Archive for the ‘children’ Category

Yesterday was the first day that really felt like spring.  There have been several warm-ish days recently, but most of them were really gloomy and overcast, or even raining.  Yesterday, there was sun, and it was lovely.  We all spent the afternoon puttering outside, in our shirtsleeves, finally!

Splashing in Shirtsleeves!

M enjoying the warm weather and puddles.


Spring is the dingiest time here on the acreage, though.  Between the mud on the kids and the mud on the dogs, the house is never clean.  Melting snow reveals all sorts of garbage that has somehow collected over the winter, as well as all the fallen and broken branches taken down by wind and snow.  Things need picking up and organizing.


The sandbox, and a lot of leaves that need cleaning up!


I dug out my pruning shears and cut back several shrubs, while the kids picked up garbage, and Trevor (Hubby) cleaned up old leaves that had collected in the strawberry beds and strung fence around the grapes to keep the dogs from digging them up.   Cherry the mastiff passed away last spring, and we got another rescue mastiff about a month later; Brutus is a great pet, but it turns out he likes to dig, especially around the foundation of the house, which is a bit of a pain, and we need to figure out ways to discourage that.


Our ‘new’ mastiff

Dog holes

Brutus’ digging is a bit of a problem.

On the bright side, my chives are up already!  In the south bed, they are up several inches, and very green; in the east bed, they are shorter and yellow-er, but they are up there, too.  We got these plants from my Mom, when she was dividing her own clumps; all three of them have thrived, which is great, because there’s something special about fresh chives in your scrambled eggs, and with the increased daylight, the hens will be kicking it into high gear soon, and we’ll be eating egg everything shortly.


The chives on the east side of the house – less growth, but more photogenic, out of the afternoon sun!

It’s kind of exciting to be thinking about planting things again.  I spent my evening planting my seed starts – we’ll plant them out in the garden in the last week of May and first week of June.  I am trying something new this year – I desperately want to grow melons, but in zone 2, it has proven difficult (impossible, so far).  I know some people here are growing cantaloupes in high tunnels, but I haven’t had any luck with any melon so far.  Part of the issue is the short season, and melons don’t appreciate transplanting; it is not generally recommended to start the seeds at all, and especially not more than a couple of weeks before planting out.  However, I don’t think that gives them enough hot days to set and ripen fruit.  This year, I’ve planted half a dozen melons in 2 liter (2 quart) pots, in the hopes that they won’t get root bound in the 6-8 weeks before our last frost date.   We’ll see if it works or not!


Meanwhile, we’ve got tons more pruning to do.

Valiant grape in need of pruning

This Valiant grape (still dormant) is desperately in need of pruning!


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Not *quite* two years, but close enough – yikes!


It has been a somewhat…eventful…couple of years, too.  Hubby went back to school to get some education in web development, and we had to sell the goats in order to find the time for him to work school in around acreage maintenance and childcare, but he got his certificate with high honors, and we’re casually looking at goats again.  I’ve had some health challenges, and have been trying to keep my graphic design / illustration business afloat through the crazy time challenges we’ve had.


On the bright side, we’ve continued expanding our knowledge and refining our garden, and the orchard is coming along nicely – we harvested a 5-gallon bucket of apples last fall, as well as crabapples, chokecherries, black and red currants, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, grapes, strawberries, and raspberries; we’re expecting the plums and pears to start bearing in the next couple of years, too.  We end up drowning in squash every fall, and I’m getting pretty good at inventing ways to eat them.


We’ve kept the chickens, too, and have added a few breeds to the roster.  We got Cochins last year, and we’re hoping that we’ll get some broody hens out of the deal, who will raise our chicks for us, and save us all the fussing with heat lamps and such.


I’ve got (yet another) ambitious order of trees coming for spring, and we’re looking at plowing up another garden bed, as we’re running out of room in the smaller one by the barn; I ordered some roses, too, to prettify the place, now that we have most of the fruit trees we really wanted.  Perhaps I will find some time to post about our growing, picking, cooking, and preserving again this summer!  Meanwhile, here is a little photo of the kids, who are also growing like weeds:

The kids, reading

I can’t believe I’ve got a child old enough to read!


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In general, homesteaders tend to drive toward self sufficiency, limiting their need for and use of mainstream / commercial ‘stuff’.  We are not at all hardcore about it, and we buy plenty of things, but we do try to only buy what we actually need, or things that will measurably improve our quality of life, like amazing art.  We also tend toward the non-brand-name and the second-hand.  Even with all of that, many homesteaders would probably look down on us a bit because we don’t always grow all of our own potatoes or make our own butter.  That’s fine…it’s something to strive for.


However, there are limits to how self-sufficient I really want to be.  Our little guy got a nasty infection this week, and we’ve been in and out of doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, and I have to say…I really value modern medicine.  And, for that matter, Canadian health care.  We took him to the doctor Monday afternoon, got in without an appointment, and were sent on to the emergency department at the hospital, where the pediatrician met with us in what I would call record time, for an emergency department.  He saw us again twice more in five days, to follow up and make sure the antibiotics were working.


Have I mentioned that antibiotics, when truly necessary, are nothing short of miraculous?


While it’s fun to play at self-sufficiency and primitive living, to a point, there are things about modern life that are truly incredible, and I, for one, am not interested in avoiding them at all costs or giving them up.  Had it been 1840, my little boy could have died.  In 2014, he had a rough week and some not-so-tasty medicine.  I know where I would rather be.



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People keep asking me how things are going, with me being back to work now.


Apparently I keep giving the wrong answer.


I tell them I enjoy it.  That having a routine is good for me.  That it’ll be great to have a full paycheque again.


People accept that part.  Then they say “Oh, but it must be soooo hard to leave your baby every morning.


And I tell them that no, it’s not.


This is where the problem begins.


The thing is, I am leaving my son with a perfectly competent parent, one who loves him every bit as much as I do.  Someone who is probably better suited to parenting than I am, given our respective levels of patience, tolerance, and such.   I am leaving them in order to go to an office where (usually) nobody is screaming, covered in poop, biting the dog, refusing to nap, or whatever.  I am going to a job that I am pretty good at, one that I know how to do; I am rarely at a total loss for how to approach a situation.   I get a lot of respect at work, and people look up to me and ask for advice.  I am something of a mentor for some of the newer staff members.   My opinion is valued.  My work is challenging, and my days are varied and often quite interesting.  I enjoy my colleagues.  Hell, I even get to eat lunch, with both hands free, using utensils, while it is still hot.


What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of advantages to being at work.  Advantages beyond the paycheque.  Things like personal fulfillment, challenging tasks, respect, power, and freedom.  Apparently moms aren’t supposed to want or enjoy these things, however.


You see, people seem to think it’s okay for me to be a mom and have a job, as long as I don’t enjoy it.   Folks understand the necessity of an income, I guess.  But if I say I am happy to be back to work, they cock their head and ask “but don’t you miss your baby while you’re gone?” (No, not particularly.)  Or they want to tell me about how, for their first two weeks back to work, they cried in the car all the way to the office (I didn’t.  I listen to my favorite music, very loud, and drive too fast).   People keep asking pointed questions, apparently searching for some sort of mommy guilt that I just don’t possess.


Then they judge me.


They talk about how hard it was for their wife to go back to work.  Or how terrible they feel dropping their kids off at the sitter’s.  They talk about how another lady we used to work with is taking five years off to open a daycare so she can stay home with her kids.  While I am happy that she is able to start a business and stay home with her kids if that’s what she wants to do, I don’t understand how my failure to consign myself and my family to a severely reduced income and a pink-collar-ghetto “career” makes me a worse mom, somehow.   How enjoying my job and all the advantages it confers (including not having to change diapers for 8 solid hours) makes me less of a loving parent.  I would like very much to know why Mom being challenged, powerful,  fulfilled, and well-paid is so bad for my kid.


I would like to know how many fathers are asked these questions when they go back to work.

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Other kids get a play pen.  Actually, Baby M has two of those.  One for inside in the living room (which he mostly only sleeps in now), and one for the barn (which got taken over by baby goats, and stinks).  However, they don’t suffice.


You see, doing barn chores, or yard work, or really anything at all with an eleven-month-old in tow is basically impossible.  He wants to be held.  If he isn’t being held, he wants to explore.  He “helps”.  Baby M throws down anything you pick up.  He scatters piles.  He screams and scares the goats.  He pinches.  He puts things in his mouth that are not strictly edible.  Or that are just disgusting.  His clothes get filthy.  And so forth.


However, the work does not stop just because there’s a baby on the farm.  We managed for the first ten months by trading off – I would supervise Baby M while Hubby shoveled, for instance, then Hubby would parent while I did evening chores.  That was mostly functional for the day-to-day stuff, and my Dad and Step-Mom would occasionally come out and help for the two (or more) person jobs that we couldn’t manage anymore, like vaccination and tattooing.  Occasionally frustrating, but the necessary stuff got accomplished.


Then I went back to work.


And yard work season hit; spring finally arrived.


Now, we still trade off for chores, and for evening-and-weekend stuff like mowing grass and pruning trees.  However, there’s a lot to be done that just won’t fit into my before-and-after-work hours.  And somebody has to do it, baby or no baby.  So we built the Hay Pen.


Hay Pen 1


The Hay Pen is sort of like a play pen…but completely different.  We made a perimeter of hay bales around a relatively clean bit of ground in the barn, out of the way, but still in sight of the places we would tend to be when we were, say, milking goats or feeding bottle kids.  This has the added advantage of freeing up two adults for dealing with worming, vaccinations, disbudding, and such.  Luckily, Baby M seems to like the Hay Pen, especially when Molly Underfoot the barn cat comes to play.  Baby M does not, however, like the baby goats, who jump on the bales and nip M’s ears.


There may eventually be hay pens all over the yard.  There needs to be one behind the barn, where Hubby will be putting the squash this year, and one in the big garden.  Hubby is contemplating one in the back yard, too, so he can prune trees, rake grass, and pick strawberries without having to pay too much attention to Baby M.   We have a big garden wagon hat Baby M could hang out in, but he always wants to stand up, but the sides are too low for that to be safe.  With all the thistles and nettles in the grass, a blanket on the ground isn’t really ideal, either.   In the Hay Pen, Baby M can pull himself up on the hay bales, and cruise around quite quickly; he’s beginning to walk, too, so he’ll have a safe space to practice that as well.  Being made of old bales, we can make the pens as large as we like; even two or three bales to a side, if that’s how much space M needs to be happy.  Meanwhile, Molly Underfoot always seems to gravitate to where the baby is, and seems very tolerant of M’s less-than-gentle attentions, so she will provide hours and hours of entertainment, I’m sure…


Hay Pen 2





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We have fantastic news…we’re expecting!  June 11 is the due date, and we’ve had our 12 week ultrasound – everything looks fine.


Suddenly, the goats getting bred in September (due February) instead of November (due late May) like we originally planned is beginning to look like a real stroke of luck.  Of course, I have been queasy enough that slaughtering chickens has been totally out of the question, hence the (hopefully short-term) stay of execution on a couple dozen roosters.  As well, something in alpaca urine stinks enough to have kept me almost completely out of the barn for a couple of months, now.  My poor goats and barn cats miss me, apparently, and the cats have even taken to coming up to the car as I get home from work in order to get some lovin.  Hubby has been stuck with all of the barn chores, plus the usual duties…and now, he has to get cracking on some renovations so we have a clean, tidy room to put baby in.  I’m not quite sure how we’re going to get our garden in next spring, or the next batch of trees planted, though I am sure we’ll think of something. We’re truly ecstatic, though, and really, pregnancy has been pretty good to me, so far.


Anyhow, with all of this going on, I’ve been a little distracted, so please bear with me if the posting gets a little erratic again…

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Wrenches in Gears

It has been a long, long couple of weeks.  The two little boys we had here a while back were supposed to be coming to stay, so we child-proofed the house, re-arranged the furniture, picked up some things that would have made life a lot easier, like a toilet seat insert and some booster seats for the table, and then…


…and then their father cropped up, after months of being incommunicado, and threw a wrench in the gears by stating that he absolutely did not want them coming to us.  All this after the mother, aunties, and all of the grandparents had consulted and agreed that this was a good placement.  So then it looked like we weren’t getting them after all.  Hubby was particularly let down, as he had really bonded with the little guys.  I have to admit, I was pretty sad, too.


The boys are not formally in the foster care system – they are distantly related, but their parents are unable to care for them right now.  Other family members had been taking care of them, but did not have the resources to manage over the long term.  Word had leaked out that Hubby and I were taking the initial steps to be foster parents, so we were approached about these two, and agreed to take them for a week and see how things went.  Of course, despite frustrations, things went fairly well, and we agreed to take them.  Until the father intervened, of course.  Realistically, we just aren’t in a position to get into a legal battle over these little guys, especially since they are not wards of the state, and we are not officially foster parents, so therefore, we would have no legal standing whatsoever.


Then, we get a call – could we take the boys again for another week?  Their current caregivers had a situation come up that they just can’t watch them this week.  Of course we could – where else could they possibly go?  So, we have a busy house again.


Then a note, that the father may have changed his mind. Nothing for sure, of course….


Can you say rollercoaster?


Meanwhile, the truck we purchased is partially fixed.  It needed brakes, a new brake line in the back, and a seal replaced, as well as a few minor things like a new battery and some tidying up.  The brakes went pretty well, but we ran into trouble with the brake line, and had to leave it for another week.  I say we, but really, it was our buddy who has done all the work, and he has traveled from a town several hours away for the privilege.  We are unspeakably grateful, and just wish things went smoother, as now he is going to have to drive back in again, to finish it up for us…he has donated a huge amount of his time to us, and I can’t imagine how we will ever manage to return the favor.


So all in all we seem to have a lot of loose ends hanging around here, and no firm answers to be seen…

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