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MayMay and her buddy

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The sandhill cranes fly over frequently. The ducks, gathered around their swimming tub, all stop moving and are silent, tilting their svelte little cocoa-colored heads to the sky to watch the cranes fly over. Then two seconds later one of them starts, Quack, quack quack. And then the chorus begins amongst all of the ladies who also have something to say.251070_10150211497256448_7690742_n

MayMay finally returned to home after spending the winter at my friends’ farm with their buck. It doesn’t appear she got knocked up though, which she did the year before last too. She’s getting up there in years, I think she is now 7, but she is still extremely youthful and she is surely still plenty obstinate. Maybe too picky for her boyfriend? Honestly, I don’t know where a goat will fit into my life nowdays, which is absolutely so bizarre to say. I had my goat years, that’s for sure. I did my time. I don’t really miss having a herd, at the end they really drove me bonkers with their insistent yelling, their hard headed pushing and stubborn pulling, their beating on each other and constant trouble making. Having May back is way more wonderful than I thought it’d be though. I don’t have to milk her, we just hang out and go on walks. I tether her out in the morning where I can keep an eye on her from my egg room and she is happy grazing and browsing, then she’ll lay in the sun and chew her cud.

May’s got a combination of a dog and cat attitude towards me. When she sees me across the yard, she desperately calls to me, but when I go to her she storms off, restless for I don’t know what. On our walk yesterday, she patiently followed me, but when I sat down in the grass she began pulling on her lead to go back immediately, then came back and rubbed her head on my shoulder in a very affectionate manner. Oh goats. This is just her way, and I am trying to just appreciate her as she is. May and I have a lot in common, and she is my teacher. I too am moody, impatient and restless. Teach me, goat.

Tomorrow May is in for the shock of her life, as we are bringing home Ella (who I may be renaming “Goodness”, but don’t tell Angelica’s son who named her!) I’m not sure how these two will get along, and I can keep them separate if needed. I like the idea of a heifer and a goat being buddies, but obviously I can’t force it. I hope they will offer each other a sort of ruminant camaraderie. As far as goats in my future, I can already see May having a problem when it comes to fencing. A goat will not respect a single strand of electric fence like a cow can, so unless I am able and willing to string up multiple hot wires in rotational paddocks (which I really don’t want to do,) May cannot be pastured with cows without risking her getting out and heading straight for all the baby trees growing around the farm. But will these two possibly get so attached that Ella/Goodness and May won’t want to be apart? I don’t know. We shall see.

My plan is to be spending quite a lot of time in the afternoons working with Ella/Goodness, teaching her to trust me, walk on a lead (see her pretty blue halter??!! should be gorgeous with her russet ruby colored coat), be handled all over and just be my sweet girl, who will hopefully be my milk cow in 2017. She’ll be 1 year old late this summer, so that means a year from then I will get a bull for her. Highlands mature slowly, so it is very important for young heifers to not be bred too early. If in August/September 2016 I get a bull for her, then 9 months from then she’ll be 2 1/2 when she hopefully calves in late spring 2017. Cows are a very long term proposition. I could have tried to buy an older pregnant cow to be a more instant-milker project, but as I am new to highlands, I want to be able to work with a youngster and go into this journey together. Plus Angelica has beautiful and healthy highlands and this heifer is from her very best cow. I want to thank her SO MUCH for selling me this beauty and I sure hope this all works ok. We will see how my idea unfolds!

I want to do….everything

 What a beautiful and empowering poem. I can’t wait to read his book.

THE JOURNEY

– by David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

 

Things have been going pretty smoothly here as we transition into the spring season, the weather cool and wet. Mud is a constant companion these days, it follows you everywhere, no matter how well you think you’ve gotten it scraped off your boots. We’ve had a couple extremely warm days here and there, warmer than it was in Victoria even! I have a feeling we’ll get another blizzard though before winter gives up the ghost. Boy do I hope I am wrong about that.

Since returning from my family trip, I’ve been re-immersed into my egg routine, which now takes me about 5 hours each and every day, and then once a week I drive into town to deliver. I really love my job, who’da thunk I’d love cleaning eggs so much? I only knew I loved ducks and I loved their eggs, and here I am. The ladies are hovering around 500 eggs a day and should be gearing up to even higher numbers as April proceeds. They are such happy ducks too, when I feed them or am spreading their hay bedding and I just watch them, my happiness levels go off the chart. As I clean their eggs, I look at those gorgeous pearly orbs and think with gratitude of all the people who will be eating them for breakfast, and my heart swells with pride.

Since rediscovering myself while I was away, I’ve been examining a totally unusual thought I’ve been having: I want to do everything. I listen to a podcast and think, wouldn’t that be cool to try doing that? I listen to novels while I clean eggs and think, I could see myself diving into writing fiction. I listen to comedy and very, very briefly think, I’d like to try doing stand-up (not really, but I really admire comedians; their honesty and totally unabashed way of talking about their lives and experiences.) I listen to “This American Life” archived episodes and think how interesting it’d be to be a radio reporter, crafting stories for others to listen to. I listened to my youngest sister’s travel tales and think maybe I’d like to travel again, explore and experience different cultures and cities, sights and sounds. My sister in Colorado is living a totally free life just going day to day, I want to do that. My other sister makes a living selling vintage clothes on Ebay, I thought I could do that, and what a free life! She also told me that she’s made a conscious effort to create a life that is as low stress as possible, she honors her natural rhythms and tendencies and created her life around that. What an inspiration.

I want to write, so I do, and this blog is where I practice. The new farmer book I am working on is nearly done, but now that winter’s lull is over, it’s harder to carve out time in the full day to work on it. My new technique is to make a strong cup of cowgirl coffee at 3pm and then dive into the book editing. But you can’t force yourself to write, you just can’t.

Maybe it was seeing my BC family and noticing all of their different and evolving life paths that reminded me of this feeling of wanting to do everything. You can literally do anything you set your mind to, just go on and do it! This feeling I’m having is foreign to me, because here I am, I had my dream and I have achieved it. I am a farmer. All day long, that’s what I do. But now what? Maybe I am just a bit restless because the gardening season hasn’t quite started, or maybe it’s like bucket list syndrome. I have achieved this dream, so now I what? What do I want out of life?

Cows are next. I stopped by Angelica’s after egg deliveries for a visit on Wednesday, and one of her Highland heifers had just had her first calf out in the pasture. We went to the fenceline, her other cows mooing at her for treats. There was my little Ella too! She sniffed and then licked my hand! Hopefully I’ll be bringing her home next week, I can’t wait. She is a lot bigger than I realized, a healthy and gorgeous ruby russet colored beauty. Cows have been my dream for a while now after practicing with dairy bull calves last spring, and I am very excited to start this bovine journey.

Today was sunny and warmish and so after finishing eggs and sump pumping out the basement in the old house, I went out an area of rich black soil that was turned over last fall and started my spring garden. I spent an hour out there seeding peas, mustard greens, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, dill, kale and radishes. I observed with a happy heart all the emerging stout garlic sprouts that Melanie and I planted last fall, coming up through the goat bedding mulch. Then a deep dark blue cloud came quickly towards the farm and it started raining/baby hailing, so I ran back to the house delighted at the nice little time I had doing just a bit of gardening. It feels wonderful to have the pressure of the CSA off my shoulders. I like the idea of being able to share the bounty with family and friends, instead of worrying if people are getting their money’s worth in their boxes. These seeds I planted will work, or not. I don’t have to get stressed over the garden or plant a ton anymore, what a weird and awesome change. Even when I was seeding my peppers in the house 2 months ago, I had a hard time holding myself back from planting a dozen flats.

The sun is back out between clumps of clouds flying across the sky, I sit on the porch typing this, squinting to see the screen on my lap. The dogs lay around my feet, panting in the warmth, their sort of pleasing rained-on-dog aroma wafts up as the volatile winds whip about. I am arriving, as spring arrives. I still don’t know what IT is that I want, but it is awesome, powerful and liberating to know I can do anything.

 

coming home, taking the reins

First- the duck ladies are beginning to lay eggs RIGHT as I returned from my trip! 60 eggs Thursday, then 120, 177 and then 250 today. Woot woot! It’s like they timed their beginning to seriously lay around my return. Awww, momma’s back! I’ll begin deliveries next week, and cannot wait to see all my co-op buddies and get those nummy eggs out to the people! My article arrived published in the latest Small Farmer Journal issue too, what an honor!

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Now onto my more heavy part of this post. Don’t worry, it ends very well.

This may come as a little bit of a shock, considering my writing voice and the name of my farm, but for the past year I’ve been in a weird head space, wrestling with my self-imposed obligations, feeling extremely frustrated and downtrodden. I lost my voice and my confidence as I deferred, trying to please. In the process of engaging in this behavior over the past 4 years, I lost myself. I didn’t want to talk about it, I was very confused and stuck. I just kept soldiering on, pretending everything was ok because it seemed it must just be in my head, that it must be my problem, my burden to bear, a phase, a funk that I had to pull myself out of, on my own. I’m too DIY like that. But this method did me no good, and I was about to seriously snap right before I left on a 3 week trip to see family on Vancouver Island.

Last fall when my youngest sister Melanie visited us on the farm, she saw how stressed and flustered I was, what the flailing-around situation I was dealing with was actually like. She could also tell how I pined for our BC family that I hadn’t been with for over 7 years. She had faith that I was still in there, and just really needed a recharge, and she then convinced Andrew to take care of the farm so I could go on vacation for my Uncle’s wedding in March.

At the end of last month, I took off towards the Island in a rental car with one of my sisters and her daughter, heading out first on a bit of a detour to pick up our two sisters in Colorado (there are 4 of us girls.) Somehow Melanie had miraculously managed to reunite me with this sister who I hadn’t spoken with for over 4 years because of our differing/separatist views of how to approach animal rights issues ( I raise ethical animal products and she is a vegan.) Together with her darling daughter, we drove for 13 hours straight in the car to Colorado, talk about a previously insane proposition! I would also like to give a HUGE credit to this sister for intentionally changing her attitude and moving into a new positive place where we could reunite as sisters again. We agreed not to even try to hash over the past, and to move forward together in this fresh space and time. This experience was very healing for me, and I think for her too. (She just called me Snookums on facebook post trip, I think we are indeed in a whole new space! I just love her so much!!!) When we arrived in Boulder and picked up our two younger sisters, we made great time in the car. As kids, our parents would always drive to British Columbia like long haul truckers, and we certainly learned how to do that from them.

Arriving at the ferry in Vancouver, I was struck with a real feeling of home-coming. This journey to the Island is so nostalgic for me as it is where my Mom is from. She made it our second home by bringing us up to Canada many, many times during our childhood. After my sisters and I loaded onto the ferry and then wandered the decks, watching the massive ship move through the ocean and past the enchanting channel islands, the briny seaweed scent of the air brought tears to my eyes. The last time I was on the ferry was with my Mom. And here we were, without her, going to see the very closest part of her we have left, her family.

 

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(This photo is from a family reunion in MN, in 2005 I believe. She was SUCH a dear, loving and giving person.)

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Mom on her last trip to her homeland in 2007, after hiking up Gowlan Tod to see the gorgeous mountain and ocean views. How I miss her. Just seeing her hands makes me want to cry, let alone her victorious, beautiful, glorious smile. She passed away just 2 months after this photo. Life is short you guys, no matter what you think. (Thanks to Uncle Ryan for the pictures.)

 

Despite these mournful remembrances, I have to say: what a time my sisters and niece had on our trip! I was able to spend plenty of time talking with my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins; sharing our lives’ journeys, reflections, aspirations and adventures. Not to brag or anything, but I come from such an amazingly intelligent, thoughtful and fantastic family! I saw my Mom there in many of their faces and their ways of conversation. There was a near-perfect balance of celebration, relaxation, beach combing, catching-up type chats, deep existential discussions, music, cooking, hikes and tidal pool explorations. We stayed up late, slept in, ate like crazy. I was with my 3 sisters and my 5 year old niece almost the entire three weeks , and while being in a herd can be exhausting- everyone needs to work together- this was probably my most favorite aspect of the entire trip. I just LOVE my sisters! They are hilarious, kind, sweet, generous, opinionated…. just fascinating and awesome people. We are all on different paths, but we are definitely sisters and it makes me so happy to have had this intensive time to be together and in SUCH an extremely special place.

The weather during our time on the Island was absolutely gorgeous, sunny and in the upper 50s most days. It was impossible to not be happy there! The cherry blossoms were in the billions and making the air just glow pink, waxy and surreal magnolia buds were opening on the trees, millions of cheery Daffodils were growing everywhere like weeds dotting the lush emerald turf with brilliant yellows. The stunning arbutus trees, the fragrant cedars, the giant Sitka Spruce trees, the volcanic rocks to scramble across and the white ash colored silky sand at Beacher Bay, the almost neon green moss, prehistoric looking ferns, and the ocean-tumbled little perfectly round beach stones. Heaven.

Aunt Alana graciously hosted all 5 of us the whole time, and her home was definitely nicer than any luxury hotel stay would have been. Thank you again so much for letting us descend upon your space! While we came up for my Uncle’s wedding and that was a beautiful blast, the entire experience of being far away in my second home on the Island, being with family, taking a break from the farm and from my home is what brought me back to myself. I don’t know where I went, but I felt ME return on this trip and I feel revived. I am strong, I am smart, I am talented, I have good ideas, I am compassionate, I am ambitious, I follow my dreams. I am taking back the reins of my life.

Since I returned home, things have been a bit tumultuous here as I barged back in with pure honesty. And you know what? I was greeted with love and a desire to change. We are moving in a very, very, VERY good direction together. All I can say is if you feel you are losing yourself, seek fresh perspectives, take some space and time, maybe even get some help. Then be open and honest with yourself and find your truth (thanks Uncle D!)10544361_10152635289747751_8982826353939620160_n 10989154_10152635295817751_9012905713794516517_n 10995588_10152635296362751_6951950508820679145_n 11053352_10152635291782751_4223212745159008435_n 11061186_10152635290862751_2196220456872307712_n 11070098_10152635296092751_7798653352453668953_n 11070135_10152635294207751_1201498316006160527_n 11072913_10152635292737751_1941208442940444769_n 11079601_10152635292032751_3986288977108802365_n 11080871_10152635290267751_8699850562789041119_n 11082661_10152635296992751_2231005803335001828_n

I also want to thank Dawn of Sailor’s Small Farm for inviting Mel and I over for coffee and treats, what an amazing experience it was to connect in real life, as she said it’s kind of crazy how bloggers can get to know each other, then to actually meet up is like meeting a new but old dear friend. What a lovely place she has full of family history, and check out those adorable cupboards in the farm house kitchen!

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