The Apartment Farmer

19 06 2012

We live in a very… uh. How do I say this. Flimsy, overpriced apartment. It looks nice, but I can hear my neighbor going pee right now………………………………………………. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t wash his hands.

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about my daughter. And then I’ll talk about farmin’.

Bean has discovered a new way to vocalize. She is now fluent in “scream” in at least 3 languages, but I’m pretty sure it will be five languages by bedtime tomorrow. It is SO. LOUD! And she doesn’t save it for when she’s mad. She screams in delight. In frustration. In every emotion her little body goes through each day. And that’s a lot of different emotions.

I wonder what my neighbors think about my little screamer? She’s cleared out the pool on more than one occasion by screaming. She does it at the grocery store. She does it in the car. She screams in the bathtub. I know it will pass, but its just new and different and fun and exciting, and ooh look at the way it gets mommy to react!!!111!!1!!

Everything really cranks up to 11 when she’s screaming, hanging from my dreads and trying to pick my piercing off all at the same time. I’m going to have the piercing removed next week. Then she’ll probably starting picking at my tattoos. Oh well. That’s being a parent.  It’s all kind of cute, I am just going to have to learn sign language if she doesn’t stop screaming right into my earmeat. She’s been asleep for half an hour already and my head is still ringing.

So. I keep saying I wanna be a farmer, I wanna be a farmer. I have made some pretty pathetic, half-hearted attempts at farming in the past. To give myself a little slack though, I WAS pregnant last year when I was trying to put all that effort into farming. And then I went and had a kid, and burned myself out. Then I threw my hands up in the air and said “I quit! I quit goats, I quit chickens. I hate that fucking garden full of bindweed, nettles, blackberries and slugs. I am sick of this cold, wet, dismal, grey state. I’m moving. Fuck this.”

And I did. I moved. Now I live in a human habitat with wafer cookies for walls. But its better. It really is. It has heat! It is so nice not spending my last bit of energy and strength trying to stay warm on top of everything else. I never got out of bed at the old place. It was boring. And exhausting, physically and emotionally.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I am a farmer at heart. I am such a farmer. I love livestock, animals in general. I love knowing WHO my food came from, and WHERE it came from and WHEN it came from. I am more conscientious about my body when I think about the things that feed both it and my soul. Food is just more meaningful when I am involved in how it gets to my plate and not just what’s on my plate.

And it is even more than that. Getting good food while living in an apartment is a pain in the ass. And expensive to boot. And most of the people that live around me won’t care. But some of them might become customers…

So with that being said. I am putting together a coop (after days and days of head scratching, and reams of graph paper I finally settled on a design), I ordered heritage ducks eggs to hatch, and heritage laying hens (although they will be chicks when they arrive of course.) I am going to brood them on our porch balcony until they get big enough to take to the farm. And then they will live on pasture and produce delicious eggs. And in exchange for their hard work, I will reward them with excellent care, GMO-free soy-free food, bugs to eat, and a compassionate death when their productive life is over. And if I get lucky, I will even make money while doing all of that.

So thats it. Pretty boring really.

How ’bout a picture?

Bean and friend at Solstice Festival 2012





June Can Come and Go, but it’s Always Summer in my Heart

17 06 2012

That’s not exactly true. I love summer. I miss summer. It seems like summer arrives later and later every year, and leaves earlier and earlier as well. I am hopeful we actually get something that resembles summer this year. I remember as a kid growing up in Kirkland, how by June we were just itching for school to be done with for the season so I could go out and sit on the docks at the lake and enjoy the sunshine. I actually had a summer wardrobe, and used it.

These days, its seems to just be bleak, grey and soggy all the time. How miserable. Bleh.

So I know I haven’t written in a while and my blog was even marked private for a while. I have undergone some major life changes since my last post, including meeting someone who read my entire blog. It felt a little unnerving to be asked questions about stuff I wrote so long ago I actually forgot about it. So I just backed away real quietly.

But I seem to be a writer at heart, and have been wanting to post again, so I am going to take the chance that people actually read what I have to write and I may even bump into them on occasion.

Sadly, or joyously, depending on how you look at it, Bean and I moved away from the farm and into an apartment with my sister at the end of May. I am going to be persuing my schooling full time until I feel satisfied with my level of education. I still plan on farming, and visit the farm and Bean’s daddy several times a week. We are still very close friends and parents to the amazing little she-devil, and hopefully that does not change any time soon.

One of my biggest obstacles has always been, and continues to be, how to make money doing what I love. Sewing fills in the gaps, if I would ever actually try to sell my finished products instead of piling them up in the corners of the dining room. I’ve moonlighted in the adult entertainment field, but generally find that unsatisfactory now with a little person that I have to be a role model for.

I am still determined to try to eke out a living as a farmer. I’m actually even more determined than ever to be a farmer. Access to good, healthy food that is  affordable is so hard to find when a person dwells in an apartment. But more on that in a (near) future post.





Just a Quickie

3 02 2012

As I was dismantling steel and plexiglass frames yesterday to turn them into mobile fencing panels for the goats I realized, once again, that I am farming. If I hadn’t decided to start now and here, I might have missed my opportunity to be a farmer at all. I kept waiting for this perfect opportunity to come by where I could farm a piece of my own land. Once I stopped waiting for the perfect situation to arrive, I realized I already HAVE a perfect situation, I was just looking for a different one.

Stop waiting for something that may never come. Start now. Start here. You never know, this may be the moment you’ve been waiting for, only it is packaged differently than you expected.





Brier Hill Permaculture

1 02 2012

We are official. I picked a name for our little gem of a farm, and I’m sticking to it.

I finally gave in and started calling myself a farmer. I have wanted to be a farmer since I was about 10 years old and living next to a horse pasture. I remember looking out the window at the neighbor’s horses and thinking “Yes, that is what I want; a horse farm is in my future.” As I grew, my dream evolved and changed with my growing knowledge. I wanted a permaculture farm before I even knew what permaculture was. In my young mind’s eye, every farm should be permaculture, with all the different systems supporting each other. I thought real farms were living, breathing organisms, with a life and pulse all their own.

It turns out I was more or less right. I don’t think of industrial agriculture as farming anymore. I think I only ever did because that is what children’s stories and books depict modern farming as: some man of ambiguous age riding a tractor through a monoculture crop of some type of grain. Either that or an idealized version of Old MacDonald’s farm.

In reality, the truth is so much better. I wake up more or less around 5am every day, shortly before the rooster starts crowing. I toss and turn until the urge to relieve myself gets to be too much to ignore. Check the baby one more time before I get up. Starting the day with dawn is just lovely. I step out while the water is boiling for my first cup of tea, breath in the new day’s air, get a feel for what today’s weather might bring. Check the goat’s water and hay, feed the chickens and check for eggs in their new nest buckets. Come back inside, grab my now-cool-enough-to-drink tea and head back into the bedroom so I can wake the baby for another snack, if I keep her full she sleeps later.

As I drink my tea and nurse the baby I think about what I want to get done for the day. Since the snowstorm mid-January, the weather has been nice enough that the house is making a lot of progress on the garden and animal housing. Echo, Bean and I recently spent an afternoon clearing old stubby blackberry canes into a pile for our new hugelkultr bed in the garden while Tricks made some sweet new underground chicken nests since our hens FINALLY started laying eggs. We got 5 the first day!!

Last week I put in my seed order with Sustainable Seed Co, arguably one of the best seed companies I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with. Everything they sell is heirloom and open-pollinated.

So, going back to my original point, I finally gave in and decided to start calling myself a farmer. I feel like I finally got to join some secret club. Like, now that I call myself a farmer, do I get a badge, or an id card? “It’s okay folks, I’m a farmer!”

I have always wanted to be a farmer. My success with growing things it hit or miss, but I keep trying and I keep getting better. I am giving some serious thought to trying to join the local farmer’s market this summer. It runs from mid-May to mid-October, and would be cheaper and easier to start doing than a CSA, at least until I have an established clientel. But I am already about to start hardening off my first seedlings of the year, a mixture of salad greens and radishes. I think I should be able to get the hang of succession planting between now and May, and with all these blackberry vines and manure sitting around, I have an endless supply of materials for more hugelkultr beds.

Once I embraced the woman I have always wanted to be, and I mean I grabbed her by the dirty pigtail braids and gave her a damn good shake to make sure we were all on the same page, everything sort of started falling into place. I don’t feel like I am fighting myself anymore. I am happy more. And I’ve found a way to combine my passions – good food, animals, and gardening, with some more recent needs – working from home so I can also raise our daughter in a way that lines up with my morals and views, with a long time need of making money.

Bean will never have to fight it. She has been born into farming. She’s known goats and chickens since before she was born. She knows goats and chicks now. She has been strapped to my back while I chop wood, cut down trees, clear blackberry vines, build garden beds, herd goats and more. Her first taste of food will be of real food, grown and raised right here on this property. We aren’t that far from the city. We could just let the land keep sitting and it will just do what it does. We could keep trying to find a way to make a living in the corporate rat race, we could struggle trying to make ends meet while living on welfare and food stamps. Or we could use some of those food stamps to buy vegetable seeds (yes, it’s true, you can!) and start a garden. We choose to make a life rather than live one doled out to us one unsatisfying portion at a time.

I’m happy with my choice. I am happy there is dirt under my nails at the end of the day, and that my muscles are so sore that sitting up straight hurts. I think this is a good life we are creating here and I can’t wait to share it with others.





Homestead Crafts Series: Intro

24 01 2012

I’ve come to realize that I have a duty to learn permaculture gardening techniques. I owe it to this piece of land we live on/off of to treat it with respect, and to leave it better than we found it. Part of treating this place with respect is to rid it of invasive species like Himalayan blackberry, the bane of just about anyone with open land in the maritime Northwest. The berries are delicious, but the canes are a monster to deal with if you so much as turn your back on them for even one season.

Lucky for us, goats LOVE blackberries. Well, the leaves actually. I was under the impression before we got goats that they “eat anything.” Sure, they seem to have iron stomachs, but my goats are quite picky eaters. They love blackberry, as long as it is young leaves, tender tips of fresh canes and shoots, and unripe berries. They want nothing to do with the old, tough, woody canes that are left over after picking the choice bits off.

So I am left  to remove the leftover vines with a set of hand pruners (I’m upgrading to a machete or a sickle this year), a pair of leather gloves and a box of band-aids. And then what do I do once I have a big pile of thorny trouble? I have tried making giant piles of old thorny canes in places I don’t want the goats to go, but that keeps me from venturing in those places as well, and it only lasts so long before the goats decide they can just carefully walk over the pile. In goat world, the grass is always greener on the side of whatever you don’t want them crossing.

I’ve tried cutting the canes into pieces small enough to break down relatively fast in the compost, but this takes a lot of time that I would rather be spending doing PRODUCTIVE things. Regardless of the time of year, there are only so many daylight hours in a day, and I don’t want to waste them cutting things into smaller things.

So after a little research and some help from Echo’s amazing google-fu (seriously, where does she find half this stuff?) I have come up with several creative uses for blackberry canes that I hope to blog about with pictures of the finished products in the near future. I may even post some photo-tutorials after I teach a few classes.

I am so excited about this! I have been having a real hard time thinking up solutions to some of my most vexing problems here on the farm. Money is so tight that even finding free supplies on freecycle doesn’t guarantee a solution to my problem: I still need to use gas and drive the car to get things. So the more I can produce, create and reuse with what we already have at our disposal to solve problems, the further what little money we do have goes when I can’t avoid spending it.

 





Things That Scare Me

23 01 2012

24 Stats To Crush Anyone Who Thinks America Has A Bright Economic Future

Americans Keep Cars Longer Than Ever

It’s happening people. It’s the beginning of the end. It has been for quite some time. But the collapse is like a tumor. First it’s just one mutated cell. But then it divides and grows, next thing you know it’s a lump the size of a pea. Now, if you are observant or lucky, you notice the pea-sized lump and do something to get rid of it. Less observant people won’t notice the tumor until it is much larger, and a few unlucky ones will never notice it, and live on in denial as it grows and consumes them.

The collapse is just like that.

It’s funny. I can remember being a kid, maybe 10 years old and thinking of my future. I never once believed I would grow up in the same world as my parents. I always felt so sad about my future. It felt bleak even when I was young. Sometimes I would just start crying for no reason. I learned to do that in private after it freaked my mom out. She thought something was wrong with me, or I had some bad secret I wasn’t sharing. I just felt sad because my world didn’t feel rosy and full of promise. It felt tired, and used up and short on time.

It turns out I was right. We are finally short on time and we are also short on resources. Welcome to a new, peak world, kids. Our predecessors raped and pillaged this planet, and left us with so many messes to clean up, where do we even start? And how do we stop it from getting any worse? You think because you are 40, 50, 60 or 80 you’ve lived, and you have rights to keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, because that’s the way you’ve always done them. Guess what, your refusal to change, grow and learn is what got us into this mess in the first place.

I will never be a rich woman, and I am okay with that. But what if I can’t afford to buy land in the next 5 years? What if 5 years is too late? I’ll be lucky if I can ever consider myself “middle class.” I am a farmer at heart, and I am trying to be a farmer in real life. That means I will probably work very hard for very little money for most of my life.

I don’t want much, nothing fancy, just a good life for my daughter and future generations. We all deserve to live in a good, healthy, clean world, to hear birds chirp in the morning, breathe fresh, crisp air and drink clean water.

I’m scared that I am out of time. What if I can’t learn enough skills and get the right tools to keep my family alive and healthy? What about my livestock? I don’t know how to grow, cut, dry and store my own hay. I saw a youtube video once, but that in no way makes me qualified to go out and try. But I have to try, and hope that I get it right.

I have to believe I have enough time to learn what I need to. Otherwise the fear will immobilize me.





Photos of a Homebirth

21 01 2012

Here I am, 5 months along. I’m smiling because I no longer have morning sickness.

 

6.5 months pregnant.

8 months, looking forward to my upcoming delivery.

Dear Baby, we are due to meet next week. I can’t wait to meet you.

 

One day before Bean is born, 2 days into contractions, I just wish it would get over with already.

 

9:54 pm.

 

10:36 pm

 

10:39 pm. Mr. Ewe was amazing. He chanted with me through contractions for hours!

 

11:55 pm. Triumph! She was born into my own hands while Mr. Ewe and two midwives assisted me.

 

New mama.

 

New papa.

 

She never cried. Not once. She just looked around the room a lot.

 

The end.








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