Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cohabitating with Nature.

Choosing to live in the country often means choosing to live close to Mother Nature.  With that comes a slew of animals and other critters all over the place.  Most of them will leave us alone but more often than not we end up with a few extra farm guests.  I try to let them live harmoniously with me and my family but sometimes that is harder than it looks.

The deer that migrate through my field are easy enough to live with.  The pheasant that has decided he owns my horse pasture is a bit bothersome sometimes but we get by.  The birds that have been nesting on my back deck are always a pleasure in the spring/summer but they would prefer I stop using my deck while they are raising their family.  The mice in my shed are fine until they chew through my feed bags and get grain EVERYWHERE.  But the snakes…oh the snakes…they are proving more and more difficult to live with.

I have no issues with snakes.  I have no rational, or irrational, fear of them.  The snakes in my yard are not poisonous or overly large.  Heck, they hardly ever bother me at all.  The animals don’t even notice them.  But in an attempt to live happily with them, I have run in to a few issues.  Snakes enjoy curling up in my hay pile.  This is no big deal until I move a bale and find a coiled mass of slithery serpent.  As much as I love them, I can’t help but scream like a little girl and run away startled.  After a brief moment to collect my thoughts I can return to work, but that initial startle gets old after it happens every other day for three weeks straight.  Mowing the lawn around snakes is the most difficult task of all.

Last week I finally got the chance to mow the lawn for the first time in much too long.  It has been raining way too much here lately.  It happens to be the exact opposite problem from last year, but that is a topic for another day.  While mowing the lawn, I came across 5 snakes of various sizes.  If I can help it, I prefer not to run over snakes with my lawn mower.  Sometimes I don’t catch myself in time, but usually I notice the little serpents in time to let them get out of the way.  This last mowing session, I came across one snake that just would not get out of my way.  I had to stop the mower, get off, and chase it into a tree.  The plan was to catch it and take it to the other side of the lawn, where I wasn’t mowing, but apparently we were not on the same page.  5 minutes later (I know that doesn’t seem like a long time but when you are chasing a snake around your front yard it is much too long) I gave up and hoped the slippery creature would stay in the tall grass just under the tree.  I lucked out and did not run over any snakes on this most recent mowing excursion.  But I did have to stop way more than normal to let the snakes cross into a safer part of the yard.  

If I did not love it so much, I would move into a much less animal friendly home.  Cohabitating with nature can prove to be more trouble than expected, but we homesteaders are more than happy to compromise in the name of mother earth.  I will continue to adjust my lawn mowing to keep the snakes happy, and my horses will continue to yield to the pheasants.  As the years go on, we will all learn to live harmoniously together and this happy little homestead will be a lovely place for all to enjoy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Working With What You've Got (Homesteader Edition)

The concept of *Working with what you’ve got* comes into play as a military spouse and as a homesteader.  Most recently, I have had to put this into play as a homesteader.  My duck pen was made with pallets a friend of mine had laying around her farm, my round pen and pony pasture were built with fencing I took down when rebuilding the large horse pasture, and all sorts of bits of my homestead are held together with bailing twine.  Being resourceful is an underrated skill that I believe everyone should possess.

As homesteaders, we pride ourselves on our ability to do amazing things with very little.  We build barns and pastures out of scrap wood and twine.  We concoct cleaning supplies, medication, and sometimes food out of plants growing in the back field.  We patch our wounded animals with rags and left over diapers.  The list goes on and on.  When things around the house break, we make do.  When Mother Nature refuses to cooperate, we work around her attitude.  Areas with high drought seasons collect rain water (where allowed), plant crops and raise animals that strive in dryer climates.  For me, it has been raining so much that I have not been able to mow my back yard.  Now that it is actually dry, the grass is to long/thick for my poor sad little mower.  My solution was to put up makeshift fencing and allowing one of my horses to eat the grass down.  I kill two birds with one stone.  The grass is getting cut and my horse is being fed.  

Very few of us can afford to purchase that elusive *Perfect Piece of Paradise *.  There is a lot we compromise to get started on making our dreams a reality.  When we first step on to a potential property the squirrels get to running and we think up ways to use every inch of our little hunk of earth.  Where will the barn go?  How can I configure pastures to optimize my space?  Where will my garden thrive?  What the heck am I going to do with that swampy area in the back corner?  All these questions start running through our heads and we just can’t wait to get started.  Of course, nothing goes as smoothly or as quickly as we originally planned, but we always make do.  Our garden starts smaller than we would like, our pastures go up one at a time and our outbuildings often go up in stages.  But when everything is said and done, we have that amazing sense of accomplishment from building our own little homestead.  

When I purchased my property, it came with a 6+ acre Christmas Tree farm.  Sadly, the trees are all over 25 years old and way too large/unmaintained to be sold as household decoration.  So what am I to do with all that space?  I don’t have the time, money, or resources to take them all out and I can’t imagine tearing up such beautiful trees.  So I plan on building my Cross Country jump course in that area.  I have an unfortunately placed hill just behind a low spot, so (hopefully befor this coming winter) I will level the hill and fill the low area with the earth taken off the top.  I, like many others, have found ways to work with the property I have.  

I love my farm and I am so happy to have fallen on this wonderful property.  I must admit it is far from perfect, but I enjoy thinking of the best ways to use every inch of what God has given me.  Like so many homesteaders, building everything from the ground up is half the fun.  Making the most out of what we have is a skill we pass down to our children and them to their children and so on.  We each accomplish so much and sharing that with others is one of our greatest rewards. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

My First Sewing Machine!

For my birthday, my mother FINALLY bought me a sewing machine.  I have only been asking for a sewing machine for every gift giving opportunity for the past 3 years.  I am not usually one to ask for gifts, I find them unnecessary and often a waste of money.  But this sewing machine is something I have realy wanted.  The original request came from the desire to make my son a quilt out of his baby clothes, but since then I have come up with a million projects to do.  Of course, my husband suggested I just sew by hand.  I immediately had him checked into a mental institute.  As much as I enjoy hand sewing, and I know tons of people still swear by it, I prefer a machine for large projects.  
Now that I have my machine, I can finally get started on the quilts and curtains I have been planning for years.  My son and I headed to the fabric store over the weekend to stock up on some essentials and I will start the search for the perfect curtain material very soon.  For now, I have 2 quilts ready to get started and a third (the baby clothes one) in the back of my mind.  The problem I am having now is finding the perfect pattern.  I am the type of person to buy the materials first and find the pattern latter.  I do the same thing with my knitting, I have a ton of yarn and have to find something to do with it.

One of the best parts about quilting is that you can make a beautiful piece out of scraps and old clothing.  It doesn’t have to cost much to come out with a great quilt.  I purchased fabric for my first two projects and I will be sure to post some photos (if I remember to) when they are complete.  I warn tho, it may take months to get them completed.  With everything that goes on around here I don’t have nearly as much time to craft as I would like.  I would love to hear stories and see photos of any of your quilts, or other crafting projects.