Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Farm Life Just Keeps on Going Even if I Fall on The Ice

So....I fell on the ice. I sprained my calve muscle. I thought it was broken. I heard the ice crack and thought it was my bone. I almost passed out from the pain (though Dearest says I was merely hyperventilating). I am so ashamed. I did not deal well with crisis or with pain. I was certain that my leg bone was shattered, I thought it was bend at a 90 degree angle (the muscle cramping made it feel like that and pulled my foot inward....). Still. Pain. As in, still I am in pain. Walking actually hurts less than sitting with it elevated, so I am walking it off so to say.

That said, we are also dealing with the joys of a 100 year old farmhouse. Water in the basement. A lot of water. Luckily it is an a room designed to catch a lot of water, unluckily the drain in that room seems to be clogged with sludge. Lucky again, we found a septic guy that is trustworthy AND will be here in the morning. Also, for all my friends who have followed the saga on facebook.....Dearest brought me up a bag of bacon so I don't have to worry about rigging a boat to fetch it. Mmmmm....bacon.

In other news I am making plans for spring. Big plans that involve more bacon, I mean, pigs. We raised 4 last year and had a waiting list for the pork. I am thinking we'll raise 6-8 this next year and never get bigger than that. The pigs are a side to compliment the orchard health (and make lard for divine pie crust) not our main goal for the farm. That said, pretty much all the projected pork is spoken for, but I will add a waiting list. Last fall, the waiting list was used almost immediately and I even took one new order. So cool. I am also excited about picking up cheese for me!....I mean whey for the pigs. I seriously love love love the micro dairy we get our whey from. The cheese is AMAZING (so is the owner, btw).

My plans for the orchard are two fold. I will plant 6 more trees, attend an apple grafting session at Seed Savers in Decorah, IA in April, and make contact with the one other (the only one?) organic apple orchard in central Iowa. I am ready to ask questions, but I will put off making variety decisions until after 2010. The 6 trees we'll plant this year will simply be what I would plant for my own use, not for market.  I also hope to get a graft or two from Chad's co-worker's tree that had the most amazing pie apples EVER. It is an old tree and may not have a lot of time left. Apples are not redwoods, they have a relatively short lifespan unfortunately.

Then there are the bees. This is the year that I will actually, after 8 years of wishing and yearning, become a beekeeper. More to come on that later I am sure.

The gardens this year will be bigger, but I plan on making smaller managed beds. Chad fall plowed and since he was using a tractor plow borrowed from a family at church, he expanded the beds to the West, doubling their size. I think I might still do a Spring bed in the small plot though, simply because it has full sun right until late May when the Oak and Walnut trees leaf out and then it is part/mostly shade. Perfect for peas, greens, and broccoli. My only hurdle there will be keeping the deer from eating all the peas to the ground again.

In the big bed, I will have some work to do with the grape vines so neglected last year, and the strawberries need to be weeded and straw laid down before they fruit. I also need to thin them in May so if you are local and interested in some plants let me know.

I also plan on doubling my dry bean crop. These were easy to grow and harvest and really delicious. No watering needed at the end since I was intending them for dry harvest. I experimented a bit with the last bucket brought in, they are not shelled and jarred, just still in their husk in the bucket. We'll see which do better.  The difference in flavour between my beans and store bought dry beans is amazing. I didn't expect that at all.

I also want to try pole beans so I'll have to figure out how to do that. We have a bunch of cattle panels not being used.....anyway, I also want to grow more cabbage and broccoli and try potatoes. Oh and brussels sprouts which are now a family favourite. I know now to water my tomatoes early even if the rain makes it looks like they don't need it or they seem to do fine when I forget. My 50 plants produced maybe, maybe 5 tomatoes. Ugh. The chickens destroyed those before I had a chance to harvest them. So frustrating. I also need to weed and mulch better. Or convince Dearest and/or the children that it is their "job" or duty or whatever to tend and weed and water the tomatoes and peppers. I'll be busy with my trees and bees. :)

I don't expect that we will have extra produce this summer, but we'll bring what we do have and eggs to park day. So it goes.

We start fiddle lessons next week. I am really excited to learn, as is Lil'Bug. I am so glad we found an instructor that just fits with us, you know? We should be picking up the instruments early next week, just rentals at first in case we hate it. 

Oh, and I plan on picking up the pen again. I mean more than just for blogging. More to come on that I am sure, but I have a light class load for this Spring and I might as well get some things out before planting begins. I have some ideas brewing, three different genres dabbled in drafts.....I'll need focus and to pick just one to complete. 

2010 is going to be a crazy busy wonderful year!

PS.....still praying that the Des Moines house would sell. Just found out it qualifies for NFC $$ so that's good. Hopefully that will make the difference for someone. Hopefully soon.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Cruel Reality of Dumping Pets in the Country

Maybe CRUEL is too nice of a way to put it. So many dogs get dumped on our road. I mean SOOOOO many. I'm not going to wax poetic about this. Here is what I have learned this year:

So...what happens to a pet who is dumped on an idylic country road?
1) That dog gets hit by a truck/car/farm vehicle. Or manages its way back to a main road and gets hit by several. If you think it would be a clean hit you would be wrong 85% of the time. No, the dog would be injured, limp off and suffer or lay there to be hit some more until it eventally dies.
2) It gets curious and investigates livestock. Livestock defends itself and a)injures pet b)sounds an alarm and farmer shoots stray/ livestock guardian does its job or c)tramples pet to death.
3) pet starves to death, slowly and desperately.
4) pet gets attacked by wild animals and is injured or dies or dies slowly from injuries
5) Someone picks up the pet and takes it to ARL. So this begs the question, why not skip the above and just take your unwanted pet right to the ARL?
6) It can happen that the pet gets taken in and becomes a good farm pet. Not likely. If its behaviours made it unwanted, those are usually still problematic.

Moral of the story. Stop dumping your pets in the country. You are dooming them, not giving them a chance at doggie/kitty paradise. It makes me sick to my stomach knowing how many of my own pets were "taken to the country to live on a farm" instead of taken to the ARL and given half a chance at finding a new home. The reality of what happens to a country dumped animal makes euthanization seem like a merciful and peaceful ending. The cruelty of a farm dump is beyond true description.

Christmas Part Three and Four: Christmas Eve Traditions, Christmas Day

The night before Christmas and all through Grandma's home, not a turtle was jumping.....ok, maybe one.

In our family we read the birth story in the Bible and sing Christmas songs before gift giving. The girls were loaded with toys and clothes. The next morning Santa and Deedle left them small gifts, a chess set for Lil'Bug, a wooden doll set for Bluberry, and a wagon from Deedle for all of us. The girls helped Dearest put it together and I played with my camera. I've had trouble with getting the focus right on my SRL and suddenly, after owning it for 2 years, I discovered a dynamic focus setting. I love it. None of these pictures used it though, they did however get to be my first through Aperture, which I also love.

Oh, and for good measure and sake of historical accuracy...Dearest has spent the last few days wading in ice cold muck water because a drain backed up in the basement and the ice melt from around the house was all directed into the basement via an old drive under garage. It was a crisis because it made it difficult for me to get to my bacon. This picture is Dearest thawing hoses full of ice to use with a sump pump, which ultimately also froze and was replaced. Things are looking up I think, I'm not entirely sure I care since he waded through and brought me my bacon. Oh, and it's not sewage. So that's good. Merry Christmas!

Baby Blues and Wagon Red- Playing with Christmas Presents....

I got Aperature for Christmas. I'm still fumbling with the possibilities, but in the meantime I can make my girls look like they have purple eyes! LOL. I love it. Really love it. Thank you family!

The girls got a Radio Flyer wagon from great aunt Deedle down in dolphin country. They put it together with Daddy and it is now a main fixture in the living room. It is going to be a lifesaver at the farmers market this summer.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Part Two: Aunt Bee and Afternoon Antics....

Christmas Part One: Crafting

Christmas Crafts......I love blue. I've been feeling blue, but this blue really makes me happy. I would swath myself in it and paint my bedroom......oooh, I think I will.

1:36 AM Christmas Eve....

In 1996 at this time exactly Dearest and I shared our first kiss. It was under a Christmas tree and after watching a Hitchcock movie. It was the most wonderful Christmas gift I had ever received and each year since has been an incredible blessing. Hard to believe it was 13 years ago.  Interesting to note, I had the exact same hair color and cut that I have today. Huh.

Merry Christmas! May your days be merry and bright.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Sally and Jack and Lucy and some of the other critters that live here....

This is Jack and Hobbit. They get along really well. Hobbit does just fine with any critter actually, he's such an easy going dog.

This is Lucy, a half Blue Heeler, half Aussie farm dog. She's got sooooo much energy. If Lil'Bug were a dog, she'd be Lucy. They are a good match.

A giant blue crawfish. I love this picture.  Lil'Bug is so awesome with creatures, fish, and various other slimy wonderful things. Life is messy and she loves every bit of it!

We have millions of frogs and turtles. Crawfish are a bit more rare.  This isn't even the tip of the iceberg for critters around here. Lily has to touch every single one of them. The picture above of the turtle is one she found in the dogs jaws and got the bleeding to stop with flour, watched it to stop bleeding and released it into the pond. All in a farm girl's afternoon.

 Our flock of chickens are great. They are pretty and gentle. Chickens take care of our ticks and give us beautiful yummy eggs.

This is Sally, I think. Jack is much shier. These two were the first of our four barn cats. They would like to be house cats and we would like to let them, but Star Kitty has some anger issues she needs to work out first.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sleep of the Just

Sunday, 20 December 2009

And Because Chaos all get to see me work on the blog design and fumble through different things.  No break for me, but I guess post feedback if you like something. It will probably change daily until Jan 1st, and by then I should have the design issues worked out. Whew it's hard!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas Vacation

I'm taking a break. No Face Book or blogging until after the holidays. Too much family stuff to take care of. Too much farm stuff to tend to. I'll be back after the holidays with a new look.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Every Day is a "Snow Day"

Every day is a snow day! Or something like that. The blizzard didn't change much for us except make some interesting things to do outside. One of the things we regretted about living in the city was that everytime we built a snowman it would get destroyed by kids going to school, same thing with Halloween pumpkins, or really anything we set on the porch or in the front yard. It was sad and frustrating.

So- the farmhouse got a snowman right in the FRONT YARD. Boo ya! Meet Star Sky the "...'bomidable snowman." I love my girls.

This was Blueberry's first playing in the snow experience. It didn't last long because she is hyper sensitive about her hands and the mittens got wet and cold pretty fast.  But it was still fun.

 Lil'Bug wanted to help with dishes because warm water is nice. It is however the COLDEST spot in the whole house. Note the snow boots and hooded wooly sweater. Sweet. We got 5 sink fulls done.

So the blizzard is done and gone and the next one will roll through soon enough. It got me thinking though that for us, just as we live an endless summer, every day is a snow day. We are free to make the day what we want, cuddle by the fire, play games, and take care. For schoolers and for people who work 9-5's it is not like that, as they are at the mercy of a schedule and an institution. It is week's like this that I really relish our freedoms from clocks, from schedules, and from the stress that the mainstream framework brings. I also worry about how we will learn to navigate it when we need to, sometimes....and then we have vet appointments and art classes and violin classes and deadlines to meet and I am reminded that we are not free of these things after all! I suppose it just does not feel like it did when I had to go to school or work a 9-5. It is a different kind of life altogether because we choose to participate in it.

And that's just it, we CHOOSE how we live each day. So that's it, that's my deep rambling thought for the day. I must run now, as we are figuring out how to make Angel Food Cake to go with the bags of strawberries from our summer garden just unburied from the freezer move. Yum.

Rough at the Edges

This morning I felt rough at the egdes and a little sore. This last week has been a doozy. The snowpocolypse was not even the issue, though it shut down the big city to the north of us, our small town was still open and we only got 4-6 inches with not much drift. It was nice being stuck inside with my family.....

And then the pipes froze, the condenser hose on the upstairs furnace froze and leaked water into the kitchen, the fuse blew on the boiler, and the tankless hot water heater froze up. Of course these issues are pretty critical and more critical overnight. But I get girl duty overnight so Dearest was left to man the freezing things.....which led to some pretty awful grumpiness due to the cold and sleep deprivation. Everything is ok now that the wind isn't blowing -40, but we've been working on more weatherization none the less.

But wait there's more. The house animals needed to go to the vet. So I loaded them all up and took them. Of course I was acutely aware that Star Kitty and Hobbit had that awful allergic reaction to the vax last year so I told the new vet all about it. They gave Star Kitty benedryl and called it good, vax'd no problem. Until after hours when she started convulsing and foaming at the mouth. Dearest was in town for game night and I was on my own with a dying cat. I called the vet and she answered! She suggested a dose of children's benedryl, if I had any on hand. Did I? We don't really have much of that kind of thing on hand....for the kids at least. But I actually have some for me to use, children's at that. So I dosed the angry dying cat, and and hour later she was pupils dialated but calm. We made it through the night and now she's just grumpy and tired. Me too.

Oh and on the way back from the vet, my check engine light came on. I just got my car back from being fixed from deer damage!!!!!! Oh and a dog chewed through one of the seatbelts when I was trying to get them all inside one at a time. And then the traction control gave out. Nooooooooo.

I also burned my hands twice, once on the fireplace and once on a cast iron skillet (I thought my sweater sleeve was a good oven mitt but it seems that the sweater did not agree....) so now both hands are blistered or raw and yet I still have to do dished. I need to remember to pick up rubber dish gloves. Ouch.

I am out of hot chocolate. I went through a case.

The woodburning cookstove stove is a step closer to being installed, the lift is reserved, the lining is ordered. One step closer is good!

I am exhausted, but in a good way. Christmas is going to be here this year, a first for our family. I have a lot of cleaning to do and menu planning but it is exciting! The first Christmas at the farmhouse, whoo hoo!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Early Mornings

I don't get up early because of the farm, I get up early because of the baby. Even when I was pregnant with her, she would wiggle early in the AM. As a baby, she slept and slept, except for at 5 AM- and if that was her only alert awake time I was not going to insist that she go back to sleep! But now, she still gets up early and now she can also wiggle out of bed and take off running.

Somethings have not changed though. Every morning the sunrise is absolutely incredible. This morning it was not colourful, but a gradation of pitch black to dark grey to a light bluish silver over the brilliant white hay fields. Every morning, every single morning I get the gift of baby laughter set to remarkable vistas. I get to begin each day at the farm reminded that I am in the presence of blessings, in the company of God.

A friend just emailed me her dream, one that she imagined (though she's never been to our farmhouse), that our living room was set up with the sofa facing the big windows instead of the center of the room. That's not far from the truth actually, though we have it offset right now to make room for the tree, but I love facing the bay windows with the southern view. My dining room has the same view through another picture window. It is funny though that our view is not of our farm, but of the neighbor's hay. It is a reminder that we are not all alone out here in the wild.

Which brings me to another thought set that I had this morning. We are not isolated here, as much as we were in the city. I get questions all the time about homeschooling isolating us- perhaps it does veer us away from the mainstream (not a bad thing), but then I get people asking if farming isolates us too. Geesh, we must be hermits! The opposite is true though. Through farming and homeschooling we sought out and found community, found others with similar interests, found lifelong friends. Out here in the country we decided to go to church, to find community, to better able to teach our daughters our faith. In the city if we were sick, our neighbors probably never knew- out here someone from the church (actually several people) took the time to drive out here and make sure we were ok. Then we got a lovely card in the mail wishing us better. It was that simple act that really made me feel woven into the hem of this community.

As an aside, it takes me the same amount of distance to go to the local grocery store here as it did in the big city, almost exactly, and yet it takes about 5 minutes less to drive there. Ha! Plus it takes less time to actually shop and the clerks know my girls. If I had any concerns about price and selection, I do not now. They order the few items I requested, like Greek yogurt, coconut oil, and method hand soap (grapefruit scented). I don't buy much at the grocer anymore though I will soon need to buy some vegetables again.

It is quiet here at night. A quiet that I remember distantly from my childhood, summers spent on my Aunt's farm. Sometimes we hear coyotes, which can be scary. We also can here gunshots during hunting season, but that is not so different than where we lived in the city! I do not miss the thumping of car bass turned to loud rattling my windows, I do not miss ghetto doorbells, and I do not miss living surrounded by the noise of other people living. We can hear our neighbors here, but it is not the same thing. It is really lovely, the quiet. For years I had a buzzing tone in my ear, constant. It is gone here but for a few moments now and then. Where we lived in the city the sex offender map showed 20 within 2 blocks of our home and hundreds within 3 miles. Here there are 3 in the whole county and two are teenage love issues. That 1 left is still 15 miles away. Not to say that it really changes how I parent or trust strangers, it is just an observation of a contrast between our city life and our new farm life.

In the year that we have been here I have gone through many changes too. The peacefulness of this place has really crept into my heart. I am a better person for it. Not a perfect person, but a better one than a year ago. I am working on a year in review post for later, but this morning in particular I feel the movement in time, for a full year has passed. I usually do not feel like time has passed, forever stuck feeling the same as I did at age 6, but this morning it is different.

Sorry for the rambling! Good morning to all!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Holiday Generosity

I love Christmas. I love the lights and smells and the opportunity for gathering and gifting. I love dressing up and I love cookies. It may sound hokey, but I would love it if Christmas lasted all year. LOVE it.

For me Christmas isn't all about that stuff. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the new hope that was given to humanity. I know I don't usually get preachy, because my faith is a very personal thing for me, but this simple fact gets really lost in the commercialism of the holiday. There is no reminder of hope to be circled in toy books, no joy in the Sunday ads, and no salvation in the aisles of the superstores. For a moment forget what things you have to buy for people and think about what you would do if you had no money at all to buy anything, not even your own food this holiday. What would you do? What would your family say to you? What would happen?

Some of us have known this hard reality, some would rather go into un-payable debt than face the humiliation of being empty handed at gift giving events. It is so ingrained into our American culture that stuff is important. It is nice, I actually really love that the girls get new clothes and toys at the holidays, but you know, it is not what the holidays are about.

I want my children to know that Christmas is about the birth of a single man who died for our salvation. What amazing generosity that is! My family doesn't get bombarded with toy commercials simply because we don't watch TV daily and we don't bring home the ToysRus sampler, though we have cruised the store and certainly can and do choose things that interest us.  The bigger part of the equation, the one that is an everyday lesson, is generosity. If you see someone has a need and you have the means to help them, do so. I have food, you are hungry, share a meal with me. I have knowledge you need, I will teach you. You have a sadness, I will let you cry on my shoulder and make a mean cup of tea. We seem to draw to us, those who live the same way, walk the same path. We all try to be generous not just with resources, but with compassion and understanding.

That is a big lesson for me, as I have been stingy with compassion at times. I now try even harder to assess my frustrations with people and family, while still protecting my nestlings from harm, with a lens of compassion. Everybody has hurts that shape their hearts, leaving the past behind is not entirely possible. I often fail to trust, and it takes prayer for me to relax and allow myself some room to open up to friendship. Even so, there are a handful of people I still need to be more compassionate with. That rambling may not make any sense at all, but bear with me while I process this.

My point is, this Christmas, make time for something new. Hand make each card, try to do the same with gifts. Do this with your children and friends. Think about what you are giving to each person, is it something they need? Does it speak of your love for them? Why not?

My Lil'Bug gets Christmas. Last year all she wanted was cookies because, "I already have every toy in the whole world!" When pressured she agreed to ask for a new tent because her got broken in a kid mosh. The year before that she asked for a sister (to be fair that was also her wishing star wish, birthday wish, and wishing well wishes for almost 18 months). This year she simply asked Santa for a new board game because she really loves playing board games with Daddy. Then the mall Santa handed her a packet of things and in it was a fold out north pole/candyland thing- bam, she's, "got Christmas covered!" Now she wants to make sure everyone gets cookies and we have a nice pretty tree. That's it. No toy ad circling, no gimme gimmes. She's 5! She gets it.

I got it when I was 18. I filled stockings with joy, I made sure everyone had a present, I invited friends to our home. When present time came, I got nothing. Nothing. As it turns out, my gifts were simply unwrapped and left hidden- discovered 3 days later by a family member. You know what? That was an awesome gift that I got nothing. It really spoke to my heart as I sat and watched everyone laughing and singing and loving each other. I said nothing that night because my heart was so full of joy that presents didn't matter to me. That was the night that my faith, that had rooted and grown secretly over the years, really bloomed. That was my Christmas gift: a heart full of joy despite the struggles of that year, despite the hopelessness that I fought off in my quiet time, despite guilt that I carried for others for my whole childhood. That night it was all lifted from me, even if just for that night, I knew it was possible. The following year was the answer to all my lifelong prayers: my first kiss shared with Dearest, independence from hurt, and a new beginning.

So this Christmas think about what a gift really is, what it means, and what you are truly giving.

Merry Christmas friends.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Our First Real Tree......

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Blizzard: Winter Death Storm 2009?


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Explanation of Santa letter.....

Sometimes we get too wrapped up in being adults and only "wanting" what we need instead of dreaming BIG. For me the adventure begins with that big dream and I have never shied away from listing it out, announcing it to the world!

This adventure we are currently living started that way. I want a farm, I announced. I want apple trees. I want a big old four square farm house. Chad said, I want a creek or a pond and woods. Lily said, I want a pony.

And so it began. At the time it was an impossible dream and now look!

As my close group of friends are working on Christmas lists and communicating what they need, but there is not a drop of whimsy or promise in the pot. Christmas needs a bit of singing from a top a teapot wearing a silly hat, yo!

I challenge all of you, write and post your own Santa letter. Put out there what you want for your life, your cupboards, your family, or even just your heart. Shout it out and dream it BIG.

Love to you all!