Friday, April 29, 2016

In the Garden: Between Seasons

I loved this quote from Ben Hewitt that he posted recently:   "Things will get done, and that which doesn’t get done will get done later or ultimately be deemed unnecessary in the first place, and we’ll think to ourselves isn’t it lucky we didn’t do it back when we thought it had to get done, before we had a chance to realize it didn’t need doing at all?"

The spring/winter garden has bolted, and is quickly ceasing to be edible.  In the summer, things wither up when they are done, and in the spring they burst into bloom and become bitter.  There is still chard thriving, collards, a few cabbages, here and there a late-blooming lettuce, and a couple of stunted kale plants the rabbits got tired of.  The anise, the cilantro, the parsley are tall and covered with white umbels.

The sweet peas, for once, are sitting up, looking alive, and are actually producing peas.  None of them make it home.  I always wish I could plant half my garden in sweet peas (I've actually tried it before), but the rabbits just eat them down as soon as they grow.  They start leaving them alone in the spring, which makes me think I should just not even bother planting them until January.

This is a little lean season we have to get through until the summer garden begins fruiting.  Tiny cucumber plants, little bush beans, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are just curling out their first vines.  The tomatoes are flowering, and the cassava sprouts are up.

I always find it difficult to cook in the in-between seasons - unlike at the peak of seasons, when your dinner is dictated by how many oversized cucumbers or large marrows you've discovered hiding among the leaves and getting bigger and tougher every day, the in-between seasons force you to be creative. It would definitely be easier to just buy vegetables, but this is what makes the first tomato worth waiting for.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Clo and Belle

Car trouble marred most of yesterday - it seems like whenever we have savings, the car breaks, and the repairs always magically cost exactly how much we have.  It's more of a broken car fund than a savings account!

I remember reading an article in ACRES USA magazine years and years ago about all the downsides of fossil fuel-powered machines as opposed to draft animals.  One point was that you never wake up in the morning and see another little tractor in the barn next to the big tractor.  These gas-guzzling monstrosities we depend on are so inferior to depending on living things and living systems.  They can't heal, they can't reproduce, they can't eat grass, their wastes pollute rather than enrich, and you have to pay out the nose to maintain them all the time.  Someday I want to trade my car in for a draft animal - maybe an ox or something.  As long as it isn't a donkey!

We have been working so much at the farm that Belle often comes and spends quite a lot of time hanging out with us.  She is a very shy dog, who does not like other people.  I love that she is not the kind of dog that comes running over and jumps on everyone.  She does her job so well - she will bark when someone arrives, and when we have had other dogs come on the property, she sends them packing, but she will not harass anyone.

She and Clothilde adore each other.  No one else really wants to pet Belle, because she rolls in gross things and usually smells bad - sometimes really bad when she is sprayed by a skunk.  Clothilde doesn't mind.  Clothilde will run and bear hug her around the neck.  Then when Belle lays down, Clo rolls all over her and Belle looks like she's getting a massage/pedicure.  It isn't all joy, though, because Clothilde also tries to feed her bits of leaves, clean her ears out with a twig and ride on her back (I always tell her not to when I catch her at it).

It's a perfect arrangement for both of them - Belle gets attention, and Clothilde has a large, durable, tolerant, furry animal to play with.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Despite our years of neglect, the orchard seems to be having a good year so far.  The early blueberries are just beginning to turn purplish.  No one can wait until they are properly blue.  The girls go through every day and pick every one that even thinks about turning color, and offer up a handful each of sour, greenish berries.  Soon they will all be turning, and we won't be able to keep up with picking them - the children, no longer amused by the novelty, might even complain about being sick of them.  I don't understand it, just like I can't understand how they could be sick of watermelon, sausage, or steak.

Yesterday was my birthday - and this year I have no pictures of cake.  My mother-in-law made Ethan and I a joint birthday cake a week ago, and my mom made us some ice cream from home-grown cream and eggs.  It was a nice birthday - quiet in some ways, and ordinary.  A friend I hadn't seen in a while came over, and gave me a beautiful crocheted doily I had admired while she was making it.  I took her kids and my kids to the Reptile Rodeo at the library, which turned out to not be as exciting as it sounded.  When we went to do the chores, I didn't even work too hard in the garden, and the goats were even easy to get back in (they have been jumping out a lot lately - all the spring grass.  They still have stuff to eat inside their fence, but it must not be as tasty or something).

There is so much to do and look forward to this year.  And with no children in school or preschool, we have been very healthy.  The garden is going in, and we have five rows of cassava planted.  I think it's going to be a good year.

Monday, April 25, 2016


The past few weeks have been an absolute crush of work - the garden must be finished, and the KonMari-inspired, once-in-a-lifetime spring clean is nowhere near complete.  And we are still homeschooling for several more weeks.  Every day there is just so much to do.  The weather has been beautiful, which has made me try to work outside in the garden as much as possible.  Everything is coming together nicely.  A few weeks ago, I was waking up at night with the thoughts, "I will NEVER get it all done!" A box of hopeful sweet potato slips appearing on my porch made it even more dire.

This is an anxiety for me, especially with the garden, because every day the season slips away, and it will be longer until we can have vegetables again (the staple of our diet during most of the year).  I may not proverbially "bring home the bacon," as the saying goes, but at least I can cover the table with organic vegetables! (To the point of oppression, at the height of summer and spring.)

Luckily, over the years, I have learned what to do in this kind of situation.  I take a deep breath, let go of all my optimistic and beautiful dreams I had created between seasons (when I was sitting around and had forgotten what it was like to be hauling hay and manure around in a wheelbarrow), and accepted a smaller, simpler, more realistic version of what I had wanted to grow for the summer.

Smaller, simpler things are really much more enjoyable, aren't they?  Now I have been enjoying building the garden rather than feeling very stressed out about it (well, mostly).

And as for spring cleaning - I finally got up the courage to tackle the big kids' room.  It's been backbreaking, to be honest.  Because I was so busy with the rest of the house, I just did not have the time/energy to enforce them cleaning their room.  It very quickly became the most awful room I've ever seen.  My friend PJ came over to visit one day while I was battling the dust velociraptors behind my dresser (they are much more vicious than mere dust bunnies).  I begged her not to, but she peeked in their room anyway and agreed that it was pretty bad.  She qualified that by saying she had actually seen worse - a situation where a dog was also crapping all over the place AND it looked like that.  So that gives you an idea of the adversity....the only way to make it worse was to add poo.

About ten brimming loads of laundry later, you could see the floor.  I managed to get the children to sort through their things, and to my surprise, Mirin easily got rid of a bunch of things that just didn't fit him.  It was harder for Rose, and just going through her stuff to organize it was upsetting for her.  But we managed by making it look very pretty and dusting it all off, so in the end she is also happy with the result, even though there were some tears at first.

Mirin's tools were quite different.  Our porch had become his junk pile, with nails, rusty metal, and implements of destruction strewn all over the place.  It gave quite as good as it got - while I was stumbling around organizing, some tool gave me a bad slash on my foot.  Ethan stepped on a nail.  We are glad to see the back of it!  And at last it looks like a porch again - a much larger porch than we realized before.  Even the neighbor kids were exclaiming about how nice it looks with all the trash gone ("You mean Mirin's stuff?" I told them).

After I had dusted myself off from that, I came across this, and have decided that this is what has happened to the front yard.  It's not a mess, it's an "urban adventure playground!"  I think I'll use that phrase if the city codes enforcement comes by.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring Work

On Saturday we went to the BugFest put on by the UF Entomology department.  They had cockroach races, an arthropod petting zoo, beautiful specimens displayed, all kinds of food made with bugs to taste.  We had a good time, but the best thing was the huge snapping turtle we found in the parking lot.

Otherwise, I'm afraid I don't have anything very interesting to say today, as this past week and weekend were absolutely full of spring work - spring cleaning and building the garden.  It's funny how when so many things get done, there just isn't much to say about them.  My days have been about the same - after spending the morning scrubbing and sorting through things, I would take the wheelbarrow and pitchfork out to haul loads of hay and manure.  I like the difference in the work.  One is dusty and focused, the other is refreshing and energetic.

The garden is finally looking like a garden and not a field again.  So far I have accommodations for the tomatoes, beans, long beans and malabar spinach, gourds,  summer squash, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins (I'm planting LOTS of pumpkins - especially the Seminoles.  They keep very well, and are sort of a staple crop.  For most of the year I have them on hand).  I have already planted four rows of cassava.  There remains to build beds for:  cherry tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos and ground cherries, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, okra, roselle and watermelons.  So I'm about half-way or less finished, and the weather is getting warm and the weeds are waking up!  I am impatient to finish this work!

Spring-cleaning-wise, I have gotten the kitchen, dining room and living room entirely sorted out.  Over the weekend I sorted through my grandmother's sewing kit.  It was disorganized, but I've hardly touched it since it was put into my hands after she died about fifteen years ago.  It had seemed wrong to disarrange something she clearly had in her own order, and that she used so often.  But I know she would rather it be useful to me than it just sit in the closet untouched.  When I opened it up, it still smelled like her, and the memory of her presence it invoked brought tears to my eyes.

 Someone sent me this link.  It was validating to read it.  I liked the description of it being like Snow White and having the poison apple come out and waking up.  It's the perfect description of how I felt.  I wouldn't necessarily say that I was REALLY into Anthroposophy, but in a way my identity had become wrapped around it, as a Waldorf homeschooling mama.  It had become my ideal, and there was real danger of becoming more involved, and actually shelling out money towards it.  It's easier than you would think to get wrapped up in something unhealthy.

While the whole thing was very upsetting for me, I feel so much freer and unshackled in my thinking and my life now.  I have been much more cautious, and learning to check in with myself about things, to see how things feel to my heart, and really listening to that.  So in a way, my disillusionment has been very empowering.