Farmsteading Scenes and Living Life Well

When we first began this journey, we went into it wholeheartedly and completely naive. We learned, we cried, we laughed. A homesteading/farmsteading lifestyle makes life amplified. The good is really amazing, healing, and life-giving; babies being born, fresh food from the garden, baby goats prancing sideways, a lamb’s comical yell, gathering fresh eggs from the coop, watching the sun set, waving at friendly neighbors, gathering wood to bring inside before an approaching storm, hanging clothes on the line while watching wildlife.

Crop losses, predators, freak accidents, money worries; there are a lot of things to worry about while being a homesteader. The neighbor’s wolf/husky got into my coop last night and killed my favorite chicken, Bubba. I was mad at myself for not closing the coop sooner. I was mad that I purposely chose this lifestyle! Where there is life- and farms are teeming with life- there is death. And it is much more in your face than apartment living. When we lived in an apartment, on our way to our next homestead, we had plenty of stresses and things to worry about then too. So, it really is a matter of how you want to live. This lifestyle gets ingrained in you, so that you have no other choice but to live like this. And we do love it.

Being a homesteader and farmer comes with a great sense of accomplishment. I tend to point out everything on a guest’s plate that I grew or handmade. I love the methodical motions of traditional domestic work. We appreciate the intense rush of love that comes over us when we see a baby being born. We appreciate seeing the horizon and knowing how to judge the weather by watching nature. Homesteading and farming is all about family, and living life to the fullest. If life is short, then I want to spend time bottle feeding precious infant goats, and being followed around by lambs and chickens. I want to laugh at duck antics while sipping homemade wine. I want to watch the fire swell up as it fills the wood stove. I love tying off the final piece of yarn to finish a project or snipping the last thread on a dress I have made.

If you are considering adopting this lifestyle- Do It! You won’t regret it. It costs some to get started but it pays itself back quickly. We save money, eat well, live healthier, have a happier marriage, a closer family, and a sense that we are really living. Start somewhere. Get chickens, or cheese making equipment, or get out yarn to make holiday presents. This is a very good life.

The Glamorous Life of an Urban Farm Wife (and the realities of death)

I tucked my Christmas pajama bottoms into my bright purple galoshes and tightened the belt of my fuzzy bathrobe that covered my nightgown.  I sighed, mouth askew in a grimace, and pulled my work gloves on while balancing the shovel.  Poised over the dead creature I tried to hold my breath while finagling the blade underneath the hardening body of a skunk who did not see it coming.

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I love ignorance.  It’s the best.  Kind of wish I could get back to it.  Ah, the mystique of becoming a farmer.  The love of the land, the fresh air, the bright dawn, the sound of a baby goat, the feel of a newborn chick, the taste of fresh eggs with gorgeous orange yolks.  The urban farm with the front yard completely gardened.  Beds filled with corn and pumpkins, rows and rows of chilies and tomatoes, and dozens of other herbs and beans and cucumbers and other delights fill the space where a lawn ought to be.  A rooster crows from the backyard.

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I guess what I never prepared for, and what no one could really express to me, is that death and cycles of life were going to become quite apparent to me.  The emotions that one might feel day to day in the suburbs would morph into much more intense versions of joy and grief.  That becoming a farmer means becoming privy to the real natural world.

See, in a high rise apartment or other such place, one might see a fallen bird from a nest or a cat that has been hit by a car.  We sniff and pout our lip and then move on with the day.  Styrofoam cartons and air sealed packages line shelves neatly labeled.  Beef tip.  Short ribs.  Chicken breast.  (Where did the rest of the chicken go?)  Away from a farm is an easy place for Utopian ideas to thrive.

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Last night the skunk was apparently on his way to have appetizers and cocktails in the chicken coop with the ladies when he was swiftly taken out by a monstrous being, that at first sight might not be taken for a swift sort of creature at all.  But the massive bite to the spine without being sprayed proved that Gandalf was on duty and was not allowing frolicking with the chickens past curfew.  The chemical, nauseating smell permeates everything but the dog.

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Now, if the pup was not there, the skunk would have made quick work of the chickens without a smidgen of remorse.

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The Cornish chickens can barely stay alive as it is.  Since my post three days ago, another chicken’s legs are breaking and one of the hens that seemed fine died of a heart attack.  They are scheduled to meet their maker in two weeks (because it is the humane thing to do) but we will see if they even make it until then.  My own Utopian ideas of compassion and living in a world without death backfired with meat chickens that were never meant to live this long and are suffering.

Over the years I have held a screaming goat as she died.  My cat, two chickens, a robin, a sparrow, and my dear friend’s ashes are buried in my yard.  A dead skunk is in a plastic bag in the alley until I can think of something to do with it.  Death is real and it is not necessarily not compassionate.  Not necessarily unfortunate.  It just is.

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But where there is death, there is new life.  New baby chicks, and wobbling ducklings.  Baby goats taking a bottle, and finches learning to fly.  A farm- whether in the city or in the country- teaches us what working in a temperature controlled office after driving in a temperature controlled car, after picking up a quick breakfast could never teach.  That life in its whole is a natural process of birth, delight, strength, illness, sustenance, death, grief, reality.  And in every cycle, it is beautiful and sacred and real.

 

The Grand Arrival of Ayla Mae

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She would be induced at 10:00 that night.  Not wanting to be two hours away, we checked into a hotel with our granddaughter, Maryjane, near the hospital after packing bags and finding a pet sitter.  We went swimming and snuggled in for the night, checking my phone every few hours.   Maryjane and I had coffee and then went to the hospital while Pa checked in at work.  Maryjane’s other grandma came to pick her up.  The soon-to-be big sister was nervous and excited and emotional.  My daughter, Shyanne, arrived and we all settled in for the seemingly long arrival of a little girl.  Pa came back a few hours later.  We drank tea, and watched the clock, and talked to relatives on the phone, and tried to help Emily.

Being her second baby, Emily knew what to expect and what to request.  She was amazing during her labor.  New daddy, Reed, was nervous and doting and sweet.

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The nurses all knew that we hoped the baby would arrive that day, November 14th, for it was the fervent request from the new baby’s great, great grandmother.  November 14th was my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary.  Never mind silver or gold, Grandma and Grandpa wanted a baby.

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And then quite suddenly it was time.  Within thirty minutes a very small little girl with curly, black hair arrived into the arms of her mother.  Daddy swelled with pride.  Pa and Auntie Shyanne cried.  Mama sobbed with joy.  I smiled and welcomed the new little one to our family.  We are ten now in our tribe.  Over a hundred in families that we gained through the children’s partners and our own extended families.  There is truly nothing more important to me than our family.

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And Ayla Mae was born.  A new little medicine woman in our line.

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Maryjane bounced into the room accompanied by her grandma.  She held a stack of papers that she had composed a song in scribbles on and immediately went to singing to her new baby sister.

Those near and dear came in to call.  Ayla has our family birthmark.  She has her daddy’s ears and nose.  She is so beautiful.  I caught my breath and held her close through the night letting mama and daddy sleep some.  And in the quiet of that dimmed hospital room, that precious heartbeat next to mine, I felt the immensity of it all, the blessings that fill my life and this family that we have helped create.  A Thanksgiving gift. (And an anniversary one as well!)

Ayla Mae Thompson

November 14, 2018

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Hope and Nino

Some things have been going on over here that have been raising red flags and I can only hope that we do not have to move again.  I must learn to take one day at a time and not try to foresee the future, jump to conclusions, or panic.  Today.

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We sat down to dinner last night and bowed our heads to say grace.  We thanked the Lord for our meal, prayed that everything would work out alright, and for hope.  Doug went out to milk and came running back in to get me outside.  Elsa was in labor!  Our first time mama was having her baby a week earlier than we expected.  A little boy came out fairly easily.  One baby for Isabelle, one for Elsa.  Odd that there were no multiples.  But, we are thankful for a healthy and quick labor and delivery.  An adorable baby boy with red hair came into the world.  He looks like his mom, a Saanen, the waddles under his chin, but with red hair.  He loves to snuggle and is so cute!  Hope is all around us.

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Doug named him Nino Bonito for beautiful boy but also he was born in what seemed like El Nino!  A horrible storm raged on outside the lean to.

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A Photo Journey of Adelaide’s Birth

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The morning was quiet and spring-like.  The birds sang brightly as the dawn arrived.  Isabelle was pressed against the wall of the lean-to and was quiet.  It was time.

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I made a strong tea of nettles, motherwort, red clover, and red raspberry leaves and poured it into her drinking water along with molasses.

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The chickens were maniacal in their calling as I waited and prayed for an easy delivery.  They were driving me mad as their cacophony seemed to rise with each contraction.

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"Why can't I come in?" Elsa wondered.

“Why can’t I come in?” Elsa wondered.

The lambs stayed quiet, face to the sun.

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The contractions increased.

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“A foot is sticking out!” Doug yelled and Maryjane and I came running.  One of my students happened to be there picking up herbs so she held Maryjane while Doug held Isabelle and I pulled lightly on the feet during a particularly difficult contraction.  We had called our friend, Jenet, who just went through a goat labor, to ask last minute advice and were as ready as we would ever be.  I thought she would throw the baby against the wall in her violent turn to release her but I caught her and lay her gently on the hay.

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Isabelle lovingly and dutifully cleaned off her infant.

Isabelle lovingly and dutifully cleaned off her infant.

We waited for another baby to arrive.  She was huge, we were just positive there were more infants to come but the placenta came an hour later and that ended our birthing session.

Just before the baby was born Doug had milked some colostrum from Isabelle and we had a bottle all ready.

Just before the baby was born Doug had milked some colostrum from Isabelle and we had a bottle all ready.

We are trading this beautiful little girl for Jenet's first female born in June.  I will have a Nubian and she will have a Saanen.

We are trading this beautiful little girl for Jenet’s first female born in June. I will have a Nubian and she will have a Saanen.

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Everyone welcomed Adelaide to the world, including our kitten!

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It is amazing how quickly they gain their footing.  Soon Adelaide was jumping on the couch with Maryjane, making her away around the house, and drinking bottles every few hours.  She stayed tucked under Doug’s arm throughout the night.  She is precious and it is bittersweet that she is going to her new home Monday.  I am thankful that mom and baby are well and a new miracle has joined this world.

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Welcome Adelaide!

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