Sarah FickenComment

Keeping our faces to the sun and our feet on the ground -- 2015 in review

Sarah FickenComment
Keeping our faces to the sun and our feet on the ground -- 2015 in review

After a difficult last few days of 2014, Chris and I decided to ring in 2015 quietly with my grandparents. We ate cheese and crudite, watched the Dick Clark show, and were happily home and tucked into bed by 12:20 on January 1. What our New Year's celebration lacked in excitement, our year definitely made up for. 

January was spent planning. Empire State Development offered a grant opportunity that we thought would make a great planning exercise. We thought about our guiding principles of social, environmental, and financial sustainability and set goals for ourselves that were in line with these objectives. We envisioned a heifer barn that would provide all the facility needs for our young stock, a cow barn that would accommodate the herd growth we envision for financial sustainability, a manure spreader that would be able to better handle the compost that comes off of our pack, and a mixer wagon so that we could feed our cows exactly what they needed and conserve precious nutrients. We packaged our goals up into the grant application and then created a separate plan for ourselves that would help us realize these goals over the next 10 years. 

February was cold. The polar vortex was no joke and Chris would come in from chores with icicles in his beard and his eyelids frozen shut. We spent most of February feeding the fire, bedding the animals, finding new and creative places to store snow, and trying to get cold diesel engines to start. 

March was a readjustment as I returned to work and Little Miss H started daycare. We redefined our family rhythm and were thankful for the relationship that Little Miss H and Chris forged in the barn. 

April brought the return of life to the farm as the grass greened-up and the birds returned. We improved our pastures, reclaimed old farmland, and ran a lot of fence. Little Miss H and I spent a lot of time clearing fencelines and moving cows. I also had the opportunity to move to a job more closely aligned with the agricultural field. 

May brought exciting news to the farm. At the very end of the month we heard that we had received the big grant that we had applied for in January. Our 10 year plan was suddenly our 6 month plan and we took a deep breath, dug in, and prepared for another long summer of construction. We decided to do first cutting early and got everything baled just as almost thirty days of rain started. 

June saw a lot of rain and the beginning of site prep. What should have been a small project for two barn pads spiraled into almost two months of excavator and dozer work. Not only do we have the barn pads, but we have the storage area we need for our feed, and the security in knowing the hill will not fall down into our barn yard. 

July saw more site prep and the start of concrete work. We built what we affectionately call the Great Wall of Munnsville and finally completed site prep for our barns. We also finished up second cutting and I learned how to drive a tractor. 

Site Prep1.jpg

August saw us catch our breath for just a moment and then dig back in to get the barns built and finish up all the summer stuff. As it always does, the riot of life that is August got the best of my vegetable garden and I lost the battle with the weeds. 

September saw the posts go in, the trusses get placed, and sheet metal go up on the barns. Progress came fast as our builders hustled to get the barns built in order to give us a large enough window to pour the rest of the concrete. 

October saw us begin what felt like an endless number of concrete pours. Day after day, week after week we built forms, poured concrete, stripped forms, and built them back up again. Each pour was a little bit different, but each saw us pause at least once and pray that the forms would hold together. While we had a few close calls, our forms held. 

November saw even more concrete and the creeping fear that we were going to run out of time. Construction on the barns and farm work blurred together in what felt like a final sprint towards a finish line that kept moving further away. 


December saw us hold our breath and hope for just a little bit more good weather and then a little bit more good weather. And today, the very last day of the year, I can say that we have made it. The concrete is all poured, our water and electric lines are run, and our builder comes today to take final measurements for the last details on the barns. Our cows are happily out on pasture (this weather is weird) and we will be ready to move them into their new barns tomorrow. 

2015 was a hectic year. Amidst the push to build two barns, we found time for three (and a half) cuttings of hay, brought calves into the world, milked our cows 730 times, grew our CSA, and strengthened our little family.

What will 2016 hold? I'm not sure. But I can tell you that our hopes center around our daughter and our cows. We want to spend more time as a family; whether that means doing chores together, going to the zoo, or just enjoying quiet meals, we want to make sure that we consciously prioritize our family. We want to focus on settling into the new rhythm of our farm as the cows and we acclimate to the new barns; we want to focus on using our new barns in the best way possible. We want to continue to grow our CSA; the little community of people that visit us on Sundays to pick up their vegetables has become a highlight of our week and we want to continue to see this community expand.