Willow just lost a tooth... her first. This little girl is growing the hell up. Sometimes it scares me.
Yesterday I saw a newborn baby and I had the briefest, tiniest moment of baby lust. I remembered when my little ones were truly little and I experienced an instant of heart-opening OH...
Then the baby cried and my lust evaporated. Just like that!
There are no babies in my family's future. Just the simple, bittersweet observance of two children growing too fast, too soon to be gone, probably to distant shores.
I do expect that my kids will crave escape from this small town. Maybe they'll go to San Francisco, or Bangkok. Maybe they'll tell friends or partners about their bizarre hometown and everyone will laugh in disbelief. Eventually they might get the craving for this green place, where they know every person and every last blade of grass, and they'll come home. But maybe not. Maybe this isn't really their home, their heart-home, in the way that Arizona and Utah were never my homes, just places where I lived for a while. They might not follow in my footsteps, but still, I'm always preparing myself for it: the day when they'll leave.
I'm trying to love them so hard while they're here.
My attention has been focused elsewhere and Broke Ass Farm projects have fallen by the wayside. True to the name, we haven't exactly been flooded with cash, so the long list of things that need to be done – principally, expanding the electric fence, neutering Tuna, establishing a bee colony, and building the garden – simply have not happened.
For an entire week our chickens had no protection after the battery cage for the electric fence blew out.
Luckily the company replaced it, but it was just another knock against us. Lately it feels like this place is falling down around our ears.
We've been stuck in a pit of inertia with the chickens. The roosters are mature and crowing their friggin' heads off day and night (mostly night). In blunt economic terms, every dollar of food they consume at this point is a dollar wasted, because they're not getting any bigger.
And yet the work involved in processing them is so intense, so time-consuming, so soul-rending that I have been reluctant to accept it. We slaughtered, plucked, and dressed six of the boys a few weeks ago and that was so exhausting, I can hardly stand to think of doing it again.
Every time a friend asks how much we are charging for chicken meat, I just have to laugh. In order to compensate for the economic cost of losing so many birds to predation, plus the emotional, infrastructural, and labor costs we've invested, I'd probably have to charge something like $75 a bird.
At this point, if someone is willing to come to our house and help with processing, I'll consider that a fair trade for the meat. That's how eager I am to be done with this project.
I don't have regrets, per se. I wanted to see if we could make it work. We can't!! And hey, I get it now. I understand why there are no local sources of truly pastured, organic-fed, non-hybrid chicken at a reasonable price. I wanted to figure it out for myself. Now I know!
The ladies are doing very well. They should begin laying eggs within days.
(Y'hear that, girls? WITHIN DAYS.)
This week we're planning to isolate them in the big coop, with the new nesting boxes, so they can get in the habit of laying in the coop (and NOT in the creek and the trees and under the house and any damn place we can't reach). We'll switch the fencing around to keep them under the madrone tree and out of the garden area.
Because it's planting time, baby!
Knowing that I was depressed about the chickens, Jeremy turned the soil on one garden bed several weeks ago. But then it started raining and I was too nervous to plant seeds. He kept encouraging me to plant anyway, and finally I did.
As I've mentioned before, we have very fertile soil here because of the cattle. We also have very compacted soil here because of the cattle. But as soon as Jeremy turned the soil, earthworms took up residence, which is a very good sign. Even weeks later the soil has stayed loamy.
I have very high hopes for this garden space. The effort to break up the soil is going to be well worth it.
I'm not clear on the frost dates here because we live in a microclimate that doesn't appear on any known map. Playing it safe, I planted spinach, lettuces, French Breakfast radishes, a European Mesclun mix from Baker Creek (my favorite seed source), and blue-podded peas.
I pulled over a defunct chicken tractor to protect the seeds from the chickens and that was that. It sure doesn't seem like much, this one bed on the edge of such a large intended garden area. But it's a start.
I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but Jeremy rabbits have finally successfully given birth. Unfortunately, not all of the babies have survived. Some of them were born right before a serious rainfall and despite the shelters and the tarps and Jeremy's worry, they didn't make it through the cold.
The death aspect of growing food is simply inescapable. I know that I cover this topic an awful lot.
Sometimes it seems like most of what we do here is less about life than death. We do spend an awful lot of time discussing, evading, preparing for, and ultimately harvesting death. These little guys are pretty dang cute, but in a few weeks, theoretically, we'll be eating them.
How cruel and ugly and heartless do you have to be to eat a bunny rabbit?
That's how I used to think about it. How can you love an animal and then kill it? But the theory doesn't quite match up to the reality.
This knowledge is the blessing and curse of every grower.
We share the land with a rancher who grazes cattle, perhaps a hundred at a time. Friends ask us all the time whether they can buy meat from this guy. Sadly, these entirely grass-fed, free-ranging cattle are bound for a finishing feedlot in the Midwest, where their relative health, not to mention the superior nutrient content and safety of their meat, will sharply drop off while they gorge themselves to death on corn and soy.
While we were planting seeds yesterday we heard barking up the hill. At first I assumed that the rancher was rounding up cattle, along with his border collies, for another shipment. But he didn't follow along behind on horseback and on closer inspection the dogs were not collies, but strays. They circled the cattle, barking and nipping, while the cattle bellowed and eventually turned to fight the dogs. Apparently the dogs weren't amenable to moving on until one of them was shot and killed.
I didn't hear the shots. I don't know what to think about it. This is an agricultural area and ranchers have a right to protect their livestock. The cattle were seriously disturbed and the dogs were on the attack. But I'm a city person, inherently. Dogs are lovable members of the family, and the idea of one being shot is shocking to me.
I don't have any conclusions from this event. I just wanted to mention it as yet another aspect of "country living" that isn't exactly glorified in Mother Earth News.
We have lived in our little cabin on all these acres for eight months now. The fantasy is slowly giving way to reality. Reality is gritty, sometimes downright ugly. It is not clean, organized, or compassionate. It is careless. Sometimes it is unbearable. Reality doesn't give a shit about all the farming memoirs I've hopefully consumed over the past ten years. Reality is prepared to dump buckets of rain on a freshly-planted seed bed, to blow out our electric fencing, to kill half a dozen chickens by way of a bobcat.
My test is whether I can stand up to all this reality. Whether I can stay standing.
My little girl was visited by the Toothe Faerie last night. (That's how she signed her card.) She left Willow a jump-rope in exchange for her tooth. Willow can jump-rope like you would not believe. She's not a baby anymore. She's growing up, up, up, and away.