THE OFFICIAL BLOG
I know that this COVID-19 disaster has caused major upheaval and, yes, tragedy in so many lives. I acknowledge the gravity of it. Which is also why I write this post in a spirit of gratitude. I am grateful that our daily lives have not been impacted much at all so far.
The first change for us was not going out for weekly archery lessons. We all miss our coach and the rest of the archery team. And I may even miss the pleasant drive all the way to Coweta (though I do not miss the drive back. I'm sure you understand how that could be so.). But not having to leave the house on Mondays has meant a less hectic start to the school week and a pretty sharp reduction in the amount of gas I need to purchase in a month.
And of course, I mentioned school. I can only imagine how disruptive it would be to have to bring your children home from school in the middle of a semester. I can only imagine because we homeschool. Our daily school routine has continued as it has for years. There is only minor inconvenience when ordered books required for online courses take a couple of extra weeks to get here because of COVID-related shipping delays. It doesn't matter much... we aren't on a schedule so classes start when the books get here... whenever that is.
My husband is the one who has had to adapt to the biggest changes once he was asked to work from home starting over a month ago. Mind you, it wasn't an unwelcome suggestion. We are both happy that he has been able to remain employed through all of this... and we, frankly, love having him here working from home. It happens to be something we always wished he would be able to do (and we will all be sad when things return to 'normal' and he has to commute in to the office once again). It just so happens that we have a comfortable office space down in the barn where he can work in private and is only occasionally interrupted by hens screaming their egg song of victory or a bleating goat.
The hardest change is not having access to Mass. Online streaming is nice for a sense of community and all, but as Catholics not having access to the sacraments (which are a visible sign of a grace received... emphasis on visible.. tangible.. in person) is tough-going. Our daily prayers continue unabated and we look forward to the restoration of public Mass in the future. God willing.
As a small farm, these times have been interesting. In the beginning of the crisis we were swamped with requests for chicks, hens, roosters, eggs, geese, goats milk, meat rabbits... Anything and everything that people felt they would need to make their family more self-sufficient in the event of a long-term disaster.
The demand has died down now. And, unfortunately, I don't think that it is because everyone is ready to take care of themselves. I am pretty sure that a bit of complacency has already settled in again. Maybe even on our part as we are no where near as self-sufficient as we had planned to be following the first large-scale disaster we survived.
Mostly I am talking about food. We have chickens and eggs. We even have enough eggs to have been able to start offering some for sale to the local community during a time in which it has apparently been harder to find them in stores. But surviving on chickens and eggs alone is for only the harshest of times. And this is not yet the harshest of times. I am disappointed that we still have to go to the grocery store for staples and wish I had already set up a network with friends and neighbors who own cows for our butter and milk. I wish we had a chest freezer full of beef and pork -- and a friend to buy more from. I wish my vegetable garden did not crash totally and completely with late freezes and too much rain. I wish squash bugs did not exist.
The lesson learned here when this is over... Please - if this is ever over... Is to make those connections in earnest so that we are not at all dependent on a long food supply chain.
In the meantime, we have enough of what we need and are fortunate to be able to somewhat enjoy this slow and quiet time all together at home. We are praying for everyone out there as they navigate all of the uncertainty and fear. And if there is anything we can help you with - please let us know. A grace shared is a grace multiplied.
A while back I made this banner for a social media page. I was following one of those guided design templates which offered inspiration for a company slogan by way of asking the question: "What does your organization have to offer?" I answered honestly.
This week we finally opened our online store and have added a few items to get things started. You may not have known that we were ever planning on starting an online store. You may have suspected that, if we ever did, we would be selling goat milk soap and homemade bath bombs like other respectable small farms online. And that's okay. Because all of this is pretty surprising to us, too. It started with that inspirational question from the guided design template - and snowballed from there.
I have always spent a good portion of my time.. or at least a good portion of the time when I am not wrangling animals or being a homeschool mom or repairing fences or building chicken coops... Okay. I said 'a good portion of my time' which is completely relative. Where was I? Oh yes... I have always spent a good portion of my time being creative. Making art. Whatever you want to call it. Ninety-nine point nine nine percent of my artwork has never been seen by another living soul outside of my family and closest friends. And much of it hasn't even enjoyed that much publicity. I suppose it was never the point. Or I'm just a cowardly ninny. Regardless, it's pretty much been a lifelong secret.
My absolute favorite medium for nearly a decade now has been oil pastel on paper. I have drawn cute pets and farm animals, but my main inspiration comes from highly stylized ancient religious art - stained glass, icons, et cetera. I am drawn to the patterns of stylized hair and clothing which contrast with the super simple lines of the faces. There is something so very peaceful about drawing in this way... Sometimes I binge-draw and produce dozens of these (which are promptly secreted away into the back of my sketch book) in just a couple of weeks. Sometimes the pastels gather dust.
A couple of years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with the crazy idea (I think that's how these things happen.) of combining my religious art drawing with pyrography. I bought some little wooden plaques and a wood burning kit and created several pieces. I was pleased with the texture and with the rustic and aged touch the unfinished wood added to my work. I even gave two of these away as gifts -- which is real progress for me... although I still feel silly every day for having shared them. It's a curse. The rest are hidden in the barn office. The wood burning pen is gathering dust at the moment, but sometimes it calls to me. Someday.
The one thing that I have always openly shared with people would be the rosaries that I make, although it is a rule of mine that they always only be given away. I figure that my design or skill do not matter in the crafting of a rosary -- as it is the prayers offered that are beautiful.
Also, and this is not much of a secret: I am a huge geek and have absolutely no fear of technology. I had to throw this in there... and if it does not make any sense that I have mentioned this at this point - don't worry.. it will all be made clear momentarily.
And all of these revelations bring me back to today and the opening of our online store and the prospect of offering something of my creativity to the general public for the first time ever. We will be offering funny t-shirts and coffee mugs and the like because we can be pretty funny, we wear t-shirts, and we drink a lot of coffee... and who doesn't need those things? Really. But we will also be offering some pieces from my latest artistic endeavor. Which makes me really nervous.
Combining my love for the bold and stylized lines of the artwork that has always inspired me and a nearly limitless amount of subject matter here on the farm - I have taken up the digital pen (actually it is just a mouse at this point) to create fun little pieces that are both easy to share and affordable. But mostly we are having a lot of fun as a family coming up with subjects or titles and snapping tons of great photographs to work with. Fun. Family. Fur. Feathers. It's all in there.
We hope to someday be able to set up a booth full of our t-shirts, prints, and canvases right next to the goat milk soap lady at the swap or trade or fair. For now we are working on finding the perfect print medium for our art and navigating the complexities of e-commerce.
We are nervous and excited. I think that is a good sign. Wish us luck. Buy a coffee mug. Let us know what you would like to see in our store. And please do send us a message if you have any kind of problem with an order.
Posted by Anita
Understands why most artists become famous after they are dead. Needs a faster computer.
I guess it seems a little weird for me to say that, writing for our farm blog that is hosted on our farm website while quite literally being on our farm. I expect much of this blog post to be just as confusing as I am also writing from a place in my head that does not always make the most sense. But that is exactly why I feel compelled to write about this today -- I am hoping for some sanity-saving clarity.
When we pulled up stakes and moved, I had one very clear idea in my head: we had to move out of the suburbs and live on the land. There were no real specifics there in the plan. We had been doing what we could where we were for several year: learning how to can our own food, figuring out the ends and outs of composting, raising rabbits, growing fruits and vegetables in our flower gardens. At the time we were striving to learn valuable skills and become a little more self-sufficient so that in the event of a major catastrophe (such as the one we had already lived through), we would stand a better chance at survival.
That's what we had been doing before the sudden decision to move. It is not that that mindset was not at all involved in making the move, it just is that it was not the primary reason at the time. Instead, my determination was based on a growing sense that my children (as they also grew) were not living life fully. I wanted them to see meadows and play in streams, learn bird songs, and experience nature as an everyday reality rather than an occasional trip to the park.
As a homeschool mother, I was primary educator and curriculum advisor. And I had come to the realization that something very important was missing from the curriculum: real life.
I mean real life as opposed to the inherent artificiality of our modern lives. I mean sunrises and sunsets rather than incandescent or halogen bulbs. I mean taking the rocky path through the underbrush rather than staying on the sidewalk. I mean where things get dirty and stay dirty and a little rust adds charm. I mean the entire cycle of life from birth to death - played out day after day before our eyes without filters or apologies. Where respect for nature would come naturally - while at the same time stripping away any desire to worship it as some mysterious god. This often-idolized false god that they could learn to see for what it really is - only a fellow creature, but one worthy of our care and attention because there is an order to things... (an order which, out here, we have to learn to live with each and every day as our ancestors had done) and, ultimately, that there is a True God who made it that way.
Being human, I often lose sight of the goal. Especially after two years of Dave having to live away from us for his job while we simply worked to hold things together, I lost direction. If we were totally self-sufficient by now, Dave would not have to work away from home. Nevermind that that sort of self-sufficiency was never our goal... we had only wanted to learn and pass on skills that would make us less dependent on modern technology in the event that we did not have access to it at some point. We were not going off-grid. If you could make some real money at this, this will never happen again. Nevermind that we never intended to make money at this. Making it into a business enterprise would put our entire endeavor in danger of becoming artificial. If you could just increase production and advertise you could make a good profit. Nevermind that increased production would mean throwing out all of our kinder, gentler methods of raising animals. Nevermind that increased production would displace me from my full time job as mother and teacher. Direction lost.
It does not matter how long we have been doing this, or how many times things go horribly wrong and we get through it. When we lose any animals, the heartbreak is the same. It means we are human, I tell the kids, We know by the pain we feel that we have lost none of our humanity along the way. And none of that reassurance in our humanity dulls the ache -- or quells the fear.
When I tell people that we inevitably lose some poultry each year to predators, I do not often see any surprise register on their faces. Honestly, I think I might be able to hear them thinking: "Sure. That's what happens when you insist on free-ranging your animals, you ding-bat." Sometimes my confession is followed up by their testimony (which confirms that my mind-reading skills are on target), "We will be keeping ours in a safe coop and run. So, no worries."
No worries. If only.
While it is true that we have a chicken missing periodically - the likely victim of a hungry hawk or a late morning fox on the prowl for a snack - most of our losses have not actually had anything to do with free-ranging. Nothing compares to the losses we have sustained inside safe enclosures. And I mean nothing compares - by any measure and not just quantity. The chicken who comes up missing at the mid-morning roll call does not compare to the discovery of an entire grow-out flock helplessly torn to bits. Waking up the morning after your safe enclosure was no longer safe is a punch in the gut.