Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Paws for Prayer

Today was our first day of chicken tending in the rain, dodging drops of much needed cool wetness on our way to the coop and hutch. After the oppressive heat of the last few days, this kind of cold is a welcomed thing, even though it's predicted to be in the 90s again today. It's a good thing though, that we are getting what we are, as hauling water from the front of the house to the garden was hard, hot work and the plants are certainly grateful for the drink.
It's so interesting to me how much more attention gets paid to things like the weather which, in most people's lives, is just something that arises as kind of a nuisance. Here it affects a lot that we do, from when the lawn gets mowed to how often we must check on the animals to how we spend our time in the evenings. It really is a pivotal thing, these whims of Mother Nature, something I have learned to have a deep respect and gratitude for as we learn to live closer to the land.
I have no ideas yet what today will bring, except a trip to the feed store for more layer ration and dog food. Part of the family is still enjoying the cool weather resting in bed to the birdsong, which is a great way to spend your Saturday mornings as far as I am concerned. It's likely where I'd be if the animals didn't need let out and fed so early in the day.
Yesterday was a flurry of activity that began at 6 AM, a time I haven't seen on purpose for many months. It was a day dedicated to finding new employment and I was slated to have both a job shadowing interview and a regular interview for a type of job I've done for a very long time. The job shadowing turned out to be a whole lot of fun and a great reminder on just how much goes on in this world that I know nothing about and how much there is out there to still learn and explore if I treat everyday like the adventure it is. It was a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at something I have wanted to try since I was in high school and even took a course in but never did. For multiple reasons I had let that dream die, just like my childhood dream to be a real writer, because the timing wasn't right or the money wasn't there and I was just getting established. I am trying to have faith that everything will work out as I need it to and be patient as I wait for the outcome, but, truth be told, it'd be like following my heart again instead of my head to get this job. It'd be a chance to finally make a difference every day with what I do in a real and meaningful way, to impact the world around me positively with my actions. I'd be pursuing what is known as "right livelihood", one that helps end and ease suffering for other beings I share this planet with, and I'd be honored to have a chance to make a difference in that way. I'm nervous, hopeful and excited, and know that every day would be a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but I'm ready. I have no idea what it pays and if the money or scheduling part would even work out well, but I am trusting the universe here that I'm being steered in the right direction. The best thing about being at the bottom here, career-wise, is that there is only room to go up, and I am trusting that the right opening will find me.
So this weekend will be spent mainly in anticipation of what's to come. Here I sit with many, many more questions than answers. It's slightly uncomfortable, this needing to trust. Control freak me is forced to let go for once and just allow things to happen as they will. This is the biggest challenge for me of all, a lesson that I'm learning through this slow life of chicken tending and rabbit feeding. Deliberate action + following your heart + living with integrity and honesty = dreams starting to come true. Here's my silent prayer everything will fall neatly into place and I can finally try something completely different. Pray with me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

love is overwhelming

It's from a beer commercial and is about a girl~ but I feel exactly this way about my husband...what a beautiful song. Enjoy!

When You Garden, You Grow*

My garden is like the job market, full of hundreds of other plants besides the ones I planted there. My seedlings compete with the weeds, just like I do with countless others, for very limited resources. In the case of my garden, the competition is for water, as we have had a very dry growing season so far. Me, I compete for attention, hoping some employer will notice this helpful plant amongst the so many others growing around and that I'll be recognized for what I am- not someone who merely wants to suck up and use precious resources like time and opportunity, but can take those things and grow them into beautiful fruit. What I am searching for is not just a job, but a chance at a career doing something that matters, making the lives of those around me that I share the world with better somehow. I will keep growing tall, hoping to stand out amongst the purslane and crabgrass as a different, somehow brighter shade of green.
I've been diligently sending out resumes and cover letters and trying to wrangle more freelancing gigs, all the while tending to this mini farm and all that goes along with that. I'm not just playing here folks, I'm serious. I'm treating my writing like a business and doing things like spending hours a day joining professional associations and marketing myself and my services to a wide range of businesses and individuals. I know right now I am planting seeds that someday will grow. We're just waiting on the rain here to make things happen.
While I'm surrounded by so many others searching for work, I've learned a lot about the things that make me unique, chief among them this blog and farm. I've learned how to add mentioning my writing and pseudo-farming in the course of an interview and that doing so proves I am both creative and not afraid to get dirty when necessary. I've also learned some great ways to feel more comfortable about myself and my skills, manage my anxiety about not knowing where this journey will end and just appreciating the path I'm following while I am on it.
As I sat out in my garden today, surrounded by the daunting task of getting the weeds under some semblance of control, I realized that I am doing all I can to get my life under control by spending so much time shouting out to the world that I'm looking for work. Just as it's futile to expect my garden to be weed free (a notion that I think is hilarious), it's pointless to stress at what I can't control. I just need to do the best I can when I have the chance to talk to folks to point out that I'm a helpful person, not a noxious weed.
This pace of life is both slow and busy, every minute occupied by either pursuit of more work or the completion of what's already here. There are cages to clean and mouths to feed and I enjoy every second of it.
This Friday I have a chance to try on an occupation I've never done and I am a bit nervous to take that step, beginning again as I have done so many times in unfamiliar territory. I'm not sure where this opportunity will take me, whether it will become a viable long term option or simply be another something to fill up my day. I'm going in on blind faith in my ability to be adaptable and helpful and with trust that this opportunity, if it's the right one for me, will pay enough for me to be able to make it work. It sounds like fabulous fun but hard work and is something I have always wanted to try. Please say a little prayer that it at least turns out to be a fun experience and that, if nothing else, I'll have potentially lined up a new freelance client.
I'm planning on spending countless hours today out in the garden, trying to bring some order to it and some peace to my mind. Weeding is the best kind of meditation~ slow, deliberate and productive~ a way to see your efforts making progress in a world where it's often not so straight-forward.

*Today's title is the slogan of the National Gardening Association, which offers a fantastic visual library of weeds, among other things. Visit their site at

Saturday, June 23, 2012

There is dust in my house. I am not a designer or a decorator. Nothing in this place looks like it crawled from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog of even the pages of Country Living magazine. I am not Martha Stewart and frankly, I don't care if my carpet is stained.
My home is full of second hand furniture or pieces we've re-purposed over the years. My pantry is a cabinet that was repaired and once owned by my father-in-law. My daughter's changing table now holds bakeware and kitchen towels instead of diapers. My couch is lumpy and a tomato soup color but my dogs love to sleep on it and drool on the pillows. It's okay.
I think the most expensive things I own are my computer and my cell phone and everything else was on sale or salvaged from Craigslist. We're frugal people, and we have learned that material things aren't all there is to life. We spend our money on experiences and food, pets we love and spend time with, and basic necessities, not flat screen tv's or expensive cars. In fact, both our vehicles are over 10 years old, but we're less than 4 payments from them both being ours.
I'm not a slob. I spend as much time as I can cleaning to keep our things and place in comfortable condition. We vacuum each day and straighten up, but there's perpetually dishes in my sink because we cook at home and there's laundry in the hamper because we are blessed with clothes to wear.
I am grateful for my dirt. Pine shavings in the hallway from the garage means there are chickens in the yard laying eggs for us to eat. Grass clippings on my driveway means I have a large yard to enjoy. And dirty socks under the table mean we worked so hard yesterday we were too tired to carry them to the hamper. Don't worry. They'll make it there today.
I wish I could keep house like something out of Real Simple and that my garden had leaped from the pages of Organic Gardening, but, honey, we are working here, so if you don't like the dust and fur, well, then you just head back to town. We're busy living life and taking care of what's important, each other. This isn't IKEA and we're not on some TV set. Things poop here and we clean it up. This is the best I can do. This may not be a big or expensive place, but it's my own and it's comfortable. I put my feet on the coffee table. I work hard to have what I do and won't be ashamed that it's not storybook perfect.
There's soil and straw and spiders and weeds. There's love and there's mouths to feed and always more work than there is daylight, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
It may be small, but I love my farm.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rubber Boots and Antique Sieves

My mornings have morphed into a simple routine involving large rubber boots, my pajamas and the garden hose. Each day shortly after waking up and well before coffee, my daughter and I begin our morning rounds, beginning with the kittens, who lazily emerge from under the chicken coop and begin prancing and pouncing around the yard. Lexi checks on the rabbits first, picking one up at a time so they get used to being handled. They are already larger than when we brought them home, consuming large quantities of broccoli as a favorite snack courtesy of my dad and his garden.
Next we move on to the hens, who are impatiently waiting in their coop to be released to the outdoors. They know when they go in the run, Lexi will come out and dump the remainder of yesterday's food on the ground for them, scattering it inside their pen for them to forage. For some reason it tastes better off of the ground and they get excited, with wings flapping and lots of coos and clucks. Then it's off to refill the water fonts and feeders all the way back at the front of the house, which is the only place we have an outdoor spigot. A short bath, a rinse of the dishes and everyone is a bit more prepared to face the day, whether it brings sweltering summer heat or cool breezes and rain. We are fed and sheltered, and we are a happy bunch.
After tending to the livestock, we can take care of our needs: getting dressed, having breakfast, brushing hair and the like. We do so with a greater sense of urgency because often at this point we are running late to a morning appointment or just rushing to that place where we can finally relax, having completed the morning's chores. Something crossed off our list this early feels good, a great way to start the tempo for the day.
I love days like today, where I can spend some time after the morning feedings alone with a cup of lukewarm coffee and my laptop, clicking out stories or query letters at a slower and more deliberate pace. This is the time of day when my head is clearest and I do my best work. I can see the connections in life, between people, things and events, more clearly in the morning sun than I do once the world intrudes on my peace and quiet. This is my time to connect with the earth, say a silent prayer of gratitude and hope, and pour out onto screen or paper all my innermost thoughts and feelings. My writing becomes a sacred act.
Creatives like me don't always move at the same pace as the rest of the world. We need time to lounge and reflect, to piece together the intricacies of the universe inside our minds before we can adequately describe the beauty and pain around us to others. That's why homesteading so appeals to me I think. It is a chance to reconnect to my roots. I can bake a loaf of bread from scratch and imagine my great grandmother once doing the same thing or feed the chickens vegetable scraps and marvel at how efficiently they turn waste into edible protein. I can slow down and experience the world here in awe and wonder, instead of it flashing by me in a blur.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting some older folks at a yard sale where I discovered an antique puree sieve for jam and jelly making. It was rewarding to pause for a while and hear their stories, something I think is often lost these days as we rush to work and school, soccer and ballet. Chasing the ever elusive material success sometimes leaves us tired and empty-handed, slightly confused when we realize the journey was what mattered, not getting to the destination. Instead I heard about chickens and what my county was like in the years before I was born, got a tip on another nearby sale, and learned from my elders, even if only what it means to be neighborly.
I love waking up in the country, smelling the dew on the grass and tending to the needs of these animals before my own. It's what keeps me grounded in a world so bent on consumption and material gain. Here I can hunt down experiences and learn skills that many people don't ever get to have. I know how a metal bread pan leaves the ends of a loaf of bread looking folded and how lemon balm is used in tea and what the ping of a canning jar sounds like. Do you?
Now as I try to cultivate slowness and patience in myself, I pray that I can fit my writing somehow seamlessly into it all and provide for my family with my talents and gifts. If I am only given the chance to prove my resourcefulness, it shines like a beacon in the night. This girl is not afraid of hard work to get there. Every day begins and ends with work on a farm. If given the chance, I'll help prove to the world that its beauty and truth we should be chasing, not money or fame. I dream of a way to share my words with the world and earn not riches but enough to provide a simple, slow and deliberate life for my family, one where we can enjoy the little things that so often go unnoticed. But writers have to eat too, and I need someone to gift me with the chance to make my dream a reality. I want it so bad I can taste it and pray the flavor doesn't change to bitter disappointment.
Say a little prayer for me, that the freelance clients will decide to start projects, that I can find at least part time work doing something I love, and that we can finally include in our routine writing as work.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Three's Our Lucky Number

A pic for you this Silent Sunday...
From left to right: Ouzo, Goose and Bailey.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Update on the Tally

3 people
2 dogs
5 cats
6 chickens
1 fish
3 baby rabbits

Ouzo, Goose and Bailey are resting and getting used to their new digs here at the SemiFarm. Pics coming soon!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Just a Little Patience

Life here is settling into a comfortable rhythm, one of waking up at certain times and doing chores in pajamas, then getting on with the business of writing, looking for jobs, and all the other chores that come with being a housewife on a homestead in Ohio. The chickens are thriving in their new environment, laying eggs daily, about a total of 3 or 4, which are quickly translated into egg salad sandwiches, frittatas for dinner or any number of other delectable treat. We just love having them here, and my parents come and visit them bringing them treats like corn on the cob and the neighborhood children delight in hearing them make their cute chicken noises.

We also have brought in 3 outdoor cats to our little menagarie. They are probably about 3 months old and their names are Stitches, Marshie, and Midnight. Midnight is black and very shy, hiding under the chicken coop (which is where they have decided to hang out) whenever anyone comes near. Marshie is a ball of calico fluff and is named after marshmellows. Stitches was so named because you may need them after picking him up. He is the boy in the bunch and is all shades of frisky, chasing Marshie up trees and stalking things behind our barn. It's hilarious to watch them romp about the yard getting acquainted with their new home, and a relief to know that someday soon they will start hunting the mice and moles who try to eat the chicken feed and tear up the backyard, respectively.

Other than the addition of a total of 9 animals in a relatively short period of time, nothing much is going on here. I am still feverishly applying for work, to the tune of at LEAST 3 applications a day, if not more, and waiting for calls back on my applications. I really am discovering a lot about myself, in that I lack patience and can only seem to get through the waiting by distracting myself with doing things, which is not as hard to do as one might think around a place like this since there is always something that needs done. My daughter has begun a campaign to earn money for a very expensive gadget she wants, so she had been doing most of the chores herself, leaving me with little to do but write, read and brood over how I wish I had a job to pass the time, even part time.

So things at the SemiFarm have been productive if not a bit lazy as we get used to our new tally of critters around here:
3 people
2 dogs
5 cats (2 inside, 3 outside)
1 fish
6 chickens
3 raccoons (that apparently are into cat food and scheming how to get the hens- good luck with that- we built a fortress)

I keep searching for that perfect job in between all the animal love, searching for creative ways to get out and enjoy our summer for cheap or free. For instance, this weekend, we are attending the World's Largest Yard Sale in Seville, OH and going somewhere to ride go karts for a fun outing. There's also plans of long-overdue oil changes for the cars and maybe, just MAYBE, haircuts for us ladies this coming week.

Being unemployed and at home so much has taught me a lot of things about myself, so I am glad for the time to spend with my daughter and husband and all our new livestock. Still looking for that dream opportunity though to contribute to a team for pay, so if you know anyone who needs help with blogging or social media, please send them my way, as my freelancing is what's keeping us afloat right now. The only part I am not enjoying about this summer is how nerve-wracking it is to not have a steady income and how difficult it is to entertain an 11 year old without spending money, both of which are pushing my creativity to the limits (and that's a GOOD thing too).

Today I am having difficulty with spelling and verb tense and keep screwing up on everything I am posting, which is really frustrating me as I am making and then overlooking some silly mistakes. My daughter reminded me that it's impossible to be perfect though, so I am giving just being a go instead of being so hard on myself.

Hope you all have an excellent Father's Day weekend and enjoy the pics of our new additions!

Our New Kittens and Rabbit Hutch




Friday, June 8, 2012

Hen Zen

It's nearing a week now that the hens have been here with us and they are already up to almost a dozen eggs in production. What's been more important and enjoyable, however, is seeing how my daughter interacts with and enjoys them. She has anxiously been waking me up in the morning when it is time to let them out for the day, reminding me throughout the afternoon that we need to check for eggs, and often even just sits by their outdoor run feeding them clover from the yard, enjoying their company. She is enthralled with having them and I am so glad they are making her summer an interesting experience.

Watching the chickens myself has become something of a meditative awareness practice, as I see them just be chickens without all their hurry and bustle to accomplish something or get somewhere as we often do in life. It's a relaxing, peaceful afternoon when I can sit with them and listen to their soft cooing, calling them by their new names and watching them explore their new home.

We have a total of six birds that are accompanying us in beginning our farm here, while the garden gets off to a slow but clightly less pitiful start than last year. I think it's going to be another bumper year for cucumbers, and hopefully the girls will get to enjoy some of the bounty with us. These birds help be remember not to get too stressed out or flighty as I continue to look in earnest for a job to help support my family. I have been applying at slightly random things lately, sort of letting my heart guide what feels like might be the right opportunity. I've been applying at the local hatchery, for the Dairy Farmers council here in town and also for a lot of writing jobs as well, still trying to make a go of this business, which I am very fortunate to have had to help support us through these tight times. If I could only bring my writing up to where I can make a few hundred a week instead of a month, I think I'd be able to support us on this lifestyle and still be home to meet the needs of my homestead and family, which would be spectacular. My spirits are surpirisingly up after receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, and I think the addition of these birds and watching how they just focus on attending to their basic needs has helped me maintain focus myself. It is getting easier, as the time goes on, to adapt into a new rotuine and just "be" instead of trying so hard to "do" all the time.

The personalities of our birds are starting to show as well as they get used to their new home. Knoxville, our Golden Buff, is the bravest among the bunch and is always the first to come in and out of the henhouse and try new treats we stick through the wire of the pen. She's a bit of a daredevil, hence her name, after Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame. We've seen her jump from the nest boxes clear down to the floor with seemingly little regard for sanity or safety. She is our girl who lives life to the fullest.
In contrast, we also have Florence and Spiker, two black Australorps, who kind of sit in the background trying to figure out what is happening before they get involved. I can relate. Sometimes all the activity can be confusion if not outright frightening.
Little Ann is the largest of our chickens and was named after a dog from Where The Red Fern Grows by my daughter, Lexi, presumably for her kindness and loyalty. She's also quite curious and has already made a grand escape and journey to the farm next store, exploring the cow pasture and cow stall to some degree before Lexi scooped her up and brought her back home. It's so great having neighbors with chickens to whom you can turn in moments of panic and nothing quite breaks the ice like chasing a Buff Orpington around barefoot in a pastureful of shit. I feel more a part of my community every day.
Our other ladies, Levi the Ameracauna and Koalbey, the Wellsummer, have taken more of a laid back approach to life, just laying eggs, tasting stuff and scratching around being chickens. The seem otherwise completely unphased by the drama that unfolds around them. There are lessons to learn there from watching them too.

Having chickens has definitely deepened my spiritual practice, helped me enjoy more of the present moment and focus less on the constant worrying about work, the weather, money or whatever is making me tense. It's almost meditative watching them just hunt for food and lay around, and I am glad I have some time free this summer to watch them adjust to their new home here at the Semi-Farm. They are stretching me in ways I can't even explain, from encouraging me to keep the house cleaner, slow down and plan life less, and learn to try new things like cooking for my family, which I have done twice this week without any major complaints or making anyone sick. It's amazing the lessons animals can teach us if we just open our eyes to how THEY do things without all this emotional baggage to weigh them down.

Even though they are confined my chickens are a lesson for me in freedom from overthinking and planning, helping me see the possibility and peace in routine and the freedom that can come from changing the way we look at our circumstances.

Thanks, little birds, for your valuable lessons. And tasty eggs too.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Hens Have Arrived!

May I present...the ladies of the SemiFarm!

And their first contribution to our family's self-sufficiency:
More details coming soon!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

In a state of almost.

My garden is beginning to take shape, its ghetto staggered rows and grass clippings kind of look something like a food factory I and my husband have coaxed from the earth. Being tight for cash has made it an interesting year so far to say the least, but fortunately we invested in quite a bit of seed last year in our overzealousness. This year all I had to do were start seedlings, which is an exercise in patience and hope if ever there was one. This bit of earth is cobbled together on dreams and goodwill; a little sweat equity, lots of venting of my frustrations at this life and countless hours of weeding. It is my therapy garden, and I am deeply indebted to this who've contributed to this: my father and husband, my two favorite men.
The potatoes and onions are sprouting up nicely but slowly from the seed potatoes and onion sets my dad shared with me. The broccoli I started in our warm February is also doing well, as are the mystery tomatoes from dad and those and the peppers Hubs picked up at the nearby nursery. So far our cash investment has be less than $20 this year. And there are watermelon and cucumbers taking off like they are trying to reach the sky. It's all very cobbled together and ugly, but I love it so much it brings me near to tears to think what we might have accomplished.
The coop is all set and ready for the chickens, who are coming today. I am very excited and somewhat nervous- I hope the ladies like their new digs and all fit well without fighting each other. Again, as with the garden, not the most beautiful sights in the world unless you are looking with my eyes, brimmed with tears and hope. I don't know what comes next, but here we are. We are moving in the right direction albeit slowly and sometimes painfully. The SemiFarm is growing.
The garden is the only place I seem to be able to just be, where I can let go of all my stress and worries and focus my energy on doing something for another living thing, like saving my seedlings from being choked out like weeds. In my garden, I can be a hero to something beyond myself, I can do simple deeds that make a large difference. In my empire of dirt, I am both a humble servant and a sculptor. I can help the plants who in turn help me by sharing their fruit. It is a very symbiotic relationship we have, my garden and I, and I can let go and trust that if I help it it will feed me. No worries. It simply is what it is and turns out how it does. If only I could extend my garden mind out into the rest of my life as well. Beginner's mind, they call it. I need to cultivate my beginner's mind as a grow my garden, my sense of awe and wonder at life and my trust in the process. I need to learn to love the state of almost, and enjoy the possibilities and anticipation rather than turning it to anxiety and impatience.
Here are some photos of the garden and its beginning stages. May summer help us both blossom and bear the fruit of our efforts.