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.

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8 months pregnant!

3 09 2011

We have a rather unusual living situation here. Picture a large 1940-s farmhouse set on 8 acres, partially wooded. In the back we have the orchard with a trail leading down to the tree line, which houses a small (polluted) creek and pond. In the house, we have 6 bedrooms, which house Mr. Ewe and I, our “landlord” “T”, a world-travelling aquaponics system builder, “M”, and then my closest friend “C” and her partner, “P”.

My midwife is 30 minutes away, and has a lovely birthing suite that I used almost exactly 9 years ago. We have had several house meetings with our roommates to make sure they were comfortable with my need to have a homebirth. Lucky for us, everyone is on board. T will probably shut himself up in his room (we don’t see him for days at a time anyhow), M will be out of town, C will be my and Mr. Ewe’s labor assistant, and “P” will be doing an imitation of “T”, but in his own bedroom. I probably won’t call the midwife until the last minute as I really just want her here if something goes bad and to sign off on the birth.

I am planning on letting C and P know when I go into labor because they are going to start making homemade chicken noodle soup (with homemade noodles!) for our first post-baby meal. Mr. Ewe is in charge of getting the fire nice and hot, putting stones into the crock pot for hot stone massage, and making my placenta smoothie as MY first post-baby meal (we’ve been collecting wild fruit all summer just for this smoothie).

I plan on walking around outside a lot, visiting with the goats a little, sitting on my birth ball, and possible ending up in the bathtub if I feel called to do so. We decided on not getting a birth tub just because I remember from last time I coped better with pacing than with water.

I am so excited for our newest housemate to arrive next month. I’ve been having some spotting and somewhat regular “contractions” for a couple weeks now, so the house has all but put me on bedrest, as no one is ready for the baby to come yet. I’ll be letting the midwife know at next week’s appointment what’s going on in case I really do need to be on bedrest. It’s nice having so many people around us that are just as excited and nervous for the baby as Mr. Ewe and I are. It’s also nice being put on light-duty and house rest and knowing that the chores will still get done.

I think right now, some of the things I am most excited about are eating some placenta to see how that helps with PPD, and getting breastfeeding right this time. I really am looking forward to having a breastfeeding relationship with my child that doesn’t hurt me and frustrate both of us.

 

The last few weeks have been so busy here! We have been working like mad to get our newest housemates moved in, get the house ready for fall/winter, get the animals ready for fall/winter, plus I have had an insane urge to nest.

For starters, when C and P arrived, we (everyone else but me, really) had to empty out our basement. This house has been a rental for a large number of years, and has accumulated a lot of left behind, unwanted junk as people have moved on. As these things piled up, storage space got smaller and smaller for the people still living here. It finally came to a head when we realized that we had new tenants: rats. The cats had done what they could, but the rats had too many hiding places and ways in/out that the cats couldn’t get to. The rats had to go. And going they are. As stuff gets removed to the driveway for sorting we are finding nests, entries and cat toys (dead rats) all over the place.

Seeing everyone else cleaning the basement led me to clean out my bedroom. It is on the NE corner of the house, and is therefore quite dark most of the year… especially in winter. The previous user of this space had painted it this godawful pastel puke mint green color with brown trim. I couldn’t take living in a pastel mint green room anymore. So C and I broke out the paint I had brought with me from my old apartment and re-did my walls. Now they are a rich deep purple and egg-yolk orange. I had Mr. Ewe hang a bunch of shelves after the paint cured, and got all of my stuff out of my dresser and onto shelving. I also got everything I have for Bean so far on shelves. In one corner right next to my side of the bed, I set up a nice Ikea chair I got from the thrift store a year ago. The chair is right next to a window and underneath Bean’s shelves. It’s my new nursing corner for when I want to get out of bed, but don’t want to leave the bedroom. I absolutely love my “new” bedroom!

We still need one more wall’s worth of shelves for Mr. Ewe so we can sell his dresser, and one wall of book cases so we can unpack the last of our boxes. The last thing I want to do to my room is to hang fabric on the ceiling to muffle sound. We are directly beneath M’s room, and when she is home, I don’t want to interrupt her sleep with a crying baby, if possible.

And the last thing I really want to get done before Bean comes (besides about 10,000 sewing and knitting projects) is to get the animals ready for winter. We need some sort of a mobile pen for them to go in during the day for rotational grazing, the goat pen itself needs to be expanded about 75%, and we need a more permanent and stable barn for the animals to sleep in. Right now they are in a lean-to type shack, and the “barn” is really just some 4×4’s sticking up from the ground. Yesterday we got the pen bedded with 8 cubic yards of fir mulch that we had delivered for free. I think the plan is to deep bed the barn and pen through the winter, and then clean it out to the garden in the spring as compost.

I will have pictures hopefully soon, as soon as I figure out which box my camera ended up in when I cleaned out my room to paint.





Spring Cleaning the Kitchen

23 04 2011

I think Spring is finally here in Seattle to stay. Thank goodness. Yesterday was the first day that it really, truly, actually felt like Spring was here, and not just on its way. The daffodils are still blooming, but now so are the tulips, hyacinths, magnolias, and the apple trees are starting to get buds on them. The leaves all have real leaves now instead of little green promises. The sun was shining, the temperature got past 55F, and it felt great to be outside.

Mr. Ewe and I have undertaken our first big indoor project here at the commune. We have decided to clean out and organize the entire kitchen. Honestly, it feels like this is something that hasn’t been done in years. There are so many spiders, cobwebs, weevils, moths, and dust! We can only manage a couple of hours a day in the kitchen cleaning thanks to all the nasty stuff floating around in the air. We’ve had to get rid of a lot of spoiled food and a couple of boxes of extra appliances that are duplicate, broken, or just plain crappy. I would say we are about a 1/3 of the way done now, but we started with the hardest stuff first in order to maximize future storage space.

Part of me feels bad for doing this kitchen clean-up during some of the first nice days of spring. I should be in the garden transplanting peas, planting seedling onions and potatoes, tilling up new beds, or building the new chicken coop. But our kitchen is nasty. There have been lots of renters in this place over the years, and as they come and go they leave things behind, or feel that deep cleaning the house is not their responsibility. I don’t have that luxury. Mr. Ewe and I love it here. We are digging in for the long haul, which means cleaning and organizing this place from top to bottom in the next 6 months to get it ready for baby Ewe.

I feel that this need to deep clean and move into our space is upsetting the balance of some things here. There is discontent among one of the other renters. I feel bad about it, but at the same time, cleaning and organizing is going to happen one way or another. I just hope it inspires others to take some initiative and help out. Otherwise, they will just have to grumble to themselves behind closed doors and live with it.

So I decided that in order to feel like I am not spending ALL of these lovely Spring days indoors cleaning, I convinced Mr. Ewe that we need to alternate our indoor projects with our outdoors projects. After the kitchen, he is going to get the tiller we found in the backyard working, and I am going to finish pruning the trees in the orchard, and then cut up the wood and stack it to dry for this fall. Then he will probably till up some new garden beds while I re-weatherize the frame for the chicken coop.

And then we get to start organizing the dungeon erm basement.








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