Friday, September 23, 2011

A First, Small Tour

 The barn on the farm is absolutely amazing. We assume it was converted from a greenhouse. It is an extra convenient place to visit on cold, dreary days when we would otherwise be stuck inside as it is warm (and sometimes even a bit muggy) and dry. Keats loves visiting the barn and knows all the animals residing within it. There are boarded horses, several cats, parakeets, a cockatiel, two parrots, two rabbits, and a spot for the only dog allowed to roam the farm freely, Nick. Sometimes the other sheepdogs are also kept in a few of the enclosed stalls. Our cozy cottage is situated right next to the barn, so we hear all its to-doings throughout the day and night. We've become used to the noise, though one particular horse gets especially restless in the early hours of the morning and kicks around his oat bucket, which can be frustrating but luckily, hasn't woken up Keats once. The owners are planning on replacing the glass which saddens me but I'm sure it's due to the safety of the animals so I won't sulk too much when it happens. 
Several days a week, Birch and I purchase eggs out of the barn refrigerator freshly gathered from the poultry coop across the farm. The coop produces two dozen eggs a day and they are absolutely amazing. The yolks are a brilliant gold yellow. I love the process of washing and drying the eggs, too, before setting them in our fridge. And you can't go wrong with always having access to a fried egg on whatever you please.
These are just two of the barn cats. The one on the left, who we lovingly refer to as Grey Kitty, is ridiculously friendly and sometimes tries to sneak into the cottage to get some extra attention. He's not allowed, however, and it's always funny watching Birch try to get him out without touching him (Birch is allergic). Keats gives him pats and hugs, sometimes kisses, and usually they enjoy a bit of a wrestle, too. The other cats are much more shy, but friendly and usually would appreciate at least one little pat.

 Ah, the sheep. These are Doerfler Sheep, a meat breed. They have a different kind of wool (it's actually hair) that doesn't contain lanolin, making the meat taste less gamey than some other meat breeds. As you can see, it also doesn't require shearing and looks a bit funny. There are nearly one hundred roaming different pastures across the farm. It's a bit of a game to see where they will be each day.

 Two of the boarded horses out in their pasture. Most of the horses are chestnuts or bays, but there is one grey Arabian that loves to show off and is Keats' favorite. The horses are usually at least a bit interested in us when we come to visit, but these two, without fail come straight over to say a quick hello before continuing their day-long grazing session. The flies are pretty intense on the farm, so they all get a mask to alleviate the onslaught. Since we're so close to the barn, we often have several flies poking their nasty noses in our business. Let's just say that Keats plays at killing flies and there are several rolled up catalogs lying about the house most days.
 There is a good mix of chickens in the coop. My favorites are the Blue and Buff varieties, though our landlord prefers the Rhode Island Reds and the Black Orpingtons. I have to admit that my preference has everything to do with appearance and not egg production. It's the girl in me coming out. Visiting the coop is, at the moment, Keats' favorite part of our daily farm walks. Since the season began, we've been bringing them our moldy blackberries to snack on, so the chickens seem to enjoy our visits, too.

 We aren't quite sure what the purpose of the geese is, as a few seem a bit old and we haven't seen any goose eggs (though we've had several duck eggs). Perhaps, come Christmas, we'll find out their purpose. Birch wants everything to have a purpose (usually culinary), but I would like it if just some of the animals were allowed to just live on the farm. We'll see... A certain brown duck has recently been sitting a clutch of eggs, so maybe in a month or so we'll have some ducklings to play with!

 These two lovely ladies are Large Black pigs, a docile breed that are slated to be the matriarchs of a new farm endeavor - pork production. If you know Birch at all, you know this is the aspect of the farm he is most excited about. Studs are coming on Tuesday to get the process started. Should be an interesting learning experience for us all. We love to give them our apple peels and cores and the one or two apples per bushel that have a worm or two in them. And believe me, these ladies love it, too!

Though it's hard for me to think of eating the animals we visit here on the farm, I also feel very strongly about proper and humane treatment of the animals we as a race consume. I know these animals are well loved and cared for. They live good, happy lives. They are healthy and clean and are free to roam about. I don't believe large-scale meat-producing companies pay much attention to people they consider out of their market, so I think it's important for those of us that feel comfortable eating meat to make a stand against ill-treatment and unhealthy living conditions regularly maintained by the heavy producers. By purchasing only meat raised humanely, I hope a message is sent to corporations to change their ways in order to produce healthier meat.

It's a whole lot of fun living here on the farm and we learn so much each day as we watch the owners go about their daily chores, etc. We hope to start our own, small chicken coop sometime soon and to get our vegetable garden going strong as we make our way into the new year.

There is so much more here on the farm to show you (like the cows!) but that will have to wait for another day. I hope you are all well, healthy, and happy. This next month will most definitely be a doozy for us, so be patient with us as we prepare our nest for another little wandering adventurer. I've also started to feel the pangs of anti-social pregnancy behavior welling up inside me, so hopefully I don't offend too many of my friends and family as I withdraw into my lair. I totally forgot about this happening last time, so hopefully I can keep it together.

All my love to you and yours!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Listening to Your Body

This last week was crazy. I realized that I was more stressed out than I'd ever been in my life and that includes planning our wedding three years ago (a nightmare). Everything just built up so quickly and I couldn't figure out a way to escape it. I was exhausted, dehydrated, and fully on-edge. Our finances took a huge hit with two unexpected expenses and I just broke down. I found myself in the shower crying to myself because that was the only place I could be alone. Birch and I had a long talk and figured out how we would handle the next few months. We sorted out our financial situation (luckily) and were on the road to emotional recovery when--BAM--Saturday afternoon happened.

I felt strange. More than just tired and thirsty, more than just a headache, more than just normal pregnancy discomfort. Something was off. I called the advice nurse without any real idea of what I would say. I was in pain, I was uncomfortable, I didn't want to raise my head up at all, my entire torso felt tight, and my back was on pins and needles. Every time the baby moved the pain went up two or three times. The advice nurse said to come into Labor and Delivery. It was simultaneously exactly what I did and didn't want to hear. We hurriedly packed up Keats, left Olive, and drove the hour to the hospital. About twenty minutes before arriving, I had four contractions within a fifteen-minute span. This was not good. Holding back tears, I sighed relief as we pulled into an emergency spot at the hospital. I insisted on walking into the department because I felt like I could feel what was going on in my body that way, instead of numbing out while sitting in a wheelchair. With cords going from me to machine, we called my parents who very obligingly came and picked up Keats so that we could concentrate on what was going on. The contractions stopped and it was determined that I was not in pre-term labor because my cervix was doing just fine and staying put like it should. The baby was doing just fine, too. She moved all over the place like she always does and her heartbeat was constant and good. It was a huge relief. I drank loads of water and a bit of juice and was released five and a half hours after arriving diagnosed as dehydrated. It was a simple explanation, one that we expected, but I can't tell you how glad we were to be leaving the hospital with a healthy baby still baking away in the oven. I broke down a bit as we passed the neonatal ICU and squeezed Birch's hand, "Aren't you so glad we aren't dealing with that right now?" I asked. He nodded, gave me a big squeeze, and we both thanked God that we'd been spared the stress and heartache of a dangerously early birth.

Sufficed to say, the experience was a jolt to our systems. Birch took Keats for the entire rest of the weekend, letting me rest as much as possible. I'm drinking ridiculous amounts of water and we finally bit the bullet and have cut off Keats' breastfeeding experience. I'm starting to feel my body make its way back to normal and although it didn't seem like much was done at the hospital, I know that so much knowledge and expertise went into that experience and I'm so grateful that I listened to my body and went. I can't imagine the terror I would have felt had I been at home having those contractions without a clue as to why or what was happening. Now I know and it is this: I need to slow down, relax, and take care of my body first and foremost. Arranging our new home can wait, I can put Birch in charge of more baby-related chores when he is home, and I can definitely make sure I drink plenty of water from now on. I feel so guilty that I brought that experience on myself and to my family. It was a classic example of how not taking care of your mental and emotional self can have a serious and direct impact on your physical self, potentially causing life-threatening situations. I've been thinking that this pregnancy has been so easy, especially in comparison with the last, but that difference can't translate into me not taking care of the very basic duties of being a pregnant mother: resting, drinking plenty of fluids, eating right, and keeping stress as far from your life as possible. With eight more weeks before due date, it's hard to just shuffle all the planning into the background, but I have to do a better job. Luckily, I have an amazingly supportive husband, family, and friends.

This weekend, Birch has suggested I take a little vacation for myself away from mama responsibilities. I'll spend it away from home, hopefully doing a bit of fun shopping and much-needed me-time. I may even get my first pedicure since a friends' wedding about ten years ago. (And yes, that means I didn't have one for my own wedding... whoops.) Any more suggestions on how to spend two days and two nights? Go to a museum and actually look at the pieces for longer than three seconds each? Eat lunch at a restaurant and take as much time as I'd like to do it?

To reiterate, all is well with me and with baby #2. It seems we can't quite make it through a pregnancy without some kind of scare, but I'm glad we've come through unscathed yet again (last time 'round it was the unrelenting fainting spells).

I promise I'll post soon with photos galore of the farm and all the fun things we've been doing this summer. We truly love it in dear Pescadero and are so happy we made the decision to move there, despite all the stress that has ensued since. Sometimes a place is just worth it and this place has enabled us to fulfill so many dreams all at once, it's glorious.

Hoping you are well!