farming

BEES & SPOONS + A RETURN TO INSTAGRAM

 
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A few things happened in the last week. 
1. Rosemary discovered her tongue. We discovered how adorable a tongue can be.

2. We finished the in-class portion of Farm School. We are in this program, and it has proven to be very A+.

3. We, along with our brother, rejoined Instagram. Our intent is to use it for sharing our journey in all manner of homesteading, farming, land searching, etc. Much like our blog, but a lot less personal. No photos of Rosemary (probably). No diatribes about politics (ok, we don't do that on here either, but we bet you would just love it if we did). No getting wrapped up in "should I post this?" or "how do I caption this?" — because that is why we left social media altogether two years ago. It was unhealthy, and too personal, and left us feeling more distant, not closer, to our peers and inspirations. But we are back as the united front of @downhomefolk. Please follow along or say hello if you are on IG! Our brother Zach has joined as @downhomespoons, where he's sharing his process and handiwork in spoon carving. His spoons are our among our most favorite wares. They perform beautifully, feel special, and wear the look of a product made with care and craft by two hands. It's worth mentioning that he is totally self-taught, and built our bed frame and a tree house (!!) for his children. Here's hoping he will build us a farm house someday.

4. We are planning to raise bees again! Excitingly, this year we'll be focusing on actually selling raw honey and wooden honey spoons. Our first genuine farm enterprise, except in our town backyard and Zach's basement wood shop. We don't have land yet, but that's not stopping us from pursuing our goal of raising living things to share with you. Do you want a jar of liquid gold this fall? Can you imagine buying your loved one (your honey) or your coworkers a sweet little bundle of backyard honey and a spoon, all tied up with twine? Well . . . we hope so. If you've never tried raw, local honey, and if you've never owned a handmade wooden ware, might you allow us to help you change that?


—M&S

ON VEGETABLE FARMERS + ABUNDANCE

 
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November, in its kindness — how we have waited. There's something about the calm and unassuming nature of November, or maybe it's the prelude to a season of grandiosity and sweet treats, but more likely it's the quietness of the vibrant leaves falling and the snow not quite arrived. Whatever the case, November is handedly our favorite month. Years ago our copy of A Sand County Almanac arrived in the mail with a bookmark depicting a red fox with the words "November is kind" beneath him, like some kind of epitaph. A curious little treasure; a most agreeable epitaph.

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This month has been particularly bountiful, food-wise. We intend and hope to always have bountiful and healthful food in our larder. Still, the future is unpredictable and we want to pause with gratitude for this year, should there come a time when food like this is sparse. Since returning to Ohio we've had the pleasure of lending our hands on an organic produce + flower farm. The commute is unreasonable at two hours, but the pleasure of working alongside Kristy + Aaron and their crew is wholly worth it; a kind of haven. It's a place that expects much and gives more in return. Days on their farm are suffused with joking and great conversation and reciprocal respect — qualities that seem surprisingly rare on farms (and workplaces in general)! Vegetable farming is back breaking work, and although we do not want to be vegetable farmers ourselves, we are hugely grateful for people like Kristy and Aaron who devote their lives to the pursuit of the Tender Carrot, of the Ripe Tomato, of paving a different (healthier, tastier) road for food consumption and land stewardship.

For the black beans, the garlic, the onions, the cabbage and the tomatoes; for this season of kindness and abundance; and for the farmers who work every day to put food on our tables: thank you! 
(And if you never have, you really must try a good carrot.)

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—M&S

CLOSURE

 

Last summer, still fresh to our farm roles, we took in four baby goats. If you've been reading our blog since then (and to that point, if you have: wow, and thank you), you know that we raised them for meat. You saw their faces, and maybe you felt something personally—positive or negative—about our decision. They were our pets for a time, but their roles in our lives always carried more weight. We have a catalog of memories to do with Satchmo, Smithers, Dill and Tuna — from bottle feeding each one while we renovated and outfitted a home on wheels, to weeping in each other's arms at midnight after petting and uttering words of consolation to Satchmo and Smithers as they died of illness. My fondest memories are of winter, when Dill and Tuna were fluffy with winter coats, and seemed to love nothing more than to show off their incredible jumping skills, going so far as to use our legs as catapulting props in their obstacle courses.

Winter was an imminent time, as soon their lives would end. We would shortly close the final chapter on this book—a book that taught us so much about love, farming, and how you must, must, must feel the first if you are to be any decent at the second. Processing Dill and Tuna was a very difficult day. We did everything ourselves; they never left the farm. We made an eleventh hour decision to cure their pelts and have them tanned so that we could truly use every single element of their precious bodies. We toured the tannery (the only environmentally responsible tannery in the country) and spoke of our desire to see their pelts treated with care. After six months away we have them back, and how glad I am that we made that eleventh hour decision. I am proud of us, and I am grateful to Dill and Tuna. Mark and I witnessed life and participated in death, and made ourselves a part of every step in between.

Their pelts are not objects of interior decoration; they are not show pieces to be mounted and admired; they are not luxurious furs. Their pelts are a reminder of what animals can and do provide for us every day; they are warmth for when it is needed; they are utilitarian and natural; they are here because they worked, and so did we, to symbiotically give and take from one another.

Mark and I have deeply appreciated the support, and even the opposition, we experienced during this first journey in raising animals for meat. This was a learning experience — and a deeply moving one — that we hope you were able to experience in some capacity alongside us. Whether you strongly agree or vehemently disagree with our approach to farming and our choice to eat meat, we hope you respect our transparency and our desire to steward both land and animal with dignity.


—S

LATE SPRING FARM HAPPENINGS

 

I think this goes down as the longest stretch without a new post on our blog since its inception. Life has been admittedly full and busy, maybe a bit more-so than seasons past. It's all been good timing, though, as our previous post about spending five hours in Quincy deserved a few weeks front and center. To those of you who felt touched, enjoyed the post, or reached out with words of love for our family and for Erica, thank you. I am positive that Erica's greatest hope is that we all experience, deeply in our hearts, connection with her. Now, onto what's been happening in farm land . . . 

Immediately following our visit to Boston, my mama, my sister, and her four children came to stay with Mark and I for several days. If you're wondering how eight humans did sharing our tiny house and all sleeping in one big room, the answer is: great! It was a true taste of our family commune dreams. I've oft wondered what a big family in a small house would be like; now I know. The kids loved the farm (especially the baby goats) so much that they refused to go anywhere else, so we didn't leave! Settling into a farm rhythm ended up being a gift. My sissy milked the goats with me while my mom got the kids dressed for the day. Mark would set out on farm chores and the kids would meander up to the kidding barn to cuddle the babies. After milking, all of us (including the kids) would herd the goats down to pasture, while my mom would head home to cook breakfast. The rest of the day would follow suit, with adventuring, farming, and mama cooking for all of us. I learned that children are happy as clams with huge puddles to jump in, cow bones to check out, and coloring pencils. A favorite anecdote of mine happened when my nephew jumped into such a big puddle that water poured into his rain boots. With tears quickly filling his eyes, someone told him that "wet socks are part of being a farm adventurer!" He smiled, jumped into another puddle that flooded his boots, and said, "see? totally ok!" Ah, the magic of children.

Other farm happenings include: awaiting the arrival of our bees, who will hopefully flourish in this valley of meadow flowers and organic pasture; closing the books on kidding season, and opening the books on pasturing the kids we're keeping on the farm; preparing for the pigs to farrow, which will reintroduce piglet mayhem; praising the return of our CSA and the best tasting vegetables our money can buy; foraging and cooking some morel mushrooms and eating endless ramps (wild leeks); moving the chickens in their movable coop every few days so they can do the good work of spreading nitrogen-rich manure around the fields; digging holes for building projects and fixing fence lines to keep the animals from escaping. Haymaking is about to start, and with that the farm officially gets thrown from Spring into Summer.

All of these photos were taken with our iPhones as part of our 'Photos From Afield' series.


—S