Sunday, May 17, 2015

Swallows and soil

Spring is here, yet it is a cold one, a wet one, a grey and windy one.... even if ticks seem to become pretty bad this year...
I saw my first swallows of this season the other day. Swallows in the air, soil beneath my feet. Because that is what feel like the main thing these days; soil.
For the first time in a long time I am no longer living in my head, thinking, worrying...
For the first time I am very much down to earth, in the earth, feeling grounded, rooted...

I look a lot like my dad in this photo and I couldn't help but wondering how he is or where he is...
Haven't seen him or spoken to him in almost a decade.....
We didn't get along very well

Slowly but surely our garden is starting to take shape. We had a long weekend last weekend due to a celebration within the christian church. That church is quite present in our lives these days, even if we are not actively involved. The girls have their after school activities linked to it, my wife sings in the churchchoir. It has become my employer for (hopefully) the next six months and many social activities and festivities start there or are linked to it.
But then I come home and spend much of my sparetime on my knees, hands in the dirt, digging, cleaning, reclaiming.... spade by spade.... I had to remove 2 young aspen trees and all of their roots... These were everywhere!!
Not bad for 3 days of work, including relocating some berrybushes, lending a helping hand sawing twigs for stickpuppets and other work, but then again I did have help..... The soil seems rich, is nice and dark. Not sandy, but no heavy clay either. Firm, with loads of life in it. We spend a good deal of time looking at what we found; worms and ants and all sorts of grubs and larvae.... We need to get a book on those remarkable little creatures, so we know what we're dealing with.

I did try our gasoline driven tiller. You can see the result to the left; a tangled mess of soil, grass, weeds and roots. I had to give it a go, but ended up with some severely aching shoulders. Should've know that controlling that machine as it bounced and ground its way through the garden would exert exactly the wrong kind of excess stress in the wrong places. Guess I'll be digging up the rest of the beds, all 9 of them, by hand as well.
It'll leave me stiff and sore, but at least I can use my arms in the days after that...

Of course there still are struggles. There always are....
One of them is with Rex these days. He is maturing and he's getting more and more dominant, trying to rearrange the social order within the family... or at least the animals therein. His behaviour sometimes borders on aggressive and he really needs to be handled firmly quite regularly. Having other unneutered males around makes him act even more territorial and females in heat in the vicinity make it all the more challenging to coexist smoothly.... Despite the fact that he really has become much more socially acceptable with other people.
One of the things to spend some of my first paychecks will be spent at the vets. He will be relieved of some weight between his hind legs soon!  By then he will have matured and it will not affect his physical development all that much anymore.
And he's bored..... He needs to use his overabundant energy in another way than chasing cats around the house, clawing at me or biting me in the hand while playing or charging at or chasing after other dogs, rabbits, squirrels or any other fast moving object, including leaves. And I think I have just the thing...
I found this great little book on sleddogs, their ways and how to use and train them. A new world is opening up with loads of potential. I think we will find ways to constructively incorporate our 4-legged boy into our family and beginning homestead. And it'll be a great way to spend time with him and the family in the slow period of the year; winter.

We're also making more plans for the future. I called in a family meeting last friday to discus the possibility of having a small flock of sheep. Why? Well, it would mean a serious redesign of the chickencoop, since I figured it might be an idea to shelter both chickens and sheep under the same roof, even if being separated by a wall. or fence. They could keep each other warm and company during the winter months.
As for grazing, there are a good deal of unused patches of meadows and grass around which would be useable when surrounded by some electrical wire. The meeting was called in to ask the kids if they were willing to chime in, since my wife and I can not do it all alone. The girls were all in favour, of course, but our son was sceptical. It would be a good way to teach all of us all about taking care of animals and for the kids about chores and responsibilities, but above all about life with other creatures.


  1. Sounds like everything is going very well in your life. It really is a pleasure to hear. Your garden beds look great! I'm not feeling too introspective these days. I guess spring brings outward exercise and inward exercise takes a back seat! Only Andrea stays introspective. She is really good at that!

    I have a new drawing completed if you would like to see it at It's not as nice as the one I did of you. But my sister wanted it and I can't refuse her. It's what I would call "precious" and I don't really favor precious images. I did my best to make it nice and I think it turned out well.

    Now we're headed out for an evening walk. We'll collect eggs and enjoy the mild weather. I am so happy it's not getting too hot yet!

  2. We'll have all next winter to be introspective. Now is a time to act and do.
    Your drawing is quite different from what you did so far. It looks a bit..... cartoony. Good, but cartoony. But I am not the best person to ask about art. truth be told.

    1. It is, isn't it? I wouldn't have chosen this photograph if I'd had the choice. The dog has that white of the eye that gives it the cartoon-y quality. I guess border collies are kind of cartoon dogs anyway. We have one and, trust me, he's like "which way did they go?" with energy.

  3. Sounds like good life Ron. Happy to hear. Why was your son sceptical about sheep? :) We were with sheep all weekend and my 4 yr old loves them of course I doubt he will when he is 14... but on this public farm they said they have 70 volunteers over the course of a year and many of them are 14 to 18 years old doing farm chores so that is nice to see in chicago of all places.

    1. He just sees a lot of chores coming his way and being a teenager....
      But to be honest, he also worries a lot about our economic situation and he is afraid we might be biting (buying) off more than we can chew. I see that as a sign of taking responsibility, even if it actually is not his.
      But I remember how he thawed up when we went and visited someone with sheep and lambs in spring last year... ;)

  4. Good to see you are making such progress Ron. You and your familyares a great inspiration. I have said it before, and I will say it again; I wish I had half the courage and stamina as you guys and I often think about that when complaining about trivial things in my own life.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Sjeesh Odd, you are making me blush!... Well, almost. ;)
      It is good knowing people letting me know they see me as an inspiration. That means my blog is valuable to others as well.

  5. Having livestock was a good lesson for our kids in responsibility and life cycles. One daughter will never have livestock, the other will probably have chickens but nothing four-footed. Keep up the good work!

  6. Nice dark, rich soil you have there! Should make growing a treat. :) I hope you end up getting the sheep. I'd like to get animals, too, but unfortunately I don't live at my homestead site. :(

  7. Well, certain progresses are in motion all at once.
    And now I am faced with the dilemma of what to do first and focus on.