The 2016 Winter Farm

I feel like every year I post about winter at the farm, and every year it’s the same thing. That said, I find comfort in structure and familiar things, and it’s my blog, so let’s do it.

It’s been a super mild winter here in Maine, at least compared to last year. Tomorrow alone is supposed to be 40 degrees which is admittedly a little bit insane and ridiculous. I really wish we would just get slammed with a blizzard. Just once. It’s not winter without a blizzard. I’m pretty sure the ladies and gents up at the farm are pretty happy though to not have weather colder than a witches tit.

This past weekend I went up to do my annual “I’m cold. I’m feeling claustrophobic. I don’t want to move but I have to move.” photos of cows at the farm. It gives me a chance to get out, to stretch, and to most certainly plan all of my ways of escape should the bull become ornery and decide I’m not welcome. Granted, this has never happened [knock on rock hard manure]. They are all super well behaved and curious. I’d say pretty friendly to boot.

So with that said, here are the 2016 stars of the farm.

DSC_5957DSC_5970DSC_5980DSC_5995DSC_6004DSC_5955Finally, it wouldn’t be the same without the shy one:

DSC_6015The one who tries to eat the camera:

DSC_6017Or the sass masters:

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Et voila my friends, there you have it. A 2016 winter at the farm.

Stay warm, but don’t forget to crunch around in the woods some.

xo,

Heather

My First Time

We all remember our first time. You’re excited but nervous. You have an idea of what to expect from what you’ve been told, but you don’t really know what you’re in for. You’ve heard it can last a while, and you’ve heard it can be quick. So, you excitedly take a deep breath, and let it out. This is happening.

Then, you load the dogs into your hatchback Saab, make sure you have your sales slip, and head up the highway to the glory land. The Fedco tree sale awaits you.

The huge two weekend event every year draws a very large crowd, with the first weekend reserved for those who pre-order trees. I had ordered two peach trees for our mini-orchard all the way back in December. This was the year I was going to go up there. This was the year I was going to see what everyone had been talking about years before me. Was it really as great as they said? It must be. My hopes were high. Since I had ordered trees early, I also got first chance at the cream of crop trees, bushes, and other goods before it was opened to the general public.

IMG_9378That friday morning just a few weeks ago I piled myself and two dogs into my hatchback, with no idea what was coming my way. I had a general idea everything would fit. It took a bit of finagling though when I not only picked up the two peach trees, but opted to buy 25 asparagus crowns, a  Honey Crisp apple tree, and a McIntosh apple tree. Will power got the best of me that day, thankfully. Common sense was not lost as I left beautiful cherry trees, blueberries, pear trees, and a huge variety of a hundred other glorious items where they lay. Thankfully so too, because Primrose wasn’t too happy with me as is.

IMG_9379As it were, Winnie was in the front seat, and Rosie laid right behind the passenger side on my comfy coat but most assuredly giving me the side-eye the entire time. I laughed when I ended up accidentally snagging this photo of Winnie while trying to get a photo of the cramped quarters. It looks like she’s yelling at me for the space issues. While it doesn’t look cramped in the photo I can guarantee you that there were four trees, particularly the apple trees, touching from the back of the trunk all the way past the rear view mirror with an inch to spare.

IMG_9380After leaving the tree sale I decided I wanted to grab some copper fungicide at their other warehouse and ended up stumbling into my version of heaven. I found where they keep all the potato stock. To be truthful I just wanted to eat them since I’m a carb loving broad. No one told me there would be potatoes my first time. No one told me there would be potatoes.

IMG_9382I also ended up meandering over to the seed warehouse where I bought some things in a haze. I remember buying peas, but I couldn’t tell you everything else I bought off the top of my head. I know I managed to get out with only about four packs of seeds though after thoroughly reminding myself about all the Johnny Select Seeds I had previously ordered that were waiting for me at home.

IMG_9383A few weeks after digesting everything, let me tell you the truth from the other side.

The Fedco tree sale is everything I had ever been told, and more. Aside from everything I’ve mentioned already, the people were just so incredibly nice. As far as patrons, every type of person was there. There were small gardeners, to people who just wanted a nice tree for their yard, to small homesteaders like myself, to legit farmers who I have an intense respect for. Their wealth of knowledge is staggering.

If you have never been to the Fedco tree sale, go. Order a tree so you can get in that first weekend, and just go. Get there early in the morning on the opening Friday and you’ll have plenty of time and space to take it all in.

Go slow. Enjoy it. Don’t rush. It will be worth the wait.

xo,
Heather

From Forest to Floor

I’ve mentioned before that in the past we’ve  sawed our own lumber, but I’ve never really walked through an entire project soup to nuts…er, cedar to lumber. Since we’re planning on building out our porch this summer I thought this was a great opportunity to show the entire process. This is a short post, but it’s the first of many about the porch (though proceeding posts about it may not be until later this summer).

DSC_9551Sustainable forestry is very important to us. Cutting just to cut is not something we do. It’s a very purposeful process, in both for the wood we need and being conscious of all the surrounding trees. Andy’s mom happened to have a thick cedar stand on her property which worked to our advantage. Not only do we need cedar for our decking, but it was also beneficial to free up some of the trees for the overall benefit of the cedar stand. While Andy chose the best trees, his mom tallied up the board feet.

DSC_9475DSC_9489Andy cut the logs into 8, 10, & 12 feet which we’ll be able to haul home on our trailer later this summer. The easiest way to measure everything out was simply to use his tape which is attached to his wedge pouch. Note: I am positive the technical term is not “wedge pouch” but it was better than calling it a “reverse wedge fanny pack” which sounds like “reverse wedgie” which while I have no idea what that would be but it sounds ultimately horrible.

DSC_9546Overall it was a very successful day, and we not only freed up some smaller trees but now also have enough board feet for our porch. Later this summer we’ll be winching it out of the woods, loading it on a trailer and bringing it home to saw on a sawmill.

DSC_9518As always the dogs were with us (and under my eagle eye watch). We can always count on them for cleanup with a smile.

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So while we wait for the logs to dry I wanted to share some other news in equipment acquisition land—we 99% likely getting a sawmill very soon!

While it might not be entirely relatable, I have wanted a sawmill for a number of years now and the idea of finally getting one is absolutely thrilling to me. We have a lead on a great deal. While it’s not the original sawmill I wanted, I couldn’t be happier that we’ll finally have one and at an awesome price. I’m keeping my hopes in check, but crossing my fingers! I will be SURE to update when/if this happens!

xo,

Heather

Mountain Meditation

Happy Earth Day! In the spirit of focusing on our environment and all it provides, I thought I would share our weekend away into the natural beauty of Maine.

There are times when I just need to be in the mountains. Being in the mountains and having some alone time with my camera is even better. This past weekend, after a huge event at work, I encouraged Andy to take Friday off with me so we could go to his Mom’s place in western Maine. This is the view from one part of her yard (albeit zoomed in). Not too shabby. While we celebrated the weekend with family, I decided to steal away some alone time with my camera and the stream that runs through my mother in laws property.

DSC_9194Even the dogs, who are normally glued to my side, were busy romping in the woods to their hearts content.

DSC_9312For a solid 30 minutes it was just me, my camera and a mountain stream.

DSC_9267I had been wanting to try some slower shutter speed shots of the water for some time. I used my 55-200mm lens which I love, but can admittedly be a bit tough because it doesn’t have vibration reduction. Overall though it was a fun learning experiment with both the manual use of my camera, testing my steadiness and using rocks as stabilizers, and also a good test on how close I can put my camera to the water without actually ruining it.

DSC_9210While I decided to only save a couple of the photos, I thought I’d share them with you guys.

DSC_9206DSC_9214DSC_9254These next two are my favorite. When I was editing I laughed because the first photo below looks like a large waterfall with a felled tree above it. It’s the scale of the forest behind that makes you realize it’s actually quite small. Perspective is everything.

DSC_9229 DSC_9234After I decided to head back up the hill, my sister in law and her husband were just heading up the mountain themselves to go skiing. I figured I’d hunker down and take some shots of them. Rosie decided to hang out with me. By “decided to hang out with me” I mean “made her sit with me instead of chasing Jessie and Gabe down the mountain.”

DSC_9378DSC_9401While all of this was going on, Andy, his mom and his brother were cutting cedar for our porch…but that’s for Thursdays post.

DSC_9499It was a nice weekend, and it was fun to be back in the snow for a few days since we have none left at our house. Champ, the girls doggie cousin, summed it up pretty nicely: sometimes you just need a weekend away to play, relax and to lay down while you eat snow.

DSC_9437xo,

Heather

A Photography Project: Meeting Patryce Bak

You simply never know where your next opportunity is going to come from, and I’m hardly someone to turn down an interesting opportunity that could make a pretty cool memory. Unless you’re asking me to get on a plane – then I need some convincing.

A few months back a woman named Patryce Bak and I started chatting with each other on Instagram of all places. I knew she was local, but that she also worked in New York, San Francisco and frankly all over the world. I loved her photos of simple clean eating on Instagram, and how much she seemed to love Maine. It was when I first looked at her professional website that I became immediately smitten with her “The Nature of Work” project. The people behind your food, the simplicity and difficulties of working with the land and her profile of Maine. Simply put – it spoke to me.

So when Patryce contacted me to ask if Andy and I would do a shoot with her for her new Farmers & Homesteaders project I knew we had to be in. The concern though was that we are small time homesteaders with 1.1 acres of our own. While my husbands family owns woodlots and is into simple living, it would be hard to show. While I am smitten with the beef cattle farm and Andy helps on it when we need to and are more or less adopted into the farming family we live amongst, it is not our farm.

Questions definitely came up. What was she going to photograph? What was this about? We have a garden, a small barn, a garage and some chainsaws. Yes we make a lot of our own food, preserve, cut out own firewood, heat our house with only wood at this time and in general try to live a conscious simple life, but how was that going to be shown? I knew from being born in Maine but growing up out of state that this way of life isn’t normal for everyone. We had a garden my entire life but I realized growing up that a lot of my friends parents didn’t. Salsa was something you bought at a store, not made at home. Fresh bread was a treat, but I had friends who had never tasted it. I saw the other side. Andy however grew up where working in the woods, gardening and making the most of what little you had was regular.

I reminded him that many people don’t know where their food comes from. They don’t understand how it works. All things he knows and understands, but I reminded him how important it was to me to be a part of something that was going to show people that there are people out there who do this – no matter what size. To me, encouraging people to grow their own food no matter the size lot they have is one of my greatest joys. When someone comes to me and says “I only planted a tomato in a pot this year and some herbs,  but it’s something” I want to jump out of my seat and yell and am incredibly happy for them. Everyone needs to take a first step. To have a chance to be a part of a project that could show this variety of farmers and homesteaders from very big, to very small, was awesome.

Thankfully, Andy knows how much this meant to me to do and he was on board. That’s the great thing about this guy – when something really means something to me and will make me really happy, he’s in. He’s in simply because it makes me happy. That’s a good man you guys, seriously.

So when Patryce came out I had just finished gathering some apples from the wild tree out back and the sun was setting. A new calf had just been born up at the farm so we took them up there to see it.

To be honest, my neighbor the farmer should have been the one photographed. Humble as the farmer is though he had told us that we should do our pictures at the farm. It might not be our farm literally, but to him we are a part of it – and it is a part of us. Also, it’s one of my happy places in life.

I’m happy to share these photos with you courtesy of Patryce. The second photo is also part of her Farmers & Homesteaders project you can see by clicking here.
 PatryceBakProject

PatryceBakFarmHere are some other ways you can find Patryce and see the daily looks into her life, and her professional work.

Instagram – @Patryceb
Facebook – Patryce Bak Photography 
Website – Patryce Bak Photography

A big thank you to Patryce for your beautiful photographs. It was wonderful meeting you and spending time with you. I hope you enjoyed the farm pears!

xo,

Heather 

P.S. To be clear, we did photograph at our house too but it was getting a bit dark. The farm sits on a hill and the light was beautiful so the farm set of photos is what I’ve seen and what she has used in the project.

P.P.S. Here’s a little behind the scenes – in the photo of me looking out the barn door, I wasn’t just posing and staring out. I was actually perched there to get a better view of a brand new baby who had just been born about 2 hours earlier. At the time the mother was eating the placenta and I was totally in awe of nature at it’s finest. Also, that same mother chased me up onto rocks the next day, but that’s another post for another day.