We've been going out every chance we've been given. The weather is off and on raining and we're gearing up for flood season. The farm gets mucky but Keats loves to play in all the puddles, even the foot-deep ones. He stands in the middle with the water up to his waist peering in at all the leaves, swaying grasses, and bugs he can find. It's no wonder that Frida's first words were, "What's that?" as it is one of her older brother's favorite phrases as he explores the world around him. Both of my little ones are so adventurous and curious about everything they see and hear. It's this fascination with all things new that make having kids so much fun. As adults, we often forget the novelty and wonder in so many of the objects and happenings around us. A water strider swishing its way across the surface of a puddle, to Keats, is like finding the ultimate treasure. He invariably comes back from this outings cold and soaked, in dire need of a warm bath and perhaps a small cup of hot cider, too, or his very favorite: "a special, warm drink" which is merely milk, hot water, and a miniscule amount of raw honey. He loves to sip this sitting on the porch while Birch and I hang up his dinosaur raincoat and undress Frida.
Our dry, sunny walks around the farm are full of new life as well. Several litters of piglets have been born the last two months, either Large Blacks or Large Black crosses. The Large Black is a heritage breed and fairly rare in the United States. It is prized for its docile nature and mothering skills. They do extremely well on pastures and grow up to about seven hundred pounds (females). A mature boar can be about eight hundred pounds. The farm started off with two piglets raised them to be the wonderful mothers they are. The owners of the farm then acquired two boars from up north and started the breeding process. True to country style, they've taken in several various animals from the excess of other farms, including the white sow above. Birch and I are both learning a lot from the farm and our own research. Birch has grown a great affinity for pigs and his tasty adventures in the kitchen have spurred on his hope of becoming a pig farmer and charcutier. The more we discuss this with the owners, the more hope we have in accomplishing this goal. Perhaps they will even be the catalyst we need and hoped for, enlisting Birch in the butchering process, etc. We are so grateful to have friends so willing to pass on their knowledge to us.
Our chickens and ducks, now numbering twenty-one all together, have had a few trying months with the move, the rain, and a couple of lost "friends." We finally decided to slaughter Shogun, one of our Ameraucauna roosters, as he was continuously attacking Keats (and me) and we felt that we had one too many roosters for our number of hens. Birch took him over to our friends, a couple who started their own pasture-raised poultry farm here in Pescadero, Early Bird Ranch, and they showed Birch how to go about the entire process. He ended up slaughtering seventeen chickens that day in exchange for the knowledge, equipment, and opportunity. Sending Shogun off that day was a little rough for me as I felt twangs of guilt, but I reminded myself that this was part of his purpose for us. Why we had raised and fed him each day and taken such great pains to make all our chickens happy and comfortable in their lives. We enjoy eating meat, but we feel very strongly that the meat we eat should exclusively come from animals humanely treated both in life and in death. We are grateful to him for providing us with a bit more experience and ultimately a wonderful meal. I feel myself tip-toeing around that subject, but that is what happened to Shogun and what will happen to many more of our birds, even the ones with names. And that is alright. We didn't buy them as chicks for pets. We purchased them with the goal of daily eggs, occasional meat, and endless entertainment and education.
Our ducks, it should be noted, are pets. They are Indian Black Runner ducks and are best prized for their pest management, a skill we plan on utilizing in our garden once it is up and running. We have one drake and two hens. We are beginning to be able to tell them apart. The drake is a bit taller, has a green bill, and iridescent foliage all over his body. One of the hens has a greenish-black bill and is all black while the other hen has an all-black bill and several white feathers speckled across her neck and chest. We are still considering names and may purchase two Blue Runner ducklings early next year along with our next crop of chicks.
We've been to the beach several times a week, sometimes even just for a few moments before sunset, and each time we go we feel refreshed and free from the burden of the day. We've been visiting tidepools more and exploring different beaches up and down the coast from us. Keats is learning all about these new strange creatures that live in the water. We love hearing him say anemone, mussel, sea otter, kelp, and barnacle. He's a master at pointing out starfish, even the ones so cleverly camouflaged that even I almost step on them at times. I have a hard time teaching him to always watch the water, but he's learning it and remembers most times. I'm always on high alert, so for now, I'm watchful enough for us. My own mother told me a story that when I was about two, she actually saved me from an incoming piece of driftwood. She ran up and grabbed me up just in time and was whacked right across her shins. The wood would have surely knocked me down and at the very least could have given me a serious bruise across my chest. That story has stuck with me throughout my life as I know that it could have been much worse than a mere bruise. I know people laugh at our protectiveness sometimes, but I try to give parents the benefit of the doubt when it comes to safety. They know their kids, what they are apt to do or not do in a sketchy situation, where they are lacking and where they are sufficient. We've been asked when we'll let Keats go surfing and my response is always "Not for several more years." We get laughed at for that, but hey, he won't even let me put water over his head in the bathtub. I think swimming and surfing in the ocean is several steps away. For now, we are more than happy to explore the shore.
Finally, we celebrated Frida's very first birthday with a party. Her birthday came up so quickly, we could hardly believe it. She is such a sweet little thing. She is absolutely infatuated with animals and loves to dance. She is more than generous with hugs and kisses. She learns things very quickly and is quite adventurous, though she is shy around a lot of people. She is so different from her brother in so many ways and I love to watch her playing with him. He tells her about all the different pictures in books and has taught her the great wonder of cars and trucks (much to his annoyance, as now she loves to play with his toys). She follows Keats around like a shadow, but enjoys the hour or two alone with us before he wakes up and after he goes to bed. One of these days I'll put my foot down and put her to bed at the same time as him, but we're still putting together her crib so that's a few days off yet.