Saturday, March 31, 2012


Today I'm sunburned, sweaty, and have dirt lodged so far up beneath my nails that I'm pretty sure it's there for the long run. The goats now have a yard in front of the house, the pear trees are planted, tomatoes fertilized, house is clean, and we're exhausted. We live here now. We've got chicks in the brooder. Green grass. An overflowing pond. Herbs, vegetables and fruit growing. And I've got my goats.
Feeling happily full these days.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Soul Sucking, Mind Numbing Cuteness

If there's a better way to describe the effect of suddenly being surrounded by 4, one week old goats and an 8 week old fluff of a puppy - then I do not know it.

I have no human children so I have to assume that the past few days is the closest I've ever come to the experience of having a new born (one that lives on the porch).  Most of my sentences are incomplete and the only task I remember to finish is feeding the goats.  In fact, I'm really struggling to write anything coherent at the moment.  Of course there are already hours worth of video and hundreds of photos to document the baby goat jumping, twirling, spinning, and sleeping.  I will do my best not to turn this blog into one entitled "Goat."  I'll try.  But that's not a promise.

In between moments of panic and those racing thoughts of "HOLY CRAP what did I get myself into," I've been quite pleased with my 5 new little monsters.  Of course, their arrival corresponds with the busiest work week I've had in almost 6 months.  So if I make it through this one intact (meaning: remember to brush teeth, wash hair, change clothes, and eat), then I'll consider it a victory over the brain mushers living on the porch.  Introductions and stories will follow at which point I will likely warn against getting baby goats unless you have a compelling reason not to lead a normal life anymore.  So if you have no compelling reason to lead that normal life then, by all means, get goats!  Get 10!  

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Goats!  At our farm!  Goats!!!! 

Oh yes, and there happens to be a great pyrenees puppy as well, with a second soon to join in just over a week.

To say that I am exhausted and happy and exhausted is an understatement - so - details soon!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Call

A few weeks ago I announced to Jeremy that I was done thinking about, working on, and finishing the house.  I've had it.

That's not to say that the house shall forever remain in a semi-complete state.  It's just that I can't sit inside sealing grout, watching the leaves turn green from the kitchen window without an urgent need to go outside and start doing something with this place.  We'll save the rest of the inside work for the steaming summer.  There are only two months of the year in Texas that are comfortable, and you better believe I'm not gonna waste them installing door knobs.  The day I made the "I'm-frickin'-finished-thinking-about-the-house" pronouncement, I went on to declare that we were getting our goats this spring and NO one and NOthing could stop me, and if he even TRIED to stop me, God help him, there was no telling what would happen.  Obviously I was ready for a fight.  Unexpectedly, Jer only blinked a few times, opened and closed his mouth without saying anything and then finally just said "meh" with a shoulder shrug, before going back to reading his book.  I interpreted this as an enthusiastic green light to proceed and called Amelia at Pure Luck Dairy where I attended a (delicious) cheese workshop last spring and asked if there were spring babies.  Pure Luck has many new babies throughout the spring but had already sold the recent batch.  Since my call, I've been waiting for a call from Amelia for a new round of kids.  In the meantime, we've gotten all of the supplies needed to build a temporary nursery pen on the porch to make bottle feeding easier.  Because yes, it's true, I have willingly signed up to bottle feed three goats multiple times a day for at least two months.  Of course, seeing this written down makes me break out in a cold sweat because even I am unsure of what I've signed up for.  But sticking my toe in the water when it comes to these things just isn't my style.  If you're gonna do it, then Do It.  

Not five minutes into writing this post, and I received the call from Amelia that the does have all started having their babies.  I've been invited to come and pick out my doelings this week and pick them up this weekend.  Wednesday afternoon I have an appointment to meet a buckling from another farm.  This weekend a mini jack donkey arrives to join the herd.  One pyrenees puppy can also come to the farm this weekend, as soon as the goats are here, and the other will come home in two weeks once she's weaned.  I have 24 chicks in the brooder.  An unfinished house, a garden ready for vegetables and a very sick stomach.  Remember when I mentioned that things are a little busy?

Luckily, Jer and I both attended Star Creek Country's fabulous milking class this weekend as a refresher on goat care and an introduction for Jeremy.  This is the class I attended last May, one day after we decided that we would not move forward with the hard won loan for the bigger house project with the pricier (and very wonderful) builder we wanted to work with.  I was beaten down, angry, and sure that the land was a mistake.  Kimberly's class and visiting her farm was the shoulder-shaking I needed to snap out of it and remember that this whole thing was about the land and the animals.  It was never supposed to be about a house.  I was grateful to her then just as I'm grateful to her now for sharing what she's learned with all of us who thumb through homesteading books and dream about this life.  But I guess it's our life now, too.

Could I have waited for goats until next spring?  Sure.  A person can wait forever for anything they want badly.  But with the brevity of life and the beauty of the season - why?

Sunday, March 18, 2012


So. Much. Happening. Here.

Too. Tired. To. Write. 

Stupid. Happy. 

When my thoughts can gather together in a chronological row of lucid articulation, I'll share some of what is happening here.  For now, I'm still reeling at how fast my world is expanding.  Mostly it's just dirt, farmers, dairy, wildflowers, breezes, and livestock.  It doesn't get much better than this. 

Tomorrow, there'll be stories.  'Til then, there's just a picture of this ridiculous Great Pyrenees puppy who comes home to the farm in a week to begin the incredibly important job of guarding my goats.  I have high hopes for this little one.   

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Un-Pretty

Today did not include any pastoral charm.  I woke up to a beheaded hen and a frightened flock.  I killed a black widow spider after lunch.  We chased and lured home an escaped herd of donkeys and a*&hole cows.  This occurred precisely 30 minutes after the donkeys ate the baby peaches off of the lovely gift from my mother-in-law (But the trees are still alive!  I'm so sorry, Cheryl.).  And I continued to nurse a brooder full of chicks with an upper respiratory infection which has already killed three.

It was blood and drizzle and mud and sweat and an aggressive heifer and sneezing chicks.  This sounds silly, to the outsider.  But for me, it was a dreadful day.

Yesterday, I reserved a great pyrenees puppy meant to serve as a livestock guardian for the baby goats that are coming.  After today, I plan to bring home two.  Not because I'm hoarding adorable dogs, but because this will be a working farm, and I'm serious about protecting my animals.

Right now I'm sitting on the couch after starting the new herb garden, expanding the brooder, chasing livestock, drinking a glass of wine and making a dinner of cilantro pesto pizza from my mother's cilantro and parsley - the combination of which tastes pungent and green as spring.  It was a hard day.  I feel exhausted and sore in that way that means you worked hard and did your best.  I feel stronger than I have in years.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

One day closer

Every day we get one step closer to Jenna's vision. Her country dream is slowly coming true. Next step will be washing her OWN veggies in the enormous farm house sink. We're getting there.

Priorities - And A Little Soap Box

I hate the television. I hate how easy it can be to come home from work, flip that sucker on, and then waste the evening away. I hate how appealing that mind numbing habit can be. Jenna and I would periodically go through phases where we would watch way too much TV. And it's not even good TV, since we haven't had cable since...ever. Normally, this seems to happen when the days get shorter and colder. However, I am happy to say this winter we have not succumbed, or even missed, those unproductive evenings spent in front of a flickering screen. Our current project(s) has (have) pretty much eliminated those evenings of being in a vegetative state until bedtime, and I'm totally OK with that. Now, that's not to say we don't occasionally watch an episode or two of a classic, "quality" show like Arrested Development or something, but the amount of time spent is significantly less than previous winters. This shift in priorities was highlighted recently. In case you haven't noticed from the pictures, we don't have a TV at the new house. It's still at the old house. (Any "TV" time is actually throwing a DVD into one of our laptops.) Jenna and I haven't even talked about how or when we want to move that. In fact, when designing the house, we made the explicit decision to NOT have the TV in the main living area. The other evening when we were moving the chicken tractor from the old house to the new one, I had a realization that it was deemed more important to us to spend time and energy moving a poo covered chicken coop from one house to another instead of moving the inside entertainment equipment. This realization made me happy.

On a side note, the city ladies have made it an entire work week and have continued to lay eggs through their traumatic move. They've even welcomed their new roommate, The General, Mr. Churchill, Lord Grantham, or whatever Jenna has decided to call him. The peeps are growing like weeds. And oddly, every few days a few more fluff balls seem to appear in the kiddie pool turned brooder. Either my ability to count is alarmingly bad or someone has a hard time controlling her excitement when it comes to acquiring baby chicks. Jenna swears its the former.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


 Before the rains came today, it was sunny.  It was glorious. 

So glorious, in fact, that Jer was inspired to start tilling up a garden patch - a hilarious prospect in light of everything else left to do inside.  But I'm the last person to say anything.  Home grown tomatoes are a personal weakness.  So are properly functioning doorknobs, bathroom sinks, and stair railings.  But we've never claimed to have our priorities in order.  So, for us, the garden comes before the stair railings.  And if someone falls off the stairs, at least we can offer them fresh vegetables in apology.

The Way of Things

The storm churns off to the north just an angry low brow of fury and spit.  All day we know it's coming and it may be puddles or it may be hail and lightning and wind, like the weather man says.  Driving home you see it off in the western hills, but you don't feel it and it's balmy and sticky so your hair stands out in awkward curls and puffs in that way which has always meant there will be weather.

Coming over the little hill the dark wall is just behind the house, behind the forest, behind the road, but it's there, and it's moving.  The first drops fall gentle like dew off a high leaf, so you walk slowly up to unlock the door that releases the dogs that have surely sat and stared and sat and stared at this door.  Waiting all day for this moment.  They spill out with a combined energy and force, springing into the damp woods and barking with a rage that remembers every sound and smell they contemplated over the course of nine long hours.  They growl at trees and rocks and disappear down into the creek while you gather what's needed to collect eggs, account for stock, feed the beasts.

Nearing the coop there is a flurry of activity, a splash of color, leaping and sprinting forward through the grasses.   The flock hoping for scraps; disappointed there are none.  At this moment a howling whoosh of wind comes from high, bends the forest forward at once, the trees bowing down low beneath the clouds.  You see it blowing leaves and twigs from the rooftop, watch the driveway dirt and gravel whip up into tiny funnels, watch debris flying in its path but you don't feel it yet.  You only feel the damp and balmy and the stillness.  Just then it slams you from behind.  Knocked off kilter, your skirt around your waist, your hair tousled up and around and around and the bright cold chill is a wet smack of a palm against the back.  So you call the dogs in, but they can't hear you for the rain that just started pounding.  It is rain but might be hail, so it's better to run than walk although the weather has fogged your glasses, and you cannot see the road before you.  But you run anyway and the weather has hit you completely from the front now, and the side, so you're running or flying with your long skirt carrying you this way and that.  The dogs come loping alongside you from nowhere and their wagging tails beat ferociously against your leg.  With foggy vision still, you discern a porch and hear the pellets of rain assault the metal, "BAM BAM BAM!" You're startled by the force of it.  The weight.  Then you're at the front door, and you swing it open.  You, the dogs, the wind, tumbling in together to this warm space of quiet and dark.  It's a guilty moment to run out of a storm with everything else you claim to love so hard standing in the raw spring.

But then you remember that this is the way of things. This is what happens, and what must happen.  You remembered this late last night when a frail chick gave out its last puff of life, cupped in your hand. You remember this watching the crows huddle and lean in pairs up in the branches against the rain.  You remember this as the new rooster runs out wildly against the wind, unsure precisely which way is home.

Here, it is cold or hot.  It is wet or dry.  It is shelter or exposure.  It is life and it is death.  And it is beautiful.    


Monday, March 5, 2012

Showering With the In-laws

Well, that's an exaggeration really.  Ok, it's just a lie.  But for lengthy periods of time over the past few months, I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my shower, with my in-laws.  Luckily, my in-laws are great people in which to share small spaces.  And more luckily than that, they're incredibly handy with tile saws, trowels, and grout.  What I'm saying is this:  my in-laws tiled my showers along with me, and I will always awkwardly think of them while washing my hair.

The point of all this is to say that we are finally, actually, seriously on the downward slope of all the interior finish-out work that needs to be done to call this house complete.  Things that I'll still be doing years from now include, but are not limited to: installing doorknobs, screwing in faceplates, hanging curtains, scraping paint from windows, adding baseboards where they were forgotten, etc etc etc.  Do I care about these minor annoyances?  Meh.  We've come a long way, baby.  I don't need a door knob to sleep well at night. 

All the major stuff was knocked out in furious fits and spurts in the midst of our mild winter.  We are both leaner and meaner because of it and, in the end, I'm so glad we did it this way (but don't tell Jer I said that).  Because now I have endearing stories to share with my kids about the time their mom, dad, grandma and grandpa crammed into the shower to accurately measure and cut tiles for a soap cutout and then held tiles in place with a toilet plunger to help fight the effects of gravity.  I actually have photos of this ridiculous feat of engineering (that I currently can't locate), an idea that occurred to us around 12:30 am on a Sunday morning after sniffing mortar fumes for more than 8 hours.

Or the time my mom and dad came by to help us pick up and place what has proven to be the world's most obnoxiously large and heavy sink.  This task was achieved by the heavy lifting primarily of Jeremy and my father while I put my hands under one end (just for show), and mom jumped around us making alarming gasping sounds, saying things like, "You're back's gonna go out!  Oh no!  Be careful!  Just put it down!  Here, I'll get the door!  PUT IT DOWN.  Stop!  Ok, the door's open.  Be careful!  That looks so heavy!" 

Or the time Jer's somewhat tipsy man friends pushed, heaved and set the oven while I bit my knuckles - not unlike the heavy lifting they already did for Big Bertha.

Or the time my mom and sister came by to help put together the IKEA kitchen cabinets which involved my sister creating assembly-line like efficiency from the IKEA instructions which read like gibberish (Swedish?). 

Or the time Jer's mother and Aunt swooped in to expertly clean and grout the remaining tiles when the thought of looking at another tile or another bag of dry grout caused a gag reflex so strong that I now equate tile = vomit. 

Get it?  It truly takes (took) a village.  I'm not done saying thank you yet.  Mostly because I'm not done asking for help.  And the pictures below do not come close to illustrating the extent of what's been done here.  In fact, one picture I believe shows nothing more than my dog passed out and a bowl of mostly eaten cereal.  So forgive the random photography.  I am the mother of 24 new chickens.  Things are foggy. 

Full Circle

Tonight we brought the suburban ladies to their new home in the country.  I've been dreading this move since the moment we broke ground on the house.  Above all else, I despise causing undue stress to animals.  It makes me hysterically upset in a way that's only understandable if you're a true animal person, meaning that, in times of peril (like a house fire) you'll grab your dog before your husband.  Animal person.  You know who you are.  And you either are or you aren't one of these unique specimens.  There's no gray area. 

Being such a person, I've agonized over the danger I'm suddenly thrusting them into.  The life of a suburban chicken is, after all, incredibly posh.  Aside from the rogue raccoon or owl, few predators can reach them, and this is what's worried me the most.  Am I immediately turning them into a meal by bringing them here?  Would a chicken raised in the country have street smarts that my ladies do not inherently possess?  Only time will tell.  And, since they've been locked into their tiny, moveable coop for their first evening out here, time might start telling sooner than I'd like.  Luckily, the move itself was quick and fairly painless, for me at least.  The girls sat quietly in boxes during the transport, and Jer did all of the heavy lifting moving the chicken tractor onto the trailer and depositing it near the house.  Someday there will be a glorious coop.  But for now, this is enough.

Before moving them, I pulled six perfect eggs from their next box - a sure sign that spring has sprung.  I brought them home (*from here on out, "home" is referencing the new place) tonight in the antique egg basket and rested it on the new counter.  It's a small thing to rest an egg basket on a counter.  Inconsequential, actually.  But as I stepped away I realized that I'd imagined resting this very basket filled with eggs on this very counter for so very long.  And there it was. 

Those damn chickens are to blame for all of this.  Those damn chickens and the animal person-ness that I can't get out of me.  This weekend we brought home a box of peeps to start a new flock.  A country flock.  With street smarts.  Tomorrow afternoon I bring home a rooster so that the flock will be better protected and self-sustaining.  There will always be chickens on this farm.  Seeing them stomp past windows, fluffing feathers and bickering means that I'm home.  The new flock is a housewarming present to ourselves and the reward for making this happen regardless of the gentle nudges we received to just walk away and consider other options.  To those folks: thank you for caring and listening.  But there's some things that just won't wait.   

Thursday, March 1, 2012