While They Sleep

In the early morning hours, while the house is quiet and my four children are still snoring, I get up and pull on thick long underwear. Hearing my feet on the floor, the dogs start making soft whining noises in their crates. They know what’s coming.

The sun is not up yet. Sometimes we can hardly see where we are going. The sky is dusty and the ground is crunchy with frost. The goats are sleeping in the barn, the chickens are still in the coop, and the sparrows are just beginning to chirp. In these moments, I can feel the pulse of the Earth. I can feel how we are all connected.

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The dogs race to the field, then look at me expectantly. They’ve been waiting all night for this. It’s time to play fetch!

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They would chase the ball all day, if I let them. Most mornings I’ll throw for 15 minutes or so, and then we take our walk.

We cross the field to say hello & good morning to the old oak trees. At this time of year, the leaves carpet the ground and make a delightful swooshing sound as we walk through them. I often wonder about these trees. If they could talk, what stories would they tell? What have they been witness to all these years? How has the landscape changed?

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We walk the perimeter of the field closest to the house. The dogs race ahead, then race back to me at full speed. They tumble over each other, wrestle, and come back for pats and belly rubs. When we’ve finished our walk, they’re all panting and thirsty. They have a good, long drink while I take care of the farm chores.

The goats are awake now and have come out of the barn. They’re pacing by the gate, waiting for their breakfast. With this year’s shortage of hay, I was very lucky to find some bales from a nearby woman who had more than her horses needed.

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(See that handsome buck on the left? That’s Boots, our springtime babe, now full grown!)

The chickens have heard the goats’ happy bleats and have come running for their share.  They swarm around me, clucking and hopping, eager for their morning crumble & kitchen scraps.

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When everyone is fed and happy, I gather some eggs and head for the house. By now the sun hangs just above the horizon, and my kids are stirring in the family bed. The dogs and I make our way inside to welcome the children into the day. We snuggle and I listen to the kids tell me about their dreams, with sleepy eyes and creaky voices. They start their day softly, totally oblivious to the life I live while they sleep.

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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.