Swinging into Summer

“Swinging” into Summer is hardly accurate. It feels more like we’re on a speeding train and Summer is a brick wall directly ahead of us! The days are passing way faster than I care for (but isn’t that always how it goes?). Life is bursting forth everywhere I turn, the baby is growing way too quickly, and my older children are more incredible with each passing day.

Summer on the farm is such a busy, hectic time. There are so many demands! At the end of the day, though, it’s all worth it, and there are an abundance of little rewards.

The chicks, who one month ago looked like this –

- now reside outside and look like this -
How quickly they change!

The rabbits are thriving on grass. They’ve escaped a couple of times, and so we’ve been playing around with various modifications to the rabbit tractor to prevent escape but still allow for grass-eating. (Stay tuned for an update on our rabbits!)

The farmers’ market opened on June 9th, and I was so happy to be back! We had a fabulous opening day, with way more sales than we anticipated and lots of folks from last year stopping by to say hello. The feelings of community and camaraderie that come out at the farmers’ market are so uplifting.

Here’s my market partner – her name is Juno. She’s a 12-week-old Border Collie, and absolutely fabulous!

We’ve also had a few births around this little farm over the past month -


Dinosaur finally birthed her kid, a beautiful little buckling whose name is Boots.


Platypus the duck went broody and sat on a rather large nest of eggs. Eight of them hatched last week, much to the delight of my children.

Yes, Summer is a busy time on this farm: chicks, bunnies, goat kids, ducklings, puppies, gardens, children…….. I feel as though I’m busy and working my butt off nearly every moment of the day. It’s good work, though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Awakening

Oh, dear! We’re almost in mid-February! It occurred to me this morning that it’s time to start planning the gardens for Spring, time to decide which seeds to order, time to plot out which plants will grow where. It’s time to start looking at incubators and decide how much we want to spend to hatch our own eggs again this year (last year’s homemade incubator, while it did give us chicks, didn’t have the hatch rate we had hoped for).

I love this part of Winter, when suddenly it feels like it’s time to come out of hibernation and start living again. It’s not quite Spring, we can’t feel Spring in the air just yet, but I do feel a restlessness and a tug to start preparing. It feels wonderful.

This year, Spring will be extra special. We’re only about seven weeks away from the birth of our newest family member, and my nesting instincts are hitting hard! I am driven to mop the floors every day, almost compulsively, though I only seem to manage mopping twice a week or so. I wash the dishes a few times a day. I am becoming neurotic about the laundry. My house is still a mess (my children have a funny way of creating chaos in a room I’ve just finished cleaning), but I’m busier than ever with chores and preparations. It’s funny what an impending birth will do to a mama.

Yes, mid-February. A glorious time of year, a time of renewal and awakening. Thank goodness it’s here.

Reflections on Our First Year

I realised something fairly monumental the other day: we have lived here on the farm for a year now!  Holy smokes, I can’t believe it’s been that long (and yet not very long at all).  Time sure has flown past and we have been busier here than ever before in our lives.  The past year has held so many amazing moments, challenging moments, stressful moments, exhausting moments, joyous moments – tears, laughter, more tears, more laughter.

I have learned so much in the past year, I don’t even know where to begin.  What immediately comes to mind is the ways in which our family rhythm has changed.  We now flow with the sun & the moon and the weather.  I do my laundry on sunny days.  My kids tend to sleep when the sun is preparing to set, and as time passes we get farther and farther away from an established bed time.  I weed the gardens during the coolest moments of the day, which is generally in the morning but sometimes in the afternoon when a cool breeze sets in, and sometimes at dusk.  Our prepared foods are more seasonally appropriate, too.

I’ve learned to really go with the flow, especially with our animals.  The books will tell you that if you do this, this and this, you will have more eggs, you will get more milk.  But you know, our animals are not production machines and I find they are happier when they live their true nature.  Sometimes that means that we don’t have many eggs, or that the milk pail isn’t very full – and that’s ok! We do our best and treat our animals well, and they are happy creatures.  And most of the time, they give us an abundance of good, healthy food.

I’ve learned that much of what we thought was essential when we lived in the city, really is not.  I’ve happily and joyfully hung the laundry on the line each day – who needs a dryer?  Never once has laundry felt like a chore when it gets hung on the line.  Instead it is a peaceful and meditative task that calms me.  And who needs a lawnmower? A dishwasher? A bread machine? Who needs a television? We’ve happily gone without these things, and life is better for it.

 

Remember this one? The best of everything - sweet baby, laundry on the line, long grass, blue skies - bliss

 

I’ve learned that sometimes, the best thing to do on a snowy day is just stay put.  Cancel plans, get the animals fed, and bunker down inside with some hot soup and lots of art supplies for the kids.  We didn’t have this luxury in the city – snow or not, there were places to be and things to do, and no time to worry about the weather.  I have a whole new appreciation for winter, now.  This past winter certainly was much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be, but there were many wonderful aspects to it, too.  I had moments of desperation in which I wondered how the heck I would feed all the animals when I had three very small children in the house and no other adults around to keep an eye on them for half an hour.  Somehow I managed, and I realised that I’m stronger and more resourceful than I previously thought.

Despite the challenges, there is so much beauty in winter, isn't there?

 

I’ve learned that there is nothing more satisfying or more delicious than producing your own food.  One of my greatest joys in life is collecting eggs and gathering produce from the garden.  I feel really good feeding the products of my labours to my children, watching them grow and thrive on healthful, real foods that were grown right here at home.  When I read about GMO’s, or wood pulp filler in foods, E-coli and salmonella poisonings, pesticide poisoning, birth defects caused by Roundup, rising rates of obesity & diabetes and other food woes, I am so grateful that we are able to produce at least some of our own food and that I am able to provide good, nourishing meals to my children.  What a  blessing!

So much more than just an egg - a promise of health & nourishment, a delicious meal...

 

I’ve learned that sometimes I need to stop carrying the world on my shoulders and rely on others a little bit more.  Jae and I have grown so much together over the past year, and I’ve learned what it means to really rely on another person.  I’m impressed by how much Jae has done around here – from thatching the roof  of the chicken coop to fencing in the gardens – there is no way I’d be able to do it all myself, and sometimes just having another brain to think on a problem means that the solution is so much greater.

And, of course, I’ve learned so many skills – milking a goat, trimming hooves, pitching straw, storing hay, eliminating tomato hornworms & cabbage moth caterpillars, growing a garden without needing to water, the best way to hang laundry, how to use power tools, basic carpentry, how to contain goats, how to can peaches, how to make mulberry jam, what to do with frozen eggs, how to tap maple trees & make syrup, how to hatch chicks, how to keep a baby happy while mama works in the garden (babywearing is a mama’s best friend!), spinning great yarn… and that’s the shortlist.  There really is so much more.

I feel so blessed, so lucky, so full of gratitude when I think on the past year of farm life.  My children have grown and thrived and we’ve all settled into country living beautifully.  I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

To farm life!

 

Where Does the Time Go?

Wow, has life ever been busy lately!  The past week seems to have just slipped away in a blur of activity – gardening, violin teaching, concert organising, gardening, gardening, gardening – and of course there’s always the usual household chores, laundry, animals to feed, stalls to clean, yarn to spin, clothes to be knit & sewn.  Plus the children, my sweet, amazing children, who are the centre of everything and the reason for it all, who need to be read to, pushed on swings, splashed with in the wading pool, tickled, baked with in the kitchen, snuggled on the couch, taken on adventures, bathed, fed, and constantly adored.  Yes, life has been full and rich and busy.  Every day I am finding so much to be grateful for, and so happy to be alive.

The gardens are coming along well, after a super-wet Spring and a late planting start.  We have some tiny tomatoes starting to grow, sweet little green balls hanging delicately from the plants. I can’t help but grin when I look at them.  The cucumber plants are covered in beautiful flowers (won’t be long now!).  We’ve had some delicious garden salads with kale, lettuce, spinach, chard.  Radishes are almost ready, carrots are coming along beautifully.  Our beans look amazing!  Squash plants flourishing, Brussels sprouts growing, broccoli heads beginning to form.  After many farm animal mishaps in the gardens, we’ve finally got our garden fence properly goat-proofed and chicken-proofed.  No more tears over plants being eaten!  The gardens seem grateful indeed, to no longer be living in fear.

Our chicks are thriving and growing so fast.  Can it really be only last month that I hatched those eggs in the incubator?  Really!?  Those sweet little chickies run around with the big girls these days, darting in and out of the tall grass, eating bugs and testing their wings.  They are incredibly amusing to watch, so little and dear, and there’s something all the more special about them because I hatched them here, in my dining room, after turning those eggs three times a day, every day, for three solid weeks.

The goats are growing fast, too.  Alice’s kids are already almost as big as Daisy (our bottle-fed kid, who, admittedly, is really on the small side – really), and Mazie is almost full grown!  She’s catching up to Alice, fast.  With the grass being so long around here, there’s been an endless supply of grazing land for the goats, who are almost always tethered in the front yard, or under the laundry line, or along the bushy side of the driveway.  They keep things somewhat in check and there’s a never-ending source of free food!

And speaking of long grass, we’ve seen many amazing snakes in the yard.  An incredible thing happens when you stop mowing the lawn – it becomes a habitat!  Garter snakes, fox snakes, a wide array of birds (many, MANY of whom have chosen to nest in our trees!), a huge variety of beautiful butterflies, all have been attracted to the yard this summer, due mostly to the lush and diverse plant life covering the property.  I love it!  Every day there is something new to discover.  Now, if only people would stop making snide remarks about our lawn needing cutting!

Yes, these days are busy.  Soon we will be at the farmers’ market on weekends, too, which will add a whole new dimension to life.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Weekend Snapshots

What a gloriously sunny long weekend we had!  Jae and I worked hard and got all of our existing garden beds planted and fenced in, a big relief for sure.  Every evening we got some rain, enough that we didn’t need to water after planting.  Life around here has been really good!

It was warm enough to get the kids’ wading pool out of the garage and fill ‘er up.  Three days in a row, my children were like fish, splishin’ and splashin’ with pruny fingers and toes.

Daisy spent plenty of time leaping and running around in the sun, and plenty of time lazing about in the shade.  She seems to be thoroughly enjoying this warm, sunny weather.

We sold some of our laying flock, including Doug the rooster. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I really do miss the chickens we sold (especially Doug!).  All of our “originals”, the ones we hand-raised last Spring for the first time, have remained.  Here’s Little Red, all grown up.  She enjoys the warm weather, too!

This year’s first batch of chicks are already fully feathered!  Wow, time flies!  These teeny-boppers were put outside for the first time on the weekend, and suffered not a single attack by the older hens.  A peaceful transition to life outdoors.  In a couple of weeks, the chicks we hatched in our incubator will be ready to go out, too, and our next batch of eggs should be hatching.

Yes, the long weekend sure was pretty great.  I hope you all enjoyed yourselves too!

Cheep!

May just kind of sneaked in on us, dreary and grey, and with it comes a burst of new life.

Yesterday, our incubated eggs started hatching! I’m still surprised and awed. This was the first time I hatched out eggs, and I made the incubator myself. Basically, I had no idea what I was doing, and no idea if the eggs would hatch or not.

The amazing thing is, Mother Nature takes care of it all. Beyond turning the eggs three times a day and keeping a steady temp & humidity, I had absolutely nothing to do with this miracle of life. The eggs came out of the hen knowing what to do – wait quietly for a bit of warmth, then develop a chick. The chicks grew in the eggs knowing what to do – twist and turn, grow, and when it gets too crowded, break free! And then, the chicks emerged knowing what to do – rest a bit, dry off, eat, drink, and snuggle in with the other chicks.

Seeing this whole process brings such amazement. It is so entirely perfect, miraculous, complete. Nature’s design is flawless, everything just as it should be, and WOW is it incredible!!

I feel sad to think how much is lost, and how much we miss, with all of our meddling and tampering. We believe we are above Nature, that we can create something better with our technology, but the truth is that we have no clue. We destroy so much of this amazing world around us, getting ever farther from our source, our truth. We put walls between ourselves and the Earth, between ourselves and other people, between our selves and other creatures of this planet. How arrogant and bull-headed is humanity!

But these chicks, they give me hope. I see in front of me the perfection of Nature’s design, and I hope She can hang on as we humans bumble, stumble and fall. I hope She can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that in Her perfection She will heal.

Life is such a miracle!