Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wonderful wwoofers and more

A couple of weeks ago, if I stopped moving for a second, I became completely overwhelmed by it all - kids, chaos, dogs, chickens, gardens, listing hoop houses... too much.

Enter the dream team: I got an email from a trio of wwoofers (willing workers on organic farms) looking for a place to be. They were already in Homer, having come from New Zealand via Hawaii, and wanted to come check out the farm. For some reason, wwoofers seem plentiful in the months of June and July - even August, but May, when things are really crazy? Not so much. I listed myself on the wwoofer registry last year and got a couple of people coming through who were great, but this year, with so many new projects, it was vital to get things going in earnest. And so when I heard from Mel, Nick and Joanne, I was thrilled. Of course, that meant I had to get them a place to sleep - which meant cleaning out Matt's pottery studio for once and for all. That space was filthy and full of stuff - so it was quite a job, but a fabulous step forward in being able to run this farm as I need to. So out came all the dusty stuff, which I hopefully packed carefully enough not to mess up Matt's world too badly, and the first thing the trio did when they arrived was assemble a bunk bed in the studio.

I'll be honest. When I picked these guys up, I was a little wary. Mel has shocking pink hair with purple ends, lots of piercings and a few tattoos to boot. Joanne has pink hair, too, and Nick, who looks rather Alaskan for the most part, had a bit of blue hair. For myself, no big deal, but when you invite people into your home and you have kids.... But wow, I couldn't have been more wrong. They have absolutely rocked. Nick is fairly construction-savvy and the girls are hard workers and all three are wonderfully patient with my kids and lovely to have around. I had to really do a bit of thinking about how we judge people, and pass those judgments on to our children. I'm thinking about a blue streak in my hair, too.

So here's an example of life with wwooofers. One day, I left for the day to work and when I came home, they had not only turned over the soil in the new hoop house, built beds, added goat poop and lime and planted two of the three beds, Nick had installed a beautiful door that he had built himself by scavenging lumber from around the property, and, the piece de resistance, they had installed the waterline to the new house.... which I didn't even ask them to do... WOW. I feel like I won the lottery.

It couldn't be better timing, either. Matt's gone right now, up in Fairbanks and possibly extending for another assignment, which would put him out of town for a month or so. It's hard for Liam, but I'm trying to keep him busy with fun, stimulating activities and the flurry of people around helps. Dinners are full of people - many nights we've had eight people crammed in my little house. I couldn't be happier.

But also, things are getting done on a scale that I couldn't have accomplished in an entire year on my own - dump runs with trash from last year's construction project - fences going to the hoop houses, even a cat door was installed yesterday. And, I've got to say, the fact that I haven't done dishes in a week is bliss. Utter bliss. A small price to pay for more food in the pot.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Yesterday and today were the kind of days my mother used to warn me to be very careful about when I ventured out into the woods. The kind of days where you were likely to surprise an animal - when the scents were whirling around in the air helter-skelter. It was not a good day for hoop houses carefully planted with tender green things. For the past 48 hours I have been nervously glancing out at the 6 ml of plastic that protects all my little proteges from the cold, dangerous outside world. More scary, actually, was the tyvek tape that held the ends and the body of the hoop house together. Would it hold? At 5 a.m. this morning, after a fretful sleep, I pole-vaulted out of bed to see if the house remained while the upstairs of my house moaned in the gusts. There it was, a round tube of stability in an otherwise restless world. I then proceeded to spend the next hour having one nightmare after another about my hoop house blowing away - the kind you have to talk yourself down from after you wake up. It was not a good scene.
But, the hoop house lived. And I was so determined to move forward despite the wind that I got 20 sandbags and filled them with sand this morning, then Mike and I put the plastic back on hoop house two, which went up this weekend, but didn't stay plasticted very long after that breeze kicked up because it only had a handful of sandbags on it. Now it is secure, and I've rented the mother of all rototillers for Friday. I've met this rototiller before. It's a beast. I will need to visit the hot tub at Land's End after I'm done.
It's busy days all around. Matt is working a lot, so we are squeezing in time with him and the kids when we can - a night for Liam here, a morning with Théa there. Meanwhile, it's gogogo time at the farm, so both kids are participating as much as I can manage in all the goings on - cleaning baby chick cages, feeding animals, planting new starts and the like. The yard is finally clear of snow and I did a huge dump run a couple days ago. I think I could do about 10 more and still not have it all under control. Sigh. But I'm hopeful that by the end of this weekend, the winds will have died down, the second hoop house will be planted, and I'll be right on track for another successful year of reaping what I sew.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ode to my children

On the eve of Mother's Day, the door to Liam's room popped open about an hour after he had gone to bed. Out peaked Liam, and when our eyes met, he blurted an emphatic, "Darn it." He was hoping I had gone to bed already so he could sneak out and prepare some things for Mother's Day morning. I scooped him up in my arms and gave him the biggest hug ever - he is absolutely the most thoughtful, giving person I've ever known. I am so lucky to have him as a son, and I know without a doubt that he has expanded my heart tenfold and in many respects, taught me to truly love. Downstairs right now I can hear the scribbling of card-making. I'm so touched.

And Théa, in all her glory, wore snowboots, a bright pink jacket, green and purple pokadot pants and a fairy skirt all over town today, twirling her way through the day with her twinkling smile, so intent on understanding the world through first-hand experiences and a constant pelting of probing and often unanswerable questions. And then, after several hours of tromping through slushy puddles, she requested I scoop her up and carry her so she could "fall asweep in your arms, Mommy."

I am not always a wonderful mother - sometimes, in fact, I'm probably substandard. This afternoon, my neck ached, my head was full of things that needed doing to pull off the impossible, and I barked orders and chastised my children for dumping coats on the floor and the like. But overall, I think I do OK. Single parenting, or as my friend calls it, dual parenting, is hard, hard work. But on the other hand, maybe one is more focused on parenting when you don't have a partner living with you. I hope someday to rejoin the ranks of those who sip their morning coffee with another adult, but I'm grateful for this chance to focus on my children, on motherhood, on defining myself, to some degree, and on showing my children what I have learned thus far about what's important and what isn't. One thing I know for sure, nothing in life compares to the gift of being a mother. I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

With every season..

Yesterday felt different. There have been days when the warmth overcame the cold and the sun shone brightly, but yesterday, it was spring more in tempo than in temperature. I remember these days from last year, when I was starting from scratch, literally, with chickens and hoop houses and the such. This year feels remarkably different - I know for the most part what is coming. But at the same time, it feels the same. The number of things that need doing in the day is still crazy. The number of unknowns, experiments, and punts still play on my mind. And best of all, the level of excitement from the kids as we move into this new phase of our year is intense once again.

Yesterday the baby chicks arrived. I wasn't expecting them for a couple more days, and got the call from Wagon Wheel out of the blue. OK, punt. I can do this. At least this year, I have everything I need and know where to put them, more or less. If I can just find it all. It took more than an hour of running around looking for things, but I located all the essential chicky paraphanelia while Liam tried to keep Thea from strangling the poor things. Big brothers are saints. Honestly.

I also planted a bunch of tomatoes yesterday in the hoop house. They had to go in somewhere - I don't know yet if that was a smart or stupid idea. I put them in the ground and dug them in deep enough that their roots were still in some pretty cool soil. I wonder if the temperature of their base roots matters, or if it's just the air temperature that matters. Anyway, I filled up tons of plastic water bottles with water from the bath and placed them between the rows, then covered the whole shebang with plastic. We'll see if they make it. The plastic tunnel within a tunnel needs work - it's still too floppy, but at least it will help keep in the warmth tonight - perhaps tomorrow I can go in and make something more stable happen. It's still getting down to 35-40 at night, and right now it's actually snowing, but it was 85 degrees in there yesterday when the sun came out, and it's time to get those puppies out of the house.

I've been a little haphazard with my planning for what goes where in the greenhouse and the hoop houses. I'm building a second hoop house this weekend, probably, and what am I putting in that versus the other one? My original plan was to have one hot house and one not so hot house. But since the tomatoes are going in the one that's up, that makes it the hot house. Unfortunately, the broccoli is also in that one. Hmmmm. What gives? So I guess the second house will have zucchini / squash, more broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, beans, and the house that's up now will have lettuce, tomatoes, cuces, basil, and whatever all else... Not a bad plan. And in the greenhouse, peas need to go in. And flowers - I want to plant flowers in both hoop houses this year.


On the kid front, Théa had a first last week - her first at-home official playdate with her daycare friend Daisy. Daisy is a sweet little blond curly-haired girl with a spirit and will that is somewhat terrifying, much like my own daughter. Together, they are a force. I'm not sure how Nikki, the daycare provider where they both attend, survives, but ... Actually, they were quite fun to watch. Girls. They changed clothes, had a huge tea party, dressed dolls, colored, played with playdough and bread dough and puzzles... whew, I'm worn out just thinking about it all. And Théa struggled a bit trying to handle the sharing factor, but overall, they parted teary-eyed.

Liam continues to focus on gathering information about things of all varieties. His latest obsession is the creation of the Grand Canyon. He will happily recite to anyone who will listen the story of this natural wonder's creation. I don't know what he will become when he grows up, but my goodness he is a passionate child. Piano continues to be a big deal in his life - he got a chance to show Matt last night how he plays and it was awesome. We talked about how he's reading two lines of notes simultaneously, one for each hand, and I think Matt finally got to see the level that Liam is learning already. It's pretty amazing. I wish he could practice at both houses, but I just need to make sure he does when he's here.

I've been running a bit, not enough, but I guess enough that I'm sustaining the ability to run 4-6 miles without too much pain. Still, I could do more and it would help balance out the stress of life that seems to be all-consuming sometimes. It was a bit of a downward spiral for a week there, but yesterday I felt like I got the upper hand on it all - it's just too busy a time to be stressing out. Who has time? There are seeds to sow!