Life has been proceeding more or less apace, and it feels like a long time since I've sat down and contemplated anything, much less my Anyway Project goals. At the same time, all this business is a series of steps on the way to actually many of the things done. I hope that's true of all of you!
As you'll remember, the goal of the Anyway project is to integrate our preparations for a harder future with our daily life now, to turn them many parts into a whole. As I wrote previously:
The larger idea of the Anyway Project is to make our lives work more smoothly. Most of us stand with feet in several worlds - our domestic and professional ones, our adaptations to a world with less and our day to day life in a world with too much (in some cases). Making the intersections between these spaces functional, bringing the edges together and connecting them smoothly is the center of my project.
The seed flats are filled with tomatoes, peppers, onions, tomatillos, basil, broccoli, leeks, basil, eggplant, herbs and flowers of all kinds. By now many years the seed flats make occasional forays outside or onto a sunny porch for a sheltered visit to the world, but it is *cold* right now, and winter is hanging on like the old lion he is. The Garden Plant CSA/Herb, Vegetable and Native Plant nursery is growing apace on every window in the house, and with some things under lights as well, as we wait for the cold to let loose. The good news is that next year I should have a greenhouse - our wonderful friend Loren is going to build me one!
Goats are ready to pop in a week or two - today is Eric's barn cleaning marathon day, so things should be ready when the babies come after the first of April. All the winter's manure goes on the parts of the garden that get planted later as well. The first batch of chicks is feathered out and ready to start ranging when the cold spell breaks, and there are more forthcoming.
Eric is totally obsessed with bee keeping - and two nucs of locally bred Carnolian bees are coming in early May. I'm very excited about his obsession, which is frankly, good for both of us. This is the first farm project that Eric in all the years we've been here has truly taken on as wholly his own. I'm a little jealous ;-), in the sense that I've wanted bees for years, but I'm also thrilled to see Eric so fascinated and entranced. Besides, bees could be gateway drugs to something else cool ;-).
I'm also mulling over our planned expansion - we have pasture we're not using, and I have several ideas for how to make it work. For the last four years, we've shared sheep with my friend Elaine, who brings them to our pastures for the summer, and then takes them back for the winter. We get lamb and wool in barter, and sheep to keep the pastures down, but it is time for us to be more fully using that land. So I think this will be the last year of the shared sheep arrangement (which is sad, but she's got other options and it won't affect the friendship!). So now it is time to fish or cut bait on what exactly we're going to do. Raise calves on our excess goat milk, and produce baby beef? Our own sheep? If so what breed(s)? Or should we expand our goat operation into meat goats and/or fiber goats. We're going to do some expansion - I do want to produce Nigora (dual purpose miniature milk/fiber goats) goats, but how far to go? Decisions, decisions....
All of this is also hanging on the fact that once it becomes possible to actually do stuff outside, everything *has* to be done at once. New garden beds. Greenhouse. Planting. Hardening off seedlings. Taking down the old pasture fence and mowing. Running the new pasture fence. Market days and open farm days. Goat baby stuff.
Along with the usual farm projects, there is our family expansion project as well which has taken up a huge space in our life. More than halfway through our MAPP training (foster parent training), I feel rather like I did when the baby started kicking in each pregnancy - "oh, yeah, there's a *baby* in there - all this hassle (puking, classes, depending on the case) isn't for no reason." The kids that will come into our lives aren't babies (we assume) mostly, but we're starting to get focused on the mechanics of real people. Friends of ours whose daughter became engaged realized that their daughter will be needing something other than a set of bunkbeds to sleep on now, and are generously passing them on to us - the bunkbeds and some other furniture arrive on Sunday. I still have hopes of painting the kids' bedroom spring green, rather than the white and muted yellow it is now (boring), but it may or may not happen. We can always leave open the option of painting both kids rooms in the late fall, when everyone can choose their own colors.
We've got books in the bookcase, my mother is starting to look around for used twin bedding, a dear friend has kindly organized a project to knit afghans (more on that at the end of the post), the children have done very well with their weekly babysitting nights, we're still hunting for a van large enough to haul the six of us and two or three more kids (for years we've all driven in one Ford Taurus, which believe it or not can safely hold 6 people with carseats and boosters and buckles - we look like clowns getting out of a clown car, though - very environmentally efficient, but as the boys get bigger, its days were coming to an end anyway) - anyone out there in our general region knows someone selling an inexpensive used 8+ passenger van, let me know!
There are a few more steps in the process - Eric and I have to get fingerprinted (think of the crimes I can't commit now...damn!), my physical is next week, we have to get the well water tested, and we still have a few more classes, but we can see the day coming when we'll get down to the brass tacks. My mother's observation is that she's ready to get to the essentials - ages, gender, clothing sizes. Me too - I always did think that waiting for kids, whether the old-fashioned way or otherwise, took too damned long ;-). Patience has never been one of my virtues - I've always had a "as long as we're going to do it, let's get at it attitude" (actually, I felt that way about labor too), but I'm trying to be patient, and I am enjoying the time with just the four boys. We've planned some family visits and travel for the next couple of months, since we'll be staying home for a while after kids come.
The ties between family and community have been really evident in this - we have been able to turn to friends and community members in so many ways. Our friends and family have covered our weekly childcare (non-trivial, since we can't leave Eli with everyone) for the MAPP classes. Friends have passed along good advice, shared furniture and offered clothing that we won't have (and there's that knitting and crocheting thing again...look at the bottom of the post for more!). After some years of being able mostly to offer help, rather than accept it, we have been turning to others, and the kindness they have offered has been intensely humbling and gratifying. While we're still somewhat flexible we've been trying to do our part too to reciprocate - it is harder in many ways to receive than to give, though, and in some ways, better for us.
A lot of my other Anyway Project Goals are sort of mixed in with this - the nursery business obviously has a lot to do with the farm revitalization project. The family stuff seems part of the project as well - life is tough out there already for a lot of people and just getting harder. It isn't something I can entirely fix, but I'm anxious to do what we can.
We haven't made as much progress on the reorganization as I'd really like, but we have three weeks of Pesach cleaning ahead of us as we get ready for the Passover holiday, and the rearranging of furniture that accompanies the new acquisitions, so I have hope.
Outside work and finances have also not gotten the attention they deserve. I applied for an IATTP Food and Policy Fellowship and didn't get it, so now I have to think about what I will do to support my family in the coming year, beyond the usual, and given that because of new children my normally somewhat limited talk and travel schedule will be *really* limited. I do have to finish the Anyway Project/Adapting in Place book, now in progress 3 years (longer than it took me to do my first three books ;-)), but I'm starting to realize that I probably need to make or find an actual regular paid venue for my writing, because with more family members, our expenses will go up.
Foster parent stipends don't cover things like eating locally and sustainably, so I might actually have to get a real job! Or maybe not - I'm still trying to figure this one out. In many ways I've been so blessed not to be financially pressed - our very low cost lifestyle has made it possible for me to take the speaking gigs that interest me, rather than the ones that pay well, to write for free where I want to, etc... I know most people don't have that luxury, but I'm finding it hard to entirely give up on the possibility - at the same time, who can complain about something so ordinary as having to work for money, rather than for pleasure? The problem is that other things will have to give if that's the case - that's probably less time for the farm, for the things we do that reduce our costs, etc.... Again, this is nothing that everyone doesn't have to balance, but I'm still clinging to the hope we can make things work without my actually going to the lengths of hunting for a *serious job* - I work more or less full time on my writing and also on my farming, but the ability to be flexible has been so important, and losing that would be a real loss.
Time and happiness - our life is overscheduled right now, mostly in good ways and I haven't fully been able to manage this. I haven't kept my "three days a week" resolution as a writer - I've got to figure out what would make that possible for me. I find myself looking more and more towards Shabbat every week, to our sabbath that we explicitly clear upfront - time with friends and family, quiet and peace. I've always enjoyed it, but as we've been busier, it becomes like oxygen, a necessary space for all of us.
After the second week in July, we have purposely planned to stay home, on the assumption that additional children may be part of our family by then. I'm looking forward to this, too. Summer is busy, of course, with harvesting, gardening, preserving, and by July our thoughts start turning to winter, and I'm certain that two or three new kids will turn our lives to chaos. At the same time, just being at home and staying there for a while, building in time to establish a routine sounds satisfying with all the going and doing we've been doing.
Did I mention that I was very fortunate to have kindness and generosity coming at me from all directions? One place it has come from is my longtime internet friend MEA (who I have never met in person but hope to one of these days) also known on facebook as Alyss. I mentioned I was planning on knitting afghans for each of the beds for the new kids, and MEA offered to help and suggested others might as well. I think she rightly suspected that if left to me, the afghans might never get finished! So no pressure at all, but if you are aching for a knitting or crocheting project, and would like to make one or more 8x8 squares, we'll sew them together at a finishing party (hopefully in MEA's neighborhood - I'll come down to NJ and we'll have a bash!). If we get more than we need, we'll donate any additional afghans to other foster kids - there are certainly plenty of them.
MEA put together a facebook group "Gleanings Knitters" to get us started, so if you'd like to join a knit/crochet-a-long please do! I sometimes get lost in the fantasy of doing everything myself - but the project of expanding our family has been a powerful revelation of how reliant I am on my community. I've been reliant on my community here, as many people who have been through the foster and adoptive process have opened their experience to me, and my home community. I feel very lucky that I can rely so much on my community here - thank you all.
So how has this month been for the rest of y'all?
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I still have to send you your tablecloth! (It's finished, it's just waiting for a few tucked ends and good pressing, I swear!)
But I'll add my name to the list of the crochet/knitters. I'll make a few squares, and I'll see if I can throw a nice throw blanket in there or something. Those crochet up in no time (at least, it would after I finish the baby blanket I'm making for my step-sister :-P).
I'm excited for you with all of your plans coming into place and lining up properly. I don't doubt that you'll come to love your foster children, but I wish you luck in any possible struggles to come.
I wish Eric good luck with the bees. Our first year with them was pretty much a disaster, but we're going to try again this year. Bees are utterly fascinating creatures, but even if they weren't they are desperately crucial to our food supply. So I feel it's a duty to try to keep them.
I'm not on facebook, so I don't have access to the afghan squares page. But please post any updates on the project on your blog. I can't promise that I'll get a square done; like you I'm very busy once spring arrives properly. And I tend to do most of my knitting in winter. But if I do get some squares knitted, I'd like to know what to do with them. I might even make the sewing party in NJ, depending on when and where it is.
MEA, if you see this, I've tried your email twice, with and without the capitalization you indicated. It's bouncing back to me as a permanent fail. ??? Sharon, not sure if MEA found my comment on her own, or if you forwarded it to her. If the latter, please pass on the message?
Ah, Sharon... more kids? I was hoping you'd go take your revolutionariness up a notch... I am sad. Just seemed to me that you've done a heroic job in the raising kids department, and there are so many other challenges...
I've been feeling guilty for not saying anything... I remember we helped talk you out of trooping through Albany as a neighborhood organizer... wish I had pitched in more boldly with this one. Sigh. May you path lead you well. Best of luck, in any case.