Archive for category Family Life
While today wasn’t exactly what I’d call spring like (by the afternoon we hit a mighty -15c), compared to the -40 we had mid week it felt positively balmy! Along with the glorious sunshine and the crunchy conditions underfoot, it was the perfect day to wrap up and head out. Some of us really needed to burn off some steam…
They ran just for the sake of it, bounding across the snow to meet me. They had been exploring their hideout in the hedge line for a good little while before that, protecting the farm from ninjas and other such dangers.
They weren’t the only ones who enjoyed getting out either, even my old girl Bella, who is really struggling with her arthritis this winter, trotted along with me like old times.
She no longer pounds along like a race horse, bounding across the snow, but I enjoyed her company as an old friend. I don’t know how many more walks like this we have ahead of us, so I enjoy her implacable presence and her steady pace.
Of course there are younger members of our family who have no trouble making the most of the wintry conditions.
After the bitterly cold week we’ve had the pond was frozen solid, certainly solid enough for some skidding fun! Watching them zip about, feeling free and alive, brought many smiles and laughs from us all.
It’s been a busy weekend but also a lovely one, I hope it heralds a good week ahead.
There is beauty in embracing the reality that things kind of suck. There is beauty in the abandonment of self, the crashing aside of the props of ego and the delicious decline into unmitigated annoyance, grumpiness and self pity. The cascade of freedom that unfurls within as we allow ourselves to cry “But this is rubbish!”
I try to look for the positive, don’t we all? But I have to say I loathe January. Now I don’t know anyone who says “Oh I love it, frostbite is my favourite!” but I really, really loathe it. I hated it when I lived in England and all I had to contend with was sleet and freezing fog, here in Canadaland, January really means business. As in I’ll freeze your face right off before you even get in the car and then I’ll get to work on your toes. It’s icy out there people.
And it’s been icy for a while. We’ve been cooped up for a while. And while I recognise that there is the possibility of doing some healthy outdoor activity on things strapped to my feet, I’d like to remind anyone reading that I’m British. I am uncoordinated, afraid of falling and like the skin on my face to remain attached to my face.
Yes I am not keen on January all told, it’s cold, everyone is skint and there really isn’t much to look forward to until, oh, March. And while I can marvel at the beautiful blue sky on a searingly cold day, or admire the patterns of ice that decorate the barren outdoor landscape, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say I’m really waiting for Spring.
Perhaps in years to come we’ll all be strapping on skis (or whatever other designed for death instrument is popular at the time) or zooming off to skate on frozen lakes and rinks, but not this year. This year I have two still young children, lots to do and no energy to do it with. Frankly I’d rather just go to bed and wake up in about 6 weeks time. But I suspect the laundry may, by then, have evolved into an ecological disaster which would destroy not only the human race but all life on an atomic level. Not good.
I wish I could say that I’m facing this adversity with grace, but I would be lying. Yet I find myself unrepentant. I feel that this level of annoyance is almost glorious in it’s own perverse way. While I don’t enjoy yelling such sentiments as “clean it up yourself I’ve had enough!” at my children, I’m enjoying a certain feeling of cleansing from the admission of having enough.
Because that is the truth of it. No matter how much we love our life, or children, or haircut, life can be a big fat pain in the bottom. Sometimes our kids just drive us completely. up. the. wall. No matter how we love them and want to hold them close there are times when we consider that ebay really should have a ‘child’ section. Sometimes, we don’t want to be treated like indentured slaves and do you know what? We are right.
I love my children but I sometimes forget that my life is not just about serving them, that I am entitled to some moments of pleasure or creativity or not cleaning up the same damn thing that I cleaned up 5 minutes ago and yes actually I did tell you to do it but you just didn’t listen. We all know that everyone has those days and moments but somehow it’s easier to gloss over them and focus on the shiny bits, the easy bits, the bits that will make other people think we have a clue. Well I’m not sure that is healthy.
The truth is that sometimes being well and truly fed up can be a cleansing and healthy process, it makes us examine what is working and what isn’t, it can help us move through a depressing low and emerge into something new. Being angry can help us get motivated and moving, can help us shift into a new and healthier pattern, can be the herald of useful change.
I know we are all supposed to wheel around in some kind of zen like state with cherry blossoms tied to our ears but that isn’t life so let’s just forget it shall we? Today at our science co-op I was able to share my frustrations with my friends and, guess what? They had the same ones! Instead of glossing over it we are honest and share the downs as well as the ups. We obviously love our children (our actions show our dedication) but that doesn’t make it sunlight and roses all the time.
So I feel ok about being a bit grumpy and fed up, you really can’t enjoy every aspect of life and stay sane. There are things I love and things I just plain hate and I feel dishonest if I don’t articulate at least a little of my frustration. So there it is, no great manifesto or wise words, just a bit of a rant and a bit of a glimpse of life right now. And tomorrow it will be different, I’ll have moved on and the day will pan out, for good or bad, in a different way from how I imagined.
Not every moment is joyful or fun or something to be grateful for, not every moment can be a ‘learning opportunity’, but we can live fully and with honesty about the world as we see it. I don’t know about you, but when I ‘give myself permission’ to feel negative emotions, to embrace the truth of it and be ok with being a bit of a misery sometimes, I leave room for something new to come in. Catharsis if you will.
So let’s raise a hot and steaming cup of tea to getting through January and out the other side and to those unexpected moments that are so warm, you really do forget that it’s bloody cold outside.
So 2013 has officially dawned. Stephen has gone back to work (after prising the boys and, well, me off his legs) and our school has begun again. The house is oddly quiet and there is a big man shaped empty space that I’m trying not to think about too much or blubbing will commence.
Are there people who don’t feel sad when their beloved departs back to work after a holiday? Are there people who think ‘phew, I’m glad to see the back of you’? I can’t really imagine that there are. I am definitely not someone who ‘enjoys my space’, I like the connection, the feeling of company that we had all through the holidays. Sharing each day, each hour together even if we are doing our own thing, separate but together.
Anyhoo, I shouldn’t wax too lyrical or I’ll get myself all sad and today really is a beautiful day. After a day of snow yesterday the world is even softer and fluffier than it was; I am thankful for the 2 hours of snow blowing and shovelling that Stephen did yesterday to clear the driveway and make paths from the house to the chickens.
I think we’ve had more snow in December than we had the whole of last winter. The piles are everywhere and the landscape has the feeling of being covered by a massive, fluffy duvet. This morning dawned cold and clear, with a crescent moon hanging bright in the sky, preceding the golden dawning of the sun, finally hitting the trees in the forest as we all launched into a breakfast of oat pancakes with butter and maple syrup.
Every time the snow falls I feel a bit like I’m relearning this place we live. It is so familiar and yet there are little changes everywhere. Some things (such as piles of scrap left over from the previous owners) I am glad to see retreating others, like the pond, slip quietly from sight to return again in spring. I notice the pile of snow on top of the chicken bungalow getting higher and higher, it is at least 2 1/2 feet now, I’m curious to see how big it will get.
Each time Stephen ploughs the drive and pathways he pushes a bunch of snow on top of the toboggan run he made over Christmas. Beneath the snow are hay bales that the boys have played on since the summer, now they are covered in snow and are creating new entertainment. They are much more fearless than I am, they slide and skid without worry and I envy them a little. I’ve never enjoyed that feeling of moving too fast, out of control. But I love to watch them, alight and alive, full of excitement each time.
After the time inside, the cosy shelter of our family and home over the Christmas season, I feel like I am emerging again. I have no plans to rush, I want nothing more than to continue the gentle pace of life we enjoyed over the holidays. I’m happier than ever to keep the busy, concrete world at bay as much as I can. Instead I’m planning little excursions, to the library, to the feed and seed and out on our own land.
Each day is a discovery, each day we wake up new.
I think if I asked most people where their meat comes from they’d say ‘the supermarket’. That’s fair enough and when people lead such busy lives with so many demands on them, sourcing food any other way can feel like a huge hurdle. But raising our own meat has driven home something that we already ‘knew’ but didn’t know, deep down. Our meat comes from a living animal.
When we eat that meat we eat what has been a living being, a creature who walked the earth. For some that realisation leads to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, for others it means sourcing ethically raised meat from their local area; for us it meant creating a farm and raising animals to feed ourselves and others.
These days when I cook or preserve our meat I’m aware of a very different feeling within myself. I no longer see this simply as ‘food’, I approach it with a much greater sense of reverence and thrift. When I rub in the curing mix that turns our pork magically into bacon I feel almost meditative. I’m reminded of the animals we cared for and loved over the spring and summer months, I look forward to raising pigs again and bask in the memories of green pastures and hot summer days.
When I cook a chicken I am committed to using the animal fully, wasting as little as is possible. If we roast the bird (giving us 2 days of meat for 4 people) we then strip the darker meat and use it for a stew or a stir fry/curry (another 2/3 meals for adults or more for children). Then I use the carcass to make a stock, this is something of a 2-3 day event as I aim to draw as much goodness out of the bones as possible making the broth deep in nourishment.
When the stock is suitably thick and rich I often then cook it down again to make a thick jelly that can be used as a concentrate and has the added advantage of taking up less space in the fridge! This can be added to green beans, rice, stews, soups, gravy…anywhere that you’d use a stock cube really. Then the bones are stripped again (including bits we don’t eat like the neck and wings) and Winnie benefits from a good dose of meat and bone in her diet.
This kind of thrift used to be taken for granted and not just on farms or in rural settings. All kitchens, big and small, were units of production and economy. What we now throw in our recycling bin would once have been sold to the rag and bone man generating income for the family, nothing would have been wasted.
While I can never lay claim to producing no waste (we still buy things from the store and they come in packages) we have dramatically reduced our food waste since we moved onto the farm. Our animals take up quite a lot of the slack, with veggies going to the chickens and grateful dogs receiving meat scraps and bones! But we also endeavour to create a menu that uses all of the meat thriftily and with as much respect as we can give it.
It may seem cruel or heartless to some people that we raise up animals, know and care for them, then send them to slaughter. And I admit it is not always an easy process, I’ve shed a few tears as we’ve sent animals to be ‘finished’ at the slaughter house. But the truth is I’d rather have it this way, I’d rather know the life my animals, and my family lead. I’d rather know where each piece of meat has come from, what’s gone into the processing and know that there has been as little waste as possible, honouring the life that created our food.
Each meal, each piece of an animal that we consume has a life attached to it, has a story. That’s the bare truth that many ignore or would simply rather not think about. But it is crucial for the health of our food chain, our children and for the animals themselves that we don’t turn a blind eye to the conditions most animals are raised and slaughtered in. When we make a conscious choice buy as ethically as we can, use the meat as thriftily as we can and treat the meat with the respect and care it deserves we are active participants in making our homes, our diets and our nation’s farms better, healthier and more nourishing than ever before. That is the story I want to be a part of.
The last few days we’ve been at home with a poorly little boy who needed lots of love and attention. We’ve been up and down these last three nights, sometimes hourly, tending to him as he fights off a bit of a virus. Though I can’t claim to enjoy waking up 10 times a night or having a poorly child, I have, in my heart, simply felt lucky to have the opportunity to hold him close.
I’m seeing life through a different lens this week.
These last few days I’ve been so conscious of my good fortune in having those I love close to hand. I’ve enjoyed just being with them, hanging out on the sofa watching whatever shows the poorly one requested. Today we’re starting to see the back of the sickness but I’m still inclined to keep this mood going.
I’ve spent a lot of time in thought these last days, as I know so many have, reflecting on all sorts of things. The main realisation I’ve had is that I really enjoy being with my boys each day. That probably sounds obvious, but recently I’ve been feeling a bit weary and ready for a break. Now I see that the break isn’t from my family, from my life, but from the wider world.
So today has just been a gentle day of early baths, tidying, laundry, eating meals. Nothing earth shattering and yet it seems like the warmest kind of bliss. I made up a big batch of ‘snow’ for the boys to play with and sat in the kitchen listening too their crazy giggles, knowing they were ignoring my ‘don’t get it everywhere’ rule and not caring a jot.
I know truly and with sincerity of heart, that this is all I could ever dream of in life. These people, every day, finding our way. I’m grateful, so intensely grateful, for the chance.
It is the littlest of things that give the most pleasure I think, small moments that live long in the memory. On Thursday (after Stephen had been away with work for a couple of days and flew home overnight) we had the rare pleasure of a weekday walk together. Our friend has cut a hunting trail through our woods, which can also be used for a delightful amble in the late afternoon light.
For me this was the first time I fully walked the woods we’ve owned for 2 years. So many little delights there were, discoveries and inspirations; but mainly there was just walking, enjoying the fresh air, golden light and the freedom of the sky above us.
Today the sky is burning blue, the ground is white with snow but it will have to remain unexplored as the second of my two boys has fallen victim to a horrid tummy bug (poor Neirin had it on Friday). So today is about rest, tlc and remembering that walk. Knowing, of course, that there will be many more in our future.