Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Willow Tree Ranch - Chickens and Goats and Ducks OH MY!

Ok, so I promised I wouldn't stay away so long, and I had every intention of keeping that promise, but then life happened and before I knew it, 2 months have passed. Eeeesh, I've never gone 2-months without updating my blog. BUT, as with SO MANY other things this year, there's lot's of stuff going on here on English Mountain.

As I previously mentioned in an early update, my nest is emptying pretty quick. This is a transition year for our family. It's the first year that all of my brood won't be here to celebrate this super special time of year. Louie, my youngest is here for this year and next and then he's off to either Collage via the Air Force ROTC program OR straight to the Air Force via enlistment, depending on the options available to him his senior year. Ashley is doing pretty good in Japan. The Navy just approved her off base apartment (she has a view of the ocean!) and she'll be moving in any day. Although she is adjusting to being away from home, she still calls at least 4 times each week and at least one of those calls starts off with tears and her telling us how much she wants to come home. These calls are the hardest.

Not really being in the holiday spirit this year, I had no desire to go all out with decorating, but Louie went out to the barn the day after thanksgiving and lugged all the decorations in and well...we decorated.  We played our  official family decorating song and even though I had to step into the other room a few times to cry (I missed my baby girl), we had a good time and the house looks pretty good albeit, a little toned down this year.

We've also decided that we're not going to go haywire with our shopping. After watching the Black Friday news reports and seeing how the season has gone from a time of giving and time spent with family to a totally greed and materialistic driven joke, I refuse to participate. This year we'll try to buy the gifts we do purchase from companies who are in our local community.

This past year has been tough on almost everyone I know. I do believe something good can come from the struggles many of us have faced. I think a lot of people are waking up to the reality that we've sold ourselves out in years past for things that have had little or no importance when it really mattered. That flat screen TV won't fetch enough to pay a mortgage payment in most cases.  I'm encouraged to see SO MANY people working to change that. Not a day goes by that I don't meet someone who is starting their own self-sufficient mission and I say "GOOD FOR THEM THAT DO!!"

With Mike headed towards retirement in a few years we've been talking a lot about what we want to do when he leaves the police force. Although he'll probably do some teaching at the local colleges and University of Tennessee, we're thinking of ways to utilize the land we have.  We're officially starting our own mini-ranch which we're going to call Willow Tree Ranch.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT??

We're going into this slowly. Next spring we're expanding the garden a bit, adding beehives (just 2) to our 17 chickens and we'll be adding 5 ducks and a few dairy goats by summer.  Since Louie will be leaving home soon, we want to make sure we can handle the amount of work these new additions will add to our days.  With my new goats, I'm planning on making Artisan cheeses and soaps. The bees will provide honey to sell as well as cook and bake with and the duck eggs will come in handy for baking as well.  We'll start with that and see how we do and if all goes well, we're going to add 2 horses in Spring 2013.

Please don't hesitate to offer advice if you're already raising bees or goats. I'm open to all the advice I can get and I'd love to hear about your animal adventures!