Saturday, July 1, 2017

June updates: Travel, home, rain, thriving.

Much of June, we were still traveling. Traveling with three children, for us at least, is a reminder that we are dependent on a pretty narrow set of circumstances for our own thriving. Eug and I have worked towards being pretty flexible, but when it comes to kids, all kinds of things derail us in such unpredictable and surprising ways. 

If I wanted to seem more human on the blog, one statement that would be sortof true would be to say that we spent June in survival mode. We're back home and with one of our kids facing really significant challenges at the moment. I don't like that statement "survival" very much, because it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. It gives me permission to act stressed, be a jerk, or eat crappy food. And that's definitely not our whole story, or even the whole story of our trip to the U.S. We saw good friends and felt connected to the precious years we spent with friends in Boston. We spent time with Eug's mom and brother. On the human side, I have so much empathy for those of you (us) who are struggling to figure out how to help kids with behavioural challenges. So we're finding our way back to thriving, realising there are moments that derail us and that--with some help from friends, family, God-- we can choose joy.

Looking at the pictures from the last month is enough for us to begin to tell a different story, a story of thriving. Noah: the only person in our family who can handle Henry II, our annoying and aggressive rooster. Hana: the baby who disappeared and was found at the top of our A-frame chicken coop. We're so happy to be back on our farm. 

In other news, more than half of our bantam silkie crosses seem to be roosters. Ever seen chickens the size of your hand try to engage in a rooster fight? It's ridiculous. Also ridiculous: what to do with 3 of the 4 tiny roosters. Eli says: Why would we want to eat a chicken that is mainly feathers! Even his feet is feathers!! Indeed. So the kids say we have to divide the property into rooster zones so they all have their own space. I say we give anyone who moves into the neighbourhood a housewarming gift of a tiny rooster. Welcome?!

On the farm, my dad took care of things super well, except for the now overweight cat, but she's not complaining. There has been rain, though not enough. There have been a few deaths, at the hands of predators, which reminds me the lines between vegetarian, vegan, meat eater are not so straight and clear: we, as subsistence farmers raising animals do, at times, do play god a little in the ways we nurture, domesticate, protect or give freedom, allow to reproduce (or not). More importantly, I'm not sure there's a way around doing this. Anyway, here's to travel and returning home! Hope you are all doing really well.

Skittles in the laundry room of the place we were staying.

4-leaf clover. 

South Station with Lidwien, my professor and friend from Wellesley, for sixteen years now.

At a dear friend's wedding, Noah and Eli hit the dance floor with a new friend.

very early mornings in Cambridge.

Playgrounds with many free bikes and trikes for kids to use.

Legos at friends.

The Archibalds' train.

And, back home:
You have no idea how aggressive Henry II can be.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

May 2017: Preparing to leave, Toronto, Boston.

As always there was a lot happening amongst our animals in May, and we were preparing to leave the farm, which took a huge amount of work. Near the end of the month, we left for me to present at a conference in Toronto, and we're now in Boston. 

Traveling is not very easy on Noah in particular, so we're not sure whether we made the right choice. Still, here we are, and being here does change our perspective and give us new ways of looking at our lives, values, and priorities (and how we help Noah with transitions). Best of all, we get to see old friends, as well as Eug's mom and brother, here in Boston.

sensory play??? (making a mess with flour)

Someone dropped off seven fluffy chickens with us...Literally. While we were out they came and dropped them off.
Eli's precious guinea pig, Golden, was killed this month by some kind of predator. We think it was a ghenet. Our last guinea pig, Little One, is living indoors...

Pirate with parrot.

For Noah's birthday, we went to the National Museum and to World of Birds. This is World of Birds.

Spider monkeys at World of Birds.

Noah's birthday cake. I am not the greatest cake baker (always adding beetroot and black beans and such things), so Noah asked if I could buy a cake for him. I did! It helped that I had a rare sixteen hour work day the day before his birthday celebration.

Last visit to the acquarium before our membership expires (we probably won't renew for a while.)
Kids making a marble run out of gutters, and looking ridiculous.

Noah takes Hana down the street...

Mammoth painting!

starting out in Cape Town

On the airplane.

Eli meets the glyptodon at the Ontario museum! The Ontario museum was a highlight for us.


gallery in Toronto-- we didn't go in...

The hotel had a playroom

Rabbits in the playroom in Toronto.

This Toronto playground was amazing

Toronto city airport... tired. The airport has free snacks and coffee!

Lovely Boston park...

We're so indebted to our friends Dan and Leah, who are lending us their precious bikes. We going to hopefully be fitter and have a new perspective on Boston by the end of June!

Grateful for the chance to ride a different cargo bike. The Madsen is heavier than the Bullitt, but easier to ride. Hana and Eli are loving it.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 2017: Birthdays, baby chameleons, family visits

We're getting close to planting season: I bought 12 trees from Maureen, our lovely neighbour, at the first rain this week. I'm so excited to plant them all out. But I may be getting ahead of myself, as the rain down here was pitiful and it's still very hot. When we get back from the U.S. and Canada, we'll also go on our annual Tulbagh nursery trip, mainly to buy citrus. I wanted to go earlier, so I could repot the citrus and grow them quickly in the sunroom for 2 months before planting them out, but we have been seriously busy. And I love the anticipation. Nurseries are my thing. I'm determined to get some orange trees thriving. I think there's hope, but I'm learning one has to protect trees as much as humanly possible while they're small. I may have misinterpreted permaculture a bit, thinking that I could toughen trees up and make them stronger in the long term. My feeling now is that you should do everything you can to get trees established and relatively big, first, in a dry environment like ours. I do think planting as much diversity has been a helpful idea from permaculture, as well as mulch. By the end of this planting season, my goal is to have 100 fruit and nut trees in the ground. 

I think we may not plant next winter, unless my parents' house building goes remarkably quickly and smoothly. We're keeping a corner of the plot without trees right now, because otherwise they'll be killed during building. So I guess I'll still get to plant some more fruit trees after their house is established. 

Unfortunately this month was not without death: We lost Perry the Guinea Pig to a predator, and Lettuce Rabbitty to a neighbour's dog. Which means we now have a rabbit and kitten indoors together. The kitten chews (lovingly?) on the rabbit sometimes, and it's not totally clear if they'll be friends. 

We are finding that having this many ducks is a little burdensome and out of wack, and I'm working on a sprouting system to feed them barley grass. We're going to scale things back a bit until after we get back from the U.S. That is, we are planning on eating a lot of ducks. They taste really good as stew, but we're also getting to the point where I think we can eat even less meat and figure out how to make the farm more sustainable. I had had the thought that if we ate one duck a week, that would be our meat needs taken care of. But actually, having enough ducks to eat a duck a week makes for a very large flock, not enough food to forage, and rising grain costs. 

This month we had a lot of visitors! 

I've been wanting to see a baby chameleon for a really long time: this was it. It was amazing and tiny and fragile and we only brought it in for a minute before returning it to its branch.

I just wanted to show how I facilitate cupcake time. I buy crappy candy and let them do whatever they want, which usually involves piling on a lot of candy. That's a snail on the left. They love cupcake time, but I've learned to just set them up and go far away, lest I offer (unwanted) helpful hints... 
Silvermine dam keeps shrinking because the rain refuses to come. But the kids love it there.

Though Hana has started taking off her bathing suit soon after arrival. It's a good thing the sun is starting to get less fierce.

Baby frog!
We went on an incredibly long double hike, in gale force winds, with some of Eug's family, who are on a world tour. We loved meeting them. The boys loved their cousins. Check out their website-- they're doing amazing stuff

The kids ran ahead. It was terrifying and wonderful-- Eli did the whole hike (maybe 5 hours) without shoes.

This is Diaz beach, in Cape Point-- In addition to hiking to Cape Point lighthouse, we went down to Diaz beach (over 200 steps), then all the way to Cape of Good Hope. 

Eli's birthday trip on the Big Wheel... (and the acquarium, with Sam and Julie and Miyah, and Elona and Andrew and Kori, but somehow we didn't get good pictures of that...)

Eli's favourite birthday present, a plastic dinosaur. "It even has its own tree!!!"

My brother Will with his daughter, and I got to hold my lovely niece, who is now back in Australia

My brother Sam and Julie, visiting from Australia, organized for us all to go on a little rubber boat to see dolphins and seals. I've never been that close to dolphins in the wild.