Thursday, May 3, 2012

May growth

First, I want to thank you all for the thoughtful feedback. For now I'll be paying for more room so I can add more pictures. Switching over to Wordpress may be in my future. I would love to have a quality camera in the next year with which I can take better quality pictures as well. I envy so many of your beautiful photographs that accompany your stories and sharing.

May Day did not bring spring weather to interior Alaska. Instead the thermometer read eighteen degrees mid afternoon. On top of that it was windy and snowing. Unfortunately we had a big outdoor May Day celebration planned at a local farm with our Waldorf community. Preparing for the afternoon I first pulled out long underwear, water pants and rain coats. By the time we were ready to leave I'd pulled our winter bag back out of storage and had packed snowsuits, winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves. The weather was just as nasty as it could be, and I kept thinking, "Only in Fairbanks would no one even think of canceling for weather." Needless to say, no one was interested in outdoor pottery, face painting or marbling. We did manage to enjoy ourselves, the kid's more than myself.

The week has continued to be cold and glum. My poor little seedlings in the garden... I had beet seedlings and all sorts of hardy greens poking their heads up under plastic row covers. I peeked on them yesterday and they aren't completely frozen. I had also taken off the front door minimizers on the bee hives, and ended up tacking them back on. So the ground is once again hard and frozen at least on the surface. The livestock water bins, once more in various degrees of frozen states. Maybe it is just principle, but instead of plugging them back in I've just been hacking at the tops with ice picks or shovels. 

In other news, Rosie, our lone female goose is continuing to diligently sit on her eggs. Our chickens and six remaining adult ducks have been immensely enjoying free ranging around the property from morning till dusk - despite the fact that all the mud and puddles the ducks were relishing last week are solid this week. A friend of mine is going to pick up the ducks before Rosie is due to hatch out her goslings. So, she'll have some new mommy space to herself which she is going to appreciate.

We started delivering milk again this week for our Goat Shareholders. I barely have enough milk. I'm counting heavily on Zuri, who will be kidding in the next couple weeks to help out. We now have twenty-seven layer chicks in a brooder in our hallway. I ended up ordering chicks after all, after realizing that I could order the exact chicks I wanted, when I wanted them, for cheaper than the feed store could and without all the hassle. We have speckled sussex, partridge plymouth rocks, barred rocks (they were suppose to be buff barred rocks :( ) and blue laced red Wyandottes. This was my first time ordering chicks and having them arrive within one day of shipping. They all made it and are doing well. They are eating lots of eggs; fried, hard boiled and scrambled. They have garlic, a little honey and vinegar in their water. Their feed is local ground wheat, oats and barley, ground corn, quinoa, kelp and fish meal.

This has been the season for contemplation and decisions. We are making a slight veer off our current path and changing directions for the time being. We've decided that we want to put less money, time and energy into livestock husbandry. We have been putting a significant portion of our budget into feed animals. We also are still in the building stages, and have been sinking a lot of money into our house, but we are on the home stretch and our new addition is nearing completion. Between the house and the animals, we have not had extra fun money, travel money and really it feels like we are just scraping by most the time. This year is going to be our last year (for a while anyway) of doing goat shares. It feels like we just really got going, and I hate to disappoint people. Selling goat shares almost covers most of our feed costs. Yet, without so many goats, we wouldn't need to sell shares. This winter I found myself dreaming of a day when I just own a couple dear milkers. I thought, maybe when I'm an old woman I'll just need a couple does, and I'll drive them to see a buck every other year... The more I think about it the more appealing it looks. 

It is not just about cost. It is equally about having time for my children and family. Time, energy, patience, to be able to relax and enjoy their childhood and not feel rushed or stressed or that feeding, milking, breeding or kidding takes precedence over their wants and needs. As I've been reading some Waldorf approaches to parenting and discipline, I'm gaining a different perspective on what kind of parent I want to be. I do not want to be the mom who is too busy to set aside blank to stop and give full attention to her child's needs, and that is who I tend to be too often.

My plan to minimize mouths and simplify chores for the year goes something like this: By fall our ducks and geese will have found new homes. We will have one chicken coop with twenty some layers. Our three bucks will be two in number and will move out of their home way high up on the hill which is a pain to get water to in the winter, (and hay if we run out), and down to the current duck/goose stall and pen. I plan on milking four to five milkers until December or January. I am going to try and sell all- most of the doelings, possibly along with our two yearlings. By next year, I'd love to be down to four milkers. Ideally I'd like to just breed a couple does each year. At some point I'd like to take a break from keeping bucks. I do plan on keeping a couple bee hives each summer as well as raising a small batch of Cornish Cross for meat. And of course, I have big plans for the garden. I'm focusing less on heat loving plants and more on medicinal perennials. We are expanding our raspberry rows and strawberry patches this year.

Next winter we are hoping to leave our home and animals in our capable house sitter's hands and get out and travel to warmer climates for a couple months - yeah, preferably months, not just a couple measly weeks. We both feel the need to see what else is out there before we commit to investing everything we have into a farm or large land purchase here. I have always thought I'd grow old here in Interior Alaska. Maybe I just need a reminder of how good we have it. Right now, it is hard to imagine living this lifestyle here, when I'm elderly. On one hand a farming lifestyle keeps you in shape and healthy. But then we are already feeling and looking haggard during our winters. 

I love what we've been doing. I love our homestead, our animals, our lifestyle. We are both trying to figure out if we really want to do it here. At the same time, we are realizing that everything doesn't need to happen now. We have time. Time to make mistakes, time to learn, time to change course and break a new trail. And now, it is time I head down to the goat barn, toss hay and put away the goat kids for the night. Goodnight.


Buttons said...

Oh Emily I love your post it makes me think back to my younger days and decisions about the farm and my girls.The question which is more important?
My girls turned out to be very hardworking capable caring woman and I am so proud of them but sometimes when they tell their stories they say you and Dad were so busy working all the time I never want to farm. That breaks my heart. I wonder was I a good parent?
I asked my oldest the other day what she thought and she said she would not trade her childhood for anything and our work ethic made her the person she is today. She was proud of us.
I know this is a hard decision and honestly I would not tell you what to do but do not worry about your children I think whatever you decide is going to work out for them regardless of your decision. Be happy they need a happy Mom.
Do enjoy your time away in the warmth. I agree hard work keeps you fit but I look in the mirror and I now have been living with Fibromyalgia for 10 years and wonder sometimes if all the physical work aged me faster I am almost 60 and look I am told about 50 but my body is in pain most days. Ontario winter weather is cold and damp too. I may never know but I love the person I became and I still love my farm. Emily good luck on your decision making. I admire you.
Sorry for the novel of a comment. Be happy for yourself and the rest will follow. :) Hug B

5'10" Irish said...

Move to the Pacific Northwest! (continental that is) The climate is very similar but without the temps going below 30 in the winter. With hoop houses you can garden all winter. And it's just a lovely place to live, with mountains, oceans, rivers, even deserts nearby!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you guys are having some of the same conversations we are having.... Trying to weigh the hassle of growing food for others, vs the joy it brings, and the ability to cover some of the feed costs. And then weighing that against what you want you life to look like. The busy haggard thing is expected, but it stinks when that feeling keeps us from feeling free to make some decisions to have some fun.

My wife just got back from having our little goat dis-budded, and the lady who does it for us has a bunch of Nigerian Dwarf goats, cute as can be (so I am told), and our 6 year old wants one... Passing love or change in direction?

As far as pictures go, I feel that a cruddy, blurry photo, is better than no photo at all. Be careful there, (as Barefootmommy will probably confirm) getting a nice camera means more time processing the photos, and more photos to process... But I understand the desire to be able to more accurately share what you see around you...

As for moving from Alaska, I would have no idea where to even start to try to get my brain wrapped around that. If it helps to visit a muddy PNW farm in the winter to see what "bad" looks like here, feel free to swing by on your way through SEA to your warmer destination..

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Lovely post Emily, we came to some of the same conclusions, and settled with just doing for ourselves and selling some extra. Cows are easy for us, but the poultry operation was a drag.

Our life is simpler now and we do have and make time to stop and smell the roses. Our kid grew up so fast, I regret my harried egg sorting days when she was little!

I know you know what Western Oregon is like, but gee we'd sure like you to stay in our "neck" of the woods! And keep blogging of course... ;)

barefootmommy said...

I think springtime is the time we all tend to look back at the past year, and then forward to what our plans for the coming year will be. We have made it through the winter (which in the pacific nw is certainly much milder than Alaska, but still requires purchasing hay to overwinter fiber animals)
We bred one of our little pygoras this year for 4H and are milking her and will breed our nigerian dwarf for some milk in the fall.

We're planning on downsizing the pygora herd because of my habit of spinning an average of only 1-2 skeins of yarn a year...too busy taking care of the animals and gardens and children, etc and we have a basement closet overflowing with fleeces that i have yet to sell.

It's good to look at what works, to chew on new ideas and think about them for a bit. Every year at this time I always try out the idea of fully rejecting homeschooling, toss around the various scenarios in my mind, and ultimately, (so far) decide it's best for us. It's good to see other people do just the same thing...I think it's wise to do because it keeps us more content in the end, having given ourselves the space to change. :) And also, hooray for more picture space~ i can't wait to see more of your homestead!