Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in the Rear View Mirror

Last January, a stray black cat sneaked into our barn and for some reason the dogs didn't chase her away like they usually do stray cats. She was a good mouser, so we agreed to let her live in the barn. Now, a year later, Poet has secured a spot in our hearts and our home, even sleeping at the foot of our bed every night, a pampered house cat.
Our own farm accomplishments have not changed our lifestyle as quite as dramatically as Poet's have hers, but it is our tradition to look back on New Years Day and be pleasantly surprised at all we accomplished in the previous 12 months. So, a few highlights, in no particular order...
Top home improvement achievement: new roofs for the house and garage.  We hired professionals to tackle this job. It is such a comforting feeling to have a sound roof over your head.
Top home handyman project: repairing and tiling the  crumbling steps.
Last year, we launched a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and supplied half-bushel boxes of fresh garden veggies to six families every week, May through October.  I was worried about growing enough for the members' boxes in addition to chores, milking the cow, my part-time work, my art, and running the farm store, but I am proud to say it was a success!  Cadence wants to take over this  enterprise and expand the  CSA in 2013.
We only participated in the Farmers Market a few times last year, so did not bake our usual annual 1000 loaves of sourdough bread in our clay oven, but we did bake a couple hundred pizzas at informal weekend gatherings last summer. We made the sauce from our tomatoes, garlic, veggies and herbs, the mozzarella from LaFonda's milk, and Rog's sourdough crust, and friends brought their favorite toppings.  I don't know how many pizzas a person can eat without growing tired of them, but we haven't approached that point yet.
I was thrilled to attend a 3-day workshop at Growing Power in Milwaukee last spring and learn about vermicomposting and aquaponics firsthand and hands-on from Will Allen and his staff.
Afterwards, we (mostly my talented hubby Rog) transformed the old silo foundation into a pond, step one of our planned aquaponics system, where we will grow fish and plants symbiotically for food.
I completed a body of farm-themed works for an art exhibition with a dear artist friend, Vera Wong,  at Crossings in Zumbrota last spring - and nearly all of the paintings were sold! One of my resolutions is to find time and focus to paint, paint paint this year.
Rog played a LOT of music last year, performing with The Nodding Wild Onions (pictured here at our farm), the Volunteer Tomatoes, Blue Monk and solo.  We greatly appreciate that all of his bands played at the farm on various Sunday afternoons all summer!
The little shell of a shed I got from Craigslist was transformed into the Unbearably Cute Garden Shed. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to farm volunteer Chad Austin and his carpentry skill - he even made the shed two feet taller so we could stand tall in it and and created an arch-top Dutch door.
When our neighbor Frank dropped off 50 fish (suckers) he had just caught, Rog got to work and created an enviable smokehouse from the old burner that was on the property, using oven shelves that Cadence and I got at a restaurant auction a few years ago-- we knew they would come in handy for something someday! We have also made some  delectable turkey in this smoker.
Speaking of turkeys, we raised 10 handsome turkeys for Thanksgiving dinners. They were very sweet characters, but I managed to deliver them to the processor this year without sobbing uncontrollably - I am becoming a more professional farmer.
We lost NO birds to great horned owls or neighbor dogs this year! But we did have our first misadventures with a raccoon.  A lowlight of the year was losing several clutches of chicks and four hens to him and having to finally dispatch the raccoon. More hardened farming.
Lariat, our Dexter Cow, gave birth to her third calf, a darling little bull calf we named  Poblano.  Disappointingly, our milk cow LaFonda turned out to not be pregnant, so did not have a calf this year, but we figured that out when we weaned her year-old calf, Lindy, and were able to resume milking her for the summer. The very saddest event of the year for me was  reducing our herd--we  harvested our steer Lindy (I cried for two weeks) and sold Lariat and Poblano to a great family in Michigan. We are down to two bovines, Lafonda and our Dexter heifer Jitterbug.  A two-cow herd has been a blessing in this winter of  expensive, scarce hay and our small pastures will be much healthier with fewer beasts.
Before they left, we held our Second Annual Cow Puja, a blessing of the cows. The event grew this year, with a dozen artists selling their wares, three great bands, delicious food,  painted cows, and cow blessings performed by both the Sisters of St. Francis and members of the Hindu temple. The weather cooperated, my parents and  many wonderful friends and neighbors helped us out for the day, and about 400 people attended!
A month later, we held or second big farm event, Cadence's Day of the Dead feast.  Preparing for this event, Cadence cleaned out the south wing for the barn and transformed it into it a convincing rustic Mexican restaurant, with colored lights, banners,  shrines, and colorful papier mache masks and skulls. She prepared an authentic Mexican feast for thirty friends who generously made donations to her cause.
And what was her cause? The most noble cause of all, Love!  After Christmas last year, Cadence  headed to  Mexico to visit her true love, Israel, and while she was there they got married. Then she flew to Prague to complete school. Israel joined her in Prague for the summer, but then they each returned home until a U.S. visa could be secured for Israel, a very costly, bureaucratic, lengthy process (2 years for a spouse visa!)  Israel is an amazing folk musician and has been approved for a temporary cultural visa to perform and teach in the U.S. At this very moment, Cadence is in Mexico, visiting Israel's family and they will arrive here in a couple weeks.  We will finally get to meet our son-in-law in person!  We plan to have a joyous wedding celebration on the farm next summer.
Israel is a welcome addition to our family. But in the meanwhile, we are  smitten with our most recent addition to the farm family, Zinnie (Zinnie).  She is smart, good-natured and adorable - and Nutmeg and Cocoa are training her in to be a  great farm dog.

Rog and I are so blessed and grateful to be living this adventure on a beautiful little farm, learning something new every day, surrounded by generous, caring friends and neighbors, talented musicians and artists, enthusiastic customers and CSA members, delightful farm critters and beloved family.
We eagerly anticipate the adventures of 2013 and wish you all a joyous year! 


gz said...

What a year!
Her's to health and happiness in 2013

Gardeningbren said...

I so enjoyed reading this. Even though I follow your blog, to read the review and just to enjoy the joys and success including the ups and downs via your writing..it was a pleasure. Thank you. Happy New Year.

Mary Ann Johnson said...

You two have always amazed me with your ambition and follow through. It is inspiring to read about your projects. Congratulations on a year well lived!!