Some Days

If I am to be honest, there are days when I am overwhelmed by the tasks that lay ahead of me. There are days when mopping the floors or washing the dishes or folding laundry seems so insanely futile, when I feel like it’s pointless to pick up the toys scattered about the living room, when I wonder why I ever bother making the bed. I know that when I wake up tomorrow, there will be absolutely no evidence that I did any of these things today. There will be more toys on the floor. There will be muddy footprints leading from the back door to the bathroom. There will be a heaping hamper of dirty laundry waiting to be washed, and the sink will be full of dishes. Tomorrow I will spend my day going through the motions – again – cleaning the same messes that were cleaned today & wondering how I will fit the gardening and the meal-making and the child-loving in around the endless housework.

Most days, it’s ok. It’s life. It’s just the way things are. But some days, some days it’s enough to make this mama feel a little more than crazy. Some days it’s enough to make me want to stay in bed all day with the blankets pulled up over my head. But I know all too well that avoiding the dishes only makes it harder to face the task, when every last dish has disappeared from the cupboard and made its way, filthy, to the sink. Avoiding the laundry means I’m stuck with a pile that I can never get to the bottom of. And I can’t relax in bed, anyway, when there’s laundry on my bedroom floor and the bed sheets are crinkled & begging to be washed.

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When these days of overwhelm hit me, I force myself to find little things to appreciate. It doesn’t always work, but dang, I do so enjoy hanging laundry on the line when the sun is shining and a soft breeze is blowing. And I do so love the satisfaction I feel when I gaze upon a basket of freshly-folded towels, crisp and smelling of the sun, just taken off the line.

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Some days little moments of beauty are in greater abundance than one could ever expect.

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!

 

Friday on the Farm

Our days are filled with wonder and beauty.  There is much to be grateful for!  Today was particularly lovely.

Will I ever tire of hanging laundry on the line, or of taking laundry photos? Doubtful.

These beautiful flowers are coming up all over the place in so many different colours. I can't get enough!

Spinning......

...........and spinning!

Spin Crazy

Wow, it’s June already! Spring just sort of disappeared in a never-ending rain, and now here we are rushing full speed ahead into a very hot summer.

These days, I seem to have an abundance of spinning fibre, coming at me from every which way.  Of course this means that I am spinning like a madwoman, unable to stop myself from sitting down at the wheel every time I walk past.  I’ve got a million projects in mind for my finished results…

Look at the beautiful fibre, just waiting to be spun. Who could resist?

Yes, that's a homemade niddy noddy. Cost? Less than $3.

I so love new yarn hanging to dry after first washing. It makes me smile.

 

Oh yes, I love to spin!!

 

As an aside… take a look at the world’s best laundry partner:

This is the sweet face I see grinning at me each day as I hang the clothes. My favourite time of day!

 

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.

A Day in the Life of a Small-Scale Mama Farmer

When I tell folks that I homeschool my children, keep a small farm, spin yarn, knit and crochet, and teach violin, I often get asked how in the heck I find time for everything.  Since so many people seem to want to know, here’s a snapshot of an early-Spring day in the life of this farmin’ mama (the rhythm of the day changes with the seasons – things will be so different in Summer!).

 

8am: The kids are waking, which means I am waking too if I didn’t get up earlier.  We have our morning snuggles and make our way downstairs where I get started on breakfast.

8:30-ish: Breakfast is served!  Our morning meal is usually comprised of scrambled eggs, oatmeal (the oats have been soaking for a minimum of eight hours and fermenting with a bit of kefir), or hemp seed butter and raw honey on sprouted bread.

9am: The children are fed, the table is cleared, and the littles are all wrapped up in a game or an elaborate make-believe.  Time for Mama to go do the farm chores!  I gather the goat bucket, which is full of kitchen scraps, and fill a jug with water.  Then I slip on my coat and boots and head outside to commune with the farm animals.  The dogs come out with me for their morning pee – Miss Molly prances along beside me, quite delighted to be helping me with the farm chores.  I dump the goat bucket into an old Rubbermaid tub that serves as a trough of sorts, empty my jug into the goats’ water pail, and give each goat a good-morning pat.  Then I climb up into the hay loft and throw the day’s ration of hay down into the barn, and the goats come running to devour it.  I like to take a few minutes to sit quietly and watch them as they eat; there is something so calming and peaceful about being with the goats in the barn.

Next I’m off to the chicken coop, where I make sure the feeder still has food in it and the waterer still has water.  Most of the chickens are out in the goat yard, cleaning off whatever kitchen scraps the goats left behind.  Some mornings I shovel chicken poop out into a manure container – it will be dumped into the gardens where it will enrich the soil.  Then I gather the eggs.  Although Jae made a nesting box that is mounted on the outside of the coop, with an easy-access lid that should mean just reaching in and grabbing the eggs, many of the chickens choose to lay on the second floor of the coop instead.  So I climb up on a step ladder and search around for little nests in the straw.  (Being strapped for space, we built up instead of out – the coop is two stories, but narrow, rather than one story and wide.  The birds still have just as much room per bird as they need to have, but we used only half the ground space.) Some mornings, Raina comes out with me and I lift her up to the second floor, where she gently and delicately pokes around in the straw and hands the eggs down to me.  This is by far her favourite task, and she takes great pride in being so careful that she doesn’t break an egg.

9:30-ish: Finished with the outdoor chores for now, I bring the eggs inside and wash them off.  The dogs get fed.  Robin is getting tired of whatever it was that I amused him with after breakfast and lets me know it with a piercing shriek.  We snuggle on the couch for a while, nursing and playing with each other’s fingers & hair.  I sing, or if Robin doesn’t seem to like my songs, I read the other two children a story.  We spend a bit of time together on the couch, me and the kids, just enjoying each other’s company (well… some mornings Lynden and Raina are at it, hollering back and forth about who gets to sit on which side of me, which book we’re going to read, which song I’m going to sing… but many mornings all is quiet and peaceful and calm).

10am: If I’m lucky, Robin has fallen asleep and I lay him down for a nap.  If I’m not lucky, he’s still awake and I put him in a carrier on my back.  Then I send the older two off to their playroom for a while and get started on the household chores.  I toss a load of laundry into the washing machine (one day I will hand-wash everything; this has been my goal for years) and wash the dishes.  I take last night’s diaper laundry out of the dryer and fold & organise it all, lay it on the change table shelf, and head back into the kitchen to prepare the kids a snack.

11am: The kids and I enjoy the snack, and then we move into the dining room where we get out coloured pencils, crayons, glitter glue, construction paper.  Robin nurses while I supervise craft time.  In the course of their morning play, the kids have made quite a mess in the family room, the bathroom, the living room, their bedroom… when they finish with their crafts, I attempt to get their help in cleaning up.

I fetch the laundry from the washing machine.  If the weather allows it, I hang the clothes out on the line with Robin on my back.  If the weather doesn’t allow, I toss the clothes in the dryer.

12:30pm, give or take: If Robin napped earlier, he is now happily playing on the floor.  If he didn’t nap earlier, he’s napping now.  Either way, the house is relatively tidy, my baby doesn’t need me for the moment, the kids are off playing, and I have a bit of time for spinning or knitting, or crocheting, or carding, dyeing, cross-stitching, rug-making, needle felting… whatever the project of the day happens to be.  I keep going with it until Robin wakes up or gets tired of playing, or until the kids decide they need another snack – whichever comes first (we often forgo “lunch” in favour of several healthy, raw snacks throughout the day).

2pm: We’ve played, we’ve crafted, we’ve cleaned  – we need some time outside!  If the weather is nice, we take to the Greenway, a public nature trail at the back of our property that spans the entire county.  There’s plenty of coyote poop out there this time of year, and lots of other natural treasures to discover.  Some days we trot along at a brisk pace and get a good workout.  Some days we amble along, take our time, delight in small pleasures. Some days we bring along a snack to enjoy outdoors, some days we bring nothing but ourselves.

3pm: The kids are not quite ready to come back inside, so they play in the yard while Robin and I go inside to check on the veggie seedlings.  I water them all and gaze lovingly on these little green shoots that will grow to sustain us this summer.  If the time is right, I start more seeds in trays and rearrange my grow table to make everything fit.  I sure am looking forward to putting these seedlings in the ground – only a few more weeks to go!

4pm: Robin’s diaper has been changed for the umpteenth time and the kids have come in from playing.  I read them a book, fold the laundry, and prepare a small and very light snack to keep the kids happy while I get started on dinner.

5pm: In the middle of making dinner, Robin decides that he needs to nurse RIGHT NOW.  I turn off the stove, sit on the couch, and cross my fingers that he’ll fall asleep long enough for me to finish cooking. Some nights I’m lucky and he settles into a nap.  Some nights I’m not so lucky and Robin remains wide awake, and I wear him on my back while I finish making dinner (I love babywearing, but dang! Robin is a big, solid baby weighing in at 25lbs, at least – my back aches by the time I’m finished at the stove).

6:15-ish: Jae is home this evening and our family gathers at the dining table.  I sing a blessing on our food, thank Mother Earth for all She has provided us, and we take our turns telling what we are thankful for today. Dinner is always made from scratch from fresh, whole foods.  I’ve been trying to stick to recipes that I will someday be able to make entirely with homegrown ingredients.

After dinner, Jae rough-houses with the kids and gets them all wound up.  They laugh, they squeal, and they wear themselves out.  Jae gets the older two kids off to bed, while I lay down with Robin.  If I’m lucky, he’ll fall asleep easily and I’ll have a little bit of time for more crafting or reading a book.  If I’m not so lucky, he’ll wake up repeatedly until I give up on having some time to myself and head off to bed for the night.

So there you have it, a typical Spring day.  I’m thinking I’ll have to write another “Day in the Life” in early Summer when things are really busy around here – goat milking, gardening, chicks & ducklings – we’re only just starting to come out of our Winter hibernation!

Colours of Spring

With the snow gone now, the world around us has gone from white to grey & brown.  It’s not very pretty out there this time of year!  These early days of Spring can be quite dreary looking.  So, you can imagine the sweet pleasure and delight I found in little bursts of colour over the past few days.

I can hang my laundry on the line again!  Glorious!  All the clothing waving gently in the wind like flags of hope, splashes of colour to brighten up the day.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love hanging my laundry on the line?

While I was hanging the laundry, I noticed these green spiked poking up through the brown.  What wonder and mystery!  I can’t wait to see what these spikes will turn out to be!

 

When I went into the front to check on the kids (who were playing on the porch), look what I found!  Brilliant purple and yellow, and BEES!  We marvelled over these sweet flowers for a good long time.  The kids knelt close to examine the bees, whose legs were thick with pollen.  They picked a flower and studied each petal, gently brushed their fingers over the pollen, and then decided to eat it. They say it didn’t taste so good…

 

I took a chance and planted my salad greens in one of the raised beds.  I know it’s a touch early, but I thought it just might work if I put glass panes over the bed.  The kids were delighted and excited; they loved scattering those tiny seeds in the rows I made.  We planted romain lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce, curly Scotch kale, red Russian kale, and spinach.  Now we wait and see!

Oh, I do love Spring and all Her wonders.  What a gift to watch the world wake up!

Laundry Love

I never thought it possible: I have come to love doing laundry. Hanging our clothes on the line is so calming, it’s almost meditative. I stand there in the sun, listening to the birds sing, humming to myself or perhaps singing a little song to baby Robin, who sits in the shade of our Tennessee Cigar tree in his bouncy seat and watches me work. From this particular place in our yard – the laundry area – I can’t really see much but the field, the trees, and the side of the house. I feel like I’m all alone in the world when I’m hanging my laundry, and I love it.

I never thought I’d find such pleasure in domestic tasks. I used to hate doing laundry and avoided it until the kids had nothing left to wear and every basket in the house was overflowing with dirty clothes. Then I’d grumble to myself as I trudged up and down the stairs, abhorring every moment of this chore. Now, I find myself wanting to do laundry on a daily basis, and grumble only that there’s not enough dirty clothes to justify throwing a load in.

There’s something so pleasing about the fresh, clean scent of laundry just off the line. It feels great to slip into a crisp, clean shirt that’s been dried by the sun. And, it’s free! I come by these pleasures without paying a cent – it doesn’t get any better, really.

And have I mentioned the wonderful way the sun seems to make stains disappear? Some of the kids shirts have had stains on them for ages, stains that never faded from one washing to the next. But after a day of hanging in the sun, the stains seem to fade, until a few washes later they are gone altogether. The sun is my friend.

As I hang my laundry on the line, I feel some sort of connection to all the other women in the world who are going about their domestic tasks, caring for their wee ones and keeping things in order. I feel timeless, one with the women of days gone by who had no choice but to hang their laundry. I feel the bridge between my grandmother’s childhood and my own children’s lives; these experiences that my grandmother remembers now belong to my own little ones to carry forward through life.

In this crazy, bustling world, I am grateful to have something as simple as a laundry line. It’s a gentle reminder: life doesn’t have to be so complicated; technology is not the be-all and end-all; the best things in life are free. Who knew a couple of posts and a length of cord could be so wonderful?

Home Sweet Home

Here we are, on our farm at last, and more or less settling in. The kids are in heaven. Today, while driving in the car with Daddy, Lynden asked, “Are we still in the country?” Daddy replied, “Yes, we are,” to which Lynden said, “Good, I’m still happy then.” Within a week-and-a-half, my 3.5 yr old son has come to equate country living with happiness. This pleases me greatly.

One of the first things I did upon beginning to unpack was laundry. How to put into words the joy I felt at hanging my wash on the line for the first time? I’ve been longing to do this for years – in the little apartment we started out in, we were without the space; in our city house, I was unwilling to have my nosy neighbours examining all our garments and bedding hung out to dry, and the only good spot for hanging laundry was directly below a mulberry tree that loved to stain everything in the yard a brilliant shade of purple. And now, here I am, hanging my laundry at last. I find myself amazed when I pull the clothes down off the line, amazed at how quickly they dry, amazed at how fresh everything smells, amazed at how crisp and clean my laundry is. To think I missed out on this for so long! Simple pleasures, simple joys.

The weekend we moved to the farm, my sister and her partner came down from Toronto, my brother came down from the farm he is currently working on, and my aunt & cousins came down from their sweet little town as well. We gave the place a proper breaking-in – a fire on a hot, still night. Silly campfire songs shouted out into the dark sky. Laughter, companionship, crazy dancing by firelight. A circle of family, loved ones, gathered in the night in a place still so unfamiliar and new to us all.

I left the circle of chairs around the fire pit for days, letting the feeling of that first fire linger a while.

There is a nest of baby bunnies near the back of the yard. We have not seen the mother, but we’ve seen plenty of the babies! Our fourth evening here, while the kids were playing in the grass, the whole nest full of bunnies decided to come hopping out to say hello. They were so curious, and several of them hopped right up to the kids, less than an inch away from their outstretched hands. Lynden reached out and scooped one up, cradling the tiny little critter in his palms for a mere moment before I asked him to put it down and keep his human smell off of it. So there we sat, my babes and I, sharing the grass with tiny little bunnies in the late afternoon sun while I marveled at the beauty and wonder of it all.

This place is just full of fur and feathers! Our chicks are in the coop full-time now, and seem to be perfectly happy with that. They are still getting used to their quackie companions and would prefer not to have to share space with such lowly water-loving fowl, but on the whole all of the birds are getting along. I’m loving the beautiful feathers the chicks have grown, the colours and patterns that have come out on them. They’re almost out of the awkward, gawky phase and are fast becoming real beauties! The ducklings are not feathering out nearly as fast, and hold on to their baby cuteness a lot longer. These birds have all made excellent playmates for the kiddos, who will happily spend hours at a time crawling around in the coop, following the ducks, holding the chickies, refilling water dishes and running in circles flapping their arms wildly.

We’re at a grand total of 17 birds right now: the 3 nearly-grown chicks, 5 ducklings, 3 adult ducks, and:

The new chicks! They are so wee and sweet and wonderful. I forgot how small day-olds are – the cuteness of them makes me want to never stop holding them. Two ISA Browns, two black sex-links, two barred rocks. Unfortunately, our white leghorns won’t be here until August, as the hatchery had one of its hatch barns burn to the ground. I won’t mind going through the tiny chick stage again, having a daily dose of cuteness and cheepy love. Slowly but surely, our little flock is growing.

So, although we’re only a week-and-a-half into this, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this farm life suits us just fine. Already I feel free, relaxed, peaceful, happy. This is where I was meant to be. Home.