Oh friends, I've been longing to write for days! So much has been going on here at the new farm. Dairy cows have been delivered, chickens have been transported, garden beds and fences have been built, boxes have been unpacked, and homesteading life has begun!
As most of you know, last week our family moved from Southern Alabama to a home on five acres back in my home state of Washington. Yes. That's a long ways to travel with a house full of goods and two littles. But we're here! And the farm is in full swing.
Where to start… where to start…
OF COURSE. The cow. My Jersey sweetheart, Kula.
Kula is 4 1/2 years old. She is pregnant with her third calf, due to calve somewhere between August and October. She's very friendly, kinda zesty, and very sweet.
She has a nice udder and let's my handle all her teats, which I've been doing twice per day so that she can get used to me.
I have a call into the vet to come and give her a quick check so that we can more accurately estimate her delivery date (I know this can be tricky without an ultrasound). I've calved cows in my day but it's been a few years and I'd like to be as prepared as possible for her delivery. A slightly smaller delivery window will help us to be ready.
My Dad spent a day last week helping us build this temporary electric fence around her corral. This next weekend, the Elliott men are building her a permanent corral using lumber, posts, and wire. But for the time being, the electric wire fence has been working fine.
Confession: I hate electric fences. They scare me. I've been shocked too many times. And I hate being shocked! It hurts. I cry.
One time when my Dad was little, a friend convinced him to urinate on an electric fence.
Disclaimer: Don't ever do that. It's a bad, bad, bad idea.
Urinating on electric fences has nothing to do with anything, just thought I'd share. Maybe that's where my deep seeded hatred for electric fences come from – my Dad's horrific memories as a child.
Kula doesn't seem to mind it though. She's actively sunning herself, munching on the weeds, licking her salt block, and chewing her cud. She seems very content in there for now. Over the next few days, we'll put on her halter and lead rope and tether her around the lower pasture so that she can graze. Over the summer, we'll get barbed wire fencing put up around the entire lower pasture, but for the time being, at least she can graze the grass and weeds this way.
And let's be honest, there are plenty of weeds to graze. The farm is overloaded with them! That's why my man had to bust out the weed wacker. Wack those weeds, baby.
On top of building Kula's pen and getting to know her, we've also been busy the last two days preparing our garden bed. We've done a super thick layer of cardboard (packing boxes repurposed!), six inches of composted horse manure, and another four inches of the most beautiful compost from a nearby orchard.
I have to give a huge, gigantic, super big thank you to my friend Aaron Mathison of Stemilt Growers who so graciously delivered an entire dump truck load of the compost, literally, to our front door. Now that's neighborly love!
Another friend, Bruce Thorn of Valley Feed, was getting rid of the last of his heirloom tomato starts (yes, it's a little late in the season to be planting here) and allowed us to take 24 tomato starts home. For free. Seriously. Any remaining starts were donated to the community garden – how cool is that!
We still have a lot of work to finish on the garden, but hopefully tomorrow we'll get in the last two yards of horse manure, edge it with rocks, and get the remaining vegetables planted.
The chickens have been a lot of fun – I find myself just watching them peck at the ground…dusting their feathers…perching on the logs I slipped into their pen. Tomorrow, I'll be posting our homemade chicken feed recipe which I hope some of you will find useful! Ours love it. It's primarily organic and soy-free. But more on that tomorrow.
Lastly, we've finally decided on a name for the farm. Not that we necessarily need a name at the moment – we aren't planning on selling any of our goods for the time being. But because Stuart and I love these sorts of things, we will (naturally) design labels for our cheeses and such. Plus, wouldn't it be fun to deliver bags of vegetables to friends with a pretty tag on them?!
I love that sort of thing.
While I love The Elliott Homestead as a name for the farm, we wanted a name separate from the blogging community that has been built here. Our farm is a new entity – a new stage of life. Stuart (who has severe nostalgia for all things Scottish) recommended a Gaelic name which I fell in love with.
(Sounds like Bayha Fawn).
Beatha meaning life, livelihood, or vital. Fonn meaning land.
Exploring, planting, harvesting, and growing little bits of life on our little bit of land is our joy – our pleasure. This lifestyle isn't for everyone, but it is for us. Early mornings, clothes drying in the sunshine, and dirt under our nails. It's a sweet, sweet life.
It's also hard. The manual labor has already taken it's toll on our bodies – we're like super old people at night, laying on the couches, eyes at half-mass, groaning. It's pretty pathetic.
But as with all things, farm life takes practice. And patience. It's not a skill perfected overnight, or even over a lifetime. It's a constant learning cycle as one adapts to the life of the soil and animals that surround him.
Experience, as they say, is the best teacher. And we've already been experiencing trials with weeds, irrigiation, land management, budgeting, and animal husbandry. There's not better way to learn though!
Might as well jump in the deep end.