Farm Update: Early Summer

A Swarm Of Bees In May is worth a load of hay...

We moved the hives to a different location closer to the orchard and in the shadow of huge pines trees. Nathan and William have been checking on the new bees to make sure they’ve been settling in and making themselves at home. No stings yet!

A was an Apple pie; B bit it; C cut it; D dealt it

Nathan and the boys planted eleven new apple trees this spring. We love that they’re mostly heritage apples which one can’t find in the grocery store. The happy little trees are Harrison, Orleans, GoldRush, Early Fiji, Cox’s Orange Pippen, and Russet. Even though it will be a few years until harvest, the kids are putting in their orders for pies and crisps!

Mary Had A Little Lamb

The sheep are very low maintenance during the warmer months when the pasture is thick with nutritious grasses. Harry is our ram, and the four ewes stay pretty close to him. We expect that two ewes are pregnant and due in August! Larry, the llama, still keeps guard, but Harry has mostly taken over moving the sheep around the pasture.

This Little Piggy…

We’re discovering that Holly has a temper sometimes. When she’s annoyed at the flies, she squeals lets out a loud grunt. Holly gets so excited when one of the kids is coming near and when Nathan pulls up the drive way. She’d been in a temporary pen, but just a couple of wees ago moved onto a bigger and better abode. She shares pasture with the sheep and the llama, and they don’t seem to care. You already heard that we added little Rosie who follows Holly around.

More news about the pigs: We are borrowing a boar (a mature male pig) from a nearby farm in hopes to have piglets in early September. The boar has made himself at home, for he insists on eating first. He also tilts the water trough enough to make puddles and cool off in the mud.

There was an old woman, Went blackberry picking…

The raspberries have been unkempt and overgrown, and finally this spring, Nathan tilled a larger plot and has been transplanting them with the boys. It’s a larger raspberry patch now and has room for growth.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

We planted the garden in May which seems late to other hardier zones, but not much earlier than that we still have nights below freezing. We have become used to this rhythm, and it works well for us because around that time, we are finishing the longer schooldays. Also, waiting till May allows for less careful watch over the seedlings. We plant everything at once, even the hardier varieties that would stand lower temperatures. This simplifies the process for us, and we still enjoy a hard day in the soil with as many hands as are available to help. This year, Nathan’s Dad shared his insight and labor all afternoon. It made a huge difference in how much we were able to get planted!

I’m enjoying putting a blog post together about vegetable and herb gardening. It will be ready soon!

with love. Damaris

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Family Currents: The Birds and The Bees

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I went to the orchestra. We have been attending this program for children for years, and it never disappoints! The performance is splendid and the auditorium exquisite. The program welcomes all school groups. While we were there, Samuel hung out at Nathan’s office and pretended shy while everyone hoped for some cuteness.

We are so excited to introduce the new addition to our farm! Harry the ram is a calm male that is wooing our four ewes. Larry the llama doesn’t mind him hanging around, and they’ve welcomed him to the pasture better than we had expected. We hope to grow the flock with some lambs coming late summer!

Alexander and Nathan’s Dad attended an all-day beekeeping class last week and had fun learning some crazy facts. They came back excited to start another season of honey bees.

And that’s a wrap for syrup! Nathan and the boys boiled gallons and gallons of the last sap collected all weekend. We are so very grateful for their labor! This time, the boys got to roast marshmallows, and the girls were oh-so-jealous. We have been enjoying selling this precious amber sweetness. If you would like some 2018 local maple syrup, please contact us by replying to this post or email (under the category contact), Facebook, or Instagram. The supply is limited : )

with love. Damaris


Our Very Own Holly

Who remembers when Scrooge wakes up thrilled by Christmas morning, calls to the boy in the street to buy him the biggest goose at the market, then heads to Tiny Tim’s house to surprise the little family with the most opulent celebration they had ever experienced? Well, it wasn’t a goose that showed up on our doorstep last week, but maybe the next best thing – a Christmas PIG!?

Meet Holly, Larry’s next best friend (if the sheep will allow it)! A farmer from around the corner, who operates a petting farm (with a fantastic business model – it’s mobile. He brings the farm to you, and his 20 ft. trailer actually looks like a miniature barn and silo!), apparently wanted to relocate his little ‘wilbur’ after the petting farm season wrapped up. So, what a blessing, we are now the proud (and rather clueless) owners of our very own 3 month old Yorkshire sow.

Last Monday was welcoming day at First Fruits for Holly. I raced home from work, threw some chore clothes on, and helped our farmer friend get Holly acquainted with her new pen in the barn. With little time to prepare, we just converted the old sheep pen into Holly’s pen. Alexander and William were a big help in getting the pen to work. While sheep often get a bad wrap for being “dumb”, it is actually quite nice for the shepherd – sheep stay put. They stay in a pen with little complaint. Pigs are a different story. Our temporary home for Holly (now 17 pounds) will do for a little while – we took some salvaged galvanized roofing sheets that were laying around, set them on edge on the barn floor, and screwed them to the inside of the pen. Now Holly can root around all she wants, she can squirm and squeal, but she won’t be able to get out of this pen for a while. This is definitely a temporary measure, though. At a weight gain of 15 pound per week. Holly will need a permanent pen with both physical and mental (electric) barriers pretty soon. Right now we’re thinking that, if we get a break in the weather, we can run some quick fencing around the garden plot and let Holly till the garden for us until planting season. I scored an electric fence charger off of Craigslist (the go-to farm supply store). I have the fencing and posts – now just for some sun to melt the foot of snow (my mental barrier)!

And, really, this is how so much in life happens. There is certainly virtue in planning and preparing, but sometimes you just have to ‘go with it’. You can probably think back to twists and turns of your own family’s that follow this rule. Sometimes you figure things out along the way, together. And those are the real-life adventures – the best times and the best memories that your family creates and owns. I have a feeling that the “…remember when you and Mom…” and the “…I can’t believe we ever…” conversations that Damaris and I look forward to having around cups of coffee with our kids many years from today will now include stories of Holly, our Christmas pig.

some thoughts, Nathan


Meet Larry

A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed a new addition to our farm. Meet Larry the Llama!

For Nathan and the boys, his name was a no-brainer. Eva and I suggested Lawrence, though, isn’t that far more sophisticated? But I realize that’s not what we’re going for here, so – Larry it is!

To be honest, Nathan and I both have always thought llamas to be…well…ugly. We didn’t know the difference between alpacas and llamas, and we thought, frankly they just look like bug-eyed, goofy-haired, skinny camels. Well, turns out llamas are in the camelid family and cousins to the smaller alpacas, which are bred for the finer fibers in their fleece. Llamas are a domesticated animal native of the Andes Mountains of Peru. They can pack (carry) 30% of their body weight, are very hardy, and surprisingly low-maintenance.

Our Larry is quirky and independent. He’s attentive to our small flock of sheep and in constant alertness. He seems to be happy and at home grazing out in the pasture.

So…why a llama?? Ever since we’ve had sheep, we couldn’t leave them in the pasture over night due to coyote predators. Eva would let them out of the barn in the morning, and Nathan would put them in at night. This was not what we wanted for the long-term. It’s unnecessary work (who needs that?!) and unnecessary cost (ditto!) in feed and bedding. The way to fix the problem is get the sheep a babysitter…err guardian.

We considered several options for guardian animals. We narrowed it down to a dog or a llama. The down side of using a dog is that it would need dog food fed separate from the sheep, whereas llamas eat the grass/hay just the same as sheep. Also, while certain breeds of dogs can make great livestock guardians, they can be noisy during the night. So there you have it, process of elimination is effective in decision making- ha!

Timing was key – Nathan had an out-of-state work conference coming up, and we wanted to go with him to make it a family trip. Just in the eleventh hour, Nathan found a young male llama a half-hour away ready to join our farm! We tried to coordinate a delivery, but Nathan ended up renting a U-Haul trailer and picking up the llama after work. We introduced him to the sheep three days before our trip! We didn’t even know how he and the sheep would get along, but it went really smoothly, considering.

Now that Larry the llama has been here a few weeks, he really is a great guard animal and a wonderful addition to our farm! He’s bonded well with his little flock…now to bond with us…eek! More to come, I’m sure!

with love. Damaris


Fluffy Bottoms

What a joy to welcome new children to the farm. Little fluffy silly ones!

A week or so ago the boys and I brought 2 ewes and 2 ewe lambs to take up home in our pasture and barn. They’ve been getting to know every nibble and cranny of the place since. As soon as we unloaded them, they buried themselves muzzle-deep in timothy grass, alfalfa, and clover! Now, anytime that Damaris doesn’t know where the little girls ran off to, or she hasn’t heard from Eva in a while – sure enough, we look down into the pasture. Tiny feet are sweeping along the tall grass chasing bleating sheep in front of them. If it was simply an exercise plan we were after, this would be it ;

By our calculation, it has been something like 50 years since this farm has hosted any livestock. From what we’ve been able to gather, this farm once ran cows, pigs, and horses. The barn has been empty for a long time (OK, not really empty…you wouldn’t believe the amount of bat guano [poop], scrap lumber, and deteriorating clutter we’ve had to clear out!). It’s fun to bring some life back to it, and work it with purpose again.

Of course, we are complete noobs when it comes to animal husbandry. The first couple of evenings of having the sheep were spent with the whole troop chasing and calling, calling and chasing the sheep through the pasture to get them into the barn. Talk about exercise!

Two days after we got our sheep, I let them out of the barn and into the pasture around 6:30 in the morning. Chore done. Dust off my hands. Hop into the truck. Off to work I go.

Damaris was down in the kitchen with our early riser (the only one), Providence, and saw me drive down the driveway. At that same moment she hears Providence, looking out the back window, clap her hands and exclaim: “Oh, Sheep!” It only took Damaris a moment to realize that the lovely idea of our daughter seeing sheep in the morning was not so lovely if they could be seen from the back window – the sheep were out! It was a jail break!

Thankfully the sheep let themselves be lured back into their stall with some tempting treats and didn’t take advantage of the countryside open to explore all around them.

It’s been almost two weeks now, and things are settling down. Eva has found her new joy of playing Little Bo Peep. She is up and out of the house each morning visiting the lambs and ewes and letting them into the pasture. She slips away at dusk and tells them all ‘goodnight’ as she give them treats and closes them in their stall. It’s so much fun to see them warm up to the kids now in their pasture and become a part of our little farm life.

I’m sure there will be more mishaps and hyjinks as we figure out this flock…and as the flock figures out just how clueless of shepherds we are! Still in the unknown for us is breeding (two ewes are ready to be bred this Fall), lambing in the Spring, meat sales, and milking! Stay tuned!

a thought, Nathan