This is our motto and why we love living, working and recreating in the country. Our farmhouse is our platform for outdoor living on the farmette. While we will never attain living off of the grid, self-sufficiency and independence motivate most of our decisions.
You can't live on a farmette without having a good tractor.
On the northern farmette, we use the kioti tractor, nicknamed Elmo. Our kioti is a 4-wheel drive, 30hp with a front loader and a 72in brush mower. We also have a post hole auger for putting in fence posts and trees.
In Virginia, we have Animal and Kermit. Kermit is a 25hp lawn tractor with a 60in mowing deck and a 3pt hitch for the 48in rototiller.
Animal is a 65hp, 52 pto hp farm tractor with a front loaded and a huge, 10ft pull mower.
All of our tractors are used often and for many purposes. In addition to mowing thegrass and fields, the tractors also till gardens, remove trees, plant trees, haul debris, plow snow and tow cars.
I am always looking for ways to recycle and use biodegradable items.
The issue of plastic has been bothering me recently. Plastic never degrades, and is filling up the oceans with mountains of garbage.
However, I have cats, and they insist on using tons of litter. I have not found any good ideas on emptying their litter except with trash bags. And although I reuse the grocery store plastic bags for the used kitty litter, these bags are just filling up landfills, never decomposing.
So I searched online for biodegradable bags that I can use in my bathroom wastebaskets and for the kitty litter.
This is a picture of one end of our studio. The studio began life as a chicken coop. Isabelle has one the same size and she says they held hundreds of chickens. There is a chicken door of one end, and the windows have chicken wire to cover the holes when they are opened.
As you can see from the photo, this was Sissy's first home at the farmette. We heat the studio with a propane tank feeding a small heater. hb and I lined insulated the ceiling then lined it with thin plywood. We did the same with the walls. The studio is our project building. The tools and crafts are here, as are things that do not fit in the house.
Christmas Tree Re-Use
Cutting down a tree to use for a few weeks during the Holidays has never been easy for me. Trees are so pretty and special growing in the woods, I hesitate to kill one to use as a decoration. But hb likes a real tree, and I don't like fake trees, so we end up cutting a tree at Christmas time.
But after the holidays are over, we started own own tradition, Instead of just dumping the tree in the woods or burning it, we tie it up outside. I hang bird food on the brancehes, and the birds use it to hide in as they eat. Squirrels and chipmonks use it for cover as well. The trees stay green and beautiful all the way until spring. So we are able to enjoy our Christmas tree for months instead of a couple of weeks.
1950's Refrigerator Containers
A while ago, I decided that those disposable plastic food containers were not suited for the farmette. They were hard to clean and eventually became stained and smelly. I had seen these beautiful, retro glass containers at several antique malls. They were standard kitchen ware in the 1940's-1960's and can be picked up at very reasonable prices. For leftovers, both in the fridge and freezer, we not longer use the plastic containers but these wonderful glass ones. These wash easily, go straight from fridge/freezer to the oven and the colors are fantastic.
Another lifestyle choice we have made is no microwave. Honest, we do not have one. For heating leftovers, we use either a toaster oven or the stove. So these glass containers are perfect!
Kioti Farm Tractor and JD Yard Tractor
We have two tractors on the farmette. Both are used alot! The John Deere is a 24hp automatic yard tractor that we us to mow the grass around the house. We have a 48" tiller that attaches to the JD using a 3-point hitch for tilling the gardens. There is also a wagon that connects to the JD for moving rocks, dirt or other things that are too heay to carry.
The Kioti tractor is a 30hp farm tractor that we bought when we moved to the farmette. Our Kioti dealer is only 4 miles away, very convenient for yearly maintenance. We mow the field with the Kioti a couple times a year. The Kioti has a front loader and an auger. We have hauled mountains of rocks, transported 6ft pine trees for replanting and dug many fence posts with this tractor. A definite farmette workhorse!
We have had eggs from our own chickens for so long that we are spoiled. Our flock started with 12 birds, three roosters and 9 hens. Soon the roosters started fighting so we weeded the rooster count down to one. Last year, one of the barred rock hens just died. I started keeping the chickens enclosed in a 15ft fenced are outside of their coop. Everything was fine except they started pecking the feathers off of each other. All of the hens, except the one doing the pecking, even the rooster had bald backsides. The flock looked pathetic! So, I removed the enclosed pen and let them free-range. Happy hens!! The pecking declined and the feathers started to return. Did I mention that a country road is in front of the farmette? The chickens developed a habit of crossing the road. I am not sure why, but maybe just to get to the other side. Anyway, two other hens have since been lost to ruthless country drivers. So my flock is down to one rooster and siz hens. I am thinking of incubating some of my Americauna hen's eggs this spring. The rooster is Americauna as well, so the chicks will be full blooded.
hb and I both love rocks. An odd similarity, but it is true. I routinely collect rocks from each of our trips, label them and keep them in various containers on a bookshelf. Rocks are all unique, and so beautiful. So when we dug up the foundation for the farmette addition, we saved as many of the huge boulders as possible. One day, hb said we should stand the largest ones on end, to form a replica of one of our favorite hiking spots, the Tetons. What a fantastic idea! We went to work and after a few sessions with chains, ropes and the Kioti, we had our Teton range on place. It stands on the far side of a 4 ft gravel drainage bed behind a retaining wall. On top of the gravel, in front on the Tetons, I have laid all of the smaller rocks gathered from the excavation. I left a winding "river bed" and filled this with black Mexican landscaping rocks to simulate the Snake river. On either side of the retaining wall, we installed a light at ground level. The Contact Us page has a picture of one light and retaining wall at the opposite end of the patio from the Tetons.
Composting and Recycling
Recycling in the country is not an easy task. There are not any recycling trucks to show up on designated days to take away pre-sorted material from color coded containers. Recycling in the country takes determination and commitment. There is a metal scrap yard about 45 minutes away from the farmette that buys metal. We save all of our aluminum and misc. metal cans and take them there every couple of months.
I try to save newspaper and magazines to take to a paper recycling box located in a small nearby town. This is harder to manage on a regular basis.
Of course, I love to compost everything that I can including kitchen scraps, garden refuse, yard clippings and coop material. I have two compost bins for kitchen and coop scraps located next to the chicken, pheasant and bunny coops. Another compost pile is in the vegetable garden. hb turns this one every couple of weeks with the tractor. We rack all of the garden remains into this pile,as well as any large landscaping remains. In the spring, we use the tractor to spread this pile over the garden before tilling.