After nearly 15 months of chaos, uncertainty, and surprises, I am so pleased to share we've finally planted new roots in Bloomingdale, Michigan. Our new farm sits on 14 beautiful acres in the middle of a very small town only 20 minutes from Lake Michigan and 40 minutes from Kalamazoo. We have a century-old barn, large chicken coop, beautiful steel workshop and garage, a gigantic hay barn, an old corn crib, three large pastures, a dry pasture, a 3-walled animal shelter, and all the berry bushes you can imagine. We've found pussywillow growing wild, a grove of beautiful birch trees, and a strip of forest that backs up to the Kal-Haven trail, a 30+ mile state-owned walking, biking, and snowmobiling path that runs from South Haven to Kalamazoo.
The house itself was built in the early 1900's, with the kitchen added on in the 1970's and the mudroom much later, likely the early 2000's. The upper level hosts 3 bedrooms, built-in cabinets and shelving, and a full bath. My favorite thing about the upper level is that with a quick race down the hall, you can see the skies and property from every direction. There are so many beautiful windows! The lower level contains the mudroom, kitchen, dining room, hall, another full bath with an antique clawfoot tub, our beloved living room, and a library. My absolute favorite room in the house is my little library. We added shelves to the handmade wood-plank walls and all of my treasures (books....my treasures are books) are on display all day, ere'y day. We have two front doors - neither of which we ever use - and the plan is to build a wrap-around porch with only one set of stairs in the back of the home so we can hide those front doors and use them exclusively as exterior porch doors for the summertime (the house doesn't have central air). I have pictures of our beautiful new house, along with our wonderful farm sign, on our Instagram page.
Our home is heated exclusively with wood heat, something I knew nothing about until we moved in here in October of last year and had to learn (quickly) to adapt to. It's actually one of the coolest things about this property and I am delighted our heat comes from a renewable source. It makes you rethink the entire concept of spring planning - now is the time to stock up on wood for the winter. Finding, cutting, chopping, stacking, and burning wood is such a critical and enjoyable skill to have, even if it does come with a bit of a learning curve.
We've had a very busy 6 months! The home sale/home purchase and move was incredibly stressful, and not only because we were trying to haul our entire lives, two adults, two kids, two dogs, one 3-legged cat, 10 chickens, and of course some of my plant babies. Bearded man was also in the middle of starting a brand-new job. I was in the middle of trying my hand at homeschooling (I'll need to write a post about this later because it's one of the best decisions I've ever made), finalizing the girls' adoption by the bearded man, holding our private wedding and adoption ceremony, and I also had to dissolve Dancing Feathers as a business entity in Illinois and learn how to create a new business entity in Michigan. Turns out it's incredibly simple, intuitive, and another skill worth knowing!
During the moving process I realized with intense sorrow my very favorite organization, Operation Wild Horse, wasn't moving with me. I missed my weekly lessons, the friends I'd made there, and the horse I rode, Rooster, very very much. After a few months of driving back and forth, and realizing that wouldn't work so well in winter and was hard on my family and farm responsibilities, I decided to reach out to Patti, OWH's Program Director and friend who taught me everything I know about mustang horses and western dressage. I knew OWH, like many, many nonprofits, suffered major financial setbacks due to COVID shutdowns. They depend on fundraising to financially support the OWH mustang herd and with every event cancelled, funds weren't coming in. Horses aren't like people - they can't reduce spending by just cutting out cable TV and coffee. Their care is justifiably costly, they require constant upkeep to stay healthy, and after the lives they led before arriving at OWH, they all deserve the very best care possible. But such care requires dollars...and COVID sadly made those dollars extremely difficult to find. So I made my position to Patti clear - I told her I have an old barn that once housed horses, I have time every day to dedicate to caring for my animals, I have 14 acres to ride around, and I have an undying love for Rooster, the beautiful red roan who stole my heart. I still can't believe it, but she said I would be Rooster's perfect forever home.
So the barn renovation began. We needed a new roof (only a quarter of it left to panel as of today!), we needed to gut the interior, rebuild the interior, fix the electrical, scrape, sweep, and scrub off the residue of 100 years of conventional animal farming, fix doors, windows, ceilings, and floors, build stalls, and about a million other things - and we needed to do it all ourselves. We've worked around the clock almost every day since my conversation with Patti. We adopted two burros to keep Rooster company and they are set to arrive any day. It's a mad dash to the finish line and I can't wait to get there!!
We've also begun building this farm up so we can be self-sufficient. We now own four goats, an Alpine buck named Jerry, an Alpine doeling named Maggie Sue, a Nupine (Apline/Nubian cross) doeling named Mable, and we just adopted a Nubian doe named Promise. I learned very quickly how to bottle feed and to be totally honest Maggie and Mable are such joys. They have this amazing baby goat smell and they are always so happy to see me, I just adore them. We have our ten laying hens that we moved over here in the back of a rented moving truck and they've settled in beautifully with their new, huge run and chicken coop. We also picked up 20 new layer chicks to free-range around the goat pastures and help keep the soil clean and healthy. We have a number of (spayed) barn cats, one of whom is the most delightful and hilarious fluffy orange cat in the world. Our kitchen garden is in and plants getting transplanted as we speak! I'm trying a ton of new veggies and fruits this year - including artichoke, brussels sprouts, and aronia berries. We hope to get feeder pigs next year, when we've had a chance to take a breather and settle in a little.
I've never really tiptoed into anything in life. I dive right in, usually without really knowing what's in the water. It certainly has its setbacks, like anxiety, stress, mistakes, and financial hardship....but I do know one thing: I'll get the privilege of leaving this life having learned and experienced more than I ever thought possible.
I'm overjoyed to reopen the farm store and share the fruits of our labor with you. Thank you so much for continuing on this journey with us. Stay tuned...there's so much more to come.