We’re the worst bloggers ever. You’ve probably noticed, as you haven’t heard from us in months. Sorry ‘bout that.
Anyway, here’s the scoop. I’ll work backwards.
It’s finally getting springy around here. Well, we hope it is. That is we hope that it will stick. Exactly two weeks ago, it was in the 70s here, and I even wore flip-flops that afternoon to feel the lovely breeze on my pale winter-whiney toes. It made them happy. Then that night it got cool and didn’t get genuinely lovely again until today (now yesterday), which was glorious. Today was also the day that my daffodils finally bloomed! Also today, we took Nelson, our ponybeast, who’s gotten to be one seriously shaggy dude, out for his first real ride since the blizzards. Yesterday, he got a pedi. Nelson, that is.
Our first major blizzard came and dropped twenty-something inches of DENSE, wet snow! Then we lost power, which was neat. And we’d begun brooding chickens already by then (early this year, since we sold out of our frozen stash faster than we’d anticipated), but thankfully, Matt had, just weeks before converted the brooder heat to propane, instead of electric lamps, so no harm done—no one froze! We did miss the running water, though, both in the house and barns
We were lucky, and got electricity back within a day or so, though. Lots of folks in our area were out of power for several days. Which reminds me, that I should impart this clever tip: a neighbor and farmer friend suggested that we fill the bathtub if we’re expecting a big storm or blizzard. Says he does, and though we’d never thought to do it before this storm, we’ve vowed to do it going forward, seeing how out of luck we were without water. Shortly thereafter, as the most recent storm approached, we got to enact our vow, plus we extrapolated and also filled jars and pitchers for drinking water. We never lost power this time, but if we had, we’d have been set!
Since we got so much snow, Matt had to get creative to get chores done. The first morning, when we’d gotten over a foot overnight, Matt literally skied down to the silage pile, and he didn’t do it to be goofy—it was out of near necessity. The snow was so deep and heavy, you could barely walk in it, and trying to do chores would’ve been murder, so the skis kept him on top of the snow and made the trek more manageable, and even a little fun. Though, he was pretty bummed when he got down to the pile, finally got the loader started, and it promptly ran out of fuel. He had to ski back up the hill, grab a can of fuel, ski back down, and was finally able to load the wagon.
Later that same week, once there had been some nice sunny days and an icy crust had formed on the top of the snow, Matt, Berry, Minnie (Berry’s beagle mother), and I had an arctic outing on property. Matt skied, I hiked, and Berry shouted at him. (She’s not a fan of skis, we learned. She’s also not a fan of bicycles or horse and buggy combos, and neither is Minnie, so it’s always a treat for the Mennonites who go by our house. We have to literally call off the dogs and apologize. Fortunately, the mild-mannered Mennonites don’t seem too worried about it, and she’d never hurt them, of course, but she launches a verbal attack each time.
For anyone who’s worried, yes, our porch survived. In fact, our porch was a champ, and has been a fine venue from which to feed and watch the birds, which is my new favorite thing.
Anyway, the snows, while somewhat inconvenient have been an absolute gift! As you may remember, our area suffered from a crippling drought last year—the worst our county has seen in 30 years, so this was a VERY welcome bit of moisture. And what’s great about snow vs. the same amount of rain is that it sticks around longer and, as it melts, actually absorbs more effectively into the soil than rain does (rain tends to run off, meaning we don’t really get the same sort of benefit out of it). So we’ve learned that if, heaven forbid, we experience such wicked drought again, we should perform snow jigs in conjunction with our rain dances.
In related news, Matt found an updated map of the drought yesterday, and reported happily that it looks like we’re nearly recovered now!
All this recent precipitation means we’ve got stuff greening up like mad around here! The pasture where the turkeys were last year is positively glowing green, and the others aren’t far behind. Also, though we planted them very late in the season and weren’t sure they’d take, the shrubs and perennials in our porch garden and around the house seem to be coming back. Plus, as I mentioned, the daffodils are blooming, the hyacinths are nearly to that point, and the tulips are following suit. So, though it’s supposed to rain more and get a bit chilly again this weekend, I’m confident spring’s on it’s way. For real, this time.
Before that, the big deal in these parts was the beam. “The beam” may not sound significant to you, dear reader, but it is exceptionally significant in our household. And that’s because the beam replaced what used to be two walls that divided our living room, dining room, and kitchen into three tiny, stupid rooms. Well the living room used to be an OK size, but the other two were genuinely stupid. So NOW they’re all one lovely (ish… there’s plenty more glamorizing to do, but this was a GIANT leap for wonky-farmhouse-kind) space, wherein I can be boiling tea or slicing veggies, in what used to be our tiny, sequestered kitchen box, without losing out on the action in the living room!
Matt and I had ordered lumber for the beam early last spring, but never got around to putting it in, so Matt’s older brother, who’s a timber frame pro and his charming and lovely wife, gave me a “we’re coming to do your beam” voucher for Christmas! And they did! And it’s amazing!
Also, we replaced our old two-story stove. What’s that? You’ve never heard of such a thing, you say? I’m not shocked; it was a pain to use, and went extinct shortly after it’s own brilliant invention, I’m sure. Ours came with the house. Anyway, now we have a single story unit (my folks’ old stove), which has added to the openness the beam provided. The whole effect is the bees knees, so I’m looking very forward to preparing some delicious fresh meals there this summer!
Before all the blizzards, before the beam, and before we began raising chicks for the year, we were on our big winter (cause when else can farm folks get away?) Down South & Out West vacation. It was pretty great. We started in OKC, celebrating the holidays with Matt’s grandparents, followed Matt’s fabulous uncle and aunt to Austin for an amazing New Year’s Eve concert and sight-seeing, and then followed them to their home in Brownsville, TX, where they showed us all the coolest stuff in the area, took us to Mexico for a day, and sent us off along the rest of the Rio Grande. We camped in Big Bend National Park and learned that Texas has mountains (who knew??); soaked in a hot springs in Truth or Consequences, NM, where my bougainvillea froze in the car; visited Great Sand Dunes National Park; and finally biked, hiked, soaked, and skied with friends in Salida, CO. Also we ate on this vacation. Loads. Everywhere we went, in order to sample the local fare. We put a lot of miles on the ol’ Subaru too, but it was a pretty great trip, so the miles were well worth it.
And since Matt’s very competent younger brother watched the place and looked after the cattle for us, we had nothing to worry about while we were gone. Though I did think a lot about Berry and Minnie, who stayed in MO, and whom I missed dearly.
Before our vacation was the holidays, and for us that means Christmas tree season. The Home Grown Trees (Matt’s family’s really, really good pal and partner in the business—actually the same fellow who married the two of us—grows the trees in Northern Michigan, where we used to live) tree lot is something Matt’s family has been doing, and enjoying immensely, for years. This year’s lot went great at the new location, and we’re already looking forward to next year.
Aside from Christmas tree season, the holidays were also the holidays, and our holiday celebrations were exactly lovely and precisely delicious. We have really wonderful families
Before that was Buttonwood Farm’s very own turkey season. The turkeys this year were hilarious, and loved their grassy roaming zone. We had a good variety of sizes for our customers, and just the quality we’d hoped for. We had about half of them processed for Thanksgiving in St. Louis, and the other half processed a week later and frozen as whole, ground, legs, drumsticks, breasts, wings, necks, and backs. It was a heck of a project, but we were proud of the result. It made all our (mainly Matt’s) hard work seem worth the effort.
Also rewarding is that this year we got a sliver of limelight when one of the local TV stations did a blurb about how best to do a Thanksgiving turkey. It was a demonstration by one of the chefs we work with, who used one of our turkeys, and was kind enough to say so, promoting our methods!
Anyway, it’s always a bummer to see the turkeys go, because they’re so curious and entertaining. Some of this year’s most memorable turkey moments were when our toddler nephew would visit and run among (and amok with) the turkeys. They’d just chase (though that sounds aggressive, and they weren’t) him around all over, until he ran back into a flock of them flailing, after which the whole process would repeat itself. I should really post a video, ‘cause my words just aren’t doing the scene justice… We’ll see if I can figure that out. Anyway, it was incredibly funny and adorable.
Also during our turkey season, Berry, our mascot and the world’s finest beagle-mutt got sick. Spoiler alert, she’s great now, so no worries, but she was in really, really dire shape. She had Ehrlichiosis from a tick (though she’s always been on tick preventative), and it was awful. It’s not an illness you hear about, but it’s sorta like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever—another Rickettsia bacteria. Apparently, it’s pretty common in our area and in St. Louis, and in case I wasn’t clear, it’s awful. It can hide out in your pup for a long time and then attack brutally (Berry even had seizures!), but thankfully, treatment is simple and works very quickly! Anyway, just something to be conscious of, dear readers. Ticks are a big deal. So is Berry.
That got a little glum… Sorry ‘bout that.
On a WAY lighter note, as I mentioned our porch survived the blizzards as well as the fall and summer, and we loved every moment on it. Already this year, we’ve grilled a couple times, and have had coffee/tea and a few brisk lunches on our porch. Today’s lunch out there wasn’t even all that brisk. The porch is still not quite finished; we have yet to paint it an add trim and railings, for instance. Need to apply the gutters too, but it’s a mostly functional space, and we enjoy sitting out there, admiring the garden, and watching our cattle grazing across the road.
The box truck also survived the year! And best of all, it’s got new tread and tires (thanks to Matt’s very, very generous cousin), so Matt’s fallen in love with it all over again. He says it drives WAY better, and he’s convinced it sits higher. On a side note, we’ve learned that with its new tread and better traction, it can pull out the tractor when it’s stuck, his other truck, the neighbor’s snowed-in vehicles, etc. A very handy tool, indeed. We’re talking about painting our logo, etc. on the sides of the box, but Matt’s campaigning that we should really have a picture of him on there, instead—one with a cheesy, overly enthusiastic smile and thumbs-up, holding a chicken.
As for what else is new or in the works this year, we’re looking at expanding further, meaning we’ll do a few more birds, probably build a new brooder space, specifically for the turkeys, and that we have more cattle this year too.
In fact, right now we have double the cattle we thought we would, since we have yet to sell last season’s herd, because the drought set back the whole process. It threw off the prices of grain, and devastated grass and the amount of weight cattle were gaining from it, thereby negatively affecting cattle prices and how big our cattle were. Shockingly, that was NOT a recipe for success, so we didn’t sell them last fall like we’d planned to. We kept them, fed them hay and silage, and Matt plans to sell them in the next several weeks.
The new calves, meanwhile, are crazy cute. And, though neither set (old or new) is grown adults, these fellas are much smaller than the first batch, which reminds us that last year’s calves, who started about the same size, really have come a long way under our tutelage.
Both teams of calves get a bit of silage each day. Matt starts calling them a bit before he heads out to feed them, so they’re all ready and waiting at the gate, and then it’s pretty stinkin’ cute to see all of them chasing after Matt on the tractor with the big wagon. Many actually walk along and eat as he’s driving, their faces shoved into the moving silage stack.
The snows made the feeding process very challenging. Matt’s tractor wouldn’t do the trick, so we had to borrow our neighbor’s steel-wheeled tractor. And thank heaven we did, or the calves would’ve been hungry. However, Matt’s learned that the Mennonite lifestyle (when it comes to steel tractor wheels, anyway) is not for him. So he’s in the market for a new (to him) tractor that will do the job. One with regular tires, if you please.
I mentioned the propane brooder heat improvement earlier, but Matt’s also been preparing for the summer heat out in the pasture. Of course, last year was especially brutal for our birds with the heat and drought, and surely most years won’t be so rough, but we’re improving our shade methods anyway. Matt’s just gotten several old hay wagons, and is preparing them to serve as new shelters, in addition to the shelters we had last year. We’ve also been discussing new, more efficient methods of watering the birds in the field, so stay tuned (I’ll try to make it a point to post again before December, but don’t bet the farm on it) for what we decide there.
In other news, we’ve just yesterday been to visit our pals, the Zimmermans, the Mennonite family who grows the majority of the produce we sell, and they’re well on their way in terms of production this years. Their greenhouses are already up and at em, and the day we were there, they were planting candy onions in the field. So we’re very hopeful about this year’s produce.
As I’m writing this, it’s pouring outside. But it’s not an angry, oppressive rain. It’s a hopeful, friendly offering. And I’m choosing to think of it a bit like seed money—like an investment for the purpose of starting something great or doing something amazing. That’s how this year is going to be. I just know it.
I’m hoping hard about it, anyway.
So that’s that. We’ve covered a lot of ground, both literal and figurative, since my last post, and are looking so very forward to what this year will bring. We’ve got lots on our plates, but we seem to thrive that way.