Saturday, June 25, 2011

Broken Lines and Breakfast for Birds

My husband, daughter and I woke up early this morning, packed up my truck and headed off to Spencer Lake for an impromptu fishing trip. We picked up some nightcrawlers along the way, unloaded our gear and got down to the important business of relaxing and enjoying ourselves. My daughter was the first, and only, person to catch a fish all day.
 It was a windy, cool and overcast morning, and each time I cast my hook into the lake the choppy little waves carried my line right back to me in a matter of minutes. While my frustration was beginning to mount, I noticed a large bird flying towards me, seeming to blow in on the clouds as it circled past me and came to rest on the opposite bank of the little inlet I'd been angling in.

Slowly the bird, a Great Blue Heron, crept into the water, where it stood and peered intently into the choppy murk. I lost all interest in my fishing was transfixed; it's not often I get a chance to so closely observe such a large and beautiful creature in its natural habitat. As I silently looked on, the majestic bird patiently crept further into the lake until, in one sudden and graceful motion, it stretched out its bill into the water to snatch out a rather large, wriggling bass and carried it off into the brush on the bank. The whole act of watching this bird catch his breakfast was at once violent and moving and left me awed and breathless. I sat for a moment, feeling blessed for having been able to see a small sampling of life in the wild. Turning back to my fishing pole, I noticed my hook had gotten hopeless ensnared in the weeds. After a few minutes struggle, I had freed it and the heron had moved on as well. At least it was having better luck than I was.

I headed back to grab my coffee and find another place to fish and discovered a curious visitor when I arrived.
My daughter picked it up and carried it around for a little while, naming and playing with it the way children do with wild things that seem like they might be friendly. I cast my line in another part of the lake, got my line tangled in some rocks beneath the surface, and called my husband over to help me free it. Then I moved again, choosing another spot I thought looked still enough for the fish to bite. After just a few minutes, my bobber disappeared beneath the surface. In the excitement of the moment, I pulled too hard and the line snapped, sending my hook, line and bobber down into the depths with the rocks I had mistaken for a biting fish.
My daughter had grown weary of fishing and said the caterpillar had bitten her and she was regretting having named it, so we left my husband to fish and went for a walk down the path. Here are a few of the other things we found as we explored:

After a short jaunt where we found lots of insects and geese and some very cool seed pods, we found my husband, wrapped up our fishing trip and got on with our Saturday.

Although the pictures don't really do it justice, it's been a very long time since I've felt so surrounded in peace, beauty and tranquility. Even though my fishing trip was far from a smashing success, it was an excellent chance to combat the Nature Deficit Disorder that's been defining my busy life lately. I feel inspired and refreshed and all it cost was some fishing line, a hook, a bobber and a few hours of my time. Thanks to a heron and some insects, I remembered why I love it here and that it's important to slow down and notice the little things.
Wishing you a week full of small, inspirational moments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Plastic Evolution Box

 Today we got half of the compost bin built in an area my husband has been working diligently for a while to clear out. It is made entirely out of materials that were given to us for free and should last nearly forever.
There will be a second portion attached to the side of this one that looks exactly the same so we can turn the compost easily from one side to the other as we need to. This is super exciting to me because it means we can stop sending a good portion of our trash to the landfill and instead use it to grow yummy veggies in years to come.

It's exciting when you get a chance to turn the death and decay of one thing into the birth of something new or better. First pallets, then food scraps, and afterwards our dependence on the grocery store. We're blessed to have this little bit of land we can use to change how we interact with our world.

Now my husband only has about a half acre more to clear to make room for his dream: dairy goats. We're getting there folks, but it's a slow evolution.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Work In Progress

"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." - Masanobu Fukuoka

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hero in Steel Toes

I remember being maybe about four years old, playing in the living room with him. I think the carpet was a mottled grey shag in that room and the couches we had were probably second-hand like mine are today. A grey plaid pattern and a scratchy material covered the cushions we used to make our forts under the table as we listened to John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy. We had great adventures together. Once I even got to ride my imagination as far as space when I climbed inside a welding suit and put on the mask. I was an astronaut and he was my hero, with his uniform shirts and steel toed boots.

As I grew older he taught me other things: how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, who sang all the songs on the radio, to plant marigolds at the edge of the garden and what the names were of every bush and tree around the outside of our humble home he worked so hard for us to have. From him I learned what metals you can recycle, how the inside of a toilet works and how to drive a car. Our adventures evolved too, from car rides through the park to look for deer to going fishing and then to him visiting for dinner at the restaurant where I waited tables, where he would smile proudly and leave a generous tip.

Although he challenged me to always do better, he was never discouraging or angry when I didn't get straight A's. Even though he worked long days to make sure we were fed and clothed and comfortable, he always made time to shoot hoops or come to school plays. And most importantly of all, he showed me that it's always worthwhile to help those in need, even if you are tired yourself.

These days I have a husband to kill spiders, wipe tears and chase off things that go bump in the night, but he still lends me his tools, helps me build things and helps my husband work on my car. And even though we don't play spaceman anymore and I'm all grown up, he's still my hero and I'm his biggest fan.

I love you Dad. Happy Father's Day and thanks for everything, especially sharing your time and John Lennon with me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Old Before Your Time

Been SO busy @ the SemiFarm lately! The garden is finally in, the grass is mowed, every single dinner has been grilled outside and there's a really cool, handmade, homemade twig fence around the strawberry patch to deter the deer. It's working too folks! There aren't many berries, but the plants will slowly recover and there's no more hoofprints. (It's the small victories. Really.)

Though we're still working on the coop, the earth's doing her thing quite nicely! Peas and potatoes and purple pod beans are creeping out of the dirt. Even the cucumbers I direct sowed from seed are showing their adorable little heads. We put some straw down for the potatoes tonight and it looks like a little rain might be headed our way again. So far the weeds have been tolerable and quick to take care of. (Another of life's tiny pleasures.)

We've been hard at work, all of us, on getting the homestead going and me, solo, on my writing which, (happily) also is keeping me quite busy. I really thrive on the chaos, but being over-extended so much and so often lately has been "aggitating my soul", as a friend of mine likes to say. The stress must be getting to my body finally too because a co-worker pointed out today that my token grey hair (that I blame entirely on my job; I'm still young) had broken and multiplied. Now I have several badges of honor on my head to show my strength and determination!

Last weekend my super amazing husband, sensing my anxiety, forced me into an impromptu fishing trip. I've sworn off caffiene too to ease my jitters a bit too. This coming week, then, will also be intentionally quieter, as I force myslef to slow down and enjoy life a little more. It's sweeter that way anyways, and I'll be better for it in the long run. Maybe I'll take a few minutes to admire my new silver locks.

Like A Proper Farm Truck

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place

there is more than this in life
than toil and worry and fear
if i hide amongst the trees
the warm breeze sometimes drowns it out
hands over ears, huddled
under my green canopy
i pretend my songs come from
the river's edge
safe here. home.
and i won't bow down to your
gods of perpetual motion and
inexhaustible growth
all lies, it surely is,
as nothing lives forever and
i long instead for stillness, light,
warm dog kisses and a lover's touch
poetry, not progress
world whizzing by me seems so
muscles tense, eyes closed
i dream of meadows and journals and
time, precious time
not devoured by my overwhelmed senses
the earth is not a
cold, dead place though she
and i cry out together
for solace from the
storm, so carried off we have been
in the deluge of life

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Kind of Beauty It Takes More Than Eyes to Know

Video from here.

Buy this awesome album here: Reprieve

Mounting My Soapbox on Spaceship Earth

It seems slightly comical in practice, but one of the reasons I've pursued this homesteading lifestyle is to simplify my life. I want to be in a position to not need to rely quite so much on this money-based economy and trend back towards a life where we know our neighbors' names and trade our skills with one another.
In doing so, I've been trying to think of simple things I can do myself rather than paying out my hard won cash. We started small back in the apartment with baking our own bread, which eventually morphed into growing our own tomatoes, to wanting our own chickens and goats to making my own laundry detergent. Now I'm taking it one step further. I'm going to start making all my cleaners in house, except dishwasher soap (can't find a recipe!), as they run out.
We already do laundry soap and fabric softener, but nearly everything else is being replaced by a few essential oils, lemon juice, vinegar and the magical, mystical Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Castile Soap, which is a gift straight from the heavens. If you haven't tried this stuff, you really ought to. So far we've successfully used it as a dish soap, hand soap and body soap. I've also been experimenting with it as a shampoo and, although you need to condition afterward, it seems to do that pretty well too. The stuff is pretty darn amazing, contains no SLS, and I'm pretty excited at the potential of getting rid of all the yucky chemicals under my sink. How great would it be to only have one package to dispose of instead of many? One thing to buy instead of five or six? And I get the ability to customize how it smells on a whim? Score!
Dr. Bronner's isn't paying me for this, but they are a pretty special progressive company you might like to learn about. Their policies towards the earth and their products are admiriable, as are the benefits they offer their employees, which makes them great people to add as teammates in my quest for eco-friendly and simple living. Check out their website to learn about their history, or you could try a bottle and read the million words printed on the outside too.
So today marks the beginning of a six month experiment to replace each and every cleaning agent in my house with an earth-friendly septic-safe alternative, right down to the toothpaste, without breaking the bank. Stay tuned along the way for updates on our progress and if you have a dishwasher soap recipe that works, please share!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Little Sweat and a Dirty Hoe

You still can't really tell that we aim to grow our own food around this place from the looks of it. We've plowed three times! It's frustrating that we've only managed to put in one row of potatoes so far this year. Honestly, it feels like the instant we THINK about planting, the weather radio beeps and whirs to life with a warning or watch about one thing or another. Any plants we have in that have survived are equal parts lucky and strong for surviving hail, torrential downpours and fierce winds all within their short lifespans.
My seed starting has been a failed experiment on a grand scale, though I am by no means discouraged. I don't remember if it was Einstein or Edison but someone much more intelligent than I once penned a line about discovering ways that do not work, and I contend that I've merely been a huge success in doing THAT rather than farming. Yep. Been real busy with that around here lately.
Since there's no shame in asking for help, tonight the family and I visited a local garden center where we picked up a few seedlings (plants! pre-growed!). Tomorrow, hopefully before the 90 degree heat the weathermen call for, I'll be back at it with my dirty hoe by my side, trying to get them in before the next round of thunderstorms, which are on their way Thursday... it's a small miracle when the dry days match up with my days off. I'll take it when I can get it, even if means lots of sweating, swearing and starting over.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Orange Triangles of Zen

At long last, the plows are finally out in force now here in Ohio. Yesterday was a near perfect day off from the-job-that-lets-me-buy-things-like-toilet-paper (thank Lydia for that description!) culminating in a goregous sunset, a new (& exciting) freelance gig, and the soft purr of the tractors pulling disc plows down my street, headed towards home after a day in the fields. This, folks, is the stuff bliss is made of, and I wouldn't have seen it if I wasn't standing still.

Too often my days off are filled with the rushing, chores and errands that keep this homestead thriving, so much so that when I find myself not needing to dash off to the grocery or pet store, I often have to actually try hard to remember that my days aren't meant to be based just on consumption, whether that's measured in time or material things. It's hard to do in a world where every waking moment is a barage of commercials, every flat surface a billboard for "progress". It's times like this, in the stillness, that we have a glorious opportunity to pause and reflect on whether we need more material things at all and what the real reasons might be behind a compulsion to shop.

I'm a victim in this game sometimes myself, teetering on that great grey line between "prepared" and "hoarding". (See my post about yarn if you've forgotten.) Though I'm pretty thrifty, I have times where there's more week left than paycheck and I drive with my fingers crossed that I have the whole red rectangle before the tank's really empty. It was so nice, then, that this week there was one more day off than usual, one day usually spent at work, that afforded me some quality time for rest, a good book, and, of course, some gardening, while still getting paid. (There are small bits of good in corporate America after all...)

I'm discovering that there's a lot of beauty right here, right where I already am, if I slow down and shut off the ads in my head long enough to really listen and look. There's reminders right here that I have all that I need. Bet you'll find it too if you can learn to see peace instead of impatience in the orange triangle on the rear of a plow.

Like my dad always says (but sometimes forgets to practice too), slow down. You'll live longer.