Becoming Kindred Blog

On Foraging, Farming, & Self-Sufficiency

On Saturday the girls and I decided to walk the five km to the farmers market in our little town. It is a completely gorgeous walk, I still can’t get over how beautiful and diverse it is here. At the beginning of our walk, we discovered that the wild strawberries are just beginning to ripen and so the girls had their first taste. Here they found berries that might have graced the banquets of Lucullus, great ambrosial sweetness hanging like rubies to long, rosy stalks. They lifted them by the stalk and ate them from it, uncrushed and virgin, tasting each berry by itself with all its wild fragrance ensphered therein. When Valancy carried any of these berries home that elusive essence escaped and they became nothing more than the common berries of the market-place—very kitchenly good indeed, but not as they would have been, eaten in their birch dell until her fingers were stained as pink as Aurora’s eyelids. ~ L.M. Montgomery The Blue Castle

Well, the strawberries we found weren’t large, they were actually quite tiny, but they had that same amazing flavor that only wild strawberries can produce. We are looking forward to more strawberry trips in the next couple of weeks.

As we continued walking, we noted that the wild blackberries are blooming profusely, promising fruit later this summer. I took note of many wild apple trees, Saskatoon bushes, and choke cherry trees. We already noted in our calendar to hunt for fiddleheads next spring and there are lots of oak trees (did you know that you can eat acorns?). While none of these things are going to produce in mass luscious quantities (my experiences last fall tell me that the wild apples will be horrid), I find it so exciting to add to our diet even in small ways. I like the idea of foraging for some our food in theory even though I know that it doesn’t work quite as well in practice. Mostly I just find it amazing what the earth can provide when cared for well or in some case simply left alone. I know that if everyone around went out and picked every berry or fiddleheads out in the woods that they would cease to grow but I love that they can be enjoyed wisely. I am also thoroughly impressed with some of the woodlots that have been in families here for five or six generations that because of careful practice and respect continue to provide income for those families. The lessons to be learned and shared are endless. It is just amazing to me, really.

And then home to our little farm. Our little flock of hens are laying really well, we are at fourteen eggs daily from fifteen young chickens. It’s a good ratio, I think. I am hoping to sell a couple dozen eggs weekly to offset feed costs. Sadly, our rooster died a few days ago. Possibly from age or maybe some sickness but thankfully our chickens seem to be maintaining their health. We have them pasturing freely in our yard which is fun aside from the poop that they enjoy depositing on our veranda and porches. I also don’t love it when they wonder into our house. Someday we will fence off where we don’t want them to go.

Our goat, Hazel, is producing enough milk to supply our dairy needs. I have made several batches of soft cheese and will make my first batch of yogurt in the next few days.  We had to sell our little guy, Rosko, because he was getting into mischief because of boredom. Plus we noticed that the flavor of the milk is better when he isn’t with Hazel. She is a bit of a grumpy thing and makes me really mad sometimes, like when she paws over her water FIVE times in a row because she is annoyed at me leaving her.

Our young bull is enjoying the pasture with his friends across the road and while we haven’t named him and he isn’t a pet, we like to go visit him.

Our good dog Molly is going to be having pups in just a couple of weeks and we are excited. We decided to breed her to another Australian Shepherd because we really love her and want one of her pups before she gets too old. Should she have a few pups, we will sell or trade them to good homes. A couple of pups are already spoken for should she have multiples. And our cats continue to keep the mice down if lack of evidence is any indication.  Lots of little things keep popping up to remind me of how much I don’t know and need to learn, for example trimming my goats feet. I could tell that they needed it but had little clue how to go about it so I was thankful that our friend who cared for her for a few days went ahead and did it for me.

And wonder of wonders, I got my garden planted on Saturday! It is definitely the most unplanned I have ever been with it. I normally plan it out to the smallest details of what plants should go together, what plants should avoid, plants to shade others, plants to protect roots or provide nutrients and so on while making it look pretty. Then Dan gets out there and we measure and mark so that we have straight lines. I still kept companion grouping in mind and I do hope that it will look pretty but basically I wanted to beat the rain so hurriedly drew up a plan which I adjusted as I went and eyeballed the lines. Not to mention it will be the first year of planting on lawn turned garden so the soil is in need of a lot of amending. I am hoping to keep the weeds from reaching my waist and I’ll be happy with whatever produce we get.

I think that it is probably obvious that much of what we do and hope to do is to provide for the needs of our family. So it means that animals will come and go; they won’t always be life long pets. We will do our best to care for them well and carefully. We are learning as we go which means that we will make mistakes with our animals as much as we try not to. Our children are learning about reproduction, birth, growth, and life’s end just by watching our animals.

I sometimes get asked if we hope to become self-sustaining and I think that originally I did have a vague thought of that. Over the last few years, I think that I have moved away from that thinking. We should be aware of where our food and needs come from and know how to provide it even but I am not sure that being self-sustaining (taking care of myself) is what I want. I do want to have animals and grow our own food in part but mostly I think that living in community, even for food, is my ideal. We want to work with those around us for what we need. We need to be realistic about what we are able and what we enjoy. For example, we have a spot to raise a beef cow but we don’t have what we need to raise pigs so we are making that trade with friends. Or, we are able to get the boards for our barn from up the father/son mill up the road. We offer what we have in exchange for what we need as we build relationships with people who think similarly.

I guess much of our focus is local but it also applies globally as we think about how, where, and who everything that we consume and use comes from and how we can work and care for others as well. I don't think that everyone is intended for farming or rural living; we are all so diverse that our life work is also different. I love the quiet, I enjoy mucking out my goats pen, collecting the eggs, or pulling weeds from my garden. I enjoy raising cows with our neighbor, having people drop by unexpectedly for a chat, or asking wiser heads questions about animals but just yesterday we were chatting with my sister in law who is committed to their life in the city and they too are living well. I am glad for our bit of earth here in Nova Scotia and I am thankful that we were able to have it yet I realize that not everyone has that ability and/or desire.

We have lots of dreams and plans for our seven acres, many of which are being tweaked and reworked as we go. We are definitely dreamers so we are learning to balance our dreams with reality and that is good I think because we need both. I think that we are getting a clearer idea all the time of what we want to do as well as what we are able and choosing to accept where we are while slowly chipping away. It’s busy, it’s hard work, and often lots of setbacks, but we’re doing it and we are learning. Even if it doesn’t go like we plan, we have gained much.

Sorry, this was a long post with no pictures but it just kept coming. I would love to hear from you what your dreams and plans are. Is a farm life for you? Or do you love the city? What does community look like for you? How do you learn and teach your children about their food, the world around them, and how you and they relate?