Homesteading means waking on the sofa ,where you have dozed off waiting for the kids to go to sleep, and pulling on the quilted work suit over your pajamas, and grabbing your headlamp to check on the barnyard before you can crawl off to bed, because we are experiencing a cold snap. It means scooping up Lydia, the laying hen ,where she has roosted in the hay barn, to return her to the coop after she missed the round up earlier in the evening. It is distributing a bit more hay to keep all the other animals fed well enough to keep warm in the 27 degree night. It means pausing by the wood pile to shine your light on a field mouse scampering by with its own mouthful of hay; sympathetic to its plight tonight, but sort of hoping it becomes dinner for the owls before it moves in to eat the vegetables grown in the garden in the summer months. It is the amazing experience of feeling the thrill of cool air, and taking in the crisp stars above; to fill my lungs with the chill. It is also knowing ,despite the cold in my bones, I have nothing to loose in this freeze. We are just dipping our toes in; manual work for our eggs, milk, and veggies, but my husband still trudges off to work to pay the bills. We are living a life where we have engaged in a deeper relationship with this earth, these animals, even wacky Mother Nature herself. Yet, I know with a clarity of perspective, we are small potatoes. I buy my hay from a farm close enough that we can hear their cows call for their supper in the evening while I cook . I am in awe of their family, farming that plot for the last 100 plus years. There is deep dedication and risk involved; for them the instability of spring brings not just inconvenient weather, but the gamble of loss in an orchard full of blossoms open early, and still they take the odds for what they are. It is easy to romanticize the poetry in this way of living. I try to remember to see with eyes wide open.
The truth is that chicks are smelly. They peep through the night and wake you. Our house is TINY, so they are stuck in the basement. There are many reasons why each year I say ,"no peeps". Only ,it seems each year, somehow they creep their way in. "We've done the peep thing", I say, "no need to do it again". "Grown out pullets (hens ready to lay) are a much more sensible choice for the farm", I say, thinking myself savvy. And yet, here we are. It started with a plan in my head, not even whispered to the kids, to purchase two, just two, to grow out in the garden over the summer. Golden laced Wyandottes. I'm a sucker for a new breed. We have something of a collection. The plan was to attend the local egg hunt, and top things off with a pair of surprise chicks. When the small human came out of the hunt eggless, Mama's pair of Wyandottes became a pair, plus this-really-cute-one-that-loves-me-Mama-look! So, we came home with three birds in a cardboard box, and a very pleased seven year old chicken boy. Three seemed perfectly reasonable. Just three.
Except, I had only part of the money for that third special chick. Our wonderful farm friends sent us home with it anyway, and I promised to stop by the next day with the last few dollars owed. No problem. Set the chicks up. Swore that was it, but the next morning one of our buff orpington hens was acting weird, the sort of weird that ends in the barnyard burial ground. We administered to her best we could, and tucked her into a quiet place in the barn to either rise, or quietly pass on. My chicken boy lingered, checking on her with a solemn aire. Soooo, when we stopped back over to our friends' with the few dollars owed, I remembered a few buff chicks scratching in their chick pen, and tucked a few dollars more into my pocket. The promise of a pair of buff sisters in the garden seemed to ease the loss of the hen in the barn. Circle of life and all that. So, that brings us to five. Five peeps I swore we did not need. Five chicks that smell, and make noise, and eat unbelievable amounts of feed, but won't lay for another four months time. Five peeps to snuggle, and name, and care for, and carry around. Five more lives added to our farm. chicken math.
This homestead has been in my head and heart since I was fourteen years old. It has finally come to fruition alongside my husband and sons. Though my hands are more likely to be deep in the soil, milking the goats, or slipped into the hand of one of my children while exploring our woods, I hope to bring my hands back to the keyboard to share our adventures here. Welcome!