Weeds and how we grow’em

It’s starting to be crunch time on the farm.  That’s not completely true… it feels like crunch time on the farm for most of the season.  But this is a different crunch time.  If things don’t get seeded or transplanted today (or really, yesterday or last week or who knows when in the past, but really, SERIOUSLY, before tomorrow), they’re not going to have enough daylight hours to ripen all the way to… well… ripe.  So it’s crunch time.  Jer’s been working like mad, while also trying to have a day off here and there, albeit mostly unsuccessfully.

Deadly nightshade – not my picture, because this one has flowered and is going to seed!

I’ve been looking at pictures of where we were at last year, and while we’re still behind, we’re less behind.  What we aren’t less behind on is the weeds.  We’ve tried really hard to stay on top of the weeds this year, especially before they go to seed.  Last year we had a few weeds totally take off, and they became an absolute bane in the greenhouse – there was one nightshade that was especially vigorous.  So this year, we’re on the watch for it, and I don’t think we’ve let any flower yet, much less go to seed.  So that’s good.

Smartweed – also not my picture

Jer’s got a new weed on his radar, and he’s teaching me about it, but I keep thinking smartweed (or knotweed) is the plant he’s talking about, but it’s not, so I need a little more practice.  I had a goal of getting half of my dahlias weeded last week, so that they could maybe, FINALLY, start to flower, and that got done.  I am so ready to start making bouquets that aren’t lily-centric!  I love the lilies, but I’m ready for more choice!

Miss P had her 5-month-iversary this week.  We celebrated by going to the market, but also by visiting with the folks whose house she was born at.  We’re all just so darn grateful for her and her smiles, her gurgles and her snuggles.  She’s a gooder.

Feelings and how we express them

Little Miss P has a very large head, which I blame wholly on Jeremy.  She also has a very loud voice, but I don’t think Jer can take the credit (or blame) for that one.  That may have more to do with me.  When the little one has something to say, but feels the need not to just say it (with the coos and sighs and giggles that are her language), but to shout it, scream it, exclaim it with a multitude of exclamation marks, we say that she’s expressing her feelings.

Miss P’s new friend

Not feelings of pain or joy or hunger – there are other more recognizable noises she makes for those feelings – but the whole abundance of other human feelings, be they physical (my nose is itchy and I don’t know how to fix it!!!!), emotional (I have a new friend who I can’t get enough of!!!!), or otherwise (FEELINGS!!!!!).  It’s totally acceptable for a 4 month-old to have loud, indescribable feelings.  It’s totally acceptable for a 4 month-old to have most things, really.  Sometimes I wish I was a 4 month-old and I could just shout and yell and exclaim sounds as loudly as possible in order to express myself and my feelings, because there sure are a lot of them right now.

 

June was the month of visitors on the farm.  We had a clan of my family descend for a night, which was lovely.  We had friends from Vancouver, who are moving back to the East Coast, come for 3 or 4 nights.  We had my parents come for almost a week.  And then we had the Wittys, comprised of Witty himself, young Mr. Atlas, and Golds, the friend who spans the ages and the kilometers.

You see, Golds and I met 9 years ago, in Bolivia, at the end of a 10-day meditation retreat.  You can read about her take on it here.  I had a different experience meditating than she did, and while I didn’t speak with anyone, with my words or my eyes for 10 days, I certainly spent time staring around the room, making up stories about the likely non-native Bolivians, Chileans and Argentines.  I grouped the travellers into partnerships, gave them home continents and narratives about what brought them to this small town in Bolivia, the only land-locked country in South America, and to a 10-day silent meditation retreat.  I was wrong on all counts (4 of the 7 were from Australia!  I was the only American, defined here as “from the continent[s] of America).  But even though Golds was from Australia, when we got to talking we found out that this may not be our first meeting.  Our first meeting may have truly been 20 years prior, on the playground of our elementary school.  She had come to Calgary

Stampede times…

during the 1988 winter Olympics, and we’d gone to elementary school together.  Our chance encounter in Bolivia, followed by 3 weeks of Stampede-laden debauchery in Calgary created a lifelong friendship.  Our month together here, as new mamas with happy, smiling, loud and feeling babes in tow, cemented that friendship and I sure do hope that it takes less than 9 years for us to see each other again.

Circa 2008

So those are some of my feelings… feelings of gratitude for having these delightful and joyful people in my life, feelings of incredible love when I see Miss P flapping her arms in delight when she is in the presence of her buddy Mr. Atlas, squeaky feelings when I see Golds dog-paddle at the beach on her last night here because the tidal flats go on forever and she doesn’t want to (rightfully so!) scrape herself on the sharp barnacles, but also feelings of sadness because these friends have just left us to continue their year-round jaunt.

Other feelings have to, obviously, do with my daughter and the relationships she has and the relationships she’s changed.  The relationship between my mother and myself, the relationship between Jer and I, and her relationships to all of these people I love so dearly.  Those are big feelings.  Those are shouting really loud feelings.

 

And then there’s these other feelings.  You see, our neighbours and closest friends on the island, are moving.  Not far – Google Maps tells me it’s 5 km and a 7 minute drive away – but far enough to not be drop-by neighbours… This family is a huge part of our Denman Island community.  They feed and water our chickens and garden when we’re away.  We share groceries, meals, and tea and cookies at least once a week.  I was so excited to know that Miss P was going to grow up next door to their lovely daughter, who would teach our girl to tromp through the woods, bounce on the trampoline and pick the best strawberries.  I have a deep respect for the choices this family has made and the people that they are and I’m supremely bummed that they’re moving.  I’m doing my best not to be like Miss P and shout and scream these feelings, because this is really not about me my feelings (I’m not the one moving, after all), but sometimes I wish that my girl and I could just switch places for a moment so I could shout and yell and get a bunch of these feelings out (and maybe cry a fair bit too), and then I’d feel better.  For now, I’m “holding it together”, trying to help them as best I can, and maybe by this weekend, when their house is no longer “theirs” in the legal sense of the word (it’ll be theirs for a LONG time, and not just to me… in describing our house, I still use the previous owners’ names, 6 years later), I’ll have my first little (or big) fit of feelings, and start to move on from them.

Not a farmy post at all.  One day I’ll give you a real farm update.  This month has just been about so much more than the farm…

Friends at the beach

How things change…

I used to be a daily journaler.  I would write almost every night before I went to bed.  Nothing was off-limits.  Daily events, feelings, ideas, stories, poetry… I wrote in French and in English.  I wrote meditations and quotes.  I wrote a lot.  It was my way of processing what was happening in my world, and was incredibly important to me.  I wrote for almost 20 years, and have a box of journals full of these writings.  Then, when Jer and I moved in together, I kinda stopped writing.  I didn’t need to write things down to process them, because I had this partner who would do it with me.  So I stopped.  Sometimes I miss it, but not often because our lives are so full.  But what I did miss was the routine, and the remembering.  I missed being able to go back and read about where I was at and when, especially the fun bits.

And then, almost 5 years ago, one of our aunts bought us this lovely little 5 year journal.  It was a delightful gift, and it’s been 4 and a half years that we’ve been writing in it, almost daily.  We write about funny things (like when Jeremy makes the bedroom smell really bad), serious things (like when wildlife comes and eats our chickens), daily happenings (like parties and beach swims and visits from friends), but mostly we write about farmy things.  When things are planted, when they’re harvested, when certain flowers start to bloom.  We write about the weather and the first and last frost.  What this means is that when people talk about how far behind or ahead we are, I can either agree or disagree, and I actually have data to back it up… 4 years of data, which isn’t much, but it’s something!  So I can tell you that we were eating lots of strawberries this time last year and we were cutting our first lilies.  Lilies this year are weeks away, and our first strawberries are just starting to pink up.  In other words?  We’re totally 2 or 3 weeks behind the past few year.  Drat.

Other news?  June is the month of visitors!  A lovely friend that I met 9 years ago at a Vipassana meditation in Bolivia is here for a month with her husband and 8-month old son, as part of their jaunt around the world.  It’s been super fun to catch up, go for swims and spend time on the farm together.  It’s also lovely to spend so much time with another babe… I’m sure Patryn agrees!Early days market table

 

Spring came late

Spring took a long time coming in these parts this year.  We’ve been spoiled the past couple of springs with bees and blooms in March and salad in May.  This year we’ve been less spoiled, which was kind of nice because it allowed Jer to feel less guilty for being in the house and not on the farm… but everything changed this week.  For those of you who live on the west coast, you know the weather I’m talking about.  Hot, hot sun.  Lots of it.  Enough to dry out the wet section of the garden, almost overnight.  Jer kicked up dust on the tractor when we went through and tilled it… Dust!  Who knew it was even possible!  Enough to fry the plants that hadn’t been properly hardened off in a matter of hours.  Enough to make the oceans and lakes… bearable?  I say that, although I’m not actually certain.  I tried to go swimming in the ocean last week, but Patryn was having none of it.  Jer got in.  Then we caught colds and the thought of cold water was oh so unpleasant.  But today.  Today we’re going to the beach.  It’s happening.  With potato salad and cold beer and pork chops.

Sleep and the lack thereof

Once upon a time, about 5 years ago actually, sleep deprivation was all about a mink eating our chickens in the middle of the night.  To be honest, eating isn’t a fair representation of what was happening, as the mink in question (and pretty much every other mink) mostly drain their prey’s blood and then move on to the next prey.  This way, they can massacre a whole flock pretty fast.  Now, I digress… 5 years ago, we weren’t sleeping because our chickens were being massacred.  Now, our chickens are still being massacred, but mostly because we’re not sleeping enough to remember to close them up at night religiously, and a raccoon has figured out where there’s food.

And why, you ask, are we not sleeping?

Well, because of her.  See, last year we grew more than vegetables (and flowers.  We grow a lot of flowers these days).  Last year, we grew a human.  She decided to start hanging out on the outside of my body on February 15th, and since then, we sleep less than we did before.  More some nights, less right now because she has a cold and snorfles when she breathes, and then the snorfles don’t get her enough air, and then she cries, and then we don’t sleep.  It’s pretty hard to sleep through some of the snorfles too.  So we don’t sleep.  I’m learning to cope on less sleep, but the coping sure is pretty meager sometimes.  I certainly don’t feel very intelligent, and I struggle regularly with finding words.  Like always.  Words are tricky monsters.

So we grew a human.  Now, we’re back to growing vegetables and flowers, and I’m still growing a human.  The vegetables and flowers were taking a bit of a back seat, which was okay because the spring was horrid (as was the winter and the fall… remember October when it rained every single day?), but now it’s hot, and the vegetables and the flowers need to become more of a priority, but that’s hard without the sleep.

Anyways, I hope that I’ll be back to hanging out on the blog more now that I’m not growing a human inside my body and not starting (and finishing!) my Masters every moment of spare time I had.  I also, of course, am hoping for some sleep.

The garden at the beginning of April

April 1st – First day with dirty fingernails

I think I’ve come to accept that the kitchen, in spring, will always be used to start seeds…

Seeds are growing

Oh, the stories that chickens could tell…

The chickens around this place are a little more ridiculous than normal these days.  You see, I hatched out a batch of chicks with my students this year, and after all of that was said and done, we’ve got 10 birds that have survived.  They’re the teenagers of this pack, and, for the most part, they’re a gang of teenagers.

The teenagers

The teenagers

They hang out, get bullied by some of the adults (maybe their parents), but there’s a total hierarchy amongst them.  Two of them (we call them the Egyptians, due to their colouring), have started roosting in the house at night, on the TOP most roosting bar, pooping on all of the adult birds below them, all night long.  But, as teenagers are wont to do, and to be, there’s one that just doesn’t fit in.  Normally, in human situations, I would blame this on the big group, and accuse them of being conformist and traditional and rude and mean.  This, however, is not a human situation, and the bird who doesn’t fit in is by no means normal. Not in the cool, non-conformist way of not being normal either.

She’s just stupid.

The not-as-clever chicken

She gets lost in the forest.  When we call her, she wanders further afield.  Last night she didn’t even make it back to the house, and so very easily could have been eaten by any one of the predators in our creek… but she didn’t, so she was out there this morning, cheep peeping along, trying to find her way home.  Seriously.  In the wild, this chicken would be dead long ago.  The way it stands now, I don’t know how long she’ll survive.

Plus, on top of the teenagers, we have a baby.

Disheveled mom and babe

Disheveled mom and babe

Although, the baby is growing up fast (don’t they always?).  She was hatched out by a pair of moms (a lesbian love story in the chicken house), and the moms have swapped their momly duties in the past month or so that she’s been around.  The baby’s gone back to the barred rock mom, who is looking as disheveled as any new mom I know.  The other mom, a red rock, has gone back to the land of Ferdinand, our rooster.  The saga in the chicken yard is mighty ridiculous these days.

Stories on the farm are as to be expected.  The cooler crops (peas, salad, lettuce, broccoli, etc.) are really enjoying the cool weather.  Imagine that, huh?  The warmer (and the hot ones especially) like corn and tomatoes and cucumbers and some of my flowers would like it a little… warmer?  So would I.  Then I would spend more time at the beach and the lake and in the water and that would make me happy.  Either way, warm or cool, the garden is growing.  I took a few pictures at our market table this morning (I ALWAYS forget until the end of the market, when the table looks sad and depleted), but my camera was on a funny setting, so excuse the general non-focusness of the pictures.  Then, when I went onto the farm to take some pictures, all I took shots of was flowers.  And broccoli.  I like broccoli.  I’m clearly biased in regards to the crops we grow, but I think you all already knew that.

Broccoli

Broccoli

Gladiola

Gladiola

Dahlia

Dahlia

Sunflower and honey bee

Sunflower and honey bee

Echinacea

Echinacea

Dahlia

Dahlia

Lily

Lily

Market table

Market table

Market table

Market table

Market table

Market table

The end of the chasm?

It’s amazing the way that hours and hours of sitting in front of a computer to write a thesis can put one into a blogless chasm of writing.  Actually, maybe that’s not amazing.  Maybe that’s quite standard, par for the course, regular, normal stuff.  Either way, my thesis was approved almost a month ago, and here we are, after our first market of the season, and it looks like our “website” is pretty… well… outdated.  Not cool Kerri, not cool.  This isn’t to say that I haven’t thought about writing many times, because I have.

CleoI thought about telling you when I hatched out baby chicks in my class, and especially when the humidity in the incubator got all wonky when I took it home on the last weekend, and, in so doing, pretty much drowned half of the almost fully formed chicks in their own mucous… I’m sure you wanted to hear about that.  We got 12 chicks, and they’re adorable, and have been given names such as CleoIago, Pingu, Iago, Boots, and Sox.  On other small bird (both less, and more small), I also thought about letting you know about the tiny nest of Bewick wrens in my toolbelt, which was hanging in the tractor shed… I thought about telling you how the eggs were the size of a tiny jelly bean, and that the three birds were the Pingusmallest creatures with the biggest mouths I’ve ever seen.  I also thought about telling you when I saw twin baby eagles in their nest… especially when, while looking through binoculars, I saw one of them wiggle their bums at Jeremy, and then let go the most amazing projectile poop.  It was spectacular.  It would have shot clean across my house.  I would not be surprised if people started betting on how far a baby eagle could poop.  Seriously.  I wonder how much poop there ended up being in my tool belt.  I wonder if the wrens even tried to projectile poop out.  Hrm…

DSC_0245

I also thought of writing to you when I finished Rainbow socksknitting some beautiful things.  I’ve knit lots of beautiful things.  I dream of knitting more beautiful things.  I always dream of knitting beautiful things.

Over the winter, I thought about introducing you to some of the other new critters with whom we share our time.  Minstrel is a ginger cat who came to hang Minstrelout with us in the month of January, supposedly for a month.  He’s still here, and he’s a snuggly poofball.  I don’t think we could have asked for two hairier pets… Also, Ferdinand the rooster came to live with us over the winter.  He’s named after FerdinandFerdinand the bull, and he’s lovely and kind and beautiful.  I like him.  I like him a lot.  In March, two hives of bees came to live with us too.  I thought about telling you about how bees are like Jeremy’s knitting.  I thought about telling you when some of the bees swarmed and we caught them, or when we cut out some queen cells to give to a friend, or when some of the lady bees started coming back neon yellow because they were collecting broom pollen, or when the honey started tasting like rose because of the wild roses in bloom.

New bees

New beekeeper

Swarm of bees

Swarm in hive

I thought about telling you about the trips – those to Tofino, or the interior, or the car disasters that happened en route.  I’m not going to even go into those events, because they’re not very farmy.  I’ll leave you with this, and hopefully we’ll be in touch again soon!

West coast instrument