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!

 

Eating Sustainably: Week Three

I have to keep reminding myself that this is the Sustainable Diet Once-A-Day challenge – not the sustainable diet at every meal challenge!  The farther I get into this challenge, the less I want to eat the unsustainable foods that line my shelves and refrigerator.  This can only be a good thing – I am thinking about food choices at every meal, about where the meal’s ingredients have come from, how far they have travelled, how much they were sprayed, and how much the people who grew them were paid.  And you know, it’s such a tangled web we weave.  In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to worry about the impact my food choices are having on the planet, and the act of eating would be a plain and simple process of nourishing the body and soul.

I managed to add a bit more variety in terms of sustainable food choices this week, beyond eggs and maple syrup.  Saturday and Sunday I totally forgot to take note of what we ate, and can’t remember now for the life of me.  The rest of the week has been good, though!

Monday: We enjoyed some tea from dried herbs our friend Rashel gave us on the weekend.  Mmmmm!!

Tuesday: Our late morning snack of peanut butter on sprouted bread was sweetened with some local honey, and I put a dash of that same local honey in my afternoon tea.

Wednesday: Have I mentioned that our duck is finally laying eggs?  For lunch we had “eggs in the nest” – in which you cut a circle out of the centre of a slice of bread, lay the bread on the pan, crack the egg into the empty circle, fry and enjoy!  The centre piece that was removed from the slice of bread can be used for dipping into the hot yolk, which is our favourite part of the whole meal!  Nothing better than piping hot duck eggs.

Thursday: Our morning bowl of fermented oatmeal was sweetened with homemade maple syrup, and for dinner we enjoyed curried squash from last year’s garden harvest.  It sure is sweet to eat the bounty of the garden at this time of year when homegrown food is so scarce.

Friday: Heaping plates full of scrambled eggs fresh from the coop, at breakfast time.  The hens are laying multitudes of eggs!  Dozens per day!  I can hardly keep up with them, and had almost forgotten how much we love our farm fresh eggs while our hens were on their winter hiatus.  Good golly, do I ever appreciate those hens!

My fingers are crossed that those salad greens I planted a few days back will make an appearance.  It’s hard to say – it sure has been cold these last couple of days.  Time will tell!

How have you met the challenge this week?  I’d love to hear about your success – leave a comment or hop on over to Twitter where you can search #sustainablediet to see how others are faring!

Eating Sustainably – Week One

(I meant to update on the Sustainable Diet Once-a-Day Challenge yesterday, but the opportunity to sit down at the computer just didn’t present itself. Ah, such is life!)

I am really enjoying this Sustainable Diet Once-a-Day Challenge. It has caused me to stop and consider the ingredients of every meal I have prepared and eaten. Where did my produce come from? How far has it travelled? How long has it been off the plant? How much oil was burned to get it to my table? We eat mostly organic food, but that doesn’t equate sustainable, and although I’ve been highly aware of food issues for a good number of years, I’m now really examining the food on my plate in a way I haven’t before.

So, how have we fared this week? On Thursday morning, we ate delicious free-range organic eggs from our friend Lesley’s farm (our hens are not laying right now). Dinner that night was a delectable quiche made with more of Lesley’s eggs, and local organic mushrooms. On Friday morning, we sweetened our oatmeal with our own homemade maple syrup, fresh from the trees just days before. I found one lone egg in the coop, which went into this morning’s pancakes (which were also smothered with our homemade maple syrup).

While I’m pleased to be including these wonderful, sustainable items in our meals, this challenge has caused me to realise that my diet is not nearly as sustainable as I’d like it to be. The veggie seedlings growing by the window give me some comfort, but our family still has a long way to go.

I’m anxious to get the salad greens sown in the garden soon!

I’d love to hear how you’ve met the challenge so far! Leave a comment here on the blog and then hop over to Twitter where you can search #sustainablediet to see how folks are eating sustainably!

Sugaring Time

These warmer days and cold, cold nights can only mean one thing – it’s sugaring time!

You may remember that maple tapping was on my list of things to accomplish this year, and wonder of wonders, I’m actually doing it! We had a fabulous sunny day on Monday, a perfect day for tapping trees. My brother came on by with some spouts and a new drill bit, and we set to work. Within moments, we had a steady drip-drip-dripping of maple sap into our buckets! What a thrill!

There are only two suitable maple trees here on our little farm, and between them we were able to hang six buckets. Well, who would have thought that six buckets could fill up with sap so quickly! There are buckets full of sap in the fridge and buckets full of sap hanging from the trees. It’s such a glorious thing to see those spouts dripping away out there as the sun warms up the morning.

Yesterday, my brother and I spent the day out in the yard boiling down sap over the fire. With maple sap, you have about a 40:1 ratio – it takes 40 parts of sap to get 1 part of syrup. Well, wouldn’t you know, after about six hours of fire-tending, sawing wood, stirring the pot, and adding in more & more sap, we were able to fill about half of a quart-sized Mason jar with syrup.

PHEW! What a lot of work for a little bit of syrup! We are currently experimenting with other methods of boiling down the sap in hopes of finding a quicker way. The thing is, we were so tickled and pleased by the sap dripping from the trees, we decided to tap the trees at my folks’ place as well. There’s more sap than we know what to do with!

Perhaps my favourite part of this whole experience was my first drink of maple sap. It is crystal clear like water, but so crisp and cool and refreshing, rejuvenating, delicious and energizing, like nothing I have ever had before. When it hit my mouth for the first time, I was totally overjoyed. How could I have gone through all these years of my life without drinking maple sap!? Wow, it is simply amazing. My kids have been gulping it down and asking for more. Mmmmmmm……

First thing in the morning we’ll be heading back out to the fire pit to get started on another day of syruping!