It was one year ago today that I woke up in a strange and unfamiliar barn. Having arrived after midnight the previous evening, I had just slept for five hours in a camping hammock hastily slung between two barn posts. Technically, I was trespassing. It wouldn’t be until later that afternoon that Allison and I would officially become the proud owners of a sprawling 158 acre property that featured an elegant-but-in-need-of-repair farmhouse and a massive banked barn located in a charming Vermont town roughly 50 miles south of the Canadian border.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since we bought the farm. In a way, it wasn’t that long ago. But when I look back on all the work and progress of the past year, it feels like eons. I know that there is great peril in making too big of a deal out of a minor milestone like this. In a lot of ways, we haven’t really achieved much yet. We are many years away from becoming honest-to-goodness New England farmers. That said, I think there’s value in noting the little wins of the past year. We are incredibly thankful to have been able to achieve these things…
Things from Year OneThe House
We’ve almost completely overhauled the house. At the start of 2017, it was my hope that by the one year anniversary, the house repairs would be complete. Unfortunately, we’re a bit behind. Most of that is driven by the fact that we found a few unexpected repairs that needed to be made. This should surprise no one. Before we undertook the renovations, we were consistently warned that this happens with every old house. And that warning was proven very true. That said, none of the problems weren’t so big or too expensive that we couldn’t tackle them. We’ll hopefully be done with the renovation by Labor Day.
The Farm Plan In the past year, we have developed a somewhat thoughtful game plan for the farm. While it is still a bit sketchy (and I don’t ever intend to set anything in stone), we have a reasonable business plan to guide the development of infrastructure on the farm over the next few years. Ultimately we want to raise livestock on pasture and sell the meat in the greater New England region. We also want to establish a permaculture-style fruit and nut orchard. It will be a few years before we are actually ready to officially open for business, but having the plan is guiding the projects that we try to tackle. After we officially closed on the farm, I recall feeling completely overwhelmed by all the things that should/could/needed-to-be done with the farm. Having the plan has reduced my anxiety tremendously.
Our good friends at Stark Hollow Farm are now grazing sheep and cattle on the farm. It’s a great situation that I’ll hopefully find the time to write about in the very near future.
Started an orchard
Last week I spent a few days wondering the pasture with a laser level. I’ll also try to write more about this experience soon. But I now have exact placement of the orchards marked on the field. Now all I have to do is plant some trees in the ground.
Over the past year, I’ve learned a buttload about the Shaw family(the farms longest owners) and the history of farming in New England. One of my favorite DC-based pastimes has become researching about the history of both the Shaw family and the history of farming in Vermont. I’ve been gathering a lot of research and material. I’m not quite sure about what I’ll do with it yet (Documentary? Comic book?) but I’ll do something with it eventually.
Gold Shaw Farm
My day job often requires doing brand strategy and brand design work for other people’s businesses. But until this year, I’ve never had the chance to do anything for myself. I’m glad we came up with the clever name and sweet-ass-bear-with-a-bird-on-his-head logo.
School Allison started the process of going back to school. She is dealing with Vermont nursing licensing issues right now, but she will head back to school in the near future to a nurse practitioner. In the Northeast Kingdom, there is a major shortage of health care professionals, so this seems like a good set of skills to have.
Back in July of last year, I also had surgery to repair multiple tears in the labrum of my left shoulder. It was pretty awful. I had to wear a crazy sling for six weeks (pictured above) and it took nine months of physical therapy. But I’m now back to better-than-normal.
Arguably the best part of the farm has been the connections it’s created with friends, both old and new.Over the past year, there have been some many outstanding weekends had at the farm hosting old friends. Working on some sort of fix-it or build-it project, starting bonfires, wandering the grounds, grilling, or just hanging out and being lazy. Hopefully, there will be many more of these to follow once we have working indoor plumbing again. (But props to those of you who came up here and roughed it.)The community surrounding the farm is awesome and we are very appreciative of everyone who has welcomed us. I am overwhelmed with by the diverse and awesome people I have met and befriended over the past twelve months. I can’t recall a year in my adult life where I have made this many new and great friends. I think our lives have been tremendously enriched by the connections made.