Immersion

Immersion

The day-to-day on a small farm might seem mundane, but the immersion has become my addiction. Growing and making food, tending livestock and land, writing and spending time with my family─this is the life I’d yearned for all those years I spent as a landless farmer. Though the work might sometimes be brutal and overwhelming, I’m grateful for each and every day.

LAST WEEK

recruited help
Thanks to help from our community, this was our smoothest Sheep Day yet!

Recruited Help

On Tuesday of last week, 4 years of sheepish shenanigans (or: “sheepnanigans”, if you will…) culminated in the smoothest Sheep Day I’ve known yet. Refusing to chase the sheep anymore, I’ve learned to use my portable electric net fences to make smaller pens inside the larger enclosures. Our sheep will follow a cup of grain 98% of the time, making it easy to coral them. The 2% of time when they don’t care about the grain typically occurs during breeding season, when hormones are raging.

Putting the sheep inside a small pen makes it so much easier to grab them, eliminating the chasing. When you chase sheep their instincts take over and they just want to flee, escape, evade, by whatever means necessary. They’ll go from being this low-to-the-ground, sort of awkward grazing animal to a spry circus acrobat capable of launching themselves over, through, or around obstacles in ways you would never have imagined possible.

Chasing sheep is a good way to hurt yourself, too, and I have on many occasions, including numerous bruises, pulled muscles, and even a broken finger once.

It’s just my son and I here, working this scrappy patch of Earth, so I recruited help from my community for Sheep Day 2023. Paul Bouche, whom I sold a few sheep to last year, came with his pickup truck and it’s capped bed, to transport the sheep and I to Maple Lane Farms in Charleston. It’s an hour and a half drive to the nearest USDA inspected site, a necessary certification for selling the meat to our neighbors and other local households. I’ve done it in my Subaru Forester, but Paul’s truck is better suited to the task and he was happy to help.

To assist in the catching and loading of the 6 designated sheep, 3 of the guys from the garage next door came over to help.

Erm….the garage next door??

Wolf Classics

That’s right! The old Central Elementary School is now a machine shop with a squadron of mechanics re-imagining the classic Land Rover.

Say whaaaaaaaaaaaat!?

wolfe classics
The former Central Elementary School, now the home of Wolf Classics.
The school building was sponsored by the Works Progress Administration, an employment and infrastructure program created by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Click here to learn more about the WPA.

Because our population is so small in New Portland, the school here (the building that sits next to Runamuk in so many of our pictures) was one that was abandoned during a consolidation of districts more than a decade ago. During the 5 years I’ve lived and farmed next door, the building had been used as storage space─housing cars, boats and more through the winter months. The general consensus from the community was that they wished someone would do something with the old building. Personally, I was thankful because it was quiet and did not disturb my own operation or jeopardize my efforts at conservation.

Then, last winter, the property was sold to a local partnership and Wolf Classics set up shop next door.

Curious, I did some research and apparently that’s a thing─a cottage industry all it’s own─with “restomod” outfits operating around the globe. Garages like this one are popping up every day. In fact, East Coast Rovers is a very notable restoration and custom upgrade facility out of Rockland right here in Maine. Who knew?

To learn more about Wolfe Classics and the custom land rovers these guys are creating, check them out on Instagram!

Sheep Day

recruiting help from community

Over the course of the summer, we became acquainted with the new neighbors. I got to know and feed their families, and occasionally they would lend a hand when I needed it. So I bucked up the nerve to ask the guys for help with Sheep Day. Thankfully Rick, Steve, and Anderson showed up at the butt-crack of a frigid dawn that day. What a blessing to have so many hands available!

It really was a smooth event. We were able to contain the flock where I’d intended, snag them with a minimal amount of chasing, and by 7:15 Paul and I were pulling away from the farm with a load of live sheep.

Unloading at Maple Lane went equally smoothly. I filled out my cut-sheets with the staff, I forget her name, but she was super informative and helped me pick the cuts that I thought would best meet the needs of my community, most of whom are not accustomed to eating lamb. In the back, they had a clean pen waiting for my sheep when we arrived, with fresh bedding and water. The employee who met us made sure to ask if I wanted the carcasses back, or if I had any other specifics. He helped us to unload them and contain them in the readied pen. I thanked him, and then I did the hard thing and left without looking back.

It’s been a few days now and we are all still adjusting to the new flock dynamics. The sheep cry for their missing members for the first 48 hours or so, and it hurts to hear it. My heart aches. I miss them, too…

Thanksgiving Festivities

Upon returning home from Maple Lane Farms that day, I consoled myself by kicking off our Thanksgiving festivities with BraeTek and a celebratory beer. I took the afternoon off from work and together we tacked holiday lights to the front porch of this old farmhouse.

keeping the light thanksgiving
Keeping the light…

It’s a seemingly innocuous thing…the putting up of the holiday lights…lots of people do that and more.

For me, however, it’s symbolic and profound. I put up my white lights as a symbol of light. Like my ancestors before me, I am keeping the light alive during the Darkest Days of the year. Now through the Winter Solstice, I’ll leave these lights on as we await the rebirth of the sun. They inspire hope, joy and love within me, and─I hope─within all who look upon them.

Over the last few years, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has become “Pie Day” here at Runamuk. In which, BraeTek and I each bake a pie in advance of the big day. We call it Pie Day, but really we’re making dips and cookies and treats in advance. I want all of that ready on Thanksgiving morning so that I can set up my “Snack Table” for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m a fan of the parade. It’s something I used to do with my father when I was young and, though he’s been gone nearly 10 years now, it makes me feel close to him to watch it. I am ridiculous about a marching band, and I love seeing the bits and pieces of broadway shows that are infused into the event. There’s just something about seeing that giant Tom Turkey every year that chokes me up and fills me with gratitude. I really do love it.

My sister came to the farm, joining BraeTek and I for the festivities. We played table games while the turkey roasted, and then again while we waited for our stomachs to digest enough for pie. What a great way to spend Thanksgiving!

Chicken Processing Workshop

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Chicken-Processing 101.

Following the rush of the holiday, on Black Friday when others were out shopping, I hosted a young couple to the farm for a Chicken Processing Workshop. Just starting out on their homesteading journey, they’d bought 10 laying hens as chicks that were supposedly sexed and ended up with 7 roosters (insert facepalm here). I happened to see their facebook post searching for info on local processors, and─knowing that kind of service that is limited in our area─I offered to teach them how to do the job.

I firmly believe that every backyard flock-keeper should know how to humanely dispatch and process a chicken. Even if they are pets and you’re never going to eat Henrietta, in the event of illness or injury it might be the humane thing to do to end the bird’s suffering. The veterinarian is not going to help you with this. As owner and care-giver it is your responsibility to do what is best for the animal. It’s an intimidating thing that a lot of new homesteaders struggle with, and so I make the offer fairly frequently to teach people this crucial skill.

I caught 2 old hens and 1 cocky rooster for the lesson, demonstrating on the first, then allowing both partners to practice on their own bird. I wanted to ensure that between the pair of them, this couple would have the confidence to do the job when they returned to their own homestead.

After that the weekend was fairly quiet. BraeTek left for his father’s as he typically does on Fridays. I made a Grain Run on Saturday morning, then in the afternoon I put the finishing touches on the new Winter Ram-Shed. Sunday I spent baking bread and preparing for incoming guests to the farmstay.


THIS WEEK

On the chalkboard for this week, I have a just a couple of remaining outdoor winterizations to tend. The fruit trees all need to be wrapped to protect them from rodents. I want to cover the broken garage windows (broken in a guinea incident that went a-fowl…long story…) with plastic. We could use a third lambing pen in the Ewe-Shed, and I want to put a gate on that same shed so that I can shut moms and new lambs inside during that first [tentative] week of lambing season. Once these things are crossed off my list, I will finally be able to move inside for the next few months. Also on the list this week: Kyo’s Big Day (in which my new farm-kitty goes to the vet for his special snip)─and our monthly D&D session. Wooooooooo!


Immersion

immersion in the day-to-day
Construction of the new winter ram-shed is complete!

It’s quiet and mundane sometimes…this existence of mine…but I revel in it. Immersion in the day-to-day of this small farm is blissful for me. I feel strongly that THIS is my purpose in the world─tending this patch of earth and the animals in my care. Cultivating and protecting this ecological reserve that I’ve created. Every day spent doing that is a gift I deeply cherish.

What do you think of these weekly farm-updates? Yay or Nay? Leave a comment below!

Much love to you and yours, my friends!

Thank you for following along with the story of this lady-farmer! It truly is a privilege to live this life serving my family and community, and protecting wildlife through agricultural conservation. Check back soon for more updates from the farm, and be sure to follow @RunamukAcres on Instagram or Facebook!

2 Comments

  1. Virginia Ann LaNoce (Ginny)

    I truly marvel at your strength and your renewing love of the farm life. I also laud you for realizing when you are taking on too much. That is hard to admit but your health and happiness should be most important. I am looking forward to a nice leg of lamb. The lamb chops I tried were delicious!! Have a great December and Christmas and look forward to the New Year!!

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