Which, by the way, is NOT a post about co-eds.
Last month we lent an incubator and some fertile eggs to a class at the girls' school. They managed to hatch out one solitary little ball of yellow fluff, much to the delight of the kids involved. The teacher, who didn't want to be responsible beyond the hatching, gave her back soon after she emerged and we've been using her to torture the dogs.
Like you do.
Falcor has a long history of chicken wrangling, and by that I mean he took care of our last batch of babies, back in August. He is infinity patient and gentle while herding them around. As is his birthright.
Fezzik, however, he's a different story. Considering he spent some of his early days on the streets, he sees the chick as dinner. OK, a snack; it's really too small for "dinner." But anytime wings flap or her little body scurries across the floor, he wants to put that thing in his mouth. NOW!
We've been getting him acquainted but it required a couple gentle bops to the nose, resulting in a rather confused dog. Considering we have never hit him, it must be the chick who controls these startling bops to the nose from his beloved humans. So how does this tiny thing have so much power? He spends hours every day trying to figure just this out. Meanwhile, all we have to do is wave a chick in his general direction and he goes scurrying to his crate.
It's hard not to abuse such power.
But considering Fezzik has already been the cause of one full-grown-hen death, we're trying to change the input so we don't have another repeat of slaughter. It's a balance. And honestly, one we're just figuring out.
What say you, interwebs? How would you teach a dog not to eat the livestock?
After the previews at AMC theaters there is a message that says that you can find more trailers at their website, at which point one of us always says "We have enough trailers." We're hilarious.
My family has been living in our 25 foot travel trailer for almost a year and a half; when we decided to do this, we never imagined or intended that we would be in it this long. The truth is, we need over a hundred thousand dollars just to put in the foundation, utilities, and fire abatement. We just don't have it and we never dreamed it would end up costing this much. So it looks like we'll be in the trailer for a while longer. When we (the four adults) had our meeting together to discuss our options and made the decision to turn down a risky and extortionist loan, we also talked about how we could make the situation a bit more comfortable for all of us. After some thought, we decided we needed to do two things: find a separate place for my family to sleep so that we can use the trailer for living in, and move our trailer a bit away from the house so that everyone gets a little more of a separate life and privacy.
So we bought a 16 foot trailer with two sleeping areas and are going to be spending the next couple of weeks getting it and the 25 footer ready for the Big Move up into the orchard (and under more shade). The new trailer is in rough shape and needs some TLC (new interior roof, exterior sealant on the roof, new skylights, and new flooring) but we got it for $450 so it's do-able. And it's super cute!
We've been trying to make GingerLeaf Farm a reality for years. YEARS of planning and plotting out the vision and talking about what our community needs and how we can help it and how we want to live with shared resources and help not just ourselves and be part of something bigger and change the world, obviously. It's been inspiring, at times, to live with this level of faith in a vision. But mostly, it's been frustrating to have something so beautifully perfect just outside your reach. Because all of this is possible; that we know for certain.
But Money, people. Money be bitchy and evasive and so damn hard to satisfy. And Money likes to hang out with Bureaucracy. They are BFF's, for sure.
Building the farmhouse and getting the orchard in was supposed to be done by now. We're already supposed to be holding farm days and community workshops. We should have a herd of goats by now. We should have expanded the chicken coop. We're already supposed to be doing SO MUCH. Instead, we're spending that precious time with planning departments and contractors and watching as the cost of this project skyrockets. It's more than doubled in cost since when we first started out and taken so long that hope is starting to seem like stupidity. And we haven't even been able to break ground (see: bureaucracy).
Last night the adults at the farm sat down and had a really hard talk. We had a decision to make:
- a) walk away and give up,
- b) take a loan deal that could cost us everything (the land, the house, the orchard), or
- c) try to find another way to keep moving forward
We spent a good half hour talking about "a". But it's not the kind of people we are. It's just not.
And "b" was so tempting. "B" could have let us break ground in two weeks. TWO WEEKS FROM RIGHT NOW. But a high risk interest only loan from private investors is just fraught with opportunities to get your legs (metaphorically) broken by the dealer on the corner. We've worked too hard to risk everything because we are tired.
For the type of people we are, it's always going to be "c". It has to be "c". But "c" means more time in limbo and more hustling and more begging and more struggle. And more of Lorien's family living in a travel trailer. Which, you might guess, is getting old.
So here's where we are: we're highly considering a Kickstarter Project and asking our community to put their money where their mouth is. So many people have been encouraging us to keep going and been so excited about all we want to do, that just maybe we could make it happen. But we need connections to people who can promote the campaign. We need donations of things we can include in the incentives (I have not one, but TWO celebrity chefs who have expressed interest in helping us, so there's that). I need people to show us how important our vision is to them. Or tell us that it isn't. In other words, it's one thing to build something for someone else, but maybe we should ask them if they even want it.
So how important is it? I need to know what you all really think. Because honestly, we're starting to lose our faith.
We've had one heck of a year for dogs in this place. We lost Bailey to an accidental ingestion from a neighbor's careless poisoning (we assume). It was terribly traumatic, but thankfully only to the adults that had to cope with it in the middle of the night. None of the kids had to witness the horror of a painful death. Mark and I woke to Bailey in full seizure and, despite our best efforts, we couldn't get her to the vet in time. It was horrifying. I'll talk more about alternative ways to manage your pests in a future post, so you don't become the reason someone had to listen to their dog howl itself to death in pain. Integrated pest management is more important than what you think is the easy way out. But I'll save that for later. Pinky swear.
Maya we lost because, well, she was 14-years-old and tired, in pain, and could hardly walk anymore and so we had to make a choice. It was a beautiful, peaceful death that actually felt honest and emotionally raw, but in a closure kind of way. We gathered around her, the whole farm, and said our goodbyes while the home-visit-vet helped ease her along. Then we buried her under the tree near the chicken coop and watched as our little girls lovingly filled in the dirt and topped her grave with rocks and tears.
And then we were a farm without a dog. And that is unacceptable.
So Lorien went and got herself this guy:
His name is Falcor and he is our wee little (spelled slightly differently) luck dragon. He is perfectly calm in the chicken coop and even allowed our newly hatched chicks to climb all over him. He's ridiculous, but in a good way. In this photo, we had just thrown him into a pool (it was really hot outside) and he retaliated by licking all the pool water off my legs. I thought I was gonna die, for sure.
After Mark and I got back from our Epic Road Trip™ we set to work finding a dog for our half of the household as well. We ran across this fella at the County Animal Shelter and with his odd Greyhound/Shepherd cross and sweet temperament, we couldn't resist. Fezzik is having some adjustment issues... I mean, he can jump off a ten foot deck and run like a track star, so that's been fun. And if he's not right next to you in the house, he's pretty sure he's going to die. And he thinks he's a lap dog. A 70 pound lapdog. But he has so much potential, we're going to make it work, dammit.
And so we are full up on dogs! And now we feel a little more like a legitimate farm again. Which is nice. And I'm sure will provide us with plenty of stories. For now, know that if you come on by the farm there will be furry tales and eager faces to accost you. But you may get licked. Incessantly.
And if you threaten one of us, you will face the wrath of a luck dragon and a giant. Good luck with that.
Elaine and her family have been on the road, leaving Lorien in charge of all things farmish. And boy, has she gone out of her way, hatching out four chicks and training Farm Dog Franco to not eat them. If you're not already following the fun on Facebook, come check out our page:
When Elaine returns from her worldly adventures, she'll have more to say. But for now, pop over to the Facebooks and say Hi!
It’s one a.m. I’m home from work after the first night of our summer Shakespeare Festival at the theatre and I am tired, yet wide awake. We got caught with our pants down tonight, unprepared, scrambling to take care of everyone. We jump, we apologize, we say, “This drink is on the house” to compensate and smile and charm and do what we can to make it right. But it’s like this sometimes, no matter what you do. It’s like this in all jobs, I think. Sometimes you miss. And there’s just nothing you can do about it but try to make it better and hope it’ll go better next time.
I forgot to eat, even. Too wrapped up in “What comes next?” to listen to the grumble of my belly or the insistent whine of my blood sugar as it starts to spin me out of control. Responsibility held me together but by midnight, warm in the car next to Mark, who picked me up and filled me in about all I missed at home that night, I felt my body tug, demand, point out that sustenance was missing. My Mister failed to eat a real dinner too, he reveals. “I was whittling Lily’s wand… in the zone. Totally forgot about eating!”
But this is just it, our lives sometimes. We get involved. We sink in. We forget the obvious. On days where we share overlapping work hours, we steal away into the park and find the hidden peach tree, heavy with fruit nobody else knows to look for. We feel like thieves, snacking on free food we found in a public space. We make plans for retirement, talk of the logistics of becoming people who secretly plant and cultivate fruit trees in public places so people can stumble across them and feel like they’ve discovered a tiny bit of treasure… sweet and sticky and ripe. We calculate the years left before we can let go of obligation and give our time to the things we love. And we do love our jobs… we just love the idea of secret orchards more, sometimes. What will we really do, once the kids are in college or off creating lives of their own? What have we put on hold to serve a larger vision? And how much can we take now?
It’s one a.m. The kitties are leaping about in wild shenanigans and my belly is full. I need to be up in hours to get kids ready for camp and myself ready for work. But this moment, in this house, right now… it feels heavy and ripe and sweet. It feels like it could go on forever. It feels like tomorrow (which is actually today) is put-off-able. Secret. How much sleep, no matter how much it is needed, how much is that worth?
Guess I’ll have to find out when I wake.
More from the garden, as it grows right now here
About a month ago we borrowed an incubator, got ourselves some fertile chicken eggs, and set to hatching some chickens. The girls made up charts, committed to the idea of turning their eggs three times a day and then... they kinda lost interest.
Us adults did our best to keep up and manage the kids waining interest, but with some crazy weather messing with the holding temp and kids being, well, kids, it didn't go as planned.
Lorien, Anya and Elaine, walking through the streets of San Francisco. Photo by Lily.
The farm girls are traveling. Last week Lorien, Lily, Nina, Anya and I all dragged ourselves out of bed at 4am and headed North, making San Francisco our destination. Lorien and I both have sisters who live in The City, hers biological and mine of the heart. The girls were wicked excited and the days flew by with so much activity and fun we all fell into bed and had no trouble dropping off to sleep.
The Living Roof at the California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park.
It's a huge change of pace. In San Francisco we walked everywhere and were on the go 90% of our waking hours. Here I look out the porch and see acres of trees and meadow and there's nowhere to go, really. We hang out in town at the coffee shop and sip steamers while riding the wifi, poking about online and feeling like sedentary folk. It's odd and I need to find some trails soon, so I don't go crazy with stillness.
Swinging at their Grandma's house in Grass Valley where the weather is unseasonably warm.
Last night Heidi (my mother-in-law) and I started talking gardens. She has raised beds here and has spent countless hours trucking in soil and amendments. The ground is solid, void of nutrients and acidic with pines. She feels like it's a constant struggle to get anything to grow at all. And she spent many years in Denmark where growing seasons are vastly different.
"We planted Brussels Sprouts last Spring," she tells me.
"But those are a winter crop." I protest.
"Not in Denmark." She sighs, "We got hundreds of little sprouts but none of them grew up and made it to harvest." She tosses her hands up. "I just don't know how to work this soil!"
"Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing either." I assure her, "I only know about Brussels Sprouts because I have a Farmer Bill at our local nursery and I wanted to plant them."
"I need a Farmer Bill."
We all do, really. Having a local expert, someone who knows your region and can tell you, "I wouldn't try to plant those seeds just yet" is priceless. It's that institutional knowledge, so to speak, that I feel like so many of us are lacking. Seeking out and finding that resource, it's valuable beyond belief. And most places have a spot for just such a thing. In San Diego, where the our tiny farm is, we have City Farmers Nursery where the infamous Farmer Bill dispenses advice and humor by the handful. There are also local University resources such as the Seeds@City Urban Farm Program, which boasts a one-acre organic farm in the heart of downtown a and Sustainable Urban Agriculture program. We also have an outstanding Water Conservation Garden which showcases water-wise landscaping that is lush, beautiful and attainable in challenging climates. And those are only some of the resources available in town.
What about where you live? What kind of resources make your heart swoon? How do you find the people that help you connect to the dirt in a meaningful way?
Anya finding Oak Galls, the fascinating biology of wasp and Oak, about which she learned when we took classes at Mission Trails Regional Park.
Mark got me a "Chicken Cam" for Christmas and until we can run cable all the way out to the coop we have it hanging out on the front porch. Last night we caught a really odd thing. There are two videos for you to look over: the first one is Ember, the cat, just to show you what a regular creature looks like on this camera.
The other is... well, that's what we want to know. Go, dear internet. Explain this video: