My crafting days started early. In the first half of my first decade I was beading and whittling, activities that were soon joined by sewing and weaving. I loved and continue to love making things. That affinity for the hands-on has only grown over time. I now count cooking as one of my favorite activities, while knitting has kept me busy for the last ten years. More recently, I’ve worked on piecing together quilts and basic patterns, having finally delved into the old turquoise-ish 1980s sewing machine I somehow inherited from a friend’s ex-boyfriend’s nun aunt.
Building things would seem to me to be very natural extension of my interest in the hand arts. The issues are that I have zero experience piecing wood and wire and brace and support together. And power tools completely intimidate me. However, I have projects that need a-doing and so I decided to end this buildingless life of mine and start a darn project–partially inspired by advice and encouragement from FullCircle Farm, Roe’s Cottage and the Aran Artisan and by Running or the Hills‘ design.
Our three meat rabbits are currently housed in large cages with wire mesh bottoms. This sounds cruel to some, but it is in fact the best way to keep a clean happy bunny. Their poop and urine falls right through the wire so they don’t have to deal with smelly wood and soiled bedding. And they get plenty of ventilation. However, I want our rabbits to help mow the grass a little, get some exercise and fertilize the area. For this I wanted to make a rabbit tractor. Rabbit tractors are movable structures with an open bottom that allow rabbits to graze freely and deposit their nutritious poops at will.
And so, over the last two weekends I (with help from M) built my first building thing! And it worked! A drill was the only power tool involved, and that was a good thing to start with–easy to use and not too intimidating. I used a combination of random scraps we found in our rental garage and little bit of cheap lumber from home depot. I believe the total cost was under $40. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it is functional. And boy was it satisfying to make. I am completely hooked and think I’ve found my next hobby, although unfortunately, constructing large things out of wood will probably get a little more expensive than knitting. But I burst the bubble and have a least gained enough confidence to pursue future projects.
The best thing about those lovely internet Fairy Godmother types I mentioned yesterday is the fact that behind each is a very real person. In a great turn of luck, I had the privilege of visiting two such people whom I connected with through this blog. How amazing is that? I originally found FullCircle Farm through a great post about “The True Cost of Real Food“. After following the farm blog, Cathy in kind, found me and discovered that we are practically neighbors (country neighbors, that is, give or take a twenty-mile radius). Cathy kindly invited me over to check out the operation and M and I paid FullCircle Farm a visit on Saturday (what better Valentine’s date could there be?).
It turned into a lovely visit and a great learning experience for the both of us. Cathy and Bob are two of those rare souls that manage to be genuinely friendly, happy, warm and welcoming on first acquaintance. They showed us their happy chickens and beautiful garden with bees buzzily going about their business, pollen baskets full to the brim with yellow, pink and red goodness. I’m not sure where they’re finding such variety in mid-February, but I am sold on beekeeping. After watching those fascinating little creatures, we saw the rest of the infrastructure and got a little one-on-one time with the sweet Dexter cows.
The whole farm is a beautiful and practical family operation, but perhaps the most inspiring thing about the farmstead is that Cathy and Bob have built every single thing there from the log farmhouse to the garden fence. And they accomplished it all with their own two hands working over the last few decades, teaching themselves the needed skills as they were required. It was so good for me to hear this story from people who had not just created a beautiful home and successful farm, but were able to do so without the boatloads of money I suspect the early-retiree ad exec/lawyers use for their idyllic hobby farms. And not only had Cathy and Bob achieved this dream, but they are clearly happy people who love the lifestyle they have chosen. These are the people who I want to be when I grow up (if that ever really happens) and to hear from them that my dreams can be achieved is the best. And I believe them. It is possible. And I should go for it. So thank you, FullCircle Farm, for your inspiration and guidance. I will go for it, goshdarnit!
I should mention that I failed to take any pictures of this adventure, but luckily you can see lots of beautiful images of the farm here.
Before starting this blog, I played with the idea for a while. A couple doubts delayed me. I knew that at one point in my life, I had enjoyed writing about topics I cared about, but years of academic and technical reporting had soured me on the practice. So I worried that even though it sounded like a good idea, writing for myself and the wider world in my own voice would end up feeling forced and unenjoyable. And aside from that, a much darker fear lurked. A fear sitting at number one on the “reasons why this blog isn’t such a good idea list”. Trolls. Of internet fame, not the hobbit-munching variety. I had a scenario in my mind in which no matter how small, how inoffensive, and how unassuming any of my original content would be, trolls would immediately pounce and tear it horribly and mercilessly to shreds. I figured it was like the wild west in here. Lawless and not enough Lawmen to go around. But at the same time I figured that I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to internet scum and I could at least moderate comments on my own material and cast out the evil-doers. And so Quiet Owl Farm began.
Thankfully, in all respects my fears have been assuaged threefold. Never have I enjoyed writing more and not a troll have I encountered. Quite the opposite. Since starting this blog I have been overwhelmed by the positivity of the experience. There are so many inspiring souls out there doing so many wonderful things. And they are very real and very amazing people. I feel so very thankful for their encouragement and advice and I enjoy following their stories. These people are the anti-Trolls, Internet Fairy Godmothers, if you will. They are the real, good part of humanity who have strong, positive stories to tell and I am overjoyed by their presence. While I expect a troll or two will infiltrate my defenses eventually, I just don’t care. Because whatever lunatics out there might be hiding in their self-loathing caves, they got NOTHING on the wonderful people I have found in this small, but growing community.
P.S. I found these lovely guys at the local Co-op near where I’m working this week. Plans for a summer garden are up in the air, but I hope to at least get some spring veggies started in the near future…
I felt more engaged and purposeful this weekend. It was busy and productive. It ended a little too soon for my taste, but of course most weekends seem to do that. While a few round-the-house chores were cut short, the weekend did produce some exciting happenings at Quiet Owl and I will writing about them throughout the week*. However, right now I should make good on my promise to post some Jim Chee pictures (our new American Chinchilla Buck). So, behold his gigantic majesty!
*Weekend subjects to come this week include: an inspiring farm visit, rabbit breeding, and Rosie’s first building project.
I found a lovely blog today called Roe’s Cottage that follows a small family’s cottage/chicken/diy/gardening adventure (therefore my idols, basically). I left a comment with appreciative words and received such a nice reply that included the following: “The aim now is to get it right on a small-scale; if we ever get a chance to do more it will give us a good grounding, but if not, we are still succeeding”. That really made me pause and think. What a great reminder for me! Since childhood it has been my tendency to wrap myself in big dreams and fantasies of the future. This habit has been a part of my mental being for so long that the present is sometimes lost to me. In considering our surely successful and bounteous future farm and homestead, I sometimes forget to put energy and thought into current projects and enterprises. While researching pasture rotation and browsing Zillow farms for sale can’t hurt too much, it’s not great when that time cuts into the daylight hours that I should be spending with the bunnies or enriching soil in the back garden.
So thanks, Roe’s Cottage, for giving me a nudge off my sky-high mental ramblings and back down to earth. You reminded me that getting it right on a small-scale is a real priority right now.
Not to worry of course, my Shire dreams are still very much alive and well too.
Over the weekend I took a little drive. I followed my poorly jotted craigslist directions that led me past meandering rivers, rolling farmland and gigantic roadside waterfalls made huge and gushing from heavy rains. I found my way to a lovely family farm with only a little trial and error. A woman and her daughter met me at the door of the farmhouse with my purchase all set to go. The woman, you should know, is a rabbit breeder. So, as you might guess, I was there to pick up our new buck (finally!). More specifically, I was there to pick up our new registered, pedigreed and supremely noble senior American Chinchilla buck, Jim Chee. Jimmy is a brawny lad at 10 lb 6 oz and a proven father of three healthy litters. In this craigslist success story I also lucked out that the woman from whom I purchased Jim Chee was a consummate rabbit pro answering all of my questions from feed, to breeding, to nail clipping. I left confident that I had purchased quality stock and had also gained an excellent contact who wouldn’t mind getting random rabbit question emails now and then.
Jimmy is the missing link in the rabbit family that until Saturday consisted of two ornery sisters who sure produce a lot of excellent manure, but no babies. I do hope that this will soon change. Thanks to Jim Chee, my long-standing procrastination in regards to the acquiring of a capable male rabbit (due to any variety of work, work, and more work related issues) is at last at an end. Although I once again write this from a hotel room and the work and more work-related dilemmas continue, I am glad to know that Jimmy is happy, settled and in capable hands until I return home on Thursday.
I also have the feeling that the majestic Jim Chee might just be a photogenic guy so pictures will be on their way shortly.