Saturday, March 31, 2012

Meeting Martha

image from
I met Martha Stewart today.  THE Martha Stewart!

She dropped by my Whole Farm Planning class, which happened to be held at the same farm she purchases her herb transplants from.  She was dressed for gardening work - picking up a few things to go into the ground before the rush of Easter planning next week.  Sigh.

I don't care what people say, I really admire Martha.  She has an amazingly talented team working for her.  I aspire to make my life even just 10% as beautiful and thoughtful as Martha's.  I never really dreamt of meeting her, but when she strolled in the room it felt like a dream come true.  I've never been so star struck before.  The first thing I did when I got home was call my 90-year old grandmother - one of Martha's biggest fan's.

Oh, and she's hiring.  She's looking for an energetic female farmer to put 60 acres of her Bedford Farm into crop production.  Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to me!

Friday, March 30, 2012

One Month till Closing!

image via pinterest
I woke up this morning and did the "one month till closing" dance!  And then I remembered that there's still a chance that this property may not work out, so I stopped.  But then I went right back to dancing again because it feels good and the part of me that's excited always wins out.

The ups and downs of purchasing a farm are endless.  Before dinner I was a little stressed over the estimate for electrical repairs on the house and the barn (over $6,500 of work!) and then after dinner I was back to wiggling around because my Farm Tax Exemption Permit came in the mail.  I guess that's just how the cookie crumbles...

...speaking of cookies, there's a fresh batch calling my name from the kitchen.  Happy Friday, folks!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Check out my essay on the NYFC!

The National Young Farmers Coalition posted an essay I wrote on their website this morning!  During the upcoming season I will join a few other "Bootstrap Bloggers" to document my first year farming solo.  It should be quite an adventure!

Check out the essay HERE.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Farm Logo

Pretty cool, huh?!?  This is starting to feel SO real.  :-)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Visit to my Future Farm

image from

I was so happy to visit my future farm again today.  So happy.

I only wish I could have brought a paint brush, drill, and plow so that I could have gotten started on the GROWING list of projects that need to be done.  I can't stop thinking about all of the work.  And then I think of even more things that need to be done (for example, while looking at repairing the front stone wall so I can see pulling out of the driveway, I realized that the trash storage container is broken, and that I also need a mailbox, and that the driveway needs regrading...phewf).

I know that once I move in and get started, I'll feel better.  I'll also feel much more exhausted and some of the little projects will feel much less important in comparison to the rest of the work that needs to be done.

Meetings with the contractors went pretty well.  The general contractor thinks the apartment porch just needs to be reinforced, not to have stronger beams and new footings like I thought (score!).  The electrician agrees that the house needs some work, but thought the existing panel will serve us just fine until we're ready to tackle renovation projects on that room of the house.  He can also rewire the barn, but in order to do so the barn needs to be water-tight (which makes sense).  This means repairing the roof (which I had planned), as well as the windows and the door.  The heating contractor agreed the furnace should be replaced with something more energy efficient, but recommended a much more simple system than the last guy I brought in.  And the folks from the local family flooring company were friendly and gave a very reasonable estimate.  Actually, everyone who came was extremely nice and patient in explaining things to me.

It feels so good to be surrounded by such helpful, supportive people.

While I was at the house I took a bunch of photos for K, collected soil samples, and got to speak with the current tenants.  Initially I thought I would start fresh with the rental agreement, but the kid that lives there now is very polite, willing to sign our new contract, and actually interested in farming.  Maybe he was just telling me what I wanted to hear, but he seemed genuinely excited about the farm and expressed strong interest in helping out.  How lucky and I?  :-)

I'll answer that for you - I'm EXTREMELY lucky and INCREDIBLY fortunate.  Even when I have moments of bad luck, I'm surrounded by so many people that love me.  And in less than 5 weeks my dream is coming true.  How awesome is that?

Pretty awesome.  :-D

Monday, March 26, 2012

5 weeks to go!

image from

I spent some quality time with my google calendar this week (my, oh my, do I love those color coordinated tabs!) and realized how quickly time is passing.  Only two weeks until Easter and (more excitingly) 5 WEEKS until the closing on my farm! Ahhhhhhh!!!

...okay, back from doing a quick dance around the kitchen table!  I'm excited.  REALLY excited.  And then I start thinking about all of the work that needs to be done in the first few weeks of May and I get totally overwhelmed.  It's exhausting.

I'm so eager to get started.

Tomorrow I am going back to the house to meet with an electrician, a second heating/cooling contractor, a flooring installer, and a general contractor to get the final round of estimates.  Then Wednesday the current owners move back home and it's likely I won't return to the house until the walk-through, the week before closing.  This next month is going to go by quickly!

In the meantime, I have plenty of work to do.  My to-do list is growing and my biggest project this week is setting up the infrastructure I'll need to stay organized.  That, and continuing to stay on top of all of the paperwork and people I need to assist me in this process.  (Oh, and finish re-finishing some of the furniture for our house!  AND continue to gather farm supplies and make plans!).  Goodness me!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Over Breakfast

K snapped these photos out the window over breakfast this morning.  The chickens always seem to know when we sit down for a meal and love to join us in the garden for a snack of their own.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday...and a send off!

Can you tell which week I usually like to order my spring chicks?  ;-)

Happy Birthday Honey Sunshine (the fluffiest chicken with the sweetest peep!)

And to Neckie!  Uncle K's best friend and the girl who can always make me laugh!

P.S.  I'm off to UMass (woohoo alma mater!) to attend the Beginning Women Farmers conference on Holistic Planning for a few days, and then stopping by to wish my girls a happy birthday in real life!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


image by sharon montrose
Okay, okay...I'm (slightly) lame.

But a HOORAY is in order because the current owners agreed to pay for the radon mitigation!  I submitted the request today and they called right back - a few hours later there was a radon expert at the house taking measurements and getting things done.

It sounds a little overly-magical, but it totally renewed my faith in mankind.  Ever since I got burned with the last farm, I've been worried the same thing would happen with this property.  But there are good people in the world.  And people who do the right thing.  It feels good to negotiate.

And with that, I'm one big step closer to getting the farm!  The water test came back today too - the water is drinkable, but has a lot of iron and some sediment.  A filter will take care of that.  The septic inspection report came  in the mail today as well - all clear.  Just waiting on the radon in the water test.

I also took care of a lot of little business with the loan office today.  I still have some paperwork to gather and send over (I need some second estimates on some of the house work), and I'm still waiting to set a date for the appraisal, but I'm in good shape.  Pulling together all of the puzzle pieces.

I'll take a day full of good people and good news whenever I can manage!  :-D

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Happy Two Years to some of my favorite members of the flock!

Princess Ballerina (my ever-so-special little girl who can only see out of one eye)

Saphera (the grumpiest, most miserable chicken that made me a grandmother last summer when she hatched her own chick!)

Maypearl (always curious and always so happy to see me)

Marla (biggest thunder-thighs in the flock/best baywatch-style run)

Dottie Girl (independent to the core - always escaping and getting into trouble)

Speckles (my buddy - the best at snuggling and the source of dozens of scars on my legs)

Hard to believe this picture was taken two years ago!  Here's to ALL of the adventures the next two years will bring!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Money in the Bank

DOUBLE double yolkers!

I opened a small business checking account for the farm today!

That's right - money in the bank.  I transferred $3,000 into the account for farm start-up expenses (seeds, feed, tools, etc), and with my sales tax ID, I'll also be able to accept and deposit money (that is, once I actually have a farm and begin selling CSA shares and other farm products).  We're in business.

(Setting up a bank account was simple, but took quite a bit of research.  I thought that I wanted to open an account at a local credit union, but it turns out the banks around here have monthly maintenance fees between $10-40 a month, in addition to requiring a minimum balance of $5,000-$10,000.  In the end I decided that it wasn't worth it for the small amount of business I'm planning on doing this season.  I set up the account with Peoples United Bank - which has two nearby locations and offers free banking for small businesses.)

To set up a business banking account, I also needed to obtain a trade certificate from the town clerk.  I decided to get this from the town I currently live in (rather than the town I'm buying the farm in) because it's less expensive and because for now, this is where the business is.  It was much more simple than I thought and now our farm name - Full Heart Farm - is registered with the town and can't be used for another business.

The business end of things is pretty well set (I just need help drafting a biosecurity plan in order to obtain a poultry dealer's license - in case of avian influenza).  Another round of images came back from our graphic designer and we're close to having a logo, with a website to follow.  My growing plans are shaping up.  I feel like we're getting there.

The only thing I need is the FARM!  I'm trying not to get too nervous about the radon levels or the water test - hopefully negotiations with the homeowners will be settled this week (and I'm even more hopeful that they'll cover the cost).  I'm also optimistic that my budget paperwork from the loan office will be completed soon and the appraisal scheduled shortly.  So many pieces of the puzzle still need to come together...

Monday, March 19, 2012


image via pinterest

The results from the radon test came back today...and they're not good.  Not good at all.

The EPA likes to see test results under 2 pCi/L (the unit of measure for radon).  Results over 4 pCi/L require mitigation.  My house came back at 10.7 pCi/L.

I spent the afternoon researching radon (which I didn't know much about at all) and called a few specialists (who I still haven't heard back from).  I think THIS is the best resource I found for really understanding what radon is, why it's a problem, and how to fix it.

My agent had a home a few weeks ago with a radon problem, and the cost of mitigation was $1,200.  Because this house is on a slab foundation, most likely I will need to have a contractor install a pipe underneath the house that vacuums the air from under the house and fans it out into the air (where it's diluted to a safe level).  The house will need to be monitored every two years to be sure the problem doesn't return.

Radon can cause lung cancer and right now the house is unlivable.  The problem will need to be dealt with before I can move in, and I'm pretty sure in order to get the mortgage.  I expect the current owners to fix the radon problem and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will.  Otherwise, this could be a deal breaker.  I can't invest $1,200 into a house I might not own.  If the owners were having doubts, this is their way out of the contract.

The home inspector also came and took a second water sample today.  I'm hoping they cover the cost of the replacement test ($85) because they could offer no explanation for the error.  More importantly, I hope that the test comes back clean this time (after running the water pipes in the house for a while) and without radon in the water (which is more dangerous and more costly to fix than water in the air).

I'm trying not to get too worked up about the "what-ifs."  It helps that I spent the day outside in the sun with a power-sander refinishing some furniture for our new home.  Well, I hope it was for our home.  Let's just hope that the current owners agree to mitigate for radon and will take care of any issues with the water.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We have a!

First off, how gorgeous was this weekend?  I forgot how much my body just needs the sun; it feels so good.

In addition to soaking up the sun this weekend (and walking the beach, grilling burgers, and hanging out with the chickens...oh yes, it's spring), I made a few steps towards setting up my farm business.  After meeting with a business consultant from Farm Credit East on Friday afternoon, I decided to establish the farm as a sole proprietorship this first season.  I plan to transition to an LLC next season when I'll officially have a farm partner and may need to hire staff.  Until then, the cost doesn't seem to outweigh the benefits.

So today I filled out paperwork for a tax id number and farm tax exemption permit (through the department of revenue services) and a license to deal live birds (needed to sell custom slaughter chickens, filed through the department of agriculture.  Tomorrow I'll register the farm name (which you can't do on Sundays, through the secretary of state).  The rest of the paperwork will need to be filed out with the local government, or wait until after I've officially purchased the property.

It's a leap of faith, to do all of this work before the farm is mine.  There is still so much that could go wrong, and when I think about it I get a pit in my stomach.  Optimism is much more settling.  And I know that if I don't get this preliminary work done now, I'll be totally overwhelmed when May comes and vegetables need to be seeded, chickens need to be fed, and the house needs painting.  Heck, I'll be overwhelmed no matter what I do to get ahead.

So, in the spirit of trusting that things work out, I also picked up a few farm supplies this weekend.  (All with receipts and a 90-day return policy, just in case).  I hope to set up a farm business account early this week and tentatively begin purchasing a few more tools that could be returned.  

I was really excited to find exactly the container I imagined for packing my CSA shares.  I was looking for something plastic (so that it can be bleached and cleaned, in accordance to Good Agricultural Practices), ventilated, and sized to hold 5-10 pounds of produce.  I also was looking for containers that nested in one another for storage, but that stacked on-top one another for transport (so nothing gets squished and so they don't slide around the truck too much).

Target had exactly what I was looking for - for less than $5 a piece.  The handles flip, so they can be stored both ways.  And they had the perfect pea green color.  Sure, I could pack my shares in cheaper cardboard boxes , but I'm hoping these containers hold up for many seasons and show our shareholders just how much we care about clean, aesthetically pleasing food.

It only took 5 trips to different Targets to pick up the 40 crates I estimate I will need!

I also picked up some matching 15-gallon tubtrugs.  I love tubtrugs because they are easy to carry and easy to wash.  And I think these square tubs will also fit nicely in the truck.

During the day it's easier to get excited - especially when it's so sunny and I'm excited to start working outside again.  Then the sun sets, and I worry about the radon and water tests (which I'm expecting the results for early this week) and the appraisal (coming soon).  I'm nervous.  I've invested a lot of money and time and emotions into this project and I don't have a back-up plan if this doesn't work out.  But I just have to trust that it will.

Thank goodness the forecast is for sunny weather this week!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Still Waiting on Inspection Reports

image from

The home inspection yesterday was exhausting, but went well.

At one point in the morning, myself, my brother, my mom, and my real estate agent were trying to attend to/help the listing agent, home inspector, two septic inspectors, two well pup specialists, the radon inspector, a heating specialist, and a flooring and counter specialist.  That's a lot of people, and there were moments of chaos, but for the first time I was really happy to see a community of people gather together to help me get my farm up and running.

Even if we did spend almost two hours looking for the septic tank and never quite figured out the well situation.

Overall, the only unanticipated challenges were with the electrical work, which the homeowners hired an electrician to repair, but who didn't do a good job.  They didn't even do a satisfactory job.  Next week I will most likely bring in another company to give a second opinion, and depending on how high the cost is, I may ask the current owners to renegotiate.

The septic tank for the apartment was simple to find, but the tank for the house was a whole different issue.  It wasn't where the map from the septic company thought it was, and it wasn't where the map from the town said it was either.  They poked around the whole yard looking for the cover and using a wand to track an indicator that they flushed down the toilet.  Finally they found it - right underneath the house where they had added on.  I panicked for a minute, but after flushing two buckets of water down the toilet, we realized that the indicator just got stuck and that the tank is actually right at the front door.  Thank goodness.

The tanks ended up looking fine and passing inspection, and the good news is that because the leach field is in the front yard (where we just intended to let the dog hang out), instead of in the back yard (as the maps indicated), I now have at least another quarter acre field opened up for growing.  Hooray!

The well for the barn, chicken coop, and main field is total crap.  The cover had slid off the already-fairly-crappy-well a while back (really the only reason I had found it to begin with) and it was just filled with dead animals and debris.  Too much disrepair to make it worth fixing - the well company advised I filled it in.

Thankfully, the main well (which supplies the house, garage, and apartment) is pretty deep and had a very steady supply of 10 gallons per minute for over an hour.  They believe this is more than enough water for my needs, and if not, they can hydrofrack to extend the supply down the road.  For this upcoming season (and probably next) hoses will have to supply water to the barn and garden (at least there is an outlet near the garage hose, so I can use a frost-free hose in the winter!).  Down the road we can reconnect the faucets to the working well.  The unanswered question involves a second well pump in the house, with pipes leading out to the yard.  It's not currently supplying water, but it could indicate a third well on the property that we were unable to find.

The written inspection report didn't say much - actually a lot less than the last house.  I won't have the radon test back until next week, and I wasn't expecting the water test back either.  Unfortunately the water testing company emailed over a letter this morning saying that they could not perform the water tests because there was too much chlorine in the water.  I'm still trying to get a better understanding of how much is too much, and what that means in terms of use and cost of repair.  I know that sometimes chlorine is added to city/well water if the bacterial counts are too high, but the current owners are perplexed as they've never added anything to the well water.  Still waiting back on a few phone calls before I can figure out what to do next.

The estimates on home repairs have also started rolling in.  I was pretty spot-on with most of them, except for the flooring estimate and the countertops.  We'll have to think more creatively about how to get a quality product closer to our price range.  I'll figure something out.  Then hopefully I can present the package to the lending agency and take out additional money on my mortgage to do the essential repairs.

This afternoon I'm off to a meeting with a business advisor, hoping to get some questions answered and progress made on that end of things.  Buying a farm really is a full-time job!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inspiration from Unexpected Places

Just over a year ago I received a VERY unexpected phone call from the post office at 7:30 in the evening.  Long story short: a box of 50 day-old chicks (destined for Kentucky) were accidentally shipped to me were officially mine.  That means I had the choice to ship them back to the hatchery (knowing none of them would survive the two day trip without food or water) or I could bring them back to my house, where I already had a batch of week-old chicks basking under the heat lamp in a children's swimming pool in my living room.  (I prefer to raise chicks in a pool because it's easy to wash, and because I can tell everyone who calls to check in that I am lounging by the pool).

Needless to say, I brought the peeping box home and set up a make-shift brooder to raise the chicks.

My life was utterly chaotic for a few weeks.  Two separate batches of chicks living in recycled appliance boxes in my living room made for noisy and dusty roommates.

(in case you doubted me - that's 12 hours worth of chick dusted accumulated on my dresser!)

Just in case you don't remember last winter - there was a CRAZY amount of snow.  Once the chicks grew wing feathers, my house was a scene from "Chicks Gone Wild."  When the surprise poops and peeps of "help!" in the middle of the night grew wearisome, I moved all of the chicks into one large playpen on the porch for a few weeks.

hay bales, baby fencing, and towels hanging on rope make the perfect temporary barn (well, maybe not perfect)

(part of the gang - can you spot neckie???)

As the chicks grew, as did my worries about their future.  I had fallen in love (instantly, of course) and desperately wanted to keep all of them.  I reasoned that 50 chicks (in addition to the 20-ish layers I already had) would make the perfect sized flock for egg sales at the farmers' market I ran.  I would build a movable coop and raise them in the pasture behind my house and eat quiche and egg salad sandwiches every day.  A could-have-been disaster turned into my first farm business.

first day outside!

So you can imagine that I was DEVASTATED when the owners of the farm I was working at told me that I couldn't keep any of the chicks.  I needed to find new homes for all of girls, and I had to be sure they were all good homes. It took a lot of searching (and math!) to divide the flock into several homes, but I managed to find wonderful farms for everyone to live at, as well as cover the expense of feeding and caring for them for two-three months.  (well, that's not entirely true - I kept honey sunshine, neckie, gertrude, and poquita and re-homed a few of my older hens).

A bunch of the chicks went to live at the Yale University student farm, where they've become a really important part of their educational programs.  Another bunch went to a nearby community farm with a vegetable CSA.  Smaller groups were adopted by nearby families looking for homegrown eggs.

For one of the families, raising the chickens didn't quite work out.  I found out today that several months ago they were re-homed to a nearby farm.  I ran into the farmer there today and she made a point of telling me how influential the chickens have been.  They have raised around 100 layers for several years, a standard red sex link variety.  But with the addition of the heritage birds, their customers started asking about the different colored eggs and becoming really interested.

The chickens caused the farmer to re-think that aspect of their business, and now their installing a hoop house to raise their birds in a healthier manner and are thinking of raising more heritage birds.  It's the tiniest detail (and really had nothing to do with me), but it really made me re-think my circumstances.

If I had kept all of those chicks, I wouldn't have been able to "retire" and pursue my dream of having my own farm. All of the families and farmers that have been affected by the personalities of hand-raised chickens (and their delicious eggs!) might still be shopping for breakfast at the supermarket.  A local farmer might not have considered eggs a viable part of their farm business.  

In the end, things worked out better than I could have planned.  It's the moral of the story time and time again, but it's still really hard to remember when you're living with disappointment.

Today I drove by the Lebanon farm and for the first time saw all of the ways the Ledyard farm was a better fit for ME.  I won't know until the closing date if this farm really is "the end" of the story, but I'm realizing more and more that, as always, things may work out better than I first planned.

I'm SO eager to get through the inspections and meet with the slew of contractors coming to give estimates on home improvements tomorrow.  I won't have all of the information I need, but by the weekend I should have a pretty good  idea of where we stand.  I'm just hoping that there are no big surprises and I can enjoy a relaxing weekend filled with hiking, chickens, and shepard's pie.

Speaking of pie, happy pi day!  :-)