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Signs of Life

Signs of Life

First of all thank you to everyone who said such nice things to us after I wrote about Morag.  In person, on facebook, in the comments section we were met with kindness and understanding.  Thank you.  

Well last week was a bit of a funny one.  We are used to death in some ways on the farm, we are used to being in control of the lives of animals and part of that is deciding when the end should come.  But when a death is sudden and unexpected it feels very different, especially when we lost a favourite girl.  But life goes on, whizzing along whether you like it or not.  In my experience its best to grab onto it and hold on tight, joy is always worth having.

All around us now are the signs of new life, there will be more as the spring progresses with new chicks arriving this week and more gardening planned too.  The grass is greening, trees are budding, herbs are coming back to life and there are babies everywhere.

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The pastures are greening up as the morass of mud slowly recedes, giving hope to the possibility of being able to walk across a field without being ankle deep in mud.  I mean really, just imagine. We have plans afoot for new infrastructure on the farm this year that will help us combat the spring mud season (and the winter snow season) but right now we are grateful for being able to walk across the cow field without actually getting stuck.

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Planting from years past and natures own goodness is all starting to come into leaf, making my thoughts drift forward to warmer days of harvesting and storing.  Right now the wind still holds a pinch of winter, but we’ve had some tasters of jacket free days…dare I even dream of sandals?

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Inside the seed trays are simply full of leaf and life, though the prospect of having to pot on around 250 tomato plants caused me to declare this week a Farm Week, a week where we focus on the tasks that really need to happen now but can’t be packed into an already packed weekend.  What with classes, friends, chores, chicken moving, calf feeding….the hours just seem to run away with us.  So this week I’m enslaving my children, giving my children an invaluable hands on educational experience,  and really trying to catch the tail of spring as she whizzes past us, greening everything in sight.

But really the main preoccupation this week has been a beautiful baby calf, one week old yesterday, who’s beauty just astounds us.  There really is something utterly magical about a newborn anything, they hold such perfection and such promise; she is certainly no different and we admire her to anyone who’ll listen.  Frankly if they’re not listening we’ll still go on about her.

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Every six hours she’s fed by hand, stroked and admired, cuddled and fussed.  Stephen has robbed himself of sleep to keep her on the perfect schedule, plodding out there as the moon rises and shortly after as the sun chases her to the horizon.  Wee Morag stumbles around like a drunken Bambi, making you laugh as she tries to head butt you in the face for more milk while the bottle is held an inch from her mouth.  There really is nothing so bonkers as a cow’s face looming at you.  I’m learning to wear a second layer when it’s my turn because between frothy milk mouth and shiny cow bogeys, clothing doesn’t stand much of a chance.  She’s learning a little about the world and meeting the other cows from the safety of a leash so that she can’t be accidentally stood on.  She’s received some licks from her sister and they’ve all had a good sniff.  I think they’ll all get along very well.

But for now she still occupies the deluxe suite, the barn set aside just for her with a corral that she can boing around in without risk of harm.  The boys go down every day and spend time with her, enjoying her enjoyment of strokes and scratches and hugs.  We can’t replace her lovely Mama, the devoted attention she would have received as they roamed together each day.  But we can give it all we’ve got and hope it’s enough.

So far, she’s doing wonderfully.  She is wonderful.

Spring Starts

Spring Starts

Today I have actually reached the point of feeling that I can actually use the word ‘spring’ officially without a) crying at the same time b) using some kind of prefix like “what the $&@#$ is up with….” and c) expecting there to be some kind of weather related retribution that will bring at least 10 cms of snow in the next 24 hours.  It’s been that kind of spring.

A few times in the last couple of months I have wandered outside, my face turned up to the sky and basked in the warm spring-like sunshine and thought to myself ‘this is it’.  Of course the next day my face was firmly inside because I didn’t want a foot of snow all over it.  Seriously.  There was a lot of snow this spring.  A lot.  Enough to bury my soul in.  Science fact.

But the weather forecast is finally releasing us from our wintery gloom and predicting 20 degrees on the weekend.  20 degrees!  20!!!  Degrees!!!!  Sorry I know that is an irrational amount of exclamation marks but holy cow, I’m ready for spring.  I know I say that every spring and I mean it every spring but this year I really, really mean it.  A lot.

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Despite the mildness of this winter past, especially when compared with the face peeling cold of the previous two winters, it has still felt long and dreary and long.  Did I say long?  Because it felt long.  And, as it does every year, my foolish British soul peeks it’s head from behind it’s metaphorical spiritual duvet sometime in March and starts saying annoying things like “Isn’t it time for the children to be outside yet?”  And I, of course, reply “Shut up soul!  You do this every year!  It’s going to suck for at least another 6 weeks and look now it’s snowing again.”  Usually I weep at that point, or face plant into a cake.  Or both if I’m honest; this year was no different.

But some desperate optimism about the weather must have caught on because Stephen and I spent some time on the weekend starting seeds, little brown packages of hope that they are; plopping them into warm, moist soil and nurturing them, just as they will sustain us through the coming months.  Over the last few days we’ve watched and marvelled as the first sparks of life emerge in plastic trays in the dining room of our house.  I love how life works that way, miraculous and utterly mundane.

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We’ve had increasingly warm days this week, slightly stymied by my littlest bean coming down with a yucky tummy bug, but we are all emerging into the sunlight a little mystified and a lot happier.  There have been moments where the house has fallen silent as the boys run off outside for a bit (Sometimes with some encouragement from Mummy.  Or a lot of encouragement.  Some people would use the word threats but it’s such an ugly term.)  I’ve looked around a little, momentarily unoccupied and been a little unsure what to do.  We are coming into a new season not just of the year but of life, but that’s a post for another day and thoughts for another hour.

So as I peek underneath the condensation clouded lids of my seeds trays and as I wander, oh so casually, out to the polytunnel so recently cleared out by the lovely men in my life, my inner eye is beginning to dream of abundance.  Though there are only specks here and there and the memory of snow is a starkly recent one, my dreaming life is painted with green.  Green and the scent of honey on the air.

It’s a Boy! Welcoming Blaze.

It’s a Boy! Welcoming Blaze.

Yesterday really felt like the first day of spring; the air was warm and soft, wrapping around us gently and calling us out into the sunshine.  The perfect, so very perfect, day for a perfectly perfect calf to be born.  Oh yes indeed.

DSC_0348 DSC_0341 DSC_0334 DSC_0349We’ve been on nervous high alert for the last two weeks as our beef cow Morag’s due date arrived.  The due date duly came and duly went and we waited…and waited.  Just as the winter has lingered on so too, it seemed, did this pregnancy.  We were extra worried as our dear girl had lost her calf last year, a still birth and a bad omen for the beginning of the the year.  Somehow I never quite felt we got out from under the shadow of that loss. So this year we’ve been biting our nails, watching, waiting and hoping against hope that this time all would be well.

So when Huwyl went out to do a quick Morag check yesterday (just as our friends were leaving after a lovely afternoon visit) I didn’t really hold out much hope.  But then he came bolting back, his long legs carrying him across the snow and slush shouting out in the spring sunshine “the calf is here!” so filled with joy it was like he brought spring with him with each step.  We all rushed out to see that little mink coloured bundle, protected so lovingly by his mama, so strong and sturdy as he nursed with confidence and vigour.  To me that little calf looked like the first daffodil of spring, a bright spot in the world.

DSC_0350 DSC_0347 DSC_0355Of course none of this has just happened, this has all taken work, dedication and slog.  Slog through knee deep snow to bring the cows 12 buckets of water when the pipes froze, slog through -40c temperatures every morning to milk and bring nourishing oats to a pregnant cow mama, slog to shift a mountain of poo (as evidenced behind my helpful model) in wind and snow and everything in-between.  All the work of a dedicated man who wants to do right by the animals under his care, it makes me proud to know him.  It has been a long winter, a long road and a lot of work but suddenly, in fact yesterday at about a quarter to 6 in the evening, it all felt worth it.

Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle

On my morning walk about today I noticed two defining factors, everything is dripping wet and turning green.  Wherever I look there seems to be a carpet of emerald, bowed down by diamond jewels of moisture.  Today the air was heavy with humidity, the crisp breezes of April have died away (though the showers seem to be hanging around) while May is beginning to ripen into a lush carpet of soft grass and warm air.

As I squelched through the muddy pig and chicken fields on my morning chores and splashed through endless puddles while walking the dogs, I thanked my lucky stars for the neoprene wellington boots my sister bought me for christmas the year we bought this land.  They make my passage through our dripping wet landscape a pleasure rather than a bother.  For anyone contemplating a life on a farm I would say the first thing you need to buy is a good pair of wellingtons.

Of course I wasn’t the only one enjoying the waterlogged world outside,

Endless puddles, a full pond and overflowing stream are the stuff of dreams to a certain white floof.  She comes in dripping wet, soaked up to her chest and all the happier for it.  But then she isn’t the one cleaning the floors…

Even our house has sprouted some greenery!  We’ve added a green roof to the overhang on the first floor, it is made up of hardy sedums that will hopefully thrive in that sunny spot.  A few dandelions have even colonised one section, we’ll see how long they last!  As dandelions are one of my favourite flowers I really don’t mind seeing them out of a bedroom window, it’s like having a little mid air garden.

Sitting here writing this I am struck by the sounds of birds outside, each day adding more notes to this natural spring song.  It is punctuated by the strangled sound of our cockerel, the occasion child shout or pig snort; it is the sound track of my life and one that brings the world of green and mud to life with even more brilliance.

New Homeschool Curriculum

New Homeschool Curriculum

Today we began a new curriculum that taught us an amazing amount in a relatively short (3 hour) period.  It is a cross disciplinary curriculum that embraces visual, kinesthetic and auditory learning styles allowing students to use manipulatives and their own reasoning skills to decode problems and create inventive scenarios.

Today we explored…

construction…

teamwork, negotiation, ethics…

personal responsibility (tidying belongings, respect for space)

Geology & Biology

peer to peer tutoring…

numeracy…

life skills (food preparation) coupled with an Al Fresco dining experience…

and of course animal identification (as well as caring for animals, personal confidence, self control, feelings of excitement and joy)…

The cost of this amazing curriculum?  Well in one version of ‘cost’ it is simply time and the cost of driving to a beautiful piece of nature.   But in terms of the benefits received from a beautiful day spent in the spring sunshine; truly priceless.