what we’re having.

Do you know what you’re having?

This has always struck me as a strange turn of phrase considering the fact that I’m pregnant and percolating a foetus and not, say, hanging out at a cafeteria sandwich bar.

When I first heard about the Toronto couple that chose not to disclose the sex of their child, Storm, before I had a child of my own, I thought it was all pretty over the top. I appreciated the sentiment in theory, for sure, convinced as I am that socialization affects people little and old so much more than any of us realize, but it seemed a bit contrived. And I thought, if anyone wants to help us change diapers at any point, I certainly don’t see myself refusing. But now, I’m quite tempted to take a page out of their book.

The toddler boy child I’ve had the utter pleasure of mothering these past years is such a well-rounded, colourful, joy-filled and creative little being. He loves anything and everything with wheels, is voracious in his love of books, bright pink pants, cooking make-believe meals, jumping, kicking balls around, and a little purse that he uses to “do groceries” around the house and yard.

Being on the farm this past year, and hearing my once-regular-city-child now be referred to as a “little farmer,” or hearing neighbours talk about how great it is we have a boy because we’ll have someone to “take over the farm,” I’m pretty dismayed. Maybe a girl child would also get pegged this way (regardless of her inclinations), but I sense she might not. And, in all fairness, I don’t get called a farmer nearly as much as he does.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with ‘traditional (more stereotypical) boyhood,’ but there is something problematic about forcing that identity and self-definition onto people, perhaps especially when those people are quite young and don’t have the critical wherewithal to appreciate that those assumptions and expectations are just that—someone’s else’s idea, not a Truth that they need to embody. (And I really fear the day will come when my child refuses to wear his fave pink cordoroys—to do or wear or be something he is—because of something someone said to him.)

Throughout this pregnancy and in thinking about this second child, I’ve been mentally preparing to field discouraging questions and react to irksome (albeit well-meaning) comments—either of the “you’re a mother of boys! It’ll be all dirt and fart jokes and trucks from here on in!” or the “you must be wanting one of each” variety (as though there are two types of one-dimensional people out there: girl people and boy people).

And while it’s true that I’ve ached for more women friends and woman strength on this farm, my child is not the gruff man who lives in town and calls me ‘little lady,’ nor is he the neighbour who rolls into the driveway talking about P.’s farm/tractor/pigs/you-name-it. The pull of shitty hegemonic masculinity might be great, but I need to have faith that any boy child my partner and I raise will not become that man. I also refuse to believe that I will necessarily have a stronger bond with a daughter than a son; that I will only get to talk about periods, or porn, or feminism with a child of one sex; that our son will get along better with a brother; that a male child won’t want braids (or that a female child will want them); that a daughter will be more eager to knit with me.. and so on and so forth.

Having felt quite strongly, as a child, that some of the men in my life would maybe have loved me better had I been a boy, I’m especially sensitive to this obsessive over-gendering. It is limiting and it can hurt a lot.

We’ll probably end up disclosing the sex, but I say kudos to that family committed to progressive pronoun use and to diligently not letting anyone box in their kid.

And what I hope I’m having? The opportunity to bring a new healthy babe into this world (in a way that feels safe and empowering for me) and to raise the child as though no one gives a damn about his or her sex. And rest assured, the child will wear all of his brother’s gorgeous pink hand-me-down sleepers and onesies regardless.

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farm themed everything.

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Kiddo is big into puzzles these days, so I thought we could up the ante with some 12 piece puzzle sets. Pretty exciting times for all, to be honest. Pretty soon this kid will be rocking his very own tricotin, I bet.

Trouble is these things appear to be grouped into themes, so we could get four mermaid puzzles, four construction truck puzzles or four farm animal puzzles. I went with the farm animals but realized, as we were doing them together the next morning, that it’s kind of overkill to give a farm kid farm animal puzzles. Melissa and Doug (and other kid stuff manufacturers), if you’re listening : please make a medley puzzle box ! We don’t need four dumptruck puzzles, but one would be nice. We also don’t need four mermaid puzzles, but one would be nice. Can we not assume that kids only like ONE CATEGORY OF THINGS?

In the meantime, if a city kid wants to trade some farm themed toys for some other themed toys, drop us a line.

We’d probably be up for a swap.

june on the farm : brassicas and bullcalves, swathers and spinach.

Summer has arrived and lovely green things have sprouted in the garden. I want to say « against all odds! » and realize that a) this was my anthem last year; and b) it’s a bit over the top. The garden is not growing against all odds. Seeds want to grow. Especially the ones that are direct seeded, I’ve found.

I got very excited reading Elliot Coleman during the winter months and convinced myself it was a great idea to seed a lot of crops in trays in the basement under lights to ensure both a better use of (near unlimited) space in the garden and to avoid excessive crouching and squatting. The seedlings didn’t fare very well at all. The lights were too high off the trays (which left us with spindly everythings) and either it was too cold, or they would have liked to be watered from the bottom or more regularly or something. Oh and the bulk of plants that made it to transplant day were then killed by a surprise frost a few days later. Ha! All this to say, I am not a market gardener and I don’t need early or exquisite crops. So I may skip the whole pre-planting thing next year.

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The bull calves + Ursula (our family dairy cow) left the barn area, ate away our side pasture to a nice manageable height, and were moved across the road, where they’re intensively rotationally grazing with glee.

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This is also, hopefully, the last year that yearlings need to be purchased. The plan is to grow our own herd. To overwinter animals and keep them on the farm for two years before sending them to the abattoir to be CSA beef shares. Here are those new yearlings, taking in their new summer home.

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Here’s P. posing with our new-to-us and very old swather ! Why a swather, you ask? To cut grain crops. P. has seeded barley and triticale which we’re planning to use as pig feed next year (to make the endeavour more financially viable as organic feed is pretty costly).

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One victory of the last weeks has been P. and J. removing all the rotten pressure treated forest green and orange fenceposts from around the barn pasture. The colour scheme of this place makes me sigh a mighty sigh almost daily and seeing those posts being harvested one by one and carried off brought great joy to my heart. Now we just need to finally host that great « Paint the Barn Red! » event and I will be one happy camper. (I’m serious, if you’re reading this and interested, let me know. We’ll make it a fun time, I promise.)

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And piglets ! Twenty-four piglets, who were around six weeks old, arrived late last week. They have been on pasture since Monday and have gotten the hang of it. Sadly, one little guy, lovingly nicknamed Pickle isn’t doing super well, but his buddies are happy and healthy as clams.

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The barn cat problem is far from resolved, sadly. The good folks at the SPCA can’t help (their feral barn cat pilot project starts after Christmas, turns out), so I’m at a bit of a loss, again, as to how to proceed. Perhaps the municipality has some solutions to offer, but in the meantime, our seven or so adult cats are looking very worse for wear, the kittens are not as numerous as they were (although at least they are no longer being hidden in barn walls and feed bags by their mothers as they were a month ago), and the sadness that comes with feeding these sad looking animals daily is wearing on me. If it is unethical to shoot them, (as rural/farm folk have suggested we do), then leaving them all to fight and procreate and lose the battle to whatever disease(s) seems equally heartless.

With research work winding down, the garden has been weeded and (some) tidy rows of growing things have been uncovered. The beans and peas, potatoes, rutabaga, kale, cauliflower, lettuces, spinach, sweet corn, popcorn, leeks and onions have so far really shone. There seems to be too few summer and winter squash plants, so I hope I haven’t swung the pendulum too far the other way (in an effort to not have to deal with the processing of wheelbarrowfuls of zucchini and Godiva pumpkins).

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The week’s personal victory (save for finding a doula for my upcoming birthing!) was the blanching and freezing of 18 pounds of spinach. Take that winter ! Saag paneer year round !

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And last but not least, and to confirm that « home ownership is not all it’s cracked up to be », a few of our appliances have decided to have a little race to the bottom as of late. The dishwasher now spews the occasional moat, the 85 gallon toilet sometimes thinks we’re interested in a nice continuous « babbling brook » soundtrack, and our old wall oven has gone and burnt its bottom element clear through. Luckily I have a wicked smart partner who can cook the best of quiches using a stock pot and a canning rack to create an « oven like » heat.

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The list of things to get done before birthing is too long. For those visiting this summer, our house may very well not be painted majestic blue by the time you arrive, and we may not have a deck or any outdoor seating that isn’t cement or a wagon. Please bear with us.

Stay tuned for my next post on the theme of : stress and precarity.

on kids and consent : why i love the new ontario sex ed curriculum and why you need to stop poking my kid.

The province of Ontario is introducing a new health and sex ed curriculum (to upgrade its 1999 version after a previous government was bullied in 2011 to abandon the project). Some pretty important changes have been brought to the table. But don’t take my word for it, here’s the actual curriculum : grades 1-8, grades 9-12 and some solid articles, here, herehere and here (plus a great piece on sex ed in the Netherlands here). Kids will learn the anatomically correct names for all of their body parts (which countless studies have shown is key to preventing and being able to report childhood sexual abuse), will learn about gender identity, sexual orientation, and, among other things (and thanks to two awesome young women), they’ll learn about consent.

Now some have been up in arms about this consent thing because they assume that very young kids will learn about sexual consent. This underlines the fact that everyone needs to learn about consent, especially adults, because many of us just don’t get it.

The idea that a person is the master of her or his body, and that s/he gets to decide what happens to that body, shouldn’t be all that revolutionary. But people have a really hard time with this. Take the whole “high school dress code” issue—where young women are told they are first and foremost a possible “distraction” to their male peers (or, worse, to their male teachers). Making it institutional policy that young women are told that they’re responsible for the behaviour of boys and men, and that their clothes can and will be measured, sometimes literally, by people in positions of power, to see if they should be sent home for “indecency”, is really problematic. If we’re okay with schools teaching youth that they can disrespect or expect to be disrespected because of their attire, let’s think for a minute about how slippery that slope is (ie. rape culture, victim blaming).

Another example of most people having a really hard time with the concept of consent is their reaction to small children’s bodies. Children are adorable. They’re pudgy and soft, they’re as cute as buttons with big eyes and round cheeks. When adults see children they want to touch them. We have codes, as adults, for ways of greeting one another depending on how well we know each other, our age, our sex, our cultures and customs. Sometimes a close hug makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a double cheek kiss, la bise, is appropriate, sometimes not. Sometimes we shake hands, and sometimes we just say “Hello!”. Adults (generally) learn to navigate these things and to send clear body language about which greeting they’re going for, and most often (we hope), that body language is heard and respected.

Kids don’t have these internalized codes, they’re learning the ropes of social living. They also meet a lot of people who care about them, who have heard about them or seen pictures of them, but whom they’d don’t know or don’t remember meeting.

We went out for breakfast over the weekend and an older woman, a real grandmother type, was really taken with our child. She rubbed his back at length to say « hello. » She caught both of us, his papa and I offguard, and we were both stumped and then kicking ourselves for not responding quicker to our child’s clear discomfort. This woman would not have greeted my partner this way. She wouldn’t have greeted me this way either.

I used to think this was generational, but it isn’t. My kid gets poked and tickled, gets his hair ruffled or his arm rubbed by people he doesn’t know, people my age and younger, all. the. time. And for the most part, they don’t stop when he hides in my arms, or otherwise shows his displeasure. They think it’s a game.

More often than not, I need to take my child in my arms and move away from them, or assertively ask for them to respect his  space, for it to stop.

Having had my own share of unwanted touching, as a child and a woman, I find it really hard to navigate these things assertively. If I was honest I’d say that the most challenging part of parenting has been its social side—protecting this child, giving him the space and encouragement to be himself (in a society where so many gender rules prevail), listening to his verbal and non-verbal cues, and making sure that our social comfort never trumps his sense of safety.

For those who’ve been really strong proponents of this new sex ed curriculum (and for those who haven’t), I ask you to think about your own ideal definition of consent and to think about how you interact with young people. If we want youth to be able to assertively choose when and how they’re touched, and to really respect others’ choices and words—to put an end to gender-based violence, to assault and harassment—we need to grant young children those same inalienable rights and responsibilities. I don’t hug my kid if he doesn’t want a hug, and I don’t let him climb on me if I don’t want to be climbed on. I’ve heard it said that “consent is really complicated” but it isn’t. It’s as simple as that.