Winter Musings

Reader Contribution by Becky And Andy
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It’s been an interesting nine months since we last wrote. I was talking to you about starting our garden last May, and then the rest of the year got away from us. We had a huge change in Andrew’s employment and several trips away from home. We had our first legitimate CSA from the garden produce and learned so much from having to produce food not only for ourselves, but also for six other families! We hosted two garden parties, one in the summer and one in the fall. We raised chickens on pasture in a homemade tractor and revamped the old coop just before fall so they could settle in and start laying. We added garden beds, cleaned up more of our landscape and in the process of living out 2017, realized a lot about ourselves.

While we love the idea of homesteading and staying close to the land, we aren’t excited about the prospect of full-scale farming. I think for years that was our goal, but over time have realized that we can’t do it with only one adult at the helm. That adult would be me, since I am the one home with the kids every day. Andy is working hard getting a startup business going and cannot, for the foreseeable future, help much around the homestead.

In light of that, we are skipping making maple syrup for the first time in four years. It’s bittersweet because we love making that sugary resource from the neighborhood trees, yet I know that I cannot maintain an outdoor fire all day (we don’t have enough wood fuel anyway). And I don’t want to boil 70 gallons of sap in our home again like last year.

As well, I am not going to offer our CSA again because I found the workload to be very demanding. I enjoy our garden. I truly love that space, but by the end of August it was becoming an unwanted chore. I don’t want to feel that way again for something I love.

With Andy gone in Madison many days of the week starting in April, I will be holding down the fort by myself. We have decided to give more responsibilities to the kids to help ease my burden. Actually, the older two, Elly and Ethan, have been taking care of the chickens all winter with little help from either parent. They take turns watering, feeding and picking eggs every day. On nice winter days we can let them out and the kids remember to shut them in at night. It’s been a serious relief for me and a great way to boost their confidence.

Photo by Getty Images/5xinc

In a couple of weeks, we will start our seeds for the garden. The kids have each chosen plants that they will grow and take care of in their own garden beds. The excitement they feel in owning their own garden can be felt whenever we look at seeds catalogs or talk about the garden.

Right now the garden is under a sheet of ice, but the way this winter has been going, it might be an early spring. I will have to redo the fence, putting in solid wood corner posts and rehanging the snow fence. It’s starting to sag in a lot of areas and, since it’s been up for three years, the wood is starting to need replacing in spots. I have an idea to use our chain link fence, which we used years ago to make a small yard around our home (to keep the toddler in). That would provide a much more secure environment for my plants, birds, toads and snakes.

Another endeavor I want to undertake is introducing ducks onto the homestead. I have always wanted ducks wandering about our yard, free-ranging on bugs and plants. They could stay with the hens overnight and be let out each morning to roam and quack.

Until then we wait a little bit longer for Old Man Winter to expire once again.

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