Friday, August 14, 2015

On the Road

We just arrived back from a 10-day long road trip to Colorado for a family member's wedding. It took us days to prepare leaving behind a (very) hungry flock of sheep, too many chickens and a garden and orchard that are struggling in their 3rd month of drought. But we prepared the land and prepped our farm-sitters as much as possible and went off on quite the family adventure. I think 40 hours of sitting in a moving vehicle with a toddler is an adventure in and of itself, but luckily we found some incredible places to camp and rest our weary bones (and ears) from those endless hours of sitting and putting in dozens upon dozens of CD and tape stories.

It's been such a full summer. Full of stressing over how to get enough water to the garden and animals during the hottest summer I've ever lived through, full of berry and veggie abundance from the land, full of swimming, blueberry & peach pie eating, full of visiting friends and family. And now, full of road tripping! It's been a blessed summer and chaotic as well, but really so, so lovely. 

This morning I watched the first dead leaves blow from our old willow tree. I noticed the scorched grass all around me and the strange, murky light that comes only when Fall is upon us. Only too soon will the last of the berries be harvestable and the lake too cold to swim in. I still want this fullness that summer brings though. After leaving home for the time we did, I feel more than ever, that I have to make up for lost time and be grounded on this land, doing whatever tending needs done.

Our trip, leading us through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and finally, Colorado, felt like just the right amount of time spent tucked together as a family in a packed car after a summer of running circles around one another in order to "get it all done". We needed this trip to sleep with limbs draped over one another, sing silly songs, share every snack and watch the sun set and also rise for ten consecutive days.  Surprisingly, we did not bicker as much as I expected and even more surprisingly, Lars managed the car rides with not one tantrum!

As I write this blog post, it feels like the end of an era, so to speak…With our first year completed on our new Idaho farm, we will shortly begin our second Fall in this place we now call home. Lars hardly remembers the old yurt he was born in and it's hard to imagine how we managed back in Oregon far from family. So, here we are- so glad to be home from our Rocky Mountain travels- tending to our shriveled tomatoes and relishing in the last weeks of this hot, hot summer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Works Completed: A Toilet and a Table

Perhaps it's a strange thing to post about the inner workings of one's bathroom, but I can't help but share the completion of our compost toilet! Last week, we put the second coat of paint on and added a second toilet to our bathroom, which is still out of commission so Lars has been having quite a fun time "camping" inside the toilet box. Every morning, he looks inside…"No poop yet, Mama!" And without waiting for a response, he ploughs right in with a flashlight and some toys. 

It is such a simple thing: 
1). 5 gallon bucket under the toilet with a starting layer of leaves or sawdust.
2). 5 gallon bucket under the smaller, handled lid full of sawdust (to be added after each toilet time)
3.) Remove the 5 gallon bucket when it's 3/4 of the way full and dump it in your (this is important) humanure compost pile (not the one for food scraps).
4.) Human waste becomes viable soil once again after sitting in the compost bin for 1 year

There is definitely more detail that I would like to add one of these days for those who seriously want to take this on in their own home. We've been composting poop for about 6 years now, so there's a few tricks to making it relatively easy and sanitary. Once our humanure compost system is built, I'll go over the system in totality. Although it takes up a few extra minutes of your week to haul out and clean up, it's such a good feeling to keep what we can out of the septic system and recycling, what is considered filth, into viable earth for trees and perennials.

And now on to another project finally completed…our family table!
With about $80 of lumber and screws and a DIY guide from Pinterest, we've acquired a very lovely table that can take a beating from a toddler with a wooden toy axe or a misled craft project. The more worn and gouged it becomes, the more of an antiqued farm table it will be!

However, I shouldn't so flippantly say it was just a simple trip to the lumbar yard with little financial investment. It definitely was an investment of time and patience. Once I brought my father into the mix, asking for his guidance, since my husband really didn't want to get caught up in this project (and who can blame him since he ends up doing about 60% of the work), the table transformed from a simple weekend project into a semester of Intro to Stickley furniture-making.

Most of the Pinterest farm table projects are simple in nature, joining all the pieces with a Kreg jig. My father, on the other hand, strongly suggested that we additionally biscuit and glue all the joints, which took some time…but gosh, did I learn a lot! I feel way more competent as a builder prior to putting this table together but I also know there is so much to get the hang of, the Kreg jig, planer, skilsaw, ect. 

Now I just have to figure out how to keep all the oatmeal and applesauce from embedding in the holes and grooves of the table. All the more farm-tably, right?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Garden Playdates

I've recently discovered the trick to managing our massive garden with a toddler, which is to borrow other mother's children (aka playdate) for a morning or afternoon. I often feel as though I am "borrowing" them however when I find myself texting my mother friends, looking for a bit of distraction for Lars while I put in the next batch of carrots or thin the beets. This tactic works marvelously, though, and the "borrowing" becomes more than distraction, but rather joyful as visiting friends find pleasure in the space to roam and explore a rural landscape, while Lars gets his much-needed little person time and show off his little chicks or favorite new dirt mound for truck digging.
I find that having an extra little one around helps me take more breaks- since my gardening is so much more efficient while they are playing, the breaks come easily without feeling like I'm neglecting my seedlings or weeds. Snacks, guitar-playing, some knitting, and playing are woven into an already busy day, but with no anxiety, as I know I'll have the focus to go back to work when the friends are off on their next adventure.

Our break this afternoon consisted of last year's blueberries with the loveliest coconut cream, frothed in the Vitamix for a minute (thanks for the tip, Bernadette!). I added chocolate chips to mine after the boys had settled themselves down to their treats. Kind of sneaky, but just what I needed after an hour of hand-tilling a new carrot bed. A little extra boost... 

I'm really pleased with the abundance and beauty that is our garden this year. Being that this is the first year growing food, we sure got lucky with an exceptionally warm spring. Our tomatoes are even blossoming! I was certain that we would be doing a lot of greenhouse/hoop house gardening living so far North, and perhaps we will have to use more covering come next year, but this…this I will take with gratitude and a deep pleasure in this wild, beautiful garden that we have so thoughtfully sowed, thanks to our playdates with friends!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beautiful Homestead Film: The Better Angels

A Terrence Malick film and true to his traditional style, it is immaculately slow and quiet. It is a vignette on the early days of Abraham Lincoln living in an eastern hardwood forest with his family. There is always something to glean from movies like these, that portray rather accurately, what it was like to live "back in the day" whether it be a new idea for fencing in pigs or planting corn or teaching children to read. Watching this after a long day of weeding, planting, mothering and animal tending, it was like a massage for my soul to sink into the beauty of this film.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sacred Sunday

A day of rest, family, connection, friends and relishing in the sweetness of life

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Still lambing and some haircuts

I'll be the first one to admit that I still feel very much like an amatuer when it comes to raising sheep. This is to preface my apologies to our dear ewe, Loki, who was chased around the pasture for a half hour while in labor by yours truly. Mothers: can you imagine having contractions with your baby's head crowning while running laps simultaneously? Loki sure knows what it's like...

Fortunately, I have a good reason for this ridiculous series of events and I'll explain...Shaun called out about 7:30 pm that we were having another lamb. I thought to myself, "that's great and, geeze, it's about time!" So Lars and I headed out there to watch our newest addition be pushed out into the world on a warm, spring evening.

The contractions weren't getting the baby out though, and as I neared to get a better look I could see the lamb's face was covered in dirt and there was no movement. Shaun said he had not checked on the sheep for hours and I started to think that perhaps mama ewe was struggling to birth a stillborn. As the contractions went on with no progress, I confirmed this was the case and approached Loki to help her get the little lamb out. My heart sunk and I quietly grieved the dead baby and the mother who would also grieve her little lamb (sheep can feel heart-broken too).

Loki is a pretty skittish ewe, however, and she wouldn't let us near her. We proceeded to walk/chase her around the pasture for quite some time. She would lay down to have a few more contractions and was back on her feet before we could near her. As we finally realized that we would have to make a proper catchment system and took the time to do so, Loki lay down once again and finally pushed her lamb out.

It lay there for, what seemed like 3 or 4 minutes, when the legs started to twitch. I was still uncertain as to whether the lamb would survive despite the small movements but after putting Lars to bed and checking on the pair an hour later, Loki's little ram lamb was up nursing and twitching his tail with all the vigor of a healthy newborn. What a relief! I do wish that I would have not gone into panic mode and just let the birth be. It's a challenging role, as caregiver to these sheep, to really know when to let them be, especially while delivering lambs. We'll just keep doing our best and keep this experience as a little nugget of wisdom for next lambing season, I guess…

As if that wasn't enough trauma for one week, shearing time (occurring a few days prior to the lamb incident) was imminent and the girls got their bi-annual haircuts. They were starting to look pretty miserable under all that wool during our lovely 80 degrees days we've been having.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

100% Juice

Sitting in our freezer for the past 9 months, were almost a dozen bags of aronia berries that were harvested last season. Now that the 2015 berry-harvest season is upon us, I decided some room was needed for all those delicious strawberries that are just about to ripen. 

We've been making aronia berry juice for the past few seasons. The first year was wonderful- we harvested them in late August and had over a half dozen 5-gallon buckets The juice was frozen and we had more than a year's supply.

The next year's harvest kind of sucked. We harvested the berries too early due to our excitement for more delicious juice and ended up with similar amounts but it was much too astringent. Only on a rare occasion would I dare to test the juice hoping for a sweeter flavor. But to no avail....

Last summer, we waited patiently and harvested the last week of August once again. With our move from Oregon to Idaho occuring the same week I decided that I would just have to make juice another time, when life settled. Well, it's as settled as it's going to be and with another 80 degree morning, juice-making seemed like the only appropriate thing to do!

The gloves are absolutely essential unless you want your hands looking like they're profusely bleeding for the nest two weeks. As a massage therapist by trade I decided to go with the gloves...Although it would probably make an amazing dye (I'm thinking all those white dresses and skirts that I can never wear anymore due to their whiteness).

With a half gallon of freshly sqeeezed aronia juice and a very stained toddler shirt going in the rag bin, we all took a break from the hectic business of our little farm to enjoy the sweet, sweet flavor of a late summer harvest.