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Deep down, I always knew I wanted to be a farmer and/or rancher. There’s so much about it that appeals to me–open spaces, animals, hard work that never ever ends. KIDDING. Except, I’m not. It’s very fortunate that I happen to be built for hard labor, and in general, I do enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and going to bed tired.

I’m not sure what I thought farmers and ranchers did, come cold weather, when I was younger, but I probably naively thought they tucked in for the winter and enjoyed the bounty of the harvest. While I have discovered that is partly true, thanks to all the hard work we put in canning and freezing our fruits and veggies from the garden, in a lot of ways, there’s MORE work to be done in the winter. Take the mud. Where we’re at in Indiana, there are a few weeks were the ground freezes hard enough that we don’t sink knee deep into mud when we go out to feed the animals. But the rest of the time, it feels like we’re fighting against the slick, slimy, tenacious (Abraham Lincoln’s words about Indiana mud, not mine) muck that appears everywhere. That requires us to work on draining, throwing out gravel, shoveling it out of the way, or dealing with it.

Thanks for the Sloggers, Mom & Dad! Er…Santa.

Thankfully, I was gifted a beautiful pair of new muck boots for Christmas since I’d walked right through my last pair. Bring it, mud. You can’t soak my socks in those babies.

Cleaning out an unused stall so we can have more animals. Naturally.
I’ve raved about it before, but I am SO GRATEFUL that we have a barn. It’s not the fanciest building or even the way I would have set it up if I’d built it from scratch, but we’ve been making it work, from converting a stall into a chicken coop and making an extra big stall so the horses have room to move. It helps so much to have a concrete floor for the animals to keep their feet dry and away from the mud, and it’s a warm-ish place for us to go visit them when we need some outside time. But, if you’ve ever been in a barn, then you know what that means…manure.
I was a city girl growing up, but got my toes wet in the country life mucking stalls in exchange for Stoney’s board. It may seem slightly c-r-a-z-y to say I don’t mind shoveling muck, but it’s true. It’s in essence, everything I love–cleaning (or rather, the end result where the animals are comfy and cozy on a fresh bed of shavings), and not wasting. Jack had tested out a new-to-us way of gardening when he put in the raspberries. Basically, he used old logs and rotted fence posts to form a perimeter, which we then filled with soiled animal bedding to compost. The result is some of the best soil we’ve ever had the pleasure of planting in. Nothing goes to waste here–not the manure, not the kitchen scraps, not the ash trees falling like crazy from the emerald ash borer. It all finds purpose.
I kinda forgot all of that fencing was under the weeds…whoops.

One of the other positives about winter is that there aren’t (hardly) any weeds growing. That is such a relief. After battling them from early spring through fall, it’s nice to have ONE season where we can pretend like we’re catching up. It’s so easy to weed when we can burn them or tug their dried little corpses out of the ground without complaint. Everything looks so much nicer once it’s cleaned up.

Each winter is unique, but we try to take advantage of whatever time we do have. This year, we’ve fluctuated between bitterly cold and balmy enough not to need a coat. That’s given us some time to tackle extra projects we might otherwise have held off on. If ever we have some free time, I love me some laying down recycled cardboard (thank you, shopping with free shipping!) and mulch (also free–thank you tree trimming companies!!). Mulch and cardboard makes everything better.

While the kids occasionally accuse me of being a taskmaster (which I don’t know that I can fully deny, except that I’m in the throes of working alongside them, too), winter isn’t all work. In fact, the kids are exceptional at finding ways to make the mundane fun. Like when we finished mucking out the barn and Evelyn asked if she could take her siblings on a spin around the yard in the mower and wagon. Sure thing! (You’d be shocked how much work kids are willing to do in exchange for a ride in a trailer/on a wagon. That or the promise of ice cream).

Winter is also a time to sit back and enjoy the fruit of labor that’s already occurred. Along with our garden haul, we were able to stockpile enough hay to see all the animals through to when the green grass starts growing again in the spring. If there’s something to be said about appreciating the simple things in life, it’s watching livestock tear into a new bale of hay. Seriously. They’re eating dried grass, but stuff their faces like they’re eating ambrosia. Their belches when they’re full are thanks enough.
Even in winter’s scarcity, there are things to be thankful for. I have no idea why my hens molt in the dead of winter, but when they’re regenerating their feathers, their egg production slows drastically. Mercifully, there are enough of them that we collect a few eggs every day, and because of their mature age, they don’t disappoint size wise. When everyone else is slumbering and dormant, we still have fresh eggs daily.
We purposefully put the swing by the garden so the kids can vacillate between work and play.
No matter the weather, farming must go on. It is sometimes a curse that there’s no stopping it, but what’s life without routine and being needed? The animals will be fed, the mud will be battled, the garden will be prepped, the landscaping will be mulched, and all of us will go to bed worn out but happy. 

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Welcome to the farm!

True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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