Spring is finally here! For weeks we were watching for the moment when all the bare tree branches would leaf out and turn green and all of a sudden, we looked around and realized that it had happened, that the forest was a light shade of green instead of brown. It is a pretty miraculous process to see a bare stick form a tiny bud and then watch the bud unfurl into tiny oak leaves. Baby animals are abounding around us-- many of our neighbors have new piglets, pullets (chicks), goat kids, lambs, calves, and fowls frolicking around, rendering everything a little picture-postcard perfect. The only babies we seem to be harboring on our land are tick-babies, but that is okay, one day we will have more animals! In the meantime, we have started working one day a week at our friends, the Crawford's farm, Butterfly Hill Farm, which is a much more established version of what we are working on ourselves. Richard and Glinda are both retired from university careers and are both a wealth of knowledge on native and garden plants, animals, birds, and much else. As Glinda is recovering from a long struggle with cancer (and Richard as well, as care-taker), and they are preparing for their daughter's wedding on the farm later this month, they both felt the need for additional hands preparing their land and gardens for spring. And since we adore them, and are eager to learn from their experience, we stepped up to the job. (Pictures of their gardens below and above and more to come in the next post from the wedding.)
Meanwhile, the Crawfords offered us use of part of their garden beds to plant some of our own veggies this summer, while ours are still getting established, and we have jumped at the opportunity. We started some plants from seed and have been nursing them along through random late frosts (May 9th?) and blistering days of sun to the point where they will leave their little plastic cartons and become one with the earth. It has been hard to limit ourselves to only a few easy plant varieties, since we are now cooking out at our land and are somewhat limited for fresh produce. "One day..." we keep saying, "we should really focus on the house this summer..." Sigh.
And yet! One thing we really went for this year, and could very well be the major theme of the last few weeks, has been tree planting. Missouri's conservation department has a very amazing service where one can pre-order and purchase native tree starts from their nurseries for, well, .33 cents a tree! What a deal! Last fall we went in with our neighbors on a big order and ended up with 350 young Persimmon, Wild Plum, White Pine, Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, Paw Paw, Serviceberry, Mulberry, Choke Cherry, Black Locust, Elderberry, and Nannyberry tree that arrived in the mail three weeks ago. I am not sure what inspired us to such an ambitious order, but it has been quite a lot of work to get them all in the ground, watered and mulched! Still, it has been a good process for us to go through, envisioning natural privacy screens, windbreaks, firewood coppicing and edible gathering paths through the land, plus of course, an abundance of spring blossoms for bees and beauty of course. The best part about it all has been actually having a water source to pre-soak and water them with. We keep repeating to each other, "I'm so glad we put in the pond last year...", since we not only use the spigot all the time, we also now have a spectacular sunset view over the pond were we rest our weary bones at the end of each day and pause to watch the sky turn colors. Such a sweet world.
We have now been actually living on our land a little over a week, thanks in large measure to Mike's rain barrel and water filtration set-up that he has been working on. I realize that much of what enables us to live on our land is our ability to store food and water effectively. We have refined our systems greatly since last summer and now we are really self-sufficiently using the natural resources around us--rain and wood from the land--to drink, do dishes and cook food with. Mike figured out a way to use 5 gallon food-grade buckets plus the filtering components from Berkey filters to make our rain water potable. We also found these great twist-off lids for 5 gallon buckets that makes them much more usable for bulk food storage. We put in our first order from the "bulk buying club" that many people in our community are a part of (ordering once a month from bulk distributor UNFI), so now we are cooking and eating our meals al fresco in our little open-air kitchen/dining area. For that matter, we have hosted and fed guests several times now (including a bachelorette tea party), and it feels really good to be able to offer a space and meal to friends. More to come about our rocket stove and sun oven, since they are such amazing cooking tools and merit their own post.
Though most of this post has been about to-doings on our land, we have involved in a number of great community events that I seem never to have a camera on-hand at, including a May day party (complete with pole and ribbon dancing), a contra dance in the Duplex structure that I worked on two summers ago, work parties, birthday parties, potlucks, and we are about to take a four-day course at the neighboring Peace and Permaculture Center on Restorative Justice being taught by Dominic Barter (an amazing system of communication and conflict-resolution that is spreading around the world). So, more to come soon. Much love to family and friends reading along--spring blessings!