“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”―Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
I think Sylvia Plath said it best, referring to August as the odd uneven time, when the days of Summer begin to dwindle, the air changes, but we haven’t quite been graced by the presence of Fall. How even more true this rings with the days of pandemic surrounding us still, with the words and actions of change being spoken around the world. We are living in a new time.
I think this really hit me hard just this past week, as I spoke with my Mom on the phone (which I do almost every day). We broke into tears over a conversation we were having about Wallace. I was so fortunate to have my Mom and Dad here by my side after Wallace was born. But when they left in March I had no idea that would be the last time I got to see any of my family as the world went into lock down. It has been five months since my parents last saw their new (and first) grandbaby. My heart absolutely aches when I think about the time we are missing with them, the moments and milestones they see only through snapshots and videos. Thank goodness for technology I suppose.
And the worst part, there is no clear end in sight.
What if a year or two passes before the world is back to “normal”, before flights are safe again, before borders open. What if my parents miss out on the whole first year (heaven forbid two) of my daughters life. The thought makes me choke up typing and I hold back tears. It’s a thought I do not want to give life to.
As if being a new Mom wasn’t hard enough, being a new mom during a pandemic has brought a whole new ball game of struggles and emotions with it. The biggest one being the loneliness I feel being so far away from my family and loved ones but also the everyday loneliness of isolation. When I had imagined the first year of motherhood, I had imagined coffee dates and new friendships with new mothers just like me. I had envisioned play dates with friends and fun little day trips with my baby in tow. What I hadn’t anticipated was being stuck in my home (OK so I am a homebody for the most part but I still used to have the option of leaving), without even being able to make a trip to the grocery store or post office. I hadn’t thought that my brother would have to cancel his trip out at Easter, still not having met his niece, or that my parents wouldn’t be back to visit in the Summer.
If there is a silver lining to any of it, it is that my husband was also able to be home with me. That for the past six months we have been able to be a family and enjoy the first few months of our daughters life without the hustle and bustle and overwhelming need to make visits and play host to visitors. It’s been just us, the Burches, navigating the newborn stages, figuring out this parenting thing and watching our baby girl begin to take in the world around her. For this I will be forever grateful. Most Summers here on the farm we are hard at work and busy with chores, projects, tending to animals, visiting and day jobs. This year, we got to throw all that to the wind and just enjoy the TIME we had together.
That’s not to say we haven’t kept ourselves busy this season though.
That must be the thing about farm life, that even when we decided to not raise pigs and chickens for butcher this year to save ourselves some time and energy, we still manage to find other ways to use it up. Like building greenhouses, expanding chicken runs, planting new beds in the berry patch and installing solar panels. On top of the everyday tasks of tending to the animals, caring for what’s left of the garden and daily house chores. Perhaps we’ve needed to stay busy this Summer to keep our minds at ease about the world around us.
The greenhouse has been completed for the Summer. The addition of a brick herringbone floor made from repurposed brick from Old Strathcona district in Edmonton was the last of the big projects. It was the perfect finishing touch. Four black barrels line the back wall of the greenhouse, acting as solar batteries. They trap the heat from the day and release it back into the greenhouse during the cooler nights. Automatic vent louvers were installed as well, operating off of wax inside of the louver; when they heat up they expand and open the vents and when it cools down they retract, closing the vents. Dan also rigged me up a watering system, with eaves trough for catching and directing rainwater into a tote, and a watering hose that runs off of gravity flow. We must be doing something right, because inside the greenhouse the tomatoes we salvaged and planted are thriving and producing lots of fruit, just starting to ripen.
We’re heading into this Fall with five hives of honeybees, three of which have honey supers we will remove later this month for harvest. Each hive is looking really good as we head into the next season here on the farm. Honey will be harvested in late August, giving the hives ample time to build up storages and supplies for the Winter months ahead. We look forward to seeing how each hive has produced this season and seeing where we can make improvements for next year.
The chickens have had a great Summer as they free range in safety here in their newly expanded run. With lots of grasses, seeds and insects to forage on, they’ve been busy exploring and using their new space. Their happiness shines through in egg production as we continue to get almost a dozen eggs a day. With limited visits to town, we went looking for a way to use up our surplus eggs taking up space on the counter. Pickled eggs it was! You can find the recipe I use a few posts back.
The donkeys and alpacas have been passing away the Summer days out on pasture. The alpacas look a little less funny each day that passes as their hair slowly begins to fill back out and the donkeys are looking sleek all shed out for the season. The goats have also been enjoying their shady forest home, exploring out back and eating all the little poplar they can find. Some of the grass is almost taller than Mama Sue, letting her hide away from it all. Lastly, the three little pigs have wallowed away the days in their pen too. From little mud bogs, to forest shade and grassy sunshine lounging, they have a little bit of everything available to them.
The vegetable garden has been a labour of love this year, fighting off Mother Nature and keeping our fingers crossed for growth (other than the weeds taking over that is). We are finally seeing little backyard harvests after a week or so of heat and sunshine finding us. One little lone survivor pea plant has given us a handful of pods, the beans are just now flowering and should be making their appearance in the next couple of weeks, the potatoes have started to look a little lack luster and therefor need to be dug up, and we had the smallest bit of lettuce growing in rows. We had ourselves our first little garden salad last night for supper along with fresh garden potatoes on the BBQ. It’s the little things that count this year. I was able to get on my garden lady’s list for cucumbers this year and we pickled jars of sweet dill, dill and bread and butter pickles. Next year, cucumbers will be added to the list of things we grow in the greenhouse. It may not be our best garden year, but what we are really going to remember this year is our first Summer with our daughter, not the vegetable garden!
My flower beds seem to be in the same sad state as the garden, with so much moisture this year to start our season, much of my flowers have grown in quite stunted. My beautiful ring of sunflowers I plant each year around the bees has not grown much more than a foot tall if that, sporting the tiniest little sunflowers you ever did see. My borage which also usually gets quite tall, bloomed early at a very short stalk length as well. My perennial beds along the front of the house came in sporadic, but did eventually fill in. As we say our mantra for this Summer, there is always next year!
What has been most important this Summer, over the gardens and weeding and harvests, is the time we are getting to spend as a family. Having Dan home with us has given us the opportunity for adventures and outings as a family. It has given us many slow mornings, eating breakfast together at the table, wandering out to open the greenhouse sipping on our coffees and morning chores done at a leisurely pace. It has meant day trips to the lake, afternoons spent swimming at the pond down at the cabin and even Wallace’s first mountain adventure! I wouldn’t trade these slow summer days, watching my daughter grow and taking in the wide world around her. I just wish we could share them with my family too. For now, we wait, and give thanks for the blessings around us.