Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spring Time

Our Spring Time finally came. We took the leap and I quit my job. We had a meager savings and the plan was to just go and see how God would lead. We figured we could last through the summer on the savings while we worked getting our homestead established. We loaded up the Jeep, buckled up the kids and headed North with our little utility trailer in tow. The rest of our household goods would come up at a later date.
The farm had become a favorite vacation place for many of our family members and friends through those first years of owning it. We had camped on the land countless weekends and this would be no different except we would be staying for good. A never- ending weekend.
My parents had built a garage because they didn’t particularly care for camping. The garage kind of became the gathering place where everyone would meet for meals and to get out of inclement weather. There was electricity in it, but nothing else. No water, no bathroom and no heat. We had a kerosene heater to take the edge off while being there in cooler weather. So into the garage we settled. It was a logical choice.
We were at the farm for just a couple days before half our family and friends decide to come up camping to help us celebrate our long-awaited move. So that first week or so was no different than any other time we had stayed at the property. It was a big camping party. But, the weight of our decision was ever with us because this time we were staying for good.
Just a few days into our camping excursion there was one event that we could have done without, seeing we had just made the biggest move of our lives. It was a scary thing to pull up roots from all that we had ever known and resettle in a completely different location. The environment was different and so was the culture to a certain extent. A very different way of life for us. Vacationing here was one thing but, making it your permanent home was another thing entirely.
Well, one day I had left the camping area and came back down to the garage to get a jug of water and I let our little dog out, a Bichon Frise named Bernard. My mind was preoccupied with other things like making sure our guests had everything they needed and I let Bernard follow me back to the campsite. I had completely forgot about my sister-in-law’s dog Ruby, which was a 100 lbs. +, female Akita. Ruby was tied up but Bernard, being the consummate Romeo that he was, decided to pay Ruby a visit. Ruby was by no means an aggressive dog with people but, as we soon found out a small pesky little runt like Bernard was another story. The next thing you know there is a huge commotion ensuing over by my sister-in-law’s camper, women screaming, people running and a dog yelping. Of course the dog yelping was Bernard. Karen, that’s my sister-in-law, got to Ruby none to soon and she turned loose of Bernard. Ruby had been shaking the day lights out of the poor little fellow. Now before you start feeling too badly for Bernard, you have to realize that he never was one of those white fluffy, pampered little things like the Bichons you see in pictures. He’s never had a fancy hairdo and his personality is probably more likened to a hound dog than his breeding would suggest.
The dog books describe an entirely different creature than what Bernard is. They say Bichon’s are clean dogs and prefer to stay out of the dirt. Not Bernard. If he isn’t tromping through the dirt he’s rolling on something dead. No, Bernard has never been some kind of prissy pooch. He’s a fun loving adventurer with a definite nose for the ladies. In fact the female kind has been somewhat of a downfall for Bernard. At an early age Bernard became acquainted with one of our neighbor’s dogs that was in heat and Bernard has been a love sick puppy ever since. We had even taken him to the vet for “corrective” surgery but, it was too late, that first encounter was all it took.
After Ruby’s not so subtle rejection of Bernard’s affectionate advances we took assessment over his possible injuries. There was a little blood but, not much considering what had just transpired. At first glance it seemed the beating his head took from slamming against the ground was the worst of it but, upon further examination it did appear he had some rather deep lacerations in his rear end area where Ruby had grabbed onto him. So our camping got put on hold while we took Bernard in for an emergency veterinary visit. Three hundred some odd dollars later Bernard was all fixed up. Turned out his injuries were quite a bit worse than we could see through his thick under coat. Ruby had nearly ripped his right rear leg off and the vet said he was probably within a couple seconds of having his neck broke.
In spite of his injuries Bernard rebounded pretty quickly and before the camping week was over he even attempted to pay Ruby another visit. Big on heart but not too big on brains, that rascal. This time the encounter was quickly put a stop to and Bernard would live to have many more adventures. In fact he is still going strong at age 16. I think I might write a short story about Bernard some day because Ruby has not been his only brush with an untimely death. It is like he’s part cat, it would seem that he has had at least 9 lives.
Well, eventually all our family and friends headed back to their lives in Illinois and we were finally all alone and able to then focus on the task at hand. The task of building up our homestead.
One day while searching for direction I read these words in Proverbs vs. 24:27 NIV “ Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that build your house”. (Thanks for the reminder Scott) So I felt that we should follow the advice of that ancient wisdom and we set out to plant our garden and get ready to have some livestock. The Lord must figure we aren’t done with our outdoor work because we have yet to build our house. But, I can’t complain because we do have everything we need and plenty of comfort.
We had already been raising rabbits back in Zion so we had to get them set up. For the time being we kept them in the wire cages we had been using but, then closed in an area in the old corral were they could live a more natural life on the ground. Soon we found out how much rabbits like to dig tunnels and burrows, so we had to bury chicken wire to keep them contained.
Our first big project was to put up one of our two commercial greenhouses that we had bought from a florist that went out of business back in Illinois. We felt extremely blessed with our green house purchase because we got them for a fraction of the cost of what we had seen advertised as new. One was 30’x 30’ and the other was 30’x 100’. We opted to put up the smaller one. This would be winter home for our rabbits and what ever else kind of livestock we could acquire that first summer.
At the local feed store they had a flier for a poultry grower in Beaver Dam, called Sunnyside. We anxiously put in an order for their equivalent of Rhode Island Reds. They were called Sunnyside Browns. They had Browns, Buffs and Blacks, their prime egg laying breeds which they said had some Rhode Island Red in them. I had been wanting to get some Rhode Islands because for a short stint as a boy I had some of those until our local animal warden found out and made us get rid of them. That was a great time in my youth, experiencing the wonder of successfully raising a clutch of baby chicks. So I was hoping to re-live some of the romance I had felt back then. At any rate these would be close enough.
It turned out Sunnyside had all kinds of poultry for sale so we also got ducks, geese and guinea fowl, besides the chicks. We had heard that guinea's were good for eating ticks and with our young children running through the weeds all the time we wanted to do something to reduce the tick population.
We put in our order and in a couple days the post office called us bright and early at 6:30 AM
to let us know the shipment had arrived. We could hear the cheeping in the background. What a thrilling sound. Our first poultry would soon be a reality all we had to do was go get them.
Since we had no appropriate shelter outdoors yet, we kept the whole brood inside with us. We had a couple of large dog crates which we took apart and used the halves to house the tiny birds. I had fashioned chicken wire ends over the entrance sides of the dog crates. They worked great and before long were outgrowing their indoor enclosures. In the mean time I had put together a small chicken coop out of scrap wood we had around the farm. Eventually they were all outside and thriving. I don’t think we lost a single chick that season. We were very attentive first time farmers. Soon we had our greenhouse all set up and made dividers within to separate the poultry from the rabbits and the plant growing area.
That first summer was one for us that will be forever etched in our minds I think. For the first time in our marriage we were completely on our own. Just us and our little family. We started contacting various animal people. Our kids joined the local 4-H. We found everyone to be kind, decent, down to earth folks. This was an entirely different America than the one we had grown up in. We made many friends that year some of which are still regularly in our lives today. All kinds of characters everyone with their own unique and interesting personalities. It has truly been a blessing to follow our hearts as God has inspired us. We successfully uprooted and transplanted our selves to an area where we have not just survived but, have truly thrived. Until Next Time


Blogger Walter Jeffries said...

Merry Christmas!

Sugar Mountain Farm
in Vermont

2:19 PM  
Blogger RL said...

Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and yours!


9:30 PM  

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