Our Extraordinary Solar/Wind Hybrid Powered Clothes Dryer

A few months ago, with the awareness that a clothes dryer is the most energy hungry appliance in the house after a fridge, we bought an extraordinary invention.

It is a wind and solar powered hybrid.

It requires no energy to run, and dries clothes in just a few hours.

It scares crows.

It is…

a Hill’s Hoist!

hill's hoist

Oh, Hill’s Hoist, How I love thee. I love that you hold all of my families clothes with ease. I love that you can wind down to easily load the clothes, or wind up to spin in the air. I love how efficient you are. I love how reminiscent you are of our other home, Australia.

Could I have been scrappier? Sure, and we are – we actually have a clothes line made from leftover nylon rope on our porch. But damn, the hoist is a thing of long term, sun-drenched beauty, and dries our clothes in about 3 hours in the full sun. That’s my kind of investment!

Scrap Appeal

When I was growing up, I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to be intelligent, and interesting, and funny. I craved feeling self-assured, put together, chic. 

I never thought to work towards being scrappy.  That one is coming much, much later in life.

When some think of scrappy, they think dirty, untidy, or all over the place. For me, however, scrappy is the epitome of being a true farm girl by leveraging what you have to create what you need. 

There is a woman who lives across the country in upstate New York named Jenna Woginrich.  She has redefined the word scrappy – if you look it up in the dictionary, chances are her photo will be a gleaming beacon of all things scrap.  She, a single woman in her early 30s, has managed to create a thriving farm with all sorts of livestock and pays her mortgage without having a traditional full-time office job. Of course, she works something like 100 hours a week to maintain her animals, do graphic design, and teach workshops on everything from playing the fiddle to making soap, as well as writing a truly magnificent blog (Cold Antler Farm – one of my all time favorites). However, she mostly does it, I’d argue, by having an overwhelming amount of scrappiness.

Jenna Woginrich

(source)

Our friends down the road who own Stoneboat Farm, also have just a crapton-o-scrap.  In the time that we managed to plant a few tomato plants and have a baby, they launched a thriving CSA, sell at several large supermarkets, and have their gorgeous vegetables at a dozen restaurants…and also have a baby. Again, it seems like half of their methodology is simply by being scrappy and using what they have. (As well as tons of passion and knowledge and experience…but that’s not the point of this particular post.)

Stoneboat

(Source)

As a New York City girl, I never had to covet this quality. If a shoe was wearing out, you threw it out.  If the handle broke off a mug, you threw out the mug. Buying consignment was only done if it was by a designer, and thanks to my parents profound generosity, do without wasn’t a concept I had around anything I needed, or many things I wanted. 

Now that we own a farm, however, scrappiness is a premium trait, as HOLY CANOLLI, a farm is an expensive place to live. Raising animals is a mind-blowingly expensive proposition if you want to raise them safely, on pasture, and with local and organic feed, which we do. And it only gets more expensive if you buy all the infrastructure that they need new.

laying hens

So, slowly but surely, we’re building up our scrap appeal.  Instead of buying new tin to cover their chicken tractors, we’re using scrap metal from a barn roof that was being pulled down up the road. Instead of buying a tractor, we’re making due with wheelbarrows, a 10 year old ride on mower we’ve named Stu, and a lot of walking. Instead of buying new furniture, we’ve mostly gratefully accepted family and friends cast-offs and loans (a new bookshelf, however, is definitely on the way.) 

chicken tractor

Don’t get me wrong – we are a long, long way from ever being able to call ourselves scrappy (Anthony is much closer. I still look to Amazon before Craigslist. <— working on it). However, at least now I have a clearer sense of what I am working towards – a life of sane and happy usefulness, with much scrap and less waste. 

The Catch-22 Of Motherhood: Why Don’t You Sleep When the Baby Sleeps?

I recently had a chat with a friend about motherhood and the profound, earth shattering, and indescribable lack of sleep that had accompanied the joy and delight of bringing a small human into the world. He asked me the classic question that often comes in the form of well-meaning advice from doctors, the childless, and perhaps those who have revised sense of history of what it was like to have small children:

“Why don’t you sleep when the baby sleeps?”

Ethan not asleep

It seems so obvious, right? The kiddo takes 2-3 40 minute to 2 hour naps each day.  If I’m so tired, why wouldn’t I just take naps when he sleeps?

It has something to do with this a strong desire to feel like a human being, not just a mom.  As Ethan’s primary carer (sidenote: I would love to find an alternative term to stay-at-home mom, but this one is too clinical. Any suggestions? Homemaker? Domestic Engineer?) I spend the vast majority of my day either entertaining him, or feeling guilty for not entertaining him while cleaning, taking care of the chickens or garden, or performing any other task that is required during his waking hours. (sidenote 2: mommy guilt. It’s real and it’s brutal, at least for me.) When he’s asleep, the last thing I want to do is take a nap myself, as it’s the only time I have to write, read, or simply be by myself. 

Ethan sleeping

Especially considering I am working very hard on putting my phone and computer away when he is awake, this is the time to feel connected to the outside world and engaged with life outside the farm.  However, this is problematic as when I am exhausted, it’s doubly difficult not to zone out and scroll through instagram when he’s feeding, or even be able to enjoy playing with him and seeing the world through his remarkable, fresh eyes.

A friend recently asked me if I miss using my brain. While this stung (I feel like my brain is put to good use raising a baby, as well as taking care of my family, as well as starting a small business, but thanks so much for asking!) I do know that more sleep would absolutely help the fuzziness that surrounds my every day interactions. However, right now, even with the fuzziness, connecting to others and my personal pursuits is worth the sacrifice. 

Own Your Life. Own Your Choices.

Inertia is a dreadful sensation.  That feeling of being stuck, of dullness, of being absorbed by the dreary quicksand of day-to-day life. That is how I’ve felt for the past several months. In between moments of giddiness at seeing my son roll over and hearing him giggle, brief glimpses into how extraordinary it is to live on a farm and grow vegetables, poultry, and two maniacal kittens, and treasured times of tenderness with my husband, the sneaking suspicion that I have nothing to contribute has seeped into my consciousness. 

I have this idea that before, because I worked in a high stress, no money job in a very fancy hospital, I was more of value.

I have this notion that because I am living off my husbands income, I am inching closer to being a waste of space.

Even though I would gladly defend any parent and their choice to stay “at home” (bullshit phrase, as most parents who are the primary caregivers to their children are rarely in the house), my choosing to do so in some way means I have failed. 

While Ethan naps, I have been frantically googling “flexible psychology jobs” Hillsboro, even with the knowledge that I have no real interest in leaving him with another carer at this point.

While out in my garden or feeding my chickens or cleaning out their pen, I have this notion that I have failed everyone who has had faith in my intellect, my business acumen, and ability to earn an income.

I’ve also been a treat to be around, I assure you.

However, today, sitting in a local coffee shop to get out of our scalding hot homestead (102 degrees at last check), while filling out the paperwork to establish ourselves as an LLC, it crossed my mind that our little farm is now my business. The chickens, the vegetables, our future livestock, and most of all, the conscientious upbringing of our son (who currently is in his carseat, wearing just a diaper, sucking on a metal spoon – so we’re working on the conscientious part) – this is my job. My profession. And I can bring all the skills and intelligence that I used working at the hospital and more to make this farm a success.

This simple change of perspective has had a profound impact on the lens I use to view my life.  I could get all philosophical about it, and talk about how undervalued stay-at-home parents and farmers are, or how the only reality is the one we’re living, but plenty of others have described these concepts beautifully.  The TL;DR version of this is simply that the only person who can make me feel better about my life is me. I choose how I view my life.  I can choose to listen to the people who talk about how amazing and busy and hard-working I am (hi, mom!) or to the voices that say because I don’t get a fortnightly pay-check, my contribution to society is less than. Or, I can choose to keep doing what I’m doing, learning what I’m learning, and thank my lucky stars that my life is the abundant gift it is. 

Grow, baby, Grow!

Well, from a giant lawn to a thriving vegetable garden and home to 56 chickens, a lot can change in a few short months!

We are growing:

  • Zucchini
  • Kale (3 types: lacinato, red russian, and curly leaf)

kale

  • Tomatoes (green zebra, old german, and a few others including a few cherries)
old german tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
carrots and parsnips
  • Cucumbers
  • Winter squash
  • Herbs (all of the major ones)

We are harvesting:

  • Cucumbers!  Wow, what a bumper crop we’ve had of amazing white cucumbers. They can be a bit tricky to harvest as they are covered with little spikes and turn yellow very quickly, but they have done amazingly well.cucumbers
  • Zucchini. A few, anyway. There apparently wasn’t enough pollination, so next year we should plant them near flowers. 
  • Kale! Oh, how beautiful and abundant kale is.
  • Garlic.  We planted our garden in February and harvested the whole lot a few days ago. Most were fairly small heads, but we had a few large ones which we’ll save for next years seed.
  • Herbs – I only just realized after having a huge garden of abundant herbs that I not only don’t cook enough with herbs, I really don’t know what to do with them.  Besides chives in eggs and basil for pesto, I’m a bit at a loss for non specialized dishes.

The chickens:

We are raising 6 laying hens with one rooster (named Fabio.) They are hilarious and are becoming eggcellent layers (sorry.)  We get between 2 and 5 eggs per day, although that will hopefully become more consistent with time. 

 

chickens

We are also raising 49 meat chickens (we started with 51, but lost two – more on that in the next post.) They are freedom rangers from Freedom Ranger hatchery, and except for the aforementioned two, have proven to be lively, hearty little creatures. We plan on slaughtering them here on the farm with several of our experienced friends in mid-October.

chickens

Other animals:

After five long years of pressure, my darling husband broke down and let me adopt two kittens for “mousing” (read: cuddling.) They are absolutely precious and a delight to have around. I adore them. Their names are Luke and Leia.

kitten

I think that’s everything we have. And boy, is it good.