Monday, January 8, 2018

Updates: Buying a nursery, 11 year Moringas, pig, protecting chicks, school gardens

Sorry, this is going to be scattered because it's been so long since I last posted:

Heart & Soil nursery
We really like our area, and our mini-farm. Despite it's challenges, it feels like a good fit for who we are. Like a lot of things that have happened in our lives, our farm feels like it's a gift from God. The drought has been really hard on a lot of places, including nurseries, and one of the nurseries on our street put their land (1 acre) on the market a few months ago. We ended up buying it, including the nursery stock.

We've been thinking for a while about responsible savings. Having kids, it doesn't feel right to us (at least not right now) not to build any retirement savings if it's within our power to save, especially given our relatively tenuous work incomes, the fact we have chosen to be completely uninsured, and the knowledge that although our lifestyle is pretty simple, it still costs some money. The nursery felt like a good middle ground for where we are at: it's not giving away all our savings, but it's also not putting money into huge companies.

We want to keep the plot as a nursery, and keep the people who work/live there employed. Much of the nursery management will continue to be in the hands of an experienced nurseryman, and we'll try hard to support without being overly involved, at least while I have full time non-farm work.

Despite pretty high financial stakes (retirement no longer in U.S. Stocks!), it felt very low stakes-- the logical next step in an adventure that will inevitably have hard parts. Despite feeling this is low-stakes and good-- the hardest thing about taking ownership of this property is still facing up to fears around money. We are trying really hard to fight that idea that we own or deserve our money. Even so, knowing the nursery is not going to make money for a long time quickly brings the focus back to money as we grapple with our responsibilities for paying people. When I am focused on money, it becomes about power, and I wonder if the opposite of coercive, extractive, money-oriented power in this scenario is not powerlessness but a spirit of learning and partnership. For my part, I have an opportunity to learn about a vast, vast array of plants.

Fun fact since you made it all the way here: the nursery came with piles and piles of props from the movie 10,000BC. Giant fake trees. plastic flowers. Yup. The previous owner designs sets for movies, and 10,000BC was the big break. So it's a mess but if you wade your way through all the movie props, there's an amazing variety of plants and extraordinary plant knowledge. It's a special place for a lot of people in this area, including us. So in that spirit we present: Heart & Soil. Please go and visit, or tell friends in Cape Town about us. There'll be a fake flower in it for you.

11 years
In December, Eug and I celebrated eleven years of marriage with moringa! Eug knows me too well. Well actually, I sent him a link to the moringa seeds, and it happened to be on our anniversary so we're calling it an anniversary gift (um, from both of us to both of us?)

There are definitely going to be moringa trees for sale...
Right before the New Year, our neighbour brought a pig for Noah to care for. I happened to be at my desk at the time, and by the time I emerged we had a runt pig. The pig was getting hurt by his brothers and sisters, and when it moved in it was still struggling the first couple of days at our place. Now he's doing pretty well-- though he's still tiny. And very intelligent. Aargh.
piglet likes snuggles and getting his back scratched...
Building new safe options for chicks and ducklings.
It's been a little while since we built outbuildings for our ducklings and chicks, as our large structure had been working really well until recently, when mongooses or cats started getting through the mesh and killing off animals in large numbers. So we've converted the large structure into a safe/enclosed structure for young trees-- a kind of mini-nursery. In the drought, our property has much better water options than the nursery so we can keep sensitive trees here rather than at Heart & Soil.

Eug has moved the large chicken enclosure and is making a system where we have 3 small enclosures for chicks and ducks to rotate through. We're not buying anything new in doing this project, we're just trying to make a better system with what we have. It's really painful to lose 2-3 animals a night, so we're hoping this will to dissuade predators (Once they don't have success for a while, they move on-- our rats are good eating, guys!).

Noah made the guinea pig a Christmas tree

Summer harvest.

Partying the New Year

New coup (for night time, and hopefully for sitting hens)

A hinged tortoise arrived on our property
Very small hatch-- one of hens only hatched out a single chick. Oh well.
These are some seeds from a seed sharing group of African women. It makes me so excited and happy to be growing some of these seeds on the farm. I'm going to save the corn for next year (when I have infrastructure), but I'm growing okra and many different beans.

Our first pumpkin of the year. I can just barely carry it. 

Our male duck, Male seems to be slowing down and we've not been getting many hatchlings from our broody ducks, but our grey duck-- Fluffy-- just hatched out eight babies. We'll keep a male from this batch so that Male can live out his days in peace and we can keep breeding ducks now and then.

School gardens

I've been really busy with two school gardens at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, as part of my role as a researcher. I'm not a professional when it comes to making urban gardens... I have a lot to learn, but I'm helping to start them because I'm able to leverage my time and sometimes a little funding as a researcher. If you're interested in following along, I'd really appreciate you following Nourishing Spaces, and checking out project videos that come out as the school garden work evolves. In the videos, we'll try not to make more of the project than it is-- these gardens are not going to make anyone healthy in and of themselves, nor solve systemic injustices. We'll just try to make the gardens as good as they can be, over time and through partnership.

Our kids are also starting their own channels on YouTube, so it seems to be becoming a family thing. I'll link to them once they're properly up and running. Noah and Eli really enjoy using ProCreate, an app on the iPad, to draw, and are gradually learning how to animate. Noah is loving listening to audio books, since we learned we could borrow 3 books a month from the Cambridge public library system. I've been reading a lot of Dick King-Smith and W.J. Corbett books to the boys for the last month or so. Hana is not so into books yet, but she has lots of other loves (including YouTube)!

1 comment:

Danny said...

So exciting! It's super impressive how you guys are able to realize what you value and make big moves in that direction. Thanks for sharing your story with us... so inspiring!