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!

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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!

 

Wild & Wacky Weather

This morning we awoke to rain, and lots of it.  Our front yard was flooded, our back yard was flooded, our driveway was flooded – and the rain kept coming!  We had been planning to boil down syrup over the fire with a group of our friends, but Mama Nature clearly had other plans for us today.

Jae and the kids made origami paper boats and pulled on their galoshes to sail them in the flooded yard.  The current swept those sweet little boats away to the ditch, where they picked up speed.  The kids were overjoyed by their fast-moving paper boats and went running along the side of the ditch in pursuit until the water got too deep and poured over the tops of their boots.  Of course, wet boots were cause for further glee, and my very soggy children tromped back to the house with their daddy, all of them laughing.

The rest of the day we spent indoors.  The kids played in a hot bath for a very long time, while Jae and I did some household chores.  I spun up some yarn, nursed the baby, and lounged around in my pj’s.  As the afternoon wore on, the rain kept pouring.  My brother came by for a visit.  We ate pancakes smothered in our homemade maple syrup (yum!) and played Chinese Checkers.  My brother read some books to the children.  It was a lovely, relaxed, laid-back afternoon.

As the wet afternoon gave way to a wet evening, the weather took a nasty turn and suddenly it was snowing – hard!!  The snow fell fast and furious and what was earlier a flooded yard is now a snow-covered yard.  Craziness!

I just love a day like today – no obligations, nowhere to go, nothing to get dressed for.  Every so often Mama Nature reminds us that we need to slow down a little, rest and rejuvenate, be lazy, have fun.  What better way to do so than in the company of my most precious people, my family.

Winter Projects

While waiting for this long and cold and snowy winter to come to an end, I have been keeping myself busy with a few projects.  If we must be cooped up in the house so much of the time, the least I can do is enjoy the process of creation!

I was fortunate to come into posession of hand carders, and have been carding away.  Our Angora bunnies, Henry and Madison, give up lots of beautiful, soft, lustrous fibre when they are brushed each day, and it makes for a wonderful blend with sheep’s wool.

I love how the wool gives the Angora fibre a bit more spring and strength, while the Angora makes the wool much softer.  It really is a lovely combination!

My mother-in-law was kind and generous enough to surprise me with a bag full of roving in various beautiful colours, and so I have been spinning away…

… and knitting socks for the kids!  I’ve always been a bit timid when it comes to socks, but now that I’ve knit a “test” pair with success, I’m hooked!  Once I’ve finished the multicoloured socks for the kids, onto toasty warm Angora socks for my mother-in-law!

I also decided to try my hand at a new venture and have been experimenting with dyeing the wool that I’ve been hand-carding.  So far, so good!  I’m anxious to spin this stuff up!

With all of this crafting going on, I have finally launched my Esty shop! (Insert excited squeak here)  I will be adding items as frequently as I’m able to create them and I’m hoping to have a wide variety of natural wonders up for your enjoyment.  Check it out for yourself, and share the link with anyone who might like to peruse – http://trinityfibrecraft.etsy.com 

And the biggest project of all – caring for sick kidlets.  We were on a roll this winter, not catching anything until February came along.  Now we seem to be hit with one nasty bug after another!  First it was the barfing bug of doom, then a nasty cough/cold, and now a fever that has kept Lynden in bed for two days straight.  He finally came down to join us on the couch this afternoon, cocooned in a blanket made with love by his aunt.  Look at those sad, sick eyes 😦

Of course, for as much time as we spend in the house, there are a few things that draw me outdoors….

Edward, our billy goat, a sweet and beautiful boy who likes to pee on himself to impress the ladies.

There are animals needing to be fed; we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of goat kids in the spring! 

And every so often, we try to get outside just for the sake of enjoying the snow. 

Warmest wishes to you all!  Spring is almost here!

Long, Long Winter

Oh, dear readers, I am sick and tired of winter.  We’re not even halfway through and I normally don’t get fed up with winter this early, but man, this year I seem to just be done with it already.

To compensate, I am busy making plans for spring.  I’ve decided that this is the year to do the things I’ve always wanted to do but just haven’t gotten around to yet.  So far, here is my list:

– Maple Tapping.  Last year and the year before I had planned to tap maples and make syrup, but I never ended up making it happen.  Perhaps it had something to do with being 8 months pregnant at tapping time last year, and holed up in the house with baby Raina the year before… at any rate, this year I will tap maples, gosh darnit, and I will make syrup.  I’ve read all about it in my handy book, The Backyard Homestead, and now all that remains is to actually do it.

– Raising Fiber Animals.  Yes, I’ve wanted fiber animals for a long time now.  Sheep and angora rabbits seem most plausible at this point, and now that I finally have a spinning wheel it makes sense to have fiber animals.  I’ve used up all the roving I got for Christmas and I’m just itching to have something else to spin.  Roving can get pricey!  What better solution than to produce my own – angora rabbits are easy enough to keep, and now that the barn stalls are finished and the fence is up, a pair of sheep should be no problem.  However, I am not the only decision-making adult around here, and my dear partner may not agree that adding more animals to this farm is a good idea…

– Goat Milking.  Here’s hoping that Edward successfully did his job and Bella & Alice are pregnant by now.  If all goes well, we will have a couple of little goat kids in the spring and our girls will be at full milk production for the summer.  I am determined to become a great milker!  My dabbles in goat milking this past Autumn have only strengthened my resolve to become a master of the milk pail.

– Gardening.  These cold, dark January evenings are perfect for sitting around dreaming about the garden.  It will be time to start seeds before you know it, and I’m really enjoying the planning stages.  What to plant, and where?  How many of each plant?  Which plants for the market garden?  Which plants for the kids’ garden?  Oh, I do love digging in the dirt and I can’t wait to get those first seeds into their little pods of soil.  Life feels so hopeful and full of promise when there are little green shoots bursting alive all around the house.

– Hatching Chicks.  Have I mentioned that I evaluated my options for replenishing my flock and determined that purchasing chicks from a hatchery doesn’t feel like a good thing to be doing?  I am hoping that Casper will be a good little rooster this spring and fertilise some eggs.  The fellow we got our ducks from has a few broody hens that hatched and raised chicks last spring, and he will sell us one or two for cheap.  My hope is that between Casper and a couple of broody hens, we’ll be able to have some farm-hatched chicks raised by a real mama this spring.

 

There is more I could add to my list, but these are the things that seem most likely to be accomplished, and if the list gets too long I’ll end up feeling like I’ve taken on more than I can handle.  I’m extremely excited for this spring – the first time in years that I won’t have a babe in arms or a pregnancy limiting what I’m able to do outdoors!

In the meantime, I’m going to make the best of the snow.  Lynden got a super sled from his grandparents last Autumn, and I’ve purchased a harness for the dog.  Sometime in the next couple of days, we’re going to take that sled out into the fields and let Oddler pull the kids around – something the dog loves perhaps more than the children do!

Snowed In!

On Sunday evening we went to my folks’ place for dinner just as a blizzard was moving in. It became apparent that we should not risk the roads that night, so we had a sleepover at Grammy’s & Grampy’s house. On Monday morning we awoke to a world covered in white.

The snow plough had gone over the main roads a few times, but conditions were still pretty nasty. My dad and I loaded the kids up into the car and I headed home. It was a long ride – my car is not very good in the snow (being a tiny Pontiac Wave) and the roads were absolutely horrible. We passed a couple of cars that had slid off the road and were being pulled out of the ditches by tow trucks.

As it turns out, our driveway was one big snow drift. I drove my car in, and promptly got stuck. My dad spent a good long time shoveling, but for the time being we were not going anywhere.

This morning we are waiting for my father to return with shovel in hand. The wind whipped across the fields all day yesterday and all night long, and the snow drifts on the driveway are deeper and fiercer yet. It impossible to tell where my dad shoveled yesterday and any tire tracks that were there have vanished. My car is not leaving this driveway any time soon. We are officially snowed in!