Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Monday, 20 September 2021
Every week so much life happens. I still regret not writing more during the summer. We picked up my "blog book" last night. The kids absolutely love reading little snippets of our life and who knew I'd been writing for over 7 years. We read about my son's 8th birthday last night. That 8 year old is now 15. He's so big now. I didn't write about what we did for his 8th birthday, but I did reflect on his 5th in the post. The night of his 5th the cows we bought arrived. Ten years later we used all the manure from those cows to grow our garden. It was an amazing reflection to see how those cows would be used in our life without us knowing at that time. For his 15th birthday, no cows, just a day of trampolining and flipping with a couple friends. I'm in awe of his bizarre talent!
This week we are prepping for our the grape harvest. This will be way more intense than last year as this year we actually managed to save the grapes with netting, so we have 5 acres to bring in BY HAND. Needless to say we'll be calling all the contacts we've ever had to help.
We also spent the entire weekend prepping all the bins for the actual grapes to be pressed in as well as moving barrels around, cleaning and prepping the machinery and also getting everything ready for bottling. We are also bottling we hope any day now. We are waiting on one more approval on the red wine and then we order the labels and we will be selling wine. That'll be a big day when we sell the first case. Seven years ago when I was writing, I definitely did not see this day coming.
When we moved in to this place, we were still running an engineering business. We had so much stuff from all RM's contracts that we didn't take the time to go through it, so it all came into what we call "the shop". We've since gotten rid of so much stuff as he shut down his business and started at the college, but not everything was dealt with. Over the last few weekends, we have, or I should say, the older boys have, taken EVERYTHING out of the shop and moved it into the bottom of the barn, then swept up all the mess and remarkably mopped the floors over and over until it looks brand new. We are now moving in the vehicles that need to be fixed (yes, that's plural) and then the idea is we hope to actually fix them! They've been sitting around for months because you can't jack them up and work on them while they are on a gravel surface. Once they're in the shop, it'll be way easier to work on. None of them have anything serious. They are all "quick fixes", if that's possible with cars. This might not seem like a big deal, but it's a huge answer to prayer for me. When you have dumpy cars all over your property sitting there, you start to look like a junk yard. How I hate that. Getting things like this out of the way and cleaned up is a big deal. I always want things done fast and when I want, but what I've learned is to be patient and trust and hope. When you have as much going on as we do, you have to learn to wait. And as a Psalm says that I read recently, you have to wait - in silence - that means no complaining, no nagging. RM knows that I don't like the junky look. He hates it, too, but one man can only do so much, so I have waited and things are slowly, but surely getting better.
We have friends who have an amazing home and garden renovation business. The homes they renovate pretty much always end up in national decorating magazines, literally. If we get brave enough, we're considering asking them to come by our place and give us a master plan for our place. We could never hire them to coordinate the whole thing....we just want a plan that we could then do in phases. Those phases might just take another 25 years to complete, but you never know, maybe just a 5 year plan! Anyway, we'll see if we get our courage up to call them. Every minute on the phone is like talking to a lawyer, you get charged! So....don't know, can't say, want to hope.....ugh, I want them to come today!
I'm reading in Ruth right now. In just the first 5 verses, 3 men died. Three women were left with heartache. The book itself is only 4 chapters long. My niece's boyfriend broke up with her this week and she was left broken hearted. As I read those 5 verses I could almost feel the heartache of Naomi, Ruth and Orpah and it made me feel my niece's heartache. But as I kept thinking about it, I knew I wasn't really that sad because I knew the book ended on a happy note. Ruth meets Boaz and ends up being in the line of Christ. It was an amazing love story. So I made a video to my niece explaining to her how "she's just in chapter one" of her life, actually she's just in the first 5 verses of her life. There are 4 more chapters of her life to go! There will be a "Boaz" one day. Ruth didn't know who, how or when. None of us do. I am in maybe chapter 2 or 3 of my life. I've met my Boaz, thank the Lord. I still have lots of questions though as to how my life will go. But, I need to give myself the advice I gave my niece - trust God to write the chapters of your life. I don't need to worry or dread. I can be excited about what He's going to do in her life and what He'll do in mine. He wrote my love story and my life story. I'm excited to see what will happen next, for my niece and for myself and our family.
Thursday, 16 September 2021
After months of going off-line, I'm happy to be writing again. I didn't intend to stop. I just knew it was one more thing I couldn't add to my already-too-full plate. Plus, I needed the sleep. This whole market garden thing was exhausting. But, do I ever regret not writing all the stories that came out of this summer.
One of my last posts was right after our first harvest box pick up. We are now less than 2 weeks away form our final box and all the way through our boxes have been full with AT LEAST 12 different kinds of vegetables each week. Hard to believe. I am in complete awe that the garden grew and produced so many different kinds of vegetables.
One of the few things I learned over the summer was not to fear, as I've stated so many times before. One example was not being afraid of the weeds. That might sound funny, but weeds really stressed me out and made me feel like a bad gardener. I would go out each day and see how fast the weeds were growing, and of course, always faster than the vegetables, particularly in our mesclun mix bed. We overseeded several mesclun mix beds and the weeds just freaked out. But knowing I wasn't supposed to be afraid of anything, I just stopped worrying. I knew I would get to them eventually and if I didn't what was the worst thing that could happen? A weedy lettuce bed? Who cares?! The irony is that in a very strange way, the weeds protected the lettuce that was growing. The weeds helped slow down the growth of the lettuce, allowing it to grow at the speed I could handle. Without the weeds, the lettuce would have grown too quickly. It made it possible to have lettuce in our harvest boxes longer than I anticipated. It was another amazing example of how learning not to fear and seeing how even thanking God for weeds could be turned into a bizarre blessing!
Another fear I had all summer was would the garden provide enough vegetables for the boxes week after week? I knew I had enough for week one, but what about week 14? We were super ambitious in promising so many weeks of vegetables. What were we thinking?! But, without being an expert gardener, I just relaxed and trusted God week by week and day by day. Those first few weeks were just basically greens, such as lettuce, microgreens, kale, swiss chard, spinach and radishes, but just when people were kind of getting sick of those, another vegetable would appear, like zucchini or turnip or cucumber or some other amazing surprise. I always, literally every week, had a new vegetable to introduce to the boxes - you would almost think I planned it, but I never did. I ended up having enough for extra boxes to sell and I always had extra food to give away to friends. Even in the final weeks, when I thought "Oh no, the garden is slowing down, I won't have enough", a new vegetable would appear like tomatoes, potatoes or carrots and beets. I know that even when the CSA is done, I'll still have vegetables for ourselves for the winter and I can't believe it. In fact, my freezer is quite full already and I've managed to can quite a bit.
It was a hard summer as we worked a lot, yet it was a good summer. My "middle" kids were the most helpful. My younger ones mostly ran away from me whenever weeding was necessary. My older ones were busy a lot of the time, but I had regular help from the middle guys and it was super fun hanging out with them listening to worship music and just always talking, talking, talking. That'll be a great memory for me.
I loved the connections made with customers and as I've talked with them, most of them want to do it again - oh no. On weekends when they couldn't make it, they would send neighbours to pick up their boxes, this in turm made more customers for me next summer! Oh no.
In May, June and even part of July, my kids would say, "Why can't you just be normal? Why do we have to do this dumb garden? We are NOT doing this next summer?" But then, by August, we were already talking about next year's garden......and so were my customers. They are expecting it! Oh no.
But then, July 9, our daughter got engaged. Oh my goodness, so many blog posts missed on that one. She'll be getting married in June next year. Right in the middle of gardening season. Oh no. We have a problem. But, not going to worry. If it's meant to be, it'll somehow work out. I'm barely done this one.
If you were to see my garden now, it is covered in weeds. I had to let it go due to school starting, but the vegetables are still there, just have to hunt a little. I'm still in shock that my little garden business succeeded. We spent so much money on an irrigation system. I think I turned it on twice. Every time I was about to, it would rain and always just enough so that the garden would get what it needed. That was amazing.
While I was busy in the garden, RM was in the vines, designing equipment for the winery, doing his actual full-time job, or farming hay. He was on one side of the farm and I was literally on the other. I would walk past him carrying a load of vegetables and he would walk past me carrying equipment for the winery. It should have been a documetary. Our life was hilarious. All the while, kids, chickens, cats, a dog and two rogue horses were running around in between us. Our children will never be able to say their life was boring or that their parents were boring.
Then, at night, many nights, RM and I would sit and say, "What have we done?" or "Forget it, let's just sell the farm" and we would look online for fun to see what was out there, but after our short mid-life crises, and there were many, we realized time and time again, that yes, our life was a little nuts, actually very over-the-top nuts, but it was exactly the life we wanted and the farm we live on is exactly where we want to live.
Because of what we took on, on purpose, all entirely self-inflicted, once again, our house was ignored for another season. It continues to get more and more worn down. I used to just long for cosmetic changes, but now I'm the one hoping for a new roof, a new septic system, new eavestroughs....what's happened to me? Our vehicles are barely alive and we have little things that need fixing literally all through our house. The list is so long it's laughable, if it weren't so serious. This summer, as I saw this list getting longer and longer, I struggled, so as our anniversary approached, I once again attempted a type of fast where I prayed specifically for contentment. What came out of that was a reminder to wait and to be silent. These are all things God knows about.
While I was fasting for contentment, RM was fasting "laziness". He is hardly lazy, one of the most diligent men I know, yet he knew he could do even more in this area of surrender. And though our anniversary has come and gone (that's when we stop the fast), he has continued to amaze me. Instead of buying a whole new roof, he went up a put a few shingles on where they had blown off. Instead of buying a brand new truck, which he wanted to badly, he fixed the wheel bearing himself and found a set of used tires for a fraction of the price. The septic bed got another year of life by getting it pumped out last week. I keep cleaning the house though it is unfinished in so many ways. I try to overlook all the broken things and wait in silence until RM can get to them. Winter is coming, the farm will go to sleep for at least a few weeks, though the wine will still demand his attention, and then maybe we'll get to that long list. But, even if he doesn't, it'll be ok. We have a roof over our heads and food in our stomach and a freezer full of even more food.
Every day is full. I will have no shortage of things to write this year.
Monday, 28 June 2021
Sunday, 27 June 2021
Yesterday was our first harvest box pickup. Three weeks ago I was in a mild panic as there was no way we were going to have anything to give our customers, or so I thought. I met with 2 separate experts and they both said we were in over our heads. One of them literally put his hand over his mouth when he found out how many customers we had and just shook his head in dismay. A that moment all my fears were confirmed. I knew it was a bad idea. I knew we couldn't do it. I knew I would fail. But then....God.
The irony is I thought even if my vegetables didn't grow, I had those two farmers as back up. Turns out, the first farmer's produce failed badly. She got a bug infestation and her lettuce all bolted due to too much heat. The other farmer grew vegetables, but not for sale, just for himself. So, if I needed vegetables, I was up the creek. So, I did what you can only do in that situation and I called on every single person I could think of to pray and did they ever pray. I also did what you can only do in that situation and I spent hours in that garden with every person who was willing to come. And we weeded and I replanted and we weeded some more and replanted some more. I just pretended and acted with very little faith that God would work. And work He did.
As we harvested on Friday, my hand was over my mouth this time. We had such big leafy greens coming out of the garden that we were all in absolute awe. We had WAY more than we needed for one week. How could I have been in such doubt? The rain sprinkled down that night as we tried to harvest, but it didn't stop us. We somehow got it all in and packaged. It looked amazing. I did have to clear out my entire fridge to hold it all as we needed to keep the veggies crisp, but that wasn't a problem. We'll buy a fridge probably this week for next week's harvest. In the back of my mind I want to say something like, "IF we get vegetables this week..." but how can I say that when I saw what I saw this week? I need to say something like, "I can't wait to see what vegetables we will get each week" instead or "What is God going to do this week?".
As each customer came - we had it staggered all throughout the day - I just found myself having THE BEST TIME EVER. One of my favourite things to do with new families or old friends is to just talk and walk around the farm. So many wanted a quick tour and that is always fun for me. Old friends from high school that I hadn't seen in 100 years were one of the first ones to come. That had to be the highlight of my day. I could have chatted with them all day. RM even pulled out a quick wine tasting which was the most fun ever as well. By the end of the day, 15 customers later, I was sitting on the couch with RM and we were just so thrilled, so happy, so exhausted, but all in a good way. As we reflected on the day and all the hard work...we felt so incredibly fulfilled. We were feeding families! We were providing not just food, but organically grown food, that will fill people's stomachs, that will help heal them, provide nutritious meals in their homes, give a destination for their young families to visit and see animals, jump on trampolines, walk around the property....it was an amazing feeling that only comes from God. We felt His blessing on our farm and all our prayers. We kept praying throughout the Spring that God would use our farm, our family, for His glory. Well, we have 13 weeks left and we are still praying that and wondering how God will continue to use us this Summer. A few weeks ago I was dreading the 14 weeks, but now I'm wondering what God will do and I'm trying to anticipate it. Truly the Christian life is an exciting one.
Thursday, 17 June 2021
I am so grateful for the amazing people God brings into my life, some in real life, some via books and my newest best friend and life coach is Charlotte Smith in her podcasts. She is a farming coach. Yup, they exist. She has changed my life. I already wrote about one of her podcasts on the River of Misery. I just listened to another one on how to deal with farming catastrophes and interruptions. Game changing stuff, I tell you. I'll explain.
Basically 100 years ago we all had the amazing gift of fear or anxiety. It moved our forefathers to make serious decisions to save our lives. For example, the potato famine in Ireland had fathers uproot entire families to the New World in the name of saving their lives. Or, 100 years ago, you would run for your life from the bear in the woods while you were building your new farmhouse in the pioneering days. Fear for your life caused you to act fast and seriously. Nowadays, we have this same gift of fear, but it comes from the cell phone, a text or email that freaks us out. However, the difference is.....we aren't going to die. But we get the same level of fear and anxiety, but it just isn't life or death. This is ridiculous she says. We cannot survive and live happy lives with all that fear and anxiety when no one is dying! So what to do. In one little podcast, she explained it. It's so simple.
It came down to this. The anxiety will come. It always does. We get texts and emails all day long. Sometimes they have bad news. So when it comes, don't deny it. Just acknowledge it, accept it and then stop. The next set of feelings that come are our choice. For example, I recently discovered certain things aren't growing the best in the garden. This moves me to fear and dare I say, panic. The next set of thoughts are my choice. I can choose to spiral out of control which helps no one OR I source out more vegetables from somewhere else if necessary because, unlike our forefathers, if I don't grow vegetables, I'm not going to die. I just have to find another place to get them to fill the boxes, but that isn't a life-threatening situation. So, that's what I chose to do - I chose to not panic, though at first I was filled with anxiety, but then once we assessed the situation, we came up with a plan and then the anxiety was gone. Reality doesn't change. I change. Super helpful in not just gardening but life.
One of the amazing things that happened when I realized maybe my garden wasn't going to produce all that I needed was I started to realize how I was surrounded by experts, I just needed to ask them. So I have called on two vegetable experts in my area, both just down the street, and I asked them both for help. I met with one of them for just a few minutes and toured her farm. She gave me lots of great tips. Then I reached out to another guy and he actually came to my farm this week and walked through every row giving me more good ideas and that was also helpful. I don't think all is lost, I just have a lot of work to do.
I had this lofty idea that I'd be making a killing on this garden. That is not the way things are going to go I don't think. Instead, I think what has happened is that we have invested in a garden that is teaching me lots about gardening and it keeps us all very busy. Most people are tired just listening to all that is going on.
On Tuesday we celebrated my husband's birthday and one of the things I prayed for was that he would be blessed in some way, but specifically, I prayed about the last license he needs to start selling wine. The next day he got a call from the inspector who comes to inspect the facility and he said he would come today! Yikes, we had a lot of work to do. We all got on board and cleaned up like crazy. I don't know if it was enough but we are praying for a successful day! Deadlines always make us move. If we pass the inspection then we are bottling, corking, labelling and then selling.
So these are our days - often in the garden, mostly weeding and always planting more plants as the idea is succession planting all the time. That was something I hadn't bargained on, so I'm busy.
I'm still going to the clinic every single day for my back, but it's my little routine and I kind of enjoy it and hanging out with the nurses each day. They give me pep talks all the time.