Rabbit, rabbit. A year of the ranch, in review.
It's a new year, and while hate is a strong word, 2020, we really, really, really did not enjoy you. However, even though last year came with many struggles, it was an incredible year of growth for the ranch property.
No sooner did we move into our new home at the tail end of 2019, we began designing our barn and coordinating the approvals and purchase of the materials. The Ranch Team sourced an antique tractor, got it running after sitting through 15 Maine winters as a lawn ornament, and by April 3rd, 2020, we began clearing ground.
The woodlands were thick, rooted, covered in wet foliage, dense pines and hardwoods. It was difficult to walk through, nevermind clear-cut. The Ranch Team got a first hand lesson in being lumber-jacks, figuring out the best way to chainsaw a tree, and fell it correctly. They then turned the driveway into a lumber yard, splitting and processing wood for winter and bonfires.
The lot began to take shape, and the Ranch Team then put on their engineering caps, and constructed a road. It was formed with efficient flow from the pre-existing tote-road leading to the lot, and made level, derooted, and derocked, then packed solid enough for the tractors, trucks, and heavy equipment to be driven over it.
Part of ranching, we have discovered, is becoming a jack of all trades. We've learned things we didn't realize we'd ever need to know. We've used geometry, algebra, and the Pythagorean Theorem before breakfast some days, to figure out how to construct portions of our project. Experienced farmers and ranchers, and construction workers, are some of the smartest people on the planet - don't let anyone tell you otherwise (we have a totally new respect for them). Stay in school, kids.
Once the lot was completely cleared and the barn kit has been put on order (which also took months of planning and design for the utmost functionality and budgeting), the next step was figuring out how to properly operate forklifts and accept delivery of massive lumber trusses, and metal materials, windows, and doors that had to be carried from the road, almost a mile into the woods.
Of course, before anything could be built, the land needed to be level. We sourced the fill from the area where we opted to dig a pond - which was mutually beneficial. While it created an aesthetically pleasing view and opened up our front yard, it also provided a safety measure in the event of a fire, and made our wet property more useful, while saving us lots of money on soil, and allowing us to level the lot for the barn (and making a flock of geese and ducks spoiled beyond measure). This definitely took some creative thinking. At the time, the Ranch Team also learned how to engineer digging a hole - something that you didn't know was so multi-faceted! The grade for the sides had to be measured, the depth had to be right, test holes had to be dug, overflow pipes had to be installed, and oh right - more trees had to be cleared and processed. They then had to learn how to operate dump trucks and heavy machinery (with professional supervision) to get the job completed, and move the dirt.
Pond Area Before:
And then of course, it was time to put it all together. The Ranch Team learned to use all kinds of new tools for metal work, wood work, they mixed 6,000 pounds of cement by hand (you heard that right - I don't think I have ever seen men so dirty and sweaty), poured footings, and then the structure began to form.
The sound of saws and self-tapping screws, drill bits and hammers, metal shears, caulking guns, insulation sheets, blue print pages, crushed beer cans and curse words mark the sounds of this summer, maybe with a few notes from a country guitar melody in the background. The sweat poured buckets while the building took shape, and the barn began to look like a barn.
Once the barn was standing and the doors and windows were installed, the next phase was in sight. Further clearing and brush hogging was on the docket for the paddock area - and not a small one either. The Ranch Team took a deep breath and carried on with setting fence posts in rocky ground, while burning brush piles, and installing weld wire, gates, and livestock electric wire.
Finally, finally, it was time to move the animals, and bring home the horses. A culmination point that didn't seem like it would ever come - but then it did. Just the same way the dog days of summer feel, right before the break in the breeze, bringing in the Fall.
^Moving the old animal shelter to become hay storage!
The next part of the past year was spent working the interior, which has revealed a whole new set of skills we had to learn, including electrical work, trenching, and further wood construction (gotta say, the Homestead Husband has gotten pretty good at building doors and various other wood projects). We're taking our time with what few things remain, but looking forward to flipping on a light switch in the tack room and barn, and finishing all of our storage for livestock equipment and tack - the homestretch is probably about 2 months to final completion now. In the meantime, our animals are living harmoniously and have plenty of space for play and relaxing, and a solid, sound shelter for weathering any storm.
This project tested all of us - our patience, strength, durability, will, and relationships. It was
more than a lot, but looking back, probably will remain one of the biggest triumphs we've ever had, as a family, as a ranch. It will definitely mark a point in our family's history and we hope, be part of our family legacy. I am personally, beyond proud of all of the helpers and participants on our Ranch Team - this project was not for the faint of heart, and it goes to show how many brave-hearts we have in our pocket. I want to extend that thank you to the wives and significant others of these folks, who let us steal away parts of their family for long days (let's do a little more relaxing this summer, K?).
Completing all of this in the face of a tragedy that also marked this year, makes us feel even more resilient and strong. We chose courage, and chose to keep going when it would have been perfectly ok to put our entire life on pause. Thanks to the Homestead Husband, for being the rock that he is - he deserves far more recognition than I can provide in this single post.
And, just when we think things are going to slow down our wheels start turning again - we've got a handful of projects on the docket for 2021, but hopefully none as trying as this past year. If we can come through that, I think we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Anyone can, but it takes true grit.
Photo Credit: Haze Photography, ME
Our vision for the ranch is within reach now - we hope you'll keep following along for a final barn reveal, our big dream of beef cattle, and gardening galore - and a new ranch hand due the end of summer 2021! One more little dreamer is on the way.
Thanks for following along our journey.
Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: Haze Photography, ME