Category Archives: Community Brewing

The Farewell Storm

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We’ve stayed in Michigan through this time in June to celebrate a few events, including my middle daughter’s birthday yesterday, with friends and family. This last week has become kind of a farewell storm of gearing up for the big trip and meet-ups with friends and family. And the last few days have been especially fun.

Thursday eve was graduation. My girls have had the good fortune of attending a wonderful school in northern Michigan with a heavy focus on outdoor education. The educators are like family, and the girls so closely bonded with friends there. I think of the Greenspire School as a junior high where the difficult years are met with support and respect between students and among students and teachers. It was the one thing that held us here until the very last proverbial bell of the semester rang.

Yesterday, my daughter turned 14 right where I turned 14 (I’m suffer from a condition known as extreme sentimentality), on the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay, braving the chilly water to escape the thick June air. I could barely keep my toes in the water, but these kids stayed in the water for upwards of an hour swimming! My little fishies.

The evening prior, a dear friend I’ve known since high school, and the son of my farming
mentor, invited us to his farm for a send-off gathering. Following one of the best potluck dinners ever, we were met by a wall of wind and water in one of the most wicked storms I’ve seen since last August. We took shelter in the old greenhouse, seated on old wooden benches lit by candlelight. There, we told ghost stories and ate pie to pass the evening until the rain subsided enough for us to partake in the cannibal hot-tub. (Chris is now convinced we need one of these).

This cannibal hot-tub is made like an over-sized barrel with a submerged aluminum wood-fired stove. The water was a consistent and comfortable 98 degrees. Whenever we got too warm, we simply laid our heads back and let the cool rain wash over our faces. Lightning flickered in the distance and the low rumble of thunder shuddered over the churning waters of West Bay. I couldn’t have imagined a better send-off than that.

In the next few days, we’ll be loading the trucks, prepping for the long haul, and by Tuesday eve, arriving back home in New York. Having weathered the storm of this past eight months, it is finally time to put down our roots. Home awaits.

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Home Again, Home Again

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Kitchen Before

We returned late last night from our most recent trip out to the new house in New York. All went well. Two of our kids joined us for this trip out (our eldest and youngest) and a good deal of fun was had from both working on the house to the festival that traversed town during our stay.

The festival brought all the locals down town and we heard so many stories about the old house that sat vacant for years. Many people have obviously cared for this place and have spent time volunteering to cut grass or work on keeping it from falling into a state of disrepair and it shows.

Shortly before the fireworks began, we turned on the porch lights, illuminated for the first time in several years. A warm glow fell softly upon the old floorboards and we felt the house whisper, “I’m alive!”

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Kitchen After
Moreover, the place feels like home. We watched as our eldest, who has been livid with me for the decision to leave our home state, relaxed into small town life and the adventure of painting and designing her own room.
My time was spent in the kitchen, painting the cabinets (base cabinets are now strawberry) and walls. Chris installed new appliances with the help of our neighbors (we feel so lucky to have some of the nicest neighbors in the world), and he managed to find time to paint Tohper’s room a light blue. Topher’s response? “I wanted pink!” We promised next time to paint it pink.
I suppose it’s a good thing to now miss that new place we call home. In a week we’ll be there for good. But for now, it’s time to celebrate the end of the school year, birthdays, and good ol’ Michigan.
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Farm News and Reflections

Received a wonderful donation of a beautifully crafted nesting boxes from Burning Barn Farm for our new coop in New York. I was so excited, I completely spaced on taking a photo!

This week has been dedicated to work on cleaning at the farm in preparation for our departure. Lot’s of reflection, and honestly, loads of relief. It’s simply been too much for us to manage a project like DeYoung at a distance. And as much as I love the farm, I know it will find the right person or organization to make it great again.

We breathed life into the barns with the addition of chickens, ducks, sheep and alpacas, but the farm really breathed new life into us. We are now embarking on the first leg of a journey to open a fiber mill and tree nursery in New York state.

Many people have asked us about the departure date. It’s been tough to answer because we’ve been moving belongings out ahead of the big move, so many trips back and forth right now. Tentatively, we should officially be NYers by June 14th.

In the meantime, please enjoy some of our favorite photos from the past four years.

Can I still spin?

IMG_9470It’s been six months since we moved out of our house and started down this transition pathway to New York. I haven’t seen my spinning wheel in months, though I’ve continued to use the drop-spindle just so I don’s forget how much I miss the wheel.

We’ve only stayed two nights in the new house, as it is in need of some plumbing and electrical work, but Chris started a fire and we camped out in front of the fireplace in the living room. It was a pleasant way to spend part of our latest trip. The IMG_9565
neighbors brought over firewood and hosted us for dinner that first night. More neighbors joined and we were warmly welcomed, which meant the world to us weary travelers.

 

Chris said it’s now a waiting game to begin this next leg of our journey. We must wait for the the completion of the plumbing and electrical work before we can move in officially, so our original plan of waiting for the kids to finish up at school works well.

It’s really unreal to finally be creating a home in a whole different state. This dream realized has been months in the making, with setbacks and so many little obstacles along the way. I haven’t felt much like writing about it because there’s so much to say and it’s hard to decide on a topic well-suited for a farm blog. I cannot wait to play in the soil and work with fiber again. I am IMG_9542excited for all the stories, some old, and the many new we will make together.

The neighbor said she felt called to this area of the Schoharie. It was the first time I had heard someone else say that. I’ve been telling people much the same. It’s an old mountain region and there’s an energy to the land that really speaks to us. We feel ‘called’ home. Michigan will always be my childhood home, but this part of New York feels like home on a deeper level. And maybe it never really needs to be put into words the way we writers are always so inclined to do? Perhaps it can just be and we can simply enjoy it for what it is. Home.

 

 

Dream a little (big) dream

photo 2I’ve started my new job in New York, from Michigan, which makes for a nice transition to a new house in a new community within a new state. We leave at the end of the following week for closing on the house and we’ll make a few trips out prior to the big move with the kids in June.

This whole process was kicked off by a series of events in the deep of winter early in 2015 with a serious evaluation of our long-term goals.

Chris and I have similar goals across the board, save for the one about opening a burger joint (though the food would be fantastic, I can attest), which made the envisioning process easier. Some things were immediately clear: 1) We were not living the life we dreamed of in the way we hoped to live it, 2) We could not alter the situation without a change in location, and 3) We have two kids quickly approaching college-age and one not far behind those two.

It was early February of 2015 when Chris showed me a farm for sale in Western Massachusetts. I said, “There’s no way I’m leaving Michigan.” And he said, “I think you’d really like it out there.” The rest is history. Eastern NY is very similar to Western Mass. And the land is affordable, the soil profiles are outstanding, and the people are straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

After five trips out East, we finally located the right property in line with our five-year plan, right in the middle of the Schoharie, with an agricultural college just minutes from the front door, and universities scattered within a three hour radius in every direction. It isn’t a farm, but there’s enough land to grow food and a large field adjacent to the property, so who knows. We will keep chickens and bees, tend the Shiawassee Beauties, and continue gardening, while growing our savings to accommodate dreams of opening a fiber mill in Upstate NY.

Moreover, I hope the girls can finally feel the satisfaction of being part of a community, rather than living in the outskirts. Apart from college, there is so much to experience in New England, from the history around every corner, to the natural features of this old, old land, to the simple joy of riding your bike to the movie theatre on a summer afternoon.

And you bet, I’ll still be processing and spinning fiber. It likely won’t be local Michigan fiber, if you can forgive me, but I can promise some local Schoharie Valley fiber to keep our friends in beautiful northern Michigan warm.

This is succession.

A Message from Grandmother

March came in like a lion for me, personally. The biting cold, and the act of raising four children, compounded by the complexities of life left me feeling a bit lost. I had to find a quiet place. I needed to ask for guidance. And I did so through my grandmother, who even after passing out of this world, has always been there in spirit at times when I’ve really needed her.

580134_484834508195441_1410396379_nHer message is still unfolding, but began with a tree. She showed me that the tree is very solid at its trunk. These are the ancestors. As she traced the trunk of the tree to the branches, stopping on the tiniest new growth, a thin whip of a branch, easily damaged by wind or cold, bendable. This is you. Do not put so much weight on this one tiny branch, came the message.

For a while I sat with this message. It made sense, but I also felt a bit bewildered that in seeking out my ancestor for guidance, she suggested I seek out my ancestors. And yet, I trusted. A few days later, two packages arrived in the mail. The books sent by my elder, Lee.

As I have sat in the quiet evening and early morning hours, reading through these books, I have found myself feeling contentment as I have not felt in some time. A kind of trust that this life is a process of finding balance; that I cannot put all of the weight of the world on my own two shoulders; that I am but a newly emerging branch of a large, looming tree, or the speck of human on the larger evolutionary timeline. There is a steady comfort in this balance, and the realization with it that we are not isolated beings, but part of the whole. The balance restored.

Things to do when not farming…

The seed catalogs are piling up and it’s a constant reminder of how in flux we’ll be as of

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Identifying cool mushrooms…

June. It’s been a long time since I’ve not put in a large seed order, and frankly, I’m feeling a bit antsy about it this season. So, to take my mind off of what I won’t be doing, I’m thinking ahead to the things this extra time will provide in terms of opportunities for learning. An ever-growing, ever-bearing, zone 1-10 list of things to learn while not farming:

  • Tend to the travelling orchard
  • Improve spinning technique
  • Improve fiber processing set-up and technique
  • Experiment with natural dyes
  • Learn about medicinal herbs
  • Practice grafting techniques
  • Volunteer at school or public garden
  • Help a fellow farmer with farm chores, butchering, shearing, etc.
  • Learn old-fashioned candy-making
  • Focus on food preservation techniques:
    • Pressure canning
    • Smoking meats
    • Drying
    • Fermentation
  • Take a class in business planning for the fiber mill
  • Maybe, just maybe, learn a new knitting skill
  • Explore niche or value added markets
  • Take a botany class
  • Spend some time with growers using methods outside of your own, including conventional, biodynamic, and other permaculture or organic farmers and gardeners
  • Cut up seed catalogs to make art with the kids
  • Cut up seed catalogs to do some companion planting planning
  • Re-read Edible Forest Gardens

The list continues to grow and hope blooms eternal, so… suggestions are always welcome and may spring shine warm sunlight upon your gardens!