2017… And so it begins.

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Reminiscing about greener days on the farm

I almost just shot a coyote!

My god… how life has changed. But if a creepers gonna creep on my flock, I’m going to have to take them out. Just call me Laura Ingalls effing Wilder. No, don’t do that. I don’t think she’d approve. Plus, I don’t know if she’d actually shoot a coyote, but it’s 2017 baby, and this farm girl’s got a gun!

Hey all! It’s me, y’know that sweet sweet blogger you’ve missed hearing from? I can officially say that I completely failed all of you in the year of 2016. Like, seriously. I had three blog posts. Three. Ugh. The worst. But I’m back! And better than ever! Well, I don’t know about the better part, but definitely back. More prepared maybe. After having a kid, I seem to have snacks on me at all times so that is an improvement.

In the past, I’ve started the year out with a recap of our past years goals, how far we’ve come and what life is looking like for the New Year. I did a great recap of 2016 already, and for the most part it covered our goals and accomplishments. You can catch up here if you missed it. You will see in our current list of goals and aspirations, we seem to have lost our minds and decided that we can, and should do all of the things.

Who needs sleep anyway.

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“We do Mom. We need sleep. The baby is mobile and he is everywhere!”

I’m headed back to work a real job in March so things should get so busy that we’ll be taken down a few notches, but for now, here’s our list:

  • Install deck railing and child gate – we attempted to get this done before winter hit in 2016, but it just didn’t happen. But we need to get on it because we have the busiest little boy on our hands and he is just raring to get out there.  So definitely #1 on the list.
  • Landscape and clean up the farm for the family reunion – Every three years, my husband’s family has a family reunion, which is awesome! We were, um, voluntold a few years back that our farm was picked to host the family reunion and we were very excited… when it seemed so far away. Now, it’s here! In July.  And we have some things to do. The theme is Pioneer Days though and I am already planning a pack horse race so… it will be a good time regardless if our farm is presentable!

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    Luckily, I know a decent landscaper ❤

  • Honeybees – this is happening this year. Even if we just have to get some bees and learn the hard way. It’s happening.
  • Horses – Currently we have 20 horses on the property: 12 mares, 4 geldings, 3 colts and 1 stud (Thor is back!!!) We’ve been keeping everyone fed and the colts are finally weaned. They are hanging out with our stud horse Thor and learning that humans aren’t so scary… which means we’re actually managing our wild herd! My father-in-law is brining hay across the river to the remaining wild ones and we plan on bringing more across this spring. We still don’t have an exact count of how many total there are, so we’ll just have to keep catching them.
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    So. Fuzzy.

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    This little one is very friendly and just wants to be loved by me

  • Garden – Oh, the project that just keeps on giving…
    • Organic Certification: Our commitment to producing crops organically is going to be official! Clay and I decided to go pesticide free on our commercially farmed 88 acres of farmland when we moved onto the property, so the first summer would have been 2014. We need a minimum of three consecutive years of no pesticide use to qualify and plan on having certification by 2018. We are initially going to certify our crops and have plans to move into certifying our poultry, eggs, honey and any other products we may venture into on the farm. So. Exciting. We will continue to practice organic methods of fertilizing (compost, worm tea, cover crops) and pest control, as well as continue to strive for a permaculture balance on the property as a whole. Organic certification will mean that we are going against the grain of the farmer’s and fields around us to provide a healthy ecosystem for our family, our critters and the wildlife that share this land. It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time and I’m beyond thrilled to be learning and living the process.

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      The grass and weeds had a very healthy year in 2016. I promise you there is food in there somewhere!

    • CSA Farm Boxes: A long-term goal of the farm is to become a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation. Basically this means that people in our community will invest in shares of our farm and crops at the beginning of the season to help us buy the supplies we need and then, in return, will receive a share of our harvest throughout the harvest season. Eating local at it’s finest! So this year I want to commit to selling 5 boxes per week for 10-12 weeks… gotta start somewhere!
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      2016 dinner harvest

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      I am planning on getting some of my preserves tested this year so I can offer them through my farm boxes at the end of the season

    • Set-up small greenhouse, prep, dress and mulch 100′ beds, install drip lines, manage pathways, work on grass issue, plant 5 fruit trees (pear, plum, apricot, honey crisp apple x2), plot 2 fruit tree guilds in the food forest, fix raspberry bed and prep remaining 100′ beds on west side of acre garden. All while keeping a small child from burning and overheating in the open field…there’s going to be a lot of dirt eating this summer. Yup.
  • Chickens – my small little flock needs some filling out and my egg basket needs more colour (did you know that egg colour is addicting?). As of now I have 1 rooster and 9 laying hens, a mixture of green and pink eggs mostly with one blue one thrown in for good measure. I received an incubator for Christmas this year (thanks Mom and Dad!) and have my first set of eggs incubating as we speak! If all goes well and I don’t absolutely kill all of them, then I will be hatching many many more. Eggs on order include: Black Copper Marans (dark brown egg), Ameraucana’s (blue egg), Silkies (small white egg), Blue Isbars (green egg), Cream Legbar (blue egg), Icelandic (tinted white egg), Lavender Orpington (light brown egg), Wheaten Marans (dark brown egg), Olive Eggers (olive green egg) and silver and blue laced wyandotte (light brown egg). I think I can officially claim that I’m a chicken farmer…. or a crazy chicken lady? Same difference in my book 🙂 We are also embarking on the world of turkey ownership this year… it could go either way. They could be super awesome, sweet and fun to have on the farm or I could have to face one down and hit it with a shovel like that one time I was 12 at my friends house. Could go either way…

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    Current egg basket. Just set 24 of my gals eggs in the incubator and expect a hatch on February 28

  • Cabin – there is much to do in our 16×20 cabin on the property. After meeting with the bank regarding the build of our dream forever house it’s been determined that we must live in the cabin for up to 12 months during the actual building process. That means me, my husband, our toddler and 2 large dogs will be moving in and living that REAL homesteader life. So yes, much to be done in the cabin. But stoked to be planning our dream forever house!

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    Work in progress…

I suppose that sums it all up. Seems doable, and if not, definitely a lesson in patience. I must say, I can’t remember a time when I have ever felt more fulfilled with my daily life or with where I am. It truly feels as if we are in the exact right place at the exact right time. And with the state of the world today, it feels good to be connected to our land, our family, our community and our happiness. 2017 will be a year to learn, grow, be kind and over all else – love.

What’s on your plate for 2017?

~Katy

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Garden Days are Coming…

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View of the garden from our lawn

It’s been awhile since I last posted and I do apologize. Life has become absolutely nutso around the farm and with the summer looming, I fear it will only get worse. I’ve really felt the effect of my crazy schedule this past week and as I attempt to catch my breath, I try to think of the times ahead. And then I had a meltdown because the stupid vacuum wouldn’t work and I didn’t have time to fix it because, really, it’s a brand new f$%#ing vacuum and it should work without having to do anything because I most definitely do not have time to deal with it… thank god Clay carefully turned the knob from “hose” to “vacuum” before I murdered it Office Space/fax machine style…

Anyway, work has been very busy and farm work has been very exhausting and the whole “side-by-side” commute has officially lost its charm. Like, seriously. But with challenge comes accomplishment and I can happily say that a longtime goal is coming to fruition. The garden is going in!!!

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Posts lined out for pounding

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We have a very serious post pounder

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And a very high tech fence stretcher

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Unrolling the wire

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This is my “It’s raining and I’m hungry so please stop taking pictures so we can finish this” face….

This past week Clay, Timber and I have been busy putting in the fence posts and putting up the wire for our 8 foot game fence. We have two sides completed, a third laid out and are taking some down time for travel. Clay is in Southern BC for a conference and I will soon be on my way to Washington DC for my cousin’s wedding, but at least we have it started. Next steps are to install our water source, till the acre, install gates and start forming the planting areas. And then of course, plant the hell out of it. I couldn’t be more excited.

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I made a trip to a local greenhouse (if you call an hour drive local) and picked up 40 strawberry plants, a few tomatoes, brussel sprouts, sunflowers and marigolds. My wonderful neighbors offered to house them in their greenhouse for me until planting time!

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Wyatt hard at work…

In our spare moments, we’ve been screening our topsoil leftover from our build site to put in the garden beds around the house. Not super fun, but necessary. And cheap. We’ve also been collecting sandstone from the property to use as landscaping rocks in the yard as well as the fire pit. Nothing brings a couple together like slinging rocks. As long as it’s not at each other. I love that we have so many resources right on the farm and that we try to utilize them throughout our designs. Brings a whole new meaning to being grateful for what we have.

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Clay built us a table screen for our topsoil

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It takes some time, but the plants will be thankful

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We have a large supply of sandstone on the property

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An hour spent piling rocks

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Oh look, Wyatt hard at work again… Also, I love that I would rather snap a photo than be concerned about their proximity to the chainsaw…

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Sake hard at work

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The start of our fence and pathway to the fire pit

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Clay found this in the woods somewhere and brought it home for me for an archway. I absolutely love it 🙂

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These stones will be buried into the grass eventually

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Start of the fire pit collection – also note how much Wyatt’s hair is growing in!!

In coop news, I candled 31 eggs this weekend after realizing the other girls were sneaking eggs under broody Florence. She looked like one of those cartoon hens sitting atop a pile of eggs, poor dear. She was setting 19 eggs by the time I figured out what was going on! I finally got her down to a dozen and set Miss Josephine (who is broody once again) on 11 eggs I bought from a local farmer. I bought seven Easter Egger eggs (blue) and 4 Sizzle eggs (Frizzly/Silkie cross). I found one broken on the coop floor this morning, but the rest seem to be forming wonderfully. Pretty soon we’ll have more chicks than we know what to do with! I also added a wee little Cream Legbar to the flock whom I named Franny. She will also lay blue eggs and after a rough start with the Peck-a-little gang, she’s feeling a lot more comfortable.

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Easter Egger and Sizzle eggs

 

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Little Miss Franny

May arrived and with it a freaking snow storm… seriously, this is a neighbors pasture on Wednesday May 6:

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Blarg!

But the beauty of the North is – what a difference a day makes. Our farm on Thursday May 7:

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My lunch break while working at home

I must say, even though I’m more tired than I have ever been in my life, I sure am loving this farm of mine.

~Katy

 

Wildlife on the Farm: Trail Cam March 2014

I have been in Canada for 7 months now, and thanks to a painfully slow immigration process full of, ahem, process errors, I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time on the farm. I love watching the land change with the seasons (fall, winter and now spring) and witnessing the beauty of the land and the creatures who share it with us daily. Coming from Alaska, I am no stranger to living among spectacular wildlife, but never where it’s been this personal. We get to be a part of and share in a an ecosystem that has been here for many years, and it seems to be a very healthy ecosystem at that.

One of my favorite days of exploring was after a big snow on a warm sunny day. The dogs and I walked down to the lower fields and found every kind of animal sign imaginable. There were small tracks, medium tracks, itty-bitty tracks, bird hunting wing tracks, ginormous size-of-my hand tracks, it was beautiful. Brought a smile to this Alaskan girls face for sure. The dogs were going crazy with all the smells too! It was awesome to add our own tracks to the biodiversity of our land, and learn about what animal creates each type of track and pattern.

Owl hunting a rabbit

Busy busy

Busy busy

Wolf track

Wolf track

It amazes me how much activity goes on around our small parcel of 160 acres, especially since we are stewards of over 1,000 acres total. Our 1/4 section is part of a much larger acreage purchased by Clay’s grandfather in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. Now, there are four groups of land owners which include us, Clay’s parents, aunt’s and uncle’s. We are the only ones living down here, which lets us provide stewardship over the entire acreage. It’s pretty awesome, just like Braveheart. Except without the whole war thing.

Anyway, we truly enjoy exploring and checking in on the happenings of the land. My daily ski’s this winter were never boring and my new favorite hobby is following game trails wherever they may lead. I ran across my first predator kill site and had fun investigating the possible assailants (with help from my favorite conservation officer). I think it’s important to know what to be aware of when we are out and about, especially with our “city dogs”. Summertime should prove interesting… we’re taking bets on who finds the first porcupine.

Recently, I bought Clay a trail cam for Valentine’s day. This came closely after I found all of those wolf tracks. We thought it would be a good idea to really watch what happens when we’re not present. The setup of the camera has been tricky and we’ve had to play with positioning, height and location. Last week I found a sweet spot on a trail overlooking the river as we captured two types of deer and our elk herd in one 24 hour period! We borrowed a second cam (thanks Robin!) to be able to widen our scope area.

The Elk herd

The Elk herd

Elk herd

Elk herd

Selfie!

Selfie!

Close up selfie

Curious

Little buck on a snowy day

Little buck on a snowy day

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Whitetails!

Whitetails!

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Checking the game cams has proved to be exciting as well and we enjoy our nightly hikes down. Both are now located about 1/2 mile below our house, with about a 1/2 mile in between them. Last night we spotted 24 mule deer and 5 whitetails on our property just hiking down to check the cams. All within a span of an hour. Our “city dog” Wyatt found a herd of 13 of them before we did, and I tell you, I’ve never seen him run so fast in his life. You’d never know he had a bad hip and two major surgeries… well at least not until he plays it up around meal time. He didn’t get very close, and he definitely didn’t let that pesky barbed wire fence stand in his way of chasing off the intruders. I think we may need to work on someone’s manners before we get the horses.

Wyatt vs barbed wire

Wyatt vs barbed wire

~Katy

An elusive creature yet to be identified... believed to be a mythical beast in the maynardian classification

An elusive creature yet to be identified… believed to be a mythical beast in the maynardian classification

Homestead Goals 2014

As the snow starts to melt and “break-up” is looming, I start to realize how much freaking work we have in the months ahead. It’s always easier to see the hard work when the beautiful winter wonderland turns into mud soup. Break-up is what us Northerners like to call spring. It’s when the earth begins to weep and we subsequently get to wear muck boots 24/7 and never wash our cars. Where the world smells perpetually like dog poop and you forget why you even wished for summer for a couple of very long and drawn out weeks. But usually, once May hits, it becomes worth it. Although the swearing and the mud wearing that break-up commands may make one lose total faith in, well, everything. So for now, I will post this very lush, green photo of what is to come so I can find the strength to go on…

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Ah…. that’s better… Now where was I…

This, ahem, “spring” has us looking forward to a trip to the Caribbean with my family and a sh*t.ton.of.work. In January we sat down and started a list of our goals for this year on the homestead. I say “started” a list because we seem to be adding things to it daily and it continues to grow. We honestly tried to keep it short, but easier said than done. The Caribbean will be a wonderful break, but comes at an awkward time as we will be getting a shipment of chicks in the week after. It’s kind of hard to find someone to babysit 25 chicks when there are no eggs to trade. So we’ll be a little late in starting that game, but for the Caribbean after a long northern winter, I’ll do just about anything.

Our main goal is to begin our 50 year plan on a series of maps we’re having drawn up. This will be our mother plan and help get all of our hopes, wants, wishes and dreams onto one or two large pieces of paper. This will allow us to mindfully plan out where things will go so that we create a working piece of land for our children and our children’s children to enjoy. And hopefully cut down on having to move anything when we decide it is a better fit somewhere else. Also, it makes us seem like we really have our sh*t together, eh? (practicing my Canadian accent, coming along nicely I believe.)

This is where we will include our future house build site, alternative energy sources, greenhouses, other livestock areas, future gardens, a Christmas tree farm, etc…. just to name a few things we’ve thrown out there. Below is a photo of my inspiration plan from a book called The Back to Basics Handbook by Abigail R. Gehring. We have A LOT of books on all of this stuff, because y’know, that will somehow make it easier in real life practice… either that or give me a totally false sense of security… I’ll report back.

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Below is the parent list of our goals for 2014. In the following posts, I will try and highlight some of the projects and go over our goals for each one, as each project of course has more work to it than meets the eye. I should be getting used to that I think. This blog is a way for us to not only entertain our friends and family, but also to document our first few years on the farm and to keep as a kind of farm journal. Since I have basically no idea what I am doing, I have a feeling the entertainment aspect will grow as time goes on. But hey, onward and upward!

2014 Homestead Goals:

  • Install workable gates throughout property fences
  • Clear trees & debris in horse pasture, secure fences (40 acres)
  • Build horse corrals & tack shed, move in horses, give them treats and scratch their ears
  • Build chicken coop, raise 25 chicks & figure out what to do with all the roosters at a later date
  • Build compost areas, figure out how to keep Wyatt out of compost areas
  • Landscaping: Lawn, perennial flower beds, fire pit area, figure out how to keep Wyatt out of the growing lawn area
  • Finish cabin for guests, entertain said guests
  • Build garden/orchard fence: 1 acre of 8 foot elk/deer fence
  • Plant garden: Include raised beds, permaculture design principles, sheet mulch beds, hugelkultur beds
  • Install orchard: Northern hardy varieties of apple, pear, plum, apricot, cherry and variety of fruit and nut bushes
  • Plan and install garden watering system
  • Continue to improve and upgrade the farm road
  • Install clothesline
  • Paint and finish power shed
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Future garden site

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Guest cabin

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Lawn, flower bed and fire pit site (and Maynard)

Whew…. good lord, now that’s a lot of work! Not saying we will finish it all, but it’s better to have more goals than none. I must say, it’s a very good thing we don’t have TV 🙂

If you had the chance to own 160 acres of raw land, what would you do the first year?

~Katy

In the beginning…

We started on this homesteading journey the first day Husband and I met. Our conversation led to the ideas of owning critters, growing our own food and we talked and talked about living a more simple life and getting back to the land and to nature. Pretty hot first date, huh? These were things I always thought, but never really envisioned happening, at least not in my next five year plan. I am a goal setter, and each year, I write down my goals and always have a five year plan. I think it’s important to put things out into the universe, otherwise, how will the universe respond? It sounds kind of New Age but seriously, in 2009 before I met Husband, one of my goals was to “Own my own house with a BIG backyard”, written exactly as that. Here I am 5 years later with my own house and the biggest backyard I could have imagined. So think what you will.

On our wedding day, his parents gifted us 160 acres of raw land on the Peace River in British Columbia (YES!). It was, and still is, being farmed by a local farmer, but only in the fields and we were excited to dream up all of the possibilities. Of course, reality butted in and after many nights of list making, dreaming and talks with the bank, we realized what a huge undertaking this was going to be. Not only did we have zero utilities, we barely had a workable road in. We also had to deal with a mess of immigration to get me legal. So we decided to find Husband a job and send him first, in the spring, and then I would follow in the fall regardless of my immigration status. We’d just have to deal with it. Our entire relationship was built on long stints of time apart, so we knew it would be hard, but we could most definitely do it. Husband left Alaska in April of 2013 with a truck full of belongings and my first born dog, Wyatt. Honestly, I think it was harder to say goodbye to Wyatt. We had never been apart. But I sent them down the road and embarked on one of the most epic summers I have ever experienced in Alaska. Husband embarked on one of the hardest working summers he had ever experienced.

Working a full time job and preparing land for a home is no easy task. Good thing Husband is such a “doer”. He loves to be busy and loves to work hard. Did I luck out or what? Our modular home was put on order to build after we secured the construction loan. It is true when they tell you that everything will take longer and be more expensive than you think, but we worked on our patience and our communication skills, a lot… Some of the things we had to contract out, but we tried (with help from family and friends) to do most of it ourselves. Not only for the cost savings, but because we really wanted to learn through this process and be a part of our homestead journey.

Here’s our list of what we accomplished in our first summer, 2013:

  • Upgrade farm road and add ditches
  • Fence all 160 acres with barb wire fencing
  • Clear, add gravel & compact house pad site
  • Drive piles for house to sit on
  • Dig and install well
  • Dig septic tank and have installed
  • Install propane tank
  • Clear and mulch trees for power line
  • Receive house and hook up gas, water & sewer
  • Build stairs front/back & large deck
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Father-in-law & brother-in-law fencing our acreage

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Our beautiful fence line

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Driving piles

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Compacting in my skirt and work boots

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Learning new skills

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Our helper

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It’s not glamorous, but somebody has to do it

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Digging for the septic tank

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Wyatt loves machines… and his Dad

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The house has arrived!

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Putting it on the piles

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Deck work

            

So, after an exhausting couple of months, our house was delivered. We didn’t get power until October (remember, everything takes twice as long as they tell you) and moved in November 2013. Not too shabby of a start to this wild and grand adventure! Now the fun part begins… our homesteading goals for 2014.

~Katy