It was September 8, 2015 that we closed on our new home. One year later and there is still plenty of work to do, but looking back we can realize just how many changes we have been able to make.
When we first started working on the property in the fall of last year, still living at our old home, the barn was our primary focus. We knew that when we moved we'd be bringing all of our animals with us, and we knew that we'd be adding quite a few animals in the spring as well. In addition to that, we were going to be living at least partially in the barn, meaning it would need running water and some electricity.
We cleaned out old stall dividers, several sagging haylofts, replaced rotten floors, moved out dozens of bales of mildewy old hay and falling apart machinery, and shoveled out twenty-year old piles of cow manure. It took us most of the winter to bring the structure back from a solid building full of debris to something we could work with. Once we'd brought it back, we put in stall areas for the geese, chickens, and goats, and planned out an open kitchen. We put in electricity for hot plates and a crockpot to cook with, added running water (hot and cold!) and an outdoor shower. By April of this year, we were ready to move in.
While the space may seem rustic by many standards, it is a world of difference from the interior of the barn a year ago. What was once a dirty, dusty, decrepit space is now clean, comfortable, and full of the warm bustle of daily activity. We don't have much more to do on the barn, unless we decide to start using the space in new ways. It is the perfect place for our animals, and when we move the kitchen into our home I will no doubt miss working in this one.
I have fewer pictures of the condition of the fields when we first moved. What had been used for haying a few decades ago was overgrown with bushy evergreens and invasive plants, and the areas along the stonewalls that surround the fields were overgrown with saplings. It took a few mowings with a brush hog to bring them to grass, and in the meantime we worked down the walls with chainsaw and clippers until they were more exposed.
The fields immediately around the house and barn are now clear, and the dry summer helped us work up the hills and into areas that would normally be swampy. Further down the fields, we've got plenty more work to do clearing back still more woodland. For now, we have a lovely pasture space for our animals and plenty of fields to work with as we start our gardens and crops.
We have done much less work to the house, but the two front rooms are comfortable living spaces that stay warm on cool nights and cool on hot summer days. We've closed off most of the rest of the house, which is in need of more major renovation, until we're ready to start on that project.
Perhaps most amazing to me about the progress that we've made is how much of it we were able to do ourselves. We had the help of some wonderful friends and neighbors in clearing the fields and doing the electrical and plumbing work, but nearly all of the demolition and construction work in the barn was done with our combined four hands. Once we had settled on this place, it wasn't hard to motivate ourselves to put in the extra miles of work to turn it into what we had envisioned, and through this project the power of hard work and determination was confirmed for me.
It has been a long year. In fact, looking back, it is hard to believe that it has been only a year. But it certainly has been one of most exciting years of my life, and one full of positive change through hard work. We are looking forward to another year of moving forward and continuing to expand our growing farm.
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