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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Totes Ma Goats! Has It Been A Year Already?

Back in the 1950's, Bob & Sue Palmer purchased a beautiful piece of land located in the heart of the Mozarks - now better known as SweetWater Farm.  The Palmer family settled in at the homestead and paved the way for future generations to appreciate & nurture the vision of Bob & Sue Palmer.  Today, we are ever so grateful to Grandpa & Grandma Palmer and the whole Palmer family for giving us the opportunity to bring life back to the farm in hopes to revitalize Bob & Sue Palmer's vision of creating a home for future generations to come.

My 1st visit to SweetWater - Love at first sight (Nathan & SweetWater)
 So after one full year on the farm, let's see how Nate & I have done at becoming farmers & setting up new foundations for the future.    It is often easy to overlook how much we have accomplished when we have an ever growing list of things we still need to do. Now that I stop and look at our 1st year learning the ins & outs of farming, I have to say I am pretty proud of us!  It hasn't always been easy, but it has been worth every bump & bruise along the way. Of course there have been plenty of laughter and fun adventures too!

Can you guess which one is the farm fresh egg?
Well, truth be told, it all started with 13 chickens.  Most of which turned out to be roosters! Those silly chickens sure did teach us a lot in a short amount of time. I remember the first time we lost a baby bird, I was devastated.  I was adjusting to being part of a world where I was no longer so removed from life & death.  As our chicken population has grown (oh and how it has grown) I have been able accept the nature of life and loss on a farm.  Nate & I have been able to take comfort in the idea that we are now aware of the value of the food we eat.  It took a while to butcher our first set of roosters and it will never be an easy thing to do, but I know they had one heck of a life - Spoiled and loved. Each of the animals of this farm is appreciated for the role they play in helping it grow into a thriving homestead.  We never take lightly a loss; whether it be planned or unplanned.

We are grateful for each little life that crosses our paths.  (Of course you probably figured that out by the ridiculous number of animal pictures I have posted over the year).

Gratuitous Animal Photos For Your Viewing Pleasure

Well if you have 13 chickens, you most likely need a tractor. Huh, say what?  Actually a chicken tractor comes in handy, but forgive me I just had a "Give a Mouse a Cookie" moment.  Anyway, it became apparent to us early on that we needed to invest in hay equipment sooner than we had planned.  So thanks to Nate's many talents, we were able to find cheap used equipment.  Honestly,  I still marvel at how talented Nate is when it comes to bringing life back into those old rusty machines.  Anyone who knows him knows what I am talking about when I say he is one smart cookie!  Nate pulled apart each machine piece by piece and rebuilt them better than before.  I honestly think we could sell our $800.00 tractor back for almost 3 to 4 times as much after he fixed and improved it.  I think probably one of the coolest things I have noticed when we have visitors is how much we both have learned.  Both our farming lexicons have grown exponentially.  We can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about chickens, goats, ducks, gardening, different types of grass, hay equipment and so on.  Most of it we learned as we went, but neither of us is afraid to do a little homework on a topic, read up or ask someone with experience.

Lots of  "new" (used) equipment being prepped for this upcoming year.
So after one successful trial run in hay cutting this last fall, we are prepping the grounds for our first full fledged cutting.  Nate cut back the dead grass and it is now growing back healthy & strong.  We are excited to spend this hay season putting extra time & love into the fields.  We hope to till, aerate, and seed the land where needed in order to help it produce quality organic hay.  We understand that it will take a lot of work and may limit our production this year, but establishing a good foundation in the beginning will lead to many years of top quality hay to come.

In fact, as I write this Nate is out checking & greasing up all the equipment.  Every little extra preparation step you take on the farm not only can save you money, but make or break your success for the season.  So as the weather begins to warm, we are out prepping machines, soil, plants, shelters and so on in order to keep our busy season manageable and successful.  Of course, I make sure we still find time for fun!

Being Silly Billies
Mental Note - Need to remember to get pictures of all our visitors.
Speaking of fun, we have been so lucky to have lots of visitors this past year.  We love how supportive and interested our friends and family have been in what we have done so far.  It really motivates us to keep pushing along in order to make this a place for family and friends to visit.  We know there is still a lot of work to do, but we have learned to take it one project at a time.  Of course we love all the compliments and smiles we have received from our family & visitors, but we love to hear their ideas, suggestions, and questions too!  So thanks to the family and friends who visited us so far (Even those who could only visit via this blog). Plus Nate & I are excited about more visitors coming this year.  It is going to be great! (The chickens promise to keep the ticks away from the house if you don't mind wearing your muck boots).

Meet the Welcome Wagon!
Oh my, I barely touched the surface of what we accomplished this last year.  We built a 60 foot greenhouse, patched fences, cleared out dead trees, hatched our own chickens, improved our water system, started preparing our hydroponic/fish tanks for watering the greenhouse, fixed the ponds, haying & equipment of course, found great deals on equipment for the farm, started prepping for the sea crate house and equipment garage, improved temporary housing for various animals, & of course assisted in the birth of baby goats.

 How much did I miss on that list?  Probably more than I realize, but now it is time for the future.

We have lots of ambitious goals this year and I bet we will surprise ourselves at how much we get done.  So once we sit and plan some of this with the family, expect to hear about a pole barn for the hay/equipment, plans for a barn for our critters, the sea crate house and work space, plans for a family lodge, abundance of vegetables from our greenhouse & outside garden (hopefully we can grow our own feed for the animals), more trees and bushes planted along the creek, in the orchard and various places where they are needed, incorporating solar & wind energy onto the farm, running a waterline to the house, fun projects like goat milk soap, goat cheese, homemade toothpaste & deodorant (already did one of those)...

whoa..I get excited and a little overwhelmed thinking about it all...but we are a good team so I have faith we will do a pretty decent job this year too!

So far we are off to a great start.  The first warm day, we did a dance of joy for having survived the winter. Then we got back to work. Having started seeds indoors from our Heirloom seed collection, we were ready to start prepping the garden and greenhouse.  Nate tilled the garden area and I let the chickens do the tilling, aerating and fertilizing of the greenhouse.  Once I finally kicked the chickens out, I started planting.  I have half of the plants in the greenhouse planted and should be done in the next day or two.  Nate has one more tilling of the garden area and we have a rock throwing date in our future.  Then we string some electric fence through the old fence. We need to keep those naughty goats out of the garden. I expect there will be a few unwelcome breaches in the future, but every win for the goats and chickens is a learning experience for us.  (I am pretty sure Nate will groan and possibly cuss when he reads that line - haha).  Once the fence is ready, we have some planting to do.  Oh and my smart Nathan already has the irrigation lines set up and watering system more or less ready to go.  Plus we just might be cutting hay in the next month! Woohoo!  I cannot wait to try out the new hay wagon.  As you can see, we are already on the ground and running for this year. It feels good to be outside and getting our hands dirty again.

I cannot end this post without talking about how lucky we have been to start developing great relationships with our neighbors.  As we finally settled in and got our footing, we were able to start turning our gaze away from the farm for a bit.  We are so happy to report how supportive our neighbors have been.  I cannot tell you how helpful it is to have a good local support system when living on a farm.  We have been able to share ideas, equipment, our time, animals, and produce in order to help each other out.  We have been able to sneak away from our daily chores and have fun playing games, discussing ideas, plans, life beyond the farm. So many thanks to our wonderful neighbors.

I am starting to get funny stares from the SweetWater I better wrap up this post. Apparently, I have been reminded I have chores I need to be taking care of this evening.

SweetWater locals settling in for the night.

Having heard many wonderful stories about Grandpa & Grandma Palmer, I think they would be and are pretty happy with SweetWater today. When I think about Grandpa "Bob" Palmer looking down on SweetWater, I think about my own dad, who I lost 2 years ago yesterday.  I am pretty sure they are both up there smiling at our hard work and dedication this past year.  I know they would have their sleeves rolled up and helping us if they could.  We are pretty lucky to have such supportive grandparents, moms, dads, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, and friends.  Thanks for joining us so far on this journey.  We hope that you continue to follow our adventures in this next coming year.

 Thanks for visiting us on the farm! 

Always Nate, Lily & Our Critter 
SweetWater Diaries 
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  1. May this year be as wonderful as last year with more progress toward your research and development of farming on Sweetwater......I have enjoyed following your journal through the year. My love always, Mom Holland

  2. Cried while reading this...Well, I am Nathan's mother...thank you Lily a million times you both. Mom Kardos (can't wait to meet Mom Holland)