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Month: May 2014

In the morning time

In the morning time

After a weekend spent outside raising garden beds and planting seeds (as well as a billion other things!) it feels odd to return to our everyday life.  The season seems to be shifting quickly from spring to summer and I’m ready for our rhythm to change once more, though I haven’t quite decided what that will look like yet!  I certainly feel it’s time for us to move to a  different beat as the sunshine draws us outside and the farm demands more of our time.

So this morning we’ll be heading off the library, returning a batch of books that were our reading for the spring, looking forward to the new inspiration we’ll find there for the weeks and months ahead.  The boys, who went out to do ‘chores’ and are still outside, seem to have forgotten entirely that there may be such a thing as school and I don’t blame them.  The sunshine beckons and outside is now warmer and lovelier than in.

DSC_0679 DSC_0675 DSC_0674 DSC_0670 DSC_0668 DSC_0667I am lingering, in the quiet of a morning that began with rush and begins a full day; my tea is warm and my snack sweet and delicious, just like the kiss of the morning sun outside. As always there is plenty to do, eggs to sort for customers, stock bubbling away (roasted pork bones this time), lard waiting to be rendered and a fridge full of milk demanding my attention.  This afternoon we’ll head across town for our homeschool gym class to bounce around in the sunshine with friends.

DSC_0677 DSC_0676 DSC_0678 DSC_0680 DSC_0673 DSC_0679 DSC_0672So while my boy who “fell in mud” gets changed and the other disappears into a corner somewhere to build or think or read, I snap a few moments of this lull, this quiet space between going here or there.  There is always enough work to go around in this busy springtime on the farm, always more than we think we can manage yet somehow it gets done.  But the lulls, the quiet moments that creep across an hour or a minute, they are precious and to be treasured.  So often they are gone before you can really sink into them and so I hope to snatch it in my net and soak it up before the tasks once more fill up the space.

DSC_0669 DSC_0671DSC_0678 DSC_0680And now, as I write this, I feel the day tugging at me once more.  The last sips of tea are gulped rather than sipped, the voices of boys are raised and ready to go, the clock glows at me, reminding me that there are only so many minutes in a morning and that we must make good use of them.  So off I go again friends, into this beautiful day, this morning; I will carry with me this lull, this little corner of peace and know I’m lucky to have had it, and lucky for all the rest too.

Mowing the Lawn – Farm Style

Mowing the Lawn – Farm Style

With all the sun and rain we’ve had this last week or two, the grass is growing tall and thick and green.  The trees are unfurling into their summer bloom and everywhere around us looks rick and verdant.  It’s around this time that a person might start thinking about cutting some of that grass back.

Meet our lawn mower, Wander.

DSC_0624 DSC_0622 DSC_0618 She’s efficient, eco friendly and extremely keen; you might say that she really loves her work.  The main cow pasture is currently a little depleted (we are moving them out onto the main pasture this weekend) so she is very much enjoying her evening promenades with Stephen.  Her post-milking strolls allow her to take in the sights, munch some grass, have a chat, munch some grass… you get the picture.  What more could a cosmopolitan cow wish for?

DSC_0626 DSC_0629DSC_0636Of course it so just so déclassé to not include one’s friends when one is enjoying an evening of perambulation, so the boys were instructed to collect a take out bag of sorts for Mrs Morag (not a halter friendly cow unfortunately).  She devoured it with relish.  Her gratitude (conveyed in moos) was evident, though it could easily pass for not giving a toss in the slightest if you didn’t know her quite as well as we do.  Cows do haughty better than a queen and are much less forgiving if you cross them.

DSC_0633Sweet Wander rewarded us with an extra litre of rich, creamy milk this morning, it’s her way of saying “I love you”.  Well maybe it’s her way of saying “I will not stomp on you today but only on the understanding that you keep the green stuff coming”.  With cows it’s hard to tell.

Garden Schooling

Garden Schooling

It’s gardening season here on the farm, with tomato plants abounding and green things on our minds.  We are in the process of building a series of raised beds so that we can really get stuck into our veggie production and we’ve been planting fruit trees and bushes around our garden too; it’s gardenpalooza.

So it makes sense that it should also become part of our school work, after all the big advantage of homeschooling is that we can choose what to learn about and do it in an integrated way.  For our family, raising and growing our own food is a big part of our raison detre and we really want to include the boys in the work it involves.  We also want them to learn the skills they will need in their own lives, the skills needed to be less dependent on a food system that is, it seems to me, doomed to fail.

DSC_0600 DSC_0601 DSC_0602Without wanting to be scary-post-apocalypse-gardening-lady (no one invites her to their party) I believe that the future will look very different from what we are used to.  Our food systems will be strong affected by the rapidly changing world we live in now and knowing how to grow food is going to be increasingly important.  I could wax lyrical for many hours with my thoughts on food security and it’s importance, but I shall refrain and instead talk about tomatoes.

Is it possible to have too many tomatoes?  I’m not sure it is and I tend to act accordingly.  This year we’ve got about 140 determinates (bush varieties) on the go and I’d like a few indeterminates for the polytunnel too, but we shall see if that works out.  We are bringing our tomatoes on in the tunnel and will be planting them out in June, weather depending.  My life goal is to produce enough tomatoes (and manage to preserve them in good time) to see us through a full year, it is a simple goal but one I haven’t quite managed to achieve.  This year we made it to about February on our own produce (we had tomatoes on the go from about July last year so that puts us at the 7/8 month mark) so we’ll see what we can manage this year.

DSC_0599DSC_0603 DSC_0604As part of our school last week I did some gardening work with the boys, teaching them how to transplant seedlings and talking about what seeds need to grow.  We set up a surprisingly efficient assembly line with Neirin filling the pots, Huwyl levelling and creating the holes and me transplanting the seedlings.  We got 40 or so done (so more to do) which I was really pleased with.  The boys were extremely enthusiastic about their involvement, organizing themselves to make the tasks easier and working very efficiently as part of a team.  I hope this bodes well for future gardening activities, there are going to be a lot of them.

DSC_0605 DSC_0606If I could hope to instil one trait in the boys through our homeschool (and family) journey, it would be confidence in their own abilities.  I want them to feel able, resourceful and capable of tackling whatever life throws at them.  And if my vision of the future is crazy nonsense, well being able to garden never hurt anyone.

Seed Season

Seed Season

Despite the incredibly slow start to spring that we’ve had this year (it’s May people!) gardening season is very much upon us.  This year our garden is very much our preoccupation, we’ve been talking about it all winter long and now the season is finally here we are keen to get going.

During our winter deliberations we laid out the priorities for the farm and for our family for the growing season.  We have an ever increasing number of animals that take up a lot of our time and resources, but neither of us felt that we’d really got a handle on how the garden was going to work.  The first year we lived here we put in some seeds and were lucky enough to get some lovely crops.  Despite the drought it was a bumper year for tomatoes and salads and we felt that we’d done well.

DSC_0590 DSC_0591 DSC_0592Last year, however, was a washout, literally and figuratively.  The constant and pounding rain washed away seeds, rotted potatoes and drained away the last of the life in the soil.  The mud was sodden under our feet and with early frosts and some late season blight carrying away a good part of our tomato crop, it was not a successful year.

This year we have several (and may I say cunning) plans afoot with regards to the garden.  Firstly we will be building the first several in a series of raised beds, these will make it easier to garden earlier in the season, will lift plants out of wet ground and will give us the chance to use row covers to create early and late season plants.  Secondly, we will be bringing in a few tonnes of soil to fill the beds with.  The soil on our land is a mix of clay and loam and has never had any improvements added, it really needs some tlc if we are to expect any nice produce at all.  We will begin with fresh compost and will continue next year adding our own rotted cow muck.  It takes about 18 months to 2 years for much to rot down enough to plant straight into, so next year we’ll be using the deep piles of poop from this long winter.  It’s nice to think we’ll be able to provide our own soil as well as our own meat, milk and veg from our wonderful cows.

Thirdly we’ll be using our polytunnel to bring on seeds and transplants, making it much more likely that our crops will do well outside.  We’ll be able to bring things on more quickly and ready an autumnal crop while the summer garden is still in full bloom.  I really would like to have plants providing at least some of our food from June to November, not including the preserved foods which will last us right into winter.  And fourth (but not least) we are bringing in perennial plants that will continue to grow and provide for many years to come.  As well as fruit trees (cherry, pear, elderberry and apple)  we have fruit bushes that should begin cropping next year.  Though I love going to local pick-your-own’s during the summer months there are fruits such as blackcurrant, blackberry and gooseberry that no one grows in quantity in this area.  I’m very much looking forward to making a wide selection of jams and conserves in future years!

DSC_0593 DSC_0594 DSC_0595With all that in mind we’ve begun our seeds indoors, placed by one of our big, south facing windows they’ve fairly shot out of the earth.  With the help of my trusty gardening assistant (see above) I’ll be potting on tomatoes today and through the weekend and hope to begin hardening them off soon for a late May/early June planting.  We’ve also started peas, beans, leeks and onions.  Once the seedlings are potted on, I’ll be planting our indeterminate varieties of tomatoes (I have a bit of a tomato fetish) and some herbs that will be the beginning of an extensive herb garden.

Though each weekend always brings more work than it does hours or energy, we hope to do a bit of a clear out on the polytunnel so that we can begin using it in earnest.  I have plans for pots of zucchini and pumpkin as well as some direct sow peas and beans (as well as the transplants that have done so well indoors, in addition to salads and spinach of course.  Once the outside beds are in we can begin sowing in earnest and hopefully soon enjoy the green and tasty fruits of our labours.  I literally cannot wait, but wait I shall.

DSC_0598 DSC_0597 DSC_0596So there you go, plans of such ambition and scale that the mind boggles at how we might possibly achieve it all, but with a steady pace and mud firmly packed under our finger nails I believe that we will.  Wish us luck my friends, and if you feel like doing a spot of weeding please feel free to drop by.  Anytime.  Seriously.