A Matter of Habit

17 01 2012

“For work, ultimately, is about habit. Good work can be a real joy to do. It can also be a great challenge. But it’s very satisfying and I never regret doing it. My avoidance of good work is not about avoiding pain, misery or drudgery so much as it is a weakness of habit. I fall easily into distraction and its instant pleasures. However, I gain far more from good work than I do from those instant pleasures. The tendency toward the easy escape, I think, is as much in the habit as anything else. It all in that initial moment of deciding what I’m going to do next. It’s very easy, in that moment, to start engaging in distraction. It’s much harder to start engaging in good work. But once good work has been engaged, it’s far more satisfying.”

Over at Ofthehands.com, Joel writes an interesting and thought-provoking post about work and habits: A Matter of Habit.

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The rooster crows!

17 01 2012

Our rooster, Vin, finally crowed for the first time this morning. Mr. Ewe, Laydn (the globetrotting housemate) and I all heard him. Laydn chased after him and tried to give him a hug (he’s normally quite amenable to human interaction), Mr. Ewe came in the house to find him a tasty treat, and I hollered out the door “Good Job Buddy! Keep it up!”

I honestly didn’t think he would ever crow. We had our chicks shipped late last June, and by the time they were coming of age, the days were getting drastically shorter, so the chickens reproductive cycles basically went dormant. I understand this can be changed by supplemental lighting in their coop, but they don’t really have a coop yet. They have an old goat shed that we put fencing on the front of, and roosts inside. So they have somewhere to sleep, but not a real, honest-to-goodness coop. Besides, I think I am not too sure about the supplemental lighting. I think I would rather honor the natural rhythm of the chicken and give them some time off from laying in the winter. It means we get an extra year with our hens, too. Because once they are done laying , they will be going to the soup pot.

We have the framing for a coop, but in order to erect the chicken coop, we have to move a compost pile the size of a car, and no one is too eager to do that yet.

But now the days are getting longer, and the rooster has started crowing. Which means my girls will be looking for somewhere to lay their eggs soon, and I don’t want to miss out on fresh eggs because the hens are laying them in the goat beds, or hiding them somewhere. Our chickens have been free-ranging on pasture since they had feathers, and these eggs are going to be amazing.

I am glad eggs are imminent, but this now also means we need to fast-track a building project in the heart of winter. Mr. Ewe and I are just so swamped with projects. Someday they will all be done, and we will feel happy and comfortable here at Brier House, and that should be right around the time we decide to move to southern Oregon.

One idea I’ve had rolling around behind my forehead lately is to use the framing for the chicken coop, and to cob in the walls. I would love if our first cob-project was a chicken coop! I want to put a living roof on it, and a rainwater collection barrel for the livestock drinking supply. The nest boxes could be little cubbies in the back wall, and we could put a hatch door over the top of the next boxes to collect eggs without having to go inside.

I can see it now when I close my eyes. When I open my eyes, I see a lot of work, and the fact that it has started snowing again. Reality sets back in, and I realize this is one more project that is going to have to wait a little while longer.





January on the Farm

15 01 2012

Companion planting guide

January sure did start out warm here, and pretty much the rest of North America from what I gather. It’s hard to argue against the Global Warming theory when it is so much warmer than previous winters.

Mr. Ewe and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to get some last minute work done outside. No, the goat barn still doesn’t have a permanent roof, but a bill board-sized tarp seems to be doing the job fairly well, even if it is tacky. But we got all the old dirty hay shoveled out of the the pen (20 wheelbarrow loads worth) and spread it out in the garden where one of my new beds will be going in this spring. We then brought in 20 wheelbarrows loads worth of fruit tree wood chips we had delivered for free from a local tree service company. Then we cleaned out the barn (another 12 wheelbarrow loads!) and put that in the back of the orchard next to the potato tires for our next batch of seed potatoes, as well as for cob mixing and building experiments later this Spring.

I got the chicken coop cleaned out and replaced one of the roost-ladders I had made last summer (that cracked when one of the goats decided to make herself comfortable in the chicken coop) with a couple apple branches the goats had graciously stripped of bark. So now the chicken coop looks pimp. The barn is sweet because Mr. Ewe finally made a hay-bale feeder so we can feed one whole bale at a time, so we put that in there alongside an 8’x2′ pallet/goat bed and they seem to be pretty damn happy lately. They don’t hang out by the gate all day waiting for human hand-outs which I love.

The only problem I have with all of this is that the goats are never hungry anymore. You wouldn’t think that’s a problem, but I can’t let un-hungry goats out of the pen and expect them to just stay in the field and eat. Nope, they are wicked little beasts when they are feeling mischievous.  A week and a half ago, I let them out to forage back in the woods. Nelly took one look at me and took off through the front yard, down the driveway, up around the house, back down the driveway all the way to the road, down the road to the neighbors driveway, down the neighbors driveway to the back of our property and then they all squeezed through a previously unknown hole in the fence and right into our raspberry patch, taking all 6 of the other goats with her. Now this whole time, I am chasing after them waving my shiny aluminum goat-stick and Bean is strapped to my chest in her moby wrap. You should have seen the look on the driver’s faces when we stopped traffic to take a stroll down the road to the neighbor’s place.

What all of this amounts to is that I am done letting the goats out of their pen unless I have a mobile pen to move them to, and I do it one goat at a time. They know I am weak now that I can’t chase after them. They sniff Bean, they aren’t stupid, they know what a baby is. They know a new mom is the slowest member of a herd, and Nelly is challenging my herd queen status while I am slower than her. Just wait, once she kids this spring, she and her daughter from last year are outta here. I will probably sell them off as quick as I can as a starter herd. Good riddance.

Still no word from my buck’s previous owner regarding his registration. I’m really screwed without that, as my entire crop of next year’s kids were supposed to be registered via him. I can only hope she will eventually reply to my emails, and that it all works out.

One more reason those damn goats need a mobile pen is because we are expanding the garden this year. Last year I just got here too late, and had too much else going on, so I just used the one little bed that was full of weeds. I was so miserable with morning sickness I just didn’t give a damn. We got a decent little crop of peas and strawberries, but with a baby that will be eating solids this summer, I want her first foods to be home grown.

Now that I am feeling slightly closer to a more normal version of myself, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my garden layout. I am planning on expanding by two more raised beds this spring for a total of three. I am planning on turning all of them into covered rows probably for a majority of the year. I am thinking I will just plan that this summer will be as cool and rainy as last year so I plant the proper things.

In order to maximize diversity in my limited space I’ve been doing quite a bit of research into companion planting, and I just picked up TheOne Straw Revolution from the library. Now I just have to find enough time to read, plan and plant a garden. Right now there is only one thing growing, about 100 cloves of garlic.

I can’t even begin to stress how important I think growing a garden is. I’ve really only had three seasons of actual gardening time in my entire life, so I am quite a novice still. But I would rather try growing 100 things and fail at 99 of them, then to not try at all and be at the mercy of the current food supply. Every time I fail in the garden, I learn something to not do next time, and I get better. My goal is to someday be able to produce all of our food ourselves.

I take my job as mother, wife, and living, breathing member of this planet very seriously, and I think knowing how to care for my people and being able to feed them is a big part of that job.

Our power went out this morning, and it was great to realize it wasn’t that big of a deal. We had a fire going, a kettle on the fire place, all the roommates gathered to hang out by the fire. There was nothing upsetting or panicky about not having the energy system turned off, and even once the power came back on, there was no real rush to go back to our electronic gadgets.

There is going to come a day in my lifetime where that is a more common occurrence than not, whether by my own personal design, or a larger collapse of the system. I like a life less electronic. Yes, I understand the irony of the fact that I am typing and you are reading this on a computer. But I can survive without the interwebs, it is not my lifeline to reality, nor is it my reality.





My New Normal – How I Survive as a Stay-at-Home Mom

11 01 2012

Ugh. It’s 5:30 at night, and I am already exhausted. Didn’t I wake up feeling exhausted, too? Yes, I did. Exhausted is my new normal. I stumble through my day, hoping to survive until bedtime, hoping I will get sleep once we lay down.

Bean is now two and a half months old, and we have what most people call a “good” baby. She doesn’t have mysterious bouts of colic, she doesn’t scream, heck, she rarely cries. When she does cry, we know exactly why she is crying. At night, she actually sleeps. Sure, it’s only in 2-3 hour stretches between breastfeeding and diaper changes, but that adds up between 10 pm and 8 am. She doesn’t sleep much during the day, naps are pretty short and infrequent, but thanks to my moby wrap (which I initially HATED) I am still able to get quite a bit done through my haze of fatigue.

Life doesn’t stop just because I have a baby or am tired. The goats still need plenty of care, as do the chickens. Laundry still needs to be washed, firewood restocked, fires made and tended to heat the house, dishes washed and I have to find things to eat during the day.

I try to get up by 6 am every day, which is a drag. I hate getting out of bed in a cold, dark room. But someone has to shut the window and get the space heater turned on. We found sleeping with no heat and extra down comforters keeps all three of us plenty warm, and the cold air on our heads… I don’t know, I just feel more refreshed in the morning. Bean sleeps between us at night, and if I worry she won’t be warm enough she gets an extra layer added in the form of a hand knit merino lap blanket I made her dad when we first met. If it weren’t for Bean sleeping in bed with us I wouldn’t get any rest all. I am already a very light sleeper, always have been. I think I won’t sleep deeply again until she is out of our bed, probably around her 5th birthday. We aren’t worried about it, we are amassing sheep fleeces so we can make our own custom-sized wool-stuff mattress for our family bed. I can’t wait to sleep on all that wool!

After I get up I get a fire started, do a round of yoga (I am using Rodney Yee’s program “Moving Toward Balance” which is a daily workout for 8 weeks. I find it gets me warmed up and I do it right in front of the fire so I can make sure it is good and hot by the time I need to feed Bean, around 7 am. If I’, lucky she falls back asleep for one more hour, which I use to shower, make breakfast and get a chore down.

My morning chore change each day, but it is usually either clean the bathroom, wash dishes, or sweep.

I use my mornings to do a self-study of gardening, cob building, green building techniques, animal care or permaculture, Pretty much whatever seems enjoyable. It is all stuff I try to learn more about and implement into our life, so I consider it important to do and take notes on.

When I have a rare bit a free time and all the chores are done, I like to knit. But as soon as I pick up my knitting, Bean knows it and will wake up or suddenly need me in one way or another. I don’t know how she does it.

I had a problem adjusting to this new pace of life. I felt like I needed to be “working,” as in doing work that results in a paycheck. It is hard to do something like mothering in a society that does not value the contributions a mother makes. We downplay parenting, substituting in machines, gadgets and gizmos to take the place of human interaction with our infants. Not because we don’t want to interact with them, but because we are already stretched so thin and stressed out so much that it just feels like one more thing is going to break us. Babies need a lot of time and attention and physical care in order to be happy and well-adjusted. Before the invention of the nuclear family and single family households, we had extended family, elders and villages of families to help off-set all the demanding work a new baby needs. It is a lot to ask of any new mother to care for herself and her family with no outside help.

I had help from friends and family for about 2 weeks after I had Bean. I was on such an emotional high that I was raring to go, I wanted to get up and get doing. But after an hour or so up and about, I realized that emotions don’t always equate to physical energy, I then I realized I was totally screwed. I didn’t have meals lined up, I didn’t have people signed up to come and help with dished or laundry or animal care. I felt lost, forgotten and neglected. NEXT TIME, I am going to can 3 months worth of soups for myself. I found soup was one of the easiest things to make, eat and reheat the first few weeks. They were extra fluid, and I could add fresh egg yolks and extra butter to hot soups for extra calories.

Here we are, with Bean now 10 weeks old, and I am slowly coming to terms with my new profession, my new pace of life, my new motherhood. I can get maybe 25% of my former workload done in a day. Things have had to just slide. I’ve had to adjust and re-prioritize. I find it is still easy to get overwhelmed if I think about all the things I am not getting done, but the I look at my baby, and remind myself that there is always tomorrow, next week, next month, next season, next year. It doesn’t matter, it will all get done eventually as long as I don’t give up. But I love how little I get done now, because when I do get it done, I’ve got Bean strapped to my chest, and she is watching, learning and growing. And it feels like I’ve done something important.





A New Year, a New Ewe

10 01 2012

So the Bean is now almost three-months old. I was originally planning on blogging about her birth, but it is just not something I am ready to write about in a public space yet. All I will say is this: her labor was hard, and long, and wonderful. My midwives were amazing, and Mr. Ewe and I welcomed her into our arms, on our own bed minutes before midnight. I can’t wait to do it again.

There have been huge adjustments in our lives to make our little family work smoothly. Adjusting to a new baby is never easy, but I would have to say that because of how much we slowed down our lives before the baby came, making that adjustment was that much easier when we had to slow down the pace of our lives even more.

Having this new person in our lives has made us so much more aware of where we are in our lives and in the world, and where we want to be headed. The last three months have involved lots of whispered, late-night conversations between Mr. Ewe and I about the path we are on.

The world seems so much scarier now than it ever was. Resources and time seem to be dwindling at an ever faster pace, and I spend a lot of time worrying about what kind of world my daughter is going to have to live in.

Mr. Ewe and I have always had what seemed like a pipe dream to buy land out in the boonies, build ourselves a small house and just try to live the best, simplest life possible. But with Lamb here now, it seems we can no longer afford for that to be a pipe dream, it is time for us to act.

The problem with acting now is that we are literally starting with almost nothing. I admit that we are quite poor, and saving anything when you find yourself poor is a huge challenge, both physically and mentally. We looked at the ledger and realized that to make a saving account grow, we are going to have to become evenmore resourceful than ever before. I am a stay at home mom, and Mr. Ewe is a full-time student. We are living off of his financial aid and the GI Bill right now. We have to find a way to turn an idea into something tangible with little to get us started. It is scary and a challenge. But here we are, ready to make the leap.

At the end of 2011 Mr. Ewe and I both turned 30 within a  month of each other. We are 30. Standing on the precipice of a third decade on this planet. It seemed like this was a lifetime away when I was turning 10, I had no idea where I was headed when I was 20, and now that I am 30 I have to wonder where I am headed to next.

But each month now we get ourelves a little more ahead than the previous month, and pretty soon I think we will be able to start putting money in savings so that we can put a down payment on land next year.

Our pipe dream of land and a small house has grown quite a bit in those late-night talks. This year we are going to start building on our rental property. I have decided that we are going to build a cob pizza oven, and then maybe a cob garden shed or milking shed. We are going to use this year to narrow down our property search, and start gaining skillz. We need cob-building skills so when we move we don’t have to live in our camper longer than we have to.

Our little house and farm on a few acres has morphed into a small eco-village, based on cob houses, earthships, and lots of permaculture. We don’t want to settle down and forget the world, we want to invite the world in, teach classes and show the world that there is a better way to live. One that does not involve a 30-year mortgage, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and fears that the bank will take back your home because you looked at a teller cross-eyed.

The ability to live in harmony with the world, and the ability to find comfort in having nothing is out there. I am redefining what comfort means to me on a daily basis. I am teaching Lamb how to live in sync with the world around her.

Turns out having a baby is the catalyst I needed to change my life for the better. :)





Epiphany!

17 10 2011

I know my last post was all about venting and feeling sorry for myself. I don’t deny that I go through periods of depression always being so broke here on our little corner of land. But getting it out of my head allows me to look at my “problems” from multiple angles and ruminate on what I wrote and why I felt that way.

This morning I was making myself some breakfast, and while washing down my daily dose of cod liver oil, I had an epiphany. I realized that despite all of our financial woes, the Mr. and I are actually doing pretty well for ourselves. Yes, we don’t have extra money to go shopping, some days we barely have enough gas in the car to get him to school and back. We have no savings and walk a tight rope every day, hoping we aren’t hit with some problem that will cost a lot of money to fix.

But thanks to the fact that we are willing to live simply, and in fact have found quite a bit of joy in living simply, things aren’t all that bad when I really think about it. Sure, almost all of our food comes from WIC and food stamps, but we qualify for those services for a reason: we both paid into the system through years of hard work so that if we ever needed them, they would be there for us.

And here’s another great thing. Because we have food stamps and WIC, we are able to make what little bit of income we do have go so much further. It actually allows us to survive. Most of the time I have to choose to buy animal food over treating myself or the Mr. to something nice, and we have to budget our shopping trips to the thrift store. But we have become so much more resourceful at finding what we need and what we want while maintaining a pretty nice quality of life. We live Occupy Wall Street everyday. We live within our means. We don’t ever use credit. If we can’t afford cash, we choose to do without. Mr. already has a credit union account, and I am going to try to get one this week. It will be more of a challenge for me as I have bad credit from years of poor decision making in my early 20’s.

But back to eating, I really feel like my quality of life revolves around the quality of food I can feed my family and myself. $50 a week for groceries for each of us was hard to adjust to at the beginning. Back in the day when I was a stripper and bringing home hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of dollars a week, I ate pretty darn well. Most of my shopping happened at the local organic co-op or at Whole Paycheck. We drank a lot of beer. We ate… well, actually, we ate pretty much the same. Probably a lot more take-out then we do now, but our cooking style wasn’t much different. We bought more expensive “packaged” and “convenience” food products, which add up quickly.

These days, I usually stick to the perimeter of the grocery store when I do my shopping. We hit the local ethnic grocery store (I freaking LOVE LOVE LOVE 99 Ranch Market) for our meats, as the meat from Safeway or QFC is often rancid within 2 days of bringing it home, and quite overpriced. At the ethnic market, we get fresher animal products (organs, meat and seafood) at a much more reasonable price. We STILL go for the cheaper, tougher cuts of meat unless I am craving steak because we have found that the slower it has to cook, the better it tastes when it is done. I learned how to slow cook chicken so it always comes out tender, juicy and delicious.

We cook from the ground up. Most of the things we eat take time to prepare, so we cook in larger batches and then reheat for a few days. Sunday we made a huge breakfast. We made lacto-fermented blackberry pancakes, with enough batter to sit in the fridge until next week. These come out so delicious! The fermentation process gives them a kind of sourdough flavor that you just don’t get from bisquick. And we made so many extra pancakes that we can just pull some out of the freezer and pop them under the broiler for a couple minutes, and voila! instant hot homemade breakfast.

As I washed my morning dishes, I looked at what I had cooking, and what I had just cooked, and I felt really good about myself. Because we eat so simply and make almost everything from scratch we can afford “luxury” items like cod liver oil so my baby is healthy, organic produce so we aren’t riddled with pesticide residue, and chicken and goat feed so we can have fresh eggs and fresh milk (when the season is right). We stay away from packaged foods, especially anything containing sugar, corn, corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Those things never fill us up, and they cost more than you realize.

We eat a lot of fats, produce and soaked beans and grains, and have meat on the table several nights a week. We never feel like we are going hungry, or have to go without. Because we cook for ourselves, our taste buds aren’t burnt out on too much salt and sugar, so we can actually taste what we are eating.

The next thing we have to do is build up our garden with the fertilizer our animals so graciously provide us with so we can produce our own organic produce and rely on store-bought food even less.

I sincerely hope that all of this good nutrition will mean that my future child will avoid the dental problems that plagued me as a child, such as needing braces due to a malformed jaw, and the dental problems that continue to plague my nieces.

So yeah, some days are hard to cope with mentally. Some days I get caught up in the consumerist woes. But honestly, it isn’t all that bad. And I can take this opportunity of lack of money to retrain myself and develop better spending habits for the days when we won’t be so broke.

Thanks for reading!

Oh, and by the way. I am 41 weeks pregnant as of today. I will post about the birth as soon as it happens and I am able.





40 weeks already!

15 10 2011

Just a quick update:

Still pregnant here. My due date is tomorrow, and it looks like we’ll be going over. My first was a day early, but I really think that was from the stress of having my MiL and GMiL fly in from across the country for the baby’s birth. I am so chill and relaxed now, I think there is a really good chance I’ll be going over. And to be honest, as anxious as I am to meet this little crotchfruit, I will miss being pregnant when I am tired and have sore nipples.

I’m passing my time cooking, cleaning and knitting. I even took on a big knitting project thinking it would get things going, but no luck. I’ve been having prodromal labor now for weeks, so any time my contractions start to get closer together or more intense I think to myself “Is this it?” But I’ve learned to not say anything anymore until I’m sure it really is. Mr. Ewe is in school full time and if I think Im in labor, he wants to stay home from class, and he doesn’t need to fall behind.








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