While I ultimately hope to write my experiences down into a more cohesive, book-length narrative, I want to keep everyone updated on the mundane and special happenings at Scrumble Wood Farm.
Vincent and I both work full-time jobs, in addition to managing our menagerie, running a household, maintaining some semblance of a social life, volunteering, and trying to keep in touch with the hobbies that brought us to this lifestyle and this place. But we both care about words and communication more than most other endeavors, so we'll see how well we do at keeping a blog going.
As a first glimpse, and because we're supposed to get some snow tonight (finally!), I'm thinking about how different our lives are, depending on the season.
When you live a lifestyle that is more connected to the earth and nature, you reevaluate your relationship with the seasons. The Finger Lakes has distinct seasons — traditionally, long winters; late, vibrant springs; gorgeously cool summers; and autumns with a grand foliage show. When stewarding livestock, we know the seasons even more intimately.
Winter is better described as a cold, dark, batten-down-the-hatches, carry-buckets-and-buckets-of-water, haul-hay-bales, add-bedding, do-all-chores-after-sun-rises-and-before-it-sets six months of the year. We're constantly splitting wood and feeding the wood stove. Ideally, we will be harvesting wood for next winter, as well. The winter is relaxing, in a lot of ways, because we can focus on ourselves a bit more, including hobbies like cooking and knitting, as well as spending more time with friends and catching up on sleep.
Spring is short (starting maybe mid-April) and ferocious — in addition to all of the wintry activities, we bridge the seasons by making maple syrup! This involves hauling gallons upon gallons of maple sap from our trees up to makeshift evaporator, over an open fire. You need to boil sap as soon as it's available, which means smoky early mornings, smoky days, and smoky late nights. We also indulge in panic over when new baby ruminants and new piglets will arrive, and whether we'll be home/awake to check on everyone; getting rotational grazing systems going again as the tender spring grass begins growing; and trying to decide if it's warm enough to bring out the hoses. When the babies arrive, we also add once- or twice-daily milking to our schedules. In spring 2018, if all goes to plan, we'll be milking one sheep ewe and two goat does. In Spring 2019, we will hopefully finally be able to milk Juniper! Ideally, we're also planting seeds and transplants in our garden, and brooding meat chicks.
Summer is intensely green and sometimes hot. We relish in the luxury and convenience of transporting water through hoses, and are generous with filling containers for the waterfowl to swim and letting water run for the pigs to make wallows. We try to maximize our grass by constantly rotating our ruminants (and horse!) through our small pastures. The sun rises very early and sets very late, so our social life gets the squeeze, as we adjust to our animals' needs (particularly: shutting the chickens in their coop and letting them out in the morning). At least twice, depending on the weather, we stuff our barn lofts full of fresh hay to prepare for winter, as well as mucking out the barn and giving the chicken coop a big clean.
Fall is the beautiful harbinger of winter preparations and death. We dry off the ruminants so they can rest before breeding again, and move the pigs into the hardwood stands so they can gorge on hickory nuts, acorns, and black walnuts as they fall. We haul extra squash from friends' farms for the pigs, as well. Once the winter gets colder, we process chickens and ducks for the freezer, as well as one to three hogs. We hurry to clean up hoses, stray buckets, and anything else important enough not to abandon to the snow. We need to move the pigs again, to winter quarters; shore up shelters; and make sure we have enough straw. We stop rotationally grazing as the grass stops growing, which means providing ruminants with hay. At some point in the fall, we start using the wood stove for heat, which means the wood dance begins again, too.