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I’m not sure how much time we’ll be spending in here, especially at first. But…it has been a good experience to decorate a space just for Graham. The look for the nursery is vintage (thrift store/Goodwill) meets rustic (handmade) meets Pinterest (I wish)! Its a semi-farm theme. Blues, burlap, and white, with flashes of red. (I wanted more flashes of red, but oh well).
We have felt so loved and taken care of during this entire pregnancy. I had my third baby shower at work last week. I haven’t returned/exchanged a single thing that I’ve received as a gift. I’ve loved everything and received duplicates of nothing. And…we have pretty much every single that we need. So thankful.
I’ve been lovingly militant (Gregg’s word, not mine) about washing all the new outfits and blankets that we’ve received for Graham. I’ve washed everything as instructed, so it will be be ready for him when we gets here. What did I find when unloading his goodies from the washer to the dryer this weekend? A dead mouse. Decomposing. With my baby’s clothes. Pout face. I’d been so careful about washing his clothes, and then I run them through the washer with a dead mouse. Go figure. Don’t worry, I re-washed them. He’ll have a very healthy immune system from farm-living.
Gregg got to witness the birth of Baby sheep #2 this week. She’s not the jet black beauty of Baby sheep #1. She’s a girl, so that’s why Gregg decided to name both of these little lambs. Hopefully the next lamb will be a boy (we won’t be naming him) and that he’ll be able to provide us with some yummy meant in the Fall/Winter. Its still a little disturbing to think about eating these animals that are grazing in our backyard. But, I guess that’s the point right? To know where your food comes from? Its very close to home though…literally.
P.S. Our big white dog that didn’t have heart disease passed away last week. The vets never found out what was making her sick, and she kept getting worse. So, bad news afterall.
So, originally I was planning for this post to have some good news with some bad news sandwich in the middle. But! Our bad news turned into possibly good news. I’ll start from the top (this is all animal-related btw).
Over the weekend, one of our ewes gave birth to our first baby lamb. She was very no nonsense about it (the momma, that is). We didn’t hear a peep from mom or baby when she was in labor overnight. One day she was pregnant and the next, she had a jet black lamb cuddled up beside her. We had been hoping that our sheep were pregnant. You can’t really tell just by looking at them, and we weren’t expecting any babies until spring. But, here she is! Gregg says he’ll keep her since she’s a girl. She’ll make babies not meat. She will also make some very pretty wool which I could turn into yarn. I’m not sure I’m up for the challenge of combing out bits of poop/grass/debris, etc., then spinning the wool into yarn either by hand or otherwise. We’ll see.
Now for the bad news turned good. Aspen, our Great Pyranese, was diagnosed with heart disease after an appointment with our local vet. One of her eyes started swelling, and we thought it was infected. When the swelling didn’t go away after a week or so, we took her in to get evaluated. She’s only two years old, so the prognosis of heart disease was not a good one. We took her back to the Great Pyranese Rescue, so their vet could give her the full work-up that she deserves. We were really sad about it. We only had her for 3 months, but we loved her. We got a call yesterday that she doesn’t have heart disease afterall. Our local vet had made the diagnosis after seeing large amounts of fluid on ultrasound. The other vet was saying that the fluid was coming from her gut, and that her heart is totally fine. Good news, but nothing conclusive yet.
Another bit of good news is that there’s enough daylight for our chickens to lay eggs. Gregg collected 15 over the weekend. He warned me that since we have a rooster out and about with our hens there’s a chance that when I crack an egg, an embryo will pop out. 😦 I’ve been nervous about it ever since.
It really feels like we live on a farm now.
I wonder when I’ll have to change the title of my blog: “This Circle of Quiet.” I assumed that country living/rural life was quiet, and it is compared to living in the city. But, we have 5 pets and a baby on the way. Its already not very quiet at our house, and I suppose its only going to get louder. The animals have been more of a handful lately. Pooping inside, for example. And, integrating our huge white, polar bear dog with our two medium-sized herding dogs has been an event. There’s been lots of growling and snarling. Max got body-slammed by Aspen at one point for getting in her face (I don’t know how else to explain these fights besides making them sound like 13 year old girls in the lunch room. I went to a ghetto middle school, ok?).
But, I’ve been loving them. Even when I’m cleaning up their poop (I never realized how amazing Resolve was!), I’m thankful for them. I’ve been comparing them to kids a lot. Like, “Okay, its time for everyone to go outside, so I can get some stuff done around the house,” and “I need to give ____ some attention because I haven’t in awhile.”
Aspen is starved for love and attention. She’s still a working dog. She’s protecting our sheep and our chickens. But she won’t stay in the fenced-in area where the sheep are. She also won’t leave our property (unless she sees us leave), so I think she’s still doing her job pretty well. She reminds me so much of Max. We got Max from a shelter and Aspen from a rescue group. They both have separation anxiety (or some other psychological diagnosis that our human feelings have projected on them), so they need a lot of love. Even our cats, that were found on the side of the road, are extra affectionate. I don’t think I would love them all so much if they weren’t so loveable. Roo, who was the pick of the litter, knows that she’s loved. She thinks that she’s hot stuff, and she can be sweet and affectionate at times, but she’s also a snob.
As I’m writing, Aspen literally just threw up on the couch that we are cuddling on together. Its like she knew what I was writing thinking about. Okay, apologies to all the weak-stomached out there. I’ll try to limit my bodily fluids talk in the future.
We’ve got sheep. Three of them. We don’t actually have them yet, but they have been purchased and wrangled from their former homestead. Currently, they are living with our friends’ sheep. We’re hoping that our sheep will mate with our friends’ ram before the weather gets too cold. Surely they can still mate in the cold, but, for some season, now’s the time for mating.
We also still have some chickens. They aren’t living with us right now either, since they would get eaten. There’s no protection in the openness of the farm. So, for protection, Gregg might actually get a Great Pyrenees. These dogs have been bred to (get this) protect sheep and chickens. As much as I don’t want another dog, I don’t want Gregg’s sheep and chickens to be another wild animals’ prey.
We do have a small autumnal (like that word?) garden with some leafy greens growing in it. Each year, I’m hoping we produce more and more food from our own (rented) land. With a bigger garden next year, we’ll have more to eat in the summer and maybe even be able to can/freeze some goodies for the fall and winter. I’ve been happy (and jealous) to see Instagram photos of friends doing the same thing with the produce from their own gardens. We’ve learning that produce grows quicker than meat is produced. Duh. It’ll be nice to produce something on our land, since we won’t be eating lamb for at least a year from now. Even the chickens won’t really be good egg-layers until next year.
Our friends with the sheep (okay, their names and Robert and Jen) got wind of a free Holstein (super good dairy cow) that a family in the area is looking to get rid of. A cow, for free. Gregg really wants fresh milk (so do I), but he doesn’t want the responsibility of milking it twice a day (I don’t either). Lazy…but understandable for two suburban kids. I’m not sure what the latest is on the cow, Gregg mentioned it to me early this week. I’m not sure if we would keep it at our place or if our friends would keep it at theirs. Don’t know. My non-reliable google search tells that such cows will produce anywhere from 5 to 20(!) gallons per day. We would need to share the wealth.
A friend asked me how Gregg’s farming was going. Slow. I guess that’s why they call the organic/local movement the Slow Food Movement. Like I mentioned, we might have lamb to eat next Fall, if everything goes as planned, which it may not. Farming is the slowest of learning processes, because sometimes you don’t know if you’ve made a mistake until months after the initial bad decision was made. But we’re still learning. Slowly.
I hope its all worth for us. For Gregg to do what he loves (and actually love it, not just the idea of it). I’m definitely guilty of liking the idea more than the reality. For us to eat what we grow and raise. For us to know exactly where our food is coming from and what went into growing it/raising it. I think that will be worth it.
I want to write about this process and talk about it, but we don’t have a lot to really show for ourselves yet. No meat. No eggs. A small amount of produce. We’re getting there though. Gregg’s getting there, I’m trying my hardest to be his cheerleader. Its just the slowest cheer I’ve ever done.
I don’t know what I’d do if we ever lived in a new house. A house where there were enough closets to actually hold all of our clothes and other belongings. A house where the hardwood floors were level and didn’t dip and dive when you walked around on them. A house without old wood molding along the ceiling and door frames. A house without exposed piping or a house where appliances didn’t leak or break, but drained and cleaned and worked properly. I can’t imagine living in a place without floor units to heat it in the winter.
I wouldn’t even say that I have a love/hate relationship with old houses. I just love them, and they feel more homey to me than any new house ever would. I certainly see the appeal of a new house though. To have a house with a garage attached to it. I can’t imagine. To have enough outlets to plug in your electronic devices without each one becoming a small fire hazard. No chipped paint, no wallpaper, no cracks in the wall, a house just to be lived in and not to be fixed up. I guess every house becomes an old house eventually, and if you wanted to live in a new house you’d have to move every year or two to keep up.
Oh yeah, I forgot about stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. I’m not sure if these go with any new house or just nice and fancy new ones. They certainly go with the picture I have of our nice, new, non-existent house.
Our dryer is yellow and we have air conditioning units in our windows. Our downstairs is about 20 degrees cooler than our upstairs since we rarely turn the A/C units on upstairs. But its home. Its finally feeling like home to us. Now we just need to bring some people into it to keep us company.
P.S. Have you noticed that every story on NPR ends with a cheesy line to wrap up the story? I think I do that, too.
I’ve been loving Anne Lamott lately. She lives just north of San Francisco, so she’s always walking around on the hills of Marin County. That is a lovely, sacred place up there. As Wimbo says, its smells like “sun-drenched eucalyptus.” She is so irreverent (Anne, not Wimbo), talking about her hatred, literally, of the Republican party. But its her honesty that makes her so easy to relate to and such a joy to read. She talks about her love/hate relationship with her body. She writes about trying to do well but failing most of the time. She is self-deprecating in a way that makes you, as the reader, feel normal. Grace is always the theme of her books.
Usually, she’s fairly light-hearted in her story-telling, even as she shares about God and her faith. Every now and then, though, she has this heavy wisdom that smacks you in between the eyes.
Last night, I read the second to last chapter in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. In it, she shares with the reader the advice she usually reserves for graduates when she is asked to give a commencement speech. Its not your typical, Go get ’em tigers, message. Instead of run in the rat race and shoot for your dreams and try your best to succeed, she says get to know yourself. She says that, as a successful writer, she’s reached her dreams, but that hole inside of her has not been suddenly filled up now that she has arrived. So, her advice is rest and pray and enjoy life. Okay, so you have to pay your bills. And, hopefully you can do that by working at a job that you love. But, her point is that getting that dream job is not what’s going to make you happy.
Her message is very applicable to us. Gregg sold his chickens. I was disappointing and sad about it, but he felt relieved. Day after day, he was watching their numbers decline due to the foxes and hawks and whatever else. He says that he was over-eager. He was so ready to get started working with animals, but he didn’t really have a plan. Oops. To his credit, he didn’t really know what the plan needed to be. So, what now? Quit? Go home? Pack up and move back to Knoxville? We’ve thought about it, but no. We’re sticking it out here. He’s got more to learn, A LOT more to learn. And, more and more, I think that learning is the point of all this. Making money is not the point. Hopefully that will come eventually, learning how to make money from farming. But, now, and maybe for awhile. The point is how to plan and care for animals and get something in return (eggs, wool, milk, meat, whatever).
So, we are (probably) moving, but not out of town. We are going to move to a farmhouse on the Eastern Shore. Ugh. Moving again. This makes house #4(!!) for us since we’ve been married. I can’t wait to show some pictures of the house. Its got wallpaper in the hallways which I kind of love, but then the carpet is just ridiculous. It has swirlies on it. And I think there’s hardwood under it! Oh well. The reason we are strongly considering the move has nothing to do with the wallpaper or carpet. Gregg needs to live with his animals. With the chickens, he had a fifteen minute drive every morning and evening, and then he wasn’t there with them during the day to protect them and all of that. About an acre or two of land comes with the farmhouse. On the land is a fence, a barn, a shed, a grain storage bin. All the things a farmless farmer needs to become an actual farmer. And all these things are already in place, ready for Gregg.
My enemies. Shade. Wind. Squirrels. And now our very own chickens. My garden is failing. I’m thinking about moving it to my neighbors’ porch. It would be safer there. I had all but given up on my cluster of pots last week, when I looked out onto our porch and saw 2 of the 4 chickens that we keep at the house. They were eating my soon-to-be flowers and the oh-so-skinny chives. I just laughed. I was already over it at that point.
I think instead of completely giving up, I’ll transition my porch garden into a porch herb garden. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? I think I read somewhere that herbs are the easiest kind of plant to grow. In my case, they have to be easy, sturdy enough to sustain the weather, and inedible to any animal besides a human.