Return of the Light

Day 291 of 365

One of the most fascinating things about homesteading is the way your body and life start to line up so well with the natural cycles of the planet. Before I started homesteading, I didn’t feel that connected to the seasons, well, except for fall. Fall is–and has always been–the most wonderful time of the year to me. But winter in the north was miserable to me because I was stuck in the house all of the time. I love a cozy house, but part of Hygge is going outside first. To me at least, happiness in the winter is a process.

Once we started homesteading, I felt every change in the season and all of the days in the middle with so much more connectedness. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. I love watching how the chickens and ducks and wild animals in our area respond to the changes in the light and the temperatures. They are all so resilient and so connected. I guess we are too, of course, but maybe we just forgot.

This time of year, I am in awe of how quickly the light is coming back. Being from the south, where we did not have the big swings in light between summers and winters, I was shocked at how dark it got here in Maine in the winter and then how light it was in the summer. Before I knew how to enjoy the other seasons, the winters used to take a such a toll on me. Now, I don’t mind them too much and enjoy the winter in many ways, but I am always still so thankful when the light comes back.

The chickens are really starting to lay eggs now because of the light, and it’s wonderful. I have been able to add a couple of customers off of the wait list to my weekly deliveries. It’s awesome to see people be happy about our hens’ eggs.

But I also see the ducks and chickens are starting to get a little friskier. I even saw Rooster mating a couple of times this week. He’s a very old boy. His mind is mainly on mac and cheese these days, but spring is coming. It’s sugaring season, and all of my friends who tap are starting to tap their trees. We do not yet because I am nervous about the cooking, but I know our Maples are waking up. The squirrels are acting a little differently. The wild birds are too. It’s like they know the warmer temperatures are coming pretty soon.

And the light is coming back.

Footprints in Snow

Day 280 of 365

Over the last two years, I have been collecting photographs of footprints in snow around our little farmstead. I love seeing the footprints of all of the animals who live here with us or just come visit us and share this space with us. I admire all of these creatures.

The other day, I finally landed footprints I have been coveting–crow footprints! I decided then and there I was going to share my collection in the blog. I hope you enjoy, as these are magnificent to me!

duck prints
chicken print
squirrel prints
Great Pyrenees print (This was from Gus. I treasure this.)
deer prints
These are chicken prints (Ruby) and Blue Jay prints. The Blue Jays love to share Ruby’s food I leave for her. Aren’t those Blue Jay prints precious?
And these are crow prints! I saw these prints before I let the chickens out in the morning, and they were so big I panicked. I thought one of the chickens was out, but then I saw the crows and was so pleased!
I love these prints. These are my boot prints, and chicken footprints, and wild bird footprints–all together.

Winter Walk in the Woods

Day 251 of 365

Today, our family went for a walk in the woods behind our house. Our part of the woods is very small, but our neighbors own the rest and let us hike around when we like. There are no trails, so we do not often venture into the deeper parts of the woods. But we did today!

Even though I fell once and was whipped in the face so many times by tree branches, I had an amazing time. I love the woods in the winter. Because of ticks, we cannot got into the woods in the summer, so winter is the time. I’m a slow walker, a huge fan of sauntering, but I was extra slow today because I kept taking pictures of beautiful things and also had to hug a few trees. I had the best time!

These are some of my favorite photos from my winter walk today. I made a slideshow that I hope works. I think my favorite photo is of the tree full of woodpecker holes. Isn’t that cool?

A Perfect Ride

Day 153 of 365

Today, we managed a bike ride in the city forest. In the past month, our schedules have been so busy that we barely have time for bike rides, but we keep managing to sneak to the forest every chance we get. I still love riding my bike. I am getting better at it, too. I don’t feel so scared I’m going to crash and die all of the time. I am definitely the weakest link in our little trio, but Ron and our son stop every time there is a turn and wait for me, so I won’t take a wrong turn. Ron, forever the motivator, tells me what a good job I am doing. Our son, so completely a teenager, sometimes seems annoyed with my slowness–but only sometimes.

Today, he seemed tired, so while Ron did an extra lap around the forest, our son stayed with me until Ron came back around to us. While Ron was making the extra lap, my son went slowly the whole time, so I could keep up. We stopped for a while and talked about the trees. We saw a magnificent rabbit. We met a little porcupine. We had a great time, and because we were traveling more slowly than usual, I stopped quite a few times to take pictures.

It was the best bike ride of my life, and I am thankful for these pictures. I hope my son will remember this day, somewhere down deep–the bike ride with his mama in the beautiful city forest with the fantastic foliage and the little rabbit and porcupine. He’ll remember that, right?

It was just this perfect afternoon being with my family and the trees. One time, we stopped in a clearing for a break, and looked up to see like 50 beautiful birds flying high, right over our heads.

“I wonder that kind of birds they are,” Ron asked.

“I think they are crows, but they are so quiet. I’m not sure.” I responded.

And, then, as soon as I finished that sentence, as if just to let me know, we heard the “caw, caw, caw.”

I love crows more than I can say.

The pines were so tall I couldn’t get their tip tops in the picture, but aren’t they magnificent?
I am not sure, but I think the trees are extra beautiful this year. Usually, there is this kind of sequencing to the colors I notice, but this year, it’s like the trees coordinated. Some of them look like they are just on fire. Oh, how I love Maine.
This is one of the back trails we often take. This is where we met the bunny and the porcupine.
More of the trail–with magnificent color. Of course, the pictures cannot do it justice. Everyone says that because it’s true.
I think I could have gotten a closer picture of the bunny, as we were being very still and quiet, but some people came up behind us fairly loudly. The bunny hopped into the trees, but this is still a pretty good picture. The bunny was so incredibly beautiful.
I wish you could see his little face better in this picture. I could see his little face so well. I loved seeing this beautiful animal because our son, who is usually such a grumpy teen, was talking so sweetly to the little porcupine. That kiddo rebels agains my hippie ways, but I can see he has some hippie in there down deep.
And this is now my favorite picture ever.
And, when we got home, we had a pear-cranberry crisp I had made while the guys were doing homeschool math today. That was a little bit of perfection too, and I will definitely share the recipe tomorrow.

Morning Chores, September 7

Day 120 of 365

This morning, I took pictures while Ron and I were out doing our morning chores. I enjoy morning chores most of the time, but I still get busy and forget to admire the beauty around here. These pictures remind me of how lovely it is and how fortunate I am. I hope you enjoy these pictures too.

This us butternut squash from the squash garden. Ron built a prettier fence for the squash garden this summer, and it sure made for the most beautiful picture this morning.
This is the back side of our chicken coop. It needs to be repainted. I have been saying this for two years.
Our sweet ducks!
I just loved this spider web.
Every morning, Ron has to feed all of the baby chickens because I can’t do it. The big chickens run all over me and just go eat the baby food. They mind Ron though. He just has a presence, I guess.
Or the chickens know me far too well.
This is a Gardener’s Sweetheart tomato plant. These tiny tomatoes are the best things ever on homemade pizza.
The one and only Lucy! She’s 8 years old and still going strong. I have a hypothesis about this: She was broody every summer for years. She raised three rounds of babies but was broody two more years after that off and on. I think all her breaks from laying have extended her life. For years, I read farmers say this was a myth, but I am starting to see some research and more farmers (interestingly, mostly female farmers) assert this. If this is indeed the case, my Marshmallow should live forever. She’s broody again! I’ll bet that hen lays about ten eggs per year.
This is our youngest little rooster from this year’s season of babies. There’s something about him I really like. He’s beautiful and a stinker, but there’s something about him.
One of my muppets! Isn’t she adorable?
And, last but not least, the beautiful Piatigorsky. She’s still so sweet I almost can’t believe it.

Bicycles and Witchy Fences

Day 103 of 365

Yesterday, Ron bought me a bicycle. Ron would correct my grammar on that sentence and say to write “Ron bought a bicycle for me.” And then I would glare and him and say “I teach linguistics.” And then he would say, “I’m just letting you know.” But I have to say it this way because I’m so excited about it, and it feels more personal this way. It’s the best present to me! It’s a beautiful bicycle. A friend was going to give us a bicycle, and we thought we should pass because we never ride bicycles. But it planted a seed in Ron’s mind, and yesterday, he bought me a beautiful blue bicycle.

I hurt so much from riding and riding and riding it that I can barely walk tonight, but I am in love with this bicycle. First of all, I can’t believe I can ride it. I think it’s been 25 years since I rode a bicycle. I was sure I couldn’t remember how to ride, but it’s true what they say, “It’s like riding a bicycle.” How is this possible, by the way? I forget how to do all kinds of things. I surely can’t remember html anymore at all. But I can still ride a bicycle? How is this?

And riding a bicycle is a joy to me, though I have to tell you I nearly ran over a couple of chickens in the driveway because I was a little wobbly at first. They were curious about my bike, but they learned quickly to stay away!

Still, I got better quickly, and have been bike riding all day. We took our new bikes to the coast and road a VERY easy trail. I smiled so much my face hurt. I was planning my life around bicycle rides in nature.

I had to be careful because, a couple of times, I nearly crashed looking at the nature, but I loved looking at the nature! The water was beautiful. I was trying to figure out how to plan our days around bicycle rides until winter. It’s tough. We are very busy with harvesting and back to school (we homeschool) and, this year, we are doing a Farmer-ish booth at the Common Ground Fair. It’s a lot for sure, but I am going to need more bike rides. I hope I don’t fall. I’m pretty careful. I can’t believe how much fun it is to ride a bicycle. It was the best gift ever!

On our ride, I saw and greatly admired this fence. There was a cool old house on the water behind this fence. Ron called it a “witchy fence,” and that made me love it even more. I know a few witches and fancy all things witchy. Isn’t this the most fantastic fence?

It’s so much work to build a fence. Ron built all of the fencing on our property by cutting down old Cedars and then digging the holes and then putting up fencing all by himself. I would help when he really needed a hand, but he did most of it himself because I was doing other work. His work was epic.

I would love to talk to the person who built this fence and ask questions about how they did it. I assume they must be so proud of such a lovely fence. I mean, it couldn’t keep in a chicken, but fences have other purposes, of course.

Sea Turtles

Day 96 of 365

I think the first time I remember really falling in love with something was when I was about four or five years. My aunt and uncle lived in a beautiful part of southern Florida when I was a little girl. My uncle managed a fancy condominium, and when he and my aunt first moved there, they lived in a tiny apartment on site. This meant they had access to a gorgeous private beach.

The first memory I have of visiting them in Florida was right about the time I was in Kindergarten or about to start Kindergarten. I think it was right before my parents divorced, but I’m not sure. I just remember being very much in love with my aunt and uncle and their apartment on the private beach. It was the most beautiful place in the whole world, as far as I was concerned.

But my aunt did something for me during that visit that very likely changed me as a little human. At the very least, I was so awe inspired that it is one of the most powerful positive memories I have of my whole life. I remember my awe so well, even though it was so long ago.

She got me out of bed and told me to come with her outside. I think she brought my brother too, but I was so little I can’t remember Plus, all of my attention was on her. We walked along a short path to the sea, and it was a full moon. The sky was so bright, and I remember so clearly how the ocean looked lit up and glimmering in the moonlight. I could see so well in the dark night thanks to this brilliant full moon. And, then as we were walking, she suddenly stopped me. She said we couldn’t go down into the sand because the sea turtles were down there.

And, then, I adjusted my eyes and saw it–I could see sea turtles! Some were coming. Some were going. My aunt told me what they were doing and taught me about how the sea turtles would come lay their eggs on the beach and then head back to the ocean. She told me that conservationists would come and put posts around the eggs to protect them, to remind people to stay away from the eggs. I remember being disappointed (with my little selfish self) at first because I wanted to go touch one of the eggs. I guess I was an egg person even then.

But she explained how important it was to protect the sea turtles, that they were endangered. She explained to me what that meant, and I understood and thought it was awesome people were protecting the eggs and the baby turtles. I soaked in the information and the beauty and fell so much in love with the ocean and the sea turtles–and my aunt, of course.

The next morning, she took all of us to the beach and showed me the markers for the sea turtle eggs. I wished I could stay until the baby sea turtles hatched. But I think we stayed only about a week. I would return to Texas, and my life was about to change for the worse. But I held onto that memory–all of these years. It is only now, as I reflect, that I realize this may have been the moment that inspired me toward a life of loving nature.

Last month, we went to the New England Aquarium in Boston, and a sea turtle swam right up to me and seemed to say hi. It was magnificent!

Ron said, “I asked it to do that for you.” I said, “I did too.”

When you just need some nature…

Day 65 of 365

All this week, I have been taking our son to a small town on the coast of Maine for music camp. The little town is beautiful and so very coastal Maine. There are gift shops and little outdoor restaurants and a fantastic bakery. But it’s very busy because, of course, it’s peak tourist season here in Maine, and there’s a lot of traffic.

I decided this morning that, one way or another, I was walking down the road until I found some nature. I couldn’t believe how much I missed nature after just three days away from home.

So I started walking, and I walked and walked and walked. Every time I thought I found a spot on the water, I would see a “private property” sign. Sigh. This is the one thing I think I love least about Maine–the coast is very much owned by the very much wealthy. I lived in Oregon for six years, and I was spoiled by the coast there. It’s all public land. You can just walk up to the water any place you like.

But I learned a long time ago that, if you just keep looking, you can find a little bit of public land here in Maine. I made it about a mile and half when I saw it–a park with loads of beautiful flowers and a view of the water! There were flowers and butterflies everywhere. It was magnificent.

Then, I saw the water. I made my way to a bench overlooking the water, took my shoes off, put my feet in the grass, and just soaked it all in. I love going barefoot in the grass. I have such dirty feet all summer because I just have to walk around and have my feet touching the Earth.

I read that there is something to do this, that there really is some benefit to people, maybe some more than others, to connect directly to the Earth like that. I am definitely an empath and have no doubt that I am one of those people who needs feet on the Earth. I swear, the grass on my feet while I sat and looked out at the water felt like little bit of heaven.

I love Maine in the summer. It makes you work a little bit sometimes, but my goodness, it’s so worth it.

Happy Walden Pond Day!

Day 56 of 365

On July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved to a tiny cabin on Walden Pond in order “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Wikimedia Commons photo

On this July 4, at first, I thought about my disillusionment and the mourning I felt for the liberties of clean air, clean water, wholesome food, and bodily autonomy that have been taken from us.

But, then, I remembered that July 4 was the day Thoreau moved to the woods of Walden Pond, and I remembered Thoreau gave me a path to an independence of sorts that is as outside as I can get of a corrupt system with a government that allows big business to poison us, to kill us, and big religion to divide us–ALL in the name of profit and power.

Today, I celebrate Henry David Thoreau and an environmental movement that, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last week against environmental protections, continues to live–and thrive in many ways.

I celebrate July 4 as a day of environmentalism, as a day to remember that we are a part of Nature and that Nature is a part of us. When we separate ourselves from Nature, we make it easier for those would wish to destroy it in the name of greed to do so. Nature is our home. The birds in the trees are our brothers and our sisters, and clean water, fresh air, and good soil are essential to all of our lives.

Today, I cannot celebrate “freedom” in America because too many of us are not free. But, today, I can celebrate Thoreau for helping to open my eyes and the eyes of so many others who continue to be inspired by a human who was flawed but striving, as we all should be, I think, to treasure and protect Nature because it’s the source of everything for us.

Today, a young man, perhaps an idealist, went to the woods, and he wrote about his experiences and tried to make a difference in the short life he lived.

Happy Walden Pond Day, friends!

Empty Nest

Day 36 of 365

This morning was a big morning, full of mixed feelings. Our tiny neighbors moved out. By the end, we could see that our Eastern Phoebe couple had raised FOUR beautiful babies, and that little nest was quite crowded.

On Saturday, the parents put on quite the show. It was like they decided that Saturday was the day they were getting those babies out of the nest. All day long, there was flapping and encouraging–and back and forth between the nest and the deck rail, the nest and the fence, the nest and the strawberry fence posts. Those parents were working hard!

The babies were having none of it. 

It reminded me of potty training my children. You get geared up for it and decide “this is the day we’re starting.” Then, you work so hard all day, maybe two days, maybe three days, maybe a week, and then, you’re so tired you have to take a break.

That’s what happened with the Eastern Phoebe parents. After all of that work on Saturday, on Sunday, they just rested. The babies seemed content with this plan, except that mama and daddy were feeding them far less. One time, I walked up to the nest and their little mouths opened. 

But, after that day of rest, the parents were back to work yesterday, and this time, things were hopeful. There was much wing flapping from the babies. They stood up and flutter, flutter, fluttered. 

“They’re close,” I told Ron. 

“I wonder if they’ll stick around a bit after they can fly,” he responded. 

“I hope so,” I said but worried in my heart they would head out on their own before I was ready. 

This morning, Ron was watering the garden because we didn’t get the promised rain, and I was working at the kitchen table on a special quilt for a toddler. As I stitched, I could hear a lot of fluttering outside the kitchen window. When I made it to a spot where I could take a break from my stitching, I went out to check on the nest. 

I have checked on that nest at least five but closer to ten times a day every single day since the parents started building. This morning, when I checked, the nest was empty. 

My heart sank. 

I went to check under the nest, and there were no babies on the ground. “I guess everyone flew away,” said to myself and started looking around the area. 

Then, on the strawberry patch fencing, I saw two babies. They looked just like their parents, so grown up, only smaller and with that wide baby mouth still. I walked down to see them but didn’t want to get to close. After as much study as I could give them, I made my way back to our deck, feeling melancholy for myself but proud for our little parents. 

As I headed toward the chairs on our deck, a little flutter occurred not five feet from me. And, there, on one of our chairs, one of the babies stopped, rested, and looked right at me. He just stared at me for the longest time, and I, of course, took pictures. That baby sat there forever. He or she sat there with a look like, “thanks for letting us crash here, human.”

Finally, the baby flew away. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love this little family of birds any more than I already did, but I was wrong. 

Right now, I don’t know what happens next. I am trying to find research about what happens to the babies. Do they stay close? Do they head right out? Will our little parents raise their next batch in this nest (they raise two broods each summer), or will they move on? Will they be back next year? Can I make it a year without this little joy in my life? 

What a gift this experience has been! Our deck is quite bug free; my heart is full of love; and my mind has been expanded by the learning about these wonderful birds. What a fortunate human I am!

I just have to figure out how to cope with the reality of an empty nest.  

*If you are catching this blog for the first time, you can read more about our tiny neighbors, the Eastern Phoebes, in these posts: A Tiny New Neighbor and An Update on My Tiny Neighbors.