Sometimes in the busy and the hard days that life seems to throw at us, it is easy to get discouraged and to forget about the beautiful, simple things. These pictures are from an evening last week when we all experienced the simple joy of looking for wild strawberries. I think the pictures speak for themselves. I needed to look at them tonight.
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?
This past weekend, we took a much appreciated vacation to Prince Edward Island. We were able to find caretakers for our animals and thanks to the generosity of friends of our dear friend Erin, had a home to stay in for a few days there. It is a little unbelievable to me still that we live within a few hours driving distance of a place that was a dream world to me as a child. I won’t lie, I still feel a little sad that Anne of Green Gables is fictional but I loved our time on her island. We also went there for our honeymoon and there was something sweetly fun about going back. The weather was beautiful, we played together, went to beaches with friends, went swimming, had ice cream, ate meals that I didn’t cook, had a date night, and I even had a girls night of “sharing hearts” with my college friends Britt and Erin. Our girls had so much fun and it was just very restful. And the best part? Being glad to come home after a great time away. Ready to keep walking in this life with all that it brings each day. I’m thankful.
We both brought our cameras but actually have very few pictures between us. I just have to share some of what we did take.
It seems that life lately has been an ongoing saga of awakening, wrestling and releasing. It’s brought a bit of silence to my written voice here because I find it hard to give words to the light and the every day happenings yet haven’t been ready to share the more personal reflection. This place that we call home, this place of deep roots, wild still calm beauty, and hard, slowly written stories has urged me to look at life and at myself in ways that I never have before. I am seeing both my flaws and my beauty. Sometimes, I am grieved at what I see. Sometimes, I want to dance. Both often bring tears.
As I sat on a grassy, buttercup strewn hill overlooking the water to the tiny community on the other side of the inlet, I struggled to find words to tell you, dear readers, about the awakening that I am experiencing. For here in this place, I am waking up though I was never asleep. All of my life I have been wakening; I’ve been leading up to this moment that will lead to the next and still the next. Some of these moments seem more gloriously and painfully profound but they wouldn’t be there with the middle or the little ones. Does that make any sense?
I love life and live intensely, purposefully, and intentionally. I rejoice fully, I hurt greatly for others and for myself, I become discouraged easily, and I don’t give up or in gracefully. Change of any kind throws my whole world off balance. This past year has shaken me to my core and although I knew that it would, I wasn’t prepared. And so with that proverbial rug swept from under my feet, I’m finding where to place them again. It’s a process that is requiring more changes especially those from within. They are hard coming and they are oh so welcome.
I have spoken several times of my desire to live well and whole-heartedly; it is a closely held desire. It’s a desire that covers a lot of how I live; how we live because Dan shares that desire with me. A few nights ago, I lamented to Dan about all that I have going on in my head. I think about almost everything. I ponder, discuss, observe, listen, read, and research the way that I live. And I wed a man who analyzes everything. For me, to know is to act, to do it or at least attempt. In my mind this has been to live well. Others might call label it perfectionism but I have never liked labels;). I’ve often been sad for those caught up in the wheel of perfectionism but have accepted it in myself for what I deem “good” things. They are good things, many are great things, and they have become my crutch.
Because of all my knowledge, understanding, and beliefs of good and my determination to act fully, all of these wonderful things have begun to create anxiety, frustration, and guilt because I can’t do everything that I, and only I, have placed on myself. As I look at our life it has a great deal that is exactly what I sought but there are things that I have rushed, some things weren’t meant for this time and some things won’t ever be done up to my “standard”. Yet, I’ve fought giving anything up because it was good or the best for us. I’ve refused to lower my standards in my mind even when it is obvious that they can’t be reality. And I’ve kept thinking that I could just try a little harder or that the breakthrough was just around the corner. I would get it right (said with chin up, shoulders squared, back straight.). But slowly, bit by bit, I have been awakening to the fact that I will never get it right and perhaps I was never meant to. I won’t ever be everything to my children, my husband, or anyone else; I shouldn’t be. I don’t make our little world spin round though I tend to live as if I do. Knowing all kinds of great things and life enriching information doesn’t mean that I must act or else I am a failure. I’m going to mess up until the day I rest in the grave. I’m going stand ashamed before the hurt eyes of my husband as he hears my unfair, cutting words. I am going to feel like a hypocrite telling my girls that I am sorry for unkind words that matched the ones I told them not to speak earlier. I’ll crawl into bed chastising myself for the lateness of the hour and the exhaustion that I know I will feel in the morning. I’ll give the inward cringe as I turn on the dryer when the line and sun beckon outside. I’ll cover one large garden plot with plastic until next year and try to keep the weeds down enough to allow a fraction of the plants that I had intended to grow to produce. I’ll swallow my pride and write an email giving up my dream cow of highland jersey mix. Some days I’ll do art and dance with my girls while on others, I’ll do dishes and wash floors, but some days I’ll everything poorly. I’ll be home with my girls thankfully but there will be times that I envy Dan. Doubtless there will be mornings that I will wish I didn’t have to wake up. I treasure my quiet reading and praying but I’ll still get busy in the morning and forget. I will feel that my life is hard even though I know I have a beautiful one. Some days, I will feel like I have messed up, oh, just about everything. Still, the point is that Love is woven through my entire life and it is the grace of that making my life well lived.
And so my friends, a conversation that began with me letting go of my dream cow continued my awakening. To life that means so much more.
We have been hosting our first guests to our fledgling guest house for the past couple of weeks. Usually, we send them off to enjoy the beauty of Nova Scotia while we continue with daily life but Friday was just so bright and happy that we made a spur of the moment decision to join in the excursion to the south shore. A decision well made; it was absolutely beautiful.
We have decided that we will be taking all our friends and family who visit in the future to the sandy shores of the Atlantic. Any takers? We love company!
After a caesarean with my second daughter, Cecily, due to complete placenta previa, I knew that a VBAC would be a challenge with my next baby. Especially here in Nova Scotia where midwives are basically unavailable. I asked Lola to attend my birth for several reasons; 1) she is a good friend, 2) We share much the same view on labour, birth, and well, much of life in general, only Lola is far more knowledgeable than I on pregnancy and birth. 3) I knew that I would need a strong support if I was going to have a VBAC. Lola was a perfect mix of what I needed as she provided physical support during a long labor, helped me keep my sense of humor, and most importantly, helped advocate and offer her knowledge as I made birthing decisions. I am so glad to be able to share some of her thoughts on being a doula with you today.
I’ve been a Doula for seven years now. When Marissa asked me to write about my experience as a Doula and my views on birth I was really excited. And then I panicked. I’m not your typical Doula and I have some very strong opinions on how birth could and should be handled better in North America. I’ll share a bit about it all and try to keep it brief.
What is a Doula?
DONA International defines a Doula with the following…
The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
That seems to be a pretty accurate description. I also take photographs or video tape births if that’s what the parents want.
Why, Where and When did I become a Doula?
I need to say right at the beginning that I find the idea of hiring a Doula strange. In other cultures, birth attendants have always been close friends or family members such as sisters, mothers, aunts or grandmothers. Unfortunately, in our society we have lost vital understanding of the process and we no longer approach birth with a feeling of confidence but rather with fear and trepidation. Many women do not even know how the actual growing and birthing of a baby happens and that negatively effects the way we can offer each other support and assistance. It’s sad that we have to hire someone to fill in for the roles that used to be had by close family or friends but I do think that with the current state of things, Doula’s can be incredibly beneficial for an expecting mother.
With that said, I’ll explain why I decided to enter the profession almost 8 years ago. I’ve always loved pregnancy and birth. When I was newly married, I longed to somehow be a part of the birth process but I wasn’t sure how so I researched different ways I could help women to have a wonderful birth experience. A doula fit the bill perfectly. I was trained by CAPPA Canada and found three lovely women who agreed to let me attend their births as a part of my certification process. Looking back now, I realize what a novice I was. I’ve learned so much since then and have gained a very deep respect for the birth process. My views are more realistic but I still see birth as a natural and beautiful event.
At the time of my training I lived in a small town in Alberta that had a small hospital where all of the low risk deliveries took place. I had my first baby there and attended many families during my time spent in Alberta. It was in that delivery room I gained my confidence as a Doula. I massaged and photographed and massaged and ran for water and… did I say massaged? As wonderful as it was to gain so much experience, It’s also where I started to see major flaws in the way birth is managed. We’ve moved many times since then and I’ve been able to work with many different women and a variety of care providers. Over the years, I’ve discovered my specific gifts and also my weaknesses. We can’t be all things to all people and I’ve learned to embrace that and be up front with my prospective clients so they can know ahead of time if I’m what they will need. I’m a very knowledgeable Doula who serves well under pressure. I have a healthy bank of information stored in my head that I can access when needed. I am encouraging and affirming. But I am not good at making birth a moody or dramatic event. Some women really need and want that. There are some Doulas who are wonderful at making birth ceremonial and emotional but that is not my specific gifting and I gladly refer women to others who can better suit their needs if that’s necessary.
We live in Nova Scotia now and I have three (almost four) beautiful young children so I don’t advertise as a Doula currently but I will always attend births. It’s just something that I love. Lately, I definitely feel more drawn to the possibility of becoming a childbirth educator for the area and I’d love to focus on helping underprivileged, single or very young mothers confidently birth their babies.
The female body works in amazing ways. Pregnancy and birth provide a unique time for women and their families to understand this and to become confident in making decisions about what, where, when and how they will bring their children into the world.
We have the unique privilege of living in a society of plenty. We have food, water, information and medical help available for most people in Canada and that is such a blessing. But somehow, in the last sixty or so years, we have handed over our rights of carrying and birthing babies to a system that has shown itself to be less than ideal, mostly by the embarrassingly high infant and maternal mortality rates and the soaring Caesarean sections being performed. There are legitimate reasons for medical interventions but the excessive and unwarranted use of them can cause serious harm to young vulnerable newborns and mothers. It’s only when we are confident and informed that we can say yes or no to the options laid out before us. Doula’s can help with this sometimes drastic learning curve.
As women, we have also become out of touch with how our bodies function. Things like assessing our own cervical dilation, fundal height, foetal position, and fertility awareness are all things we should be knowledgeable about and comfortable with. Trained health care providers are a service we are privileged to have access to in Canada but that doesn’t excuse us of the responsibility of understanding the process ourselves. We routinely force babies out before they are ready, clamp them and lay them in plastic containers to be blinded by lights, foot thumps and cold instruments before they have shown any sign of needing to be taken away from their mothers. One of the saddest things I see as a Doula is a women lovingly and longingly looking over at her baby on the warming bed while he or she is weighed, measured and dressed before being handed back to be fed, sometimes an hour later. Babies belong to mothers and fathers and we must remember that. We can gladly accept medical help but ultimately the decisions we make, or refuse to make fall on our own shoulders. It can be a frightening realization but also a very empowering and freeing one. I love what I do. I’m blessed to be able to be a part of such a life changing time for so many families but I want to encourage women to know and understand what’s happening. Take charge of it. Own it. And whether you have a home birth, hospital birth or caesarean birth you can know that you were able to make the best decision for your baby and yourself.
Have you had a Doula and if so, how did affect your birth experience? How has your birth experience affected you?
My name is Lola and I’m a pretty ordinary woman, wife, and mama who also happens to be a Doula and novice homesteader. I live in Nova Scotia with my family and live for sunny days at the beach and deep conversation with friends. I am wildly blessed and am learning to not become sidetracked from the truly beautiful and meaningful things in life. www.nearerstillnearer.squarespace.com
These spring days have been full and busy in our home. Most days just seem to whirl by and I am not sure where they went to. With my computer being down for the last couple of weeks, I’ve not been able to keep up with the world of technology well at all which is probably just as well right now. And then when I do have a moment to use Dan’s computer, my brain just refuses to click into that mode.
So here are some pictures to show a little of what has been going on. They are mostly pretty fun and have no way of capturing our slightly (or very) scattered life right now. Several times a day as a small fraction of what needs to be done gets done, I ask myself, What were we thinking?
One day at a time.
Sometimes, I feel like life just rushes forward and all I can see are the unfinished dishes, the bathrooms waiting to be cleaned and the fifty-plus other things that I never seem to catch up to. But these pictures say that there is more. In their hurriedly snapped, unedited state they are proclaiming that life is being lived well in many ways. Sure, Hazel pulls the stake out or breaks her tether daily, yes, the barn needs to more work, and another pile of dishes awaits. But, my girls are living the way that I really want them to. As hard and unfeasible as it is sometimes, we are living a good life. And so tonight, I am going to celebrate that.