all had some reason it wouldn’t work. Most had no water, some were too swampy, none had usable buildings, one place didn’t like goats or other farm animals. It was looking pretty bleak. All I needed was an acre or two to work with. I know myself and my strengths and weaknesses and I know as long as I have a place to start I can someday be back to taking care of my family and making a living doing what I love. 

  
Then yesterday I met a wonderful couple who had bought a very nice piece of land which included an old abandoned hog farm. They were looking to have someone rent or barter for the farm area to clean it up and put it back in production. It was sort of a long drive, and the pictures I had seen looked like it was pretty far gone, but I made an appointment to meet with them and drive down and check it out. 

I was amazed!

  
First off the couple was very nice. They were easy to talk to, very interested in actually having it farmed and productive. I’m not a people person, and find it hard to talk to a lot of folks, but this seemed like a great match between my goals and theirs. Not only did I discuss the farm with them, I also enjoyed just visiting. From talking to them I was very comfortable with proceeding to look more depth into the area I was interested in using. 

  
Then they took me on a short tour of the farm area. Wow! It is overgrown as it’s been sitting unused for a few years, but there is so much potential there! The place already has a good well and electric. There are irrigation systems already in place, the fences are solid, just need a few posts and lots of tightening. There is a full bathroom with a shower, a really nice storage building, several pole barns that I can fix up without too much money or labor, a start on a tiny greenhouse, a nice little duck pond with a boardwalk and dock, and even an old commercial walk in meat cooler that I might can fix. 

  
Everything will take a lot of cleaning and repairs but ALL the infrastructure is already there! And add to that, it’s beautiful, it’s private and its peaceful. 

We had already been talking some online and on the phone and spent a good bit more time talking face to face. We worked out all the details and decided to think it over and see if it was something we were all in agreement with and comfortable doing. We talked more after I left by text message. 

  
I did have some concerns. It’s a long drive for me, I’ll be very limited on what I can get done until after the baby is born because I’ll have to be here to take care of Emily most days and because I still have my job and can’t miss any paying work. At most for the next six months I’ll be able to maybe work there a couple of days a week if I’m lucky. If I do sell my produce and such I will have to sit up a delivery route because it’s not the kind of place I could have farm pick-ups. So I thought on it. I prayed a bit on it. And I decided it was just too great of an opportunity to pass up. I decided to just go for it. When I pulled my phone out to call them a message popped up as soon as I pulled my phone out of my pocket saying they wanted me to have it. I’m taking  that as a sign. I really feel this is one of those things that is just meant to be. 

  
We still have a few little details to work out and I’ll have to go pick up the keys in a week or so, but I guess as of now….

I’m a farmer again. 

Emily has been very supportive also. She wants me to be happy. She has told me she wants the life we had in Mississippi, she just wants it here in central Florida. We both know I’ve got to work and make a living to pay our bills. I have to be able to support and take care of her and our children. But as long as I can do that then she wants me to have my dreams. We still won’t own any property yet, but we will have a place to start. I’ll be able to farm, relax, build up a little business and know my family is eating healthy, natural food. Once I get it cleaned up a bit maybe if she is feeling better I can bring her and the kids with me part of the time and we can all enjoy the critters and the farm. 

  
I’m so excited! It will most likely be after the first of the year before I can start adding the farm critters but I’m hoping to have the garden in by the first of September and start making weekly deliveries of produce by the first of October. 

I’m still sort of in a state of excitement. It’s been so long. Maybe the prayers are paying off, maybe it was just meant to be, maybe I just got lucky. But I can wait until the day I get it cleaned up and get back to farming. 

It’s a good day in the life of an old farmer. I’m happy. Life is good. 

  

Which Way To Go?

  
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul searching  lately. I’ve known for years what it is I want to do, but now I’m thinking I should go ahead and just do it and take it even farther. 

I want to be able to start a small CSA. As in Community Supported Agriculture. In a nutshell it’s a business model where I raise a large garden for a set season and instead of selling at the farmer’s markets and on Craigslist, I instead sell family shares each week. Nothing would really change except for the way I get paid. I would still sell any extra at the markets. I would still raise everything as natural and organically as possible. My family would still come first. Starting out will be veggies  then adding herbs and cut flowers and someday branching out and offering things like fruit, nuts, berries, pastured poultry, milk, cheese, eggs, beef and pork shares, local honey and value added products. 

  
Now I’m thinking about the myriad other things that seem to matter to me. I want to live simply and in peace and harmony with the world I live in. I want to be able to help others. I want to be able, in some small way, to educate. I want to be able to leave the land in better condition than I find it. I want to be able to feel secure. Most importantly, I want to be able to sleep at night and be proud of the man looking at me in the mirror. 

  
I have had a lot of people over the years offer to help me reach my goals and support the farm by donating tools, equipment, labor, computer skills and things like that. Can I accept things like that and stay true to my core beliefs? Is it worth the headache? I don’t want a business, And I don’t want a nonprofit and all the detailed guberment malarkey that entails. I just want a small farm that supports my family and helps and supports my community. I want to live a good, clean, simple life and still be able to give back to my community and to my fellow man. 

  
Can I in good conscience raise and sell animals for meat and at the same time keep taking rescues in because I can’t stand to see them mistreated and starved? I see the difference, but would others? My critters eat better than I do. They get vet care. They have the best shelter and the best life I can give them. Then, when the “day” comes, they are dispatched in the most humane way possible with no terror, stress or pain that can be avoided. And I honor their sacrifice and am thankful for the gift of life their meat provides myself and my family. 

I was raised a farmer. We have always raised our own meat. But after almost 50 years of life it still bothers me every single time I have to dispatch an animal. I do it, but it still bothers me. Pa always said the day I take a life of any kind and it doesn’t bother me would be the day I need to just walk away and get a desk job. So I guess I’m still ok. 

  
I’m not a kid any longer. I feel my age more as the years wear on. I’m either going  to keep staring at the line and dreaming and then someday lie on my deathbed thinking “I wish I had tried”, or I’ve got to bite the bullet, step past that line and go for it. It’s a pretty simple thing really. 

I’m not expecting answers but writing everything out seems to help me think. It’s how I organize my thoughts. I’m a juxtaposition. The bunny huggers hate me for raising meat animals. The hard core farmers hate me for being a bunny hugger. Can a man not want to be a down to earth farmer and raise food for his family and yet still have compassion for the abused and mistreated? 

  
I see people every day that are looking for a connection to their food. I’d like to be able to teach those who are interested how to raise their own. I’m sick of the way things are. You go to the big store and buy food shipped from across the country or across the globe. Sprayed, poisoned, waxed, painted, injected and tasteless. There has to be a market for foodstuffs where you know what you are getting. Where you look the farmer in the eyes, ask questions and get honest answers, shake his hand, and even have the opportunity to occasionally see the crops growing, pet the goats, feed the poultry. Where you know, with no doubts, where your share is coming from, how it was raised and who raised it. Where a tomato looks like a tomato and your greens aren’t in a heat sealed nitrogen filled bag. 

  
I want my children to grow up being free to be kids. To learn responsibility and respect without being made into mindless robots. I want them to know what hard work is but also to know how to have fun. Is there still a world I can raise them in that will teach them the value of money without having them worship wealth like so many today do? 

 Just a day to ramble I guess. So many thoughts running through my head.  

  
I just left the grocery store and now there is no doubt. I’ve got to raise our own meat or we’ve got to become vegetarians. Meat prices have went up again just in the past week. And with all the bird flu, mad cow, and all the repeated and growing concern over contaminants in our meat and egg supply?

It’s time. 

Is June Too Early For Thanksgiving?

Tonight I’m tired. Deep down bone tired. 

And contented. I’m happy. I’m excited. 

Today my wife got to come home from the hospital. 11 days in the ICU ward, having to watch her suffer. Having to work hard all day in hundred degree heat, take a quick shower, feed the kids, then drive to the next town over just to gown up just to enter her room and sit and hold her hand while I silently prayed. I would sit there every night by her bed wondering what was going to happen and tonight I’m laying here on the bed with her, my arm around her as we watch the kids play in the floor. 

I almost lost her. Today the doctor came in with a half hour speech about how it was touch and go the first few days. He told her he would like her to stay in the hospital indefinitely but that if he allowed her to go home she needed to realize that the next infection could kill her. This was so much more serious than anyone knew. 

She will have me changing her fluids and keeping everything as sterile as possible and she has two different home care nurses coming out. One will be coming out daily to give her antibiotics for the next two weeks and the other will be changing the dressing on her PICC and doing some of the other meds. It’s going to be tough. Going to be expensive, going to be tiring. But it’s wonderful because my wife is feeling better and she is home. My wife, my partner, my best friend is home!

I stood in the doorway when we got home and watched all the children gathered around her, hugging her and everyone crying. Tears of joy and happiness. Em was so happy to finally get to see her kids and the kids were overjoyed because mommy was home. It was so sweet. 

Today for the first time I got to feel the baby move. I might have had something in my eyes though cause I was tearing up a little. It was so magical. Feeling that new life, that combined piece of Emily and I. A miracle baby. Words can’t express how I felt. It was magic. 

Once we got home and the kids stopped clinging to mommy, they all had to put their hands on her belly so they could feel the baby too. It was so sweet. Tomorrow afternoon we go for a sonogram to see if they can tell us the sex of the baby. That will be exciting. 

I’ve been able to work every day this week so that makes me feel good. I’ve got jobs lined up on the side for when we aren’t working at the tree service. Money goes out faster than it comes in, but as long as I’m working I know we will make it. I’ve got a meeting Saturday that could be a total turn around for us. I’m trying not to get too excited, but it’s hard with what could be a dream coming true if it does work out. I have so much stress ,and bills coming due every day, but I’m optimistic. I think I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I believe in myself and in my family. 

I’m thankful. For my wife, for my kids, for the friends that have stuck by us with encouraging words and prayers. I’m thankful I’m able to work. Heck, I’m even thankful for the aches and pains that come from putting in a good honest day’s work. 

I got a note tonight from someone. Just telling me they believed in me and my dreams. Do you realize how much something like that means after a month like I’ve had? How uplifting it is to once in a while hear someone supportive instead of negative? I am so blessed. 

I am not really a religious man. I don’t go to church like I should, I occasionally let slip some foul language, I have been known to tell someone off. But I try to be a good man. And I try hard to improve day by day. I’m not a great husband or father but I’m trying so hard to be. And tonight I think I’ll bend a knee, close my eyes, and thank the good lord for all the many blessings in my life. 

Life is good.