Homestead Update: Planning for the Garden, Dreaming of a Farm, and a Tiny Chicken Wrangler
Happy Saturday! In case you missed it, we're currently in Nashville, Tennessee working the Country Living Fair. Woohoo! I'm actually writing this post early with some of the things that happened this past weekend and a bit into the week. Honestly, these past few weeks have been weird and a bit stressful. Obviously, we've been spending the past few months preparing for our CLF show, but with the month of April hitting us hard and fast, we knew it was crunch time as soon as the first of the month arrived. It's also just been a hard month because of the season of life; spring is an important time on the homestead, and even though we'll be perfectly on time cutting out our garden next week and planting outdoors, I still feel behind. I'm not sure why that is!
I was talking with a friend about if it's too late to plant potatoes and onion starters recently, and she assured me that it wasn't. She still hadn't planted anything yet, and though there were other gardeners who were planting early, she told me that their harvest would be early. And who really wants to harvest in the middle of July when it's scorching and everyone's busy with summer plans? I had to agree, and took in a large breath of relief. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not harvesting crops as a business, but as a lifestyle, and just enough for our family. It must be the logistical part of my brain that wants to see every plant grown in perfect uniformity and have them all be successful. But not all of them will, and maybe none of them will, but at least I'll have tried. We had cucumbers, summer squashes, peppers, and tomatoes all pop up out of their starter trays this week. It's always so exciting to see new plants say hello!
We discovered over the weekend that Tad has become a chicken wrangler. He was able to corral a poor chicken into the corner of the greenhouse the other day and scoop her up in his pudgy hands. I was so terrified! When I had picked them up before and let him pet the girls, it was difficult trying to teach him how to be gentle, to not squeeze, to not pat them on the head so roughly. Being two is really hard! To my surprise, he was very gentle when picking up the chicks, careful not to squeeze them, and setting them down gently where he wanted them to go. Though he was gentle, the easier it became to catch each chicken, the faster and more efficient he found the task becoming and was starting to get sloppy.
Now when we take the chickens outside, he likes to pick them up and put them all in the greenhouse, tell them to, "Stay dehr, chick chickies!" and then pick them all up again and place them outside. I'm not sure if he realizes they're live creatures yet. Perhaps to him, they're just fluffy feathered toys. I try to be cautious, but also to not interfere too much with his behavior. If he's being gentle, then I don't need to be breathing down his neck about how to act. I noticed out of the corner of my eye the other day that he had picked up Muriel, our largest Barred Rock, and was holding her feathered back up to his cheek, cooing and saying, "Aawww, chickie, aaaw." He was cuddling that poor chicken, who looked like she might pass out and die from fear. It was really quite precious.
There was also the incident where Tad stepped on the weakest chicken's (of course) little foot. Poor Thelma! She's the meanest chicken, too. Whenever I stick my hand in the brooder to say hi or feed them, she runs right up to my hand and starts pecking. Maybe she's looking for food since she doesn't really have a chance to get at any when the other girls are around. Either way, Tad stepped right on her foot and she let out this horrible screech. I was so upset, especially watching her limp around and do this weird chicken cry for about three hours. I inspected the foot carefully, and after finding no bruising, swelling, or cries from the chicken when I touched it, I ruled it out as diva behavior. She's standing on it fine now - what a baby! Ha!!
I made my first real loaf of sourdough bread - from my own starter!! I know!!!!
I've been holding onto this starter for a few weeks now, trying and failing miserably about four times before getting a recipe to work. Oh man, when I pulled it out of the oven not sunken in, I was so proud. And it tasted just wonderful! I shared how to care for a starter and bake sourdough on the blog yesterday. It's been SO fun! You can check out our flour sack towels here.
Earlier in the week, Jill and Kurt marked the plot of the garden outside. It's going to be directly in front of the greenhouse, between there and our home, so we can look out upon it from our kitchen window. It will really be such a beautiful marriage. I am excited for it to begin! Like I said before, I was starting to feel bad that the plot wasn't yet cut out, but I think all will be well and happen at the right time for us. Things like that usually do. When we get home from the fair, it will be time to cut the sod and turn up the rich, dark soil. We've been digging other places in the yard, and the soil is just gorgeous.
I have been doing a lot of dreaming lately, about how the garden will look, about how much our lives will change when we are truly growing food for ourselves and hosting our own vegetables at the table. Our whole foods journey has been so rewarding already, and we keep telling ourselves that it is only going to get better once we have begun working the garden.
The apple trees have started to blossom, and I went out into the "orchard" in the evening a few days ago and snapped some photos of the first little pink buds and flowers. They're so sweet and delicate. We were so surprised to see them pop out! Like we had just grown the most spectacular thing, all of us jumping up and down excitedly. I suppose it's our first sign of a successful garden. I've been getting lots of little pats on the back for pruning and prepping the trees and berry bushes in early March, which my parents both thought I shouldn't have done. The blueberry bushes are also now sprouting some beautiful leaves.
Motherhood has been a rollercoaster lately, to say the least. Right now I'm watching Tad play next to me with a stuffed dog as he makes it bounce and fight and tumble quite roughly, the next second hugging and kissing and petting him. Then right back it, gauging out his plastic eyes and squeezing the life out of his head. I feel like he does that to me, some days, too. I feel you, little stuffed dog, I feel you.
There was one morning this week where I went outside to dump our kitchen scraps onto the compost pile, and found myself checking out everything else in the garden, like the plants and turning the pile. Tad was inside with Jill, eating breakfast. I hear the kitchen window open, and there's Tad, with his head hanging out of it, yelling, "Mom! Tad pooped!" Oi. He also likes to yell hello out the front door to strangers walking down the street. Most of them don't say hi back, but it's the gems that take a moment and wave.
We've had our moments of struggle between the two of us. I'm trying my hardest to be patient with a child who has no patience at all, who likes to dump rocks right in front of my face after I've told him not to ten or fifteen times beforehand. Year two, so far, is not the most fun time for me, but even in the dark times, there are sweet times, too. Like when I get woken up in the morning with a kiss on the nose and a quiet, "Get up, mom." Or when I let him run free at the park to play, only to get a hug every ten minutes.
In a word, I am exhausted, but this next week will be a time of rest and relapse. We will cut out the garden, move the chickens outside, and begin the work that I think is truly important. Our online shop will be restocked, and we will be eating in much less of a hurry. That week is calling to me! I hope you have a beautiful weekend, and whether you have a garden or not, that you find some time to rest in nature and bask in the beauty that is mid-spring. The lilacs are blooming and there are apple blossoms all around. It's a gorgeous time!