Close to a month ago, we noticed a pair of Stellar's jays building a nest in the camellia bush outside our dining room window. Then we saw Mama & Papa bird taking turns sitting while the other found good things to eat. The incubation period of a Stellar's Jay egg is supposed to be 17 days. As of last week, we were officially starting to wonder if all of Mama & Papa birds' efforts had been for naught.
Then, just today, we saw Mama bird sitting on the side of her nest. Upon closer inspection, we were also able to see two little nestlings in the classic baby bird pose; faces turned upward in anticipation of food, scrawny necks extended as far as they could be stretched in the hopes that they'd be the recipient of more of Mama bird's delicious regurgitated grub.
I grabbed my camera immediately. Alas, my expensive, fancy camera wouldn't take a nice picture of the birds or the nest, but would only focus on the dag-gum camellia branches. So a grainy, under-lit cell phone picture is the best I could do. I think I can see a nestling in this pic. Judge for yourself -
Maybe it's silly, but when a wild creature chooses our little foothold as a sufficiently abundant, safe place to raise a family, I take it as a positive affirmation that we're being good and gentle stewards of our land and the creatures who, whether by their choice or ours, call this place home. :)
I'm 80% back to where I was, oh, almost 3 years ago. Back in the Summer good ol' 2010, when we first bought this place, I was kinda kicking butt and taking names farm/garden/house-wise. Between Bill and I, we kept the lawn mowed, the flower beds mostly weeded, and the critters and kids safe, well fed and generally presentable. Darn those were good times!
Fast forward to the present. The yard is straight-up out of control, the girls are old enough to dress and style themselves, for better or worse (trust me, sometimes it's worse!), the house hasn't had a top-to-bottom cleaning since I don't know when, and the laundry... sweet baby jeebus, the laundry.
I feel like I'm treading water. I get the house mostly caught up, then it's time to put the garden in, and the house falls massively behind. Then the reverse happens, it's Autumn, and I can mostly quit stressing about the yard and garden and focus on the house, then a metric crap-ton of leaves fall and the rains hit and turn our yard and garden into muck soup, which will take massive cleanup come Spring...and the cycle continues.
I can't keep up. I can't mentally juggle the nutritional needs of four humans and 50+ critters and keep my carpet vacuumed and have a clean car and volunteer at the girls' schools and make my own cheese and keep my sanity. Something has to give.
So this school year, I didn't volunteer. So far, I haven't made cheese, though that is not something I want to give up, I just can't find the time for it just now, and my loss is the pigs' gain - they're big fans of our goat milk. My car is littered with latte cups and other weird odds and ends, and has a trunk full of clothes that I've been meaning to drop by the Salvation Army for, seriously, months now. On the whole, it doesn't bother me too much, because I know what my priorities are and why, but to the outside observer who doesn't know the backstory on our year of crap, it probably looks like I'm a giant slacker and a half-assed mom, and that bothers me.
So what do I do? Do I run myself ragged trying to keep up appearances when, deep down, I'm not terribly bothered by the fact that I have a dandelion forest in my front yard and a ring-around-the-tub? Or do I focus on the stuff that I feel really satisfies me - canning weird flavors of jam, knitting a million dishcloths, cooking from scratch and having dinner on the beach with my family?
It's no contest. I choose the experience of togetherness over the facade of always having it together.
Now, how do I make myself ok enough with my choice to hold my head up high and not explain or apologize for my messy car, my cluttered porch or my daughter's whack-a-doo self-styled hair? Seriously - how?
Every year (though usually a little earlier than June) I need a farm chick mental rev-up; a little shot in the arm in the form of inspiration to really get me energized and excited about the upcoming growing season. Normally, I re-read something like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle or just about anything by Gene Logsdon or Michael Pollan to get my juices flowing. This year though, I was off to a slower-than-normal start and needed a little extra something to get me pumped up about getting outside and playing in the dirt and slogging critter poo hither and yon.
This year it wasn't a book that got me going, but an event.
I spent the last two days at the Mother Earth News Fair at our state's fairgrounds in Puyallup ("Pyoo-al-up") attending some fascinating, exciting seminars and classes on everything from planting bee-friendly medicinal gardens, choosing the right heritage breed turkey and building your own cob oven, to quickly and efficiently processing your homegrown poultry. It was pretty dang awesome.
The folks in attendance were a very interesting mix of people, primarily composed of two camps - uber-liberal, crunchy granola types and the very conservative, dressed-in-their-Sunday-best types - and very few from the middle of the spectrum, a fact which I found fascinating.
We brought the kiddos along, one of whom was slightly less than thrilled to be going. But, after a day spent wandering through the poultry barn to check out some rare and beautiful chickens, eating local, organic ice cream and going home with a new, free German angora bunny, I daresay she actually really enjoyed herself.
The other kid and I straight-up drooled over some beautiful chickens, but somehow managed to resist bringing any home. My Bird Girl took the following picture of her favorite breed on display -
I, myself, am madly obsessed with the Showgirl chicken. Which is essentially a naked neck Silkie. *swoon* Someday...
Tempted though I was to bring home some fancy new hens, I managed to just say no, and instead mostly binged on books. You're familiar with my obsession for reading-all-things-farmish, right? Did you also know that I'm a hoarder collector of rare and signed books? Guess who had the best day ever?
Seriously. I got to meet Joel Salatin and he signed my books. Farm nerd/book geek nirvana! I was so pumped, that even after spending 8 hours tromping from one end of the fairgrounds to the other and back again a zillion times, that I came home and went straight to work in the garden, planting another two beds of melons and medicinal and edible flowers. It felt great to take some of what I had just learned and put it to use straight away.