Summer 2021 and we've been in maximum telework for over a year and half. The Pandemic got us thinking about where we want to be and what we want to be doing, now more than ever. The answer was obvious: getting Prospect Echo Farm closer to being a reality. Making the 9-hour drive up from Virginia, working like maniacs for a few days and driving back so we could telework from our home offices was getting old. The housing market was hot and so in spring we decided to relocate to New Hampshire, to be closer to the farm and able to get up there more often and get stuff done. While our house in Fairfax sold within days, finding a place in New Hampshire was proving a challenge: apparently many other people had the same idea to relocate to a better climate in a state without income tax. After getting outbid on a few houses (one received over 50 offers), we got wise and made a really competitive offer on a house in a small mill town, a bit more off the beaten path with less competition. In April we made the move.
So moving, in case you haven't done it in a while, is NOT fun. We moved ourselves, the dog, 2 cats, a household full of furniture and stuff, and 3 bee hives up to Wilton, in southern New Hampshire. Wilton is a charming old mill town, close to the Massachusetts border, full of farms and wide open spaces. The house needed some work and so we spent several months (and more money than we had anticipated) fixing it up: removing carpet and laying new flooring, painting pretty much every room in the house, laying a paver patio and creating a pea gravel fire pit. As we did the work and inched closer to summer, the urge to be doing work on the farm started getting stronger. The pull was inescapable.
As we have all experienced, COVID and the resulting isolating has meant that all sorts of things have been scarce, limited, and expensive. Wood is definitely one of these items that has had a direct impact on our ability to move forward with fixing the farm. We started seeing lumber get scarcer and the prices go up as we finished work on the garage last year. In the end, it cost us over $20k more than we had budgeted. Working on the house right now would probably result in a 50-100% increase in costs. So we're in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting till next spring to start demolition and rebuilding. Fingers crossed that by that time, lumber supplies will have increased and prices will have come down to pre-COVID levels.
While we can't work on the house, we have continued the work in the orchard, garden, and pasture. We've maintained the orchards, cutting the weeds cut back, pruning and fertilizing in the spring. And the trees look so much healthier- full of apples that are not misshapen or wormy. I got an apple press for Christmas and we are eager to try our hands at making cider this fall. We should have a big apple harvest- enough for canning and cider-making.
Bob was adamant that we get a garden in this summer; for him that would feel like we were moving forward, making progress. He grew up on the farm and spent many summer days planting and weeding with his grandfather. An established garden would signal to Bob that all was not lost this year. So we cleared as much of the garden as we could, pushing the remaining junk to the side, and tilled it up. From decades of gardening there and then several years of laying fallow, the soil is rich and almost powdery. We planted the staples: butter and sugar corn, zucchini, crook-neck squash, wax and green beans, tomatoes, and Blue Hubbard squash. Luckily this has been a wet summer and having a rainfed garden is possible. We have a doe who visits but she has not eaten anything and I think we will have a good harvest. Already collecting canning recipes in anticipation.
Finally, while we can't yet be on the farm, we can get some projects going at the Wilton house. With a two-acre lot, we have room to set up an apiary (with 5 hives now due to capturing 2 swarms this spring). We had to put up an electric fence after being visited one night by a very curious and extremely large bear. We're also trying our hand at poultry raising. We got 7 Easter Egger chicks from the Blue Seal and set up a brooder in our garage. After 8 weeks and lots of feed and poop, we moved them out to the coop and run we added to the apiary yard. Sadly, the littlest one, Lil Bit, got a respiratory infection and didn't make it. She fought hard and we had hopes, but she was too fragile. The 6 remaining chicks have taken to life in the coop and have taught themselves to scratch for bugs and to put themselves to bed at night when the sun goes down. They are shades of a lovely rust color and they know my voice. When you call to them, their heads pop up one by one and they start chirping, ready for a treat. They are adorable.
Like for so many, 2021 has not necessarily turned out how we had hoped. But there is beauty in the New England summer and interesting projects we can still do. In many ways, Prospect Echo Farm is a state of mind, a commitment to a way of life, as much as it is the physical farm and fields.
That said, we do need 2022 to be different, lol.