Saturday, 31 May 2014

Just a Peek at a Work Day

Meet Millie and Addie, our two new ewes. They are Jacobs, a primitive goat looking sheep. They can also run fast and jump really high. Fences? They bah at them.

Lily and Holly worked hard to get them home, get buckets and cars washed, and then helped get ready for shearing day. Life on the farm.

I will have more pictures up later that Lily took of shearing, but I cannot find my card reader.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Making Fun

Sometimes we have to get things done for the farm. This means hours and hours in the farm truck, hours of beautiful days that the kids long to use for adventures, exploring, and soaking in sunshine. It is unfair, but it is part of our life. This is how we homeschool, how we run our business, and keep home. They come with me, work along side us. I usually use the long car rides as an opportunity for a "captive" audience and tell them stories or play podcasts about science and history (because I love them!) and make up alternative lyrics to songs on the radio, or even talk about the body politics ever present in the popular songs. Let me tell you, explaining Blurred Lines was NOT fun and now they pay attention to lyrics and call out when they hear something that is disrespectful to either women or men. This week t here is a song with the lyrics, .....Don't go crying to your mama, sung by a women and Lily was outraged that this woman was telling someone that his mother shouldn't comfort him when things get tough. Humans need comfort! They need someone who loves them to support them when things are hard!

That's my girl.

This week was no different, except that it was Holly's birthday. The weight of the unfairness that she should spend her sixth birthday running errands on a gorgeous Spring day, bothered me for the days leading up. So how to make this work? Ah ha! Just add water.

I try to break up our car trips with short park breaks, something fun, or a food break. Luck for us, the first stop, an enormous load of firewood, was at a house that had BABY TURKEYS. And C. let the kids pet and hold them. Oh, that was fantastic!

Next to the nearby park with splash pad! Isaac had not been to one this year and last summer he was really too little to play in them. He wasn't even walking at the time, remember that! He laughed and played and even floated on his belly to try swimming in the 18 inch deep center part.

Then it was 2pm and she wanted crab rangoon. The two places of choice were CLOSED. Oh the injustice. We will attempt then, to get her special food later this week, maybe before recital rehearsal.

Today was a similar chore, taking us 3 hours from home. At the half way point, a friend invited us for a play date AND she has a kid pool! Oh the joy of being water babies. This one was too deep for Isaac, but she had baby goats, chickens, and a cool playground so he was fine. He also decided that riding a push car down a steep hill was a fine idea. I let him, he was so happy and proud of himself.

We made it through our work days, and they ended up looking a lot like our at home play days. It is all about perspective, choosing joy, and making our own fun as we go. Taking time to make dandelion crowns and enjoy the blue sky, the green canopy of trees, the laughter and dreams of our children.

That's the cool thing about life, it is full of choices and opportunities for friendship and joy. I am really glad I know the two women we visited this week. They are inspirations to me, doing interesting things, and embracing the dandelions in our fields.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Happy Birthday Sunshine Blueberry Watering Can

Being a five year old was amazing and tough, eh Holly?

Her goal for year six is to learn to climb a tree with no branches.

Pretty simple. I think we can make that happen.

Oh sweet ballerina, mechanic, carpenter Holly.

Today she was so exited that her favourite song came on the radio, that we made food she liked (lamb chops), and that her sister got her a Frozen princess doll (Anna). I love how little details delight her. I love how emotional and sensitive she is, how gentle, how completely comfortable with herself. I look up to her every day. She is magical.

Happy birthday sweet dandelion. :)

Critters and Crawlies

 Chad was gone to a Permaculture conference this week. Leaving me on my own to run the farm, start summer semester with my job, take on three children, and right at the time of some other deadlines I had going too.

It was rough.

So, I unplugged. We camped. We invited friends over. We tromped in the woods. We made food, hauled buckets, got dirty, laughed a lot, ate so very many strawberries, and the time slipped away joyfully.

Mostly. Mostly enough.

Sometimes that is all that is needed to get by.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Going Back to the Start

I have written about 12 new poems since I returned from Georgia. It was as if I picked up the pen and 15 years had not passed. Some things though are drastically different this time around. For one, sometimes I don't remember writing the poems, as often I work on them really late at night. I work in a three phase system, sometimes four, I start with a notebook and sketch out the images and word play that go with them, then I transfer to a computer file called draft, when I think that it is completed I move it to a file called revise later, and when that is done it goes to a needs to be submitted file.

Now that the warm weather is here, my hands no longer ache from the constant cold and I am writing more. On the other hand, I am also feeling more emotions (another warm weather occurrence) and sometimes all these feelings leave me exhausted.

In addition to that, the incredible poor timing of the work I have submitted coming back rejected just as this season starts has been harder than I thought. I have to remind myself of my plan which was this:
1) submit to the top 25 literary giants. These top markets are the hardest and most respected.
2) Once those are rejected, submit to the next. There are 5,000 journals on this list. Eventually I will find what tier I rank at and work from there.
3) Continue to submit there and keep writing.

That's the plan. That's what I am working at. I have to remind myself that these are the top 25 and rejection from these giants is not the end of the journey. Still, a little part of me was hoping for gold, you know? It is humbling to be told no......but one of these actually sent back a personal note with feedback, (two if you count the one from 15 years ago), and two accepted my photography.

The fact that I have work out there means that I am about 20 leagues out to sea from the landlocked prairie that I started in just six months ago.  I have to self talk myself through this. I have to keep writing, keep submitting, and find which view is mine. Much of the despair I am feeling, the rejection, is self sabotage. Ah, my old friend, we meet again.

I am going to keep working at this.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


This week, I found myself in the parking lot of our local grocery store, stars twinkling, the air warm and humid, heading home.

I realised, for the first time, I no longer felt like a stranger here. I felt at home, like this is my town now. I suppose it is hard to explain, since we have lived on the farm just south of town for almost five years. I have always felt like a stranger here though, often folks ask me if I am visiting. Since I started going into town to grade papers and make an effort to shop local for almost everything (still use Amazon since we have no bookstore!!!!), slowly I started to let people know me and making a painful effort to recognise and remember names. Painful? I don't recognise faces, sometimes to a scary degree, I don't recognise the faces of my own family. This makes trying to remember my neighbours and even friends a difficult task that requires other compensations and memory tricks. An effort worth it though. Facebook actually helps with this a lot, more so since it is on my phone, and then not so much when people use generic pictures of animals for their profile pictures. Still, I am working on it.

I am a strange bird. This is not a secret, but it took me a while to feel at home enough to go back to purple hair and dressing like me. For too long I toned it down, trended towards normcore even. I felt like a fake me. So now, I can relax into the creative being.

Not that this doesn't have its downside. I am sill regarded by some folks as too extreme and this makes arranging playdates and even girl scouts complicated. 4H was a big fat fail this year to the point that Lily gave it up, or rather refused to go back, even though it was her favourite activity. It seems strange to me that people view us as dangerous. I don't drink. I don't have crazy facial piercings (yet), not a single tattoo (yet), and I'm not an extremist to either end religiously. Sure, we homeschool, ok, radical unschool is closer to the truth, but I'm not recruiting for our school. I have plenty enough students. Ha!

It was pointed out to me that our entire lifestyle, unschooling/natural health/permaculture farming, is basically seen as an insult to pretty much everyone in town. Why? The three major employers in town are Hyvee grocery, the school district, and the medical centre. Oh and then everyone else is connected to conventional farming. While I see the point in that observation, I don't think that it is entirely true. I think there is a place for us here. I hope there is.

Church helps. I mean, praying for people to be kind to my children as we navigate life is one thing, but actually going to a church that shares a message that lines up with our own values, accepts us for who we are without disdain, and allows people to get to know us to more of a degree than just seeing us shop at the local grocer, this helps. This helps so much.

And the longer we root here, the more people we meet that do what we do and some folks have been doing it for decades. It is exciting to build community! A relief too.

I think that this is the unspoken of hardest part of moving from a city to a small town that we have no familial connections to. Finding community. Part of my issue was that I had found community in the city and the Internet allowed me to stay connected. I had no immediate need to fill by finding friends locally for myself or my kids. Plus, we would go to the city regularly.

Well, gas prices are sabotaging that in a big way. I realised that my kids are also craving more playdates, more adventures in the woods, more things to do. Driving 4 hours total to do these things is expensive and exhausting for me. I need that time back.

Brewing all of this in my heart and mind, I decided to open invitation folks to drive to the farm, but cancel all of our summer camps (which seems like the opposite of what the kids need, right?) Instead we are going to save and squirrel and work on exploring free activities close to home. Use the local pool, visit museums in town, make regulars of ourselves at the local library, and ride bikes on the trails here. Take the boat out more too. Invite folks into our lives and adventures. Invest time into relationships here, nurture the ones that need it that are far from here. Pen pal with dear friends.

It isn't easy for me. If I had my way, I'd be holed up alone at a remote unplugged cabin with my notebooks and a CD player ALONE, did I mention alone? I have just been feeling this need to be in my own head for a bit. Even my husband and kids are intruding on the goings on in my internal narrative and I know they are annoyed at my spacing out, not hearing them, daydreaming. I will try to be more present for all of them while carving out time.

I digress, I started out meaning to write about that feeling I had, just after a lovely rain, the heat of the asphalt still radiating and humid, and feeling at home. Not like a tourist anymore, but a part of this community. Even if I am the strange square on the edge that is a private joke of the quilter, I am still part of the larger picture, important to it even.

Summer Bucket List

Berry picking
Swim at the Pond
Watch the metorites while camping
Build a pirate ship
Trail Ride horses
Sleep overs with friends

Go to Adventureland
Mushroom hunt
Be in a play
...or two
 Eat ice cream at a park
learn to doggie paddle (Holly)
Go down the water slide at the local chlorinated pool
4th of July parade
see bunnies
....go to bear country (um, maybe)

Go to Dolphin country (seriously kids?)
.....but I really want to do this, so maybe. I miss my aunt. I like adventures.

Take the kids bike riding on trails (need to gather bikes, I gave mine away years ago).

I think this is all reasonable. I will add my own:

Book plane tickets to Europe. For September. I have no idea where the money will come from, but this is a priority for me.

Keep submitting work.
Keep writing new work.
Keep revising new work and old work.
Get my camera cleaned and get it in a to go bag so I actually reach for it.
Print and hang at least 5 photos from my recent collection. Hang on wall.
Add new tab  to blog
Write at least 3 blog posts every week, and publish at least 2 of pictures (5 total).
Start cooking again. Something other than pasta and jarred sauce.

(Chad can edit to add his own here, but it is probably permaculture oriented)

A Week in Pictures

We had friends visit the farm, camped at the pond, Lily bridged to Juniors in girl scouts, library trains, last ballet practice for Holly before recital, Lily taught Isaac how to climb trees, and lots of unplugged time just connecting with each other.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Spring at the Farm in Pictures

 Nice thorns on this one!!!

 Spring Cleaning. Conditioning the wood stairs.
 First snake caught and cuddled.
 Duckling hatch!
And Dandelions and violets and buttercups and green, green grass. Hello Spring, we missed you.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Holly's Ballet

This weekend was super jammed packed with all the things I wanted to do.....and Holly's ballet pictures. The reality was that I could not go to a writing workshop in Perry, DemiCon, the ballet pictures, Sample Sunday, book club, and Youth Sunday at church.

My friend Diana sent me a lovely letter a few months back, to sum up, it said......choose her. Choose your girl. Choose your child. They won't be a child long. It was longer and more lovely than that summary, but that is what came into my head while trying to make the logistics of the weekend work.

Holly's ONLY chosen activity is ballet. She trains all year, practises at home all week, it is her chosen identity. The pictures matter to her, a LOT. Last year I had her grandma take her while I did DemiCon. She had fun, but was squirrely which is Holly's outward sign that she is emotionally stressed.

So this year, I chose Holly.

No workshop. No DemiCon cosplay. No dinner out with friends. Just Holly. Grandma watched Lily and Isaac and I took just Holly so I could really focus on her.

Saturday night the girls said they were super sad I would miss church and I told them I planned on going and skipping Sample Sunday as a vendor, because they matter to me and I know they worked hard on the songs. They jumped into my arms and hugged me long and hard. Holly had tears in her eyes.

I chose them.

Sunday I stayed for the children's choir and bell performance at church, left late and just visited Sample Sunday, then on to Book Club, home by bedtime for tucking in and story reading.

I have no regrets about slowing down and just being with them. I choose them while they still want me to, while it is still an option. If I don't? That will affect our relationship exponentially as the years go on. What is the saying? Listen to them now, every little thing. Later they will come to you with the big stuff. Why? The little things now ARE big to THEM.

I choose them. I choose to stop and listen. I choose to be with them, mindfully, when I am with them. It may seem silly, it is just pictures, right? I could take them myself after all. That's not the point. Picture day is part of ballet culture and I chose wisely when I picked this studio for the principle of modesty and the training that allows them to actually and safely train children in ballet technique.

Holly was not squirrely this time. Maybe it was another year of maturity, maybe that I paid attention to sugar intake that morning, or maybe it had to do with her feeling emotionally grounded, secure, loved, and heard. Her big grin every time she looked for me and met my eyes, not seeing me staring at my phone, but seeing me see her....that's how I know in my heart that this made a difference.

I chose right.