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Gregg keeps telling me how prepared I am for our soon-to-be-here baby. I’m loving preparing. Washing clothes, getting the nursery together, decorating, figuring out what I want to store where. Like the 100s of pairs of socks people have given us and the teeny tiny shoes. How accessible do these need to be? I’m thinking socks should be more within reach than shoes. They’re cute, but does a baby that can’t walk really need shoes?
The nursery is upstairs and we are downstairs, so its been a challenge to figure out what should go where. So far, we’ve got the changing table, swing, Rock N Play sleeper, and our glider (thanks, Mimi) downstairs. Upstairs, we have the dresser, crib, a year’s worth of clothes, stuffed animals and books, and, the one item that every baby needs, a fish tank (yep, pictures to come). Graham will be downstairs with us for the most part, so I really debated over whether I even wanted a nursery, but I’m really glad that we made a space for him. Its really a space for his stuff, but I like that its organized and not all thrown haphazardly into a room. I like to call it the staging area, but I don’t think that’s the correct use of the phrase.
I’ve started listening to a podcast about pregnancy and new mom topics. While I don’t like listening to pregnant women complain unless they are my friends (there’s some of that on the show), I do like learning. Through nursing school and my job on the maternity floor, there are some things that I do know. Like, how to take care of a baby for the first three days of life. But, that’s where my questions arise. What happens when you and your baby get home?
I’m enjoying learning about things like babywearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping. It sounds like we’re going for the hippie-parenting award, but they don’t teach you about these things in nursing school. Gregg and I went to a childbirth class where we didn’t get on the floor once. No hee hee hoo hoo’s to be had. There was just a powerpoint. I didn’t mind it. It was a nice review and I learned a couple things. Gregg, not the classroom type, would rather have been practicing breathing techniques or sleeping. He was a good sport.
Again, as I’ve mentioned before, there are so many unknowns, so many things that I can’t prepare for. So, if I can prepare for something, I’m going to. Getting our boy’s gear ready.
A woman that I work with is pregnant, due about 3 months after me. Its her third baby and she’s had c-sections in the past, so she will have a scheduled c-section this time around. She will get to decide when she has her baby. Or, at least, she will know months in advance when she will have her baby. I wonder what that feels like. Once April gets here, I feel like I’m stepping into a great unknown (cue the dramatic music).
The not knowing effects more than just me. Sometimes I like to see my patients in 2 weeks or a month to make sure they are doing okay, to make sure the changes that we made are helping them. And I’m starting to say, I should be here in a month. But, I really just don’t know. I feel a little bad about that, like I’m leaving them high and dry. They’ll be able to check in with someone else, but I want to see them myself.
My sister-in-law, Jennica, and her mom were sweet enough to throw me a shower on the Eastern Shore. Almost all of my book club pals, our doula, and a few other friends were in attendance. It was farm-themed and we made a bird mobile (pronouced mo-bill or mo-beel?). We stitched and stuffed felt birds that are now hanging from a nest looking thing ready to entertain our boy. Thank you, pinterest.
I’ve had a shower of old friends and this was a shower of new friends. This shower came with lots of love, too.
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.
Our dogs love our new house. They love sniffing and rubbing themselves into whatever it is that they are sniffing. They love prancing around (and pooping) in the soy fields that surround our house. (I’m banking on the fact that the soybean farmer doesn’t read my blog, because I don’t think he would appreciate the prancing.)
The dogs have been banished to the kitchen full-time. We have carpet in the living room and bedroom, and they treat the carpet like the grass. Digging up carpet and rubbing fur all over it is not ideal for our rental house.
Look how happy they are, though!
Max is having his 12 week(!) check-up with the vet to see how well he’s healed. I hope it goes well–please, oh, please. I hope we spent our money well with his surgery. We just got to a point where we could not keep him down. We were supposed to give him a much more stringent recovery schedule than we did. You can’t keep a good dog down!
We’ve been in denial about moving. Afterall, on July 1st, we hadn’t even packed box #1. I have been thinking about what we are gaining and, alternatively, what we are losing in our move.
Convenience is a primary thing that we are gaining. We will have a dishwasher. No more scalding of the hands while washing the dishes. We are gaining 15-20 minutes with each trip we take. We’ll be that much closer to the grocery store, work, etc. (We’ll be that much farther away from the Bay and our neighbor-friends.) We’re gaining a garden! (Yeah right, you’re probably thinking. I’ve heard that from you before.) Well, despite you nay-sayers, I really think its going to happen this time. Not only did our landlord say he’s excited and even tickled to have us as his tenants. He also said for us to let him know where we want our garden, and he’ll till it up for us. Yessss! And, I think Gregg is finally over his burned-out-ness that has been plaguing him ever since he finished up Green Fingers’ Farm two years ago. My helper has arrived. We’re gaining a fig bush, a barn, a fenced in paddock(?) not sure that’s what its called, a free-standing garage, aka, storage bin. We’re gaining air conditioning. They’re window units, but that’s better than what we’ve got now which is nothing but fans to keep us cool. And we’re gaining the prettiest 1970’s wallpaper you’ve ever seen.
The Chesapeake Bay. And the porch that looks out over it. A two minute walk to the beach. On our last night in the house Gregg was getting sentimental about our move. Thankfully, he took that sentiment to the kitchen and made us a dinner of bacon-wrapped scallops, marinated lamb, and corn-on-the-cob (Mmmm Mmmm). Then, we sat out on our porch, listened to Bon Iver, and watched a lightning storm. Why haven’t we done this more often we asked? Life just gets in the way sometimes.
I’m imagining that as we move into this new house that our just-us time is over. I had an idea to have a house-warming party and invite all the friends or acquaintances that we have met since we moved here. I don’t think its going to happen because it would be very awkward for everyone. There’s not a lot of overlap of the people we have met here and there around the Eastern Shore. But, I just feel like, as soon as we move into this house, all our friends will arrive. Or, the people that we’ve met, will all of the sudden show up on our doorstep with a prepared dish, laughing about an inside joke that we don’t have. Not going to happen. We don’t have inside jokes with anyone here. No memories or easy breezy conversation. It takes time. Our new house is not going to be a magical fast-forward time machine of friendship. But, I think it is one more step in settling in.
Organic, free-range, grass-fed. We are becoming more familiar with these kinds of words stamped on our food packaging. We spend $1 to $5 more when we buy these types of vegetables, meats, and eggs, but those words make us feel better about our purchases. On the other hand, spending $1 to $5 less per item, makes us feel better at the check out, when our bill is lighter and our pocketbooks are heavier. For a long time these words have been just that to me, words. For the past couple of months, I’ve learned firsthand why the extra cost is attached to those words.
My husband is producing organic eggs from free-range chickens, and this natural/organic/slow food movement is Hard. Work. Its very romantic-sounding, but there’s not much that’s romantic about the process of actually moving food from the farm to the table. What does free-range mean? Right now, for Gregg, it means building chicken coops from salvaged wood and PVC piping and watching as one of the said coops falls over due to strong gusts of wind. It means setting up an electric fence and hoping the fence protects the chickens from foxes and dogs and birds of prey. It means buying or milling feed to supplement the grass that the chickens eat. During the day, the electric fence is turned off and the chicks freely move in and out of the contained area, scattering around a half acre eating more grass. Sometimes, we recently found out, neighborhood kids chase them with nets when they are outside of the fencing.
At selling time, the eggs will not have “organic” stamped on the side of the crate (he’s actually going to use recycled crates from eggs that our neighbors and friends (we do have a few!) have been saving for us), because he hasn’t been certified by the government. But they will be organic. Also, during their lifetime, the chickens all have beaks and walk around outside and eat grass. Its these conditions that will make their eggs cost more, but their eggs will also be worth more because of the nutrient-richness (made that word up) that results from their way of life. The eggs that are not free-range in the grocery store, and even some that are marked as such, come from chickens with beakless, crowded, indoor lives. Have you seen Food, Inc. or Fresh? Or read anything by Micheal Pollan? These movies and books will change your life. At least, if you can budget for the expense.
On the Eastern Shore, there are two chicken plants. I’ve seen tractor trailers drive down the highway stamped with the company names along with a picture of a sunny farm with a porch, a barn and a shining sun. Then I drive several miles up the road and see the plant with no farm or barn or porch in sight. There is however a stench and a cloud of vultures circling the plant. The plants sell chicken for their meat and not for their eggs, but egg-laying chicken plants, according to those documentaries, look similar to these meat-producing plants.
I was in the grocery store yesterday, and I was drawn toward the sack of onions that said “farm fresh.” The sack didn’t tell me where the onions were from or how they were grown or why they were only $1.30 for 3 pounds. But that “farm fresh,” like the pretty picture of the barn on the side of the truck, drew me in. I wish instead of “farm fresh” or “free-range,” there was a picture of the farmer that raised the chickens or onions or eggs. I’d like to see if he’s inside or outside and if the man in charge is wearing a suit or Carharrt overalls.
“I feel God with water.” This is what I said to Gregg as we were walking along the beach the first week that we moved here. It sounded simple, but I meant it and I still mean it. I also feel God with flowers. Reading about gardening and flowers this morning, trying to pump my brain full of new information, I feel God. Its His world, His creation, His design. Planting, sowing, watering, pruning, growing. What a metaphor.
Gregg moved the majority of his chicks to greener and wider pastures. They had been in our shed. All 220 of them. He brought several back to the shed because they were either too small or they were getting pecked by the other birds. The other day he let them roam around the backyard and watched over them while eating pistachios. When it was time to bring them back into the shed, they took off. It seemed near impossible to herd them. Two of them started making a nest near the marsh behind our house, not wanting to go where it was warm and dry. Not wanting to accept the food and water Gregg gives them in the shed. I was laughing while Gregg was chasing these little baby chickens around the yard. He eventually had to crawl through the sea oats and snag them. I think there’s another analogy/metaphor here, but I don’t feel like going into it.
Along with chick-tending, Gregg may take on another venture. Beekeeping. Recently, he went to a beekeeper’s workshop. He wants to keep bees for their honey. Duh. He was telling me the different ways to get bees for your hive. 1. Buy them from a bee dealer and receive a box of bees in the mail. He’s received 300 baby chicks in the mail, but somehow a box of bees sounds a little scarier. 2. Purchase bees from a local beekeeper. 3. Catch a swarm. Of course, he wants to catch a swarm of wild bees. And, luckily, there’s a man in town who has been known to catch swarms. It’s become his M.O. The swarm catcher. I might butcher this but I’m going to give it a try. When bees swarm, that means they leave their hive and fly off in search of another hive. They set up an in-between place to live up in the trees. The “scouts” venture out from the tree-nest to find the next place to set up their hive. Each scout comes back and dances for the queen. The dance signifies that they have found a good place. The queen then decides which dance she likes the best, and the bees travel to the winner’s chosen place to set up their new hive. Evidently, to catch a swarm, you can either summon the bees down from the tree, box them up, and take them home. Or, you can lure the bees to your house using pheromones. These pheromones will guarantee that the scout that comes to your house will dance the most queen-satisfying dance. My apologies to any bee experts if I totally butchered the explanation of a swarm. I tried my best.
So…we might become beekeepers.
Ironically, the day that Gregg decided he wanted to become a beekeeper, I decided that I wanted to knit a beekeeper’s quilt. This is going to take forever, but, right now, all I’ve got is time.
P.S. I’m having trouble posting pictures onto my posts. Wikipedia will let me, but otherwise, no can do. Tips?
Last week Gregg received 321 chickens in the mail. Unfortunately, some of them have died. (They trampled each other.) But, as survival of the fittest continues to prove true, many of them are alive and strong and chirping away in our shed. Gregg has set up heat lamps to keep them warm, and they have mason jar watering concoctions set up to quench their thirst. They also have some kind of chicken feed to eat. Life is good for the baby chicks. Now, we only have to wait 3, 4, or 5 months, and they will start laying colorful eggs for us (and other willing Eastern Shore residents) to eat.
During the trampling, Gregg created an “Infirmary” for the baby chicks. I volunteered to/Gregg made me help pull out the weaklings and sicklings from the heap of healthy chicks and into the “Infirmary.” Good thing I’m a nurse. This is the first time that my feet have been covered with bird feces from helping the sick. It may not be the last.
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My husband, Gregg, wants to be a farmer. About three years ago he worked on a sweet potato farm in Machipongo, VA. We started dating during his two month stint on the farm. After he finished his time on the farm, he was offered a job to stay on as a permanent employee. He turned the job down to move to San Francisco (where I was living at the time) to date me. He’s had odd jobs throughout our time in SF and in Knoxville. He keeps coming back to farming. He wants to farm in Knoxville, but starting one from scratch both on his own or with a friend has proved to be too risky and too difficult. After coming to this conclusion, we recalled the sweet potato farm job offer. We wondered if that would still be available to him. Gregg called the farmer who said over the phone that he did, in fact, have an opportunity for Gregg. At first, during our conversations, moving to Virginia to farm was Plan B. But, as less and less opportunities arose for him in Knoxville, it became Plan A. As a nurse/newly turned nurse practitioner as of August 2011, I am flexible in the job department. I was on board if this was what he wanted to do.
What I like about Gregg as a farmer:
1. The food. Gregg has completely changed the way that I think about food. I enjoy it now. Not as much as he does, but I appreciate a good meal so much more now than I did before I knew him.
2. The organic movement. It finally hit me yesterday that I want to be a part of this movement. The sweet potato farm has been a part of the movement for thirty or so years before everyone else was wanting local, sustainable, organic, free-range, grass-fed, hormone-free, pesticide-free food. I realized yesterday that all of the aforementioned words describe how we have been created to eat. Yes, its trendy and more expensive, but I decided that I cannot eat any more chicken meat that turns to mush in my hands.
3. Learning to trust. Being a farmer is certainly not the easy road, or so I’ve heard. Becoming a farmer has not been easy either. But I’m learning to trust Gregg and his dreams for our family. I’m learning to trust during the transition, which has not been easy. I know that it has been good for me and for us. I’m sure that there will be more of this learning to trust thing in our future.
4. Farmer=Businessman (the good kind). Confession: I’m an eavesdropper. The other day, I was trying not to eavesdrop on Gregg as he was talking to his boss-to-be, but I couldn’t help it. Eavesdropping is an instinct of mine that I cannot avoid. But! What I eavesdropped (not sure if that’s a word) was worth celebrating. Gregg was becoming a businessman right before my ears. Not a suit and tie wearing, bossypants businessman, but a taking initiative, talking straight, and still being a good person businessman.
Farming, here we come.