Spring Break on the Farm: Part 1

One of my favorite traditions around here–my “gift” to myself, if you will– is that around my birthday I take some time off from my day job, so that I can focus all of my attention on the farm for a week. Which, well, basically means 12 hours of manual labor a day. So maybe not a break in the conventional sense of the word, but when you spend most of the year juggling a day job, and a long commute, and a farm, and a house that currently only has half a working kitchen… well… taking a couple of things off my plate for a week feels like break, even if it means I’m using those hours to dig a lot of post holes.


I swear, farm life is at least 65% digging post holes. (I dug most of those with the auger on my tractor though, because the other 35% is owning heavy equipment and knowing how to use it.)

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here, and since I had such a long a fruitful week last week, I need to break this down into a few parts.

Part 1: Wherein Shit Does Not Go As Expected

Okay, so I only took 3 days off work, but with the long weekend that meant 6 uninterrupted days of working on the farm. It also meant I might be home for the eventual hatching of baby chicks from the eggs my broody hen has been sitting on for the last 20 days.


(Fair warning: This story does not have a happy ending.)

The short version is this… after anxiously watching the nest for two days (and increasing suspicions that something wasn’t right) on Tuesday evening (the day before my vacation started) I found one dead chick in the nest and four unhatched eggs (she started with 10.)


The chick was bloodied in such a way that I was pretty sure the hen was responsible. That was a total bummer.

I took the remaining 4 eggs out of the nest and made a modified incubator out of my solar beeswax melter, on the off-chance that any of them were close to hatching.


(I don’t know where the other 5 eggs went, but I assume they were not viable and she ate them, which apparently is… common.)

After 24 hours I looked in my makeshift incubator and saw an egg that looked like it was hatching, but then realized it was just rotten and had basically exploded from cooking in the incubator. So that was fun and ended my chick-adventures for this year.

While the guinea may have another hatch, I think that’s the last time I’ll be attempting to hatch my own nugs on the farm. At least for a while. I’ve yet to decide if I’ll add to my flock this year the old-fashioned way (by raising chicks in my bathroom, obv.)

So, that didn’t work out well, but on the flip side of the coin, we do have some babies on the farm…


I mean, if you count bee larvae as babies.

This is actually great news, as it means the queens are active and laying in all three hives. I even found a queen-cell in my remaining hive from last year– which means they might have been thinking of swarming– and was also something fun and new I haven’t seen before.


(It’s that round cell on the bottom left that a worker-bee is hanging out on.)

I know it’s early in this season, but I’m already excited about setting up more hives out back next year. Bees are such fascinating little creatures.

This all happened basically Day 1 of my vacation, so I’d already gone through an emotional roller-coaster, and the way I typically like to deal with emotional roller-coasters is by letting the Universe know it won’t get the best of me, because eff that. There’s a lot of things I’m not perfect at, and a lot of things I can’t control, but the one thing I can do is continue to push my limits, learn new things, and surprise myself when that little voice inside me starts to say “you can’t” or “this is too hard.”

So I taught myself how to change the starter on my truck…


This, by the way, is a totally new skillset for me. Building houses and repairing engines have almost nothing in common except for the fact that they’re a hell of a lot easier if you own the right tools. And are a little stubborn.

My truck hasn’t started for 2 weeks now, and, yes, one of the things on my life-list has been to learn how to fix an engine, but in my head I sort of thought that would be a leisurely activity… something to pursue on late-summer weekends when there’s nothing else to occupy my time (ha), but definitely not in early spring when I NEED THAT DAMN TRUCK. Like, I have a small-vineyard’s worth of vines showing up in the next 48 hours and I need to get lumber to build a trellis system for them. And bulk mulch. And a vehicle that can pull a 20ft tractor around. And, holy shit, why now?


You know why? Because that’s life. “It is what it is” as my grandpa always says.

I’m not a mechanic. I don’t know the intricacies of how engines work (I’m not sure I even really understand the broad-strokes of how they work.) I own a basic set of socket wrenches, a voltmeter, and some Liquid Wrench, and that is the extent of my ability to fix shit on my truck. Well, except I also know how to access you tube, and I have enough people in my life that know things about engines to say “you should replace the starter first and see if that works.”

So I watched some videos. Learned some things. Got some replacement parts. And then shimmied my way under my truck to figure it out…


Because it is what it is.

And, you know what? I did.

UntitledA starter isn’t a very complicated thing to change–5 bolts and a couple of wires–but you know, framing a wall isn’t really a hard thing either– just a couple of boards and a nailer– unless you haven’t done it before. And unless the “I haven’t done it before” makes you so uncomfortable that you’re not willing to try it. So I tried it. And, honestly, if I’d had someone there with me while I did it, there are several times I would have handed the wrench over, so to speak, because I was convinced I couldn’t do it–couldn’t loosen those rusted on bolts, couldn’t hold the new part in place while I got the bolts back in– but I kept at it, and eventually I did it. And it worked. Untitled

That’s a pretty amazing feeling. Actually, maybe the most significant feeling in my life… not just knowing how to do something, but for a moment believing that I can’t, and even believing that– or maybe, deep down, never really believing that– pushing through the things that make it seem impossible until I succeed.

And, let’s be honest, the best part of my life is that even when I’m questioning my abilities…


There’s always a chicken around to help me.

(Part 2– with less disappointment and more grape vines– coming soon!)

15 Responses

  1. I have been impressed with MANY, MANY things you’ve done. It’s one reason I read your blog, but changing out the starter on your truck is way up on there on the scale of impressive tasks you’ve accomplished.

    One time I was in a bike race (sort of, it was really a 100 mile tour that finishes up a mountain, but everybody thought of it as a race). I was doing pretty well overall, one of the top women when I had a flat on the climbing portion of the ride. Well, I was sure somebody would stop and help me change my tire. After looking helpless for a few minutes and getting comments like “bummer, man” when the guys raced by, I realized I had to change my own tire. You just have to take care of yourself, you know. And that’s what I like when I read the stuff you do. Of course, the farm requires that of you, doesn’t it?

  2. Are you kidding me?! A starter?! You amaze me By the time your my age I can’t imagine all that you will have done. And girl, you will be so happy you did.

  3. You know how to build shit, so you CAN learn how to fix them….I knew you could do it. 😉

    This is just a small (well, actually a really big) stepping stone to the mechanical things you will learn to fix as you go down your road.

    The doubts and intimidation(and youtube) will always be there, but your stubborness err resolve and logic will see it thru.


  4. If a picture’s worth a thousand words the one of you with your (dark greasy thumbs up – I did that shit grin) would be a short novel. One good thing (n/p attitude) you had going for you was it wasn’t a late model where so much stuff is crammed into very very small space *** ha! > they don’t have to work on it 😉
    Sorry to hear nature didn’t roll as hoped with the chicks, sometimes she won’t cooperate. Looking forward to seeing Part 2 complete with photos / grape trellis needed for that many starter vines is pretty extensive (just guessing-really hkei) knowing your m/o your building an industrial long standing bad-ass trellis
    how long before wine….
    constant growth…


  5. “There’s a lot of things I’m not perfect at, and a lot of things I can’t control, but the one thing I can do is continue to push my limits, learn new things, and surprise myself when that little voice inside me starts to say “you can’t” or “this is too hard.”” Thanks for the morning inspiration! I’m having a rough week and needed to see that. I’m pinning this up to my computer to keep me going today!

  6. Congratulations on your first vehicle repair! Glad you powered through and got that done. Those chores are always easier when you have someone with a bit of experience who can help the first time. Good job for getting it done by yourself.

    My son just bought his first house. He has always been the kid that just advised to buy a new one when something broke. Overnight, he has magically started asking how to fix stuff! Having to pay for it yourself changes your outlook.

    Good luck on your future projects.

  7. Awww I was wondering what happened to the rest of the eggs in the box. That sucks 🙁

    I have no desire to fix my car. I always say that’s why I married a mechanic but you know how that goes. The mechanic works on his own stuff last lol.

  8. Awesome mechanic! I’m never sure I can diy something until I just flippin’ do it and haven’t attempted vehicle work … yet.

    Was just sitting here designing a trellis (fence more like it) as I was given an amazing climbing rose. I don’t like to redo, so whatever I do, a Nor’easter won’t knock it down … just in case that rose becomes monstrous!

    So sorry for the Nubs. Animal mamas live by a different set of rules than human mamas it seems.

  9. Way to go girl! I bet you kicked your heels when you heard that sexy truck purr. And the chicken as well did a happy dance. I have inherited a fairly good size Concord grape vine with new house that previous owner planted and used cheap wire fencing to hold it up…not holding it up so well. Cannot wait to see what you devise for yours!

    Keep on keeping on!

  10. I’ve been silently following your blog for a number of years because your badassery is inspirational.
    Seeing all that you have accomplished with your wit, determination, and newly acquired skills is proof that maybe, just maybe, I could do some of these things too.
    Cheers to you – for being tenacious, for being brave, for being a badass.

Comments are closed.

I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.

(formerly DIYdiva.net)