Lillian's Dream Home

I pass by the old run down house every time I head north to pick up hay.  I noticed it the first time I went by.  Every time I drive by I think I should stop and take a look, a photograph.  This last April after a hay run, I came home, grabbed my camera and headed back to do just that.  The experience was more profound than I could imagine.

I parked on the west side of the road where the house is situated.  It's far enough off the road and up a bit of a hill that I couldn't get as close as I thought.  Being a farm girl, I'm conscious about trespassing or disturbing livestock.  I took my fill of photos looking north to the house and decided to hike along the road to get an up hill shot and some looking south.  I'd noticed paper stuck in the fence on my drives by and marveled that that stubborn piece of rubbish managed to weather our strong winds.  As I approached I realized the whole place had weathered a life.  There on a rough hand scratched plaque:  Lillians dream home.  Age 92.  Died 17 June 2016.

I stood there tears streaming down my face, wondering...  Did she have a family?  Did her sweetheart build the home?  Did she have a few sheep, a goat, cow, chickens?  Did she look out to the foothills like I do, marveling at both how big and small our world is?  Clearly the house has been in ruin longer than a year.  When did she leave?  Why?  Did another family make a life in the house?  So many unanswered questions.  I wish I could have met her and asked.

 In this time of divisiveness in our country, regardless of your politics, we must notice and stop to connect.  Let us look into one another's eyes and ask the questions I didn't get to ask Lillian:  Who are you?  Where have you been?  Have we traveled the same path, just at a different time?

 

The absurdities of being older

I've been thinking about being older lately. Not getting older but actually being older. Every weekend when I haul my tables and displays to the farmers markets I think about it.  This spring when I realized I had packed on few pounds over the winter and they weren't shedding like usual I thought about it.  When I practice yoga and meditation and I send the breath to where it hurts and don't have enough breath for all that, I think about it. I used to be incredibly flexible. I could do the splits until I was 40 and then one day I found I couldn't. On the other hand, I'm gentler with myself now (mostly). I'm more intuitive about eating, resting and contemplating life. 

I do love this new non 9:00-5:00 life I've carved out for myself but sometimes I think I came to it a little late, learned to listen to myself a little too late.  I'm a fearful person by nature. Don't ask me why, that's a road you don't want to go down.  I am and that's that. Last week I went to a little gathering at a friends house.  Just three couples and our collective brood of 4 kids. One couple is younger than the rest of us by I'm guessing 15 years. We were talking about my business and I was saying that I'd rather be doing online and wholesale sales exclusively rather than the physical work of the markets. This younger guy asked me why I didn't just do it. I launched into my typical excuse about not being very good at promoting myself or seeking new clients. He looked genuinely puzzled and again asked my "Why?" Caught a little off guard but feeling at ease with these friends I said, "because they might say, no". And he said "So?"  In that moment the tiniest light of recognition about how absurd that argument  is dawned on me. 

I've done a few brave things in my life. I've climbed a few mountains, used to ride hunter jumper horses, put myself through grad school, had two babies, gracefully survived being fired at 50 and nearly 30 years ago I plucked up the courage to tell my sweetheart that I had fallen in love with her.  

Growing older brings the luxury of introspection and a delicate toughness.  I'm embracing it.  I'm hauling my market paraphernalia for another season and I'm preparing for the future by facing the possibility of "yes" rather than the absurdity of no.

How not to meditate

Lately I find myself thinking continually in Instagram shots and stylized photo setups.  My mind is a whir of hashtags, SEO, tags, categories, posts likes and little red hearts not to mention little read dots with numbers I must manage.  Optimize!  Get featured!  Boost that post!  I look at my dinner and think "Which background would set this off in the best light?"

I've needed a reboot day for a while.  A day when I could slow down and disconnect with all the outside noise and reconnect with myself.  I hadn't really planned ahead for it but when I got up this morning, I knew today was the day.  After I fed the chickens and the sheep, milked four goats and fed all nine, fed the dogs, cut the goat who insists on jumping the fence out of the fence and watered everybody, I was ready to get busy relaxing and contemplating life.  

The first thing I did was make popovers for breakfast.  I rarely do anything more special than mix up instant oatmeal but lo and behold I had some milk and eggs.  Popovers are a treat from my past.  My mom used to make them for special occasions and hers were always perfect and "popped".  My attempts over the years have been called "popunders" but I keep trying.  

During the 20 minutes the potential popovers were baking I thought I might start my intentional day with a little meditation.  I used to be pretty good at it.  At one point I had worked myself up to 30 minutes without too much squirming.  I was sure I could last 20 minutes.  The first five minutes were spent finding enough blankets to prop up my backside so my hips didn't hurt.  The next five minutes were spent shifting around trying to find a good position on those blankets and trying to decide if I wasn't in lotus position was I breaking some unspoken yoga rule.  Finally I settled in.  It went like this:  Fluffy clouds, breathe in, breathe out, hmm... I wonder if the buzzer will go off on the oven soon, NO!  Fluffy clouds, breathe in breathe out,  did I water that stupid jumping goat, NO! breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breath..., I really need to clean the office, breathe in, breath... I really should make something nice for dinner, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe... I better take a peak and make sure the candle that isn't touching anything isn't burning the house down, breath in...Buzzz... thank goodness!

After that little relaxing moment I pulled the beautiful popped popovers out of the oven and buttered up a few and headed out to eat on the picnic table on our front porch.  This table affords a great view of the the goat and front sheep pen.  It also faces east and who would have thought I needed sunscreen on the 21st of April?  I may or may not have eaten half a dozen of those tasty popovers and then I forged on in search of enlightenment by preparing that nice dinner I "meditated" about, homemade rolls and shredded bbq chicken.  Kneading is meditative, shredding chicken is meditative, going to the store to get the 5 things I didn't have in the pantry not meditative!

By the time I got home everyone else was returning to the house and my contemplative time was up.  Although not usually a whiz in the kitchen (I set fire to the stove twice just this week) I got lots of compliments on dinner and all was right with the world.

Clearly I need some more practice at slowing down and being intentional and undocumented.  I did manage to have a picture perfect moment with the baby goats this morning all circled around their milk pail.  I enjoyed the moment alone and resisted the urge to run for my camera.  Yesterday as I was taking pictures around the farm I caught this little bee going about his business.  He, drinking nectar and gathering pollen and me marveling at the simplicity and being thankful he didn't sting me and make me blow up like a balloon.  Its the little things.   Maybe Ive got it figured out after all.

The best and worst thing

When I lost my job of 23 years last October it was the best and worst thing.  It didn't take long to figure out that I was happier than I had been in a long time.  When my family came home I had a smile on my face (and every once in awhile, dinner on the table).  It was also a pretty uncertain time.  For the last 33 years I had gotten up everyday and gone to work in some fashion or another.  What was the next chapter going to look like?  What was I going to do now that I was all grown up?  How were we going to pay the mortgage and my health insurance?

For several years I had been making goat milk soap for fun and profit, very part time.  Last summer we had our first farmer's market booth and got our first wholesale request.  Maybe it was the universe preparing me for things to come.  The question still remained , "Now what was I going to do?"   I'd wanted to make the farm my business and do it fulltime for as long as I can remember.  Here was the universe handing me the opportunity (maybe a little bit abrupt and rude) but, here it was in front of me.

So, I did it.  I ramped up the soap business, added some new products, spun lots of yarn, bred the sheep, bred the dog (something we had already planned to do) and hunkered down to do battle as a self employed farmer.

What happened?  Folks loved our soap and yarn and bought it, they love the lotion too and the scrubs are starting to catch on.  We sold some sheep and have changed the breeds we keep to a more spinner friendly fiber.  I took on a few spinning contracts.  We had 13 (!) puppies and all have gone on to be wonderful farm and family dogs.  

You've seen the meme, you know the one.  "When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a 3rd vacation home. You are helping a mom put food on the table, pay rent, a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get a jersey for his football team."

Well, it's true and I am so grateful to our customers-farmers market, website, Etsy, wholesale and friends and community for supporting us, for being interested in what we're doing, for wanting to come out and visit the farm.  You helped our senior go to football and wrestling camp this summer.  You helped our 8th grader support her own herd of dairy goats.  You helped make it possible for me to take a couple of weeks off to support my mother through hip replacement surgery.  You helped me keep faith in a dream and make it a reality!  Thanks so much for being a part of this.  You really have, you know...  

One other really significant thing happened this year.  A wonderful CSU student took my business on as her senior leadership/marketing  project. The new website and gorgeous pictures are all her.  She also helped me articulate a business plan, something I was kind of intimidated about.  It was the boost I needed to grow the business.  Thanks, Maddie!

The future is always uncertain and we can't know for sure what's coming but I have a plan and I am hopeful. This year has been a wonderful and wild ride.  I can hardly wait to see what the next year holds!

 

Small Acre Farm Winter Market and Art Show Dates

Autumn weather has definitely arrived and with it, the end of the outdoor market season.  It was a great season for us.  We got to meet so many new folks and turn them on to our great "fresh from the farm" products.  So many people came back regularly this summer and it was fun to to share what was going on at the farm with each visitor to our booths.

We are headed into our winter market season and I thought I would share our plans.  In addition to The Cupboard in Fort Collins and Distinctively Colorado in Estes Park you will find us at the following places this winter season:

November

21    Winter Market at the Opera Galleria                           9:00-1:00

December

4    CASA Artisan Sale at Harmony House                         5:00-8:00     (This evening is invite only)

4    Fine and Funky Art Boutique at the Opera Galleria    5:00-9:00

5    CASA Artisan Sale at Harmony House                         9:00-4:00

5    Fine and Funky Art Boutique at the Opera Galleria    10:00-6:00

19    Winter Market at the Opera Galleria                           9:00-1:00

January

16    Winter Market at the Opera Galleria                            9:00-1:00

February

13    Winter Market at the Opera Galleria                            9:00-1:00

March

12    Winter Market at the Opera Galleria                             9:00-1:00

April

9    Winter Market at the Opera Galleria                              9:00-1:00

Yes, you are reading that correctly - On the weekend of December 4&5 we will be at both the CASA Artisan Sale and the Fine and Funky Art Boutique.  That will be a long Saturday for both of us so be sure to come by one or both sales and say hi.

 

 

Rhythms and disruptions - English Shepherd puppies at Small Acre Farm, Fort Collins, CO

The rhythms of the farm are everywhere. Starting the day with the early morning scolding of the magpie , the squirt, squirt of the milk in the pail, even the demanding "baa" of the sheep when breakfast is late seems to be in time to some internal ovine musical score.  The work has a rhythm as well.  Feed the chickens and gather the egg, feed the sheep, milk and feed the goats, feed the dogs, clean the milking equipment, breath a sigh. 

And then there are disruptions to the rhythm.  In the spring the birth of goat kids disrupts the rhythm with their noisy entrance to the world, their need for round the clock feeding and their joyful existence that demands participation.  I can't not stop to watch a group of lambs "sproinging" across the pasture or pet the soft new fur of the goat kids as I deliver their breakfast bottles to their wiggly, pushy selves.  

This is summer we had a group that brought total, blissful chaos to the predictable rhythm of the farm.  On May 26 Tilly, our English Shepherd female had 13 puppies.  Helpless at first, then swimming on their bellies around the plastic pool we use, first to contain them then later to give their mother respite from them.  Now, it's not like they were a surprise.  This litter was much anticipated.  This was Tilly and Tuck's (our ES male) first litter together, the first Small Acre Farm litter that was bred on our farm. The two are such different dogs and yet both an excellent representation of their breed.  Tuck is thoughtful to Tilly's bold, goofy to her intention and when visitors come to the farm, Tilly goes to check them out while Tuck comes to check on me.  Yin and Yang, the perfect match.

Back to the chaos on May 26 when at 4:00 pm after MUCH waiting and a whole night of panting, getting up, laying down, shredding my yoga mat and laying in true ES style, belly up on the bed (not allowed), the first puppy made an entrance.  Clear sable boy, followed by tri girl with tail tip, clear sable girl with aviator goggles, two tris in quick succession.  Then I lost track.  Somewhere in there Tilly got fastidious about biting off the umbilical cords and we had a gusher.  Pressure to what was left of the cord and a quick trip to town for styptic and all was right again.  At 11:00 p.m. there were 11 and we thought she was done so we headed into the house for a much needed shower and bed.  At midnight our daughter reported that there were 12 and by morning we had a bakers dozen. 

Tilly settled into a life of nursing, licking and quick potty break so hike we stood around in disbelief and awe at the miracle of life.  The rest of the summer is a big blur filled with wiggles, big slurpy kisses and a wonderful succession of puppy visitors.  Thirteen is a lot of dogs to place and we are committed to the breed and making sure the fit is good for the job and the family.   So many have asked how we can possibly let them go.  I can honestly say that I am just as excited about having them for the first several weeks of their life as I am to see them go on to happy families and farms.  It is such a joy to share these wonderful dogs with others.  There are still a few puppies left from this wonderful litter.  If you are interested you can send me an e-mail at tedi@smallacrefarm.com.

Mobile Hen - Farm Fresh Eggs in Fort Collins, CO

Get your farm fresh eggs delivered to your business in Fort Collins, Colorado by Small Acre Farm

Nothing says farm fresh like fresh eggs!  Did you know that Small Acre Farm offers weekly egg delivery to your business from spring through fall in the Fort Collins Area?  Our delivery area is the square between Harmony Road, Taft Hill, Vine Drive and Lemay Avenue.  If you are outside our delivery area we can bring your eggs to the Fort Collins farmer’s market on Harmony in the Ace Hardware parking lot on Sundays.  

Bars of our goat milk soap can be added to any delivery.  Requests for soap can be placed by text or email by noon the Sunday before egg delivery.  

There are still several egg memberships available.  Contact us to sign up

Delivery day
Tuesdays to your business
Sundays to the Fort Collins Farmers Market

Egg prices (delivered) 
$6.00 per dozen
$3.00 per half dozen

We love it when you recycle your reusable egg cartons with us. Please check our soap store for available soap and prices.

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Most chickens are seasonal layers.  Once the days start getting longer they swing into action! Commercial egg operations and some chicken owners put lights on in their chicken coops to make the hens lay year around.  We let our chickens cycle naturally so that they get a break. Needless to say the first fresh egg of the season is much anticipated.

This year our lovely ladies started laying intermittently in February.  Even in the winter they like to get out around the farm during the day and we were finding eggs in the snow.  That’s the kind of Easter egg hunt I like!  Now they are laying in their boxes and gathering isn’t as much of an adventure (except for the one hen who found a great hiding spot under an overturned wheelbarrow).  

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We love our chickens and we love their farm fresh eggs. Sign up for a "Mobile Hen" subscription today!

Small Acre Farm - Goat Milk Soap Products - Fort Collins Farmers Market & Larimer County Farmers Market

There are many seasons at Small Acre Farm. May heralds farmers market season. This is our second year attending the Fort Collins Farmers Market on Harmony and Lemay and we are excited to join the Larimer County Farmers Market in Old Town for the first time this year!

How will you find us at the markets? Most days you will find me spinning some kind of fibery goodness on my spinning wheel or answering questions about our soap and fiber products. You could also look for the Small Acre Farm banner. We hope to see you there!

Fort Collins Farmers Market
Sundays: 11am - 3pm
1001 E Harmony Rd (Ace Hardware parking lot)
May-Mid November

Larimer County Farmers Market
Saturdays: 8am - 12pm
200 S Oak St (Larimer County Courthouse parking lot)
May 16 - October 24


In addition to the goat milk soap we are known for, we’ll be adding some new products through the season.  After much testing and great feedback, we’ll be unveiling our goat milk dog shampoo soap, know as the “Pooch Bar”. Many folks had asked for a soap for their dog and we are happy to say that it is ready, just in time for mud season. Come grab a bar or two at the Fort Collins Farmers market or check out our soap store online. 

Also new this year is our Farm Laundry Soap and Coconut Oil Stain Sticks. I’ve been using this homemade, natural laundry soap for 6 months now and it is amazing.  I’d heard stories about how great the soap (sometimes referred to as laundry butter) and stain sticks were but I was skeptical.  I am now an enthusiastic convert.  Just this week I put them to the test with my barn coat. This coat was covered in every type of farm goo imaginable.  I treated first with the coconut stain stick and then threw it in the washer with a tablespoon of the farm laundry soap.  I now have a nearly new (30 years old) barn coat. It looks so nice I think I better sew up the tear on the sleeve.  You might not put our farm laundry soap to the same test but you’ll love the results just the same.  Quart jars ($10) and Farm Laundry Kits with laundry soap, stain stick and 3 wool dryer balls ($24) will be available mid May at both markets.

 

Springtime on Small Acre Farm - Kids, Lambs and Puppies - Fort Collins Small Sustainable Farm

Spring is probably the most anticipated time on the farm and this year was no exception.  There is something about the birth of an animal that makes everything right with the world.  

This year has had a lot of ups and downs and I needed that right with the world feeling.  This winter we lost our special BFL ram.  He was such a gentleman and all that I could hope for was that all the ewes were pregnant with his lambs before he died.  Our sheep are pasture bred.  That means we turn the ram out with the ewes in the fall and let nature take its course.  It also means that due dates are a mystery.  So we watch and wait, and wait...and wait.  Every year I go through a period when I am sure no one got bred and there will be no lambs and then the first one arrives.  This year it was Flora, a Teeswater, Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) cross who led the lambing.  Last year Flora had a really hard birth and then she abandon her lamb which resulted in a lamb running around my kitchen for a couple of weeks.  I was pretty worried about what would happen this year.  Flora did not disappoint.  She had two beautiful ram lambs and...picked one.  I tried with the other but she just pushed him away.  When she shoved him into the hay feeder I had had enough and upstairs he went.  All the rest of the births were uneventful except that they waited until after we sheared in April.  All but Flora, had single births.  The current count is four bouncy lambs in the pasture with their mothers and one portly lamb in the barn, growing up with a goat kid who was born around the same time.  There is one more ewe that I think is holding out.  Only time will tell.

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Goat breeding at Small Acre Farm is different than sheep breeding.  Some of our goats are bred by artificial insemination and some are live bred.  Either way, we know pretty accurately when they are due.  This year the goat due dates are all spread out, one in February, two in March, one in April and one in late May.  We raise the kids in the house.  What does that mean?  It means that for the first week someone feeds those kids every four hours around the clock.  Since I am full time on the farm now I usually pull the middle of the night shift during the week.  I have loved having the babies close but this year I was pretty excited to have them move to the barn.  Of course as soon as that happened, another goat would give birth.  Just like the sheep, there is one goat left to kid.  I have three more weeks to sleep peacefully.

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To round out the spring population explosion here at Small Acre Farm, it is a puppy year.  Look for more information about our English Shepherd pair, Tilly and tuck and their upcoming litter in a future blog post.

Spring is surely here and all is right with the world.

TeDi

Chief Shepherdess

Small Acre Farm