Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May Garden

Our garden this year is truly much more impressive than last year, by comparison. We have added several more garden beds (3 large box beds, 2 medium beds, and 2 beds that border our fences) and five peach trees to replace a tree that we had to take down because it died.

We started all of our plants this year from seed and have been growing many of them since the beginning of March under a timed grow light in our basement.

It certainly paid off considering how brutally long and cold this winter/spring has been. Our tomatoes are vigorous and huge compared to what we are finding other places in the city! Several are already flowering and have little baby tomatoes on them. Our other plants are doing great as well. We are hopefully going to have a bit more produce this year and perhaps starting earlier in the season as well.

Last year, was our experiment year and we decided to let our tomato plants sprawl everywhere and take over. Mostly because we didn't know what else to do. This year, we are trying a support method that grows the tomato vines vertically around ropes. For the small space we have, this may turn out to be great, and will probably look pretty impressive by the time August gets here.

 This year we also planted many varieties of peppers, eggplant, pole beans, bush beans, squash, watermelon (the small ones), pie pumpkins, sunflowers, herbs, salad greens, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, tomatillos, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, potatoes and rhubarb (which comes up every year in our yard).

And of course, our animals. Who provide us with our milk, eggs, and occasionally meat (when the ducklings grow up and the accident rooster becomes too obnoxious).

And for your amusement, my girls like to practice milking whenever they get the chance. :-)

It is May

I've traded writing and posting pictures to sleeping. And reading books like they are food and I am starving. Welcome to my (approximately) last six weeks of pregnancy. My house is grimy, there are always always always laundry and dishes to wash and fold and stack and put away. I don't remember what color the kitchen floor is when it's not covered in crumbs and dirt. But there are fresh eggs on my counter. There are mason jars of fresh creamy raw milk in my refrigerator. Freshly made cheese on the fridge shelf, and warm bread and salad from the garden for dinner.

I've hit the "nesting" period of pregnancy which has really turned into mental panic because I don't really have the time or energy to scour and scrub and get everything perfect. Honestly I've been spending most of my free time in the garden. There is no nursery to prepare because I don't have an empty bedroom. And by the time my kids are fed and cleaned up and in bed for the night, I am crawling into bed and asleep before 9 PM.

The other day I was lamenting to Eric that our house LOOKS like there are four kids under five living in it. And he looked at me and said, "Um, Beth, that's because there ARE."

And so I have been realizing that our home is what it is. And I am struggling with it, because I would love for it to be pinterest worthy and all, but it's not. And the amazing thing is, THAT'S OK. And whether or not my pantry is organized and all the mail piled high in the kitchen is sorted through, this baby is going to come soon and be loved. And everyone will continue to eat and play and get hugged and kissed and cuddled and clothed and diapered. And if the floors only get swept once a week because that's all I can manage, then so be it. At least we are enjoying our lives and learning to love our five little kids and eating so well.

A lot of people (ok, make that everyone) ask me "How do you do it?" Like I am some superhero mom who has it all together and can parent (almost) five little kids and manage eating a real food diet while gardening and taking care of animals and foster parenting (which can be VERY very different from normal parenting much of the time). Here's the truth.

My life doesn't feel extraordinary.

And it certainly isn't glamorous.

There are many days that I slump on the floor in tears while three of girls are tearing up the house and the fourth is throwing another epic 45 minute tantrum. But then there are beautiful moments too. When the girls tell me with a hug that I am a good mom. That they love me. That they are happy. When they smile and run into our arms like we have the same blood running through our veins.
We garden and have animals because we love it and we also love eating well and eating what our hands have planted and grown and raised and milked. We parent because the Lord has blessed us with children. We foster parent because there are kids in this city without a loving home to call there own, and we have made ourselves available to loving them as our own, baggage and all.

Our life is messy, but it is purposeful. So there are dishes in the sink resembling Mount Everest. And the very long tantrums and aggression with our preschoolers continue every day. And we are six weeks or less out from baby and I am waddling around like a penguin with skinny legs.

But really, in the end, our messy life right now is really quite beautiful.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Milking tales

My two-year-old Lyla has thrown my tiny netbook computer on the floor one too many times. All of my USB ports finally broke, so no pictures can be uploaded at the moment. Not that I had any free hands to capture this event with my camera anyway, but I guess I felt the need for a valid excuse.

Now that our goat kids are old enough, we have begun the daily morning milking. On the days that Eric is not home or has to leave early for work, I take over the morning shift. Of course, it's cold and rainy this morning and I have to milk. It's May and the low temps are back in the 30's. Nobody is happy about this. At eight months pregnant, I am still battling morning sickness every day and would prefer to not have to spend my nauseous moments wrestling with a goat's rump in order to get milk in the pail. But I do, because let's be honest, I may not love the moment, but I do love my goats and the rich milk they produce! So there I am in the drizzle, sitting on the milk stanchion with one arm wrapped around Jane's rump to keep her still and the other hand working her teat to get the milk out.

Jane doesn't have the most wonderfully placed teats in the world, which makes getting the milk into the pail kind of a challenge. Yesterday it took me several minutes before I looked down and discovered that I had thoroughly coated my jacket with milk and not one drop had landed in the pail at all. This morning I paid slightly more attention to the pail's position and had a good rhythm going until Jane finished the grain in the feeder. At which point she began to bawl and buck her head to get it out of the stanchion. Now, I'm sure that most people have heard a goat bleat, but probably not as many have heard them scream. Let me tell you, this scream is eerily human sounding and extremely loud. I wouldn't care if we were on a farm, but at 7 in the morning in the city with neighbors' windows literally ten feet away, it becomes a bit of an issue.
So of course, Jane starts screaming and I am only halfway done. Still wrestling with her rump to hold her still (with my very pregnant belly getting in the way the entire time), I start on the other side. Frothy rich milk streams into the pail, steaming. Love. I am finally feeling good about this milking session. Jane is still screaming, so I look up and start talking to her to soothe her as I milk. I guess that was her cue.

Now we have milk with goat berries.
Dump the pail, start again.

Finally, I finish. With less than half of what I would have gotten due to the berry issue, at least I have enough milk to bring inside and strain. I gather up my milking supplies and pail to bring inside. And just as I am reaching to open the latch on the gate of the pen, our other mama goat, Claire, jumps up behind me and puts both of her front feet smack into my milk pail. The pail tips. The milk dumps. I shout some mild expletives and aim a swift kick at her (which she pranced away from just in time). I'm covered in milk, Claire's covered in milk, the ground is covered in milk. Jane is following me around and still screaming. It's still raining.

I go into the house and there is Lexi in the mud room, all smiles. "Did you get some milk for us, Mama?!? I'm so excited!"

Nope. No milk. Not even a drop.
Eric is back on duty tomorrow. Can't wait. :-)