So, for the long weekend, I turned about 1000 sq ft of sun baked, former goat run into a garden. With a broken toe. So it wasn't the most relaxing weekend but it needed to be done.
For years, that right of way just sat there, growing weeds. So when the sheep expanded, we put them out that way as a "grazing" area. Eventually, the chickens got moved out there too, so they could have a big (easier to clean) house and more fenced (ideally coyote proof) space.
After the sheep, when the boy goat flock started to expand, we separated out a big chunk to be their home. There were lots of goods about the location - no lice (thank to the direct sun though they had a shade house and some forest on the very edge), easy for water, kept the trees from regrowing in the right of way, etc. But some bads too (a cougar took one of them), the snow would get deep, hauling water, etc.
As I've gone back to school, priorities have shifted and we no longer have any bucks. I do miss them and one day might want to breed goats again but I'll deal with that when/if the time comes. For right now, it's going to be a magnificent garden.
For those of you who have followed me since the very early days, you know about my struggles with gardening. Living in the forest makes gardening a very difficult job. Even with raised beds you're still competing with tree roots and shade and all sorts of things. So, when the Woodsman proposed we turn this bit into a garden, I was all for it.
So, it was me and the pick mattock. The Woodsman was around to help - don't think he abandoned me.
he disassembled the boys' house and, if I needed something, he was there to lend a hand. But I wanted it to be my project it and so it was. Before work began in earnest, we'd been feeding the chickens on the stumps that needed to be dealt with so they were well on their way.
During the weekend, I spent three days with the pick mattock hacking away at those stumps and pulling up the massive (and plentiful) rocks that called that run home. My arms felt like jelly and I seriously could not eat enough. I did hard labour from dawn until dusk (quite literally).
Not only do I have serious pride in the start of this garden (as well as high hopes), I have a much greater appreciation for the work people are doing all over the world (historically and currently) that requires that kind of physical exertion. And I didn't have any of the pressures so many of them have - I have enough food, I have shelter, I have safety, and I have my people. It brought a lot of things I like to study (like the old ways of doing things) into a different light.
Now, you might ask, as many already have, why on earth would you spend that much time picking when you can rent a tiller or use your tractor? It's simple. I wanted to. I didn't want to use fossil fuels to make the garden - seems counter intuitive to me. Especially when I can make the time. And as the Woodsman pointed out, it makes no sense to till, burning fossil fuels, and then go for a run or to the gym.
When I do things in the "old ways", it's more than an exercise in I know not what. It's because on the face of it, I think we do a lot of things backwards. Instead of putting in the garden the fastest way possible (which usually has the greatest environmental cost) and then driving to the gym because my body needs exercise, why not combine those two needs?
Anyway, it was a glorious weekend but I'll be back to the books this weekend (mostly), I have a paper due!
I attended a great small business workshop this weekend. Hosted by Sylvia of Foundtree and Greg of Farm Food Drink (and assorted companies), we learned about everything from product risks (and how to mitigate and prevent them) to marketing and projections. Sounds super businessy and not congruent with my lifestyle, doesn't it? Well, if you'd described it to me that way, I would have thought so too but it really wasn't.
I think what I appreciated about both presenters is that they're both committed to helping micro- and small-businesses thrive. I know, I know, anyone could say that but really, they've both worked in some big corporate situations and neither of them felt like they wanted to stay there. Much like many of us who returned to rural living, it seemed like they'd both made a lifestyle/values choice about how to do their work.
I also appreciated my fellow participants. They seemed like a group of people there with a similar goal to me - make enough money to sustain my lifestyle, hire some people (so, sharing the bounty locally), and contribute to some aid projects or do some good works. It was interest as many of us in the local/small/ag world feel a bit sheepish about profits and making money. What I've realized is that's a bit like being a martyr; no one thinks I'm a sell out when I'm making a professional wage at my day job, after all. In my opinion, it's a bit funny on the face of it.
Anyway, I've got a lot of thinking to do (and planning, and scheming), but it's all good and it's all fun.
And it's finally spring, so the perfect time for it.
...who is a bit giddy about all of the melting. I should have a pic, I know but I don't. Sorry about that. It's melting so fast I could literally hear the big slabs of snow and ice in the meadow creaking and groaning as they shift.
Spring is coming!
Sometimes you realize the direction you're trying to go isn't really the direction you're supposed to go in. You know the feeling right? When you're struggling upstream or feeling abraded a bit? I realize that's been happening to me lately. I've been really stuck on the how but not really feeling it.
I've just had a sense of ease as I realized my focus needs to be more on the why than the how. So rather than how to grow tomatoes, how to trim hooves, how to can, it's more the why. I like the doing and I think when you try to philosophize about something like lifestyle from arm's length, I think it falls flat. You might have some evidence to the contrary but do you think the words of Wendell Berry would resonate so were he not out living on the land and with the land? Imagine Wildwood, had Roger Deakin just sat in an office and imagined, never having rambled or lived outdoors? Consider Anne LaBastille, had she stayed in some safe, suburban existence; would we have had Woodswoman? In all its rawness and grit?
Now it's not that I'm comparing myself to such illustrious folks, except maybe by way of my aspirations, but I realize that a collection of how to videos and posts just doesn't grab me.
It must be Spring. Change is the air. I'll be heading out to clean the greenhouse which has functionally been a litter box this winter - as it turns out. Now that's a how to video I should share.
Well, we had a 24 hour blizzard which wasn't awesome - especially since I had to drive home in the dark during the blizzard. It's usually about 75 mins but took an extra hour because: blizzard. But today, we woke up to no new snow and a light freeze. A light freeze! Not rock solid, not snow covered, not any of what we've been waking up to.
And now it's dripping. Like melting dripping. I know I shouldn't care but I really do.
And I know there's going to be lots of wet. Lots and lots and lots of wet and mud. For example, this big wad of snow that's encroaching on my deck.
You might ask yourself why I'm letting the snow encroach that far onto my deck. I mean really, why not just shovel it off.
Well, let's just say that when we built our house, we didn't think about things like massive amounts of snow sliding from the roof and creating huge piles - mountains really - of snow.
So without any reference point, it might be hard to tell but that pile is about 6ft high and stretches the length of the deck. So yes, there will be wetness. Lots of wetness. And our deck is a mess - filled with my dye pots and all sorts of things.
But still.... it's melting I'm happy about that. I'm so ready to get to gardening. I think I've been too busy to really appreciate the winter so that's on the list to shift as well - I don't want to be so busy that I just grumble about the mud. And truly, I'm making myself so busy I'm back in the "chasing my tail" frame of the modern mind. It's silly because I know better and I help other people know better. Just shows how insidious it is, doesn't it? Hmmm. More (internal) work needed!
That's from yesterday. There's even more this morning but it's too dark for it to be really visible so far.
I do mostly try to just accept winter, really I do, but when I'm looking back through the farm journal and at this point last year my greenhouse was in full swing and the garden had plenty of hardy greens growing in it.... it's a bit of torture really.
So what can you do when the weather has you foiled?
Well, we've been having weather extremes up here on both ends of the spectrum. And truly, I find the cold weather ones a little easier to manage. After all, when the weather is cold, there's knitting and textile things to be done, or you can sit curled up on the couch in your favourite sweater, a mug of tea to hand and a good book (or reading for homework).
In the summer you still can't go for a walk in the sweltering heat and when it cools off, the mosquitoes come out to torture you. There's no cozying up with a good book and a mug of tea in your favourite sweater. And I certainly don't like to play with wool during the summer.
So I'll adopt a Nordic attitude. If it works for them, in a place where winter is much longer, much darker, and much more intense than ours, it's got to have some merit. I'll have gratitude for all of my comforts, the fact that my house is warm thanks to the hard work of my family last year. I have gratitude that we have enough to eat and enough for our animals, that for my very long commute each week I have an understanding supervisor who doesn't want me to drive in extreme conditions. I enjoy my tea and dream of spring.
And as I look out of the window, I appreciate the beauty of the snow covered trees, the flakes falling as the light comes up, and I remember, in no time we'll be at the season of mud which is slightly better for growing things (ok, it's a lot better) but treacherous and comes with it's own challenges.
So for now, I'll grab my tea and my homework, and sit by the fire and read.
This is, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful (though I can't yet articulate why) articles I've read... ever, really. Perhaps it's because it's so poignant and so accurate? Perhaps it's just the beauty of this old, gentle way of life. And no, I'm not romanticizing. I've raised sheep, I know there's plenty of not gentle woven into the raising of any animals. I also know that a smart shepherd is mostly gentle when working with their animals or it just doesn't go well.
Anyway, I would urge you to read it. If you don't, just consider this:
"The future we have been sold doesn’t work. Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource."
Click on the excerpt to get to the full article.
Good morning. I have had wise people messaging me about this year's crop of goat babies.
Sadly everyone, this is a non-breeding year for me.
If we decide to bring in a buck this autumn, I'll be sure to let everyone know. Do contact me if you have breeding/baby questions and I'll do my best to answer.
There is a fine soft snow falling and as much as I'd like to complain, or perhaps feel I should, it's incredibly beautiful out. And maybe we'll have reduced risk of fire this year because of all of the snow pack.
I do think it might be time to dust off my knowledge of weather Deities and do some offerings.