What’s Happening?

A bedtime favourite in this family used to be a wonderful series of children’s picture books by Helen Lester, revolving around a character called Tacky the Penguin, usually dressed in an Hawaiian shirt, who always greets his prim friends (Goodly, Neatly, Perfect, et al) with a rollicking “What’s Happening?”

You might be wondering the same thing….it’s been at least two months since I posted anything here on the blog. Stuff has been happening, but somehow nothing that seemed picture worthy or at least worth going back to the house to fetch the camera for. So the pictures you’ll be seeing in this post are not necessarily exciting or even representative of the whole season, just the times that the camera was around.

We had a relentlessly hot summer up here in the usually mild Pacific Northwest. That sounds a bit whiny, and maybe it is, considering the kind of heat so many places experience as “normal”. For us, 36 C is not normal, at least not for more than a day, and certainly not for days in a row. We’re used to dry summers, just not all that heat.  I’m not a hot climate person, I’ve decided.  Too bad for me if this turns out to be the new normal, which I fear might be true, as they’re predicting another warm winter and hot summer.   I felt like I didn’t get a lot done in the summer, beyond working myself into a really negative thought spiral as my energy was zapped by working at my day job and trying to pack everything else into the 30-32 C average days around that.  All my efforts to get ahead during the spring foundered when I began full time hours and it was all I could do to keep up with just the day to day stuff.  There was even a point in June when I wondered if I should just chuck it all in and convince the family that town life was the way to go.

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But somehow, despite the heat and my negative headspace, and due in large part to the willing help of the rest of the family and especially our younger daughter, all the things that usually happen in the summer on this small farm – happened.  Chicks, piglets, broiler chickens, garden, family time – even a mini-vacation.

Most Saturday mornings from June through to mid-October (Thanksgiving), my husband and I were able to get up to the fairgrounds across the road for the farmers market – we’d buy greens and fruit for the week, sometimes some pasture raised beef or some honey or chutney.   We’d finish up with a coffee and a scone, listening to the folk music and chatting to neighbours.  It’s the first time since 2006 that I haven’t been working most Saturdays, so it was a real treat to go back to being a “regular”.  A civilized break from the chaotic scramble that was our lives this summer.

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The three Large Black pigs (and large is a more accurate description now), which arrived at the beginning of July as very small Large Black piglets,  are heading to the processor at the end of November.  The 145 broilers came at the beginning of August, 141 went out onto the field exactly 13 days later (the youngest I’ve ever put birds out) and at the end of September, 139 went to the processor and subsequently into people’s freezers.  One of the broody hens from the layer flock was allowed to set a dozen eggs, and she successfully raised 9 chicks – 5 of whom were roosters of course.  All 9 are currently in the layer flock – the roosters destined for the freezer any minute, I swear.  The pullets are laying regularly now, as I get 4 small eggs in with all the jumbo eggs from the old hens.  The veg garden started well, and I had big plans which most definitely “gang aft aglay”, but we did get a huge crop of tomatoes, which nearly all got dried or made into tomato sauce for the freezer. We grew basil successfully for the first time in years, and between what we grew and what I bought from the farmer I always buy basil from, we made enough pesto for the freezer for the whole year. The pears did well this year – I canned some and dried some, and we managed to pick 100 lbs of apples on the rainiest day in late September to send to the guy with a juicing operation, so now we have  24 litres of the most excellent unfiltered apple juice in our freezer, ready for hot apple cider in the winter, or as a yummy adjunct to breakfast on the run.

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Younger daughter created and maintained a small flower bed, which is still holding it’s own at the end of October.  She also handled the afternoon water check and supper chores throughout the entire summer, for broilers and pigs, including three days in August, when she had sole responsibility for pigs, hens and broilers – 200+lives – while my husband and I went up to the north end of the Island to cool off in the rain and spot grizzly bears and orca whales – a trip which was extremely hard to rationalize at the time, but in retrospect was vitally necessary to allow us to reconnect after a summer of seldom seeing each other thanks to impossible schedules, and which restored my equilibrium and allowed the family to have the less cranky version of myself back again.

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We had our usual Labour Day weekend barbeque, with 55 guests and tons of food – rain was forecast but held off till late that night.  It was our chance to socialize with people we’ve known for years, but seldom get to touch base with over the summer and wonderful to see that almost half our numbers were teenagers or young adults – every time I suggest that maybe this tradition has had it’s day (preparing for 55 guests is not difficult exactly, but it is work), there is an outcry, and this year I really did very little beyond getting the invites out – the rest of the family pulled all the details together.  One of the bitter-sweet aspects of the barbeque, and the Fair which happens the same weekend, is that school starts up again right afterwards.  The younger daughter has just begun her grad year – her final year of high school, while the older daughter has begun her second year of university – the first year of her three year degree programme in Elementary Education.

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The broilers went to the processor at the end of September, and suddenly the days started to seem possible again, as chore time suddenly got reduced to 15-20 minutes at each end of the day, as opposed to the extra thirty minutes every morning, moving cages, hauling feed down the field, etc. and an extra 15 every evening.   I suddenly went from just managing to get chores work and dinner fitted into the day, to a place where I could fit chores, work and dinner in and still have time and energy for other things – which was a good thing, because the timing with the tomato crop was impeccable.  Between tomatoes and pears, freezing, canning and drying became the order of the day.

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Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago saw us eating the first of our broilers, roasting freshly dug potatoes, making our first pumpkin pie of the season and entertaining hubby’s sister and brother-in-law who have just retired here from Ontario, swelling the numbers of our local extended family dramatically, which for years has consisted only of myself and my brother and our families.  The girls are enjoying being doted on by their aunt and uncle, and have enjoyed several weekend outings to local parks for hiking, nearly always followed by sumptuous teas that obviate the need for supper.

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Halloween looms, and the weather has been cooler now for a month or so.  My list of things that need doing is still relentlessly long, but my optimism is back and I’m willing to give it another kick, like Charlie when Lucy holds the ball ready.  Maybe this time…  Unlike Charlie though, I’m aware that I need a better plan – flying by the seat of my pants wasn’t the best way to get through the summer for me, nor the rest of my family,  so as I spend time catching up on repairs and fence moves and the like, I’m starting to mull over my farming goals and how they relate to our family goals and ambitions.  Stay tuned.


11 thoughts on “What’s Happening?

  1. Down here in the Willamette Valley everything was about 3 weeks earlier because of the heat. I started my commercial canning business and worked with 3 farmers to turn their “surplus” (items that would have gone into the compost pile otherwise) into shelf-safe products that provide another income stream for them. We know our vacations will now be after November and before June. LOL

    • How cool that you’ve started a canning business, what a great idea. And yes, the whole growing season was about a month early up here too – strawberries started in May, pumpkins were ripe and ready by late September.

  2. I’m also a not a hot weather person; anything over 26 C and I’m heading to Grumpyville – truly not a nice person to be around.
    I’m blown away by how much you’ve achieved since we last got a glimpse. And slightly embarrassed by our efforts. Every year I also vow to streamline, rethink, reschedule and plan plan plan. I really mean it too, changes are often implemented, but I always seem to end up feeling I could have done better if only I’d… Maybe that’s just who we are 🙂
    Loved catching up with the happenings on Sailors Small Farm; the photos are great (possibly even more so because you also confess to not being bothered enough to trudge back to the house to get the camera).
    Love to you from here, where things are just beginning to hot up…but please not to 36!!

    • Yes, I suspect that the feeling we could always do better is just part of who we are. I wonder if our kids are absorbing that mentality from us? I don’t even know if that’s a good thing or not.
      You have no idea (and you can bet the reluctant camera will never be brought to bear) just how much does not get done here. I try hard to just be satisfied with progress, but there’s always an inner voice nagging about all that is still to do. Valberke remarked below that she was glad I found the time to post, and that’s just it – like all of us, I make time for what I want to do, and not always for what should be done. Ah well, I guess I’m a work in progress too 🙂
      I’m relishing your pictures of spring kids and new growth and possibility, they are so welcome on dark drizzly days like today. Hugs to all at the Homestead too.

  3. valbjerke says:

    I hear you- sometimes I get very weary of the never ending scramble of the farming/working life. We’ve downsized our livestock considerably- we no longer raise anything to sell, we raise for ourselves and family. Still – there’s little difference – we’re now bogged down with things that never got done when we were buried under livestock 😊. Maybe someday I’ll come up with a way to balance things.
    Good to see you find time to post!

    • Thanks! Yes, it figures you’d relate to my experience, although I have to say your day job is far more physical than mine and therefore adds it’s own little twist to the dilemma. We’re talking about cutting down on how many birds/pigs we raise, going back to just raising for ourselves, but we do need to consider the farm tax status as well. Part of my winter thought process I guess. If you do figure out a way to balance things, let me know!

  4. So happy to read about all of the happenings at the farm – l’ve been missing you! That is a lot to juggle with a full-time job but so lovely that the family is really pitching in. I bet you feel pretty darn good about that!
    I’m also super impressed that you accomplished all that you did with the farm this year AND you still carved out time to enjoy life. I’d say you’ve got your priorities in order 😏
    M and I have been getting pretty darn close to burn out and have come to the conclusion that our ‘efforts’ to build a sustainable farm life are not exactly sustainable at this pace. We are spending this weekend with the white board trying to map out a plan for the next few months that doesn’t kill us. We so very much want to get out to the farm permanently as soon as possible that we all too often bypass doing anything fun or relaxing.
    I’m inspired by your success and adding “rejuvenation time” to our To Do list.

    • Thanks! Writing the post was a bit of a self congratulatory exercise – it didn’t start out that way, but by the time I’d finished it, I realized that we had actually managed to do everything we usually do – it was a little messy and frantic sometimes, though, and definitely a team effort. I am overextended though, I can feel it, and that’s what I have to figure out next. Yes, I can feel from your blog that you two are pretty stretched. Partly the frustrations you’ve been experiencing with the trades and utilities, but partly I suspect, like me – just the shortage of time – not just the 24/7 aspect but the fact that we’re all roughly the same age, and can see the time racing towards us when some of this will not be physically possible, let alone have enough time.
      The mini-vacation to Telegraph Cove was a life saver, no question. I didn’t want a break at the time, ironically, but knew that hubby desperately needed and wanted one, so went ahead and organized it. It turned out to be so cathartic for both of us – three days in a different environment , a chance to talk over past present and future without interruption (6 hour car trip each way), and some amazing sceneary. Yup, if you can do it, do it. Just a weekend of change. So worth it.

  5. PetKid says:

    You’ve had a crazy summer! The best of the year for me, if I was there, would have been those little chick chick fuzzity fuzz fuzz fuzzles!

    • They were pretty cute that’s for sure. I think you might have enjoyed seeing the grizzly bears too…

      • PetKid says:

        The grizzly bears would have been cool to see, but I don’t think I would have wanted to pick them up to cuddle!!! They might eat me and they’d weight a lot, those fat grizzlies! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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