We had the sheep sheared. There’s a great local guy who comes over and does this for us. My sister has been talking to green mountain spinnery in Vermont about getting the wool processed so hopefully that will be done soon. We shear these sheep twice a year and with 10 of them now we’ve got a lot of wool to process!
Sadly four of the six ducklings were killed by a predator on their first day at the farm. However, the two that survived are now fully grown and they are big and surprisingly tough! In fact, they routinely bully the chickens and even the big rooster.
So we managed to finish this up on Saturday including a new rain gutter and down spout, sealing, and fascia board to conceal the swale of the deck (which it needs to shed water). The last step will be some blocky finials on top of the newel posts although we’re waiting until we have the house color finalized to put those on since they’ll be painted in the same color.
Our house at the farm has this sort of Alpine lodge look to it. Being surrounded by evergreens adds to the motif. As part of the remodel we extended the deck around the front and so I decided to give it a proper treatment with carved railings and hand-sawn balusters. I ordered all of the wood from a place in Texas called https://www.vintagewoodworks.com and they are seriously the porch experts if you want something made the old fashioned way! So several months back a few palettes arrived via truck freight carrying a daunting load of beautiful milled wood and that’s it. No hardware, no instructions. This is DIY++ although their website is really helpful and it all makes sense once you get over the initial shock that you are not in Ikea anymore, Toto.
I ended up building a jig to construct the baluster segments and my dad is here visiting and he helped a lot in cutting the newel posts and attaching them to the deck. Oh and this is after everything is painted or stained with multiple coats. two days of work now and we’ve got two small sections up. However, the next two are built and then that just leaves the hard part… building the angled sections for the stairs!
We’ve discovered that there is little-to-no information to be had on longevity for farm animals. Most of the material out there is about culling the herd and “humane” killing and processing. We have an elderly ewe (eight years old) that will need special care although finding resources on how to provide this is nearly impossible. While there is a whole industry around keeping horses, house dogs, and cats healthy, the farmers that raise livestock generally view them as resources with a cash value and treat them as such. This is understandable from their perspective although we have a different purpose in mind for our farm.
On this blog we will try to post our learnings as we work to find a balance with nature and be good custodians to the animals that we have invited to live here without anthropomorphizing or excessive sentimentality.
This is the little chicken. He was born on June 1st. As soon as he hatched from his egg his mother attacked and tried to kill him by pecking his eyes out. She had done this to two previous chicks as well, my sister discovering their tiny corpses when she opened up the chicken coop in the morning. This was very hard for her, of course. But this little chicken survived and he was peeping so loudly and so strongly in spite of his terrible injuries that it seemed like he was determined to live. My sister took him into the workshop and put him in the heated box that we used for chicks in the past. She even went out and bought another chick, a gentler breed, to keep him company and hopefully teach him how to eat and drink. Xingyu spent time with the little chicken and took pictures of him and fed him rice water and played with him in the grass. He even put soft things into his home, having noticed that the little chicken would snuggle up with them.
I hope that the little chicken felt loved in those moments.
On Wednesday the little chicken got weaker, and on Thursday he died. I don’t know if this is because he could not figure out how to eat or if he had something internally wrong with him that the mother knew and we didn’t. We’ll never know.
The little chicken has haunted me from the beginning, even before he was laid to rest. He has become a zen koan, breaking my mind. The little chicken is an adorable baby chick and yet he is also the victim of attempted murder by his own mother in his first gasping moments of life, bearing those horrible scars. Such horror and beauty in one, tiny package. Such promise and love and tragedy. This happens every day, at every scale, to every type of living creature in the world and some day the entire earth will spiral into the sun and destroy all of the little chickens and everything else. And so is this good? Or bad? It cannot be rationalized. It is the indisputable way that it is and it doesn’t care what you think about it. Life is so much suffering and so much joy and ultimately what does any of that even mean? Does it matter that we provided some comfort to the little chicken on his very short journey? What is the part that we play in this life? Are we to be stewards of some sort or are we victims? Victims that try to fit everything into our world view?
My sister raised some baby ducks in the workshop. Apparently they’re going to her school for a bit and then coming back to the farm to live.
I kept very busy over the holiday break at the farm (more on that later). One of the things that I did was to put up a new sign. I had it made from cast aluminum and it is powder coated so it should last for pretty close to forever. Longer than me, anyhow.
The sign pays tribute to the previous owner of the farm, Gary Larson. He did such impressive work around the property and you could tell he was always looking for little ways to improve it. We felt it was appropriate to make sure that his legacy lived on at this place and so his name is on there. I did make one stupid mistake though; he actually established the place in 1990, not 1997, although I unfortunately did not notice this error (my fault) until after the sign had been cast. It’s nearly impossible to fix at this point and I suppose it another forty years those few seven years won’t matter too much anyhow. Originally Gary called the place “Daybreak Ranch.” He told me that at the time him and his wife were both working and had to get up early to take care of the horses, at the crack of dawn. In addition, the main home faces east and so “Daybreak”, with its double meaning, became the name. The “ranch” part is presumably because of the horses. Since we don’t have horses and I don’t plan to get any, we decided to change that part to “farm” instead. So “Daybreak Farm” is the name; it has a bit of heritage to it and it’s also our own.
The sign itself is really heavy. Even though it’s aluminum, it’s a lot of it. It weighs just over 100 pounds. It has eight studs in the back of it that I connected into 2x6s which are in turn lag-bolted into the upright beams; one is a burly old 6×6 and the other is two 2x4s joined in an L shape. I suspect I may end up strengthening those 2x4s by adding a 4×4 behind them at some point although they’re working fine for now. All of the wood is covered in an oil-based sealer / stain which should help it survive in our soggy weather. Above it I mounted two solar powered lights for nighttime illumination.
Here is what the new sign looks like, mounted in place:
I had to cut down a nasty looking holly bush that was in my way when I was hanging it. It’s a little hard to get a sense of scale from this picture; the sign is about six feet wide and a little over two feet tall if I recall correctly.
Below is the original sign that we replaced. I think I’ll put this one up in the barn. You can see the big gnarly holly bush in this photo.
This may come as a surprise; it turns out that it is shockingly hard work to build a 130′ long, 3′ high dry stack rock wall. Digging the trench for the footer alone was a massive task; it had to be around 2.5′ wide and 2′ deep and we dug it all by hand. Then 6″ of 3/4 clean gravel was added to the bottom (I used the tractor for most of this!) for drainage. We still haven’t finished setting the first course of rock. We have about 40 tons of one-man granite rocks piled in the front yard waiting to go into place although my attention has been taken lately with some interior remodeling and leak-fixing so this project has been sitting idle. Here are a few pictures of the beginnings: