Moderation

I know about that whole idea of balance and not going for extremes, and it sounds like a fabulous idea. I don’t have to get it all done at once. I don’t have to be all or nothing. But for all my life I have struggled with this in practice. Doing anything in moderation is so hard.

I suspect I am not the only one.

John pointed out to me recently how many people jump into farming/homesteading with gusto- lots of animals, lots of projects, lots in a very short period of time, and how quickly (a few years?) they jump back out and go to nothing. I want to do it all right now and have all kinds of things in the works all the time, but as I observe the evidence, that’s really only a fast track to burn-out.

We do have lots of projects around the farm, but I hope we’re not on the track for selling all of our animals in a couple years and never gardening again. I’d love to have fresh milk all the time, year-round. The reality is that in some seasons, there is too much going on to get that fresh milk daily (so you get two dairy calves to drink the milk for you). And we buy milk instead.

I find this struggle in activities for the kids. Up to now, I have said that we’re really not doing anything because my kids are young and I don’t want to be running around all the time. We do swim lessons in the summer, but both kids are in the same time slot and it’s in our town, so that’s a fairly easy routine.

I have considered lifting my ban on activities for the upcoming year. The problem is that once I open that can of worms, I’m dealing with the dreaded moderation. In my mind, dance is out…way too expensive and I don’t love the recital thing. Music is also out, because that would require me to force my kids to practice, and I think they are young for that.

Any other activities require a drive. Yet, I can make good arguments for indoor swim lessons (continuing what they have learned and it’s during the school day), gymnastics (great physical outlet during the winter), and ice skating (to improve and learn skills since we do skate lots). Yes, I could pick just one, but once I say yes to one, I think…well, we are already in town, so we might as well ___. Or if the kids ask to do another, I can’t say we just don’t do lessons. For the most part, they haven’t asked because they aren’t in that culture in school.

I know too that once we start, they will be exposed to the idea of doing more things because of the kids they will meet. And once we’re doing something, it might be hard in their minds to go back to doing nothing. If we start, I don’t know if we can go back.

In reality, I don’t think my kids have missed much so far. The value of free time for them far outweighs what they could have learned in lessons, in my opinion. We have actual time as a family instead of evenings filled with games/practice. And having a mommy who is not burned out from running them around and not feeding herself is worth something. Yet, I do want them to explore interests and learn fun things. Hannah is seven, and that seems on the edge of old enough to start this.

Oh, moderation!

How do you balance activities for your kids? How much is too much for your family? What’s a good age (or not good age) to start?

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The growing season

Everything is growing leaps and bounds around here lately.

P1100192 P1100194With kids, it sometimes seems like they grow up during a nap or overnight; they are suddenly bigger or look more mature. This summer, our 3 bigger kids have done just that.

P1100222 P1100227 P1100231And then Micah is chunking out like crazy. He’s two months old already; how did that happen?! The boy is serious about his milk…

Maple, Lila’s new calf, along with the boy calf we acquired this summer are both thriving on Lila’s milk. Both of them have just been nursing from Lila, instead of John milking and then bottle feeding. Lila has these two trailing her wherever she goes. I understand how she feels; it’s exhausting at times! But the calves are healthy and growing so well.

I’m not sure that I’ve shown you photos of all of our gardens this year. We have probably twice as much garden as last year, which was a sizable growing area in its own right.

P1100213 P1100214 P1100216 P1100217We just started harvesting new potatoes. Raspberries and blueberries are coming on, although I don’t get to eat any. The kids scour the plants first thing each morning…I guess we need more plants. We have zucchini and cabbage and kohlrabi and cukes and tomatoes. Yum!

P1100212I love the kids’ gardens. They were planted late, but the kids are happy and I’m sure we’ll get something from them. It’s a nice space for them- huge improvement from before when they had rows in our garden.

P1100215John built this new bed in front of peat moss for our cranberries. We got them last year, but potted them so they could size up. Now they are ready to plant. We learned that they grow best in either straight peat moss or peat moss plus sand. Everyone we know who has planted them in regular soil has not had good luck. This is going to be pretty once we get it planted. We see this bed right out the back window of our living room. Yay!

What’s growing around your place?

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the summer routine

P1100097The summer routine is in full swing here, and I love it. I read before that time stretches when we are doing something new or in a new place, but our brain processes the time differently when it’s old hat. I can see that in this summer. The past two summers were full of a fairly new routine/place, but now that we’re old timers around here, it feels like the moments are flying by.

I’m determined to eek every moment of loveliness we can out of these summer days, and we have certainly done our best so far.

The big kids are in swim lessons. I can’t believe how much Hannah has learned. BenBen is having fun, although I can’t say that he’s learned tons. We all know this is not his teacher’s fault!

The first day of lessons, I needed to go to the grocery store, and I felt kind of guilty dropping the two big kids off. I always have stayed to watch. When you’re used to four kids, going to the grocery with just two felt like a vacation. The next day, you bet I did something else during swim lessons! This is amazing!

Then I discovered I could walk around town during lessons with Micah and Sammy- easy to do with two kids, but next to impossible with four. All guilt is gone…I love this. In fact, I already feel dependent on this 40 minutes with a baby strapped to me and another in the stroller, because it is so easy. I am feeding myself. I halfway think I’ll need to find another outlet for Hannah and BenBen after swim lessons are done, so I can keep walking. Hmmm…

Before swim lessons, we skate or play ball in town for a short while. This also is good. By leaving the house, I am focused on the kids and they have so much fun. At home, I’m too distracted to do this.

After swimming, we usually find something fun to do, be it berry picking, hiking, or playing with friends. We’ve checked out a few new-to-us places, but mostly we’re going to our favorite spots to enjoy the season. In the evenings, we hit the pool. Our days are full.

Last week, the kids were in a mini-swim meet in our town, and that was an absolute riot. All the races were one length of the pool in various strokes. And no one had more fun doing their “race” than BenBen (wink!).

We’ve had some campfires, but of late, between evening pool and farm tasks, this has gone by the wayside. We have to get them set up before we go to the pool!

Canning season is also upon us. We have canned all the green beans already. The farm has lots of work to be done, but by John and I doing them together, tasks like green beans truly are fun. I have made some jam and I have pickles started. I’ll start on diced tomatoes today. Hooray for good food to put up!

We are canning outside this year, using the propane burner we got for boiling maple sap. I am thankful to not be heating up the whole house, plus the pressure canner on the glass stovetop isn’t ideal weight-wise for the stove. I do it and I’ve never had problems, but it’s not what you’re supposed to do.

What does the summer routine look like for you?

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Farmyard justice

Ugg, the rooster, is hard on the hens. He is never mean to John or me, and normally isn’t mean to the kids, although he’s chased them a couple times. The hens got a rest from him for awhile, but of late, he’s been back in the pen.

On our farm, chickens are not pets. Some people love chickens, but we don’t have any special attachments to them. They give us eggs and we like that.

So likely, Ugg is soon headed to the freezer. Especially after last night…

Our neighbor broodered four new hens (Rhode Island Reds) for us while she was starting a batch for herself. Last night, we introduced those four hens to the rest of the bunch. Doing this at night is supposedly preferable because they won’t get picked on as much (the other hens are already roosting). However, Ugg immediately began chasing the new hens. He’s a big boy. The kids cried a little as they watched because they were afraid.

P1100168Farmyard justice.

Lila was in Ugg’s face, sniffing him. The other animals were curious and cornered him in the fence. We just laughed.

It’s hard to no longer be the king.

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Why we still go to the berry farm

When we planned out our farm and what to plant and how much, I wanted to plant enough berry-wise that we wouldn’t have to go berry picking anywhere else in the summer. I wouldn’t have to drive, I can know exactly what has and has not been sprayed on the fruit, and in theory (anyone who has a farm can question this- it’s expensive to grow your own food!), it should be more frugal.

However, I want the kids to be able to pick freely. I want them to search for berries and graze as they play in the yard.

It is hard to say how many berry plants this will require, but for now, even for all the strawberry plants we have in our yard, we still have to go berry picking.

P1100141 P1100143We spent two mornings last week at the strawberry patch for berries to freeze and to make jam. The berries in the yard have produced well, but I honestly have no idea how many…the kids eat them whenever they find them.

This home berry hunting provides hours of entertainment, they are snacking on something healthy, and they are so thrilled with what they pick. I don’t want to be policing the berry patch so I have enough for a certain recipe or the freezer, and I don’t want to discourage their garden grazing. So, I’m giving the berry patch over to them for now.

Going berry picking is an event, an event with a focused activity, and that is hard to recreate at home. Much like it’s hard to find time for a craft once you get the supplies to do it at home instead of going to a class or studio. I somehow think that things I do around home don’t take any time, and I’m shocked when they do. But if I have to go somewhere to do something, I block off time for it.

I am so happy we have berries at our farm, and I’m happy we can go berry picking too.

Do you struggle to make time for anything once you started trying to do it at home? If you have a berry patch, how do you manage it with kids?

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The solution to too big of a yard

Lawn mowing is not our favorite summer pastime. We sort-of keep up, but we would not win any awards. That’s a-ok with us. In fact, our justification for much of our gardens and planting is reducing our amount of yard space. We’ve used goats on occasion to mow, but now that we have more planted, that is harder to do. Goats will eat anything growing…their blessing and curse.

This spring, I had to bite the bullet and get a gas-powered push mower at a garage sale. With my end-of-pregnancy blahs, plus the fact that with a newborn I would not be able to mow all the time, using our reel mower was not realistic. The grass is growing so fast at the same time that the garden needs planted and the animals need lots of attention. We can only do what we can do.

The reel mower is still the mower of choice, and now that the grass is not growing as fast, we plan to switch back to it. The only problem with the reel mower is that when you get behind on mowing, it’s impossible to catch up. It simply cannot cut tall grass. Now, we have a way to catch up if when we get behind.

But better than that, we decided that part of our yard should be a mini hay field and reclaim some productivity from that area. The orchard and the area north of the clothesline seemed the perfect candidates. We simply didn’t mow them at all, and a month later, they were ready to hay.

P1090817They were a rockin’ field of dandelions if you’re looking for a great photo spot next year (and yellow is pretty!). The kids are drawn like magnets to the tall grass too.

P1100059John has been working at scything this area, a little bit at a time, and once it’s dry, he hauls it in our cart, the most amazing addition to our farm. Previously, we hauled everything in buckets because we didn’t have a wheelbarrow. It was worth the wait; this cart is way better than a wheelbarrow (and John built it!).

P1100080Most of our hay is purchased in bales, and that’s how we feed our animals all winter. This hay is just a small but productive act, done more for the satisfaction than anything. We’re not producing that much.

It’s nice knowing we can mow in much less time by not doing as much, and it’s fun to see John scything in the early morning hours. Yep, we’re just those crazy hippies down the road!

Anyone else try to find ways to reduce their lawn size?

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Garden bliss

With the new hoophouse this year, we’re enjoying garden goodness way ahead of our normal schedule. Where it’s usually August before we’re getting much from the garden, by July 1, we weren’t only getting salad and kale, but also peas, green beans, and (unheard of!) tomatoes!

P1100070And these aren’t the small glacier tomatoes we usually grow and barely get ripe before the frost; these are real, beefy honest-to-goodness tomatoes. We haven’t grown tomatoes like this since our days in Minnesota (10 years ago).

P1100071We eat so good. One night last week at dinner, BenBen sat down and looked at his plate and said, “Farm meals are the best meals.” I agree.

We have strawberries. We’ve had a couple cucumbers. This is eating heaven.

The only “problem”, if you will, is that outside peas and hoophouse green beans are ready at the same time. Peas and green beans are two of the most time-intensive items to put up (peas for the freezer and green beans to can). We were up late last night working on peas (while rocking a baby) and we have another night’s work yet. Beans are a bit less time-sensitive, but they need done too. At least it’s satisfying work!

P1100040We finally got the kids’ gardens planted last week (late!). This year, instead of being a part of the normal garden, the kids’ area is its own thing. With raised beds, we won’t have to worry about little footsteps where they shouldn’t be, it’s easier for the kids to use, and we won’t have to remember what’s been planted where when we think of rotation for future years planting.

This year, Hannah and BenBen did their own planting completely, so it will be interesting to see how exactly things come up and where! Sammy just told me what he wanted (with prompting), and he somewhat “helped”.

A few things are starting to sprout and they are so excited!

How is your garden coming? What are you enjoying eating right now?

Posted in Farm, Garden | 7 Comments