Thursday, February 25, 2010

Moving Day!

My little blog had quite the day today... we moved!

You can now find us here:

Please update your readers and bookmarks!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bumped and Bruised, but Hopeful

A few days after Sunday's horse experience, I'm starting to recover. I've discovered some pretty fantastic bruises. I don't have specific memories of getting each individual bruise, but I'm sure they are a direct result of being dragged throughout the barn on Irish's quest for snacks. My muscle soreness was the most acute yet, but that is also fading. Despite all of this, I'm actually much more optimistic about the next lesson. Surely, I must have encountered most of the challenges already. I'm visualizing myself in a month or two feeling much more confident and capable of accomplishing each of the tasks. My bruises remind me of the satisfaction I felt years ago, looking at my remarkable bruises obtained during archery lessons at summer camp. They felt like a badge of pride and a mark of completion then, and though the feeling now is a shadow of that long ago feeling, it is similar.

Tomorrow I'll make the call to the farm to see what help they'll need this weekend. A week or so ago, they thought they would need help working in the greenhouse on Saturday. I'm anxious to get more involved, to really get in the dirt and learn to grow what will ultimately become our food.

Meanwhile, my Worm Factory arrived yesterday! I've started collecting food scraps, and I'll spend the next week or so gathering all the materials needed to get it all set up for the worms. I also need to get a space made for the composter in our shed. The instructions that came with it are comprehensive, and recommend a location that stays between 60 - 80 degrees. This will be an ongoing challenge - the shed will provide some shelter from the elements, but there's no way it's anywhere near 60 degrees in winter or 80 degrees in summer. The booklet recommends buying your worms locally, but specifically from a grower who produces red wigglers. Regular worms sold at bait stores won't do, and neither will the ones in your yard. Assuming you insanely wanted to try to collect the 1,000 worms recommended!

The instructions prefer local worms because they get stressed out during the shipping process. Yeah, you read that right. No one wants a stressed out worm. Believe it or not, there's a site to help you locate a worm source near you. Seriously. The more I dig into this sustainable life (sorry, pun intended!), the more I am amazed at the resources and structures already available to the seeker. Turns out there are no Maryland options, but there were two relatively local options, in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The Delaware option looked good, but I was charmed(!) by the PA option. Here's what Uncle Jim's Worm Farm has to say:
Now let's face it! You probably aren't the average Guy or Gal if you're interested in buying wholesale worms. You're obviously environmentally aware, economically savvy and eccentrically right on target. After all, it's not like purchasing toothpaste, toilet paper or groceries...
Eccentrically right on target? Love it! Oh yes, Uncle Jim, you can have my business. I'll be purchasing 1,000 red wigglers as soon as I'm confident their new home will be ready for them once they arrive. I may also purchase some of his vermipods, which are earthworm eggs encased in clay for storage and handling. They would make an excellent addition to our yard, garden and flower beds! Sometimes I'm confused about how I ended up in a place that these things are interesting and exciting to me... content, but confused!

Finally, my friend Deborah and I are embarking on another fun journey... beekeeping lessons! The 5-week course starts next week, and I'm both nervous and excited to learn more. Not that I was planning on it, but we will not be getting bees at our current house. Jay is reluctantly playing along with most of my projects, but here he's put his foot down. He and bees... they don't get along so much.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Horsing Around

Know what you don't want to do when you're alone in a horse field covered in 2+ feet of snow, surrounded by horses trying to kick and bite each other (and possibly you)? Take pictures.

Of course this means I did it anyway. Well, tried to. The horse on the left that you can hardly see? That's Irish. The pony on the right, that's Buddy. They apparently do not like each other, if this morning was any indication.

The horseback riding is... well, it's challenging. And by challenging, I mean I'm having to steel myself for each new experience. I don't know if it's a fluke with the farm I chose, or if something just isn't meshing. The first few lessons resulted in a runaway horse, almost being bitten and kicked, and a horse that refused to obey not just me, but the trainer as well. So, we all decided (including the horse, as far as I'm concerned) that we'd try a different horse.

Today I left early enough so I'd have an hour to find and meet the horse and get him ready for my lesson. To put things into perspective, this should take about 20 minutes. After arriving, I made a guess as to which field I was supposed to find this horse I'd never seen. There are quite a few fields, and this one was so large, I couldn't even see a single horse. Sinking into the 2 feet of snow step by laborious step, I tried to drink in the peace and quiet of the outdoors and nature. Not much happening on a this country farm at 9:30 on a Sunday morning. But really, I was thinking, "What am I doing? I'm paying for this?"

Once the 10 or so horses heard me coming, they started up to me. I had managed to find their worn-in path, which made the trek a little easier. But as I encountered each horse, they saw me as an obstacle in direction they'd like to be heading. When a giant animal sees you as an obstacle, you move out of the way. Quickly. They did stop to let me pet them, after it was clear to them I was willing to move out of their way. This happened 8 times until I met up with Irish. A mostly white horse, he's got big brown spots, one blue eye and one brown. He also wanted me out of his way. I walked between him and the remaining horse, who felt free to nudge me if I wasn't moving quickly enough for him. Nice.

Once we all ended up at the top of the field (for, of course, this field is a giant hill), I had run back to the barns and to find my trainer for more instructions. He wasn't wearing a halter and there were none to be found. Finally, in possession of a halter, I got him into it and attempted to lead him out. This is when all the other horses got agitated. I'm not sure if wanted to go instead, or if they just didn't want him to go, but kicking and biting ensued. This is when I thought I should take some pictures. Genius? Yep, I think so.

After much effort, I got him up to the barn.  Again, all alone. Me vs Horse. We literally had a tugging match. Can you guess who was won that one? After pushing and pulling, and just general begging on my part, I got him mostly ready. Seems I was late by this time, because my trainer came to find me. Immediately on good behavior, we got him ready and down to the rink. I was ready for a nap, and my lesson was only beginning!

My 30 minute lesson passed relatively quickly, and I was charged with undoing all the "getting ready" I had managed before the lesson. Alone back in the barn, the halter I needed was on another horse. Come on, really? Stretched between Irish and the other horse's pen, I attempted to coax the other horse to stop eating long enough so I could get it off him. Really, I'm not going to recommend this tactic. Horses don't really acknowledge this. Lots of sighing, and maybe some foot stamping ensued. (Wish I could say it was one of the horses.) Both horses seeming to have a really good time alternately watching and ignoring, me. Thankfully, another student's father came through the barn at this point because I was pretty close to losing it. He held Irish while I quickly jumped in and out of the other horse's pen. I managed to get Irish all undone relatively easily. As we were leaving the barn, he rediscovered some hay and refused to do anything but eat for awhile. I tried to get him to move, pushing and pulling what may as well have been a boulder.

Finally, finally, we ended up at the field. Of course, the gate opens out, so I had to pull the gate open while getting attempting to get Irish to move close enough so I could open it, and then to back up at will. Um, sure. He was eating a bush at this point, so I shamelessly grabbed the branch he was eating and threw it into the field. In he went, and home I came.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Moving forward

Yesterday I dropped by the mall at lunchtime with a coworker. The food court has become an almost regular workday lunchtime choice, something I don't like but don't seem to be doing anything about. It's counter to almost everything I'm trying to do in my outside work life... But yet, I found myself there yesterday regardless. She wanted to run into Sephora for something quickly. I avoid the mall for the most part. I'm a reformed shopper, I try to only buy things that I need... and being in the mall, I usually buy something on a whim. Lo and behold, I had my eye on some perfume. I don't remember the last time I wore it or that I bought it for myself. Oh, but it was so lovely. And, it just so happened that I had realized my lack of perfume a couple days ago, and thought I should probably buy some at some point. This usually results in the perfect storm of spendy behavior... but I managed to resist. Yes, I can afford a $60 bottle of perfume, but there are usually much, much better things to do with our money. I figured I'd try to find it online for cheaper this weekend.

So, instead, I was reading through some of my blogs this morning, and stumbled upon a recent EcoGrrl post discussing composting. Worm composting. I happened to have an Amazon gift certificate (my love of Amazon cannot be contained) and ordered one up! This one. I'll have to start the shed reorganization project to make room for it. Even though they say you can store these units in your house because there's no smell, I can't quite get Jay on board, and I do need a place that's a little insulated from the elements. (Our backyard is still quite cold and snow-covered.) I haven't researched or ordered my worm friends yet, that will be the next step. I'd like to get the unit here and set up first.

And then I accidentally stumbled upon Amazon's pre-spring patio sale. Seriously, it was an accident! They had something I've never seen before - a significant discount on the Aerogarden. I've wanted one of these babies for YEARS. I've actually had a catalog that's sitting within arm's reach on my desk for months. But I couldn't justify the cost for something that's usually very easy to either grow yourself or buy. But at a 60% discount? Yeah, baby. Bring it on!

One last thing? One that I didn't buy and maybe never will... but would completely fit the bill for the chicken project? Let me present the eglu:

Pic from
Yes, please.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thinking of spring...

It's a little hard to do, considering this area is still covered with much of the 40" of snow we got a little over a week ago (Biggest Storm in Recorded History!), but it does seem like that time of year. I'm seeing people breaking out the seed catalogs and making their gardening plans. I will give it another shot this year, despite my lack of space and the bigger challenge, full sunlight... but my main focus will be working over at my CSA. They put a call out for volunteers, starting in the greenhouse, and I'm planning to join them. It should be a really fun way to learn more about sustainable, organic farming. Even if it is on a scale much larger than I would ever want!

In the meantime, I am still dreaming about having chickens. I'm know it's not not sure if it's legal, but I'm considering giving it a shot this year. I got a great book about raising them for Christmas (thanks, mom!) and I'm thinking about plunging in. There's so much to consider - do I start them from chicks? what if I end up with a rooster? where will they live? But, really, it sounds like a pretty fun adventure to me. (It does not, however, to Jay... but he's reluctantly willing to play along.)

I'm also planning to get our composting plan set up. It's funny, these two projects... If I manage the chicken plan, I won't need much in the way of composting - my flock will be happy for any scraps. But, I think I'll give it a go. And just to make sure I'm not doing anything in a 'normal' way, I'm thinking about worm composting!

Another plan to keep my county-life seeking brain busy, I've started horseback riding lessons. I'm trying to drink up as much of the outside, natural life as possible! My first horse was a serious jerk challenge though, so I'm looking forward to meeting my new horse this weekend.

It's not quite the small farm I'd like, but it's certainly making the most of what I can do now!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our local Christmas tree...

Doesn't get much more local (practically within walking distance of our current location) or organic (no chemicals, ever). And it was also fun!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Visions of... alpacas... dancing in my head

I haven't had much to say lately, at least nothing I was ready to share here. The truth is, I'm not any less committed to living a locally-based, sustainable lifestyle. If anything, I'm more committed. But... and it's a big 'but' (there's another big butt to discuss, but I'll leave that one for later!) I'm finding it hard to execute. My life is dominated by a 40+ hour job that keeps me locked in an office in front of a computer all day (barely seeing, much less experiencing nature) and the kicker is the commute. At 52 miles one way, I'm spending between 2 1/2 - 3 hours in the car each day. On the low end, I'm losing 12 hours in the car each week and on the high, it's 15. By the time I get home, I'm wasted. I'm lucky if I can motivate myself to put together any dinner. Even frozen pizza seems difficult some nights.

I'm deeply dissatisfied with the routine, with the job, with our current lifestyle. I'm spending long hours dreaming the far away dream of our future country-house-turned farm. Like so many other people who thought they were doing the right thing, we bought our home. It's a nice little house in a pretty nice neighborhood. And it's worth roughly 70% of what we owe on it. Moving isn't an option unless we receive a giant inheritance from a long-lost relative. I won't be holding my breath for that.

So we're stuck here, and I can't get my head back in the game. Living and working here, if we are focused, we can save a good deal of money towards the future. Towards the house and land I'm dreaming of. And somewhere along the way, we can hopefully figure out how we can make a living in this future life of ours. But knowing we can't have it now, or even in the short term future, it's driving me batty. In my mind, I'm adding more and more animals to our future. In addition to the chickens and goats, now I'm thinking sheep and alpacas. Of course, we'll need dogs. While we're at it, maybe we should breed some. Nevermind that I know next to nothing about these animals. I've got time to learn!