I almost couldn’t bring myself to open my laptop and begin a blog entry this evening. It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that the very thought of starting again has felt kind of daunting. I was considering the possibility that my short-lived blogging stint might just need to die a premature death.
But here I am again, typing away and seeing what comes of the writing and reflection. Two reasons for the return to the blog, I suppose. This past summer was just too full (more about that in just a bit), and letting go of blogging was one way I could give myself a little more space in my life. But now with the turn to fall, life is starting to be more spacious and balanced again and the thought of written reflections feels more like a welcome exercise and less like another task to add to my already too-full life. The second reason is that we just got some baby chicks! When they arrived in the mail in all their downy cuteness, I thought: “Whelp, no better opportunity to re-start a homestead blog than the arrival of baby chicks.”
You might be wondering why we would be getting baby chicks in the fall. Not exactly traditional timing, and we’re setting ourselves up to feed them all winter before we ever lay eyes on an egg. We (okay, I…Tim has wanted to hold back on any animals until we’re more settled, but I’ve been insisting on at least laying hens) ordered these chicks this past spring, with an arrival date in May. But I felt totally overwhelmed by life and all we had to do, and so I postponed the order until September.
September arrived and so did the chicks! I’m feeling slightly less overwhelmed, though there is still plenty to do (now, including building a chicken coop in the next three weeks, which I have promised Tim I will do–wish me luck!). Life is full, and it really doesn’t make much sense to start raising chicks at this point in the year, but I must say that regular visits to the recently vacated greenhouse to see the chicks in their “cozy” water tank brooder has been good for my spirit.
My spirit needs some chick rejuvenation, I’d say. The past few months haven’t been the easiest. When I think about all that happened over the summer, there’s plenty to be grateful for. And yet the phrase that kept floating in my head as we neared the season’s end was that this has been my “summer of ambivalence” (pretty sure I was at least subconsciously playing off of the Steinbeck title The Winter of our Discontent). After months of anticipation and excitement leading up to and then entering into our big move to VA, a lot of what I seemed to feel this summer was ambivalence.
Again, there are at least a couple of reasons for this. First, I’m pregnant again! This was a planned pregnancy, and Tim and I were (and are!) very excited to learn we’ll get to welcome a new baby into our lives at the end of February. But, planned pregnancy or not, I still had to make my way through the first trimester, and I sort of forgot how much first trimesters don’t mix well with farming. The exhaustion and the nausea and the heightened emotions all made me loathe the thought of hot afternoons in the vegetable gardens. And in fact, I took many post-lunch naps this summer and schlepped much of the afternoon work off on to Tim, bless him.
So pregnancy was definitely a contributing factor to some farming ambivalence this summer. At the same time, I always sort of hate it when emotions or particular ways of experiencing life are dismissed because of female hormones. I’m a firm believer that what we women feel when we are especially hormonal is completely real and true, albeit somewhat heightened. So I tried to pay attention to the vegetable-farming-ambivalence. And I think what that ambivalence told me–first trimester aside–is that I have lacked balance, feeling like all of my (limited) energy has needed to go into vegetable farming.
We unintentionally set ourselves up for that lack of balance. I decided to start a certificate program towards Spiritual Direction at the beginning of the summer, which meant that for two entire weeks in June I was in the classroom rather than in the gardens. I am so glad I started the program, and those two weeks were an important space of personal reflection and discernment, but it also meant that as the summer farming season was headed towards it’s peak, Tim had to fly solo and try not to fall too far behind. Then, after I finished my classes, we headed into a summer full of social engagements. I think we were both feeling excited about scaling back our farming and having more of a life during the summer, but ended up overwhelming ourselves by having too much of a life. It was all wonderful stuff and we made many good memories connecting with family and friends, but we constantly felt like we were leaving the farm and needing to play catch up when we returned. All of that meant ZERO work on the barn-house, no real time for non-vegetable-gardening homesteading tasks, and not a lot of time for me to continue some of the discernment I began in my Spiritual Direction classes.
We’ve been through busy, overwhelming, unbalanced summers before. I think this one felt different because it highlighted the dissonance between what we’ve dreamed about our lives being in this new place, and what they actually were over this past season. Thankfully, I feel like I’m getting enough distance from what initially felt like a depressing dissonance to begin to recognize that the dissonance itself might be an important season to experience before heading into future seasons in this place. The lack of balance has helped us to have so many conversations about what might help us to strike greater balance in the future; it’s helped us to name our individual and partnered priorities and the things that we really want to have time and space for in our lives. The stress about money and our market garden business has pushed us to re-visit our financial ideals and to consider from our current experiences how we might strike both financial and lifestyle sustainability. The lack of time to do much of any homesteading has helped me to name all the more how much I relish the varied tasks of preserving food, raising animals, cooking, building, chopping wood, and whatever else the day demands. The lack of time to tend to my own spirituality and to imagine what it looks like to offer spaces of spiritual reflection on our homestead has, similarly, made me name anew what an important part of myself this is.
There are lessons in the dissonance. I am hoping that I and we can be intentional about noticing both the dissonance and the lessons therein and heading into the future a bit differently because of it. There are also blessed moments of consonance. Hot days at the summer’s end when we took lunch breaks at our little “swimming hole” and when I was filled with gratitude for the beauty of this place; the simple joys of bringing in our harvests of squash and onions to store up for the winter; re-entering the barn building projects…and, of course, the arrival of baby chicks.