Tribute to a Friend

Last night we lost a dear, dear friend. Echo managed to escape from the house without being immediately noticed, and was hit by a car on the road. When I saw her laying there on the shoulder, she was still warm and soft. It was evident that she was killed instantly, and I am grateful that she didn’t suffer.

Echo was the sweetest little dog imaginable. As Oddler aged, my children became fearful that he would die (he’s still with us), and we decided to get a pup for the kids to grow up with. Not a working dog, not a dog for Mama – just a friend for the kids to love. After reading through several different sites listing the top “family dogs”, we decided to get a beagle. Oddler is a coonhound, and we wanted one that looked like him. We visited the Humane Society first, then looked at several different litters. I gave my input, but wanted to let the kids make the choice as much as possible. In the end, they chose Echo.

Echo was so tiny when we brought her home at 10wks. Even full grown, Echo was 15lbs, about the height & length of Juno at 8wks. Echo’s only job on this farm was to be a friend, and she filled that role with gusto. She loved my children well. She snuggled with them, played with them, put up with their games and enjoyed their walks. She was dumb as a bag of bricks and never learned more than a simple “sit”, even after obedience classes and lengthy efforts at training. She never even came to recognise her own name, or respond when being called. It didn’t matter, though – Echo didn’t need to be smart. She just needed to let the kids love her, and they did.

Echo could be frustrating for me to deal with sometimes, but she was very special to all of us. We assumed she would be at the kids’ sides as they grew, a friend for all stages of childhood and adolescence, someone to snuggle with when feeling sad and to confide in. Someone to share secrets with and a cute face to brighten dark days. You know, all the things a child’s dog is good for. My children are heartbroken over Echo’s death.


The older two children helped their daddy lay Echo in a box for this morning’s funeral, and placed her little dress-up outfit inside with her. Two-yr-old Robin didn’t understand. He looked into the box at his little friend, and suddenly he knew. “Mama,” he said, “Echo broken. Not come back anymore.” We all started crying again.

This morning, a hole was dug in the gardens and Echo was laid to rest. The children helped to dig the hole, placed the box inside, and covered it over. We placed field stones around the perimeter of the little grave and will be making a special headstone to mark the place where Echo sleeps.

She was only with us for one year, but she was loved well and we gave her the best we could. I hope she is alright, wherever she is now.

When Dreams Meet Reality

Two-and-a-half years ago, my family moved to this little farm with dream – to produce some food and work toward self-sufficiency.

Needless to say, it has been a bumpy ride. There has been a huge learning curve, both in the gardens and with our livestock. There have been deaths (goats and chickens don’t live forever!) and there have been successes. Our gardens have thrived at times and failed at times. Sometimes things flow smoothly and it feels great, and other times everything is a struggle and I wonder what the heck we are doing here.

I never thought this homesteading life would be easy, and I had no delusions of grandeur – just a simple dream and some determination. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always co-operate. I recently became a single mother, and had to make some tough decisions about how to go forward with this little farm.

When my husband made the decision to move out, I felt my dreams slipping away. How could I homestead by myself, with four very young children underfoot? It felt impossible.

Having my fourth baby strapped to my back while I go about my farm chores in frosty winds and stinging rains is less than ideal, so I’ve given up on milking our sweet goat, Daisy. She’s drying off, and our fridge is emptying as the steady stream of goat’s milk stops flowing. My first choice was to sell the goats and sheep, but my children put up such a (very loud) fuss when I raised the subject, that I changed my mind and figured out how to make it work to keep them here.

As my oldest son wailed about how much he loves Daisy & Dinosaur – how he raised them, how he fed Daisy her bottles (he calls himself her surrogate mother), how Dinosaur was our first goat born here – memories of the past two years filled my head. I saw my younger son, just starting to crawl, approaching baby Dinosaur in the lush grass of our front yard on a beautiful Summer’s day. I saw my older son with a huge grin on his face, snuggling baby Daisy on our living room couch as he fed her a bottle. I saw my daughter, shy and reserved, speaking sweetly to the little goat whose mama wouldn’t love her. I saw that I couldn’t give these animals away. Somewhere along the line, my dream became my children’s reality.

The next couple of years may not unfold how I had imagined they would – I’m reducing my flock of chickens to 8 laying hens, ditching the rabbit idea, and giving up goat milking, among other things – but I refuse to let my dreams die. Before I know it, I won’t have a little baby anymore. I’ll have four bigger kids, who won’t require such intense attention as they do now. I’ll have four sets of helping hands in the gardens, four sets of helping hands to milk the goats, four sets of helping hands to gather eggs. In a few years, we can dive back into homesteading with fervour.

For now, I’ll do what I can with what I have available and take what life brings. It may not be what I had originally dreamed of and I may not be self-sufficient, but sometimes reality ends up being better than a dream. I know I’ve got great things coming.

Sisterhood

What a joy this weekend to have my sisters home. They live several hours away, and I don’t get to see them nearly as often as I’d like. It warmed my heart to see them holding our sweet baby Gaia, and the children had such fun with their aunties.

I’m grateful to have so many people to love in my life. Sisters are one of life’s greatest blessings.

She’s Here!

It’s been six days of wonder and awe for this lovestruck mama. Our sweet fourth baby, Gaia Claire, was born at home on March 28 in the early hours of the morning.

Since Wednesday, life has been a bit of a roller coaster, but we are well and happy and the kids are totally in love with their new baby sister. Read on for her full birth story, with photos.

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Spring Has Sprung

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, warm and bright March day – a perfect day for Spring Equinox, and a perfect day for being outside.

The goats and sheep have REALLY been enjoying the fresh, young grass that is coming up all over the yard. They’ve spent the past few days grazing in front of the house, while Oddler seems to have made it his personal duty to keep an eye on them as he lazes in the sun.

Aren’t they so delightfully shaggy with their winter coats on? These ladies will soon be first-time mamas. I wonder who will give birth first, me or them?

We took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent the day together as a family at our local conservation area. The place was humming and buzzing with life! It was a noisy symphony of croaks and birdsong, chattering squirrels, honking geese, insects and more. What a glorious treat for the ears!

We were able to get very close to a pair of swans, who looked at us calmly and went about feeding on the bottom of the creek. The kids watched the swans for some time, then realised that there were bullfrogs croaking very loudly right behind them!

Lynden spotted dozens of very large – HUGE! – frogs sunbathing along the water’s edge. We photographed at least 14 of them within the span of a few feet. For a boy who loves amphibians almost as much as he loves dinosaurs, this was extremely exciting.

This is Echo’s first Spring, and her first time really experiencing the wonders of the wild world. She was as excited about the frogs as Lynden was, and tried repeatedly to catch one. Of course, before she got anywhere near close enough to grab a frog, every last one had jumped far out of reach into the water (which only served to make Echo even more excited!).

Frogs were not the only exciting creatures to be found. Lynden discovered many snakes along the way, some at the water’s edge who were obviously after the frogs, and some in sunny spots along the edge of the trail. Imagine his delight when he quietly approached a sun-bathing garter snake and got close enough to stroke his fingers down its back before it slid away!

We came across a tree growing some lovely fungi on its trunk, and the children decided that this must be a gnome’s ladder – perfect for a wee person to climb.

Indeed, it was a perfect day, a perfect Spring Equinox. We all felt so free, being outside without coats, without leggings, without hats & gloves. My heart soared as I watched my children run amongst the trees, laughing and discovering, slowing down to marvel over little miracles of Nature.

Somehow I didn’t end up with any photos of Robin, who is old enough this year to run and discover with the bigger kids, and to whom everything is so very fresh and new, never before experienced. He was totally amazed by everything he came across, and marched along with such purpose and pride. It was a joy to watch him, blossoming into a big kid.

Happy Spring to you, my dear readers. I hope you are enjoying your days as thoroughly as we are, for life is so very beautiful.

Waiting for Baby

Because Braxton-Hicks contractions are keeping me awake at 3am, I’m using the computer while my children snore soundly a few feet away. Of course, this means I’m going to be all the more exhausted come sunrise, but such is life.

We are getting so close to the arrival of this new little person, and I am filled with anticipation. Boy or girl? Big baby or small? Bald like the other three, or lots of hair? Who is this little person growing inside of me!?

To keep myself occupied (not that endless laundry, household chores, and three children don’t keep me occupied…), I’ve been knitting & crocheting baby stuff. These little newborn vests are so quick and easy and fun, and a great way to use up leftover stash yarn. I’ve done a few already, and want to do more with different cables and colours. I’m bursting with ideas on how to maximize the cuteness! I’ve also got some crochet longies on the go, which may actually end up being shorties or capri pants instead, since this is a Spring baby and we may not get much use out of long-legged wool pants.

This is my view, looking down. My lap is rapidly disappearing and it’s increasingly difficult to get footwear onto my feet. Lynden has often said, lately, that he can’t wait for this baby to be born so I can stop groaning every time I have to bend over, and so I can finally hold him again! Of course, he always throws in, “But I’m actually excited to meet the baby, too,” which is evident by the way he’s been cradling his doll while singing lullabies when he thinks nobody is paying attention.

And Raina, sweet Raina, so anxious to become a 2nd-time big sister. She is positively giddy with excitement, and absolutely certain that she’s finally going to have a sister. I hope, for her sake, that we do have a girl, because Raina’s heart is set on even numbers of males to females in this house.  Raina has wished harder than I thought possible for a little baby girl to hold – if only wishing hard enough could makes things come true…

And so, now we wait. In the corner of the dining room sits a laundry basket filled with homebirth supplies – freshly washed towels, compress cloths, hydrogen peroxide, receiving blankets, a flashlight with new batteries, a large plastic container for the placenta, and other things that likely won’t be used (we never used our entire birth kit for the previous three births!). Two large flannel-backed table cloths have been placed under the bed sheets, “just in case”.  The kids have been drilled on keeping the house nice and clean over the past few weeks, for the sake of mama’s sanity and being ready for a birth. The toilet’s been scrubbed to shining, the floors are mopped every few days with lemongrass essential oil in the mop water for a lovely & refreshing clean feeling in the house.  And we wait.

Winter Adventuring

January 2012 was, perhaps, the strangest January I have experienced yet. We were inundated with more rain than I thought possible for mid-winter, with only a few snowy days. What a surprise to wake up on the final day of January to a forecasted 13 degrees Celsius!

We took advantage of the warm, sunny day and headed out to our local conservation area with my dad. The kids brought their bikes; it thrilled them to no end to be bike riding in January. It was Raina’s first time riding her two-wheeler (with training wheels!) outdoors.

(You’ll have to excuse the quality of the photos. My camera is out of commission and I’ve had to rely on my phone for pictures.)

My dad pushed Robin in the stroller, so all this pregnant mama had to do was walk leisurely along and enjoy the sunshine!

We came upon a swan who was being forcibly outcast from the rest of the flock. Two other large swans would attack it whenever it tried to rejoin the flock, and drive it toward the boardwalk. At one point, the outcast swan was a mere three feet away from Lynden – if he had stretched out his hand, he would have touched it. We spent quite a while marveling at the swan, watching it closely and appreciating its magnificence and beauty. It didn’t seem frightened of us at all, and completely ignored our dogs.

In his younger days, Oddler would run off into the woods and have grand adventures while we slow, two-legged folk ambled along. Now, at 11 years old, he is going deaf and losing his sight. Now he prefers to stay close by, and we sure do appreciate his company. I can’t help but wonder how many nature walks we have left with the old boy. He’s been a central part of our family for so long…

Robin was pretty thrilled by the beach. As soon as his feet hit the sand, he was digging and collecting shells. Each new shell was held high in the air with an excited exclamation. (Although he rode in the stroller, Robin insisted on wearing his bicycle helmet because his older siblings were each wearing theirs – a warm woolly hat just wouldn’t do.)

Despite the balmy, early-spring-like weather, the shore of Lake Erie was still a mass of ice. The wind had created incredible ice hills and caverns, which made for some totally awesome exploration.

In total, we spent about three hours at the conservation area. By the time we returned, we were muddy, hungry, and thoroughly happy – proof of a day well spent!

And to think, we would have missed the glorious sunshine and the wonders of Nature if the kids weren’t homeschooled. How blessed we are to have our days open and free!

Wild Wonders

It was a crazy and busy weekend, with the kids away for sleepovers with their grandparents and the toddler & I in the big city.  So when things finally calmed a bit this afternoon and we were all together again, it seemed only fitting to take to the woods.


There’s nothing better than a day in the woods.

Dip, Dip and Swing

Of all the things I love about living where we live, I am most grateful for the beautiful conservation area about a half-kilometer down the road.  Today we were blessed with a break in the rain, long enough to get out for a paddle with the kids, my parents and my brother.  It was such a relief to have a sunny afternoon, and we sure did make the most of it!

This is practically in our back yard!

So very tuckered out!

Just as we were pulling the canoes out of the water, dark clouds began to roll in.  Within a half-hour, rain was spitting down and soon we were hit with a major thunderstorm.  We were so lucky to get our canoeing in before the rain, and so thankful for a bit of sun in an otherwise very rainy couple of months.

A Full & Busy Weekend

Wow! The sun came out this weekend, and I finally got some outdoor work done around here.  It felt fantastic!  I haven’t accomplished this much in the course of two days in quite a long while, being so house-bound all winter and then getting stuck with weeks of rain:

- Four new 4’x8′ garden beds built and ready to be planted
– Switched the goats over to fresh pasture and re-seeded the side they came off of
– Got half my mountain of laundry washed and hung on the line (I refuse to use the dryer anymore and don’t have an indoor drying area set up yet, so with all the rain I didn’t get any laundry done)
– Visited my friend Linda from Spinning a Yarn to pick up a fleece to process & spin
– Did some spinning of alpaca fibre
– Started knitting produce bags for the market
– Moved my yucky old couch out of the house in order to make the back room a space for plant growing, chick brooding, and laundry hanging
– Gave Jae a hand in building the dogs a new house

Prior to this weekend I was feeling as though I was ineffective and not getting much done.  Robin’s been cutting four molars at once, and is a mess of snot and tears and drool – I’ve had days of doing not much but sitting on the couch with him, nursing and comforting.  Then there was the rain that kept me out of the gardens, children taking their turns being sick, students participating in local competition, and recovering from my torn pec muscle.  I like a few days of down time, but I was starting to feel like I really needed to accomplish something! I’m glad the sun came out and there were no obligations for the weekend, so I could get on top of my work pile.

And work pile aside, we had a beautiful weekend.  On Saturday evening my family’s band held a house concert (we play folk, Celtic and roots music – though I didn’t play with the fam this weekend).  My mother and father’s home was filled with friends, neighbours and family, all come to enjoy the music and have a grand time.  And a grand time it was!  I loved having so many wonderful people come together to share smiles and songs.  It lifted my heart and brought a smile to my face.

Mother’s Day was lovely, too.  I spent some time with my ma and my grandma and my Aunt (who came to visit from out of town), and was treated to a restaurant dinner by Jae and the children.  The sun warmed my skin and my family warmed my soul.  All day I felt so blessed to be a mama, and so in love with my sweet little ones.  Whatever did I do with my life before them?  They bring so much purpose and reason and direction for me, so much love.  Motherhood is amazing.