Monday, May 9, 2011

Part 2

One year. In which we added a third generation, a second house, a tractor, a barn, the foundation of a chicken coop, three horses, a dog, and seven chicks. More, I'm sure, but I really don't remember what. I intended to write but there seemed to be no good place to start. And my reasons for writing have changed. I no longer wonder whether we did the right thing, transplanting ourselves here. I don't need to work through the process of starting over. My kids are thriving, firmly grounded in their new friends and activities, and their lives have attained a level of healthy ordinariness. I still find myself thrilled by the beauty -large and small - that surrounds me here, but the newness is past. And honestly, I'm no longer in a rental house with extra time on my hands.

But I miss the act of reflecting. Selfishly, I need the opportunity to document our efforts to restore our woods, improve our land, and continue experimenting with the concept of sustainability. And so the postings resume, however sporadically.

I can't possibly bring everything up to date in one post. A list will have to do for now. Each of the following is worth some reflection:

1. Last fall, my parents left Pella, Iowa - my birthplace and their home for over 40 years - and set up camp in a nearby apartment while their home was built. They moved in in March and are now literally next door. They account for the dog and the three horses, and are the impetus and the labor behind the pasture and the barn.
2. The ongoing war in the woods. I continue hand-to-hand combat with a plethora of invasives. First among evils is bittersweet. In the fall I gave in and hired a small army to help clear the strangling vines from the most endangered of our trees. While I don't actually keep track, I suspect I spend 10 - 15 hours weekly hand-pulling smaller vines. In addition to bittersweet, I am pulling multiflora rose, wineberries (delicious but out of control), japanese barberry, and cat briar. All but the bittersweet have thorns and all appear to grow faster than I can move. I am presently seeking more fire power.

3. The tractor. Twenty-odd years ago, if you had told me Kirk would someday buy a tractor, I would have laughed. Or, as he said, I wouldn't have married him. True enough. FAA sweetheart I wasn't. He loves to find a reason to fire it up and forget about education policy, statistics, and employees for a bit.

4. The garden. My garden still grows and I am learning much through experimenting. I tried simple hoop houses over the winter. I thought they were a bit of a flop - until I started harvesting arugula, chard, spinach, and carrots by the first of February. Now - in May - we're eating strawberries, fresh lettuce, rhubarb, and herbs. Peas are scrambling up the tee pee, I've got potatoes planted two ways, garlic mixed in with cabbage, and I've planted seeds of beans, cucumbers, squash, carrots, beets, parsnips, more herbs, edamame, and too many flowers to list.Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and sweet potatoes will come soon, and we'll add some pumpkins for fun. The blueberry bushes planted last year are doing well, the blackberries are already fruiting, and the apple trees seem to have survived last year's beetles. I've enjoyed the early spring's reprieve from bugs - but I've been studying up for when those battles start up again.

5. The chickens. Oh yea - chicks. I gave in to their Easter charms and brought home six chicks from Tractor Supply. The kids adopted and named them. The first death was met with much wailing. The second - a few tears. By the third - barely a yawn. Five of the first girls are molting and ridiculous and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the two still-tiny Easter Eggers.

6. The prairie. Today I planted a mini-prairie consisting of four native grasses and a mix of native flowers, all along the southern slope that winds up to our house. The mini-prairie joins the mini-orchard of crab apple trees - the result of an unrestrained purchase of 100 seedlings last spring. More manual labor in the hopes of reduced mowing, happy pollinators, and a bit of added beauty. In my imagination, the crab apples bloom like cotton candy in the spring, with a carpet of daffodils at their feet. The prairie then greens up and provides a summer of ever-changing delight. In my real world, the tiny crabs look like overgrown weeds, and the only carpet at their feet is the straw I strew there today. But hey - we can all dream, right?

I'll probably add more on the prairie first. It's my most recent project and one I really hope will turn out.

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