Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Soul food

We got the tractor and tiller here again today, to do second and final till.  Woot!  Steve frantically spread the second round of amendments for me the morning that he left for India!  And, I got a last minute delivery of about 12 yards of manure this morning and dumped them into the new garden area.  Spread it with the tractor while it was here.  Phew!  I wish I could’ve gotten more, but that was about all I could swing for now.

back pasture before second till
The skin on my hands is turning to sandpaper from hauling so many rocks.  My goodness do we ever have some seriously rocky soil.  Holy moley.   

the soil in the new garden before second till - look at all those rocks!
Luckily this second till seems to be dropping the rocks back down below the surface (whereas the first till brought them all up).  That will make for a much, much better seedbed for the pasture seed.  I was looking at the ground last week and feeling a little worried and discouraged.  But, it’s looking much more hospitable and promising now.  Thank goodness… I had visions of patchy pathetic pasture, something reminiscent of a balding chia-pet with fleas.  But, not anymore.  It’s looking much better, indeed.  

same spot after second tilling
the new garden area (the duck pond is just on the other side of that soil mound on the right)
front pasture
Holding down the homestead while Steve is in India is going pretty smoothly so far.  The big kids are being extra helpful and the sunshine makes it all feel so nice and dreamy.  I really think that sunshine is the key to happiness and well-being.  That stuff is magic, for real.  

Moonlight’s not so bad either!  Last night, I finally got around to the cows at about 9:00pm.  At first, before making it out the door, I felt exhausted and mildly frustrated.  But, I think it took all of about 5 seconds basking in the moonlight to turn my spirits right around.  It was glorious out there!  Jade snuggled warmly on my back, the moon huge and glowing bright in the dark night sky, the pasture bathed in silver light… it was like a dream.  It was so beautiful, in fact, that rather than rushing back inside (as I usually would have doing evening chores that late) I lingered about for quite a while, moseying here and there around the homestead.  Good thing, too -  I discovered a raccoon in the compost and chased him away before he decided to terrorize my chickens!  Anyway… moonlight is most definitely also a tonic for the soul (especially for us rainforest dwellers who rarely get clear night skies).  While I left the house for cow duty feeling wiped out and ready for bed, I found myself only moments later buzzing with energy and excitement to be out wandering in the moonlight.  I would have stayed out there much longer if it hadn’t been for the very sleepy, diaperless, jammieless baby tucked onto my back.  Ah, yes, sleep was most definitely calling his name.

Spring is definitely taking hold in my soul.  The longer days feel so good, as do the earlier mornings, the increasing number of clear and sunny days, the soil staining my fingers, the peeps of baby chicks and ducklings, and the unmistakable surge of energy that pushes me to do just a little bit more each day.  Giving thanks.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Poor little man is in a very mama-centric clingy phase.  Wants all sorts of mama, however he can get it.  It’s making me crazy, but I’m trying to remember that it’s temporary.  It too shall pass… and I should love it up - all the clinging - while I’ve got it.  Someday, after all, he might tell me to talk to the hand.

Yes. This will, in fact, pass.  It just takes time.  Once again, in the very near future, he will evolve through this developmental milestone and feel more secure in the world.  He will not need to wrap his body around my calves, wailing and looking desperately up at me while I attempt to cook… every. single. time.  He will not throw himself to the ground sobbing anytime I leave (even momentarily) the room.  He will not beg to be held constantly, pointing and saying, “Ah!”, at everything he sees forever.  This is temporary.  And, I too can adapt.  I do not need to feel so frustrated, like I can’t even breathe on my own, let alone get something done.  I can take deep breaths in the moments of tightening throat and clenching jaw.  I can use that breath to guide my energy down, to bring my awareness and attention to the small and developing being in my arms, to remind me to slow down and take it all in stride.  

 Look closely at him, mama.  Hug him a little tighter, mama.  

He will not be little forever.  He will not need me like he does now for much longer at all, in fact.  Soon, very soon, his words will come to him.  His, “ah, ah, ah”, will shift, and like magic, carefully chosen words will spill out in their place.  He will tell me with unwavering certainty what, exactly, it is that he wants or needs.  His desire to be held will become less and less as his curiosity to explore the world around him grows more and more.  And, as the ground settles from this developmental earthquake that is rocking his world right now and the pieces fall into place, I will find standing before me a boy… no longer a baby.  A big boy, ready to take on the world.   

Now, mama, the question is… are you ready to let go?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Today was amazing.  One of those days, when all the pieces seem to fall magically into place.  They don't happen often, but when they do, I just have to pause frequently, take notice and smile inwardly, deep in my heart.
Beautiful sunrise....

Followed by a totally smooth and easy morning of animal chores and breakfast (not always so smooth or easy!).  Which then lead into a blissful morning trail ride through forest and meadow as the fog burned off making way for the sunshine. Yes!  Sunshine and a trail ride?! Again, I squeal, "Yes!!!"

The early afternoon involved an unfortunately short nap taken by a little guy who I believe was too excited about the sunshine to bother with sleep.  During this brief interlude, I stole a few minutes to read up on some other blogs.  I read a couple of posts of the ladies penning the "Get Real" series -  seven mama's getting real about the behind the scenes of juggling motherhood, households, homesteads, homeschooling and the like.  Today's topic was balancing work into the equation. I read their stories and reflected on my own juggling act. What followed shortly there after couldn't have been a more perfect manifestation of the mama/worker-bee balancing act in action.

When Jade woke from his nap, I scooped him up and quickly dressed him for an afternoon outside in unpredictable spring weather.  We snagged his older brother and hit the trails behind our property for a quick walk.  Cedar and I caught up on what he had been working on all morning, discussed his feelings about the tragedy in Boston yesterday, and just simply had some "connecting" time.  Upon our return to the house, Jade and I jumped in the van and zoomed to the barn to get Sequoia from her riding lesson and barn work day.  On our way home from the barn, Sequoia and I had some heart-to-heart check-in time while Jade did his own thing in his car seat.

Once home, Jade and I headed back outside and collected, yet again, more rocks, roots and sticks from the new pasture area while I awaited a conference call.

About thirty minutes later, my call came in. I snuggled Jade into the carrier on my back and I hit the woods for another walk.  I spent the next two hours hiking the trails while "attending" a meeting via cell phone with a perfectly content baby on my back.  It was a gloriously sunny and beautiful afternoon in the forest and a highly productive meeting to boot!

About 30 minutes before my meeting ended, Jade decided he had heard quite enough about spreadsheets and deadlines, and conked out.

And, not five short minutes after my meeting ended and I decided to head for home, the clouds rolled in, the sky turned a dark and steely grey and thunder began rumbling in the distance.

Just as I passed the gate that puts me back onto our little gravel road, the sky opened up and caught Jade and I in a crazy downpour of rain and hail.  Luckily for us, we were just a quick minute from the house!

The evening concluded with a quick and easy dinner of burritos and left-over soup, followed by (you guessed it) another family walk in the woods and evening chores.  Jade discovered the moon for the first time as we walked through the twilight pasture to feed the cows.  He spent the rest of the walk home with his arms outstretched above his head reaching for the moon and babbling with excitement.  Once home, he boogied down in the living room to papa's guitar playing while the big kids cleaned up the kitchen and dining room from dinner.

Then... off to bed for little man.  A bit of time spent chatting and catching up for papa and the big kids at the end of the day while mama and baby do their bedtime thing.  Now, all are off in their own corners of the house, doing their own quiet thing. 

Yes, today was a good day, indeed. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Pasture Project

Ok folks, the update that has been needing to happen for quite some time now...

You have been reading my elusive references to the pasture project.  This project and effort have been huge.  So much time, energy and work have gone into this dream that is so close to fruition.  Oh, it feels so good to be so close!

It all started a couple of years ago.  (I first made reference to it here.)  We were in need of the removal of a few hazard trees on our heavily forested landscape, and from there we decided that it was time to plow ahead on our dream of more garden space and pasture. Since then we have surveyed our property, cleared an acre, burned mountains of brush, chipped thousands and thousands of pounds of both hardwood and softwood branches, moved and stacked hundreds of felled tree trunks, bucked and split tens of cords of firewood, put up a robust perimeter fence, hung gates, dug a pond, and completed our first round of mineral and nutrient amendments and tilling.  Phew!  Oh, and, you know, had a baby smack in the middle of it all (plus homeschooling and jobs).

Little helper
laying out the string lines and fence posts
Posts in
 I suppose "cleared" is a relative term here.  An area which, a couple of years ago, was so thickly and densely overgrown that it was literally impenetrable and extremely unhealthy is now open and still thinly treed with strong and healthy Big Leaf Maples, Western Red Cedars, Douglas Firs, and Red Alders.  I'd say there are still at least 40 or 50 trees standing tall and strong within the fenceline.  I was not joking when I said it was overgrown and dense!  It's still crazy to me to look at the space as it is now.  There were parts of it that I had not even really seen or walked on before because I just couldn't get to them.  Now, it is open and accessible and going to be put to very good use.

The back pasture area - notice there is no shortage of trees!
One of three drive gates, plus the fence is stretched!
The space is pretty much exactly an acre and will be split up into two main pasture areas (which will be further split into smaller rotational grazing paddocks) and a new large garden.  We dug a good sized duck pond in the garden zone for our newest adorable farm friends, the ducklings, who we hope will keep the slug population down to a minimum.

Burning brush and stumps for days and weeks.
A dream come true!
It's definitely challenging to be at the size and scale of gardening/homesteading/farming (whatever you want to call it) that does not really require owning equipment like a tractor and all of its helpful implements, but is also exhausting to get done by hand.  That seems to be exactly the spot where we currently reside.  We've been both renting and hiring equipment, and doing A LOT by hand.  Holy moly, have we been doing so much by hand.  Things like spreading 1500 pounds of amendments over an acre by hand with a five-gallon bucket and a yogurt container (!), removing millions of sticks, branches, roots and rocks with our muscles and wheelbarrows, and pulling out roots and stumps.  Luckily for us, the weather has granted us a small miracle in the last few weeks and given us enough dry days to get the final push finished that needed to happen before tilling could take place.

Too bad Jade's little toy tractor can't quite get the job done!
Believe it or not, our area historically has droughts every summer.  We get non-stop rain and drizzle for 9-10 months out of the year, but from about the first week of July through the early part of October we get little to no rain at all.  That being said, it is rather imperative to get the pasture seed down by early May in order for the grasses and herbs to have time to get established before the drought hits.  Our goal was to get it sown mid-March, but that was impossible with the weather and the sheer volume of work that needed to get done first.

Mountain of logs

And bucked logs waiting to be split...
So, at this point, we have one more round of spreading amendments and shallow tilling to go.  I'm not a huge fan of tilling, but we need to get the amendments worked down into the soil so they can work their magic.  We are just doing a very shallow till with the tiller set at a "float" mode that allows it to just sort of float along the surface of the soil and bounce over tree roots.  Our amending had to be spread out over the course of two applications because some of the minerals will bind to each other and become unavailable to the plants if applied at the same time.  Our hope is that we have another dry spell sometime around the end of next week that allows us to spread and till.  Then, finally, a couple of weeks later... down goes the pasture seed!  Woohoo!!!

While I could continue to ramble on and on and on about this project, with all the details and excitement, my eyes are crossing as I try to type this and I desperately need to go to bed.  I hope to add a lot more info as things continue to progress.  If you have any questions or particular areas of interest, please hit me up in the comments!