Monday, December 21, 2015

20 Weeks of Food Storage - Week 2

Week 2 - 20 Pounds of Pinto Beans (plus a bucket) - $22.41
Running Total - $38.02

One thing you will find missing from my 20 weeks of food storage list is wheat.  One reason for this is that the list is intended to be easy to follow, without requiring expensive, specialized equipment.  The second is simply because I have bought whole wheat and ground our flour for quite a while.  Wheat is one of the most well-known disaster preparation foods and there are some very good reasons for this.  Even at $36 per 50 pound bag, wheat packs a huge nutritional punch for your money.  Wheat is incredibly easy to store, requiring just good airtight containers placed somewhere with reasonable temperatures.  It can be stored for very long periods of time with little loss of nutritional value.  Wheat can be made into many dishes from hot crusty bread to luscious egg noodles.  It seems like wheat’s the perfect way to go.  But there is an issue.....

While wheat berries can be cooked and eaten in unprocessed form as a sort of cereal, almost anything else requires that it be ground to various consistencies.  You can make cracked wheat or farina (Cream of Wheat) in a food processor, but for bread, tortillas, and noodles you must have a grinder specifically designed for flour.  Also, for it to be useful in a disaster situation where electricity may not be available, it must be able to be used as a hand grinder.  

I have owned two different hand grinders.  My first grinder was the “Cadillac” of hand grinders, the Country Living mill.  This is a quite expensive mill that starts at $429 with no options.  It is very sturdy, all metal with a powder coated finish.  It comes standard with the pulley wheel so you can motorize it and uses steel burrs.  It can only be used for dry grains, no oily seeds.  It grinds fairly easily by hand, but you know you’ve earned your bread by the time you have enough flour for it.  It produces up to very fine flour.  I found it rather difficult to take apart and clean with a strong spring that had to go back in just right.  Personal circumstances forced the sale of this mill a couple of years ago.

My second mill is the Wonder Junior Deluxe mill.  It is a little less than half the price of the Country Living mill at $219.  This price does not include the pulley for motorizing, but you can obtain that for an additional $49.  The Junior Deluxe is also all metal and has a powder coated finish.  It comes with a set of stone burrs for flour and steel burrs for grinding oily seeds such as nuts for nut butters.  It grinds very fine flower with the stone burrs and takes similar effort to do the grinding as my first mill.  It is smaller than the Country Living Mill and has the most ingenious clamp that allows you to move it easily.  It is also very easy to clean. Either one of these mills is an excellent choice.

Once you have your mill, start using it!  Storing wheat does you no good if you don’t know how to cook with it.  By grinding your own flour, you are learning how much time and energy it takes to supply yourself with what you need for regular cooking.  Be sure only to grind enough for the day, or at most the next few days.  Freshly ground flour is a whole food and the oils will go rancid in a short time.  It does not keep forever like store bought flour that has had all the oil (and nearly all of the nutrients) removed so it will store indefinitely.  Your favorite recipes may need to be adjusted a bit when using fresh whole wheat flour and you will notice foods baked with fresh ground flour have a distinctly different flavor, much richer than store-bought.   

The best food storage plan is one where you use all of the things you are storing as part of your regular routine.  An emergency is not a good time to drastically change the way you cook or eat.  Of course you want to replace things as you use them, but this ensures that nothing in your store gets outdated or old.  It will also allow you to see what you are storing, but don’t use.  Get rid of those things (maybe a local food bank would like them) so you have more space to store what you do use.  This way, if the need arises, you won’t have to worry about “What’s for Dinner

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Living Fence....Again

One of the most important tasks in Micro/Urban homesteading is learning to see everything has multiple uses.  There simply isn't space here for anything that just has one purpose.  You may remember that I attempted a willow "fedge" or living fence several summers ago.  While the essential idea was sound, my choice of plants wasn't appropriate for WeeHavyn. It is dry up here and willow likes wet feet. 

Yet I am determined to have my living fence.  I adore the idea of a woven row of trees, intertwined in an intricate network of branches.  It is a fence that does not require the digging of post holes, an arduous task in our rocky soil, and repairs itself with proper care.  A fedge is, by its very nature, multipurpose.  Not only will it serve as a property boundary, but provides habitat for insects and birds.  Depending on the type of tree planted, it may also produce fruit and fodder for livestock.  I had chosen willow with the idea of feeding the nutritious prunings to the goats and rabbits.  My new choice provides even more....

Today I ordered 100 seedlings of native red mulberry for my new fence, to be delivered in February.  I chose mulberry for several reasons.  Mulberry leaves are extremely high in protein and very palatable to livestock.  After all, it doesn't matter how nutritious the food is if the animals won't eat it.  I coppiced one of the wild mulberries in our hedgerow last Spring and the goats ate the resulting sprouts like candy all Summer.  While some of these seedlings will  be male and won't produce any berries, mulberries can be quite tasty and each tree will be a little different.  The downside... mulberry bird droppings stain!

Since I have not been able to find an example of anyone actually using mulberry to do this, I do have some concerns.... 
  • How will a tree that wants to grow up to 50 feet react to being kept at around 4 feet high?
    • Judging from the trees in the median, they should be fine.  These trees are mowed several times a year and seem to just put out new shoots and take it all in stride.
  •  Will I be able to graft the branches together to make a strong, integrated fedge?  
    • I would like my fedge to be tight enough to keep the dog in.  I know if you scrape the bark of a willow branch and tie the wounded parts together, the branches will graft into one tree.  I'm not sure mulberry will do this, but I guess we'll find out!
  • Will the severe pruning keep the trees from fruiting?  
    • While this isn't a deal-breaker, I would like fruit from the fedge.  Mulberries are highly variable in fruit taste and quality.  We have one volunteer mulberry tree that has tiny fruit with an amazing sweet-wild flavor and one with huge, almost tasteless fruit.  I'm curious to see what fruit variations would come of the fedge.
 Despite any misgivings, I am going to take the plunge and just try it for myself.  The only way to know for sure is to do it.  I'm brushing up on espaliering techniques and grafting so I'll have some idea of what to do once the seedlings get large enough to do anything with.  Mulberry is very fast growing (some consider it a weed and you know how I love those!), so there should be some semblance of a fedge by this Autumn.  After all....nothing ventured, nothing gained! 

What do you think, would you do this?

Monday, December 14, 2015

20 Weeks of Food Storage - Week 1

Week 1 - 20 pounds of rice (plus a bucket to keep it dry and free of pests) -$15.61

I have always had good intentions of developing an organized food storage plan.  But....it just never seemed to happen.  Even though we are working on producing a lot of our own food, there will always be many things that we lack the room or climate to grow.  WeeHavyn is more suitable for livestock products such as eggs, meat, and dairy.  We are working on a perennial garden and have the Garden Barrels and GunniGardens for annual vegetables and potatoes, but there is simply no room for bulk crops such as grain or beans.

I consider myself an optimist.  While I definitely see changes happening in the next few years, I think they will ultimately be changes for the better.  Yet I know that some of these things may be painful for the unprepared.  I'm not "prepping" for the end of the world.  I dislike that word as it tends to have an "every man for himself" connotation, a sure recipe for disaster. Rather, I am cushioning us from shocks or sudden changes. I have great faith that we posses the good sense and skills to overcome most any trouble, but it would be nice not to have to shop amid the panic of an ice storm threatening or something else unexpected.


With this in mind, I've decided to become systematic about our food storage.  I've created a checklist based on this article: 20 Items to Kick Start Your Food Storage Plan.  I found the article sensible and easy to follow.  I believe I will end up spending an average of $20 per week on this plan, for a total of about $400.  Each week I will highlight what I purchased for the plan and how much I spent.  By the end of 20 weeks I should have a respectable food storage program and a grand total of what it costs.

Do you have a food storage plan?  Why or why not?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

According to His Nature...

The photo of Hank with his nose on the chicken on last week's blog post has inspired questions about how I taught him to get along with something he might instead consider to be dinner.  I'd have to say that it's about half nature and half nurture.  Hank has a calm, gentle disposition.  He is obedient, eager to please, and has always been easy to train. I can take no credit for this.

The nurture part I can take some credit for.  Because pitbulls have a vicious reputation at the present moment, I decided when I rescued Hank that he would be a good representative for his breed.  I began his training the first day I got him, and have carefully established and maintained my dominance in our "pack".  We went to obedience class when he was a puppy.  However; I think the most important part of his training is that he was NEVER allowed to roughhouse with anyone or chase anything.  I know it's fun to wrestle and "mock fight" with a puppy.   But, they soon grow up and this "game" gets much less fun.  If Hank has something in his mouth I want, he's to give it to me and tug games would teach him the opposite. 

All that being said, while Hank is a very good dog, I never leave him unattended with the livestock.  He is still a predator and they are all prey animals.  He did not grow up with livestock (he was two before we got the goats and the chickens came later than that).  When I am out there, he looks to me as pack leader for direction.  He mimics how I behave with the livestock.  But I have no doubt that if he was left alone with only his deepest instincts to guide him, he would soon be having chicken dinner.  Even when I am there, there are moments that a sudden move or loud cackle will pique his interest.  His demeanor will change and I can see the hunter there, right beneath the surface. 

That is his nature....

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Making the Most of It

We had a really pretty weekend, sunny temps in the upper 50's.  It feels more like late October than the first week of December.  I'm not complaining though, as it certainly makes outside projects much more pleasant to work on.  We have a LOT of outside projects right now.

The livestock part of WeeHavyn is always changing.  Animals come and go, pens are built and moved in an attempt to make the most efficient use of space.  I find that you can plan and plan, but until you start using your setup, you just don't really know how it's going to work out.  Rosey did not go back into heat last week, so we said goodbye to Pepe.  I had never intended to have a buck goat at WeeHavyn, but when it became obvious that it was going to be necessary, we knew it would be for as short an amount of time as possible.  Once his job was done, Pepe found a new home.

We've decided that having the chicken pen under the deck isn't working well.  True, it's very secure, and was easy to build, but it is dark and cold and the hens infinitely prefer running in the sunshine out in the goat yard.  Besides, I need somewhere to store a year's worth of hay.  The chicken house will be moved into the goat pen, behind the new cedar fence that is currently under construction.  We've also decided to try having a rooster.  Our Salmon Faverolles are incredibly quiet and docile.  Not even our dog, Hank, seems to ruffle them much.  We're hoping that the rooster will be similarly quiet and we can have sweet baby chicks this spring.

We are trying to do a great deal in very little space.  This means everything must have multiple uses.  The deck serves and emergency exit, warm weather hangout, framework for the chicken pen, cooking area, and clothes line.  The new fence will also serve several purposes.  It will act as a windbreak for the chicken/goat enclosure, the east wall and support of the milking shed, the right side of the milking stand, and the back wall of the rabbitry.  Our goal is to have our set up as robust, easy, and low maintenance as possible.

I'm so excited!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tucked in for the Winter

There was a hard frost this morning and I had to scrape the glittering crust from my windshield before heading off for my run at the gym.  The breeze is icy.  Even the sunlight has taken on a cold silver hue.  Winter has come at last. In this season of quiet sleep, I often chafe at what seems to be a complete stasis of all our projects, even though I know there is quiet growth deep within....the results of which will burst forth with a vigor impossible without this time of dormancy.  This is a yearly battle for me, to be patient and accept this rest and refreshment as the blessing it is rather than simply an impediment to my plans.

The plants are also tucked away for a quiet winter's nap.  I have pruned the hardy kiwi's all the way back to a single 3" stem in each pot, knowing they will shoot eagerly from a strong, mature root system next Spring.  I may have delayed fruiting by a year, but I have changed my mind about the way I wanted them twined on the trellis.  So next summer, the kiwis will be carefully trained to my new plan.  The pots are filled with crisp, fluffy maple leaves to hold moisture and protect the plants from drying winds.

The strawberry barrels also received an unusual bit of pampering this year.  I replaced the Ozark Beauty plants this spring with the more hardy Jewel and Ft. Laramie varieties and promptly left them to fend for themselves during a very dry summer.  The third that survived are obviously the hardiest of the bunch and I used runners from these plants to fill in the empty pockets.  Thus far I have not had the best of luck keeping the plants alive during the winter.  I do not believe it is simply the cold, strawberries are very shallow rooted plants and freeze solid in most climates, but rather that the plants dry out in the well drained barrels.  So this year I've tried tucking partially decomposed straw (the remnants of my failed straw bale beds)  in each pocket to protect the exposed crowns from drying out.  Hopefully that works, but there's only one way to find out.

Perhaps I'll even remember to water them during a few winter thaws...


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Waiting Game

The sun has finally peeked out from behind the clouds this morning after 4 days of gloom and rain.  The air smells delightfully of damp soil and a gentle breeze amuses itself by teasing the last few leaves from the tree branches.  The grass seed I planted in October now grows thick and glows brilliantly green through the drab colors of the fallen leaves.  Life is good.

Waiting seems to be an inevitable part of living close to Nature.  Everything has its own time and cannot be hurried.  Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter come and go in an unending spiral of frenzied growth, quiet maturity, and rest.  Plants grow, bear fruit, and die.  It may be possible to force a change in these patterns, one can indeed, grow strawberries in December.  But the cost is so very high.  What Mother Nature provides freely in her own time, light, warmth, and moisture, must be supplied with a great deal of work and energy.  Is it worth it?  Perhaps we should thoroughly enjoy the dew-kissed ruby fruit in Summer and learn the joy of anticipation the rest of the year.  Each season has its flavor, sweet asparagus, crisp greens, and tart rhubarb in Spring, the dizzying abundance of flavor and texture in Summer and Autumn, and hearty squash, sweet carrots, and savory potatoes in Winter.

Today is an important day for Rosey, although I doubt she is at all concerned.  So maybe I should say it is an important day for me.  Today is the day she should go back into heat if she wasn't bred three weeks ago.  Of course she had to tease me last night, crying loudly and asking for more food.  My heart sank with the thought that perhaps she wasn't just asking for food.  But this morning she showed no more interest in Pepe than usual.  Of course, she may change her mind tomorrow, but I'm very hopeful. 

After all... baby goats and fresh creamy cheese are worth the wait!



Friday, November 27, 2015

Weeds in the Window

It is a wet, gray November day in the Ozarks.  Despite its gloomy appearance, the air is warm and mild, a little odd for this time of year.  It seems strange that we dug post holes on Thanksgiving Day in nothing but a long sleeved shirt, yet that's just what we did.  The purpose of those post holes is the subject for another blog...

Today, as the first day of Winter rapidly approaches, I found myself with my fingers in the soil, making a huge mess and gently cradling plants in their new home.  Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time at all know I am not blessed with a green thumb.  Plants don't holler when they need food or water like the goats do, so they tend to just quietly fade away in the windowsill.  Yet it is this time of year that I desperately need to be reminded that Spring will come.   I decided today I was going to replace my dead houseplants and bring a little green back into WeeHavyn.

 With my track record for houseplants, it seems silly to spend money on them.  Besides, I like useful plants and am much more likely to take care of something that serves a purpose.  So...I went hunting for edible weeds.  We had a very hard frost last week so I figured anything left alive is probably pretty hardy...a definite bonus in my house.  Spade in hand, I poked through the soggy leaves until I found the bright flashes of green of what I was looking for.  I came in with a dandelion, some wild onions, a chicory plant (I'll admit I thought it was a dandelion before I examined it more closely), a violet, and some miner's lettuce.  Each plant was carefully trimmed, and lovingly nestled into its pot with a sprinkling of "goat berries" for fertilizer.

I'm well aware that none of these plants are going to provide enough food to make any kind of dent in the food bill.  Yet, there's something so very satisfying in clipping a few leaves to add to a winter salad. 

I think that kind of satisfaction is just as nourishing as the salad.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hanging Out

Yesterday was a beautiful Ozark Fall day. 
A warm, playful breeze teased the few leaves still stubbornly clinging to the trees, encouraging them to make that final leap.  A gentle sun sent crisscrossing spiderwebs glittering and warmed my skin.  It was a perfect day for just hanging out at WeeHaven and giving heartfelt thanks for all the wonderful things in my life.

I turned the hens out into the goat pen today and thoroughly enjoyed their antics as they scratched through the leaves with the enthusiasm of a 4 year old child hunting for Easter eggs.  The goats watched the flying leaves in a most dignified manner, while daintily picking out the tastiest leaves for themselves.

I am rethinking where I put the henhouse.  True, it is very well protected, but being under the deck on the north side of the house, it is rather dark and damp.  The girls enjoy their time out in the pen so much, I am considering moving the henhouse into the goat pen.  I will need to add some roofing to the nestbox area since it won't be protected by the deck, but I think it will still be better. 

Besides...the area where the henhouse sits is just begging for a sauna.....

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Love is in the Air

It may be a long time before Valentine's Day, but Love is definitely in the air at WeeHavyn.... and so is the pungent smell of male goat.  How does one adequately describe the reek of a buck?  It hovers in the air, rank and oily, coating the inside of your nose with its sharp aroma and following you away.  It is like nothing else, far reaching and overwhelmingly male.  But Rosey must have babies for us to have lovely, creamy milk and delectable cheese.  My original plan was to take her to the lady I bought her from for a "date".  But the best laid plans of mice and men....

I really did hope I would not have to have a buck at WeeHavyn, but once I accepted the inevitable, the search went quickly and Pepe Le Pew, a black and white Nigerian Dwarf, came to stay with us.  He's actually a very sweet little guy, relatively quiet and respectful with the girls. That doesn't quite make up for the smell, though; and Pepe's stay here will be as short as possible. 

Now I have another decision to make.  Pepe is small enough that I could breed Iris to him.  He's in his own little pen, so I can choose whether I let her in or not when she's feeling romantically inclined.  Do I want to milk two goats? I didn't much care for milking two cows so I'm not sure.  I can expect 1/2 gallon a day from Rosey, which is plenty of milk.  Still, the economist in me balks at having an underutilized animal.

And....the babies should be so adorable!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Test of Strength


Life is once again sending me events to test my fortitude and Grace.  I have the opportunity to choose a hard thing or an easy thing.  There is, perhaps, no right or wrong choice here...just a choice.  At a time when my own children are grown and gone, I have been put in the path of other children that desperately need stability, strength, and guidance.  My blood does not flow through their veins.  Yet, they are human beings and my compassion ties them to me as surely as had they come from my own flesh.

Still...I know that feeling compassion is not the same as actually having the strength to do what must be done to heal years worth of damage.  To remain calm, a fixed point no matter what tempest rages around me, will be a supreme challenge.  Do I have that strength?  Am I even brave enough to find out?  Many would shake their heads and tell me I shouldn't have to take so much on.  That my child raising is accomplished.  That we don't have space. WeeHavyn is a very small place, but she is filled with comfort, hospitality, and love. There is peace and calm here, something these children have never known.
Even now I plan ways to fit more people comfortably into our lives. As I write this, I realize my choice is already made.  After all, these children belong to someone very dear to me.

I must try.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reflections

We have had some lovely Autumn days here in the Ozarks.  The trees are starting to blaze with fall color and the air is crisp and cool in the morning.  The afternoons are warm, the soft breeze rich with the scent of fallen leaves, and the air filled with the scolding of squirrels as they gather up Summer's abundance to store against hunger in the cold days that are sure to come.

I find the nesting instinct grows strong within me this time of year as well.  I have the urge to set my little home in order, fill the pantry, and dream of next year's projects.  I feel such contentment looking out of a sparkling clean window at the sheets blowing softly on the line.  Gone is the wanderlust of Summer.  Now I look forward to dark winter days with a good book, crisp apple, and crackling fire.

Dare I say that my home is a reflection of who I am?  That the warmth, love, and life that emanates from what is essentially just a box flows from me.  Every change within me is somehow manifested in WeeHavyn. She has her imperfections, walls that aren't quite square, a few drafts, and a very steep and shady lot.  I improve those I can, and accept those I can't.  After all, the house is not one whit less warm or comfortable because of those curvy walls.  This helps me accept my own flaws, knowing I am not less kind or generous for all my stretch marks, grey hairs, and wrinkles. 

When WeeHavyn is chaotic, I only have to look within to see why.  The first thing I do when I find myself out of balance is to straighten up the house.  As each room becomes orderly and quiet, so too does my harried soul find peace.  I find that a quiet cup of jasmine tea in a freshly cleaned house can cure nearly any ill.

Perhaps you would like to join me....


Friday, October 2, 2015

Chicken House 2.0 (revisited)

It seems to be an unwritten rule on a homestead of any size that projects take much longer than one expects.  This was definitely the case with the second version of the WeeHavyn chicken house.  It took almost exactly a year.  It's not that there was so very much work involved, but it was kept on the back burner as more pressing projects were accomplished. Yet I can't help feeling it was worth the wait!



Built almost entirely of free pallets, the house is large enough for 6 to 8 hens.  It has three large nestboxes that are accessible from the outside, 2 levels, and a roost bar inside. All in all, it's a very comfy and attractive home for our new hens and I'm so thankful I have a wonderful guy who would take the time to build it.

Of course, the day after the hen house was finished, I started to search for hens to put into it.  I knew I didn't want babies this late in the year.  Besides, sometimes I am not the most patient person and I wanted eggs right away.  Through the miracle of the modern electronic age....otherwise known as Facebook, I found 4 lovely Salmon Faverolles quite nearby.  I had never even considered this breed, but after a few minutes of research, I found they are quiet, calm, and good layers.  Perfect for our city situation. 

WeeHavyn welcomes, Annie, Mary, Jane, and Kate. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A New Friend

Rosey Posey has a new friend today.  After the death of Blossom, she was quite lonely, despite the fact that she and Blossom never really got on all that well.  Since a bleating goat is just as annoying as a barking dog, I knew I was going to have to find her a buddy quickly.  I had decided on a whether(castrated male goat) as it occurred to me that the 1/2 gallon a day of milk Rosey will give us is more that we really need.

Three and a half gallons of milk is more than we use in a week, even with two gallons going into various types of cheese.  Our aim at WeeHavyn is to avoid producing in excess so two milkers are not necessary.  We will deal with the dry period when it comes.   In fact, I am hoping that Rosey will be a persistent enough milker that I can milk her for over a year without breeding her back.  The edema that happens at the end of pregnancy and right after kidding are very hard on a goat's udder, permanently stretching the ligaments that support it.  If we can decrease the number of kiddings she has during her lifetime, her udder should stay in better shape.

Fate, as it often does when I take the trouble to notice, had a pleasant surprise for me.  The breeder of Rosey and Blossom offered me Iris, an 18 month old doe.  Iris is too small to breed, only about half Rosey's size, so she will simply be a companion just as a whether would be.  She is a stout little bouncy girl with giant airplane ears who loves attention and petting.  It was quite obvious that Rosey remembered her former herd-mate as there was very little of the pushing and shoving that generally occurs when a pecking order is being established.  I've never heard less noise from Rosey since she came here.

Hello Iris!  WeeHavyn welcomes you...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday was a sad day at WeeHavyn.  We lost our littlest goat.  Her illness came on suddenly.  When I went out yesterday morning, she couldn't hold her head up to drink.  I knew that there was little hope.  Despite this, I gave her a drench of molasses for energy and probiotics but she was gone within an hour.  Rosey didn't fuss about it much yesterday, but today she cries for a companion.

I have been through this many times with baby animals.  That doesn't make it any easier, and I don't think it should be.  I still spend some time wondering if I made a mistake or missed something I shouldn't have.  But my experience does give me one vital piece of knowledge.  There is only so much I can do.  Sometimes I even think these animals live in spite of any treatment I give them rather than because of it.  Perhaps this is overly philosophical, but it is impossible for me to be an effective livestock manager if my emotions get so tangled up that I can't make appropriate decisions.  Farming on any scale is not like having pets.

I think this may be the large chasm that separates those who farm for a living and those who feel that such activities are cruel.  With the exception of industrial farms, which really have no justification besides that of profit and our demand for very cheap food, most farmers treat their animals as well as possible.  They have to.  A mistreated or unhappy animal does not produce well.  Yet "treated well" is a relative term.  Where a pet owner might spend thousands of dollars to treat cancer in a dog for one more year of his companionship, a farmer might not be able to spend a hundred dollars to save a baby pig.  Economics simply won't allow it.

So I must say goodbye to Blossom.  She will be missed.  I have found a companion for Rosey and I am picking her up tonight.

Life goes on.....


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Arrivals

Even though the"For Sale" sign is out front, life continues at WeeHavyn.  I made a deal on some Kinder goats two years ago and yesterday they came to live with us.  Whether they are part of our lives for just a few days, or for much longer is undecided at this point.  Some new obligations have cropped up in my life and I'm not so sure that I'll go a-gypsying just yet. 

Our two new companions are Rosy and Blossom, beautiful Kinder does.  Rosy is a two year old who kidded last spring.  She has lovely confirmation and is covered with moonspots.  She's quite friendly and cries when you leave her as she is sorely missing her herd mates right now, Blossom being just a bit too young for satisfactory companionship.  Blossom is only three months old and is about the size of a large Chihuahua.  She is roaming happily around the soon-to-be-bare paddock, despite the plaintive cries of her companion, and seems very contented.

Of course, I can't help but imagine the lovely cheeses and sweet bouncing kids that could be in the future if I am still at WeeHavyn.  Perhaps I am fickle, but my mind roves joyously from one possible path to another...  Staying or going,  I know I will be happy no matter where I am.




Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Plunge

There is a "For Sale" sign in front of WeeHavyn today.  Somehow that small sign makes my decision seem so much more real.  It was put up while we were away and seeing it there sent a little shock up my spine, as if I had jumped into a cold pool on a hot day.  This is happening!

I wish I could say that I never second guess my choice to leave WeeHavyn for a much different lifestyle.  I am not that strong.  I have doubts and fears.  I wonder if I'm going to regret leaving a place I love.  Yet... I have loved every place I have lived.  All of them have given me another piece of the puzzle that is me.  I have no doubt that my unconventional
new home will do the same.

I may gypsy about in my little home forever, or I may find that I wish to set down roots somewhere.  I cannot know that if I do not try.

Let me never regret what I have not done.....

Friday, June 12, 2015

What do I Need?

I am stripping my life to the bare minimum.  What must I have to be happy?  What in my life do I use?  What do I love?  Where do I spend my time?  What do I do that I resent or only do out of obligation.  What gives me joy?  How do I wish to spend the limited time I have been given?  How much of my life is arranged because "that's how it's supposed to be" and not because that is how I really want it.

Perhaps it seems strange that someone who lives in a 488 square foot home feels she has too much.  But I do.  I find that WeeHavyn, once a shelter from the world, has become a burden.  She keeps me in one place, I worry about her when I leave.  The lawn needs mowed, the flower beds watered, the kiwi vines pruned.  I often go to St. Louis with my boyfriend, Tony, and I find I am pulled in two directions while I am there. While I love the rampant green and stately oaks of Missouri, I do miss my family in Wyoming.  But I am tied here and a month's visit is not feasible.  Yet a week there just isn't long enough.

So what do I really need to be content?  What do I miss when I leave home?  After thinking long and hard and probing my feelings, I find that I want my own comfortable bed, a familiar kitchen with all my favorite spices and utensils, and the privacy of my own bathroom.  That's it.  The lawn, the stuff, the home maintenance is something I simply do because I have to.

Leaving WeeHavyn is a big step and I don't want to take it lightly.  Yet I cannot be afraid.  I cannot ignore what I actually what for what others tell me I should.  I will not pour my precious life into something that isn't really important to me.  My life has been changed from the outside by brute force many times and I've always been thankful afterward.

Might I not be as thankful for a change I have chosen?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wondrous Ordinary

I feel as though I miss many wondrous occurrences around me as they so often arise from the most ordinary of things.  I was reminded of this during my morning walk when I noticed strange stems standing boldly naked, glowing white amidst the riot of green around them.  It took me a moment to realize they were dandelions, their silken seed umbrellas knocked away by last night's rain, leaving a stiff frilly ruff behind.  They are the most common of flowers.  So common, in fact, that I never think about the miraculous changes time works upon them.

In her youth, a dandelion stands boldly, her riotous yellow bloom mimics the sun she so eagerly seeks, calling bees to share in her abundance of pollen.  That night, her brazen boldness becomes quiet.  Tightly coiled in her frilly green veil, she begins the earnest work of making seeds.  The now ragged yellow petals shrivel and fade away, leaving a silken white tuft peeping from the tightly curled bud. When she next opens to the sun, she is clothed in the white lace of her children, her green veil a stiff ruff to support them.  She grows ever more ragged as they leave her on their silken umbrellas, floating away to seek a new life upon the breeze.  She is left naked, yet strangely beautiful, and quietly fades away into the greenery.  Her life's work is done.

Nature has such profound lessons for me.  In the life of this humble flower, I see my own mirrored.  The changes I will go through.  I think of my vibrant, loud youth.  I look at my contemplative middle age, less bold, but no less beautiful.  I feel as though my "children" are just beginning to go forth into the wild world as my ideas, my actions, and my influence.  Just as the dandelion, I may never know where my seeds will drop, who they will touch, or how they will grow.  But that is not the point.

The point is.... they made the journey.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Another Turning

For many years, I've considered life a spiral.  I  can do the same things, go to the same places, but they're never really the same.  I am different.  I have grown and learned so many things that I cannot act just as I have in the past.  I find fewer surprises in life now, but much more wonder.

A year ago I would have said I was planning on staying in this little cottage for the rest of my life.  She had seen me though the most painful time I'd ever experienced.  She'd helped me give birth to a business and a way of life I'd never imagined.  She'd allowed me to explore myself deeply and thoroughly.  She has been home.

Yet the bewitching tune of a Gypsy ever sings in my heart.  My life has always been a tug of war between my desire for new experiences and others need for me to be firmly planted in one spot.  It has taken me almost two years to realize that those fetters are gone.  No one needs me to be anywhere now.  I can dance to my heart's tune as gaily as I wish and life has sent me a partner that dances to the same one.

It may not surprise you to discover that this house has become too small for me. Not in square footage, that part of her actually seems so large as to be a burden.  I feel held down by all the "stuff" that seems necessary to just fill all that space.  No, it is not the size of the house I have outgrown, but the scope of her.  She cannot sate my longing for adventure.

Thus, the little Cottage will be on the market soon and I will be off on a new adventure.  I have long wished for a tiny house on wheels, a home that will adventure with me.  I see no reason why I shouldn't have one.  We have the skills to build her, and she will henceforth be WeeHavyn.  I have come to realize that WeeHavyn is not the house.  She is a feeling, a way of thinking.

 I carry WeeHavyn  inside of me.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Falling Off "The Wagon"

Okay, I'll admit it.... I'm a seed junkie.  I've been pretty good this year, limiting my time with seed catalogs and resisting the seed racks a Wal-mart (well...maybe one small packet of rosemary).  I haven't even surfed Ebay for exotic seeds!

All of that self control came crashing down last week.  After a few days of lovely Spring-like weather, it snowed!  Amidst the cold dreariness, Spring fever broke out with a vengeance.  It was a particularly virulent strain that was not at all cured by simply looking at catalogs... I was going to need something more...

Braving icy roads and frigid air more in keeping with early winter than near Spring, I made the 50 mile trek to Baker Creek Seed.  Only a fellow seed addict would understand the feeling of bliss inspired by walking into a room with thousands of seed packets beckoning.  Each innocent packet contains so much potential.  Here in my hand is a whole bushel of crisp, sweet purple carrots.  This tiny packet contains pounds of tangy, sun ripened tomatoes!  How can anyone with imagination and faith that Spring will come resist?

I couldn't!





Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hybrid is Not a Dirty Word

I love seeds!  There's nothing sweeter on a cold and dreary January day than to peruse pages and pages of perfectly photographed vegetables glowing with health and not a sign of a blemish anywhere.  They are a welcome reminder that the season of life and abundance is on it's way even if it is spitting snow outside now.  I pore over new varieties and choose far too many things for WeeHavyn's tiny area.  I will deal with realities later....now is the quiet season of hopes and dreams.

Saving seed has come into fashion lately.  The abundance of news about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) and seeds with a "suicide gene" has caused a general sense of nervousness.  The human race instinctively knows how important these plants we have been so closely linked with for so long are to our continued survival.  Many articles on saving seed have been written carefully instructing us all to purchase only open pollinated, preferably heirloom, seeds for saving.  While this is good advice, it tends to discount any value hybrids offer.

I think it's important that people understand the difference between hybrid plants and GMO's, as well as their purposes.  A GMO is created when genetic material from one species is transferred to another completely unrelated species in a laboratory.  This is something that could NEVER happen in nature (think a cow breeding with a tree).  The most common purposes of GMO's are resistance to the herbicide glyophosphate (Round-up) and production of a natural insecticide (BT corn).  The genetic code for these products (I don't really consider them plants) is privately owned and saving seeds from any of these will get you in legal hot water.

A hybrid is a cross between two varieties of the same species of plant (think black beans crossed with white beans to make grey beans).  The result of this cross often has an advantage over both it's parents.  Perhaps it's larger, or resistant to drouth or disease.  You can save seeds from hybrids and plant them, but some of the resulting plants will revert back to the traits of the original parents.  However; if you continue to plant these seeds generation after generation, only selecting those that have the hybrid traits, eventually they will all breed true and a new open pollinated variety has just been created with all the desirable traits of that hybrid. 

So if you're dying to try that new, super cool looking, purple cauliflower, don't let the fact that it's a hybrid put you off.  Grow it anyway.  Save the seed if you want.  With a little persistence, you can name the results after your favorite relative.