Spring has sprung here in Western Massachusetts, and then, well, it went back underground. As is common in March, we have been getting cycles of freeze and thaw, including nearly every kind of precipitation in the last two weeks.
Over the past two weeks the construction of the new cabin has accelerated as Owen* and I put batting on all four sides, while Brian and Kyle** finished building, decking, and roofing, the porch. Other major cabin projects have included interior siding, woodstove restoration, installing the chimney, putting up a sheetrock ceiling, and painting the windows. Just yesterday, Brian milled beautiful beveled trim boards for the stove tile and then installed our rough marble tiles. It looks wonderful. My carpentry skills have grown by leaps and bounds, as has my comfort with using the handsaws, chopsaw, table saw, circular saw, jigsaw, and sawzall (am I forgetting any?).
Also yesterday, we had a topping-out ceremony for the cabin. This is an old Scandinavian tradition that involves tacking an evergreen bough at the highest point of a building to celebrate its completion and the workers who built it. We nailed a pine bough to the porch roof, talked about our hopes for the space, and David gave thanks to all of the trees that gave their lives to build this new home.
In the livestock department, I have been busy, busy, busy. Two rounds of hogs went to the butcher in the past couple weeks, flat tire catastrophe notwithstanding. I have been keeping a close eye on Red the sow’s swollen teat situation, researching mastitis, and taking her temperature. Recently, I did an inventory of all of our vaccines and medical supplies and ordered more for this season. I also had a variety of smaller livestock projects that I fit into the days where I could, such as cleaning the barn windows, making an informational card with horse & pig vital signs, and making modifications to living arrangements.
The past three Sunday afternoons, in lieu of the scheduled field walk (for the fields are dormant and snowy), we have talked in depth of the history of buildings on the farm. This included a detailed look at the barn construction plans and cabin construction. Brian is a smartypants about all that, so a bit of it went over my head, but it was an enriching learning experience for him and a way for me to learn a lot of important building vocabulary.
This past week, Anna, as greenhouse manager, and Owen, as greenhouse seeding point person, have gotten seeding up and running. The woodstove is keeping little lettuce, celery, and celeriac seedlings warm now as the (hopefully) last snow falls and we look forward to the ground thawing.
Two weekends back, my friends from Hampshire, Kiah and Lily, visited us on the farm and are hoping to return to help with haying, visit the animals, and take in the bucolic scenery.
Last weekend, Owen, Brian and I took a trip to Brattleboro to update our gear stash (boots, pants, jacket) and then went to see a movie in Greenfield, finishing the night with a visit to one of my favorite places in the Valley, the People’s Pint! Come visit us and I will take you there.
Also!!! We are starting chainsaw training. Very scary, very exciting. We both learned to start up and run the saw safely, and got to cut a few logs for practice. There is lots more to learn before we set loose processing firewood, but it’s great to be adding new tools and skills to our wheelhouse. Even more exciting, though, is that we managed to eat chili and cornbread for 3 meals this week.
*Owen Tatum is an apprentice who, like us, is new this year. He is from Derby Line, Vermont and went to Green Mountain College, class of 2015.
**Kyle Farr is an apprentice who has been here for 13 months already, and is staying for a second season. He is from New Hampshire and went to UNH, class of 2015.