May recap.

Whew! What a month! We are officially done with lambing and kidding for the year, which feels like a relief at the moment. Everyone is healthy and doing well, and I feel as if I learned a monumental amount in this first season of births here on the farm. In total, we ended up with 7 lambs and 6 kids. 

Some thoughts:

  • May was a lovely time for kidding...lots of green grass, and no heat lamps or sweaters needed!
  • Note to self: have some kid sweaters ready to go...just in case.
  • Need more lanterns.
  • Hand and feet warmers really were lovely during those evening hours of waiting and watching.
  • Sympathy births really are a thing.

This list will grow, as I think of things. I just learned today that the ear tags actually are mandatory, as in illegal not to have them...who knew? Maybe everyone except me? 

Cora insists, by the way, that shoes are not necessary when entering the barn and pasture. I pick my battles. Also, we've had lots of rain. This has been good for the garden and emerging flowers, but not so good for bare feet in manure.

Lots of yummy stuff coming out of the ground, both wild and cultivated. Cora has proclaimed that fiddleheads cooked in butter and garlic is her favorite food; "even better than ice cream". And I made a ridiculous nettle, potato and leek soup that is my new springtime staple.

I must admit, the poor garden right now is suffering a bit. I'm behind because I did not start seedlings this year. I was afraid that I would not have the time to water and care for them as I should, with the baby animals arriving. I just didn't know what to expect. As a result, I'm scrambling to find tomato seedlings, and throwing stuff in the ground willy-nilly. I have to remind myself that it's okay if I need to back off from that right now, but boy it's hard.

I hope, friends, that this Spring has been good to you. 

Caprine Midwifery.

I've always learned better, in general, with a hands-on method. Getting my hands dirty, so to speak. And that is just the way my foray into Caprine Midwifery began.

I tried to stagger the breeding this year so that not everybody would lamb/kid at once. It worked out well, and with Angora goats being a bit more susceptible to Pneumonia, I was grateful that their deliveries were to come in warmer weather. Honestly, I hadn't meant to time it such that anyone would arrive on Mother's Day, but I think there is something lovely and symbolic about the idea that they possibly could. 

As it turned out, nobody did arrive on Mother's day, but rather the day after. And It was quite the experience for both myself and the mama goat. Her water bag appeared around 9:00pm, and I called for my mother to come over, if she wanted to watch. But, around 10:30 we began to wonder if everything was okay. Her contractions had stopped, and she was laying down, with no pushing. Juno, the mother, had been very uncomfortable for most of her pregnancy, being a Pygora bred (not intentionally!) to a full sized Angora buck, so I had suspected it may be a difficult birth for her. For the last month, her vaginal walls had been residing outside her vulva in plain sight. As the vet said, "when they run out of room, something's gotta give, and that's the first to go." Ouch.

I lubed up and gently felt just inside the opening, where I was met with the nose of the first kid. So we waited a little longer, and decided around 11:00pm that it was time to call the vet. She was amazing, and asked me if I was comfortable reaching in and adjusting the kid, as she suspected that some body part or another was not in its proper position. I said I did, and she proceeded to talk me through the entire procedure.

The poor little one had tried to come out with its legs back, instead of forward, like a dive, next to its nose. So, after getting my arm in through the cervix, which was still not very dilated, I managed to hook my finger first underneath the right leg, then the left. In order to do this, I had to push the head back in. Once I had everything positioned correctly, the vet instructed me to just pull it out, as the baby had been in the birth canal for some time. This was not easy, as the poor mother was in agony, and there had to be room for my hand to come out at the same time as the head and legs.

He slid out, and we rubbed him vigorously to get him breathing and moving around. Once he was able to breath, we stuck him in front of his mama, and reached in for the next one. At this point, the vet wanted me to just go in and get any remaining kids out as quickly as possible. The water bag was still intact on the next one, and so I had to pop it in order to be able to feel which body parts were which. I thought what I felt was a hind end, and so I grabbed the legs and pulled. When he finally came out, my mother, husband and I all thought it had no head. Seriously. It lay there with two sets of legs, and what looked like two butts. Then it moved.

It did, actually, have a head. And it had come out front end first, with its head to the side, under its body. But he was alive. (For the first two days after his birth, he walked around on his front knees because I had pulled ligaments in his legs with the strain of getting him out! This went away and he is just fine now.)

Then, the shocker was that there was a third, right behind the second, already coming through the birth canal. She slid right out without any problem, and for that I was grateful. After going in one more time to make sure there were no more, we continued to rub down the triplets and care for the mother. All three babies are identical in size, weight and color.

After it all was over, and the vet hung up, I finally realized that my heart was racing and I had hardly breathed. I was covered with bodily fluids of all types, and was grinning from ear to ear. How often do we get the opportunity to save a life? Or two? Or three? In one go? It is likely that had she gone into labor during the night, we would have lost the lives of at least one of the babies, if not all, and possibly the mother too. 

The instinct to mother doesn't just go away when we stop having children. In fact, I think living through motherhood merely strengthens our understanding of the birth process, its pain, the struggles and the joy, across any species. 

Lambing Season.

They are here! Well, some of them anyhow. Meet Angus and Astrid. Their mom is a Shetland, and father is a Finn...and we are in love. Maple completely surprised us when I came out one morning to find she and her lambs happy and healthy. She had them overnight, without any sign of labor the evening before. In truth, I thought Maple's mother, Emma, would go first. I love surprises!

The Farm in Winter.

So. Much. Snow. 

I feel as if today was the first day in a week that I haven't been out shoveling...paths, gates, more paths, hay cribs, roofs, cars...

But is has been beautiful, and it feels kind of okay because Spring is coming. The sap is starting to run. The sheep's bellies are starting to round out with lambs. Early seeds are being started. And the days are longer. 

All that being said, this is our first season lambing and kidding, and because I am honestly not sure about the full extent of what that entails, I am a little apprehensive about taking on the full load of responsibilities that I usually do in the Springtime. Starting seedlings may have to wait (or not happen at all) in the event that the greenhouse is needed for extra room, and tapping the maple trees just doesn't sound all that appealing right now with four feet of snow on the ground. 

We'll see. When the first warm day arrives I may just change my mind...

Reset.

For Christmas, my family gave me a trip to visit my brother and his family in Maui. At first, I felt guilt at knowing how very much the children would enjoy it. And then, I was excited beyond words. I had no idea what I was going to do with myself, and realized that I actually did not know what two weeks felt like on my terms. The passage of time when you have children is measured by appointments, meals, chores, practices, lessons, needs, weather, etc. I had no memory of what one week, let alone two, felt like when it was spent on my terms. 

This trip has been more of a gift than I could ever have imagined. Maui is a very special place, and I'm not sure that this time would have had the same effect if it were spent elsewhere. I have hiked, biked, slept, read, walked, gone swimming, knit, run, sat and eaten as my body asked. It turns out that my self has been neglected for quite some time now; waiting patiently and quietly for me to return to it. As most mothers know, we tend to lose a bit of what makes us us in the beautiful process of becoming more than we were.

Having children has made me a better version of myself, but I discovered here that every so often I need more than just a day, or even a weekend, to remember what makes me feel good about my own being; my own human-ness. Watching families on the beach here was beautiful...naked children and dogs played together in the waves, and they could just be. There is a general feeling of ease here...ease with ones body, children, life, friends...

The beauty is everywhere you look, and affects every one of the senses. Last night I walked barefoot down the sidewalk after dinner, in the dark. It was warm, and the breeze was sweet and earthy. How often do I allow myself to do that at home? Well, actually, I am frequently outside after dinner doing animal chores in one form or another, but the act reminded me to do it more often. And to pay attention to the necessity of the action in regard to its effect on my soul, rather than its function.

After that respite, that period of self care, I feel as if my capacity for love and the ways in which I show it to others, has changed. I am more patient, flexible, and giving of my love. My tank has been refilled, and I realize now how very empty that tank was. Mothers must take care of themselves and each other. I see only now that occasionally spending time apart from our children and families (especially if you are of the homeschooling crowd!) makes us better parents.

What a gift from those I love, and I am so infinitely grateful for it.

Celebrations.

Today we are hunkered down, celebrating this first steady snowfall, among other events, with baking, drinking chai and hot chocolate, decorating and general merriment. It's beautiful, this white blanket, and these unexpected snow days mean that suddenly the schedule is clear. Clear of all commitments except those of our family to enjoy these slow days.

We are also celebrating two new arrivals to the farm. These Shetland ladies are not necessarily a planned part of our flock expansion, but they needed a home, and how could we say no to these faces?

Mother and daughter, they have both been bred to Finn rams, and so we'll have more lambs to look forward to in the Spring. They came to us as 'Emma' and 'Maple', and I think that suits us just fine.

They are both very shy, as compared to our outgoing Finns, so I've been trying to be near them as much as I can these past few days. 

I do hope that you all are enjoying this day as much as we are. I am feeling so very grateful for all we have in our lives...the ordinary, and the extraordinary. They really are the same thing, are they not? 

Enough.

I have thought, for some time, that what I was doing was "enough". That working closely with the earth, providing food for my family, shopping locally, being careful with our precious resources, honoring our ancestors...that doing all these things, and more, and teaching the importance of these actions to my children, was not only just a basic requirement of my mothering instincts, but "enough". Today, I feel differently. Today, and recently, my sadness for our earth and its protectors has overwhelmed me. How can I simultaneously be so filled with frustration, sadness, fear, longing, anger and love? So very much love, for those brave people who in many cases have risked or given up jobs, school, families, and more for this calling. Though the immediate case may be to protect their indigenous rights and spiritual spaces, they have time and again been the ones to stand up for what is truly right for our entire earth. And have time and again, had taken what is rightfully theirs, despite promises and treaties. 

I realize, there is hope in all of this. An opportunity for many people to come together for a common cause. And I see it. It's tangible, this collective concern, about an issue that affects every single one of us. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, but quite possible in my lifetime, and most certainly my children's. This dependency on fossil fuels, combined with ignorance and greed, will eventually cost us all our lives as we know them. 

And here I am. Overwhelmed by grief and love, and this urge to be there helping. And anger that other people aren't angry; people that have the means to do more than I. No amount of knitting can help this cause right now, or calm me down, and every able bodied person could be doing at least one more thing to help preserve the very essence of what we are made of. 

A Thanksgiving Giveaway.

My dear friends, I have decided to have a little giveaway in thanks to everyone who has supported and continues to support myself and other small farms. I will be giving away one free skein of our "Phinela" yarn, which is a luxurious blend of 40% Kid Mohair and 60% Finn Sheep from our Naturally raised Angora Goats and Finn Sheep. This yarn is truly soft enough to wear next to your skin (my daughter was the true test of this!), has beautiful luster, takes dyes beautifully, and it won't pill like merino or alpaca.

I am only asking that you share. Share my website and let me know in the comments below, share my Instagram post about the giveaway and let me know over there. Do this by 9:00pm on Thanksgiving day, and I will share with one of you a lovely skein of my yarn. Thanks, Blessings and Love to you all.

 P.S. If you have any knitters or fiber lovers in your life, consider heading over to my Etsy shop for Holiday gifts!

*Giveaway is for one skein of yarn in color "sand".

Putting in the Seed

I am sitting here at 11:30 at night, listening to the steady beat of rain outside my window. I am still feeling like I'm not quite sure about the proximity of winter; ready for rest and reprieve, but not really relishing the thought of being stuck inside a tiny space with stomach bugs, colds, and bitter temperatures. So, naturally, my mind has already begun to wander toward springtime. That's maybe a little bit crazy, but it is what gets me through. 

While visiting the Robert Frost Place this fall with the children, I came across one of his poems that I had never heard before, and fell in love:

Putting in the Seed

You come to fetch me from my work tonight
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea;)
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

                                        - Robert Frost

Meanwhile, I am doing my utmost to enjoy the Autumn light, while planting garlic (400 bulbs!), braiding onions, making elderberry tinctures and fire cider, baking bread and keeping everyone on fresh pasture daily while the ground remains thawed. And finding some time to knit too, of course...

In Sorrow.

I am struggling to find the words for how I have felt today. I surprised myself by crying alone in the car on the way into town, and then have continued to do so throughout the day; even now. My instinct has been to go and be in the garden, and tell my children how much I love them.

But today, my heart felt so very very heavy. Elections come and go, but this...this. This felt like someone had pulled the rug from under me. I believe most mothers around me with young daughters, and sons, are sharing the same feelings as I...anger, hurt, confusion, fear and many other emotions. 

My feelings of utter sadness and sorrow are also linked with a tremendous amount of love for the many others who are sharing in this experience. I have a daughter...a smart, sensitive, loving, courageous daughter to whom I must explain this situation. And it hurts. It hurts to try and keep from projecting my own thoughts and feelings onto her. It hurts to look at her and think that any man, let alone a supposed leader of our country, could make her think or feel that she is anything less than amazing and wonderful.

I keep waiting for that moment when the tiny spark of hope in my soul becomes bright enough for me to recognize it, as it always has. I know it will, but for now, I will love my family, and utter prayers of thanks for all that I have, and prayers of love to those whose lives and beliefs are now threatened. I will keep bringing my daughter close and teaching her that in no way, under any circumstances, is another human being allowed to talk to and treat her the way this man does to others. 

As my daughter fell asleep beside me this evening, I held her, and cried again, praying for she and all the young women of our country. 

Autumn

This Autumn has been spectacular...lovely temperatures and stunning foliage. And finally, the winding down I've been waiting for; that part took longer than I had anticipated. 

This week has been filled with those strong instincts to nest, and pull inside a bit more. Cleaning and purging, making proverbial, and literal, space for all of our energy and physical being. I don't remember that same feeling where we lived before...perhaps because we had more square footage to spread out. I've always been more comfortable in smaller spaces, but even I am having to learn to simplify a good bit. And with that process, I am gradually loving it here more, bit by bit.

That being said, I am also feeling like this place needs more of our personality on the outside. A fresh coat (and new color!) of paint on the exterior would do wonders, but is really not a need at this point, so it's been bumped to the bottom of the list. But, small patches of garden that we've planted around the house will hopefully emerge in the Spring and fill some of the bare spots.

We have a few new friends that have joined us here at the farm, most notably the two smallest and furriest of them all; two bunnies named Rain and Lightening...saved, purchased and cared for entirely by the two youngest people in the house. And perhaps not so notably (except by the resident lady angora goats around here), a Buck for breeding. More on that later.

Otherwise, winter preparation in all forms has commenced!

September.

This is, undoubtedly, my favorite time of year. Just a few weeks ago, I thought I wasn't ready for summer to end, but somehow, by the time autumn has really arrived, I feel okay about it. Happy, even.

I somehow manage to forget, every year, that things don't actually slow down at this point...they just shift. I feel like a squirrel, packing my freezer, basement and shelves with goods from the garden, woods,  orchard, etc. I'm feeling a little frantic about not being able to keep up with it all.

The animals know too. The laying has slowed down from the chickens and ducks, and the mornings are crisp. The farmer's almanac predicts a big winter, with lots of snow. But, we'll see...they said that last year too, and were very wrong for us, up here in Maine.

The goats are sheared, and the sheep will be soon. The basement is filling with winter squash, and the freezer with chickens, berries, broth and the last of some summer vegetables. The shelves are filling with jams, preserves, tomato sauce, salsa, and apple sauce. The porch is overflowing with garlic and onions, drying. Dry beans are being gathered from the garden.

How can we not feel grateful for all these gifts?

Mercury Retrograde.

Last week was not kind to us. 

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and that we are only dealt what we can handle. But, after the week we've had here, I'm not so sure. The short list is: Poison Ivy all around (including me...the person who has never reacted to it in her life...), having to make the decision to cull two goats, losing said goats, burying beloved pets, a broken wrist (and with it, a night in the ER and surgery), and a 50 year old stove that bit the dust while I was in the middle of canning a batch of jam.

So, here is my lemonade list (as in, "when life gives you lemons..."):

1. Our neighbor gave us about 7 pounds of beautiful pears from his fruit trees, with which I made quite possibly my favorite jam ever; Ginger Pear Jam, sweetened with honey. (It's from the book Canning with Pomona Pectin). And since I adore ginger, I will double the amount called for in the next batch!

2. We had just finished a batch of Jewel Weed Salve two days before we all ended up with bad cases of poison ivy. The itching could very well have driven us all mad without that heavenly cream! Somehow our bodies knew...

3. Out of the stove disaster, came a new stove. And it made me realize that I don't think I've ever had a properly working oven. The bread baked for exactly the amount of time it was supposed to. For the first time. Ever. The amount of italics in this sentence should tell you just how happy I am about that. 

4. The day after Cora broke her arm was filled with obligations. And I couldn't do any of them. Need I say more? 

5. I'm not sure I have been able to make lemonade out of the goat situation. There were difficult decisions to be made for the benefit of the entire heard, and I suppose there's not much more to it than that. We grieved, but mostly feel that our decision was the right one in this particular case.

     But, before all of that happened, way back in August, we had a much needed little getaway as a family, and it was exactly what we all needed. Our only vacation as a family for the year, and we took full advantage of the five days we were gone. 

The Shift.

Though we have had drought conditions for some time now, I cannot complain about the temperatures. Most days recently have been in the 80's, but the nights have cooled down into the 50's, which is lovely for sleeping. Even so, despite those warm days, I felt that shift a few weeks back...the one we wait for, the one that makes us remember that summer is so very, very short here in the Northeast. It begins with a change in the light, and leads to crickets chirping all day instead of just the evenings. I feel as if I can actually smell it on the wind, and feel it across the surface of my skin. Every one of my senses is aware of it, every time it happens. And it doesn't seem subtle to me...it always happens overnight. The scales tip toward fall.

And, at first, I think "I am not ready", and I am very sad. But, somehow, in the course of the following month, I gradually live my way into being ready. Though I could happily have my hands in the dirt year-round, I am usually prepared for a rest by the time autumn arrives. 

We have some new faces around the farm, much to our delight. Meet, from left to right, Minerva, Zelda and Ophelia.

These sweet girls are very shy, and we are working to get them comfortable around us. Lots of treats, holding them, talking to them, and just sitting with them. They have been here about three weeks now, and Minerva allows us to pat her all over now. Zelda is quite precocious, and is no shrinking violet when it comes to food. Ophelia has been the last to earn our trust, and is still pretty nervous.

Otherwise, we have generally just been trying to squeeze in bits and pieces of "summering". It seems to get harder as the children get older, to find whole days when we do not have an agenda of some kind. With either swim team or soccer five days out of the week, plus animal care and gardening/harvesting/canning, I have felt this summer slide by us a little more quickly than past years. But, we have snuck in some lovely days with friends and trips to the beach.

And the garden. My favorite place. Every year we expand it a little, and every year, just when I think I've got it under control, mother nature reminds me that I am, in fact, not in control the majority of the time. This year it was potatoes. We were gone for a week when the potato beetles were at their worst, and in those seven days without the resident bug pickers at work (ahem. my children.), they moved in and took over. Oh well. 

The look we all get when squishing potato bugs.

The look we all get when squishing potato bugs.

These Summer Days.

I know it is cliche to say "the summer is flying by", but it's true. It's not so much that the time is passing quickly, but that I've had my head down so often, trying to accomplish things, that when I finally looked up, I realized how much time has passed. We have not been to the beach once, and I am having a hard time with the sensation that I have not had enough "down time" lately to enjoy this most lovely time of year. Some of it is commitments with swim, violin and a week of summer camp thrown in, but mostly just day-to-day tasks; animals, garden, etc. I have once again expanded the garden, and therefor doubled the workload, and as the flock/herd of sheep/goats grows, that too takes more time. I keep thinking that I haven't spent enough time with the children, or gone to the beach enough (or, at all...ahem.), or gone hiking.

All of this has been on my mind. And then, this morning, I realized quite suddenly, that this window is short. Not in the way that I expected to feel; the usual guilt-laden thoughts about how I should have enjoyed it more, or just relaxed a bit. No, it was more of a memory about how very long the winter is, and how much time I actually do spend with the children cooped up in the house during those months, and that actually, what I am doing right now is how I want our summer to be. Maybe for us it doesn't mean going to the beach every day, or owning a boat and drinking beer on the weekends, or even getting to travel a bit. But, these days are free. In the absolute sense of the word. The entire day, most days, for the children, is spent exploring, playing in the woods, in the treehouse, foraging for food, making hideouts, running, laughing, picking flowers. Yes, we love the beach, but the thoughts that come to us in the darker, colder months of the year, are the memories of how we spend these days, and for us, this is it.

Happy June!

I don't think I have ever been so in love with this month, as I am of late. The weather has been downright, dare I say it, perfect. Dry and warm, but with lovely breezes and cool shade. I have been feeling so vary grateful these past few weeks, for so many of the blessings in my life, and those greatly in part to this land that we live on and with. I don't believe I could have dreamed up a more beautiful, magical place in which to raise these two children of ours. This place offers so very much in the way of exploring and adventures, and as we slowly come to know the various parts of the property a little more intimately, it keeps on surprising us with its gifts.

IMG_3786.JPG

I knew, even before we had made plans to move from our old home, that we needed to be here. I didn't know why, it just felt right. We had no plan to sell at the time my parents purchased the property, but as life has a way of presenting us with what we need, a series of unfortunate (at the time) events led us to be here. And I could not be more happy. 

Much of our time this spring has been spent foraging, which the children always equate to an adventure. There are so many things that I have thought about wanting to plant or have access to, only to have those plants appear somewhere on the property on their own. I do not believe in coincidences, and there is a reason that the woman who lived here before us, and her husband, had wanted to erect a chapel where our garden now sits. 

Cora collecting clover for tea.

Cora collecting clover for tea.

A week ago or so.

A week ago or so.

So, here we are, almost halfway through June! And I am trying so very hard to store the memories of these days somewhere easily accessed when we are in the middle of a long New England winter. I do so adore this place, but without the ones I love surrounding me, I am sure the experience would not be quite so sweet. 

Prairie Fire

Despite the fact that we have no actual prairies to speak of here in Maine, this pattern caught my eye. As it turns out, I think it may be my most favorite test piece yet for this yarn. Just barely finished (and still unblocked), and Cora could hardly wait to pull it on. Once on, she promptly proclaimed it was soft enough for her to wear next to her skin...without a shirt underneath! That, my friends, is the true test. And, she actually asked to sleep in it tonight, which, of course, I had to say yes to...

The Pattern is Prairie Fire, by TinCanKnits (Ravelry notes here). And the yarn is our 60/40 blend Finn/Mohair.

Today. Or, yesterday.

It feels like today, but at 12:23am it's actually yesterday. And I can't fall asleep because my mind is too busy asking me if I really know what I am doing. I have this nagging worry that things are going to implode; that this delicate balance of work, homeschooling, child-rearing, farming and gardening that I am just barely managing to hold together, is going to erupt into chaos or fall apart at any moment. The interior of the house is already at that point, and I'm feeling a bit...well...out of control.

I suppose that the only thing I can control, is that I have actually, on my own, chosen all of those passions to pursue.

But, despite all the lavender I surround myself with tonight, it's just been a tough day. 

Garden tilled and waiting for me to play. Also included but not in view, two more plots to make room for some expanding crops.

We have two new friends! Violet and Lucy just joined the flock, and they are pretty amazing. Softest coats, and sweetest personalities. They are not so sure about the guinea hens, however.

May.

Oh how I love this month! While the general chore load has increased exponentially, the weather at least makes it thoroughly enjoyable. Daffodils, tulips, dandelions, violets, birds singing, bees humming, black flies biting...

Well, there's always an antagonist in a good story, isn't there?

These littlest ones work hard, play hard, and sleep hard. I woke up one morning to find this helper in our bed. (Oh, to know what her dreams were of!)

summer1.jpg

I came across these images from last summer, and was reminded of what is to come. When we are in the midst of the working, sweating, harvesting, canning and freezing, it is sometimes difficult to remember that this lifestyle is a choice, and one that I would not trade for any amount of money. It is what grounds me, and awakens my soul. By the end of the season, I feel fulfilled in a way that cannot be described to anyone who has not had the experience of being weary to the bone by the end of the day, with fingernails and hands encrusted with dirt and smelling of sunshine and warmth.

I am ready.