Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back

It has long been my practice on New Year’s Eve to contemplate the events of the preceding year.  This morning I sat on the back deck in the cold winter sun.  The great oak that shelters WeeHavyn with his glorious foliage most of the year stood stark with mighty trunk and twisted branches bare to the cold winds.  The year has marked WeeHavyn in many ways that are easily seen: the newer wood of the extension on the deck, the privacy fence, the clothes line, even the color of WeeHavyn’s walls.  Not so readily apparent in this tranquil cottage are the profound changes that have taken place deep beneath the surface of my life.

I began the year as a new business owner and I experienced a level of freedom I’ve not known since I was a child.  My time has been my own and my fertile mind has used that time for so many interesting projects.  WeeHavyn became not only my home, but my livelihood.  She has sheltered both my business and my life.  With more unstructured time, I set about making WeeHavyn the perfect urban homestead, complete with chickens, meat rabbits, and dairy goats.  The evidence of this goal now stands empty and forlorn.

Just about the time I had everything ready to begin homesteading in earnest, my marriage, the solid foundation of my life for 18 years, buckled and cracked. Raw emotion spewed forth like molten lava from the gaping rift, wiping away every landmark and leaving my life a treacherous, ever shifting wasteland.  I recognized nothing and every time I thought I had found solid ground, the thin crust of normalcy would crack and I would be off balance once again, spinning away on a new wave of seething emotion.  WeeHavyn sat patiently cradling me through sleepless nights, tears, anger, and agony, a steadfast refuge in my churning reality.  

Yet it is not in my nature to remain broken forever.  The chaos faded and I began to rebuild the cracked and charred landscape of my existence.  I have built new paths through the ashes and discovered long neglected friendships, like the intrepid underbrush that thrives in the shadows and dryness of the forest floor, bursting forth in bloom when I needed them the most.  New friendships and loves begin to take root in the wasteland.  Some bloom quickly and beautifully, only to fade away without a trace like the sweet rock roses I used to gather in the mountains, leaving just the small seeds of memories behind.  Others begin with thorny branches that must be handled delicately, but bear tender fruit that nourishes my soul.  Yet others push up with strength and determination wonderful to behold, twining around me like bindweed and holding me close whether I want them to or not.

One is never the same person at the end of any year that they were in the beginning, but the changes are rarely as great as those 2013 has brought me.  Every circumstance in my life is different than I ever imagined it would be.  Yet, through both the pain and joy, I have grown.  Even if it were possible for me to go back to the beginning of the year, I would no longer fit into my old life.  

I don’t believe I’d want to.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rainy Afternoon

We have had an abundance of rainy days this summer in the Ozarks.  Gray skies are been occasionally punctuated with brilliant shafts of sunlight that illuminate an emerald world sparkling with crystal raindrops.  The air is hazy with moisture and my hair curls with wild abandon. 

This morning I awoke to the flash and crack of a strong thunderstorm.  Rain lashed an already soggy landscape and rushing streams carved small gullies in my lawn and down the path to the rabbit cages.  I'm sure all of the grass seed I spread is at the bottom of the hill.

While I have an abundance of outdoor chores, I decided to sew this afternoon rather than brave the mud.  I had purchased a linen dress at the thrift store at some point and it seemed to be perfect for an apron.  The $2 price tag certainly made it economical.  Yet saving money really isn't the point of sewing.  I just spent over $200 on various fabrics for the dresses which will shortly make up my wardrobe (you can see the muslin of that pattern under the apron). 

This afternoon's investment of time and $2 will help keep those more expensive dresses nice.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Paper Dolls

I've decided to pursue a "course of steady reading" as they would have said in earlier days.  I have finished all of Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and L. M. Montgomery and am working on The Scarlet Letter.  Most of these books I have read before, but I find that as I get older, each book means something a little different.  My experiences allow me to see different facets and nuances that I never noticed before and, as any great book can do, reveals something of my innermost longings to me.

I flew through the "Anne of Green Gables" series, hungrily devoured the gentle manners in "Emma", and thoroughly enjoyed Louisa May's perfectly imperfect characters in "Rose in Bloom".  The fact that the "Scarlet Letter" is hard work and I couldn't bear to finish the even first chapter in the pompous "Walden" tells me something about myself.  All of the books I enjoyed conjured charming images of domestic pleasures and society.  They knew their neighbors and had relationships with them.  The art of politeness oiled discourse between those less than fond of each other and tolerance was well honed.  Of course these stories were of the best of situations, but nevertheless, something to strive for.

Our dealings with one another today are very different.  Everyone is so trapped in boxes that there is no time for real people.  We have Facebook friends but few flesh and blood friends.  We connect with Linked In not by looking into someone's eyes.  Everywhere one goes, eyes are glued to screens of smart phones or attention focused on the virtual person at the other end of the phone line and not on anyone who is close enough to see or touch.  We live our lives through impossible, and often reprehensible, characters on television, but ignore the potential for making our own amazing lives.

I find this a very lonely and limited way to live.  While Facebook has its uses, I find it shallow and  highly unsatisfying.  I don't want to only see the best of people for then I must only show them the best of me.  It's as if everyone collects pretty paper dolls that they can just put back into the envelope when they aren't in the mood or are busy with something else.  Real people are flawed and messy.  Relationships are hard work and can bring pain as well as joy.

Bring on the work! Show me your worst as well as the best!  I don't want to go back into the envelope.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Root and Branch

Six weeks have passed since I gently slipped my willow cuttings into WeeHavyn's steep and rocky hillside, dreaming of a lacy fence of intricately twined branches.  During the cool, damp days of Spring, buds swelled and leaves burst forth with green promise.  But as Spring gave way to the dog days of Summer, tiny branches began to wither and brown and the supple green of the cuttings turned to stiff mahogany. Twig and foliage had grown too fast, sucking sustenance from the cutting before roots could burrow and feed.

Yet there is Hope. A few of the cuttings bravely push their supple arms to the sky and promise me their eager children for next year.  I will have my fence yet provided I continue to water my intrepid little trees through the dry heat of July and August while they take on the quiet task of weaving themselves into the fabric of WeeHavyn.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Useful AND Beautiful

I finally finished the milking stand yesterday.  As usual, we're behind schedule when it comes to getting everything ready for the goats.  I used to get upset about this and vow not to even make schedules since they never seemed to be completely successful.  Then I realized that without some sort of schedule, nothing would ever get done and decided that "better late than never"would be my motto. 

I spent a fair amount of time decorating my milk stand so it is pleasing to look at as well as useful.  Perhaps this seems foolish to some.  After all, it's not going to stay perfect and will probably need to be redone eventually.  Yet, this is a tool I am going to be using twice a day for a long time.  By taking the time to paint it and make it pretty, I am showing, if only to myself, my commitment to what I am doing.  This is important stuff to me.

I've never quite understood why "maintenance" is a dirty word these days.  After all, one should spend time on the things one considers important.  The home that shelters me, the car that takes me where I need to go, the animals that feed us are all worthy of my time and attention.  While I don't enjoy every part of taking care of these things, I am grateful that I have them and try to show this by investing the most precious thing I have... my limited amount of time on this earth. 

What's important to you?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Drying Day

We have had a week of dog days in the Ozarks.  The air seemed to cling to my skin, heavy and damp and everything became slow and quiet in the oppressive heat.  True to my resolution of not using the clothes dryer, I've been hanging my laundry out even though it has taken much longer to dry.  Not even the night with its twinkling display of fireflies brought relief.

Then came a cold front in an unbridled display of lightning and wind.  Fierce rain beat leaf and branch, sparing only the supple and strong while leaving the weak scattered among gnarled roots.   Yet the storm left paradise in its violent wake.  Cotton clouds chased each other through today's sea blue sky.  A playful breeze stroked the leaves into a joyous dance.  It was a perfect drying day.

As I pinned a succession of socks, shirts, and sheets to the line, I reflected on how cut off from our surroundings we have become.  In the name of comfort and convenience we have shut ourselves away from the world outside.  We slip quickly from heated or cooled home to climate-controlled car.  Instead of enjoying the array of beauty each season displays, we try to create sameness.  We spare ourselves some discomfort in this pursuit, but what are we giving up?  Is comfort worth missing the glowing dance of fireflies on a hot summer night, the glittering lace of frost on buff winter grass, or the shy faces of new violets on a rainy spring morning?

In our search for comfort and sameness, do we also shut ourselves away from each other?  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Finally a Fence!!

A New Look for WeeHayvn
A very big piece of our Urban Homesteading puzzle was completed yesterday.  We finally have the fence that will be the foundation of our livestock keeping activities.  In very much the same way that WeeHavyn defines our indoor lifestyle, this fence will define how everything works outside.  It's shape will create "rooms" for various activities and it's size limits the number of animals we can keep.  While some people might resent a built-in limitation, I welcome it.  I have a tendency toward excess when it comes to critters and am glad for anything that will curb that even a little.

The Rabbit Shelter will run along the fence here.

One thing about a farm of any size.  As soon as one project is completed, another begins.  I still have to build a shed for the goats, a roof for the permanent rabbit cage site, and we need to finish extending the deck.  Sometimes it's so easy to get lost in what still needs to be done that I forget how much we've already accomplished at WeeHavyn.  I have to sternly tell myself we are making progress and, while no home is ever truly "done", there will come a day when I can spend more time in a hammock and less with a shovel.
Two of the goat shed walls are already done!
 Here's to that day!

In the meantime, I'm off to find the shovel.

This is where the goats will live.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Deliberating the Dryer

Three Loads!

We truly live in a time of wonders.  Many of the things we simply take for granted would have been unimaginable 100 years ago and would probably have been attributed to witchcraft 200 years ago.  So many tasks that would have to be done with hours of physical toil are delegated to a machine left to itself and forgotten. Yet we are so accustomed to relying on them, we never even question whether they are actually necessary.  Now I'm not saying modern appliances are all bad.  I'm very grateful for my refrigerator and my front-loading washer is wonderful.  Inevitably though, less than essential appliances insinuate themselves into our lives, perhaps saving time, but taking up space and energy. 

My clothes dryer is one appliance I question.  True, it is incredibly handy, allowing me to do laundry with no planning ahead, no matter what the weather outside is like.  Still, I can't help but doubt my true need of it.  After all, I think most of the days I do laundry are nice enough to hang clothes out in the clean air and healthy sunshine.  Using the dryer heats the house unpleasantly in the summer and although the heat is welcome in the winter, it isn't really efficient.  Finally, the dryer takes up space.  When you live in a 488 square foot house, space is at a premium.  Yet, I've made no effort to set anything up so I can hang my clothes outside.

Until now....

Once the Railing is up, I'll have to change my hanging method.
I purchased an umbrella style clothes line and it has been installed on the unfinished deck just 10 steps from the washing machine.  While I'm excited about having sweet air dried sheets, I know just having the line there won't be enough to get me to use it.  Habits are hard to break and I've simply thrown my clothes into the dryer without thinking about it for a long time.  So I've decided to give myself a year to see if it's feasible to send the dryer packing and use that space for more necessary things.  A strip of tape will seal the dryer door and a journal will hang on the wall next to it.  I'll note the date and reason (poor planning, emergency, bad weather, etc.) I'm using the dryer.  Having to break that seal and write down why will force me to THINK about what I'm doing.

Autopilot no longer allowed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Ending is a Beginning

The Garden Barrel has witnessed another ending.  The Golden Sweet Peas have traveled through their seasons from the sweet round leaves of  tender seedling, the wildly grasping tendrils and trembling bloom of adolescence, slowly plumping golden pods of middle age, and finally the glorious ripening of full maturity.  It is now time for them to give way, leaving dying roots behind to loosen and enrich the soil for the next crop and providing carefully saved seeds for later needs.

Like everything in nature, this ending is also the beginning.  When the peas began to bloom, I nestled a snap bean seed or two in each of their pockets to keep them company.  The beans are now leaving their own childhood, bearing flawless purple blooms like a proud badge of maidenhood.  Soon tiny green husks will push their way from blooms grown pale and ragged, growing into sweet snap beans.  Like the peas, their season will also end and seeds saved from the best and strongest plants.

Thus life spirals on....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Precious Gems

It is strange to think that something we tend to value so highly is really only worth anything during times of surplus.  Gems are beautiful, but ask a starving person whether they'd rather have rubies or potatoes and I can guess their answer.  Especially if everyone around them is also starving.  The same comparison would work for diamonds and water.  Both are clear and sparkling, but only one actually fulfills any real need.

I have found some "gems" that are both beautiful and useful no matter how dire the circumstances.  They are an heirloom corn called "Glass Gem" and they really do sparkle like emeralds, sapphires, and rubies.  One can almost imagine a string of these lovely kernels gracing the slender neck of a young Indian maiden as she gives thanks for the year's crops.

Yet despite their resemblance to traditional jewels, which after all are mere rocks, these "gems" are far more valuable.  They can be ground into meal and flour for sweet nourishing food.  They can be buried in the earth and will bring forth abundance.  They store well and will feed the hungry during the lean times of early spring when the Earth has not yet woken from her winter sleep.  Perhaps most important, they hold the all genetic variation lost to our modern field corn.  This is not a corn that bends her will to uniformity and industrial cultivation.

As I look at the slender young stalks stretching eagerly toward the warm sun, I think about how these gems cannot to be hoarded, but must shared with all who wish to grow their own Jewels.  In this sharing, true wealth is created.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sack of Potatoes

I love potatoes.  I think a crispy baked potato smothered in real butter, shredded cheddar cheese, and hot wing sauce and liberally sprinkled with hot, crispy bacon pieces is a perfect meal.  My ultimate comfort food is potatoes sliced thin and fried with bacon and onions.  The heavenly aroma fills the house long before I get to dish up the crispy, brown potatoes making the wait an exquisite agony.

As much as I enjoy potatoes, WeeHavyn isn't the best place to grow them.  Our steep slopes, non-existent soil, and the unfriendly black walnut tree in the center of the yard make container growing essential for most garden crops, potatoes included.  After seeing several posts on growing potatoes in bags, I decided to create my own version.. the GunniGarden. 

So how many potatoes can you get from one plant?  I'm about to find out.  Since it was a little late when I finally got my GunniGardens finished, all the locally available potato sets were already gone.  In interests of time, I decided to purchase some small red potatoes for eating.  Now this is a risky proposition for growing as a lot of these potatoes have been treated to prevent sprouting.  Still, I planted several sets in the bottom of two different GunniGardens and one came up in each.  I've been filling the bag with soil as they shoot up to encourage the plants to make potatoes all along the 33" stem. 

I think the GunniGarden will be an ideal environment for potatoes.  The soil drains well, yet doesn't dry out and I can cover it easily when the potatoes get to the point where I don't want them watered.  The bags are inexpensive and easy to replace so I can just slit the side and let soil and potatoes fall onto a tarp where the soil can be amended for next season and the potatoes will be recovered unblemished by any ill placed shovel.

I look forward to crisp Autumn days with a plate of crisp fried potatoes, sweet caramelized onions, and savory bacon.....

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Getting Ready For Rabbits

It was a lovely day in the Ozarks.  A cool breeze wafted gently through the open windows of WeeHavyn this morning, bringing the joyful song of birds as my only alarm clock.  I lay under my quilt and took in deep breaths of sweet summer air, quietly contemplating how best to accomplish the tasks I had set for myself.  The Glass Gem corn I had planted in our community garden plots needed tending, the milk stand for my Kinder goats is in progress, and, most important of all, I need to build one more rabbit cage.

The rabbits are coming!!  After six months of anticipation, it is finally time to go and pick up my Silver Fox rabbits.  I'm getting two young bucks and two young does.  I may even be lucky enough to come home with a blue one!

The Finished Doe Cage with Under Floor Nest Boxes
These four rabbits, which we have named Romeo, Oberon, Titania, and Juliet, are going to be the foundation of our meat production plans.  In my opinion, rabbits have some very notable advantages over chickens for small scale and urban meat production.  They are practically silent, very efficient, and produce a manageable number of offspring so we won't need a huge freezer.  They are also cleaner to process (no feathers to blow everywhere) and produce lovely furs that can be used for clothing, crafts and blankets. 

Perhaps now is a good time to talk a little about Silver Fox rabbits and why I chose them.  They are a fairly rare, but recovering, heritage dual purpose breed.  They are a large meaty rabbit, but also have beautiful fur reminiscent of the silver fox.  They are born black (or blue) and their coat gradually gets silver hairs as they get older.  They are supposed to have a calm temperament, but any who has ever been around animals knows there is a lot of variation within any particular breed.  I think they are very beautiful and worth preserving.  Having animals requires a lot of work and time.  I make it a point to keep animals I enjoy.

The Buck Cage almost finished!
The corn got tended and a few more pieces of the milk stand are attached.  The second rabbit cage is almost finished.

Tomorrow, I'll be ready!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Strawberry Harvest

June has come to us clad in her rich green cloak trimmed with the frothy white of Queen Anne's Lace.  The humble yellow and white flowers of honeysuckle sweetly perfume the air while their vines scramble toward the sun.  Warm nights showcase the first tentative twinklings of amorous fireflies.

While early June may seem a time of plenty at first glance, garden produce can be rather scarce.  A few very hot days in May resulted in bolting lettuce and bitter radicchio, although the ruby stemmed Swiss chard stands resolute.  The filling pea pods hang heavy on the vine, but are not quite ready yet.  Tomato plants begin to put on spidery yellow blooms and round swellings on the bean plants hint at the harvest to come.

There is one very welcome early June crop, however.  Deep crimson strawberries hang heavy from their stems in my Garden Barrels.  These are first year plants, but are bearing quite heavily.  Every other day, I pick a pound or so of sweet living rubies and tuck what I don't eat still warm from the sun carefully into the freezer so I can enjoy the sweetness of June again in December.  It has been a joy to pick clean, perfectly formed berries that never touch the ground while still standing on my own two feet.  I have not had to pull a single weed, either.  My only chore for this harvest has been to turn the drip system on every other day, and clip the determined runners from the plants so they can put their energy into bearing.  I will only take daughter plants from the best producers, and I don't know which ones they are yet.

As the warm days of June meander into the heat of July, the garden's bounty will ebb and flow in an ever-changing tide.  The peas will come and go just as the beans are ready to harvest.  Tomatoes and peppers will bloom, swell, and ripen.  Herbs will put out their fragrant leaves to be harvested and dried for winter. 

How can anyone with a garden ever be bored??

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Long Planned but Finally Begun

It has been many years since I first discovered the "fedge" which is simply a hedge plant, generally willow, pruned and grafted to become a tightly woven fence.  Done correctly, each separate plant in the fedge joins so tightly to the others they become one large plant.  The stem of one can be cut and yet the top will continue to live, fed and watered by its siblings in the line.  I have longed to create such an amazing feature which combines art and nature.  Yet the time or place has never been quite right for such a complex undertaking.

Until WeeHavyn.

Like most of my projects, a fedge will serve several purposes at WeeHavyn.  First and foremost, it will define our west lawn in a way that is both natural and beautiful, complimenting our small cottage.  Second, the abundant trimmings produced whilst shaping and maintaining the fence will provide nutritious food for the rabbits and goats.  Willow is high in protein and minerals and is highly palatable to browsers.  Third, it will stabilize the steep slope of our lawn.  Finally, the fedge will provide many starts for anyone else who wishes to do this.  Willows are very determined growers.  One merely needs to take a small trimming and put it in moist soil for it to sprout and grow.  I love the idea of being able to share both my willow and my experiences.

For now, my embryonic fedge looks like nothing more than a curved row of straw held down by wire panels.  The starts barely rise above the straw and one must look very closely to see the tiny green buds swelling against the smooth, buff colored stems.  Soon the long slim leaves will uncurl and supple stems will stretch to the sun, waiting to be twined into whatever shape I can imagine for the fence. 

We should all be so flexible.........

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tale of a Chicken Coop

While many people would consider WeeHavyn's small size to be a disadvantage, I find it a wonderful challenge and a blessing.  I love finding ways to make the most of each square foot of either house or lawn.  It's even better than a rubix cube (which I freely admit to pulling the stickers off of).  It also guards from my tendency to go overboard.  If three chickens are good, thirty must be better, right?

The best way to make the most of WeeHavyn is to use everything for more than one purpose and the chicken coop is no different.  Since the back yard is narrow, dark, and steep, it's not terribly useful.  A very small deck, serving as a sort of fire escape, sits behind the house.  It's too small to really be useful as it is, so we've decided to expand it in two stages.  The first stage of expansion has become the chicken coop.  The outside corner of the new deck will also be the support for an umbrella clothesline as there just isn't anywhere else at WeeHavyn without trees.

The deck expansion took one day, with the exception of the railings.  The coop, chicken house, and nest box took two more days.  I expect the railing and painting will take another day.  Maybe two since I want to get fancy with the paint..

Hmm... I think I need another chicken.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tying Loose Ends

My first unfinished project finished
One of my great personal failings is I tend to collect projects.  Where other people collect dolls or plates, my life is cluttered with things begun, but never finished.  The result of this is that I can never quite relax.  These little unfinished tasks prod my conscience any time I am idle.  Nothing is ever done because these things haven't been finished.

I have decided that this summer I am going to take back the joy of just playing I had when I was a child.  I remember long days of flitting from one joy to another without a care.  I lost that somewhere along the way, buried under all these things that "need to be done". 

So I have begun the sorting process.  I'm making a list and checking it twice.  What NEEDS to be done?  What can be abandoned, sent to the thrift store, or given away?  This process is much like the downsizing we did when we moved into the woods. 

After all... Projects are things too.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Of Planting Strawberries

Sunday was glorious here in the Ozarks.  It was a perfect Spring day from the moment the Sun crept over the horizon, gently nudging me awake, to his tender farewell amid balmy breezes.  The trees are wakening and one can almost feel the energy of them pulsing as buds swell and leaves push their way into the beckoning sunlight.  Dryad that I am, I spent a moment welcoming each one back from his or her long winter nap.
Lettuce, Spinach, and Kale for Spring Salads

Amid joyous birdsong and gentle breezes, it was impossible for me to keep still.  One hundred strawberry plants slumbered gently in my refrigerator, only needing the touch of soil, warmth of the Sun, and a drink of water to awaken and fan their frilly leaves at the bright blue sky.  I buzzed about finishing up my second Garden Barrel.  The first has long been planted with lettuce, chard, and spinach.  Yet these cool weather plants, happy even when frost still sprinkles it diamonds upon leaf and branch, are not as satisfying as strawberries who bear the anticipation of sweet summer delights.

It was late afternoon before the tiles were laid level and the barrel was filled with rich potting soil.  I brought out fifty plants and teased them gently apart.  Each plant was carefully trimmed, laid in its pocket, and tucked in as gently as a child at bedtime.  It doesn't look like much yet, but fifty-two strawberry plants will soon awaken to flirt with the World, sending siren songs to bees with pure white blossoms and to me with crimson berries.

I have given them soil and water and worms, the Sun must do the rest.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Little At a Time

We have had a few additions to our family this week.  Three Easter Egger chickens, Beatrice, Hermia, and Helena, have joined us.  They are beautifully marked young ladies and have started laying lovely green tinted eggs, just in time for Easter!

I am only getting one smallish pullet egg a day so far, but when I think about it, that's seven eggs a week!  Since we generally go through a dozen or so every couple of weeks, it's the perfect amount for us.  I do find it hard to use them though, since they are so pretty.....

It seems like such a little thing, just an egg a day magically created from a little wheat Fodder and our kitchen scraps.  Still, it's one not so small step toward where we want to be.  Really the only way to get anywhere is just one step at a time.

So often I hear people talking about a fantastic "someday" far into the uncertain future. "Someday we'll have a farm with a milk cow, chickens, pigs, and a huge garden.  Then we'll really be self -sufficient".

But why wait until "someday" when there are so many things you can do right now?  Grow some tomatoes, keep a few chickens or rabbits, share a garden plot with a friend, find your local community garden, or all of these.  Self-sufficiency doesn't have to start with a full on farming experience.  Every skill you learn gives you confidence and gets you ready for the next thing.  Knowledge is the one thing that really belongs to you.

 Take one step after another and you may find your "someday" is right were you are!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Snow and Silence

Our White Christmas came three months too late.  After two days of dire threats of a terrible snow storm, fluffy flakes began to gently drift to the ground on Friday afternoon.  Everything became still and hushed, the birds and squirrels snugly tucked away among the tangled branches of the hedgerows.  The usual sounds of traffic were absent since everyone had rushed home at noon to avoid slick roads.

As I sat there watching the snow gather on branches and cover my spring flowers in this unusual silence, I thought about how some noises are deemed acceptable in town and others are not.  The roar of a motorcycle, a screaming siren, or the wail of the train horn blowing go unnoticed where the crow of a rooster or the bleat of a baby goat would, at the very least, be a cause for attention.

There was a time when it was allowed, even encouraged, for each and every person to provide what they could for themselves.  Thousands of eggs, tons of fresh vegetables, and gallons of milk were produced, consumed, and shared in the backyards of homes everywhere.  This food was cheaper and healthier on every level from the personal to the ecological.  After all, how can the carrot from a thousand miles away possibly be better than the carrot next door?

Unfortunately, today's views and laws make it difficult to return to this gentler and more sustainable way to produce food.  We, as a population, have become so removed from our food that many of us don't know where it comes from and we like it that way.  "No smelly, loud animals for us, thank you.  No untidy gardens in the front yard.  We're civilized and the "hippies" who want to do those things can just move to the country."

Is that really true?  Can we move to the country?  As we discovered during our adventures in Hedgewyck and Thistleglade, rural living is not necessarily sustainable either.  We used so much energy and many resources to maintain ourselves out there that we don't need to use here.  We are close to everything, including neighbors to share any extra we may have (there's always extra on a farm, no matter how small).  How is having two goats different than having two Great Danes?  There will be no barking at night and one doesn't have to worry about getting bitten... although the rose bushes aren't safe.  Do chickens smell more than the semi truck blowing black clouds of exhaust into the air?

It's probably bringing you that carrot from a thousand miles away.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sick Day

I've come down with the dreaded almost-spring cold.  I knew it was coming.  That horrible tickle started in the back of my throat Saturday morning and spread up to my nose by afternoon.  Sometimes it stops there and I get better, but not this time.  I got the full blown, shivery skin, aching head, Kleenex scattered around like snow cold.

This is pretty much how I felt all weekend...
This is the first time I've been sick in a long time.  Of course it would happen on a weekend, but since I work for myself now, weekday or weekend is pretty meaningless.  I still managed to make some changes to my website and work on a couple of articles in between sneezes and naps.  Keeping busy doesn't keep me from being miserable, it just keeps me from thinking about it so much.

I feel better today and, while I don't think I'll be running any marathons, I did have the strength this morning to at least pick up the drifts of Kleenex. 

Maybe another nap though......

Monday, January 28, 2013

Spring's First Breath

What an incredible day!  I sit here writing with every window in WeeHavyn wide open, feeling the clean moist air waft past me as it chases away winter's stuffiness.  Unable to stay inside against the siren call of spring, I spent a few minutes tidying up the mint pots.  The fresh smell of mint rose from dead brown stems as I clipped them, inspiring memories of last summer's cool drinks.  Under the crackling cover of leaves, tender green shoots form dainty rosettes as they wait for the time to shoot forth with the wanton abandon only a mint plant can display.

This is a day to revel in, for I know that it is but one part of the breath of Spring.  Soon She will exhale and the cold will come again.  But today I will be as a child, living only in the moment and forgetting there was ever a Winter time.  I will dance among the tiny blue flowers pushing their faces toward the sun.

Today, there is only Spring.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Additions

Well, it's official.  My new Silver Fox rabbits are purchased and will be with us in April.  I am starting with two does and two bucks.  They will be 12 weeks old, which will give them some time to get used to both their new home and their new caretaker (me) before it's time to breed them.  I've decided to go with a Shakespeare theme with names at WeeHavyn so they will be Romeo, Juliet, Titania, and Oberon.  True to form, and much to my husband's amusement, I've decided I must have fancy name tags for each cage.

Silver Fox rabbits are a heritage breed that was selected for both meat and lovely fur.  They have an excellent meat to bone ratio and grow up to 11 pounds.  They are born black and gradually get their silvering as they get older.  Their fur looks very much like Silver Fox (hence the name Silver Fox), and it was hoped they would replace them in the fur market.

So in the spirit of "Urban Farming", I decided I should be prepared for my critters.  This is a bit of a departure from my usual style of getting an animal and THEN scrambling to accommodate it.  However; when you have livestock in a populated place like WeeHavyn, it's very important to be considerate of one's neighbors. 

I started building cages last week.  We seem to have one really nice day and then 3 or 4 cold and nasty ones so I've been spending the pleasant days outside building my first cage.  I got the basic idea from an old Peace Corps bulletin.  I added some in-floor nest boxes and we're ready to go!

I'm back in the Farming Business!!