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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.
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.
Well, there’s raised bed gardening and square foot gardening (I think these are basically the same thing). I’m experimenting with a different kind of gardening. Potted plants on your porch gardening. My gardening partner is busier than expected (two of her kids are getting married this summer), so the garden that was going to go in her backyard is on hold. Our yard is as shady as ever, with the best sun showing up on our porch. Also, I’ve heard horror stories of deer and rabbits eating all the garden’s produce, and I’m hoping that deer won’t come up to our house to nibble our goodies. Mildred, the gardening mentor, has two fences around her garden along with rattling plastic bags to scare off the predators. So, the porch it is. As of now, I’ve got a variety of herbs (sage, cilantro, parsley, chives, lavender) and some flowers. I’m growing basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash from seed. Now, I know that its silly of me to think that squash will do well in a pot. In my defense, at the time of planting my seedlings I thought some of the seedlings might actually go into the ground as opposed to pots. I’m not sure what to do with the squash seedlings now. Yesterday I kept asking Gregg if the pots that I have are big enough and if tomatoes, cukes, and bell peppers will do well in them. Do you ever ask a question just to get an answer you are looking for? Yes, the pots are big enough. Yes, the veggies will do great in them. I think I’ll have to get some bigger pots and then keep my fingers crossed that they’ll grow well in them. When I see the teeny tiny seedlings, I forget that they are going to grow up and up and up, and I forget that there are root systems growing underneath the soil that need plenty of space to do their thing.
I was feeling down about my seedlings, since some of them were getting “leggy,” as Gregg says. But, I’m happy to say that since they’ve been nestled onto the porch and out of the sunroom they have really started to take off. I do have couple of concerns. The wind really picks up on the back of our porch, so I get worried that they’ll get too windblown. Also, I want the porch garden to look pretty, but, as of now, it doesn’t. Its a mishmash of old pots that I found in our shed squeezed onto the sunny corner of our porch. Its not Better Homes and Gardens or Southern Living. Maybe they do look pretty in their own way. I’m not sure what magazine would feature them, maybe something like Work with What You’ve Got.
But, I’m in luck. A gardening guru is coming our way this weekend. My father-in-law Phil spends his evenings and weekends tending to his flock of plants. I’m hoping he’ll be able to give me some pointers.
Bucket List of a Farmer’s Wife.
Learn how to make bread. check.
Finish knitting my sweater. check. worn exactly twice before it got too hot.
Create a garden. a work in progress.
Tend the garden and eat from the garden. see above.
Make a wearable item of clothing with the sewing machine.
Make a quilt.
For the year:
Stick to a budget without going crazy.**
Make friends. slowly but surely.
Find a church.
Read an intimidating classic. slowly reading Jane Eyre, there’s just so many other books that I also want to read.
Feel comfortable and confident as a Nurse Practitioner. not quite.
Run/walk/bike/do yoga consistently. Not all of these, just be active consistently.
And I’m adding:
Join/start a Book Club. This can go along with making friends.
**During Lent, Gregg and I saved all of our receipts. We are working towards having and sticking to a budget. This has been a topic of conversation for us ever since we were dating. Reimagine, the forward-thinking community that we were a part of in California, considers budgeting a spiritual practice. They even share their incomes and budgets with each other. Talk about accountability. When this topic first came up in San Francisco, I got defensive, and even said aloud that I didn’t have a budget. Gregg asked me, “Well, do you want to have one?” I didn’t at the time, but after trying a few different ways of budgeting over the years, I see the value in actually knowing where our money is going.
Since we have moved to the Eastern Shore, it seems like our cost of living has skyrocketed. I already mentioned my Speed-bus gas tank. Also, we were a part of a meal-share co-op in Knoxville. We only bought and cooked dinner one night a week. 15 or so people, mostly from our church, came over with their tupperware and ate the meal we had prepared. Every other night of the week, we went to someone’s house who had prepared a meal for us. (We called it Food 4 All, and we even made the newspaper.) All that to say, we are spending more at the grocery store.
Yesterday, we categorized [groceries, eating out, gas, other] and counted up our receipts. So depressing. But, then we set some goals for ourselves for next month. We’re going to try to spend less on groceries and less on eating out.
Something that I realized during our receipt calculating is that my tendency to want to win and be the best could be applied to budgeting. I could say let’s try to spend as little money as possible. I could do all of our grocery shopping at Wal-mart, never leave the house (to save on gas), and not contribute a bottle of wine or whatever when someone invites us over for dinner. All of these things would save money. But, that’s not the point. Generousity completely gets thrown out the window with that approach. Balance in everything, right? Maybe the point is spending well instead of spending as little as possible.
And, I’m still trying to figure out how to buy food well. Organic and natural versus cheaper. Reimagine (I learned a lot from them.) hosts a workshop on Simplicity every year. During this workshop, they talked about food. They discussed the difference between cheap food and natural food, and said that even though its cheaper, there’s still a cost somewhere. In other words, someone is paying for the cheaper food, it just may not be you at the check out. That someone could be the worker in the field, the farmer, the grocery store employee. Someone is getting paid less so that we can buy our food cheaper. (Rant.)
Any budgeting advise is welcome.
Okay, marketing time.
I’m turning into a little bit of an iPhone geek. There is one app that makes my life so much better. (I can’t believe I’m doing this.) This one app, called PageOnce is awesome. You can put all of your bills/credit cards/loans/bank info into it, and it will show you all of your info on one little page. How much total cash you have, how much debt, when your bills are due. Its awesome. (I already said that.) I know that some people are dubious about putting all of your bank info into a system like that, but I think its safe and trustworthy. That’s all I’m gonna say about it.
I have to confess that baby fever is creeping up on me. But, I have to be thankful of the children I have, and the children yet to come.
Children I have. I’m so proud. They actually smiled into the phone-camera for me!
Children to come.
What I love about living on the Eastern Shore are the same things that are difficult about living here. I love the calm of my soul that comes from living on the Bay, in almost isolation. We have neighbors, but we are at least a fifteen minute drive from the nearest store. I love living without internet. I can squeeze a signal out of my phone every now and then, but when my Facebook app feed can’t refresh, I’m a bit relieved. I love time. It seems like our time has multiplied since moving out here. Time for gardening and chores around the house, and then time to spare.
But…don’t let me paint the rosiest of pictures. It gets boring in the middle of so much peace. A good portion of our neighbors are retirees. Do you grow into needing more peace and quiet? Maybe its a generational thing. We are not retirees, but I feel we are living like them. I was watching tv the other the night, and I accidentally switched the channel to a Coldplay concert at Austin City Limits. Hundreds of twentysomethings were shouting and fist-pumping, cheering on Coldplay. I want that. I already did that though. That’s what almost three years in San Francisco was. And, honestly, it felt like chasing. Chasing what I’m not sure, but more of something. More fun, more excitement, more life. I think that some people have learned to live well in a city without the chasing. But, I don’t think I ever learned how to do that. There’s just so much, you can never get enough. So, I guess I don’t want to go back to that kind of living, but I do miss it more than I realize. Maybe I just miss Chris Martin. I. Love. Coldplay. Remember “I feel God with water?” Ditto for Coldplay.
I miss people my age, too. I went to a thirtyone party over the weekend. Mostly middle-aged women attended. I got a super awesome lunch-tote by the way. When Wimbo, Caroline, and I moved to San Francisco, we said that we wanted to love people that were different than us. I’m sure that we did, but most of our friends were people our exact same age and background. Here, on the Eastern Shore, loving and being friends with different kinds of people may be less of an option. It may be mandatory if we want to have any sort of community here.
Maybe the things that are that are difficult about living here have less to do with the place and more to do with the amount of time that we have been here.
So, today, my mother of 8 friend and I are going to head over to the master gardener’s home for a learning lab. I’m not sure if she is a master gardener, and I’m not sure if she knows how much we need to learn from her, but I’m looking forward to it just the same. Mildred. Confession: I think I might end up being a diet gardener, because I don’t like weeding (thanks mom & dad for making me weed for punishment when I was growing up (just kidding, there are worse punishments)), I’m not going to like being outside when its over say, 90 degrees, even that might be pushing it, and I don’t really like getting dirty. That’s embarrassing. I think I can learn to handle getting dirty, but I’m just not used to it. When, as an adult, does anybody actually get dirty?
This was the most that I’ve processed in a while. What’s good about living here? What’s hard? Why are the hard things hard?
I think my blog is like a prayer. I do not say this in a braggy way but in a thankful one. I want to start a garden, right? Since our yard is full of shade-giving trees, I thought a community garden might be the way to go. I have a young-at-heart neighbor with 8 kids, and I thought she might be a good person to ask about a garden. I had been nervous to knock on her door and ask for her thoughts. While walking the dogs today, guess who comes pouring out of her house? My young-at-heart neighbor. We chatted about this and that, and then I asked her about my community garden idea. She smiled and almost shouted that she’d been trying to get one started for years. Yes!
She said that her problem in the past has been the deer. Several years ago just when her tomatoes were ripe, the deer jumped her not-so-sturdy fence and consumed all her ripe veggies. We need a fence and a fence builder to keep out these pests, and then we will be set to go.
The plan is to have one in her backyard. I was secretly hoping that she would offer the use of her backyard, since she lives right across the street. Not even a community garden, just our garden, for our families. My family of two and her family of ten (!). I have a partner, which I have needed for gardening, since, like I mentioned before, I’m clueless. AND she knows of another neighbor that can be our gardening mentor. Mildred. I can’t resist recording her name for all to see.
So, today. I found a friend, a partner, a mentor. And hope. God’s listening to me. Even to my simple requests like…I want a garden.