Spring Has Sprung 

Wow! Two months since I’ve had a chance to write on my blog!

Life is good here on the farm. I’ve been working non-stop it seems, but we are finally about caught up again and starting to plan our projects for this year. So much to share…

The youngest of the Lambert tribe is growing sooo fast! He is coming up on five months old now and is a lil chunky monkey. He is cutting two teeth on the bottom and a bit fussy, but growing quick. He is turning over and starting to crawl, he just hasn’t learned to use his legs and hands at the same time. We can’t leave him in his little rocky thinggy without keeping a close eye on him because he just flips out of it. I just love coming home and listening to him babble at his daddy. 

  
Connor is finally talking. He has started putting words together and making sentences now. Of course he still jibber jabbers a lot too, but every day he is talking plainer and clearer. We have been worried about his speech, but I think he’s gonna be ok. 

  
Lilykid is still doing great in school and is a lil farmer like her daddy. She loves going out to feed the critters with me and she’s helping me plant the garden too. She’s as country as a kid can get. 

  
Rhiannon is doing great in school and doing great with her driving. We are hoping to help her get her first car this summer. While farming isn’t her thing, she’s a good youngun and we are very proud of her. I don’t know how we could have made it through Em being sick without her helping. 

  
And then there’s Em. I could do none of this without her. She’s my rock, my sanity. She takes care of us all. No matter what time I get off work she’s always waiting up for me, even if it’s midnight. She makes sure I eat, nags after my health and always has a hug and a shoulder when I’m sick or just letting life get me down. Every day I thank God for her. 

  
The farm is coming along. Just this week we were finally able to get some black giant chicks from a top breeder that I’ve been dreaming of for years. We’ve got the sportsman incubator full of hatching eggs and more heritage Rhode Island Red chicks on the way. Em has a trio of gold laced brahmas, her show quality white runner ducks and her peafowl. Plus the Guineas, pheasants, geese, ducks and all the other breeds of chickens we have. 

We’ve started planting the garden. Sweet peas, carrots, radishes, lettuces and specialty greens are already up and if it works out and I have help, cabbage, onions, and a few other things will go in the ground tomorrow. Still a lot of work to do, but it’s started. 

Just this last week I was able to process the four smaller pigs that weren’t growing to suit me. We wound up with almost 200 pounds of boneless pork in the freezer. What a wonderful feeling to open the door and see that!  Plus we have the five largest left to grow more and pack on the weight for next fall. 

  
I think tomorrow I’ll have a cleaning day here at the farm. I’ve got to get some ditches dig, lots of raking and finish trimming the trees. Deadfall limbs need to be gathered and burned, fences need to be put up and stables and coops need cleaned. We’ve hired a friend to come help some next week, but if I’m off tomorrow I’m gonna get started on it early. 

So much more I need to write about but Em just finished making a huge pot of her famous potato soup and it’s calling my name! 

Advertisements

Wishing for spring

It’s so cold today. Or maybe it’s just me. I’ve been sick for several days now with a winter cold. I can’t sleep because I’ll start coughing and wake up sick. Today I’m just miserable. I feel really rotten. 

  
Spring is coming soon though and I have so much to do to get ready for the new season. I should have had the cool weather crops like cabbage, onions, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts already started indoors. I still need to finish clearing the garden spot and getting the compost tilled in. Em is wanting to buy a milk cow next month, so I’ve got to get the barn fixed and new fences up. It never ends on a homestead but it’s the life I love. 

Em’s baking and candy making side of things is coming along great! She has orders for both bread and candy today. It’s going to be a good help paying the bills and getting the farm going again. I have got to find a way somehow to buy her a good stand mixer though along with bread bags, a printer that can print labels and a few mixing bowls and such. I am so darn proud of her and all she is doing. 

  
  
  
Rhiannon is wanting to start making goats milk soaps and we are going to put her in charge of the cutesy decorating stuff. She’s good at that. She comes up with some pretty cool ideas. 

I can’t wait until spring and to get the farm stand built. I can picture it now with all the fresh vegetables, baked goods, candies, soaps, herbs, fresh flowers, canned goods and other goodies. It’s going to be a life-long dream come true. 

The CSA farm shares are ready to start taking orders on now for pickup starting in April. I still have a ton of stuff to buy like more seeds and compost, but it’s getting there. I’m excited to get started. The great part is we will be adding so much more as time goes on. With the first years profits we will be setting out lots more fruit trees, assorted berries, but trees, grapes and muscadine vines and building a greenhouse to extend the season for following years. 

I’ve looked into getting farm loans and grants and it’s just impossible for a small farm like ours. Since we can’t borrow any money to get started we will just have to do it the way we have done everything else and figure out inventive ways to raise the cash we need. Right now we have lots of pigs and I could buy more from a friend if we get any good orders on pork. We are wanting to raise meat chickens if we get enough people interested. We have a chance to buy a good milk cow and a couple of beef steers. Em is baking her heart out and raising all she can that way. It will all work out. 

  
I have had a good life. And God willing?
It will only get better. 

Less Is More

I am humbled sometimes by all the attention I receive from total strangers on my blog. I had no idea when I started writing that so many people would read it or could possibly be interested in the musings of a simple country man. Thank you one and all for the kind comments and messages I’ve received. It does encourage me to continue to write and share my thoughts and experiences. Sometimes the attention makes me a bit uncomfortable but it also makes me feel like I might have something to contribute. 

Last post I was a bit down and tired. Today I want to lighten things up a bit with some reflections on life and living. 

I suppose I have a different view on life because of how I was raised and to an extent by the life I’ve chosen to live, but I’m confused by the bondage people sign up for. To me it’s like being a volunteer slave. Bear with me and I will try to explain. 

I’m not going to name names, but several people I know, including family members, have huge homes, drive new cars and wear only the most expensive clothing. They also work sixty hours a week, never spend any time in their fancy homes and are genuinely miserable.  I know some who have so much stuff they don’t even know what all they do have. It’s like they work so hard to have a life that they forget to live. 

Now I’m not knocking wealth or comfort. Lord knows I could use a little less monetary stress in my life. I salute those who are successful. I just see many who think money equals happiness. 

I’m simple. I am able to look at things from a different angle. This post started with a comment from someone this week. They asked me “how can you be so happy being poor?”

Poor?

I’m not poor. I’m the richest man I know. I guess I just look at my wealth in a different light. I just learned over the years what really matters. And it’s not money. I chased that dream once. And I was miserable. Then I lost it all. 

And I found myself. 

I realized that I missed my older kids growing up. I lost friends that I should have visited at their home instead of at the funeral home. I lost precious time with my family members as they grew old. And I wasted so many years chasing an illusion of happiness. Now I’m older. I know who I am now and what I need and want. I realize what makes me happy. 

I need shelter. A home that is dry, warm in winter and cool in summer. It doesn’t need to be large or fancy, but for my piece of mind it needs to be well built, clean and safe. Because I love peace and quiet it needs to be in the country and semi secluded. I need way to prepare my food, a place to sleep, a way to shower and a way to comfortably sit and read, visit with family and just live. I am an outdoor person, so I need outdoor living space like a porch or deck, outdoor seating and I like having pretty landscaping. I need to know it’s mine. That no one can take it away from me and leave me homeless again. 

I need people in my life I can trust. People who love me for me, not what I have or what I can give them.  

I like simple food. Fresh natural food. Looking in the cupboards and seeing row after row of home canned goods feels like I imagine a rich man would feel looking at his gold. Knowing I have a garden for vegetables and a way to feed and supply my families needs makes me feel secure. 

I’m rich because I’m surrounded by what I love. I wake every morning to my beautiful wife. The best friend who supports my dreams and stands by my side no matter what life throws at us. I have my kids and thank God every day for them. I have wonderful family and friends. I have a home, my tiny farm, my critters and my dreams. Everything here is wore out and in need of repair but it’s ours. And I can see the promise of better days to come if I don’t give up and keep working hard. 

I’m am so lucky. And the good part is that I know I’m lucky. Tonight as I sit here on the porch writing I feel good. I’m tired, I’ve got lots of bills and responsibilities and I’m so far behind I feel like I’m never going to see daylight. 

And it’s ok. 

Life goes on. I’m happy. I’m blessed. And as I head to bed to snuggle with my wife and newborn son I know that tomorrow is another day. We will be ok. I will be ok. 

Life is good. 

Blah…..

Today has been one of those days when I really have thought about giving up. Just saying the hell with it and becoming a sheeple. It would be easier to just stumble blindly through life following the crowd. 

I really hate to be negative. I avoid being around negative people. I can usually find the good in any situation. But I’m human. Sometimes I get depressed too. I’ve faced things in my life that would kill a lesser man. I live with regrets of a wasted and misspent youth. And today I’m just sorta… Blah. 

Maybe it’s just winter blues. 

  
Em hasn’t been feeling good and has been running on no sleep for days. The boys have been sick and poor little Luke has been crying and waking up every little while. I’m tired, I don’t feel good, I can’t seem to get anything done and lately it seems everything I touch turns to crap. It’s cold outside, it’s muddy, it gets dark at frigging four in the evening and I’m tired. Just deep down bone tired. Christmas is just a few weeks off, almost every single bill I’ve got is past due and I feel like something is “off” with my health. Nothing I can put my finger on, I just don’t feel right and haven’t for a while now. As a husband and father, it scares me. I’ve been feeling shaky all day, panicky. 

But I guess I’ll snap out of it. I just need to get my family all healthy, get a little rest, figure out a way to get all the bills caught up and then get my butt out and work on the farm. 

  
I did take this past Saturday off to do a little around here. I got the garden burned off finally. I normally keep it weeded better, but with everything that was going on this past year, after the crops all matured I just let it go. This actually serves several purposes. It allows me to have a little extra pasture in early winter. The animals grazing it fertilize the garden with their droppings. The goats eat many of the weeds and weed seeds. It keeps the winter rains from washing the soil away and finally, when I do plow it all under it adds green matter high in potassium to the soil for spring. By burning it all off after it finally died down I add valuable pot ash to the soil too. 

This past weekend I looked around the farm and there are so many things that need to be done. It’s frustrating. Ditches to be dug, roofs to patch, fences to put up, pens to build, cages to build, brush to clear and so much more. And I have no money for supplies, no tools, no equipment and no time. I’ve thought seriously about just making pens out of brush, mud and wattle style. It won’t last but about a year, but it will buy time to get things rolling again. Oh well, if it’s meant to be, I’ll find a way. 

But as I sit here writing I can’t help but think of how lucky I am. Even with everything going on. I have a wonderful family. A loving supportive wife, great kids, a home, a job, good friends and I’ve got a plan. I’m a bit down right now, but like Em told me tonight, “it will get better”.

  
Maybe I can get the farm page going soon and get a few sales coming in on the spring CSA. It’s only about a month until the first seeds get started inside and the first winter greens need to be sown in the garden. I’ve also had several request in the past week for other products like jellies, jams, honey, milk products and hand made soaps. The opportunity is there if I can just get caught up and take advantage of it. 

But first things first. 

Go to bed old man. Tomorrow is another day. 

Catching Up

Wow! it’s been a while since my last post. Life has been busy here at the Lambert homestead!

Four weeks ago today we welcomed our newest family member into the world. Luke Grayson Lambert. A beautiful, perfect baby boy. After so much pain and worry he arrived totally without incident and has been doing great ever since. He is the most vocal little fella I’ve ever seen. I swear, he looks like he is trying to talk sometimes. He’s got my big ears but has his Momma’s eyes and toes.

Emily has been doing so much better since the baby was born. She is tired and wore out from taking care of all of us and trying to do housework, but she’s her old self again. I’m so happy to have her back and out of danger. It’s funny in a way, she is excited to get back in her pre-pregnancy jeans and I am just excited she’s healthy and not in the hospital anymore.


As soon as I can get the pictures on this computer where I can find them I want to post all about little Luke. I also have posts in mind about lots of other things like Emily and I and our love story, my newest bad luck – gout, mud, and so much more.

I’m home today because I’m sick with a stomach bug and the boss gave me the day off. I think he’s afraid he will catch it too since we had another of the crew out most of last week with this crud. It is rough. I lay down and I get acid in the back of my throat so I’m sitting up and figured if I had to sit up, I might as well write a bit.


On the rare times I’ve had a free moment I’ve been working on firming up our plans for next spring here on the farm. Emily has built us a web store for the CSA and our vegetable garden. I’m still working on filling everything out and getting it all listed so we can go live with it. I’m just a country farmer so all this computer stuff is alien to me. I guess that’s what the world relies on now though, so I’ll do the best I can to modernize and hope I can figure enough of it out to survive. *sigh*

I can’t help but stress over everything though. What if all the people who asked me to raise things for them don’t go through with it and pay? Emily is always telling me how many people read my blog and how many calls, messages and conversations she has with folks about the farm. I don’t see it though. I have like six followers here and hardly ever any comments. I do know people are getting scared of the grocery store crap and wanting to reconnect with their food and where it comes from and how it is raised. I’ve had about 20 people tell me they wanted in on the CSA, I’ve got several families right now wanting in on a cow share for fresh milk and butter. I’ve got a list of folks wanting meat shares like poultry, beef and pork. Eggs, cottage crafts, game birds, fermented products, cheeses, canned goods. I can do most all of it. I won’t be able to do it all and be legal here, but I could.

But what if I put all this work into it, find some way to get enough money to finance the startup costs and then…nothing? It’s scary. Oh well, at least my family will eat good. After all, It’s all I know.


Our friend Pat and her family is moving up here soon. She has said she wants to help with everything, so that will take a lot off of me. I worry about days like this when I’m sick and can’t work. Even a couple of days could make things a mess, but as long as I have Em and Pat to help me out it will take a lot of stress off my shoulders. I’m really hoping we will get some volunteers to help with occasional chores too from the people who are wanting to learn to farm. I love teaching the few things I know.

My darn barn hallway is flooded. I think I’ve got a new wet weather spring coming up to the surface in there. The only thing I know to do is to install a French drain and then put a raised floor in that room. I like having the water table close to the surface here, but it sometimes wrecks havoc with things. I’m so sick of mud I could scream. Everything is wet and muddy this time of year. I’ll be glad when I can get walkways built around to all the pens so I don’t have to deal with fighting the mud anymore. And get water lines ran so I don’t have to haul water. And electric so I don’t have to feed in the dark on these short winter days. Farming is a never ending job though. It’s all part of life on a small homestead.


And with all the stress, being sick, wading mud and trying to figure out how I’m going to pay bills?

 

I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

I’ve got a great wife, wonderful kids, good friends and a plan.

 

Life is good.

First Frost

  
It finally got cold enough for a fire last night and we had a good frost. The temperature dropped down to 34%.  Just a tiny fire, enough to knock the chill from the air. There is something about a fire though that makes a house feel so cozy. I sure do love our wood heater. 

I have been neglecting my blog lately. I get up before daylight and get home after dark most nights and have just been too tired and stressed to write. This weekend I’ve had a banged up leg from an accident at work and I’ve got a cold so I’ve been pretty miserable. Eventually things will even out and maybe I can get back to posting regularly. 

Em has been busy at home hatching lots of chicken eggs to build up our flocks. We’ve hatched out lots of Seramas, some gold laced Brahmas, Ayam Cemanai, gold and silver laced Seabrights and she has about three dozen eggs in the hatcher now from a lady with lots of show stock, but the eggs were unmarked, so they will be surprises. She’s also hatching yard chicks for a friend. 

  
It seems I’m spinning my wheels most of the time, but the farm is growing I suppose. We have quite a few critters now and hope to have more as soon as we get all our bills caught up. We have our three meat hogs, a trio of potbelly pigs, three mini horses, our three dogs, a trio of Sebastipol geese, a pair of bourbon red turkeys, a trio of Muscovy ducks, lots of rabbits, our chickens and baby chicks, a pair of peafowl, red golden pheasants and ring neck pheasants. 

  
Em has been hurting today. She thinks she’s in labor, so we are just hoping she can hold out until November 5th. We have to get things caught up and get the house ready soon. Her nesting instincts are working overdrive right now. I’m prayong she can hold out until Pat gets here, because I am not going to be able to do this alone lol. 

Time to get my old banged up butt in bed and take my NyQuil. 

First Cold Snap

Wow! Hard to believe it’s been almost a month since my last blog post. Life has been busy here at Whippoorwill Creek Farm. 

  
I’m working pretty much full time now doing plumbing and electrical work. I’ve also been sick a good bit lately and it just hasn’t left much time for writing. Most nights when I get off I’m so tired I just want to get a quick shower, grab a bite to eat and head to bed. 

For the past few days it’s been cold and drizzling rain and it has sure caused me to feel my age. Old injuries ache, my arthritis hurts, my joints are stiff and it seems I’m always tired. But with all that, life is good. The kids are growing and healthy, Em is getting closer to bringing our new son into the world and the farm is very slowly growing and looking more like a farm. 

Em has been so very tired and a bit sick the past week, but nothing like she was in past months. She’s in good spirits and is having her nesting instincts kick in. She is starting to stress over the house being ready for the baby, worrying how we will get the stuff we need to have for the baby like a car seat, bassinet and such. I’m doing all I can to help reassure her and I’ve got a cousin coming by a couple of times a week to help her out around the house. She has an appointment on Tuesday with her baby doctor and he is supposed to set her date to deliver the baby then. We are both pretty excited. It’s getting close!

Rhiannon has a new puppy. It’s a merle Australian Shepard and it’s a cute little feller. She has been wanting a puppy for a long time now and this pup should make a good farm dog. He is already trying to herd the chickens and ducks. I think he will make a fine barn dog and she sure loves him. She got her first report card and did excellent on all her classes. We are so proud of her. She has also been a good help around the house and is getting active in her drama class at school. 
Lily is doing great in her new school. She’s learning so much and is excited each day to go to school. To hear her talk, everything on the farm is hers. “Her” ducks, “her” pigs… She is so much a farm girl. She spent a full week doing all kinds of chores to earn a new pair of boots that she has been wanting.  And now that she has new boots? She still does her darn farm chores barefoot because she “doesn’t want to get her special boots dirty”. I can’t win with that kid lol. She’s such a pleasure. 
Connor is going through the terrible twos I guess. He’s so sweet but still refuses to talk. He is learning a few words, but refuses to use them. He’s definitely my kid ’cause he’s stubborn as a mule. He might be adopted but you would never know it by watching him. He got him a pair of boots too for his birthday but he doesn’t care a bit to get his dirty. 
I haven’t been able to do as much as I’d have liked on the farm. We have been struggling to get our bills caught up, and although it’s getting closer to being caught up each week, there is just never a penny left to buy anything for the farm infrastructure. I have got some ideas on raising money to get it going though and I’m slowly figuring out exactly how we need to do things and where to put the pens and such. 

Today, since I haven’t felt good and it’s cold and dreary, I’m sitting with a notebook and calculator trying to get things laid out and figure prices and expenses. Em and I decided today to set a goal of being able to reopen the farm by May first of next year. That gives me almost seven months to pull it off. 

I’ll have to get a few fairly major repairs made like putting a new roof on at least half of the barn and rebuilding the warm room. I’ll need to put up at least eleven hundred feet of new fencing. I need brood stock and the coops to raise them out in. Just a ton of stuff, but if there is a way – I will find it. This is not just a dream, it’s our lives. It’s who we are and what we do. 

This farm is my legacy for my children. It’s a way to live a clean, decent, simple life. To eat pure, fresh food grown with my own hands without having to depend on unnatural chemicals and poisons. It’s a way to teach not only my children, but also other folks who want to learn, how to grow, harvest, preserve and propagate their food sources. I want to live, but I want to inspire and teach also. 

We have been blessed. Life is good. 

I’ll be back to posting pictures again as soon as I can figure out how to transfer them from my phone to my computer.  Errrr, I hate being old and technology challenged. 

Hog’s Head Cheese (warning; gross farm pictures)

Warning! If you think your meat is made at the grocery store where no animals are ever harmed? Ya might wanna skip this post. 

This week I’ll be posting a recipe and pictures since it was butchering week here at Whippoorwill Creek farm. 

Head cheese or souse meat loaf as some call it, is one of the ways the old folks used to get all the good out of a hog. Most folks would just throw the head away, but not us. There are lots of tasty bits there if you know how to prepare them. We as Americans are conditioned to think of certain parts of an animal as offal, but here in the south on a poor dirt farm we waste nothing but the grunt. 

The hog we just sent to the butcher belonged to my uncle and weighed 510 pounds on the hoof when we weighed it in on the loading dock. It was raised all its life right here on the farm. Since I have been helping take care of them since we moved back he gave me the head to cook up. 

All our animals are raised as ethical as we can. They are never mistreated, they have good shelter from the elements and eat good food and always have fresh water. This hog was not named, but was talked to every day and got back scratches when fed. I often sit out under the oaks in the back yard near their pen and just watch them. The kids are daily giving them all the over ripe veggies and melons from our garden and the pigs get all our scraps from the kitchen except for meat and bones which the dogs get. They aren’t pets, but they are treated with respect and we always are thankful for the gift of meat they provide our family. 

My first step was to finish scalding and scraping the head clean then a tiny bit of trimming. The teeth, ears and muzzle need to be scrubbed with a wire brush. The few bristles that I was unable to scrape off were singed off and then the real work started. First I cut off the ears to boil later for pork ear sandwiches, washed the brain and started it soaking in milk for brains and eggs, saved the tounge for tounge sandwiches another day and removed the jowls to be salt cured and smoked. Since I don’t have the money for the salt cure and supplies right now, the jowls are in the freezer for now. 

  
Part way through cleaning the head. Here is the rear view of what I had to work with before starting to clean it. 

  
Since this was such a large hog, I had to use a saw to cut it into several chucks small enough to fit in our old stock pot. It’s a bit messy to do, especially on a hog this large, but much faster than using a cleaver or a hatchet. A final bit of cleaning and it was time to start cooking. 

I didn’t think to take pictures of this stage. 

I put all the chunks in the stock pot and added enough water to cover it all. I added a couple of bay leaves, a little Rosemary and thyme to flavor it then brought it all to a rolling boil. After boiling it for a while any of the impurities and funky stuff you missed will foam to the top and is easily skimmed off with a large spoon and discarded. 

The boiling time is dependent on which parts you plan to use. For a lean head cheese you only have to simmer it for a few hours. I like to use the skin too so I just boil hard for a while then turn it on a very low simmer and put the lid on for about 24 hours. By that time even the tough skin and gristle is falling apart. If you cook it any longer than that the bones all get soft and start to fall apart too. I’ve heard of folks that used bone and all, but we never did. 

  
After it cooks to suit me I remove everything I can with a large slotted spoon and sit it aside to cool. I also remove the bay leaves at this time. I then turn the stove up, bring the liquid to a good boil and boil until reduced to a thick stock about the texture of a very thin syrup. While it’s reducing I pick all the meat off the bones and shred it with my fingers, mixing in all the good stuff and discarding anything funky. 

  
After the meat is all in a big bowl I mix it with my hands adding sage, salt, black pepper, red pepper, a little garlic and a splash of vinegar (all to taste, I measure nothing, just taste it as I go along). I remember my grandmother telling me that no vinegar or very little was called head cheese and a good bit of vinegar and adding pimiento pepper and such made it souse meat. I think nowadays the two terms are used pretty much interchangeable though. 

Some folks add all kinds of stuff from olives to whole peppers. We always just kept it simple. We are simple folks here. 

After the meat is seasoned to taste and mixed well I add it back to the reduced liquid and stir until all the meat it coated completely then spoon it out into loaf pans and smooth it out. Then cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. As it cools it gets firm and can be sliced sorta like meatloaf. We generally eat ours sliced and made into sandwiches with a little hot sauce, but some folks eat it with crackers or place strips over rice to melt and add flavor to the rice. 

  
  
I hope you will look past the yuck factor and give it a taste of the chance arises. 

I’ll readily admit it’s not my favorite food, but it ain’t bad and it keeps waste to a minimum and in my mind, shows respect for the critter that just gave his life so your family could eat another winter. 

A Day Off… Not!

What a day. I’m worn out and don’t feel like I got very much done today.

It was a slow day at work and the boss had to put the work van in the shop so we had the day off. But I still got up at my regular time and went and helped my friend Jason and his dad load three barrows to haul to the butcher. We then came home and tried to load a huge sow here at the farm that belongs to my uncle. I say tried because she wanted no part of that stock trailer and I’m not man enough to wrestle a 600 pound hog. They finally gave up and hauled the three we had loaded then dropped the trailer back off here at the house. About five this evening Emily and I finally got her on the trailer, so she will be on her way to be turned into the winter’s meat about six in the morning.

I went and picked up a small pot belly sow and got her established in a temporary pen then went to work cleaning the feed room in my barn. It was such a mess. Three years ago when we moved we had a couple of people help us gather up everything loose around the farm and put it in the dry and most of it seemed to wind up in the barn. Over the last few years some stuff was stolen, some was broken, almost all my water fonts and galvanized feeders have rusted out and some of the wooden items that were in contact with the ground had rotted. Buckets and cans of nails, screws and hardware had gotten spilled, my poultry leg bands and brass hog rings were spread everywhere, Feed sacks were piled up and labels had came off everything. It’s amazing how far a place can slide down hill when you aren’t there to stay on top of things.

But I dove in and made a start. I rewired the electric fence box and relocated it up high out of the way, I got most of the miscellaneous stuff gathered up and put into the metal cabinet to be sorted and cleaned later, burned a bunch of old rotten stuff and feed sacks, cleaned my huge old divided feed bin, knocked down a bunch of wasp nest and dirt dabber nests, and got a little dusting and cleaning done. I gave out and it got dark on me before I finished, but at least I can walk through the room now. I figure about two to three more days to get it cleaned up like it needs to be and to make what repairs are needed.

I really needed to get my chicken coops clean today, but everything has to go out through the main feed room so I had no choice but to start there. Emily and I have a plan. We have got to get this place going again. We spent all weekend talking about it and our first project is to get our chickens built back up. She’s got a few eggs in the incubator and two more shipments coming this week. We have a few hens grown here, but they aren’t laying yet. We have both been asking around and talking to our old customers and have a ton of folks wanting to buy eating eggs, hatching eggs, chicks and started poultry. We have a couple of people asking for dressed meat birds and we need some ourselves since groceries are sorta scarce right at the moment. So I need to get things ready so that if and when we get the funds we can get a few hundred chicks ordered before fall hits and it gets too cold.

I am still in shock over how much things have changed in just a few short years. Three years ago I was selling our eating eggs for two bucks a dozen and although we sold all we could produce, some still complained about the price. At that time eggs in the grocery store were around $1.50 a dozen. Now they are $4.00 a dozen in the store and farm eggs are selling for around $6.00 per dozen and no one in this area can find enough to meet demand. Several sources have projected eggs could double in price in the next six months to a year. We sold our regular hatchery quality chicks for around $2.00 each and point of lay pullets for $8.00 to $10.00 each. Now day old local chicks are $5.00 and good laying hens are running as high as $30 each. Surplus roosters we would sell for pretty much whatever we could get, sometimes as low as $1.50 each and glad to get it, this past weekend I watched literally hundreds of roosters sell and the cheapest ones, sold 15 to 20 head at a time on the count were bringing $7.00 each. Some roosters with nice colors and builds were bringing as high as $15.00 each. What a difference a couple of years can make!

Emily and I still have connections and have lots of friends who are into poultry, so can still get decent deals on day old stock and hatching eggs. We have the coops and the room. We have the experience and the knowledge. We have a good market that is expanding all the time. And most of all we are hard workers. The next step is to see if we can acquire the financing.

I don’t really want to have 700 to 800 birds like I did before, but I feel we need to have at least enough to provide for our customers and be able to turn a decent profit. I’d like to keep at least 50 meat cockerels growing out at all times too, butchering as needed for us and about every two months for paying customers. We are still going to raise a few breeds of show quality heritage birds, but of course, the biggest numbers will be our farm birds.

The plan is to try and get water lines and electric ran to the barn, to make the necessary repairs and buy whatever supplies we need to get going. To get a farm truck for hauling tons of feed and for making deliveries. In the spring we will be doing our CSA and farm shares. Swine, goats, sheep and a milk cow are in the future as I can afford to build the pens and buy fencing.

I’m happy. A farmer’s life is always hectic and the unplanned for is normal. It’s up early, work hard, deal with wading poop, frozen water lines, droughts in the garden and then coming home late, falling asleep then getting up and going out at two in the morning to help birth a calf. Farming is something you either are or aren’t. You either love it with all your being or you don’t do it long.

I’m a farmer.

And I love it.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Or My Wife’s Pregnancy Sucks)

My wife suggested I write a post on my blog about living with someone with Hyperemesis. Something until this year I had never heard of and never knew existed. Something that now has taken control of every aspect of the lives of myself and my family. It is an experience I would like to share if I can find the words.

IMG_0211

This won’t be one of those posts full of pictures like a lot of my posts. No one wants to see her pale as a haint hugging the toilet, the stacks of medicines I can’t even pronounce, the IV poles, the PICC lines, the blown out veins and bruises all over her arms or the continually growing stacks of hospital bills. This will just be trying to explain how this thing has taken control of our lives.

From the start.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I remember the call. I was working and my wife Emily called me and asked if I was busy. I told her I was about done for the day and asked her what she needed. She said she needed to tell me something, to please come to the shop where she was working when I had time. I said “Just tell me Hon”, but she insisted I come there so she could tell me in person. I was scared. I just knew something was wrong. So I rushed over the the shop.

I drove up and parked my old truck in the rear of the building and started walking around the side. Emily met me about halfway down the side of the building with my daughter Rhiannon with a strange look on her face. When I asked her what was wrong she looked at Rhiannon, then turned to me and held out her hand. She was holding not one, but two positive pregnancy tests. She quietly said “I’m pregnant”.

I’m like “Yeah, right. What’s wrong? Where did you get those?” I didn’t believe her at first. I really thought she was kidding. Finally it started to sink in. I’m going to be a daddy again. At my age. Damn. I didn’t know how to feel. She was expecting me to be mad, but I was more… Shocked.

Emily had one child and had told me that she was very sick with Lily when she was pregnant and had to be hospitalized several times. That she hadn’t had a period since then, that she most likely could never have anymore children. I was 49 years old. Too old to father any more children I thought. We had talked about children, and I knew she wanted another child but we knew it was never going to happen. Then a few months before this day, we had taken in a baby we are adopting and really thought that was God’s answer to her prayers for another child. (You can read the post “Throw Away Boy” for how Connor came into our lives.) After we got Connor she had gotten back on birth control to make sure we didn’t ever have an unexpected pregnancy, no matter how slim the chances of that were. This was so unexpected. But after it sunk into my thick country skull… I was happy. I am not a real religious person, but I do believe God gives us what we need, so I decided it was meant to be. A little piece of Emily and I.

Cool, we are going to have a kid!

We made a doctor’s appointment and had another pregnancy test done to be positive she was pregnant then announced it to our family and friends. For the first few weeks it was smooth sailing. We thought up names, looked at baby stuff online, laughed and hugged and held each other. Then Emily got sick.

It was fast. One day she woke up feeling sick. She ate something then immediately threw up. Just that fast she couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink anything, and went down hill fast. In just a few days she was so weak and dehydrated I had to take her to the hospital. The admitted her to give her fluids and run some tests. Since that time it’s been in and out of the hospital constantly.  I’ve came so close to losing her several times. When she was in the hospital the first time she caught an infection. Then another. Then another. Until this last time in the hospital she spent eleven days in isolation in the ICU ward. The first three or four days it was touch and go whether she was going to live.

No one who hasn’t lived through this can’t understand. I try to be a good daddy, but I’m not a mommy. I feed the kids, give them their baths, get them dressed. But somehow I do everything wrong. It’s never the way mommy does it. I spend my days by getting up at 6 am and waking the kids, getting them fed and dressed, change the baby’s diaper, walk the dogs while I burn my mouth trying to gulp a cup of coffee. Then Rhiannon would watch the kids while I went to check on Emily at the hospital for a couple of hours. Then home to check on the kids, do a few chores, start some laundry, sweep and mop, try to think of something to thaw out for supper then go try and work a couple of hours. If I didn’t get called to the hospital for an emergency with Em I’d try to work enough to make gas money to go back home, check on the kids, feed them, get them ready for bed then go back to the hospital and sit with Em, talk to the doctors and nurses, then just hold her hand as she laid in the bed or try and hold her hair out of her face while she puked her guts up. I’d sometimes help her change when she was so sick she couldn’t control her bodily functions. But mainly? I just tried to be there. To keep her knowing she was loved and wasn’t alone. Then sometime during the night or wee hours of the morning I would give her a kiss on the forehead and drive home and check in on the kids. I would take a quick shower and pass out from exhaustion on the bed just to get a couple of hours of sleep so I could get up and do it all again. A few times I fell asleep sitting on the couch taking my boots off and never even made it to the bed.

There are no words to describe how sick she has been. Think of the worst case of nausea, The worst achy flu and and a case of food poisoning all rolled into one. Then magnify it. Then have it last five months without a break. I think it’s about as sick as you can be without dying. And? I could do nothing. I don’t handle being helpless very well. I’m a grab the world by the balls and twist kind of guy. I get things done, I make things happen. I work hard and I never ever quit. But with this? I could do nothing but worry and stress. I have been a nervous wreck. My kids missed mommy. I missed my wife. Meals were rushed affairs instead of our family time we are all used to. I couldn’t work. Our lives revolved around Emily’s Hyperemesis.

I daily watched Em hurt so bad. Held her while she cried because she couldn’t see her kids. Watched her try so hard to keep even a tiny bit of food down. Watched her lose her memory and forget people when the infections were at their worst. She lived through hell. She has suffered. She has cried. But she is strong and she never stopped trying. She is an amazing woman. I’m lucky to have her.

I’d like to tell you what this thing is, the medical reasons and treatments. But I’m just a simple dirt farmer. I don’t know all that stuff. I researched it, read all about it until my head hurt, but all I truly know is how it affected us.

I’m not sure why I wrote this. I guess maybe I’m hoping it might help someone else who is going through it or is with someone who is. I know my wife was probably expecting me to tell about the five different PICC lines, the six hospitalizations or the different tests and treatments she has had to go through, but I can only write what I know. What I know is I love my wife. I love our lives together. And I love the fact that this week she is home and doing better finally. 77 more days until Luke is scheduled to arrive and I’m praying that maybe we can make it through the rest of this pregnancy without another hospital stay.

I’ve always heard that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I guess we are tough.

And soon this will all be a memory and we will be snuggling with a beautiful miracle baby boy. And on that day… It will all be worthwhile.

Life is good.