work clothes.

In a city jaunt last week, we stopped by a ‘work warehouse’ in the hopes of finding insulated coveralls for both P. and I and instead, it appeared we stumbled upon the warehouse of very segregated blue collar/pink collar work clothes. Construction/Outdoors etc. workwear in the « Men’s » section and scrubs and office-like workwear in the « Women’s » section.

 

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Sociologically fascinating, of course, to see such a prescriptive and backwards division of men and women’s labour force choices, but scrubs won’t help me much on the farm. And a 36" waist just won’t hold up either.

On my previous trip to that place a year ago, I left in a similar frustrated huff after having a choice of exactly two steel toed work boots in women’s sizes — and only one option in the non-pink category. I’m not against pink, far from it, I just don’t need ALL my work clothes to be that colour to, you know, like remember I’m a woman.

If anyone has any leads on where to find smaller sized farm/outdoor work attire, I’d love the tip. Ordering online from any other retailer also an option.

 

 

 

Publicités

the cull cow dilemma

 

Okay, hear me out.

 

We have an old cow (a cull cow) who’s losing weight and quite old. We bought a herd this Spring and have been surprised by the advanced age of some of the cows. When animals aren’t doing super well after a luscious summer on fresh pasture, it doesn’t bode well for them for winter. Our vet said there wasn’t anything she could do for the animal and the best thing for us to do would be to ship her to auction. From what I understand, animals shipped to auction are bought for feed lots and feed lot animals are not treated well.

We care deeply about our cattle, but can’t afford to feed an animal who will deteriorate during the season and cost a fair amount to have her body removed from the pastures should she pass.

Since she hasn’t spent the bulk of her life at our farm, we can’t guarantee that she is entirely ‘grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free’ as we do our yearlings, but she has been pasture fed since her arrival in May. Our 5+ year plan is to have a closed herd, with all animals born here. At that time, our older cattle would be turned into ground beef and we won’t have to deal with this issue of auctions and of how to recoup costs without sacrificing our ethics.

In the meantime though, I feel we have an unspoken agreement with the cattle here. They get all the fresh pasture they can eat, move about freely, have water aplenty always, their young with them for as long as it is feasible, and they are not shipped to feed lots (or to any place where we feel they won’t be treated with the same respect and care they receive here).

As a result, we would feel better about sending her to the abattoir and selling her meat, knowing that she lived well and that she won’t needlessly endure hardship. However, the cow is older and skinnier and we have no way of knowing the quality of the meat (i.e. steaks wouldn’t be great but ground beef should be alright). So we’re brainstorming ways of marketing this ‘compassion beef’.

 

So we’re wondering :

Would you be interested in buying sausages, salami or ground beef for this or other such animals? Or meat for pets?

Alternatively, do you have any other ideas of ways to transform and market this meat?

 

on ‘boys will be boys’ and the like.

We received an invitation for a brainstorm day a while back and part of the email included a piece about kids not being welcome because they can kill concentration. They totally do. Hands down. Work days with kids are double work days, for sure. (We don’t all have childcare though, so it is a barrier, but that’s a point for another day). It was framed as boy children being hard to manage, which really irked me. So I drafted a response, but forgot to edit and send it off. And since it’s been so long and I don’t know the sender personally, I thought using this as a writing exercise to be better equipped to verbalize these things on the spot later is more appropriate anyways.
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« About the kids piece, I need to share a point, just because I spend a lot of time thinking about this. I know that statements like « we have too many boys to keep it sane » really mean « we have too many toddlers/preschoolers to keep things under control, » but I feel that the popular stereotype that boys are more rambuctuous and harder to manage is not only false but also damaging to both boys and girls. To boys because it fits into the « boys will be boys » narrative that says it’s okay and ‘natural’ for boy children to wreck things and to be less respectful (which unfortunately doesn’t stop in toddlerhood, but is an expectation society has of boys and men). And damaging to girls because the underlying assumption here is that girls are « easier » to raise because they’re more docile, obedient, quiet; which is really problematic if we’re hoping to have strong outspoken women in positions of power and girls expecting (and negotiating) egalitarian partnerships as they grow up. I realize being nit-picky about language can be grating and seem uptight but I think that inviting children to be and to experience a whole wide range of emotions and behaviours, regardless of their sex and gender is our best tool for curbing gender inequality, for getting both men and women to take a stand against violence against women, and a surefire way to create a culture of consent good and early in the next generations. Hearing adults say that they act/behave a certain way because they’re boys or girls (whether or not the shoe fits), impacts their self-perceptions and, I’m convinced, spirals into self-fulfilling prophecies. Children are also the strictest gender polices once they crack the code of adults’ gender rules, which further reinforces a sub-optimal status quo. If we use more inclusive language, we all win. »
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(The revolution will start with language.)
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And on that note, I had some really fruitful conversations with our friend D this summer about how one can shift a culture, about what makes people start thinking, talking and behaving differently. I had been feeling weighed down by having to bring up gender issues, women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, children’s rights issues ALL THE TIME. You get called uptight a lot for shit like that. But in our conversations it clicked : we are conscious and particular about how we communicate, about the words we use and the words we teach because it effects the way we think, the way we classify information and what we think (/what we communicate) is important.
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My favourite example :  despite the fact that kiddo can tell (and will tell) if a (fully clothed) visitor has a penis or a vagina, he refers to people not as women or men but as people or children. He knows that there are biological males and females out there, he just doesn’t think (or hasn’t been encouraged to think) it’s the most salient characteristic about them. De quoi je suis bien fière.
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(Also, any pointers on how to talk about issues non-confrontationally when it’s something that folks just don’t have on their radars would be much appreciated. Because I don’t think I’m there).
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hen loss.

We lost two hens today.

I spotted a neighbour’s dog in our yard as I was going back to the shop from the pasture to get another styrofoam decagone to stuff into the culvert to get the winter water pumps installed. I thought it was our dairy calf Simon at first, but there was a meaner look to him. I ran towards him, saw piles of feathers and a hen run past me. I chased the dog back to his property, completely distraught and probably wailing.

At first, I couldn’t see any of the hens. I eventually found one, unscathed, held and hugged her, and put her safely in her coop. All alone. I found another in the shop later on, this one with half of her back feathers missing and a sad looking scar on her back. I made sure she could still get up to the roosts and nesting boxes and tucked them in for the night, heavy hearted.

 

 

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These hens are the closest thing I’ve had to a pet in over a decade. They follow me around the yard and in the garden, and are such a pleasure to have, free ranging about, eating the compost, holding their own with the barn cats, playing around the sand piles with kiddo. Along with our dairy duo, the hens make this place a farm to me. More than the cattle herds which are often too far from the house to hear or see them, or the farm machinery strewn about the yard.

I am so sadenned by this loss. I know this is a cattle farm and animals die for us to make a living. But these weren’t meat birds. They were friend birds.

 

Hopefully we’ll be able to get a few guest birds to share the coop this winter. Heating a chicken coop can be a bit of a fire hazard (straw + heat + closed coop), so the best thing to do, I’ve read, is to make sure you have enough birds to produce enough heat to keep themselves warm. A duo will surely be cold in there.

womenfolk.

 

From snow and frosts (bringing with them the stress of not having completed our frost-free winter water pumps project), to t-shirt weather (bringing renewed hope that we’ll get the potatoes out of the ground before they’re frozen solid), the farm emotions roller-coaster continues.

 

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Again, we’ve been so fortunate to have had so many good friends come to spend time with us at the farm and that so many have come with a great willingness to roll up (and muddy) their sleeves.

Our latest visitor has been an inspiring femme-à-tout-faire here, a Jill-of-all-trades, if you will.

 

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It’s been great to have the help of a can-do fellow farmer, of course, and for me, it’s been especially soulful to have another woman in this home, a competent, assertive, kind soul who knows what she’s talking about and holds her own in our pipe trenches, working with P. and the male contractor. I breathe easier living with individuals who subvert stereotypes and dated social norms. I am less on edge, more able to go about my business of garden tending or child minding, knowing that someone here is pushing the boundaries, broadening the scope of what women and men can (and choose to) do here. Both in my mind and for the older neighbours, farmers and contractors around who sometimes make it so hard for me to have any hope that I’ll choose a career/project path without having my main motivator be « I’ll show them! »

Having her company this past week has confirmed for me the importance of having other women on the farm. Both for my sense of safety and to open up the realm of what is possible. To foster the alternative and progressive home base we’re both, P. and I, longing for.  And to show them, quand même.

We will miss you , A.

 

the end of october.

 

Colder times are upon us. We wake up to frost and bundle up before going out to work or play. We’re still in the midst of our big water works project, with more than half of the trench dug, pipe laid, and backfilled. it’s going to cost us more than we budgeted but we keep reminding ourselves that getting water to all the pastures is a really solid and important investment. Orchards, market gardens, etc. It opens up interesting opportunities for ourselves and the community we’re hoping to create here.

Speaking of community, some kind (feminist! food sovereign!) folks from town have lent us their dehydrator. It’s the perfect solution to my pumpkin seed drying woes. The first batch is dry as a fiddle and crispy as a chip. Time to roll up my sleeves and get the seeds out of the other 30 some pumpkins.

 

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In other news, D. got his bus out on Friday. He’s been a stapple here, one of the family. It was hard to see him go. Luckily kiddo loves to talk about the people he misses but in joyful ways. Telling us what the person would be doing, or yelling out their names so that we include them in our songs. The last thing D. did before we drove off  was to sit across the tractor’s forks to take a good aerial shot of the corral that he worked so hard on. It was quite a happy sight.

 

 

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I’m also quite grateful that I met these friendly town folks right before this departure. It gives me renewed hope that we won’t always be alone here, this nuclear family of mine.. that our home will again know the sounds of friendship and laughter like it did this summer.

 

We had one of our last family harvest days. Getting the chard, the beets, the beet greens, and the cabbage sorted, into the cooler or into buckets for processing.

 

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Récolter les choux avec mon chou. C’est beau quand même.

 

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And with the below freezing temperatures, I thought it wise to move the hens from their chicken tractor to the old coop in the barn. When I first saw the coop, I vowed that I’d build something new for the hens, convinced that they needed a cozier home than this. But time got away on me this summer and with a thick layer of straw, it doesn’t look so bad. plus the place is full of roosts, has light bulbs in it, and hooks to hang both the feeder and the waterer, which is super handy. And as much as I’d love to paint them a cheery mural, the paint will be pecked and the chips are quite toxic, so this is alright.

 

 

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As a previously urban person, though, it’s hard to move past this feeling (this conviction!) that all of these animals need to be indoors. I could appreciate that the dairy calf enjoyed frolicking in fields during the heat of June, but in the dead of a cold winter? Seems unlikely to me.

For all I know the conventional animals are itching to get outside, I guess.

 

Next up, packing a whole lot of beef into boxes and digging up the better part of the potato patch.

 

caring for the barfy.

my 9 new rules for taking care of a barfy child

(to stop focusing on my vomit phobia)

  1. stay on top of the laundry. with a limited number of sleepers that fit, it’s the thing to do.
  2. a spray bottle of vinegar water and vigilance are my friends.
  3. stay busy (see number 1 and 2).
  4. put away all hand wovens and 100% favourite wool things.
  5. imagine myself as a nurse instead of a stressed mama (this will help me feel noble and keep my cool).
  6. if playing with the phone or laptop keeps us both calm and busy for a time, consider it a victory.
  7. let kid eat if he shows interest. some of it is bound to stay down at some point and might help fight big crankiness.
  8. be grateful that this happens so seldom and that kiddo is weaned (perma-nursing a barfing child almost did me in this time last year).
  9. fight urge to announce our month long quarantine to the world. it’ll get a few chuckles but it’s still over-the-top.