Friday, December 2, 2016

State of the Ranch 2016

A new greenhouse
Putting up the deer fence

So here we are at the end of year four and the beginning of year five. Much has changed and yet, I still feel there's so much we haven't accomplished -- there's still "this much to do."

First of the new flock
an overflowing greenhouse

Early this spring, I still had hope. We had new neighbors and we were convinced we were close to moving them in. We had a mutual group of friends who were willing to come out and work for all our good. We had plans and dreams and expectations.

our little goat herd
Five little piggies

We were given a greenhouse. It quickly became my quiet place -- a place to pray, to tinker, to watch life develop, all in warmth and surrounded by the songs of all the wild birds. I added an insulating layer of plastic, and filled in the foundation with rock. I sorted all the pots and then filled them. We all carted water from the trough out front of the house, knowing we'd soon have some sort of flowing water source available to the new structure.

The new puppy
new babies #1

Nearby in the garden, we began planting peas, carrots and radishes, and then trying to protect them from the deer. We built a six-foot chicken wire fence, topped with a twine line adorned with ribbon -- and it worked! But it wasn't completed until summer had already begun. We began building the gravity-feed irrigation system that I'd drawn last winter and posted on the hallway wall. The drawings didn't keep up with the changes, but we managed to get five of 16 lines built. We moved out two IBC-tote water tanks from the previous location of the two-seater outhouse to the top of the cliff above the cave, greatly increasing the water pressure. The solar pump worked well, and the ancient well never dried out.

new babies #2
new babies #3

The garden produced lots of leaves, lots of volunteer pumpkins and squash, a massive supply of fresh radish seed, some lovely little carrots, and lots of Egyptian walking onions. We'll try again on the potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, Walla Walla onions, and other forms of squash and viney things. There just wasn't enough time or money to complete the plans, and get all those seedlings out in the dirt. The old fruit trees were happy this year, though, producing enough wormy apples and pears to make some lovely batches of pectin. The plums were lovely, as always. The grapes survived being stripped before the deer fence was up, but didn't produce fruit, and neither did the transplanted black currant. We'll see what next year holds.

Thankfully -- and sometimes not so thankfully -- we also had a good gleaning year in our region. As one of the co-organizers, I was able to get enough produce to fill my canning shelves, store plenty of raw produce for the winter, and feed all the new animals. But I was worn out driving back and forth to Big Town and beyond at least weekly.

We have a creek?
new babies #4

We added five pigs (soon to be butchered), five goats (and two friends for a time), a second dog, numerous wild and tame kitties, 60-some chickens, two turkeys, and a horse and a half (one resident, one soon-to-be resident). All of this meant pasture and housing changes, new feed schedules, new work schedules, and lots of chaos. In fact, at the moment, the goats are sleeping in the lower yard with my precious blueberries, instead of being locked in their pen.

Elsewhere on the ranch, we discovered healthy red currant stands, a creek we didn't know about, and some very healthy fields of not only the wild rye that fed Hillbilly's cattle herds, but even more ancient wheat, full and nutritious-looking. Curmudgeon and Bones moved into their hunting cabin just over the hill. The Parson and his crew made great strides on getting infrastructure up, but still haven't been able to get housing in place. Squirrel and Jameson and their munchkins (Thing One and Thing Two) joined our little band, and have fixed both equipment and horses in ways we never imagined.

The Butt's soulmate
First prom

Munchkin opted to attend the regional skills school, her first venture into the world of public school. She took a two-week venture into automotive mechanics in June, working on her grandfather's old truck. Then for fall, she chose full courses in computer coding and welding, and is excelling at both. But she's now off-ranch for eight hours a day, five days a week, leaving me alone here with our huge to-do list. She attended her first two proms, and had her braces removed. Not such a Munchkin anymore...

Dude's employers literally cut his paycheck in half under some new crazy incentive scheme, making us completely uncomfortable financially. We'd love to have him home full-time or working a little closer to home, but we just aren't ready for that. But God has provided for us, and we're still afloat. Sometimes it's selling a few books we didn't expect, others it's a paid speaking gig or unexpected refund. Other than being perpetually exhausted and trying to make ends meet, he's had a decent year.
garden harvest

Hillbilly's old truck

I, on the other hand, have had a difficult one. Not only was I stressed about the busy garden, the unbelievable level of canning, trying to corral all the "cats" doing projects on the ranch, and watching my girl grow up before my eyes, but I had a car accident, a window accident, lots of illness, several minor injuries, and too much stress. As I said a few days ago, I'm burnt out. I don't think I've ever looked forward to winter so much -- not for the cold itself, but for the time off. And yet, I still can't sit... the canning room isn't quite done being organized and inventoried. I still don't have a functioning closet. The animal fences just aren't ready for winter, and neither are the water systems, frankly. I still have plenty of canning and preserving to do. And there's so much I'm incapable of doing myself because of the toll this year has taken on my body.

general ranch hilarity
Dude giving a presentation

So here's to year five! A year of successes, and not frustrations, of joy and not irritation, of forward movement and not spinning our wheels. Of working on that to-do list that always seems to tell us there's "this much to do."