Garden Plans

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The sage and thyme are already turning green in the front flower bed.  I love just smelling their leaves between my fingers as I go for a walk.  I just love growing things.  It is like witnessing miracles constantly.

Gardening isn’t a hobby for our family.  It’s in our family culture.  It’s the way we fill our freezer for the winter.  It’s addicting.  Once you go to garden produce, it’s really hard to go back to grocery store produce.  My kids absolutely love our garden vegetables, and are incredibly spoiled by them.

 

But how on earth will I manage our huge gardens this year in my 3rd trimester, and continuing on after the birth of our baby?

I have been brainstorming, and mapping out some ideas.  We have one huge garden on the south side of our property.  Our kids have named that garden: “Gardentopia.”  It can grow massive amounts of food.  In past years, though, we have wanted more space.  That’s why we dug up “Versailles” which is the French style beds near our chicken coop.  It has a makeshift fence around it since it’s by the chickens.  The beds are smaller, and we can do some different gardening techniques that we like to experiment with in that space.

I think the major thing that my car accident 2 1/2 years ago taught Knut and I, as well as events surrounding previous births, is that I have a high pain tolerance, and if the pain is so bad I have to communicate it, he should be on high alert.  We also learned that I have limits about what I can handle, and be stubborn about it.  I can’t do everything.  I have some factual needs.  Also, we learned that when my anxiety attacks start waving in, our whole family shuts down.  My mental health just effects so many people right now.

Let’s just say we’ve come to a place in our marriage where Knut has become very protective of me both mentally and physically.  We have both seen me go into a dark hole, and neither one of us wants me to go back there.

But not planting a garden would be tragic on more than the surface level.  If we just leave it, weeds will grow up and age and leave thousands of seeds that I will be battling for over a decade to come.  That idea sounds incredibly discouraging.

So this presents a challenge for this whole garden thing this year.  Our family needs this garden.  The garden needs us.  Our whole summer always revolves around it.  Our health revolves around it.  What we do with our kids all day revolves around it.

So my first thought was to just fill the large Gardentopia with roots that require little maintenance and late harvest, up to 2 months after the birth of this baby.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions.  We’ll just plant more than we need.  Then in Versailles, I’ll plant just a few fun crops, like a few fresh tomatoes, some peas for the kids to snack on in early summer, and maybe some salad greens.

Knut and I were brainstorming what to do, and he suggested we just plant a cover crop on Gardentopia.  Just pull back our mulch and cover crop it for the season.  He and his farming partner have been experimenting with cover crops, and have some extra seed we could buy from our business.  That way we get nothing out of that garden this year but we protect it from being overrun with weeds for years to come.  That would be amazing.

We could plant a few fun things in Versailles for the kids to manage.  I love this summer salad: equal parts cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil.  It eat it like it’s an addictive drug.  I’d love to keep a few tomato plants and salad plots just for fun.  I may also keep my rainbow carrots up there in Versailles too, because they make me smile like crazy.

But what about winter? I said.  How can we just give up our garden produce for those months?  He wants us to get a CSA share this year.  I’ll get a box of produce for our family every week, and we’ll have 10 harvest events a year where we can get massive amounts of produce for freezing/canning and he can be around to help on those days.  It’s much easier to have big family harvest days with all the kids than asking them to do the gardening for me 2-3 hours each morning all summer.  That way I’m not harvesting on my hands and knees various crops daily all summer.  I’ll still have my strawberries and raspberries to handle daily in early summer, as we cannot force them dormant for the year (nor do we want to!) but the kids are actually really good at helping with those ones.

I was concerned about the price of buying a share, but as I have been hospitalized past pregnancies for completely preventable things like exhaustion and dehydration, he basically said it’s less than half the cost of 1 hospital visit, so it will save us money in the long run as opposed to me once again trying to do everything and ending up sick.

But it turns out, that our local CSA is moving it’s delivery boxes to about an hour from our house.  We can still get their produce at our local grocery store, but that’s not a desirable option when we’re looking for some bulk produce.

So, we’re looking at some options.  We’re calling around to some vegetable farmers.  We’re going to make this work.

I don’t know if I’m more excited that my garden will be tiny this year, or that my husband is really prioritizing keeping me sane and healthy during this pregnancy.  When we were first married, he had this picture in his head of peasant women who would give birth and head back to the field because it was harvest.  I was told over and over again from family members the story of someone local giving birth and then canning all their cherries for the year that same day because you just can’t afford to lose your food for months.  Women who put aside their pain and emotions and just do what needs doing is just so esteemed here.

I think all moms do that to some extent.  I think sometimes that putting aside our pain and emotions and just doing what needs doing might be the very definition of motherhood.

But the longer we’ve been married, and the longer I’ve been a mother, the more short-sighted that image has become.

It elevates mothers from creatures God designed to rest at night as well as one day a week, to these super-human-above-God’s-design goddesses.  Our culture says that mothers don’t need rest, and we turn into these PPD zombies and people wonder why we don’t just get with the program.  I have been there, and done that.

Going back to God’s design is something my quiet time has been continually drifting towards these last few years.  I’ve written about it here before.  God designed us to rest, pre-fall, and we should not feel we are above his design, or that is a part of our sin-nature.

And when are we going to figure out that community is required for some people to get rest?  The commandment to rest is not an individual one, but a communal one.

I remember after Ingrid was born, my midwife handed Knut a long list of things I wasn’t allowed to do, and a very tiny list of things I could do.  She didn’t even want me walking down our stairs for a few days.  Knut carried me, and I felt silly.  But my midwife had told him and he followed her rules to the letter.  I had no responsibilities for weeks.  Knut and the kids took over.  That never happened after any of my other births.  Knut would help for a day or two then, and the doctors would say things like “take it easy.”

But my midwife had built up such a trust with Knut.  She liked him because I liked him, and he felt she respected his input.  She was the first person to figure out why I was always anemic in pregnancies, and why I always tested positive for GPS in pregnancies and she was able to rid me of both of those things through diet, that changed everything.  I had never experienced pregnancy and energy at the same time before then.

So when she told Knut that I needed to just rest after birth for a few weeks, he listened.  And he was pleasantly surprised how much faster I recovered from birth and how much less zombie-like I was.  PPD was simply a thing of the past.  I just needed the rest.  Seriously, why don’t we always do this in our culture?

There’s something to be said for working with your body’s design, instead of trying to work above it.

So, per Knut’s idea, we aren’t doing a big garden this year.  This fact is still sinking in for me.  Our big garden will be cover-cropped.  This year I’m growing a baby, and we don’t want to distract my body from that goal.  We’ll have our little Versailles for our fun summer traditions and delicacies, and a CSA…or something…for our winter storage.  I’m so relieved.  I don’t have to do everything this year.  Whew.

August

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I am hitting my usual August haze.  I’m consistently 2-3 days behind what I should be doing, which usually makes me stress.  I’m not stressing at all about being behind now, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing either.  I feel like I should care that things aren’t running as efficiently as possible.  The culture here that I’ve noticed since moving to the farm says that worrying is responsible and stress pushes you to finish.  I should be pushing myself more.  I should but…eh.

Welcome to August.

I’ve been taking a lot of walks these days, when I should be doing other things.  I’m just drinking this season in!  This year our garden was completely mulched, (known as the “Back to Eden” gardening method, also known in the trade as “sheet composting.”)  It was a big experiment and I’m just loving it.  I have never enjoyed gardening as much as this year.  It was a ton of work on the spring end of the season, but it has really paid off.

Weeds have been so easy to manage, even with the soy bean mixture fiasco.  Yes, the strawberry patch is crazy now, but I’ve sort of let it get that way and focused my energy elsewhere because I plan on digging them up setting them in neater rows this Fall.

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I just keep walking out to my gardens throughout the day.  I walk around them, check on various plants, search through some cucumber vines, look at growth that I never remember or write down.  This is the first year I can actually say that gardening has been a sanctuary.  I’m so behind on canning, mostly because I’m going for these walks, picking handfuls of weeds here and there, talking to my plants.  It’s getting bad.

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Garden Takeover

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We are thick into the season where the garden literally takes over our life.  No matter how much the weeds have taken over, garden produce for the year has gone from the trickle of strawberries, to now a full out invasion of peas, beans, broccoli, cabbages, as the raspberries wind down.  The tomato plants are heavy with green orbs that look as though they may blush any day.  Then life outside the garden and kitchen will virtually shut down.  The cucumbers as well look like they will be ready to be pickled by as early as next week.  I’ve never grown my own pickling cukes, so I don’t know how long that season is.  I know very little about it.  Last year we were given lots of cucumbers by some of Knut’s cousins who had excess in their garden, and the fermented dill pickles I made were to die for.  I could sit and eat a whole jar if I let myself.  I knew right away I could no longer go back to store-bought.  The garden has ruined me for yet another food that I no longer want to buy.

I am so joyously ruined.  Silje jokes that I’m ruining them all for life because they will never be satisfied with normal food and will be forced to garden as adult.  I tell her it’s all a part of my evil plan.

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These Days

These days I’m taking it easy.  I’m breathing deep everyday, and leaving my hands open for whatever God decides to give me that day.  Although I’m not getting everything done that would be on *my* list, I know at the end of the day that I attended to the things that were important.  So in the last week or two that I haven’t been blogging, because unfortunately I haven’t had the time.  Here’s what I have done:

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Gone a little overnight getaway without kids with Knut to the extended family’s lake cabin to celebrate our 13th anniversary.  It’s the first time in a few years we’ve done this, and it was very peaceful.  We actually sat and not talked for several of those hours, not because we were mad at each other, but because we both were in desperate need of silence in general.  It was short, yet glorious.

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We had company stay overnight at our house…twice.  ‘Tis the season for family passing through town.  I’d complain except they are so awesome.  So I just have to put up with their awesomeness.  😉

I testified in a legal case.  I’ve never done that before.  I won’t get into details, except to say I’m not the one in trouble, lest you worry.  I was very afraid the days surrounding the case, because I didn’t want to re-live the event I was testifying about.  I was worried how I would handle it.  Once you have been in a dark place, you fear anything that could throw you back there.  The day before and the day after I spent a lot of time staring at walls, blankly.  I gave myself permission to do that.  My kids missed the doing county fair this year, because of this case, but I think that’s okay.  Actually, it slowed things up a lot removing those multiple deadlines for projects, and coaching the kids for their 4H interviews.

I went through a bout of insomnia.  It was likely related to the above mentioned event, but maybe not.  I really don’t think so.  I couldn’t go to sleep because I had on my mind completely different events, where people I loved were hurting.  So since I couldn’t sleep, I prayed for them.  2 nights in a row I didn’t even get remotely tired until about 3am.  It was like electricity was running through my veins and there was no way I would sleep.  With a 7am wake up, that is loud and abrupt due to my kids’ excitement about the sun rising, it left me dragging a bit.  Maybe it was stress.  Maybe it was biological.  I think that praying was just what I needed to do then and I did it.  Maybe there’s stuff going on we just can’t see.

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I’ve taken David to yet another doctor for his alopecia and surrounding medical issues.  David is shedding worse than our dogs now, and I think that within 2 weeks he won’t have any hair left.  He just has to touch his head for a downpour of hair all over his shoulders.

He was crying before his shower last week because he was worried that if he rubbed his head to wash it, he would come out of the shower bald, which was a real possibility.  This new doctor is taking a different approach, instead of offering a steroid treatment to fight his immune system that is attacking his hair follicles, she is probing why his immune system has gone awry in the first place.  She thinks that he has some markers in the MFTHR gene mutation, which means he cannot absorb Vitamin B properly, as well as a severe case of Celiacs disease.  We have to do a 4 day fast of all his supplements that help him function day to day, and then they are going to get full blood work done to confirm or deny these diagnosis.  Actually, she said Celiacs requires a surgical biopsy to diagnose with certainty, but she feels that the labs do at least point to this or away from this without being quite so invasive.  We could use your prayers as he goes off everything in preparation for the blood tests.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another with this kid.

The picture above was taken about a week ago, and it looks even worse now.  The back of the head is nearly gone, and the sides and top are thinning with chunks missing there too now.  Apparently this is rare for alopecia cases.  He’s our outside the box kid.

Also, while at the doctors, he was goofing off outside the building, hit a board he didn’t see, running at full speed, and now his balding head has a huge egg sized bump on it.  So we may delay shaving it yet a bit longer…  He’s nervous about shaving it.  He’s keeping a really brave face about it, but he’s acting out in other ways that I know he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired.

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We spent time together as a family over suppertime with a tornado warning and visible rotating clouds from our front door.  (The picture above was taken the next night.)  We played foosball and other games in the basement while we listened to hail pound our windows and garden outside, and prayed it wouldn’t come any closer.  While things were looking limp outside, nothing was damaged beyond repair, though I can’t speak for Knut’s fields.  I know he had some of paperwork to file after the storm.

I have raspberries coming out my ears now, and I’m behind on harvesting peas and green beans as well. So the garden wasn’t hit too bad, though we lost a day or two of garden harvest.  My theme this last week or so was “be gentle with myself and just go with it.”  I’m glad for that.  I made 1 bottle of raspberry syrup for pancakes, but other than that raspberries are aging very slowly in the fridge, and I hope to catch up on those the rest of this week.

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Another small joy that I’ve been blessed with is continuing to write letters to you dear readers.  I look forward to that “chore” more than anything some days.  I have a good handful left, and am giving myself to the end of August to finish them up.  I’ve already received a few letters back, though that was not the point of this project, and they have brought me more encouragement than you can possibly imagine.  I’m so grateful that I did this 50 letter project this summer.  You readers are just so dear to me.  You have no idea.