The Chicken Brothel


Yep, so my kid’s chicken coop name officially sounds a bit like an Old West brothel. A poultry house of ill repute. I tried valiantly to talk him out of it and into something a bit less…well…Brothel-y. I’ve lost. Guess I’m gonna have to name one of hens Miss Kitty now. No, kid. No red lights. I’ll have the swat team and the vice squad here. Good thing you can’t see it from the road.

Planting TIME.

My honey came stumbling down the hallway a few minutes ago. Bleary eyed, pajama clad, and very, very confused. The dining room table, though rarely used for actual DINING, is covered this morning in seed packets, starting trays, a gallon sized pitcher of potting soil and the skeletonized remains of a battalion of plastic containers rescued from the recycle bin.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Good morning to you, too,  dear. I’m planting things. Want coffee?”

“Coffee? Erm…no. It’s 3:30 in the morning. I want sleep. What are you planting? Besides insomnia?”

He doesn’t really wait for an answer, just lights the propane heater for me, then shuffles a retreat back to the bed, grumbling to no one in particular. Because he knows. He gets me.

He knows I’m not going back to bed. These are generally the day’s most productive hours for me. It’s quiet. Even the chicks in the brooder bin in the floor behind me aren’t stupid enough to be up at this hour. My son is asleep, the inevitably oncoming day’s dose of crazy hasn’t begun yet. It’s just me, my coffee, and my project-of-the-moment. The phone won’t ring, no one is yet bellowing for reinforcements in the endless search for stray belongings, the weeks homework, or sounding the ever popular where-are-all-my-underwear battle cry.

Everybody in the house is still the picture of sleepy sweetness. I can’t NOT love them all right now. Oh, don’t get me wrong…I love them all. All the time. But…Eventually, they’ll wake up. And then they begin to speak. It’s the speaking that does it. It’s always what comes out of the faceholes that is the straw that sends me over the edge. Sometimes, this results in a temporary inability to like them much. Or for them to like me. You see, today brings the weekend.

I like weekends. Really. I like it when my family is home and we do the things and spend the time and be the normal. And sometimes, the weekends bring the guilt. Maybe you know the feeling…you know the one. The “Oh MY LORD, if you ask me one more question, expect me to entertain you one more second of this day, test me to the limits of my patience for all this damned togetherness one more instant – Jeez, is it Monday yet so you people can go back to work and school and stuff other than irritating the ever loving crap out of me….I. AM. FLIPPING. BUSY! forcryingoutloud” feeling? Because the weekend is the rush for me. Not the “work week”.  It’s a triathlon racing between the things I know I must get done, and the things I know they (and I) WANT to do.

So I guess the short answer to T’s question this morning is, I’m planting time. And patience. Planting my own sanity.  I’m crossing one of the big things on my to-do list that will rent space in my head when they want my time and company and undivided attention. I’m planting the ability to focus. Even if it’s on cuddling with a small manchild (or a big one) in fuzzy socks and giggling over some Netflix nonsense and popcorn. That’s what I’m planting. The veggies and flowers are a by-product.

Good morning everyone! And Happy Weekend!

This Means War

402390_367866313240239_347625043_n.jpgSophie as a baby

I have turned the sweetest fainting goat in the free world into something spawned of Hell or at least one of Satan’s minions. Overnight and quite unintentionally. It’s not very often that Sophie and I disagree. When we do, I’ve come to the realization and acceptance that it’s not very EVER that I’m going to come out on top. Even the horses have gotten to a point that they will allow her to snitch grain from the field pan because she’s conditioned them to know they will lose more than they gain trying to foil her efforts.

Even so, it is painful to admit you have gotten your ass kicked by a creature who doesn’t even reach your knees. Wounds the pride.

This morning the new lamb (christened Radar Ears by the manchild) was doing well enough we felt comfortable moving him to the barn. So I let him out of the Great Dane sized crate in the mudroom and opened the door to glorious freedom (and fresh air, thankyouJesus because a crated lamb and two caged ferrets in an enclosed space overnight can create smells near blindingly unpleasant) so he could meet Sophie the goat, and we could see how she was going to react. Wrong answer. Sophie affected a goat snarl I have never seen on her formerly precious face and makes it clear from very the start that the fuzzy interloper was unwelcome at best.

What followed was nothing short of pure slapstick comedy, as she chased that poor lamb in circles around me and my knees were used as a trench in the the business of caprine warfare. There was much baaing and grunting and bleating, This was still a little amusing but the walk to the barn right behind the house now quickly took on comparison to a half-marathon. If Sophie could talk, I doubt most of whatever she was saying would have been fit for public sharing.

T and I had anticipated a little resistance, so we had set up a fresh crate in the barn where we could allow some interspecies meet and greet without danger of injury. I installed the lamb in the new digs and closed the door, without a bottle, much to his disappointment. So now he’s crying. I turned my back for approximately 14 seconds to gather an armful of fresh hay for the baby, and Sophie used the time to back up, lower her head and butt the living bejesus out of the metal crate so hard it rocked up off the ground a good six inches.

I outweigh Soph by a good hundred pounds, so I yelled “HEY” in my scariest goatmama voice, put the sole of my tennis shoe on her hindquarters and gave her a spirited shove to let her know this behavior was unacceptable and wouldn’t be tolerated.  ***Disclaimer: I DID NOT KICK THE GOAT, please limit the hate mail to one per visitor, my circular file is small and requires frequent emptying ***

Then, for the first time in her little goaty life, she lowered that same head and her little weeble body on hooves and came at me with the force of a furry freight train. Almost knocked me flat on my rump.

I yelled. Screamed, really.  I cussed her out in grand and colorful fashion, and apparently scarily enough that it triggered her fainting reflex so now her back leg muscles are locked up, and she falls over her own feet and is now rolling helplessly on the barn floor. Now I’m laughing at her, and I’ve pierced her dignity. And I’ve lost all the steam in my mad.

You win again, Sophie.



The Best Laid Plans

Murphy’s Law is alive and well in this family, and on this farm.

Which brings me to why I could be found in a Tractor Supply store an hour from home at 6:30 last night. And if you know me, you know that TS is just not my favorite place. Or maybe it is, maybe I like it too much, and it’s me that I’m mad at about that. It is, at times, though, a necessary evil. So, occasionally, I find myself paying their light bill instead of my Visa. Yesterday, for example.

So we did a thing this week…we picked up the first of the season’s bottle lambs. A local fellow that we buy awesome round bales from to feed our spoiled equine piggies raises a gorgeous flock of Katahdins that I coo over like a big sissy when we go out there to wrestle a bale. I didn’t know until yesterday that’s what they were, and TBH, I still couldn’t tell you how to pronounce it. (Google lady and her computer voice pronunciation have steered me wrong on so many occasions that I am now the queen of the synonym just to save myself any more embarrassment.) Mostly because the knowledge came to me AFTER we’d picked him up and took place via a text exchange. I knew they were sheep. kata3

Hey, don’t judge me! We aren’t sheep people. I can identify a cattle, goat or poultry breed with reasonable accuracy at twenty paces, but I’m a sheep racist of the most ignorant sort. All the white ones look alike. All I know is they’re cute and fuzzy and the little monotone Baaaaa-aaa that emits from the little faces (and means everything from Hi mom to I’m hungry to you suck!) is more than I can bear. They mean spring. The kids love feeding them.  On the practical side, they are highly salable, the profit margin rocks as does the success rate. By that I mean that unlike bottle calves, they want to live. (Bottle calves do not wish to live, especially Jerseys. It’s an argument you will lose more often than you like. And that is always a blow.) But, I digress…

So, as he only had the one, a plan was hatched to attend our semi-local weekly livestock auction. We set out to try and buy our new charge a friend since we’re not sure Sophie the Goat will appreciate his company. (Could go either way, she has multiple personalities) At least it’s always BEEN weekly. We have taken the winter off from auction and pared back on what we intended to feed through the winter. See, if we don’t go, we can’t buy! (Meaning me. I can’t buy. Because I infallibly and often ill-advisably will, like the time I bought myself a 45 pound half dead suicide bent Holstein bull calf on my birthday. In December. For two dollars, since I was the only idiot willing to bid.) Ryan wants peeps, and there were none last week. So we unloaded the truck of tools and work supplies, unearthed crates and cages that have sat idle all winter, and off we went. 74641_181456678547871_4571525_n.jpg

Bear in mind now, as we did this, there was a band of uncharacteristically severe, hairy storms rolling up and through the Eastern Shores of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. My daughter was calling me from her VA bathtub with her four children as tornado alarms were going off and news anchors were hollering “I repeat, take cover NOW!”. I lost my hat twice and had to chase it across the muddy pasture. I could HEAR my blood pressure. T has snappy tendencies when he’s rushed and I’m a smartass. This was not a pleasant prep session.

We arrived, more than an hour later, peace and harmony restored, with extensive “divide and conquer battle plans” having been made during the ride (as peeps, lambs and goat kids are auctioned simultaneously in different places.) The safety of my grown child’s family has been verified. I feel infinitely better. Pulled around the bend in the road, and …. What?!? No cars, no trucks, no trailers. No Amish buggies and their four legged motors tied up at the fence rail. No hay lined up for sale like this…1800317_1148244105202166_5009651877243424918_n

Sweet. Baby. Jesus. We have just spent an hour prepping in 40 mph winds, an hour’s drive, and arrived hyped for battle at a CLOSED auction. Mom fail. Honey Fail. Farm Fail. You see, neither of us had thought to call first, and not having been all winter, we did not know they had affected some dandy newfangled “winter schedule” and are now operating only every OTHER week.

There is groaning and “Oh HELL No-ing”, and kicking of selves in the rump happening at this point. You can very nearly TASTE the disappointment of the 8yo in the backseat. (Not that any 8yo is shy to let you know when you have just epically upset his apple cart.)

Ok, Mom… apologize for your oversight. Curse profusely. Apologize for that. Lecture the kid on “don’t repeat that. like ever. or until you’re 30.” …fall back and regroup. T starts frantically searching local Craigslist livestock ads. WE WILL NOT go home empty handed. I start searching for the local Tractor Supply, because I know that ‘chick days’ have begun and maybe a boxful of biddies will appease my child. A phone call is made, I’m assured they do indeed have chicks and we’re off once again. I made the mistake of asking the ‘person in charge of chicks’ what breeds they got in.

TS Chicken Expert: “Uh…I…I think, hold on…Pole-lets. And some Long Island Red Somethings. Some kind of White chicken”

ME: “You mean pullets? Mixed ones? As in, Girls?

TSCE: “Yeah, that’s what I said. Pole Lets.”

Me:  “And are they RHODE Island Reds? ”

TSCE: “Uh, sure, we’ve got em.”

Obviously, this kid is to chickens what I am to sheep. I feel for him a little.

So we get there. What awaits us is 2 galvanized water tubs full of what appear to be RI Red chicks. With a smartly printed sign that says “Assorted Pullets, $2.99.” Next to it is another, full of more little reddish gold chicks and coal black ones and a few that look like possible Speckled Sussex chicks. Its sign proclaims “Heritage Rhode Island Reds, unsexed. Special $1.99”. On the other side is a matching set of tubs with one of Cornish Rocks (they can keep ’em) , one with assorted bantam chicks (again, no interest) , and one with mixed ducks in a rainbow of colors. Don’t want those either. Too early. Ducklings indoors, no bueno. They are messy and stinky.

So we wait, and eventually are greeted by the young man I suspect I spoke to. Now being a firm believer in karma, (my T calls these my “right way Sally” moments) I don’t feel it’s fair to buy the obviously mismarked chicks for a dollar less. So I speak up.

Me: “Hon, you have these here marked as the $1.99 Rhode Islands. I’m pretty sure your RI and pullet signs are switched. I want some pullets, but I don’t feel right paying the wrong price for them.”

TS Chicken Expert: “These ARE the Rhode Islands. They came in marked by the hatchery. I read the box.”

Me: “At no time in history has a Rhode Island Red chick ever been black. Just trying to do the right thing here.”

TSCE: “Ma’am, I CAN read. These are the Rhode Islands. Did you want them or not?”

This is the point where my right way Sally switch flips and I determine that if you’re going to be a self-proclaimed chicken expert even though you look like Doogie Howser with acne AND  a craptastic attitude as I try to prevent you from making a mistake that costs your company money, well then, who am I to not give you your way?

Me: “Sure. Rhode Islands it is. What’s your minimum, 6? I’ll have 12. 6 of the RED Rhode Islands and 6 of the BLACK Rhode Islands. $1.99, right? Super.”

Meet our new Rhode Island Reds. 20160225_073808.jpg

In calculating that I had probably just gotten a 12 dollar windfall from Tractor Supply and Chick Boy’s ineptitude, I elected to buy four new gallon sized waterers  (also mis marked) for 4 dollars and change each for the new runs. However, I suspect the black chicks may be Black Stars, in which case two of them are roos. Either way, I win. Ryan has his babies, we got new waterers that are kid-friendly size…Thanks, Doogie! I’m probably going to hell now.

Some names have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent. And the foolish. Apologies to Doogie Howser’s character.


Normal is Just a Setting on the Dryer.

12745434_1253932904633571_6178377214742722833_nThis is my 8 year old’s normal.

It’s probably not your normal. That’s ok. It’s certainly NOT a perfect photograph, but it is a perfectly accurate snapshot of our life and the stuff in it that brings me joy. Here’s what I love about this photo.

1. There is not a single electronic device present. This isn’t to say that Ry doesn’t enjoy access to computers and tablets and gaming systems. He does. (Which some days result in EPIC battles of wills.) You’ll notice there are none here.

2. That impish little grin is a completely genuine one. No faking it for the camera…just pure uncontainable, “I’m not too cool for this” joy. I hope he never outgrows not being too cool, but the realist in me is painfully aware of the possibility that these days may be numbered. I’ll take them while I can get them.

Here are the things you may not see.

That after working all day, at 7:30 p.m., my honey drove nearly an hour away (Still finishing up work calls on his earpiece the entire time) to pick up a bottle lamb and back and didn’t complain.  Literally, pulled in the drive, sucked down a only marginally decent cup of coffee and loaded right back up to leave again. We were both so over the day that we elected to not clear the tools out of the truck to make room for a crate (they will just have to be put back tomorrow anyway) so that lamb rode 48 miles on my lap. That my kid had gas station convenience store deli fried chicken for dinner without a vegetable in sight and didn’t get to bed until well after 10. On a school night.

You also don’t see that he did three days worth of homework without complaint or battle pre-embarking on our mission because Monday’s never gets done on Monday (Cub Scouts) and Wednesday’s doesn’t get done on Wednesday if it’s an auction week, and it is. So it’s a Tuesday triple, which happens more often than I should probably admit to.

That pink topped Playtex bottle you see there has been so well used, it’s  nearly lost it’s pre-printed design and seen countless orphan goat kids and lambs AND three dishwashers come and go. (And the occasional human grandchild, don’t judge me, the aforementioned dishwashers have a sterilize setting) The man-child holding it may pretend to be incapable of independently constructing his own chocolate milk, but he can rattle off a recipe from memory for homemade milk replacer like nobody’s business.

You don’t see the 10 miles of giggles after I was presented with figuring out if that was lamb “happy tail” or pelletized poo striking the leg of my jeans…(poo, of course). Or the 20 miles of uncontrollable laughter from everyone after our wooly charge expertly unleashed a stream of something warm and wet that ran directly down the leg of my jeans and into my shoe. (Because nothing is EVER funnier than Mom getting peed on. Except Crap, and that was a done deal already)

You don’t see him staying up to make sure the new baby is comfortably settled in the mud room, pulling and hauling on stuff way too heavy for his tiny body, all the while extracting promises that only he gets to do the morning feeding.

You don’t see him counting the contents of his piggy bank before bed in preparation for Wednesday’s auction because he knows that sheep and goats are herd animals and he fears his new charge might be lonely, and it’s no more work but more profit to raise multiples. And you have never seen him raise a bidder number at that auction (and get taken seriously, the auctioneers all know him by name and that he means business) then plunk down his very own money for something he needs or wants, with no wires, bells, whistles or graphics but instead, something with yet another chore attached.

Or that he knows it’s ok to name this one, because as an intact male, he won’t be gracing our dinner table, but not to get attached because when he reaches an age that bowling for children becomes a sheep sport, he’ll be off to auction.

And most importantly, what you really don’t see is my terror that life like this is vanishing. Someday, (in some places even now) this is not ok…that someone has decided it’s not normal, or even legal. Sobering thought, isn’t it?

Well, until that day comes…and if it ever does in my lifetime it will be met with kicking and screaming of epic proportions, this IS our normal. There’s a loose baby lamb in my truck. My kid didn’t eat a balanced meal, is out way past bedtime on a school night, and there’s animal crap in my pant cuffs and urine in my shoe. Child labor is alive and well here, but it’s not forced, it’s called work ethic and I’m grateful my kid is learning some.  Our family vehicle smells like lamb ass, and there’s livestock living in the entry to our home. And we’re all smiling.

Normal is just a setting on the dryer around here. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*** For reference purposes, I’m attaching a link to another blog where I originally found a recipe for homemade milk replacer for lambs. We have been using it ever since, I have not bought a bag of commercial type since finding this recipe, and have not lost a single lamb. So it’s worked famously for us. 

Thank you, Collie Farm! 





Starting Over

God Made A Farmer

So if we’re going to get into the why’s, as in, for what earthly reason I’ve revamped and refreshed my determination to be like Nike and just do this thing…watch this video. This Paul Harvey bit has always been moving to me. Ram said it best when they said “For the Farmer in all of us”.  There is a little “farmer” in all of us.

That’s what it all comes down to. What makes me happy, what makes me feel joy, and accomplishment and successful. I’m happy when I’m feeding kids and critters. When I’m digging in the dirt and checking on calves and pregnant goats and horses and even chickens in the middle of the night. When I can take old things and make them useful again. Or my favorite, taking things and repurposing them for something totally different than what they were intended for. I like selling people things that I’ve grown, raised, restored, or created.  I like growing things, and canning,  I really, REALLY like not paying for stuff, but rather creating or growing it. I like knowing where it came from when it hits my table and feeds my family.  Like, I get ridiculously pissed paying for eggs. Or vegetables. Or hay.

Unfortunately, I didn’t come equipped with the single mindedness that a venture such as this generally requires. Nor was it a necessity as long as I held an income producing job. That’s where the line is between hobby and homestead. Right now, we’re riding that line. I’ve left my  conventional “job”. My honey has one that’s more like several.  I rented a storefront last fall in a nearby beach town, which for the moment is closed for the off season. My plan is to reopen it this spring and feature things that are made or produced here.  To capitalize on the buy local, sustainable, organically grown, farm fresh craze. Frankly, we are not exactly in a high traffic area here at home, and a sign out front proclaiming fresh eggs, plants and livestock for sale has been only marginally successful.

Now, we’re basically starting from scratch all over again. We’ve got a few of last year’s peeps who have finally now started gracing us with eggs. Funny story about those chickens. And why I still own them, (read, grudgingly fed the feathered freeloaders all fall and winter)  but we’ll get to that later. We purchased at auction last week, 3 of the most gorgeous Rhode Island Red roosters I have ever laid eyes on.  I unearthed three years worth of purchased seeds and starting trays.  And, as of exactly five minutes ago, we made plans to go this evening and pick up the first of this year’s bottle babies, a 6 week old ram lamb.2016-02-19 10.52.25

This week, my son and I took on the task of unearthing an old fowl coop that had been overtaken by briers and overgrowth and general disuse. There are literally trees and briers growing up through the middle of it. Inside too. It’s been languishing toward the edge of the farm unoccupied for nearly a decade. And it showed. This photo is AFTER Ryan and I spent nearly six hours chopping and clearing briers. 20160220_132257.jpg

Tony purchased this part of the property from our neighbor some years ago (pre-me), who is approximately a century old, likely legally blind at this point and mostly deaf and still drives a large pickup truck and farm equipment. (Much to the terror of other motorists.) He is a sweet old twinkling eyed soul with alarming strength and energy for his age and a wicked sense of humor who most recently used this building for raising rabbit dogs. (Beagles, for you non-hunting folk) He also raised pigs and chickens for many years.

After Tony bought it he kept some birds in it, including quail. He had mama quail over there setting on a nice clutch of eggs and they were just a couple days shy of hatching when up through the holier-than-thy-bible floor came a sizable snake who made a meal of the eggs, and subsequently Mama quail. I believe that was the end of any bird keeping in this building. Anyhow, there are five separate runs inside the building that lead outside, and one with no exterior “door”  that will do nicely for brooder chicks not ready to join the flock yet. There’s also a pile of long-ago purchased brand new netting that we can install across the top to prevent “who jumped the fence?” Heinz 57 breed chickens and hopefully avoid feeding the local owl, eagle and hawk population. And there is enough spare wire around here to separate the outdoor portions of the runs. So there is our newest set of projects.  Runs 1 and 2 will house the Reds and the Easter Eggers. Ryan has laid claim to the Easter Eggers and has his heart set on some white crested black Polish. (Known around here as afro chickens.) Mom wants Black Copper Marans, and Tony wants Delawares, so there are runs 3, 4, and 5.

On the chicken story that I promised we’d cover later, here’s how the current hens came to live here. We have raised peeps nearly every year for sale, and own a really large, un-pretty even by our standards, very temperamental cabinet style incubator that will hold hundreds of eggs. Last spring, my granddaughters and their Mom were staying here for an extended visit. My honey thought they’d enjoy hatching some eggs, so off we went to go purchase some from a neighbor. And we hatched a pile of babies. My oldest granddaughter quickly declared herself the “chicken mama” and very purposefully took on the task of seeing to them. I tried explaining that we were raising them to sell and I foolishly thought that fact had been driven home. So as our driveway customers came and went over the coming weeks, the day came when one of them bought the last of the hatch, except for two Easter Egger pullets and 2 roos.

I was not prepared for the aftermath. My granddaughter was heartbroken. There were real tears, and screaming and stomping and snot bubbles and gnashing of teeth (hers). There were more tears and tearing of hair (mine). I was a traitor and the meanest Me-maw alive and my heart broke in half. A frenzied drive to the local Southern States took place. I bought (at twice their auction worth) the last eight biddies in the building. And I took them home and presented them to this little face right here.  Order was restored…but only after I had to solemnly swear and pinky promise that Me-maw would not, could not, ever EVER EVER sell these chickens. Or eat them.


I have turned away I cannot tell you how many offers on those damnable birds this winter. I have poured countless 50 pound bags of feed and all of the kitchen scraps down their little gizzards for nearly eight months now. The one Easter Egger roo is a bona fide Class A jerk of a chicken. He waits until I’ve turned my back and goes after my calves with his freshly sharpened beak and a whole bagful of unfettered glee and no mercy. The freeloading feathered fiends finally started producing eggs this month. I sort of love them again. Except that roo. He’s an asshole.

About us

We’re a family in a tiny map dot called Frankford, DE, on 8 acres. I read waaaay too many homesteading books and articles and my heart’s definitely in the right place, although it’s not always commensurate with the ages old battle between the ambitions of a mere human versus the time on one’s hands and the capabilities they possess. This blog is designed to chronicle our search for sustainability and sanity (which I’m not quite sure we ever possessed to begin with), working with what we have and whatever else we can put our broke-ass hands on.  It’s also designed to be my personal accountability system.  Now the disclaimers: If things that happen on a farm offend you, (i.e. POOP, the use of food animals for (gasp) food, birth, death, hunting, fishing, the occasional use of colorful (to put it politely) language, the participation of tiny humans in all of the above) well, then, suffice it to say, this may not be the place for you to spend any leisure time. Or research. Definitely not research. This blog is not intended to be an instructional tool on how to do things correctly. More often, I can assure you, it will be more of a shining example of the “stuff we tried that was an epic failure of disastrous and occasionally comedic proportions” variety. If you haven’t clicked the little “x” at the top right yet, read on, brave soul! Welcome to our crazy family!

The History

Nearly six years ago, my husband and the father of my youngest child reached the end of our shared road. I was living in Virginia at the time, smack dab in the middle of seven large cities, none of which I had an affection for, or even a tolerance if we’re being honest. I was simply not designed for city living. Or even neighborhood living. I made the decision to move my toddler, my two older sons and myself back home to the Eastern Shore, to the Delmarva area. My parents were both long deceased, the beautiful 240 acre bay front farm I grew up on had long since been sold, and I had very little in the way of connected family, but I was going home. Wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got there, but I was going home.

In doing so, I reconnected with a ton of fellow high school classmates and childhood friends. One of which was my now significant other. He was newly seperated, as was I, we started spending a good deal of time together, and well, the rest is history. He’s now Pap to my grandbabies and alternately my biggest cheerleader and reliable source of obscure knowledge, or the ass I am determined to prove wrong, depending on the day and our respective moods.

So here we are, nearly six years later. He owns an eight acre chunk of real estate in Sussex County, DE and we live here. At our outset as a couple, we lived in my rental home, inconveniently located in a super snotty subdivision with a Nazi-ish HOA. That was ill-fated and bound to end badly. When we came back here to live, my heart and head were full of proper notions and ideas on all the great and wonderful things we could do with all this glorious space and blessed agricultural zoning.

Unfortunately, our wallets didn’t match my train of thought. Being the flighty short-attention-spanned Sagittarius that I am, projects have been started and subsequently abandoned with alarming frequency. The last six years have been fraught with good intentions, occasional successes and frequent heartbreaks but very little of the desired results. Mostly human error, I assure you. Mostly mine. However, a good chunk of  blame rests with my nemesis, the rustbucket Ferguson TO-20 that has run exactly twice for several brief shining moments in six years. And its owner, my Tony. (Who promises every season that this will be the one that it rises from the ashes like a giant mechanical phoenix and restores order and gardens and pastures) I hate that great hulking useless beast. The tractor, not Tony. The thing that’s stuck is the name. The Fun E Farm. Originally coined on the first initial of my honey’s last name, long pre-me, but more fittingly now due to the fact that most of the residents are often more than a little nuts.

So fast forwarding, the ever present need to pay bills, and survive, and to eat and have lights and heat and silly things like that got in the way and we found ourselves in the predicament of having to work, like, for other people. A lot. Life kind of took over, and we were doing nothing except surviving. This property had become a wasteland of decaying outbuildings and supplies and a half-finished project graveyard. Pulling into the driveway from a job I hated became an ever present in-my-face and virtually overwhelming reminder that I was Failing. With a capital F.  And I was mis-er-a-ble. It was time for a change.

We’ve always kept a few revolving critters around for the kiddles. Having a weekly livestock auction within an hour’s drive has been both a blessing and a curse. But instead of being a source of income or sustaining us, they’ve been a drain on our household economy or a sort of “forced savings” more often than not. It’s also netted us a slightly psychotic Tennessee fainting goat who thinks she is a dog and will be here sucking up feed and weeds and my damn pansies until she kicks the bucket of natural causes. Even Ryan’s bus driver jokes about our “funny looking dog” because she will often wait on the doorstep with my kid in the morning for the school bus. Goats are the Houdinis of the livestock world and little cloven hoofed fountains of craftiness and dogged determination. No fence can hold her, I firmly believe she eats wire by the roll, and after a long battle of wills, we’ve conceded that Sophie wins. Now I put the plants in cages. The goat is free range.

1208958_702185083141692_446830389_n.jpgJust this past year, we scaled way back so we didn’t have to feed a bunch of critters through the winter. The permanent residents are two horses, Barbie and Don, one goat Sophie, two flemish giant rabbits, two mentally unstable two pound excuses for Chihuahua dogs, Dottie and Rascal, two hamsters, 6 Rhode Island hens, 3 Rhode Island roos, 2 Aracauna hens, 2 Aracauna roosters, and a couple of migrant ferrets belonging to my daughter’s family. And there’s Minnie the barn cat, who is down to an estimate of 6 or 7 of her alloted nine lives after an unfortunate encounter with some feral carnivorous cat hating critter a few years back. When I say we scaled way back, it’s because we’ve been home to all of the following at one time or another… Calves of all sorts, feeder hogs, potbellied pigs (one affectionately known as the spawn of Satan), every variety of rabbit known to man, turkeys, ducks, chickens, pheasants, peafowl, lambs, goats, and geese. And snapping turtles. Don’t ask about the turtles. They are apparently delicious and have been known to serve as currency with the Amish at the local auction.

We’ve raised some to eat, some to market, some to trade, we’ve honestly just flipped some critters (bought them low at auction and sold them the next day or week) and gotten in way over our heads with some simply because it seemed like an uber-cool idea at the time. Like the pheasants. Suffice it to say if there is ever a burgeoning invasive pheasant species population coming up in our locale, we may or may not be responsible. Fast, flighty crafty little bastards bent on escape and chaos, those pheasant.

This is a brand new year. I’ve decided that I’m going to approach things a little differently. I’ve watched  countless others doing exactly what I had envisioned in my head with less. Less time, less resources, less money, less everything. I watched them with a curious mixture of admiration, envy and little embers of misplaced hatred. And I started asking myself why and how and was bitch slapped with the disturbing reality that….drumrollllll please…..they. just. did. it.  What? ! ? Could it really be that simple? I’m nearly sure that it is. We’re going to find out together.