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Month: August 2013

As Dusk Falls

As Dusk Falls

We are noticing the evenings drawing in here on the farm, less time to get the chores done each evening and the animal lock up time is getting earlier each week.  Last night, as the sun began to sink, we watched the mist spill over from our neighbour’s field and into ours like a small waterfall spilling over the fence.

We all walked into the thickening dusk, letting the dog run ahead and the boys get out their last shouty rampage of the evening.  We watched the sky light up pink and lavender, reflected by the mirror surface of the pond and the windows of the house that face setting sun each night.

dusk-9773dusk-9768dusk-9766dusk-9770dusk-9763As the light fell away behind the curve of the land we returned home, chased by the mist as it moved up the field, hovering around our ankles and snagging on the grass.  For the first time in a long while bedtime took place in falling darkness; the fans were whirring as the night was another hot one but the darkness descended quickly and decisively.  Summer may be having a last resurgence, a few more hot days and sticky nights, but Fall is on her way, swirling silently and patiently in the mist that followed us home.

Homemade Goldenrod Tincture

Homemade Goldenrod Tincture

One of the things I’m just beginning to get to grips with is the abundant wild harvest that is available here on our land.  While the concept of foraging isn’t new to me a lot of the flora is, variations are different here than back home and I admit to being desperately terrified of making a mistake.

Luckily we made contact with Amber Westfall through our homeschool group and her herb identification walks really put a fire under me.  She helped me to see the plants around me more as individuals rather than as a mass of life ‘out there’ in the fields that surround our home.  Instead I’m starting to recognise and name the plants, feeling more rooted and secure here as what was unfamiliar becomes familiar.

goldenrod-9720 goldenrod-9722 goldenrod-9723 goldenrod-9724With this in mind we headed out into the sunshine to collect the abundant and perfectly named Goldenrod to add to our medicine cabinet.  This plant is all over our land right now, lending it’s sweet fragrance to the air and nodding it’s yellow head in the sunshine.  The woody stems make it useless for grazing animals so it’s good to know it can help the people living here instead!

Huwyl dived straight in with scissors and basket in hand, snipping away like the seasoned forager he is.  As I watch him confidently approaching nature like this, knowing he is absorbing this information into himself like sunlight on a flower, I wonder how different his perception of the world will be when he is an adult.  I can’t help but hope and dream that both the boys will be comfortable with nature, at ease and familiar with their environment; I hope that it won’t be an abstract for them but a companion providing food, medicine and peace of soul.

goldenrod-9725 goldenrod-9727 goldenrod-9728After jumping heartily in the only puddle on our entire farm, Neirin insisted on being the bearer of the scissors.  Despite his grumpy face he was determined to not relinquish control of the tool of power and chopped away at anything he could reach.  Neirin is our most determined child, something akin to a bulldozer when it comes to willpower, so arguing with him can feel like banging your head against a spike repeatedly but with less laughs.

But he truly is our farm boy, willing to participate in any given task, unfazed by weather or muck.  Despite my frustration at his current screaming phase, which involves reacting to a variety of stimuli with a pitch and volume of screaming that makes your ears wish they had taken a polar icecap vacation for a year or two, his presence is one of solidity and earthiness that I can’t imagine being without.  Everything he does is done with utter conviction and commitment, unfortunately for our ears right now that is quite often bellowing loudly, but I do believe his drive and energy is a great gift.

goldenrod-9736 goldenrod-9747 goldenrod-9753According to my herbal bible The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, Goldenrod is good for treating upper respiratory catarrh, influenza, flatulent dyspepsia, cystitis, urethritis, treatment of wounds as well as treating laryngitis and  pharyngitis.  Not a bad little ally to have around the place I think.

I followed Hoffman’s instructions on alcohol based tincture making, he says to use 120g of dried material or twice that of fresh.  By wondrous and joyfilled coincidence we had exactly the right amount in our basket, perfection.  I bruised some of it and stripped the more woody stems away before adding 1/2 pint of 40% vodka.  It nearly filled a quart jar and looks so ridiculously attractive I can hardly bear to pop in in a dark place for 6 weeks; but I must and of course I will.

goldenrod-9756 goldenrod-9757 goldenrod-9758The yellow and green, pressed perfectly against that glass as it swims in its alcoholic bath, seems to me a perfect distillation of our farm.  It is wild and unfamiliar in many ways but in others a comforter, an ally, a protector.  While we may not yet know exactly how to use all the gifts that are being offered we are learning and willing to learn more, we are alert to all the possibilities and delight in each one we find.  What seem to many weeds and waste are in fact a mother’s gifts, available to all but treasured with gratitude.

Honey Honey

Honey Honey

Though we’re not in full honey extraction mode we are definitely bang smack in the middle on honey season, and there really isn’t a better season than that.

honey season-9675 honey season-9676 honey season-9678While he was checking on the bees (who have had a great summer feasting on the wildflowers in our fields) he decided to give them some extra room and moved on the racks out forcing us (forcing I tell you!) to make big boxes of honey comb.  Life is hard on the farm.

honey season-9680honey season-9679honey season-9687

I honestly didn’t think I could enjoy honey more than I did last year but this, this is a whole other level.  The sweetness mixed with a tang that only comes from a good nectar flow make for a flavour that is impossible to resist.  Impossible.

For quality control purposes I popped some of the golden nectar that Stephen had just scraped from the frame onto a slice of bread from the loaf I’d just baked.  I’m not going to lie, I’m glad that no one was in my kitchen meeting me for the first time because the speed at which I crammed that slice into my chops and followed it up with two more doorstops another teeny sliver, would have been embarrassing were it not for the fact that all my attention was on my exploding tastebuds rather than gawping passersby.

It’s that good.

honey season-9688honey season-9684In the next couple of weeks we’ll be taking our full honey harvest but in the mean time you can find me hiding in a cupboard with a loaf of buttered bread and a tub of honeycomb.  Also known as sweet, sweet heaven.


How To Make Friends With A Chicken

How To Make Friends With A Chicken

Ever wondered how you can create a bond with a feathered friend?  Feel like something is missing from your chicken/owner relationship?  Want to feel the deep joy and love only an avian pal can provide?

Well here is your answer!

melon-9652 melon-9653sunday august-9638Yep, melon is the key.  We had a real heat spike here midweek, the temperature hit 39C which is not nice for woman nor beast, I was worried about my feathered friends dehydrating so went and got a big bag of melons from the store.  The girls descended on it in a flagrant display of chickeny greed and are now eyeing me expectantly every time I go outside.  I can handle it though, I don’t care about their judgey looks or the way they turn aside from me in disgust when I turn up empty handed.

On second thoughts, we have a couple more melons in the fridge…

NB Anyone feeling compelled to make melon jokes and/or references in the comments should first go for a lie down with a packet of chocolate digestives and an ice pack before committing those feverish thoughts to the interweb.  Comments are for life people.  

Green in the Garden

Green in the Garden

This year has not been a great gardening year, I’m sure we’re not the only people to be saying that after the early summer of rain most of us had.  A combination of rain, rocky soil and more rain (oh and a bit of rain for good measure) rotted seeds in the earth or bled the goodness from plants leaving little yellow stumps behind.

So we did what any gardeners would do, we started again.  We replanted and put out seedlings rather than seeds, we used our glorious new polytunnel (built by Stephen the expert builder) to protect our little treasures and tended them until they were ready to be exposed to the world outside. garden-9622garden-9624garden-9626garden-9628

We also planted up the polytunnel with salads, peppers and tomatoes that burst out of the glorious compost our neighbour had donated to us at record speeds.  Some of the seeds we planted inside had sprouted before things that had been planted outside a month earlier.  Yep, it was that kind of summer.


So after what feels like a long wait we have abundance in the garden.  Not quite what we’d hoped for this year, our potatoes, peas and beans are pretty much a right off, but we are starting to have food to put on our plates at last.  Salads that feel soft and smooth in our mouths, fresh and alive and perfectly delicious.  We can finally pair our spinach with our eggs for truly home grown fare, it feels good to be doing so at last.

We’ve learned a lot this year, learned about how the weather can really cause all sorts of trouble, learned where the boggy bits are in the veggie garden and where we want to plant fruit canes next year.  We have plans for potatoes in bins and raised beds next year to give us security against whatever the weather may be.  The garden is starting for form more clearly in our minds and is a project we can see going on for years and years.

garden-9625garden-9629In the mean time, as our summer garden is just getting going, we have been planting with fall in mind.  Carrots and squash for the late autumn months that will go beautifully with our home grown meat; stews made with our own onions, garlic and pork, roasted chickens with fresh greens alongside.  Lots of yummy to come.

This year has felt like a learning year, a year that demanded we notice and pay attention.  For the first time in our life together (19 years at the turn of the year) we are far, far ahead and laying plans that will benefit us and our land for decades to come.  In our minds eye are abundant veggie beds (fed by the wonderful compost our cows will make for us all winter), a fruit garden, two orchards and even another greenhouse to house our herbs, veggies and flowers.

We may not have quite made it all happen this year but the joy of gardening is that there is always next year.  And the year after that.


Sights of Sunday

Sights of Sunday

This morning the mist was right up against the bedroom window when it was time to get up and head out for the morning chores.  Everything was cloaked, hidden in the glow of the early sunshine that had not yet burned off the moisture made heavy by the cool temperatures last night.

sunday august-9630sunday august-9642sunday august-9631sunday august-9637As the sun crested the trees the mist lit up, magnifying each droplet into a glowing lamp of golden light.

sunday august-9645sunday august-9641 sunday august-9638The chickens seemed unaware of the firey display around them, they were more interested in breakfast and early morning bug hunting.  The diamond dewdrops and spun silver spiderwebs don’t capture their imagination the way a juicy worm does.

sunday august-9633 sunday august-9650The misty shroud didn’t last too long, suffusing everything with the softness of half waking.  Quickly it burned off leaving a warm and busy day awaiting, but somehow I still seem to be carrying a fuzzy dream around with me, unwilling to let go of this gentle vision that began the day.



Yesterday, as I was just beginning to make dinner, there was a knock at the door.  The dog was going crazy, the kids were running around me as I opened the door a crack to stop Winnie bolting out and crashing into whomever was on the other side in a blur white floof and massive paws.

Our neighbour was there smiling at me and announced he had our cows with him!  In a moment any worry or stress I’d had that day fell away in the excitement of it all (I also forgot I was on the phone to my Dad and had to call him back half an hour later) as we bolted outside to witness the unfurling of a long held dream.

cows-9607 cows-9608 cows-9610 cows-9612 cows-9613The cows (who have been living on our neighbour’s farm since April) tottered down the ramp and out into the pasture with the air of people viewing a new house.  They weren’t making any judgements, there were things they liked but they’d have to have a good look round before they could say for sure if it was ‘the one’.  I held my breath, does our field have kerb appeal?  Does it have the ‘wow factor’?  After a good march about and an inspect of our newly finished fence they obviously decided it would do and got down to munching on the shoulder high grass.

cows-9614 cows-9615 cows-9617 cows-9618I managed to snap a few pictures in between jumping up and down and hugging my embarrassed neighbour (he is as a god to our people), Huwyl took a couple more while running up and down the fence line with his brother as the cows took a stately stroll checking that the fence really did go all the way around.

Then suddenly we were alone with our cows, these great beasts who we are now solely responsible for.  I was reminded of that moment when you are finally left alone with your first baby and you think “what do I do now?”.  When Stephen got home to see the girls in the field he too was full of excitement and trepidation, we stood in the deepening rain and watched them until we could no longer justify the drenching.  Then we stood a bit longer.

The project of building the cow pasture has been going on since May, Stephen built the cow barn in April and we bought our first cow in March yet it has taken all this time to finally get them here.  With the wettest summer I can remember we’ve had to attempt patience as each phase of fence building was delayed further and further.  Finally this weekend, with tractor and hammer and not a little swearing, we nailed the final staple in place and the pasture was done.  Stephen hung the gate that he’d bought several months ago and voila, we had a cow pasture.

Despite my elation at finally having finished this project the pasture seemed so starkly empty, until yesterday that is.  When those cows walked into the field that we had built the farm suddenly seemed complete.  For the first time it felt like we had all the pieces in place and now we just have to put them in all the right places.

cows-9621There will be many more pictures of our new arrivals in the near future, but for now please welcome Day Star Wanderer and Morag the Black to Fernwood Farm.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I really need to go and look at my cows.