On process, carving out new spaces, and dealing with the occasional rabid coon

The past few years have taught me a lot about myself (and about Jeff, for that matter). I learned that I have a high preoccupation with process- What’s right in this situation? What do we want to do? Why? How do we want to live? These are the questions that rattle around in my head daily. I like this about myself and I feel it brings good things into my life and work, but it sometimes can feel complicated when the people around me aren’t equally concerned with such things. I know there are many ways to approach a situation, and this just happens to be mine. I’m working on forgiving myself my own way of living, as this process-oriented way of being feels, to me, to be inexorable from my person. I might as well accept it and lean in. A result is not the one I want if it doesn’t align with what I feel to be a “right process”. I mention this because I really leaned into this realization when we were mid-build, in the deep of the winter when I was surrounded in what felt like both a literal and figurative mess. I mean, just muck and dust and work and rest and some distant vision of an end product. We had to find a way to keep chipping away. We had to find a way to feel at home and in love with each other and ourselves even when our bodies and minds were tired and maybe a little scared. I also had to dig deep in my thinking about my relationships, because, in addition to the lack of time we had for socializing, our energy was such that we had to really think about what it is in our relationships that is actually nourishing and sustaining. That kind of thing matters when you’re tapped out, you know? But it was hugely clarifying, even if it did leave me feeling strangely lonesome at times.

Asa, crushing fresh honeycomb- a gift from our new next door neighbor.

Asa, crushing fresh honeycomb- a gift from our new next door neighbor.

I guess my point is that I thought a lot about process and direction in an effort to keep us on track, moving forward and staying happy, in spite of the lack of tangible results. Jeff too- that guy dug deep to keep going at it day after day. To me it’s clear that his values and his character were what got us through this project. He definitely had skill, but so much of it was built through the “doing” rather than the “knowing”. I love that about our life. I feel like my best results come about from just moving through it all, working from the outside-in rather than the inside-out. And so lately I’ve had moments where my head is down and I’m focusing on all that “doing” stuff, and then I lift my head and have a wave of gratitude and realize the results that those efforts have yielded. I have always preferred that way of being- it leaves me happier and more open. I would rather just chop wood and carry water and then find myself in the middle of a beautiful place that holds the story of my relationship with it.

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The same is true for my job at the other farm. There was a lot of mess and “process” and thinking that happened for a couple of years, and it was difficult to work through that into anything that materially validated the effort I put forth. But this year the farming cooperative is taking root and we are seeing those values come through in the physical form. We are capturing a yield now. We have hoop houses and new members with fresh ideas and energy. It’s so good, and it will just get better. Below is a photo of the sheep being raised on pasture there by a new member. The whole project is beautiful and collaborative and messy and wonderful. 

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I feel like writing here from time to time (along with all the philosophizing I do with my dear patient friends and partner) gives me an important piece of the process I need. So many of my feelings about what’s happening around and within me hinges on my perspective, which ultimately hinges on the story I tell myself every day. It’s arbitrary, I know, but I just think it matters. Anyway. 

Here’s what’s been going on for the past two weeks:

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Right after we moved the ducks out to their little house, we used an old dog pen to create a mini yard for them until we could give them a proper yard. We planned to free-range the chickens because we know they reliably come back to their coop to roost, but ducks aren’t so reliable and we have some predators to watch out for at night. So, a fenced pen it’ll have to be. Anyway, after we moved the ducks we moved the chickens out to their new coop!

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We kept them inside the coop for a few days so they could reorient and get used to their new home. After about four days we opened up their little door and let them explore. They were a bit spooked at first, but that didn’t last long. They are such happy chickens! Sadly, a few days ago one didn’t make it back to the coop (Queen Esmerelda, our one brown chicken). We think it was a hawk, due to the fact that it happened during the day and we didn’t see much evidence of a struggle. The kids were sad, but we knew this was possible. It’s how we’ll learn what they need out there.

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The chickens’ first moments outside.

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We also got our honeybees! We got the call that they were ready and we were a bit unprepared. We were expecting two colonies, and we figured we could use the two hive bodies that we had- one from Milton’s house and one from our storage, leftover from our first experience with bees a few years ago. Unfortunately, our hive had been completely colonized by mice over the winter, since we didn’t have anywhere to store it but out in a tent on the property. We discovered this the day that we were going to pick up the nucs. Woops! We scrambled and ordered a new hive body online and got it shipped overnight. 

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Milton’s hive body, set in place and leveled, ready for the new bee colony.

We went to get the bees anyway, despite our lack of preparation, and just hoped they’d be okay in their boxes for another day. They came in these neat boxes, and when we picked them up you could feel the whole thing buzz and vibrate.

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We carefully set the boxes near their new homes. We consulted with the people we got the nucs from, and they said that we could release the bees from the box so they could get food and water while we waited on the new hive body, provided we set the box as close to the new spot as we could muster. 

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So Milton and I got to work setting up the new foundation for the second hive, leveling it out and whatnot. Once that was done, we set one hive right next to it and carefully lifted the mesh screen so they could fly out. Off they went!

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Then Milton and I got to work putting the other colony into the one clean hive body we had. It went smoothly and was really fun! So exciting to work with bees.

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Dusted off my old bee stuff.

Finally got to dust off my old bee stuff.

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Old box after transferring the bees to their new hive. All the remaining bees soon followed their queen into the hive.

This is the old box after transferring the bees to their new home. All the remaining bees soon followed their queen into the hive.

The following evening our new hive arrived, and I got right to work getting the second colony into it. The transfer went well, and so far the bees are all active and healthy! I don’t know much more about keeping bees than this, really. So I’ve got a stack of books next to the couch and am chipping away at it. So far they are pretty low maintenance and I’m just trusting them to eek out an existence here. Hopefully I won’t need to do much other than check on them here and there.

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Otherwise I’ve been planting and just going for it. We don’t even have the permanent food garden space cleared yet, so I’m just carving out garden space on all the edges. I’ve planted perennials and vegetables wherever it makes sense to. So far we’ve got grapes, aronia, walking onions, gooseberries, currants, elderberry, yellowhorn, wineberry, sunchokes, cornelian cherries, bamboo, sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes, a few peppers, and a handful of herbs. We’re also carving out a small space for asparagus, just because we figure if we get some in the ground now, even if it’s not the area we eventually plant it in, we’ll have some asparagus to eat in the next couple of years! I also managed to plant half of a hoop house out at the cooperative with a dozen or so varieties of tomatoes. Even if I won’t have a full market garden this year, I’ll have plenty of things to tend to. I plan to throw in some squash and beans in the next week, but otherwise I’m going to put energy towards more infrastructure and getting the fall garden set up.

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Concord grape vines- a gift from another thoughtful neighbor!

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Happy sunchoke patch

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More garden beds hobbled together with scrap wood and branches and old microgreen soil. We use whatever we’ve got!

Jeff and I spent a few hours one afternoon to make the ducks a bigger yard. It turned out well!

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It’s got plenty of shade and sun, and we put a couple of kid pools for them to drink from and splash around in while we think about what kind of a water system we want to build there. That will take some thought and experimentation. But in the meantime they are really happy splashing around and digging for bugs in the dirt.

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It’s really nice to enjoy them outside now, versus my basement. 😉

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Over the past week we did start to have some predator pressure in the form of a very brave raccoon. We noticed it walking around during the day, but then one morning we found it stuck inside the duck yard. Thankfully we’d locked the ducks up for the night, but it was a bit strange that it couldn’t make its way out of the simple fencing. Jeff just opened the gate and walked around the perimeter until it ran out. 

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The next evening we saw it out and about during the day again. This time it caught Maya’s attention, but it ran up a tree and we just watched it, confused. I had done a little research via Google to learn about why a raccoon might be out during the daylight hours. I read that sometimes nursing mamas can come out in the spring to gather more food for themselves, so I thought that must be it. On this night, though, the raccoon ended the evening by coming out of the tree and into the yard, and it wouldn’t spook even with me yelling at it a bit and jumping up and down. I was starting to get a bit afraid for the fate of our ducks, with such a brave coon on the premises. I was finally able to make it run off after squirting it with the hose. I felt bad about it, but I felt like I couldn’t allow it to just roam the bird’s space during the day.

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Can you spot the raccoon in the tree?

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Unfortunately, the next day it made another appearance, and this time it was clearly rabid. Drool, evidence of paralysis, even attracting flies… pretty sad. I was at a market at the time, but Lindsay was home with the kids and they had to run away from it since it was following them. Jeff got home from work and Lindsay quickly updated him, and he attempted to scare it off. It wouldn’t spook, though, and at one point he had to gently kick it away from him. Soon enough he’d made the decision to put it out of its misery, and he grabbed a shovel and hit it as hard as he could in the head while the kids watched from the window. It died quickly, thank goodness. The kids performed an impromptu memorial service, I’m told, complete with a moment of silence and warm reflections and thoughts about the raccoon’s life. I got all the updates over the phone and was bombarded with updates from the kids when I got home. Jeff felt fine about the situation, he knew it was a kindness, but he’d lost his appetite for the evening. Such an adventure! 

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We are holding strong with the microgreens- we started a new market, which means we’re going to 3 a week. It’s a bit tiring, but I have help from friends and am feeling it out and balancing. Otherwise we are playing with solar cookers, putting up the first of the trim board (made from old pallet wood!), and we finally put in our bedroom doors! There is really never a dull moment around here.

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Gracie
Gracie

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