Hello friends out there!
After six years of blogging here, I have decided to make the move. You may find me here now, and I hope you come and visit!
See you soon!
A month ago in the Big Garden...
Mid-February in the Big Garden...
My husband took the boys up into the mountains to do a little snowboarding down a logging road. They rode for nearly 3km and despite falling lots, they had a wonderful afternoon. When Sunshine and I returned from ballet in town, the boys had cut some pussywillows for me. Pussywillows in February!!! This is a few weeks earlier than I've ever had them before and it is such a treat to have a freshly cut bouquet on the table...the season has begun.
And what a difference a month makes...the drifts of snow have melted away to reveal garden beds, with the sheep manure visible from when I mucked out the barn the last time in October or November. In the next while, I hope to muck it out again...before the shearer arrives at the end of March for sure.
Late February also means bringing the rubbermaid full of seeds out from storage. I dug around for some onion and leek seeds and Huckley, Sunshine and I were able to get several cells started on the ideal day, if you follow a biodynamic calendar, like Stella Natura. Sunshine is particularly enthusiastic, wanting her own flat of starts this year. While spritzing the seeds this morning, she told me that she loves to be gardening already, even with snow on the ground in patches outside. Me, too.
Our homemade hulking seed start shelf is just inside the front door and we will soon fill it with all sorts of seedlings...next up will be herbs and broccoli...
This is the time of year when we decide what animals will be arriving to the farm, when, and how many. We will have 8 or 9 piglets coming at the end of April and 100 meat birds will come in early May. We are going to try a dozen turkeys this year, which we are excited for. The cost of feeding all these animals is quite a lot, so we have slowly begun acquiring grain from our supplier when he does a shipment to our valley. The feed shack has begun to be filled, which is always promising.
The hens are glad for more bare ground, too. This is one of my favourite girls, a Speckled Sussex. They are such good-natured hens, and so pretty. While most other hens will get disgruntled and try and peck our hands, these lovelies don't mind us checking beneath their bottoms for eggs. We only have two of them, and I think this spring we will find two more. Sunshine also has her eye on a Polish, like this one...so ridiculously cute!
And of course, there will be a kid or two born in June sometime, as well as several lambs. My girls are slowly swelling at 3 months, but I'm told it isn't til the last month that 70% of growth happens for lambs. Not a day goes by that I don't dream about what the lambs will look like!
And here sits Sugaree, filling up the dooryard of the barn. She is my most skittish sheep, but she was enjoying herself so much that afternoon, that I had to step around her to fill up water containers. She was busy growing a lambie or two!
What homestead projects are you up to right now? What are your plans for the season ahead? I'd love to hear from you!
Yes, look at the calendar...it is still February! But by the sounds of the creek rumblings, spring melt has begun. The snow on half our property has receeded to reveal the ground beneath, with all the promise of spring on its way....like the first snowdrops!
The boys managed to find an icy patch on our mountainside for a little outdoor fun on some newly inherited snowboards from their cousins. They were out before breakfast but came tromping back indoors rubbing their behinds...they need the sun to soften the ice a little and will try again after lunch.
Huckley can hardly wait to begin guitar lessons in the fall...he is diligently practicing walking his fingers like his big brother. Often, he bursts out with inspired and enthusiastic singing.
Do you remember this post in which Sunshine could be found mostly on her head? I walked past her bedroom the other day and saw her dollies were also learning headstands and it made me smile.
Sunshine is eating up any schooling she can get...and then wants more. We follow Waldorf indications of waiting until the child is 7 to begin formal lessons in letters and in numbers. For my two oldest children, this has proven to work exceedingly well, and they soak it up effortlessly, and then wish for more. Sunshine is currently learning place value with number gnomes after spending some time with Roman numerals and learning her little letters of the alphabet using the wonderful book The Wise Enchanter.
Forrest is working away on fractions and long division, surprising both of us that my artistic, imaginative boy is drawn to mathematics. Because he goes to a local school for two days a week (one day is outdoor acitivities all day), we are working on his math and reading the most lately. Sometimes we sink back into the Norse world of Viking stories, which is such a treat, but often we have a hard time carving out time for this busy, social ten year old. This weekend, Forrest chose to stay home and have some quiet time rather than go on the play dates that were offered...much to my delight!
There was a big build up to Valentine's Day in our home, thanks mostly to Sunshine. Every spare moment she was decorating and hanging hearts and cards and making gifts for all of us. It reminded me how much my children love festivals, even when I have lost some enthusiasm for such holidays. A sort of pulling up of my socks, if you will. On one of Forrest's Away Days, Sunshine and Huckley spent a good amount of time stitching hearts with me...and it reminded me of how much I enjoy just sitting with my children and creating, rather than fussing about in the kitchen or folding laundry. These fleeting moments are gifts to be treasured, indeed.
Huckley requested a photo of him wearing my barn jacket...
The spring melt is coming on full force right now, with the rhythmic sound of dripping just outside the windows from the eaves. It is just about time to plant some lettuce in the coldframe in the greenhouse as well as to start my onions and leeks. Loving the warm weather as much as we are, the sheep are bouncing around the pasture,despite their bellies full of lambies. If you have ever seen a 150lb ball of wool, heavy with babies leaping and twisting in the air, it is an amazing sight to behold. Sheep are very graceful, I find. And their joy is so apparent.
This pause before the spring fever sets in is just the right thing so we can sit with our plans for the gardens and farm and activities that lay ahead. With bare ground growing in patches all around, finding a moment to snuggle up to your faithful friend in the warming sunshine is just about exactly the best thing to do...soaking in the glorious (almost spring) sunshine.
Why I Wake Early
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
When you live in the mountains, you get used to unexpected weather coming up over the ridge and settling in the valley bottom. Then you turn your back for a moment, and look out again, and there are clear patches up above which grow into a great blue sky...showing just how fickle the weather can be around here. Our little local airport is known as Cancelgar for you never know til your plane has come or gone if you are getting out that day at all. Chances are, you won't be.
Things change rapidly and where we are in the valley can be very different from ten minutes south and around a few bends. But winter especially is known for being quite dreary and dark. The ceiling is low, my husband says. My mom used to say that the clouds socked us in for the day. And that is the best description, I think...for this heavy cloud covering has socked in the visibility, with no change for a few days, and we are snuggled at home, watching the snow recede with the damp air and infrequent sprinklings of rain.
Good thing we are housebound, too. A nasty stomach bug found us and took us out, one by one. Ten days (and counting) where each of us felt intense tummy pain and nausea and all the wonders our bodies do to rid of unwanted viruses. Even I succumbed to a day of horizontal bed rest, feeling so completely awful and quite down. It is incredible how one's spirit and attitude are tied so intrinsically to good health. That was the second time in ten years of mothering that I actually took a sick day as my husband just happened to be home the day I was slammed with Hurricane Stomach Flu 2016. I think his presence allowed me to let the queasy illness overwhelm me so I stayed put, not even being able to read or do much more than nap and feel awful. But it passed, as they always do, and now I am back to mothering the last of my babes who was up all last night.
These mellower days have found us mostly indoors, of course, stitching and painting and playing board games. Valentine's Day is Sunday and papa will be home for dinner and so there is a flurry of creations being attended to while books on tape are played for whoever is sick on the couch. When my kids are ill, unlike me, they choose to be on the couch surrounded by their favourite things. Always a pile of good books at the ready, some water or tea not far from reach, and mama quilts and pillows to create "a good nesting spot", as Sunshine told me this morning. From the couch, it is easier to look after the sick child and they feel part of the family still. If they need to sleep, others go to play upstairs in bedrooms, or outside. Sometimes, my oldest son will go be alone in his room to rest, but he really prefers to be close to the action. This also allows me to putter and tidy or cook or if I'm lucky, do a yarn dye bath or spin some wool, while keeping a good eye on my child.
I'm really in awe of those mamas with larger families who face flu season...it must go on forever! The longest stretch our family of five ever faced was 23 days and I thought that was a long haul!
Please stay healthy, friends...surely this weather won't stay socked in for much longer!
In our house right now, this is most often how you'll see Sunshine.
All 5 of my sheep in one frame...success!
Our mid-winter days consist of a fairly predictable routine. The phrase "plodding along" comes to mind, but it isn't at all mundane or uneventful. As the days are just beginning to noticeably lengthen, we may appear more home-based and quieter. Breakfast, farm chores, and homeschool work take us to late morning, at which point I'm often in the kitchen, making up lunch. After we eat, we read a bit or do some handwork, then head outdoors for a walk or just to play by the animals. It amazes me how the kids are drawn down to be close to the calm and observant critters, who quietly chew their cud and watch the energetic humans have fun at the creek's edge, or have wrestling matches in the snow. Before we were a farm, almost four years ago now (whooooosh! that went fast!), our play was in the front yard, close to the house. Perhaps we spend so much time with our animals, we have adopted the communal space just outside the henhouse and paddocks as our new front yard. Besides, there's always an audience down there.
Our studly visitor is leaving tomorrow. Hershey is returning to his farm after having been here over 3 weeks. While I certainly won't miss his trademark aroma blowing all around the farmyard, I have to say that as far as billy goats go, Hershey was stellar. A true gentleman who was so discreet with his amorous feelings for our sweet doe, Heidi, that we aren't even sure she was bred. When I asked an old time farmer how to tell for sure if your goat is pregnant, he replied, "Well, when there's a baby kid on the ground in 5 months, I reckon she's been serviced." And so the wait begins...
Meanwhile, my four ewes are halfway along, due in April...at least, I'm fairly certain Romeo did his job! It really is so hard to tell, but in another few weeks, I will be able to palpitate their bellies and feel lambies inside! Not a day goes by that I don't think about who is growing in there...what colour fleeces, boys or girls. I won't let myself think about the lambing itself...I've got time to read about becoming a sheep midwife yet!
Indoors, there are all sorts of projects in progress...a littlest boy is having a bedroom makeover with a new coat of paint, kindling pieces are whittled into spears, our holiday puzzle of 1000 pieces was finally finished just today ~ and oh, the loud whoop of joy and happy dance from Sunshine when she laid that last piece had me laughing so hard my belly ached!
I've been keeping my own fingers nimble with a little embroidery work and wool dyeing...though, the truth be told, I am really experimenting and getting familiar with dyeing again after a long hiatus.
It is a cozy time of year, to be nestled all snug at home with the fire crackling and our hands busy. And whether it be drawing or stitching or knitting...or playdough...it is a wonderful way to pass a wintry afternoon, together.
Another journey round the sun brings us back to the beginning of the calendar year. And yes, it is the middle of a snowy winter and our gardens are under a heavy, wintry blanket...but that doesn't mean I'm taking a break from gardening. While all around outside seems dormant, my mind is awakening to the possibilities that the growing season ahead may bring. Seed catalogues are arriving, our seed stash is pulled out, and all of us are thinking of the good food and flowers we will grow. I have yet to finish planning the rotation of crops in the garden, but those details are getting smoothed out soon.
I'm a typical Virgo who likes to make notes of favourite crops, those particularly good varieities that work well in our zone. We write down epic fails and how we could have avoided them, and what we made with certain vegetables for the winter. I even write down how much canning I accomplished and if it is enough to get us through the winter. For a few years now, the kids have helped me make these simple handmade books to record all our homesteading activities for the year. I think I was inspired by Amanda Soule's similar books and they sort of took off from there. I love them for how easy they are to look back over several years at what needs to be rotated and where, how many chickens we raised and how much wool was sheared. And on the last page, we have a wish list by all five of us for the upcoming season. This year, some of those wishes include : a Hugelkultur bed for Papa, more drip hoses for mama, a dirtbike (!) for little Huckley, a horse for Sunshine, and a parrot (???) for Forrest. I'm thinking that just two of these wishes might get fulfilled...(spoiler alert, they don't involve anything that requires fossil fuels, has four legs, or squawks from a beak....but we can always dream, right?)
Outdoors, there was so much snow in front of the greenhouse, the children made snow caves over several days. At one point, they decided they were seed pods buried in the ground, asleep, waiting for spring to pop up out of the ground.
Looking outside right now, with snow piled high, it is hard to believe we are soon going to bring our seed start table indoors and begin planting for the growing season ahead. But sure as the sun rises in the morning, those little seedpods are going to be waking up soon...
Inside it's little protective casing, a baby pussy willow was asleep...they're coming soon...
When cabin fever sets in and it seems like my children have turned into monkeys climbing the walls, we layer ourselves up and head on out. Often, we just go a-wandering about the property as there is much to see here...the pond, the upper morel patch, the sheep, the woods, the creek.
But some wintry days require a little longer of a walk. A walk that results in tuckered people settling back into a quieter rhythm upon returning. A walk that allows mama to find a little peace after four days of flying solo while papa is working up in the mountains. A walk that fills up our spirits, like quenching a deep thirst that had gone unaware.
And on those days that such a longer walk is needed, we head down by the river. A ten minute jaunt that took three quarters of an hour just to get there. For coyote tracks were spied, chasing a herd of deer tracks. Snow plows had made a tremendously precarious terrain to walk along, beside the road. I was impatient to get to the river, but I realized that if I were ten, or five and a half, those snowdrifts, crusted over by sun melt and re-frozen, would seem just like icebergs. So I walked ahead with the dogs, and Sunshine trailed behind, happily chattering away to her doll tucked inside her jacket.
Cocoa relentlessly catches snowballs. And if you take too long to throw one, she gets a little pushy about it.
Huckley insisted on bringing his climbing rope. He finds things to climb indoors and out!
A beaver left a little love in the tree he gnawed down.
Today was a beautiful, wintry day. And by stepping out of our ordinary, we were able to see the extraordinary.
Winter is a wonderful time for wool! I might add that, in my humble opinion, any time of year is a wonderful time for wool! But when the cookstove is chugging away, trying to warm all the corners of our home, we are nestled within arm's reach of each other, with wool in our hands. Sunshine, at age 7, has picked up her doll she began two years ago. She has completed three of the seven squares and is getting more excited with her progress.
On my wheel right now is wool from one of my very first sheep, a Shetland we named Luna. Smaller than the Merinos and Romneys, Luna was a clever girl who behaved more like a dog than a sheep. If I sat in the pasture with my knitting, she'd come and lay at my feet! We all fell in love with Luna, despite her fleece being absolutely wretched. It was not a spinner's fleece at all. Knowing I wanted to limit myself with the size of my flock, I decided to give her to my sister's farm up the road from us to make way for higher quality fleece sheep. Oh, was this ever a hard decision for all of us, most especially for Forrest. He adores Luna. He agreed to letting her go on the condition that I knit him something from her fleece. Fast forward and I have a bag full of coarse and wiry locks that would make a better scrubbie for the dishes than a garment for my ten year old. However, I plied the first singles I spun with some store bought Shetland wool, and while it isn't too pretty, it is now much better for knitting. And Forrest loves it!!! He will be so happy when he visits Luna wearing the vest I'm working on.
In the meantime, Forrest requested a slouchy hat from me ~ two requests for knitted mama goods made my heart beam!. He'll wear what I knit, but he just isn't that interested in anything in particular. Until Luna. And until he went to ski day with the local school kids. He came home that first day and asked me if I'd make him a slouchy hat! This boy has some serious style emerging...and I was eager to cast on.
I used some leftover stash from years ago...Sublime Yarns Cashmere Merino Silk blend. Decadent yarn and ultra soft, though it has pilled up a bit already. It was a straightforward knit, but it seemed a little endless as you garter stitch for nine inches before tapering it off. Oh my. I realize I like a little more pattern or colour in my knitting.
Ahhhh, my boy. At ten years old, he is such a kind, gentle guy who attracts friends wherever he goes. I am trying so hard to let him fly off from the nest a bit, when all I want to do is wrap my arms around him and hold him like I did when he was still in my arms. This mama journey is full of aches, isn't it? A good ache to be sure, but it has the ability to take my breath away unexpectedly with the pure rawness of all that mama-love! So when he asks for a hipster hat, how can this mama refuse? Yes, I think I'm always happy to cast on for anyone who asks so kindly...or who I love so dearly!
*ravelry notes here
*joining Ginny here