Tag Archives: country living

Picking Your Country Place Part 2

Picking That Perfect Country Place

Part 2

We went looking for a place in the fall. Most property is sold in the spring and summer when plants are green, birds are singing and land is all dressed up. By fall the sellers are wondering if they are stuck with the property for another year.

Our list was basic: live water as a stream or pond; a large flat area for putting the house, barn and garden; acreage for pastures; and a nice town not too far away. We were older and would need to work. Driving thirty miles or more one way to go shopping or find a job wasn’t so appealing. Good pastures and gardens need good soil and we didn’t want to spend years developing it.

Investigation 4: Finding Good Soil

Black walnut tree indicates good soil on the place

As a black walnut tree matures, the crown becomes more rounded. It leafs out late, in April, and begins dropping its leaves in September.

Trees can tell you a lot about soil and water on a place. Annual plants grow for a single season and may compromise so they can bloom and set seeds. In a good year they are lush. In a bad year they are scraggly.

Trees live in the same spot for years and only thrive when conditions are to their liking. When they grow well, the soil and moisture in that area are what they like.

Sycamores and willows love having their feet wet. They will grow happily along creeks, streams and wet weather creeks. They are important to have there to slow erosion. Lots of water is great for a water garden but not a vegetable garden.

Oaks and hickories tend to grow in drier areas. Blackjack oak especially indicates poorer soils usually dry, thin and rocky. Oak makes good firewood. The heavy leaves don’t break down well. They often grow on slopes with thin soils.

We looked for black walnut and white oak. Both of these trees like deep, rich soil with moisture but not swampy areas. Elms and locusts are other trees to look for.

Trees tell you more than about the soil. Tornadoes and high winds are not something you want to visit you. Tornadoes tend to follow pathways leaving twisted and shattered trees as evidence of their passing. They are broken off, not uprooted. If you see this kind of tree damage, expect a tornado to visit the place again at some time in the future.

In the Arkansas River valley where my father lived there was just such a pathway. About every five years a small tornado roared down this little ravine. It took out a new hay barn one visit. It destroyed a goat dairy five years later. A stronger one went through some years after that topping the hill, destroying another goat dairy there and killing the owner.

High winds leave big uprooted trees behind. Trees do fall down for other reasons. The tip off to high wind damage is having the trees all fall in roughly the same direction. The valley we live in has a bend at the beginning of our property. Most of the high winds get shunted aside by that curve and go up over the hills across the valley from the house and barn.

Looking 5: Walk the Property

walnuts fall in September

Every other year a black walnut tree drops lots of walnuts in green hulls that turn black. Hull and dry the nuts then pound them open for some good eating. Look for these in the fall after the leaves drop off the trees.

Real estate agents will tell you very few people really look over the place they buy. We sold a two story house to people who never went upstairs. We looked at a piece of property and only found out the property line was thirty feet behind the house because we went out looking.

Trash is a big problem for people in the country. There are companies starting to have regular pick ups but many times you are left with disposing of the trash yourself. One method was to find a hollow or sinkhole out of site of the house and dump it there. Such dumps are a mess to clean up and an unwelcome, unnecessary surprise. They can contaminate the soil and water.

County roads are public roads. People do drive down these roads with loads of trash such as shingles, appliances and tires. They find a quiet place, stop and unload it. If the trash is on the right of way, the county might eventually come out and clean it up. Usually the landowner gets to do it.

Walking around a piece of property lets you get a feel for it. You see the place from various angles and can see how it fits or doesn’t with your plans. You can get a feel for the property. We looked at one piece that had possibilities but gave me a panic attack. We found out later there were problems with the property and it was definitely not for us.

If possible, try to look over the property on different days at different times of day including early morning and late evening. Our valley has another valley just over a set of hills. That valley funnels in all the traffic noise from a state highway. It is most noticeable at night and early in the morning. The hills shield us from that noise.

As you walk around, you get a better idea of the work needed. What will need doing first? How big a challenge will this place be? How expensive will these improvements be and can you afford them?

Wear comfortable shoes. Expect to walk on your own. Most real estate agents know little about the property and will not be thrilled to go hiking. The agent who showed us our place was wearing high heels.

As has been noted earlier, check out the house and other buildings.

Convenience 6: Utilities

black walnut bark to ID a leafless tree for place choosing

Black walnut trees have interwoven bark ridges. The bark is dark brown.

The electric cooperative has lines going across our property. The electric cooperative comes in to cut trees and brush in the right of way. These are an important route so get fast attention after storm damage. Being at the end of a line means waiting longer for the crews to get there.

Living up north, we had no electricity. It’s doable but I do like running water and lights. Solar is a possibility but hooking to the cooperative is convenient and not that expensive, at least for us as we heat with wood, use propane for hot water and cooking and watch how much electricity we use.

Propane is available in rural areas as is heating oil. The companies generally rent out the tanks and charge by the gallon for filling the tanks.

Phone lines are important for most people too. We have a land line only. The house is in a dead zone with no regular cell service. If cell service is important to you, check it out before you buy. Satellite service has several drawbacks including being affected by storms and being expensive.

Internet service matters to most people now too. With only a land line, our service is called dial up which is not worth the bother. We manage quite well going into town and using the library’s public access computers.

There are several satellite services available. They have varying customer satisfaction reports and costs. Check out the possibilities for the place you are interested in.

Is This Everything?

Probably not. I covered things we thought were important. You may have other priorities. Different kinds of livestock have different requirements. Perhaps you have special needs for hospital access. It’s important to know these before you go looking for property and take them into account.

I also made the assumption here that you are planning a life style change for the long term. People may do a lot of moving around on a statistical basis but homesteading is a long term commitment. It takes years to build up a really good garden spot or put up miles of fencing by yourself.

Once you buy a piece of property, another set of considerations begins. A crucial one is owning a dog. That is next week.

Finding Your Country Place Part 1

There is no one perfect country place. Instead there are many, each suited for the people who plan to live on it. The chances of finding this dream country place are slim, but you can try.

How do you decide on your perfect country place?

Our search began in a United States Department of Agriculture yearbook. We wanted to have the four seasons. We wanted a rural, agricultural area. We wanted to stay in the middle of the country.

The yearbook went state by state describing each area. We went over the climate data, the commercial data and settled on Missouri, the Ozarks area. It was far enough south to have milder winters than up in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. It was far enough north to have the four seasons. It was rural.

Like so many people wanting to move to the country, our funds were limited. This means making compromises with that dream place. What is most important to you?

neglected country place

It doesn’t take many years for a pasture to grow up in cedars, sassafras, brambles and buck brush. Fence wire gets broken. Posts fall over. Most prospective buyers take one look and go elsewhere.

Decision 1: House or Land?

If your funds are limited, this is an important question. Nice houses have big price tags. Livable houses have lower price tags. Bare land has the lowest price. Smaller pieces of land have higher prices per acre than larger pieces.

We wanted the most land we could afford. Our lives center on being outside in the garden, with the livestock and walking the hills. A house is nice protection from the weather and can be fixed up.

The country place we chose had an ancient barn and an old hog house on it, no house. But it had lots of land with a creek, a dug well, overgrown pastures and falling down fences. The hog barn could be used as a house in a pinch but there was a nice spot to build a house.

This was an option for us as we had no children. A family would need something different. However, a used mobile home can serve as a place to live until a better house is built. My parents lived in a tent for a year while my father built a house.

Another consideration in Missouri is the lack of building codes in rural areas. What looks like a nice house can be a hidden nightmare. Look over that house with someone who knows about building houses before you get some unwelcome surprises.

We found out about this when the house and property across the road became available. Nothing in the house is square. Five different people had added onto the house, none of whom tried to coordinate with the rest of them. A simple job like putting on new shingles requires a lot of preparation as no one had ever replaced the wooden shakes now a hundred years old, no one put metal flashing or edging so parts leaked or were rotting and the haphazard roof additions weren’t tied in correctly so had to be rebuilt.

A friend’s house is much nicer to look at but has many more problems needing fixing. These may or may not be mentioned before you buy, probably not. That leaves you fixing the problems.

reclaiming a country place

Using a bush hog knocks down that overgrowth. Some people use herbicides, but those kill desirable plants too as those so-called weeds have more nutrition in them than grass. Even cattle will eat tender new growth. Goats relish the variety.

Caution 2: The Neighbors

In the city neighbors are right next door. Fences and walls separate neighbors to minimize conflicts. That changes for your country place.

Neighbors come in three classes. The best ones are people you love to know. I was blessed with one such neighbor when I bought my first country place.

Mr. Kesner explained how to build a fence, how to arrange my place, how to fix up the house and broke my pony to work my garden. I learned about his hunting dogs and tales of town when it was younger. If anything went drastically wrong, I had help right next door.

Another class of neighbors ignores you. They and their animals don’t bother you. Often you are on speaking terms, just not friendly ones. A disaster will garner help.

Then there are the nightmare neighbors. These are the people who live across the road and raise dogs that bark any time you show your face. Perhaps they go by the animal shelter or just collect stray dogs and let them run. They raise cattle but never fix the fences. They have loud parties and strange visitors at all hours. They steal your livestock and other belongings. They shoot your animals for the target practice.

Please, I am not making these instances up. We’ve been lucky but I know many people who haven’t been. It’s important to check the neighbors out before you buy even a great piece of property.

This is another reason to buy as much land as you can. It puts the neighbors farther away. We own both sides of the county road so no one can move in across the street.

That doesn’t mean we are complaisant. We rarely go anywhere together leaving someone here most of the time. People cruise down the county road at five miles an hour checking everything out. The local paper has long lists of burglaries.

country place reclaimed

Once pastures are reclaimed, it isn’t hard to keep them looking nice. We bush hog in late summer giving grass time to grow back for fall and winter grazing.

Hint 3: Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents are normally friendly people. They have to be as their living depends on selling property. This bears repeating: real estate agents make their money from their commissions. The higher the price you pay, the more money the agent makes.

When we bought this property, there was no internet. Today properties are listed with pictures and descriptions. You can take your time with no one breathing down your neck and check out the listings in your target areas.

I’m not good at bargaining, mostly because I don’t do much of it. Real estate and car sales still operate on bargaining. That can work for or against you. If your target area is popular, you may have to offer more than the listed price to buy the property.

Lots of rural areas are not so popular. That gives you the chance to make lower offers on properties listed at more than you want to spend. All the owner can say is no.

As soon as you tell a real estate agent the price range you are considering, the agent starts making a mental list of properties to show you. The agent will assume you want a nice house on your country place. These may or may not be what you are looking for. This is where you push to see properties that are closer to what you want.

We wanted to garden and had goats and chickens. One property the agent took us to see had one flat spot big enough for a house. The rest of the place was a steep hill. It is possible to garden in terraces but setting them up takes a lot of time and work. Plus you are either going downhill or uphill anytime you step out the door.

Another piece was miles off the paved road. A gravel road, at least it was called a road, went to the property. Actually the road went down a dry creek bed that split the piece in two. High water would mean being stuck for the duration.

Then there was the property with five miles of rutted driveway leading to it. The nearest town was a blink and you miss it kind of place.

That does bring up the towns. Take a look around. You will be going into town to shop. How far away is town? The local library was a big deciding factor for us. Do you feel comfortable in the town? If you need to find a job, what is the employment situation? These things matter if you, like us, plan to live there for years.

Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t settle for property totally unsuited for what you want to do. Don’t pass up a good piece because it is overgrown and needs work to be that great place of your dreams.

Knowing a Good Property

There are signs to look for when you go looking for that country place. This is where a little botany really comes in handy. Buying a good tree guide will help.

Part 2 will go over some of these signs.

 

Water Is Vital

People, gardens and livestock require water. Cities and towns generally have water departments and pipes taking water to houses and businesses. Some rural areas join together to form water districts to supply water to their members.

Most rural areas leave water supply up to the land owners. There are generally four sources in the Ozarks: drilled well; springs; rain; and surface sources such as dug wells, ponds and streams.

Ozark Water Facts

I love to garden. It’s a great way to take out frustration pulling those persistent weeds. It’s relaxing to dig in the dirt. Those little sprouts are exciting to see. Fresh, home grown food, especially food you grow yourself, prepared for dinner is so satisfying on several levels.

Floods or, more accurately, high water events are not uncommon in the Ozarks. They are usually short-lived but destructive. The bedrock of the Ozarks accounts for this.

water carved bluff rock

This bit of exposed bluff rock has some cavities in it but they don’t open into any caves we know of. There is no water coming out from this rock but it stays moist from the creek just below. The rock is pitted with cracks both horizontally and vertically.

Lesson 1: Missouri has Lots of Caves and Rocks

The Ozark Plateau is a Karst formation. This is a huge block of limestone riddled with holes formed by acidic rainwater seeping through the rock and dissolving some of it. Such an area, and there are other Karst areas around the world, are known for caves, sinking streams, sinkholes and springs.

A common belief is that water seeping through soil is cleaned of much of the debris in it. This is not true in a Karst area. Debris falls through or is dumped into sinkholes and sits for decades with water flowing by. A stream can carry debris with it as it flows down through a crevice and disappears. The debris may or may not arrive at the spring where the water reappears.

Parts of the Ozarks have a granite bedrock. Everywhere the rocks break into small pieces. The soil seems to grow a new crop of rocks every year. Rarely is the soil more than inches deep.

My garden soil has a lot of gravel in it. This is annoying when I try to rake a seed bed smooth. But big rains rarely make a mess of my garden as the water drains through quickly.

Other people I’ve talked to have more clay and their gardens can stay muddy for weeks. Still, the vegetables usually survive or even thrive with the moisture.

Drought is different. Drought creeps up as day follows day with no rain. The garden starts drying up. The plants shrivel. The weeds curl their leaves and droop. Only water can help them.

captured rain is a water source

Rain barrels under a drain spout or eave overhang fill quickly. Mosquitoes can be a problem. I have an aquarium fish net and sweep them up every day or so to keep the larva from hatching into adults. The larva dry out quickly when tossed on the ground.

Lesson 2: Supplying Water to the Homestead

Filling jugs in town is possible but a real nuisance. There is never enough. Buying bottled water is expensive. The best way is to have water on site.

Rain is one source of water. In the Ozarks rain is a feast or famine proposition. That is where rain barrels, ponds and streams help. Some old houses still have cisterns under them filled from rain funneled down from the roof.

I use rain barrels for watering my garden. There are two roofs overhanging the garden and I place the barrels there to catch the run off from March to November. Plastic barrels do not do well filled with ice.

During long dry spells, I supplement the rain barrels by refilling them with water pumped from a nearby creek. This method works fine during short dry spells. The creek disappears under its gravel bed in droughts. Ponds dry up. Even springs can stop flowing.

All of these are lumped under surface water. This means the water can pick up all kinds of things from debris to manure to chemicals from the surfaces it flows over. Garden plants and soil filter out much of this. Using these for drinking water without filtration is risky.

A neighbor uses a spring for house water. The spring has a fairly large flow but does fluctuate according to the rainfall or lack of it. The amount of mud and debris flowing out of the spring increases in wet weather. The water must be filtered carefully at all times as a spring is basically surface water and can have any number of pollutants in it.

Another is a dug well. This goes down into the water table. The water in the well is surface water and the level will rise in wet conditions and fall in dry conditions. Heavy manure or fertilizer applications will taint the water quickly.

I have a dug well and do use it for livestock water buckets. The water temperature stays about the same all year so the goats appreciate relatively warmer or cooler water depending on the season. The well is above my garden so compost doesn’t affect it. We have no close neighbors above the well so the water stays palatable to the goats.

This water may be used to cool off in the summer but is not used for drinking water. Lots of creatures call the well home even though the top is covered. I occasionally pump up amphipods, little white shrimp like creatures.

The other option is a drilled well. Having one put in is expensive but the well rarely goes dry even during a drought. The well requires a pump, pipes and pressure tank.

A well bucket can be used in a drilled well. The bucket is dropped down into the water to fill then pulled up using a crank. This is a lot of work for a small amount of water, about two gallons. I’ve done this before and did not enjoy it.

Drilled wells with good casings to keep surface water out of the well are the most reliable source. The amount of water flowing into the well determines how much water can be pumped out before there is no water to pump. The water level will gradually rise again but doing this is hard on the pump and can ruin it.

dug wells are surface water

The original dug well has a cement slab over it with a small opening. We covered this opening to keep chickens etc. from falling in and put in the hand pump. The pump must be easily removable to change the leathers or flexible ends on the pump pipe that control the water flow out while you are trying to pump the water up the pipe.

Lesson 3: Considering Water

How much water you need depends on how the water will be used. Gardens and livestock take lots of water. Washing machines, dishwashers and long showers take a lot of water.

The garden can be left to die in mid summer when rain is scarce. Clothes can go to the laundromat. Showers can be timed. Water is still an issue.

Water is definitely on your list before you go looking for property. Having more than one source is an advantage. Having no sources is a recipe for frustration.

The property here works well. There is a creek that flows all year. It supplies water for livestock out in pasture and my garden during dry times. There is a dug well with a hand pump to supply livestock water at the barn. There is a drilled well to supply the house. Rain barrels supply additional water for the garden and container plants.

We knew before we bought any property we would need water for all these things. When we looked at different properties, we checked out the water sources. If the property didn’t have water sources on it, we kept on looking. Yes, looking gets tiring and you are tempted to compromise. If you compromise on the water you need, you will regret it as long as you live there.

creeks are surface water

Creeks are nice on a property. They do bring problems with erosion – preventable with a riparian zone – and fencing as high water carries fences away.

With Great Trepidation

Deciding to try living in the country, maybe some homesteading is not an easy decision. It can be downright scary. Maybe it should be at least a little scary.

Picking out that piece of property needs to be a little scary as it is not only a big financial investment but where you will try to live this new life style. The wrong piece will doom you to unhappiness, struggle and failure. The right piece can make you wonder why you waited so long to move.

How do you know a good property from a wrong property? The next two weeks may help.

 

Country Living Introduction

Escape the rat race. Leave the crowds, the crime, the problems behind. Move to the country and live the simple life.

This is like believing, if you’re poor, winning the lottery will solve all your problems. All it does is trade one set of problems for another. And the new set includes problems you are unprepared for.

I did leave the city behind many years ago and wouldn’t want to move back. Country living suits me but the learning curve has been steep and painful. I am still learning about the simple country life through reading and the school of hard knocks.

weather and country living

Weather is an important consideration. I don’t mind a little snow and cold but don’t need months of it. The Ozarks weather suits me most of the time.

Lesson 1

My way of country living is definitely not for everyone. That is true for all of those how-to books and articles.

This does not mean reading these books is a waste of time. It means you must adjust what you read to the conditions where you live or plan to live.

I live in the Ozarks. There is a winter here but nothing like northern areas where snow is measured in feet for months. I tried that. No, thank you.

Rich deep soil may exist here and there in the Ozarks, but not where I live. My garden soil is half gravel. It grows a lot of nice vegetables but not carrots or other deep taproot ones. It dries out quickly. Hot summer sun cooks the plants.

A lot of those gardening books and articles won’t apply to me. I do enjoy reading them as I find ideas now and then to improve my own garden. Other ideas may sound good but don’t work for me.

livestock and country living

Gardens and livestock tie you down. Livestock, especially, needs attention daily.

Lesson 2

Know what your goals are before you look for a place to move. Be sure those goals are realistic. Just as important is whether or not everyone in your family shares those goals.

Are you wanting more room between you and the neighbors? You don’t intend to do serious gardening or raise livestock? Then all you need is a house on an extra large lot.

Are you a serious gardener? You might keep a few chickens but raising livestock isn’t on your agenda. You will look for a place with good gardening potentials.

Are you planning on raising livestock? This takes room unless you dry lot and then you need a big hay barn. Cows like pasture. Goats like brushy hills. Horses murder pastures so they need extra space. All need water.

Is a nice house important?

If you will hold down a job, be careful your dreams stay small. Nothing burns you out faster than working all day, every day and still never getting things done.

Consider, too, you don’t need to achieve all your goals the first year. It takes years to build up a good garden spot, arrange it the way you want and find the crops that grow the best for you. If you’ve never had livestock before, get one kind so you have time to learn about them, make sure their housing is adequate and you are comfortable with them before the next kind comes home.

It is tempting to dream big. Having a big dream is fine. Start small and build up as you are ready. You can look for a place big enough and suitable for that big dream, if it ever comes true. Big dreams take more than one person working to achieve them. At the very least, they need everyone supporting them or everyone will end up unhappy.

wildlife and country living

Wildlife invades even the cities but country living is living in wildlife territory. That place you buy belonged to them first. And some of them will come in conflict with you.

Lesson 3

I grew up in the city. I was lucky because my parents kept chickens. For a time we had rabbits. We ate some of them.

The how-to books and articles explain how to raise and butcher your own meat animals. There are good reasons for raising your own meat. I prefer to.

What is missing from those directions and matters a lot to city people is what it is like to butcher an animal you have raised and cared for sometimes for over a year. This is not some neatly wrapped package in the market meat section. This is a living breathing animal that doesn’t want to be your dinner.

Or you find one of those cute raccoons in killing your chickens. Perhaps it is your dog doing the killing. Or a woodchuck is eating your garden and fruit.

Either you can look at the animal and pull the trigger, ending its life, or you can’t. If you can’t, move to the suburbs. You will be much happier.

Think It Over

Country living has lots of challenges. Every day can bring life and death decisions. Ordinary days mean hard work.

There are times I shudder thinking about the day’s agenda. There are times I would love to sit down and relax, not bundle up to milk in thirty degree weather. There are times I ache from head to toe.

This is part of country living. I might sometimes think I’m crazy to keep doing this. Then I drive to town and see the houses side by side and the people crowding the stores, hear the noise and smell the cars.

For me, living in the country far from neighbors, able to walk the hills, enjoy my garden and animals makes all the downsides worth enduring. If you agree or, at least, want to try country living, perhaps you can benefit from what I have learned over the years.

 

The first homesteading topic which is on water will be posted next week.

Making Decisions

No matter where you live making decisions can be difficult. For city people now living in the country these decisions take on another dimension.

So many times I’ve seen city people get a few acres. They are so happy as they begin buying livestock and plowing up that huge garden. Finally they can live their dream of country life.

The problem often is that this is a dream and should stay a dream.

Nubian doe and triplets

High Reaches Jewel’s Pixie has triplet doe kids. Pixie got hurt somehow and is brain damaged leaving her handicapped walking. It was a hard decision to make to breed her. she and the triplets are doing fine.

Even country people can run into decision problems. The livestock and garden can become more than they can physically do.

Changing the size of a garden isn’t that difficult. Part of the plot can lie fallow. Vegetable allotments can get smaller. Flowers can move into a part.

A garden must be sized according to what the gardener has a use for and can physically tend. My garden has changed a lot over the years.

The area hasn’t really gotten smaller. But now it is laid out in smaller beds. Weeding has been controlled with mulch. Daffodils, daylilies and a rose grow in one corner, hollyhocks in another.

Nubian kids playing

Watching goat kids play is so entertaining. From a few days old they are built on springs and so full of life. Yet keeping them all is not possible. Decisions on which stay and which leave are hard to make.

Livestock is another question. These are living creatures.

I love my goats, most of the time. Well, I suppose it is all of the time although that can be hard to remember sometimes. Goats do get into trouble.

Dairy goats are confining. They must be cared for and milked twice a day, preferably on time. They require grain and good quality – translation: expensive – hay.

A goat barn is necessary. It usually needs some maintenance at the most inopportune times. It needs cleaning out. What are you going to do with all that manure and used bedding?

brown Nubian doeling

This is a lovely Nubian doe kid. She will be a good milker. She is for sale as my herd must go down in number.

Goats require good fencing. Woven or field fence wire is expensive. Putting it up is time consuming and hard work.

With dairy goats there is another consideration: the milk. How much milk do you need? How much cheese (think time and work along with this) can you consume? More arrives in the kitchen twice a day.

The more goats you have, the more time, money and work they require. How much of these can you devote to them?

Goat kids are adorable. They come bouncing over to see you. They are entertaining to watch. They grow up.

My herd now numbers 22. There are presently 18 kids. Two are now three months old. It is time to make some decisions.

decisions lead to selling Nubian doe kid

Like her mother High Reaches Drucilla this doe kid is polled. She is from a good milker, is friendly. Decisions about kids can be very hard but I must sell her.

I no longer have the time for a large herd. I can’t afford that much alfalfa hay. I can’t do the same amount of physical labor anymore.

The kids are so much fun. There are several I would love to keep. I can’t.

So decisions are made for practical reasons and regret tinges them with sadness. One doe kid will stay. The wethers will go to the auction and sell for meat. The other doe kids are now for sale, even one who is polled from an excellent family milker and one I wish I could keep.

City people must learn to make decisions like this if they want to live something close to that dream they moved to the country with. It isn’t easy. But not making those decisions can destroy their dream entirely.

Making New Year Plans

Every year I sit down and write out a set of goals I would like to accomplish over the New Year. At the end of the year I look over that list to mark off those accomplishments I achieved.

Ozark sunrise

A New Year begins with a sunrise. The sunrise signals the beginning of a new day. The New Year begins a time of a new goal list and new surprises.

I had planned on completing three books last year. “The Pumpkin Project” was the only one completed. Admittedly it was a much bigger project than I had anticipated.

That leaves two books still waiting for my attention. So these two, Capri Capers and an untitled third volume in the Hazel Whitmore series, head my writing goal list for the New Year.

Surely these two books will not take all year. So I will add some challenges: completing the two picture books Watching For Fairies and the Little Spider.

Anticipating another year after this I will add completing the draft rewrite of my untitled Road Rally novel. And there is another science book to start, The Water Project. Then there is my pet project: a science fiction series.

My love of writing may be obvious. My enjoyment at sharing my books has faced continuing disappointment.

Watch for changes on my website to focus more on letting people know about my books. Already I have found one way to make free sample pages from my books available. This will include a giveaway for Capri Capers about March, my planned release month.

An unending problem with country living is the endless list of repairs far too numerous for a goals list. My goats will be the focus of many of these from fixing rotten planks on the goat gym to fixing fence.

Nubian doe High Reaches Silk's Drucilla

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla hangs heavy with kids due for the New Year. Signs of kidding are the low hanging belly and hollows in front of her tail. Her vulva is swollen too. Her twin does arrived Dec. 29.

Kids should begin arriving in January this year. Bonnie and Drucilla are getting big. Their udders are softening and growing. The kid coats are cleaned and ready. And the first twin doe kids have arrived.

The chickens need better nest boxes and new roost poles. Of course there will be pullets in the spring. I wonder which breed this year?

So many changes are happening in my garden. Most of the new beds are finished and mulched for the winter. The seed catalogs are arriving full of ideas for spring.

compost pits

The new compost pits are outlined with blocks. The challenge will be filling the piles without help from the chickens.

A compost bin is planned with the site picked. Shelves are arriving for starting plants in the solar greenhouse before it returns to being a shade house for the summer.

One great disappointment from my list of goals from last year is not taking time regularly to walk the hills. This goal will again be on my list with renewed emphasis. I miss my regular walks replaced with stolen bits of time far too fleeting and too few.

A list of goals for the year is so much better for me than making resolutions too soon broken and tossed aside. A goal gives purpose to the year without a timetable so the list is adjustable as new events and surprises unfold in the New Year.

May your New Year have many delightful surprises.