Category Archives: Homesteading

The Farewell Storm

photo 2 (4)

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.

photo (7)

Getting there is half the fun, right?

photo 1 (1)Well, this week we’ve moved out of our rental and in with family, packed our belongings at the farm (still a bit more to do), and rented the first of two large moving  trucks for our trip out next week. This was the first week that I found myself feeling quite emotional driving around the familiar places like the farm, or walking the shores of Lake Michigan, knowing we were soon to be tourists more than residents.

‘Topher and I sat down under the big old Roxbury Russet at the farm, where he reminisced in his adorable four-year-old chatter about sleeping in the camper or playing with the chickens. “Me going to miss the farm, Mama” tore at my heart-strings, but yesterday some of the awesome folks at the LC reminded him that the farm is forever protected and he can visit whenever he wishes.

It feels really special to have been part of the history of this beautiful, incredible place. Wecampbelltree are so appreciative to the Conservancy and to the Campbell and DeYoung families along with those individuals who had memories of working or frequenting the farm, who visited and shared many beautiful stories. What a magical place!

In the spring of 2013, we planted three apple trees, all of which have survived. One was Topher’s first apple tree and the other two were wedding gifts from the year prior (we were married on the farm). They will remain and I’m excited to see how they progress in years to come as they will always carry some very happy memories for us.

For now, we are trying to make time to visit with friends and family and to frequent those places we know and love about Michigan. The girls have been adventuring and discovered a huge toad last night on the front porch. And they’ve already braved Lake Michigan for a swim.

IMG_9537As much as I’ll miss our northern Michigan “home,” I’m equally as excited to finally settle in New York. We’ve been planning this move for well over a year and it feels good to be this near the big move. The plumbing and electric have been completed, so now all the house needs is its people.

“Where we love is home; home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”                    

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

 

We bought a house! (FINALLY)

We spent the weekend in NY house hunting again, after the farm we tried to purchasephoto 2 (3) previously fell through. The timing was good and we found a great house for sale in the Schoharie Valley, where we had hoped to land. The community is welcoming and the setting is tranquil and beautiful.

During this trip, we were pretty sure about the property, so we planned a day for house-related stuff and then a day for fun. It was a quick trip, but we managed to get an accepted offer on the house, watched Zootopia (awesome film!), and even found time for some cave exploration – think boat, underground river, Goonies…

We also enjoyed some downtime at the inn where we have stayed on previous trips out. This trip we brought along our son and youngest daughter, who wanted to offer her opinion of our housing choices. She was a big help and it was delightful watching our two youngest bonding as siblings.

photo 1 (4)Games, ice cream, and stories were devoured on this trip.

photo 2 (2)[My favorite part of being 200 feet underground on a boat floating down a crystal clear river? Hearing a woman behind me say, “It’s our time; it’s our time down here.”]

This plan to relocate has been in the works for more than a year, which has given us time photo 3 (2)to prepare emotionally for leaving home in the quest for a new place to call home. It has also provided us with opportunities to get to know other families in communities from all over the region, so the move isn’t as scary as it might have been otherwise. Our agent has been such a good friend to us in this process. He’s made this transition so much easier – we love this man! (Brad Morley – Benson Real Estate)

photo 3 (3)I can’t tell whether I’m more excited to link up with other farmers in NY State or sharing the history of this incredible region, known as the breadbasket of the American Revolution, with our children. There are cannonball holes in the sides of buildings here. Wha?!

Moreover, the house is near a state university dedicated to agriculture with barns filled to the brim with sheep, goats, cows, and horses. Yep, an entire college for agricultural studies. My kind of town!

We made sure to visit our friends at the ‘Il Cafe’ in Little Falls and Sunset Corners in Ames, the smallest incorporated village in the state of NY. The kids love this place especially. It really feels photo 1 (2)like you’re stepping back in time.

Feeling grateful also to those kind TC folks who helped us out while we were away. Thank you to Levi (RealEyes Homestead) for watching over the alpacas and kitty and to the Marker Family for taking on Louis Dog, who I have heard has been very well behaved (our sweet boy is growing up!)

Time for coffee and reflection. So many changes ahead. Thank you for the messages of support and encouragement. We appreciate them as we take this next, big step toward a dream realized.

photo 4 (1)

 

Letter to the Greater Schoharie Valley

The woman in the photograph is my great, great grandmother, Rose Render. She lived onphoto 3 (1) a farm in middle Michigan, raising her boys and her livestock on her own, without the help of modern conveniences like electricity and running water. My mother remembers going to Grandma Rose’s for dinner, enjoying chicken raised on the farm and processed by our grandmother’s own hands. My mother described her visits to the farm as travelling back through time. The tiny, sturdy farmhouse walled off to the approach of a fast-paced modern era.

I assume the desire to farm runs deep. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, save for that year I wanted to run for president in the seventh grade. Some of my earliest memories involve planting radishes and pumpkins in a garden beside my mother’s house, beside the neat rows of cherry trees that stretched out for miles in three directions.

We’ve faced hardships as farmers. We’ve lost animals to predators and had to learn to harvest our own birds for meat. We’ve had animals get out of the paddock to explore the lake or visit town. Last year, we lost nearly 200 apple trees planted with love, by hand, to a brutal spell of unprecedented cold winter that followed an equally brutal drought. I’ve wept in the soil for these losses and questioned many, many times why we do this thing called farming.

image

The answer always comes back to the successes. Grafting apple varieties on the brink of extinction in order to preserve this unique living cultural landscape. The raising of sheep, of alpacas, of learning to shear by hand, of washing these fleeces with great care and following this education down to carding each, and learning to spin so that the farm could support raising these beautiful animals. The reward in each of these feats far outweighs any set-backs.

Farming has also taught me to follow my instincts, to see failures as opportunities for growth, to find strength in vulnerability, and to be bold, despite the risks.  And this next bold move has taken us down some narrow roads – exploring the limits of our own fears and anxiety as we venture forth from Michigan to New York. Last fall we sold our house imageand have been staying with family as we make trips out east to locate a farm where we can finally put down permanent roots.

It has taken several trips out, but we finally feel comfortable in saying we would like to land in the region of the Schoharie valley, somewhere between Canajoharie to the undulating, aged mountains that rise up from Roxbury. And we’re seeking help. We’ve met with farmers, and are currently putting out feelers for any farmer or land owner who may be considering selling their farm. We are hoping to locate a farm with a house (we love older homes and are not afraid of renovations) with as few as four acres (more will be put to good use). A barn is not necessary, but a barn or outbuildings are a plus.

IF you know of anyone who may be able to help us, please feel free to share our email address healingtreefarm@gmail.com. We appreciate any help and look forward to becoming NY farmers this year! Thank you._o4xWwwKByO91WVxwu-cQcT7gkqweBxIjtCdCjO2G2U,NuqeJjwABcK9WcVXgvNf4Tkear9KK_FbgJqF45848_s

Hobbits, Unicorns, and a Cow Goddess

I just returned from another trip out to New York, this time to explore the Schoharie valley and Delaware County. This trip, thanks to the farmers who housed me, really invigorated me.  I think I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from farming, despite the daily regimen because we’re currently partially uprooted. Being on a farm started by a woman and witnessing the incredible foundation she has built, along with the connectivity she fosters with neighboring farms, has really inspired me not to “begin again,” but to continue with this mission forward to build a farm and fiber business.

photo 2 (3)
Isadora, the Adorable

The farm where I stayed (had to make this trip out alone so Chris could tend to the alpacas), is technically East Branch Farm, but most of the locals know it as Straight Out of the Ground, a beautiful property with a goddess of a guernsey cow, who is the apple of Farmer Madalyn’s eye, for sure. And it’s easy to see why. Look at that adorable face!

In addition to farming, Madalyn also co-produces a radio show called the Farm Hour Radio.

The mountains are nothing short of magical. The roadways and farmland trace their contours, and in the mornings, mist hovers over the valleys, leading me to look for hobbits and unicorns as much as farmland.

Madalyn connected us with some good folks and resources for farmers and reinforced the awareness that New York is a good state for agriculture. Beneath every county sign I passed, the words “Right to Farm” appeared prominently. The soil in the valleys appears good and the prospect of a fiber mill feels welcomed.

photo 1 (2)Moreover, the locals are fiercely loyal to their agricultural roots and at one stop, in a village where we had been told we could not house our alpacas, a local business owner stormed down to the local village office and demanded to see the ordinance. When the village couldn’t provide any specific wording ruling against alpacas, she called me and said, “You can have your livestock here.” Can’t help but love these folks.

I would like to say we have figured this whole thing out, but after an inspection revealed some significant issues on the house we were under contract to buy, we are once again looking for the farm. However, despite this setback, I feel more confident than ever that we’ll find the right place, because more significant than where we will land is that feeling of where we belong. And it’s there, among the mountains and the hard-working farmers of the Schoharie, where we feel most at home. Looking forward to calling this place home.

Last trip out, we traversed Sharon Springs, where an inspiring couple revitalized a farm into an enterprising business. Madalyn told us it’s not only a thriving business, but they even had a television show. Check it out below. Also, living in the region, a woman I look forward to meeting at some point in the near future, Shannon Hayes, the Radical Homemaker. And so much more I would like to share, save for the time to write it all down…

If you don’t know them already, the Beekman Boys are fabulous.

Begin again with the Beekman Boys:

Skinny Loves and the Humblerer

imageIt finally happened. We had to call in the professionals when it came to shearing Tassie (It’s official! I received my first kick!) and Bree. Jeff Goodwin (and his incredibly helpful family), our new farm heroes, came to our rescue.

The ladies are looking great and the process went smoothly save for one small bump at the end.

Ironically, as Jeff and his family were about to head out, I mentioned that the farm had a personality all its own. I explained that just when I feel like I’ve got it figured out, it throws a dramatic curve and sweeps me off my feet again. It shouldn’t be called a farm; it should be called a humblerer.

As little ‘Topher and I watched the trucks pull out of the drive, I was feeling pretty great. The Goodwins had successfully sheared, vaccinated, clipped nails, and done teeth, and the alpacas did great. Loads of gorgeous Suri fiber lay piled high on a blanket beneath the old white pine. The sun was looming  lovely and bright over the horizon. Chris would be home soon for dinner. It was time to relax and enjoy this thing we call farming.

However, the humblerer had other ideas.

Before we headed up to start the fire, alpacawarningI checked in on the ‘pacas and noticed Pecan, Tassie’s mother, was down. Not down in the way I expect to find them while resting, but a death’s door kind of down.

I ran out to check her breathing and found she was breathing normally, but her behavior was way off. She snuggled into me (totally abnormal for an alpaca, no matter how adorably snugly they appear). I ran for my phone only to realize the battery had died.

I had two options – one to flag down someone on the trail for their phone, or two to try to get her to her feet and better assess the situation. Chris would be at the farm shortly, so I opted for a better assessment.

I got her to her feet and she stumbled into me. She walked zombie-like and it appeared she was either blind or suffering from some kind of neurological reaction to the vaccines. Chris arrived with his phone and we called Jeff to first find out whether he had ever seen this reaction. He had not and quickly walked us through a process of evaluation to determine the urgency of the situation. In this time, we saw signs Pecan was improving, but it felt painfully slow.

As it turns out, she had a quickly-resolved reaction to (we think) the vaccine. Before long, was walking normally. By morning, she was eating and behaving as though nothing had happened. We, on the other hand, were again keenly aware of how precious and precarious our walk with livestock can be. Not one, but two large-animal vets now programmed into our phones, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for each twist and turn life takes. And also how wholly in love we are with these magnificent animals, no matter the spit, kicks (Tassie!), and dung piles…

With special gratitude to the Goodwins for their gentle handling of our animals and for their support following. 

Shetland Roving and Batting for Sale!

Shetland roving! $2/oz. We have natural white, grey, and black. Shetland ewe and whether were pasture raised and fed organic grain. Super soft, gorgeous depth.

We also offer batting that has been run through the carder twice at $1.75/oz. (Ideal for felting quilting).

And roving scraps for felting or stuffing at $1.50/oz. (The scraps are often an assortment of greys, whites, and black.)

10511473_829755407036681_6246570703659565872_o 475640_830589333619955_8815847635422990563_o 10548182_831399693538919_8031218633101279346_o

Made to order, farm-pick ups. Contact: healingtreefarm@gmail.com