Homesteading Tales from Rowangarth Farm

Looking Back, Moving Forward

But she had wings 

"When she transformed into a butterfly,
the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness.
They wanted her to change back into what she always had been.
But she had wings.”
~ The Poetry of Oneness

Homesteading Tales from Rowangarth Farm

A lot has changed since I last posted to this blog and yet much has stayed the same. The biggest difference, outwardly at least, is I'm now living this farm dream on my own. The other differences are more subtle, relating more to my personal evolution. In the six years I've lived here I've learned, seen, experienced so much and yet I'm humble enough to know there is a lifetime of new experiences and growth still ahead of me. And yet despite my emerging confidence and knowledge, there are still days when I'm left with more questions than answers.

Lately I've been thinking about what I'm doing here. Not in terms of my day-to-day functionality – I have a 'to-do' list two pages long. But the bigger picture? More existential stuff. The kind of thinking that happens when your world gets turned upside down and you're faced with the question, "Now what?"

I moved to the farm because I wanted to extricate myself from the dominant culture that is killing our planet and ourselves through reckless production and senseless consumption. To create space where I could live a life of meaning and connection. To take the path less chosen. Inspire others to do the same. I wanted to make a difference. To be able to look into the eyes of my kids and their kids (if that comes to pass) and say, "I tried."

But is that enough?

We live in a culture that craves quick fixes and easy solutions. To ask the big questions, make life-changing decisions, to fight against the overwhelming pressure to conform is exhausting. And at times terrifying.

It's easier not to recognize the gravity of our situation. The fact that much of our western civilization is built on a regime of unsustainable growth and appropriation of "others." And the very corporations and governments that perpetuate this madness offer top 10 lists and simple solutions to save the planet and preserve our comfortable existence. Absolve ourselves from personal responsibility. Keep up with the status quo. Defend our smartphones, SUVs and cruise ships to exotic locales.

As Derrick Jensen says, we've all been greenwashed:

"One way this culture gets people is with the delusion – 'If I just consume less and less, I won't be contributing to the death of this planet. If I wear out my recycled shoes and skip showers, then I won't be part of this destruction.' But the salmon don't care about your purity and your lifestyles choices, they care if there are dams and fish farms. … So when they tell you to take a shorter shower, it's prestidigitation. It's a magic trick – sleight of hand. They're trying to make you think, 'If I take a shorter shower I can make things OK.'"

It would be much easier to give up, sell out, move back. This piece of earth has provided me with a place to grow roots, but at times those roots feel like anchors. The work is relentless. There is always something that needs doing, fixing, tending. There are personal ramifications to this life. I lost a 20-year relationship, in part, over my beliefs, my differences. Divergent paths. There are times (most days) when I feel strong and powerful for choosing to stay, to keep fighting for this life, and there are other days when I feel utterly alone. Disconnected. And yet the idea of leaving is soul destroying.

The person I've become is inextricably woven into the fabric of this place. I no longer feel that the farm belongs to me, but I belong to the farm. It is my refuge and my prison. It has seeped into my very being. I am its caretaker and its mistress. There are times I yearn to escape this place and yet when I'm gone I realize how much I need it. I have purpose here.

But again I ask, is that enough? Or perhaps the true question is, am I doing enough?

I grow vegetables and plant trees and raise animals in a way that respects and celebrates their innate beingness. I do so to rage against the industrial machine that poisons our water, our earth, our air and our sense of humanity. But I do this work quietly. And because of that these actions can seem so inconsequential.

Am I, too, suffering from the delusional belief that this will make things OK?

My relationship to this place and my role in it is constantly shifting and evolving. I came here as a borderline militant vegan and now (though still vegetarian) I raise animals for meat. I ask so many questions, both practical and ethical, and offer so few answers. I read work that I wrote when I first moved here, and I blush at the naivieté. The rose-coloured glasses. But have I allowed wisdom and experience to become stand-ins for hunger and conviction, corralled possibility into something more safe and manageable?

And as for my writing: The world is such a messy, complex place and I abhor being yet another voice that offers simple solutions. And so I let my thoughts steep, like my daily pots of strong tea, waiting for some definitive answer that never comes. Too often I bite my tongue, swallow my words, leave things unsaid. Succumb to fear. Not fear of difference or stepping out from the crowd, but fear of being judged for being wrong. Or much worse, a hypocrite. There is still a large chasm between my intentions and my actions. Who am I to tell people to wake the fuck up, get over yourselves and do something real?

Then again, who am I not to be? I am a person who feels and experiences this life deeply. Passionately. I fall head over heels, lead with my heart first, then with my head. When I fall, I fall hard. Desperately so. But when I take risks and allow myself to let go of the fear and the conditioning and the criticism for being "too much" I can feel my wings stretching. Then I fly.

To read more, visit my blog, Rowangarth Farm.

Duck Hatching: Our Morning Surprise

A photo of FionaThe barn is usually a fairly noisy place first thing in the morning. The chickens are clucking, the rooster is crowing, the goats are bleating and the ducks are quacking. Well the Rouens are, at least. The Muscovies try hard but only manage a pitiful little squeak.

But on this day, I noticed another sound amongst the usual cacophony – a tiny "peep, peep, peep." I looked down into the duck pen and there she was – our very first hatchling!

The first duckling hatched

After screaming and scaring the hell out of the donkeys and horse (they're a little touchy before breakfast), I went tearing across the barnyard while shouting at the top of my lungs, "Go get the camera, there's a baby duck in the barn!" Once again, providing ample entertainment for our barnyard creatures.

We have two ducks sitting on eggs right now. One is in the feed area (she deserves her very own blog post), and the other is in the duck pen. Recently, I'd looked up the incubation period for ducks, and while baby chickens hatch in 21 days, Rouen ducks hatch in 28 days and Muscovies in 35 days.

As this is our first time hatching our own – in fact, we're not hatching anything ... we just allowed the ducks to go broody and let nature take its course – I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm horrible at marking dates, but I didn't think she'd been sitting on the eggs all that long. I didn't even know if they were fertile, though I must say that our drakes are quite insatiable when it comes to their attempts at procreation.

Obviously, the boys did their job and so did mama duck.

Mama duck and duckling

What I find amazing is that the duckling isn't even technically hers. Mama is a Muscovy while the duckling is a Rouen. Doesn't seem to matter though. Lovely, isn't it?

Mama duck and duckling beak to beak

By the time I finished taking a bazillion photos and finally got the rest of the barn crew fed, I realized it was 11:40 am. Because we weren't expecting babies yet, we had no duckling food on hand and the closest farm supply store – which is 30 minutes away – closed in 20 minutes. What's more, it wouldn't be open again until Monday (it was Saturday).

I quickly called the feed store, explained my predicament and pleaded for them to stay open another 15 minutes. After some hawing and humming, the disgruntled voice on the other end of the line agreed and 30 seconds later, the kids and I were in the truck and racing down the driveway.

It's a good thing too because when I got back with the duckling feed and put it and some fresh water into the pen, mama duck finally got off her nest and gave us a peak at the rest of her eggs.

Looks like duckling might have some siblings soon.

Another duckling hatching

In the meantime, I've told the kids that mama needs her rest. She's going to have her wings full with this lot.

Duckling crawling under ducks wing