It’s open-pocketbook season at Sunflower Solace Farm!

Yep.  I am here.  In short, the move was less than stellar -mainly due to disorganization on my part.  I only thought I was pretty much ready.  Ehhh, it  is what it is.   But most of my stuff is here, and I owe great thanks to my oldest punkin and her buddy J.  I think I have used my one ‘free pass’ at helping me move in this lifetime…LOL!  Thanks you two, I really appreciate it more than you know.

The key word for the new farm is C-O-L-D. Merciful heavens, I moved west, not to the North Pole!  Lowest temp so far recorded was zero degrees on Saturday the 9th.  Can you say BRRRR? I discovered a tad too late that the propane tank was woefully empty.  This failure on my part lead to extreme highway robbery by the propane company who was only too eager to separate me from my tiny little finance cushion to the tune of  272.00 for one hundred measly gallons of propane.  According to the very nice delivery driver, that should last me about a month.  Say WHAT?  This is my first experience heating with propane and I must say, I ain’t takin’ a likin’ to it very much thank you.  Being the creative person I am, I sought alternative ideas.  The thermostat is set at fifty-five degrees; a bit radical I suppose, but that’s what long johns and sweaters are for.   Then I sauntered down to the local general store to see if anyone  had a line on some reasonably priced firewood.  I have a wood burning furnace in the basement, which is connected to the existing duct work.  Much to my very pleasant surprise, within less than two hours of making it known that I needed wood, I had a call from someone who could deliver a face cord, racked and stacked, for forty bucks – cash of course.  The only drawback was…no cash on me.  I arranged to have it brought out on Sunday afternoon, since I had to pick up some stuff in town that day and could do the old cash back routine on my trip.  Sunday turned out not so good for the wood guy.  Seems he slipped a belt on his truck and the auto parts store didn’t have it in stock.  But hey, at least he called and let me know.  We agreed on Monday for a revised delivery plan.  However, the replacement belt didn’t fit correctly and wood guy ended up transferring all the wood to a trailer and attempting to haul it behind his sister’s mini-van.  This resulted in damage to said mini-van; but they eventually got the wood here, after being unable to locate my residence and me taking a required trip to the general store to have them follow me in.  Wood guy and his sister turned out to be really nice folks and full of helpful information about the area, things to be had, places to go for the best prices and generally just very nice all around.  We got the wood located in the woodpile and brought a few logs in to start my first fire.   This turned rather festive in a few short minutes, as the chimney had no draw on it and all of the smoke detectors in my little farmhouse got a serious work out.  I was running up and down the stairs pressing those little reset buttons with diligence, let me tell you.  Thankfully we only put in some basic kindling items and had no log in there, so deprived of oxygen the fire burned out pretty quick.  Now I have an appointment to have my chimney checked out.  Ca-ching.  Thankfully, wood guy has the tools and graciously offered to clean the chimney for free in the next couple of days.  I’m okay with that since the temperature has now at least risen above freezing for periods during the day and the heater isn’t kicking on every fifteen minutes.   We talked some other handyman type business and they readied to leave.  But alas, his truck had a flat.  Wood guy and his sister disappeared to go get an air tank, and have never returned.  Truck and trailer are still sitting in my driveway currently.  It’s possible that they were being kind, knowing I needed to get some sleep before work and their return would set off the three-dog alarm system in my house if they came back.  Or maybe he figured since he had to come back, why waste the gas on an extra trip.  Who knows.  I guess I’ll find out in a day or so.   Till then, it makes the house look more occupied I guess.

On Saturday the Pyrs and I made my first basic exploration past the immediate area of the house and yard.  When we looked at the house originally we thought we knew where the property ended.  Not so, after looking at the overhead maps and whatnot.  So I timidly explored further back beyond the hayfield and discovered…a hole!  Well, not really a hole, but a serious drop down into a natural culvert-type area.  Apparently I also purchased a farm equipment graveyard.  There is all kinds of stuff half-buried back there.  There is also the requisite abandoned water tank in the woods, a few tires of assorted sizes and I’m not sure what else because I didn’t go all the way to what I believe is the property line.  It was getting to be dark and I wasn’t feeling terribly adventurous even with the pups with me.   It will be interesting to see what all is  back there.  This will have to be a winter-only project because from the looks of it, I won’t be able to see much of anything once stuff begins to grow again.  Lots of anti-freeze containers are peeking out from the leaves, some woodpiles here and there, and some huge concrete beams of some sort.  Wood guy and his sister eyeballed it today and his official pronouncement is that they are grain troughs.  I am hoping someone will maybe come clear it just for the metal to be sold, but I don’t know.  The most interesting phenomenon is what might be a cave, or an old root cellar or storm shelter.  Its true nature cannot be fathomed, as it has a piece of farm equipment rammed into it.  All in all, it looks like a lovely place to turn out some goats in the future.  They could clear out the brush and whatnot, jump to and fro on the rocks and probably escape any fencing I can put up.  But those adventures will have to wait a while and the true nature of what all lies back in them woods will just have to wait to  be discovered.  I have enough to take care of right now up on the property proper.

Immediate chores to tackle:

a) Fix all of the flailing metal roofing on the barn and future potting shed.  In order to do this though, I must first purchase a ladder.  And I probably should get a tetanus booster.  Hah.

b) Measure off the garden area and determine my fencing needs.  I originally thought to use the hayfield for my garden area.  But hay could be useful in the future for animals, so I am rethinking that.  My good friend R brought this to my attention today.  Plus, other people might be interested in the hay as well.  It’s only probably a quarter to a half-acre field at most so not worth bringing in equipment to cut.  It could probably be done easiest with a bagging mower.

c) Mow and clear the path that runs around the property in order to ensure that I continue to *have* a path.

d) And of course, get everything unpacked and stored before gardening season arrives.

Those are just the little projects; I’ll leave the major hired projects for another post!

Now for the cool stuff around and about the farm and my first ten days here.  There are so many birds here!  And their colors are quite brilliant – I don’t know if it is just because of the drab background of winter or what, but the cardinals and jays are stunning in their blues and reds.  One day the yard and trees were covered in hundreds of birds that moved in concert everywhere they went.  I didn’t get a close enough look to identify the species, but the sound of them rushing and flying was very cool.  Unless you are scared still by memories of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.   I have only heard them so far, but I have a pair of barred owls on the property.  Their calling can be quite eerie if you’ve never experienced it before, but I love to hear them call to each other.  They mate for life, and stay within the same range for all of their mated life.  I am hoping for some owlet spottings  after their mating season in February. They are good for keeping the vole and field mice population somewhat in check, and they seem to take an interest in my little Jack when he’s out for spin, causing them to call back and forth to each other.  He, in keeping with his fearless posture, growls and barks and kicks up dirt when they call.  I find it amazing that he knows that they are predatory and responds assertively.  I have identified some  huge sycamore trees, with fallen leaves in excess of eighteen inches across.  They will be magnificent in the summer I bet.  Some of the older trees will need to be taken down eventually; their limbs hang tenuously, looking tired and weary, and some of the trunks are sporting enormous fungi, as large as a newborn baby’s head.   On a fallen poplar limb, half-buried in the leaf litter, I spotted day-glow orange lichens – quite startling against the greys and browns of the winter foliage.  One of the smaller trees that hosts the little stair-step mushrooms growing on its trunk appeared to glitter and sparkle when the snow fell on them, like a stairway to a gossamer chamber in the air.   The hoar frost has been just beautiful, making the entire yard sparkle and shimmer, and when the snow flurries arrive in the sunlight, the entire atmosphere looks like the inside of a snow globe.   The barn had its own icicle adornments for several days as well, as if it did not want to be outdone by the rest of the yard.  I wish I had photos of all of these marvels to share, but the extreme cold kept me from taking the camera outside for fear of cracking or damaging the lens in some way.  I guess I need a cheap outdoor camera for these kinds of days, because the beauty is too wonderful to hoard just for myself.

I must admit though, that after the kids left, I felt more than a little forlorn and alone.  Some days I have second and third thoughts about what I am doing out here.  I wonder if I will have the energy and time to make the dream come alive.  Sitting in the laundromat and listening to the chatter of people around me, it really sank in that I am here in a place where I know virtually no one, and I don’t have anyone with me to share the beauty, or the fears, or the dreams as they rise and fall during the week.   I am also learning about myself, something that can be difficult to do when you are intertwined so closely with another as you are within a marriage.  I hope to go through these experiences and emerge a deeper, richer, more well-rounded person; to be a better friend, mother, and daughter.  I want to be more in tune with the natural surroundings that we are graced with and that seem to rush past us unnoticed outside of our car windows when we are so busy doing whatever it is that we think is more important than enjoying life.  Yes, all life requires work and busyness at times.  I guess I just want to slow life down enough that I can truly appreciate the things that are around me – sunrises and sunsets; seasons as they come and go; the stars and their brilliance in the dark night sky; a warm fire on a cold night in the winter.

As the kids pulled away to head back to the city and college and their busy adult lives, I watched their car until they passed the curve and I couldn’t see them anymore.  The extreme quiet that is pervasive here hung thick around me and sadness crept in.  But at that very moment, a doe and her fawn came delicately from the corn field across the street, stopped cautiously at the road, then fluidly loped across another field and into the woods to safety.  So I am never really alone.  I only have to stand still from time to time and open my eyes to see my fellow companions.  That is enough for me now.

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