Sunday, November 4, 2012

Birthday Boots

Mr.  Bee surprised me with a nice pair of rubber boots for my birthday. They are blue with a slight red trim,  and a gray lining that keeps my toes from getting too chilled while completing morning and evening outside chores. Oh, did I mention they are waterproof too? An important feature for any work boot in the rainy pacific northwest.

Something strange happens each time I put them on though.

Within moments of stepping outside, my head is lifted high and my steps are determined. I feel my body call my muscles into action and coordinate each task with a foreign deliberateness. I muck out the duck house, milk the goat, collect the eggs, and stack the wood...and notice something different.

I lack the self-consciousness I've grown accustomed to. In my new boots, I stomp out the idea that I'm a homesteading imposter, and trudge past the belief that I'll never be good enough at life on our mini farm. I wiggle my toes and trust the experience I've gained, and the generations of strong women who have filled this role before me. I firmly plant my small feet in the tall grasses, the sticky mud, the fresh straw, the mound of gravel or the backdoor of our house for it makes no difference where I stand. I even wore them to the grocery store in a country dress and felt more like an accomplished lady than I've ever been in heels, nylons, and enough hairspray to support the beauty industry for a year. 

Call it a placebo-effect if you are scientifically minded, or the Emporer's New Clothes if you draw your knowledge from folktales. Tell me that you gave your six-year-old daughter a cape and told her she could now ride her bike without training wheels or that your son swore his blankie gave him the power to go to bed each night without bad dreams until he was nine. Whatever you say, I won't be persuaded out of my practice. All I know is that it works.

New Kids on the Block

"So, I heard you got goats yesterday."

The voice on the other end of the receiver wasn't asking a question so much as stating a fact she already knew.

"Yeah, yeah we did. It's pretty exciting," I eeked out the words, a little bit taken aback by the rate at which news travel in this news community. We might have spotty reception, but word still gets around I guess. Gossip chains aren't a favorite societal function of mine--however it's a price you pay when your community is small. Mrs. D was one of J&E's friends. She and her partner live a few minutes away. They have a dog that likes to chase sticks and are expecting a little one in a few months. She and J see each other almost daily. I shouldn't be surprised that J&E already told her.

"That's so great! Was it Lula Mae that I heard?"

I paused. Maybe the community gossip chain wasn't that strong after all. I cringed. "Does that mean you...could hear her from your house?"

She laughed, a kind and gentle laugh mixed with no hint of annoyance.

"She was, er, a little upset by her relocation. I think it's settling down now?" This last statement was less of an educated guess and more of a desperate hope. Lula Mae had been making awful, heart-wrenching noises--multi-tonal, throaty bleats that felt more like screams than anything else. Mid-bleat she'd drop her bottom jaw and stick out her tongue to further prove her point.

"Lula Mae's a..sensitive goat," she said, choosing her words carefully. "I'm sure she'll settle down soon. It just takes her some getting used to."  You see, Mrs. D used to help milk Lula Mae in exchange for the milk, and was ifact the neighbor that helped us make the move to becoming her new owner.  She'd probably know. "Anyhow, do you think I could come by some time and visit them?"

"Of course! How does Tuesday sound?"

"Great! See you then!"

I hung up the phone and beamed with pride in our new goats mixed with a feeling that I could finally contribute to the community I've gained so much from.  Integrating into a community is tricky business for the inexperienced. When the natural community of childhood fades away with life changes like relocation and radical personal transformation, it becomes much more difficult to find a friend group, a neighborhood of connections, a "tribe," or any other name you call a community. Social institutions like school and faith groups are great facilitators, but where does that leave those of us without such ties? Homesteading can be an isolating lifestyle by default, so it takes intentionality to avoid that fate.

As we find ourselves with an abundance of eggs and goat milk, we want to share our good fortunes with others. It's simply a fine line between feeling like you are "paying  your way' into a community and finding a way to give back after you've benefited. Community may contain elements of bartering, however, it's hard to remember that transferring goods isn't the only transaction that counts. As individuals in Western Society, it can be challenging not to judge your sense of community worthiness and belonging by what you bring to the table instead of who you are. Well, it is for me at least.

As for Chloe, she is still small and cute and surprisingly calm for such a transition. The day we got her, I gathered a bribe of over-ripe blackberries in my palm, hoping she'd forgive us for uprooting her from her known world and transplanting her into this foreign patch of land overrun with brambles if I made an early offering of peace. She pressed her muzzle into my hand and snatched up the gushy fruit. Ah if you can feed a being, it will know it's loved. Red staining juice lingered where the berries had been, and Chloe cleaned it up with her velvet tongue. Yes, you're home now. Welcome to our family. Welcome to our community.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sneak Peak

I'd say that we've been busy, but in truth, it's just that a lot has been going on around us. In the mean time, we remind ourselves of what's coming very soon, and we wanted to show you a glimpse of our future too.


The two gray ones are going to be ours. LuLa Mae is standing in the back right and her daughter Chloe is standing in the front left. The big one in front is Chloe's grandma, the brown little in the back is Lula Mae's other child.

You want a close up of the baby, don't you?

I can hardly wait till they are ours!

Establishing Roots

Sometimes, it's hard to remember that I am not going anywhere anytime soon. I feel like a spring start that's been hardened off in preparation for the outdoor weather.

I'm ready. Prepared. I've been acclimated and adjusted, theoretically I'm ready to be planted.

(read more after jump)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mower Mouth

In honor of our future farm members, I present to you, Shaun the Sheep's Mower Mouth. As you would expect from the maker's of Wallace and Grommit, it's worth nearly every second of the seven minutes this video takes. And it's sure to make you laugh. :)

Family Planning: Same Story, Second Verse

We're courting some goats right now.

Yes, you heard me right: courting and goats.

A few weeks ago we received a somewhat serendipitous call from a neighbor we met once who heard we might be in the market.

She tells the story of some other community members that had raised goats for half a decade, and are ready to move on. Four goats need good home. An excellent breed for milk and even meat.

I thank her for thinking of us and take down her number. Mostly, it feels like a true inclusion into a community that I desperately want to be part of. Mr. Bee's been wanting goats for some time. Something about an overwhelming portion of our land inhabited by an invasive species of blackberries and more Salmon berries than we could feasibly consume in a season. Or was it the benefit of fresh milk? And cheese?

Now I'm not a fan of blackberries, but I can't justify twice daiy milkings. Mr. Bee, however, can. And Mr. Bee is close at hand.

"Let's take them."

I laugh. "We don't need goats."

We later show up at a beautiful forested property. A couple of ducks in a pen. More than a handful of hens running around. Roosters strutting at our feet. And four kinder goats.

Just what we'd expected.

Except two of the goats are babies.

I'm not prepared for this. My defenses are down. They are five months old. Still nursing occasionally. Did
I mention that everything around me is reproducing? My college roommate is some four months along with her first. J&E have the sweetest newborn you've ever seen. My Facebook (yes, us homesteaders still use FB on occasion!) feed is filled with high school acquaintances posting photos of their toddlers and baby bumps--it is a toss up which is most prevalent.

"Yeah, thanks for having us out . We'd love to take two, maybe the mama and one of the babies?"

I'm surprised to hear that it's not Mr. Bee's voice. It's my own.

So now we're slowly letting the goats get used to us as were visit in our spare time and work to fence a pen of blackberries and build a shelter for the pair.

Soon enough we'll have a baby of our very own. October is our planned arrival. Of course, we'll post plenty
of pictures on the day she arrives. We'll post pictures of her mommy too.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Replenishing Our Stores

I feel it. Deep inside.

The urge to can the last of the tomatoes; boil a few more gallons of duck, ham, and chicken stock; and
purchase bulk quantities of fabric and yarn for the coming months is welling up. I'm itching to construct
our wood shed. I'm plotting when we'll finish the roof of the duckmahall. I've already started labeling the
pantry shelves and adding organizing racks and hooks to every storage space.

I've got crockpot recipes pinned for dinners. I'm pulling my sweaters out of their closet hiding and
contemplating the purchase of more fleece socks or at least another pair of boots.

Never mind that it was in the 80s this weekend.

Or that it's been one of the longest, warmest summers in our history.

I know what's coming. I know how quickly 75 degrees and sunny transforms into a cloudy mess of precipitation that won't let up again until May, or April if we're lucky. Don't get me wrong, I love the dreary gray skies; I feel most at peace curled up by the fire with a good book and a rainstorm. But I'm not going to let it catch me off guard.

Not this year.

There's work to be done. Inside and outside of our little homestead, on the land and in our hearts & minds.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dos mas...estamos locos.

Muscovies from a swap meet last weekend. Tame and highly educated.
More to come soon.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ovulation has Occured

Today, it arrived
Wrapped in protective casing
The gift, perfect egg

--Late Night Haiku, Mr. & Mrs. Bee

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Under Construction

It's hard to acknowledge our progress on the homestead. We've been consumed with life off the land lately (read: working). What little time we've spent on the land has been spent responding to immediate needs (read: ant infestation, failing refridgerator, and integrating duck flocks).

This means the things that can wait to get done, have waited. We still have incomplete floors (they are missing the molding and some transition strips) and half-painted walls. I'm not sure I've even unpacked everything. As one of my dear friends noted on her brief stay, "you really haven't decorated or anything yet!"

Our yard. Oh our yard. It's on the verge of becoming one of "those" yards in the "country" with overgrown vegetation and random junk in piles throughout the lawn. Really, all we need is a rusted out car and we'd achieve the image.

"starts" from earlier this summer. we'll see how they grow.
Somehow I've been able to close my eyes, hold my breath, and have our friends and family over despite its imperfection. I cringe reflexively as soon as someone I love comes driving up. I try to remind myself that I truly cannot fix our house to the standard I want with the time and money that we have right now. Then I remind myself that part of this process I'm involved in requires that I put people first and connect with my community before saving my own pride or slaving to my own perfection.

I'm grateful to al our friends that have come to visit, come to help, come to stay the night and ultimately come along with us on this journey. It's worth the vulnerability to have you along.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Death & Taxes

I shy away from controversial topics. Unless you count things like recycling, water conservation, living off the land, and eating meat. Which, really aren't all that controversial in the Pacific Northwest. Except the eating meat one.

But faith is something that I'm realizing is embedded more and more into every day life as I continue my journey so  I find it cropping up here, though not in a way I could have predicted.
It's strange because I used to think I lived my life walking by faith. I wondered why a mustard seed or any other smidgeon of faith was so hard to come by for the remainder of the population. 
Turns out, I used to be a person of certainty--not faith. I knew what I liked. I knew what I didn't like--even without trying it. From the time I can remember, I knew what I wanted my future to look like and set about achieving it. I knew what I believed. Sheesh! I even knew that what I believed was right. 

It was so easy. Life went like this: Something predictable happens. I respond in a predictable way, with confidence that this particular way is the "right" way. Predictable event ends. Repeat.

For years, this is how life played out. Sure, things occassionally deviaited from the predictable plan, but for the most part I got what I wanted and I wanted what I got. Certaibly there were times, large periods of time in fact, when things didn't happen the way I wanted, but they happened the way I expected. Even in the worst of times, I knew they were coming, and had a detailed plan on how I'd handle it according to my familiar set of rules. "There are advantages to being a pessimist," I'd tell myself. "Expeccting the worst means you are prepared for the worst. And never disappointed." It felt good.

Do you know what I am talking about? How can I articulate the safety and comfort that comes from  the rigidity only certainty can provide? It's cautiously wonderful and, dare I say, beautiful? For those of you concerned, I say "beautiful" fully knowing that beauty is only beauty to you when it is subdued and possibly sedated. After all, when you are that guarded against pain and surprise, you are equally guarded against the pleasure and goodness you can take in. And for good reason: When you live within the columns of a tightly controlled spreadsheet, where all inputs are automatically tabulated and summarized at the end of the page, you come to believe that beauty rests in the order and that all pleasure is best when muted. Anything more than that might impact your tightly calibrated system in unanticpated ways.

All of this goes along smoothly as it always has. Maybe you go to college and concentrate on your already decided major. Or maybe you've done your research and know that "higher education" isn't needed for your career of choice, so you save yourself the debt and take pride in your risk-benefit analysis at the ripe age of 18. At some point you may choose to find a partner (or not), start a family (or not), and maybe take on your own flock of ducks (or not). 
Then it happens.
A small, unexpected thing. A huge NIMBY. A series of events that individually wouldn't matter, but in sum amount to more weight than you can handle. A repition of the family cycle you worked so hard to avoid. A birthday or milestone that snuck upon you in a way nothing else has. Whatever it is, it wedges itself beneath your foundation, pushing itself under the fulcrum of your grounding and tips you over into a new reality.

Then suddenly you are left with the profound shock that you have nothing you can truly count on. Something as simple as turning on the light in the kitchen requires a trust and faith in electricity, your light bulbs and your ability to flip the switch, and something as natural as ducks laying eggs is as out of your control as the length of harvest. Death and taxes are likely occurances, not certainties.

I wonder if most people started out where I've ended up or if others go through a transition like this at some point in later in life. I'm still learning what life looks like on the other side of the mirror, and mostly, how to cope with it.

"The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty." Anne Lamott

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Batch Three: One-half Dozen

Freshly hatched and settled in. Hard to ask for anything more when you've got 6 little ones as cute as these!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Backyard Expansion

We've been hard at work expanding the duckies' territory. We've enlarged "their" yard and are in the process of training them to stay close by in "our" yard.

Butry posing for the camera with her Khaki Campbell flock behind her and the "little ones" exploring beyond.
(Read more after the jump)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

You win some...

If I were to say, "it's been busy lately" then I would be painting you an inaccurate picture. I'm searching for other words....frenetic, intense, overloaded. In case you are a visual learner, you may find the following picture more telling than any of my words.

Taken at the END of my workday. Moments after discovery.

We have gotten a lot done. It's true in a sense. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot cram more than 24 hours into a day. Except daylight savings time. And I usually forget to take advantage of that (next year, next year). We finally expanded our duck pen, dug up part of the lawn for our square foot garden, installed a deer fence around the garden, built "tunnels" for our veggies while they attempt to grow in this stubbornly cold weather, introduced baby duckies to big duckies, and started a worm compost bin. Oh yeah, we both went to the dentist too.

(read more after the jump)

Monday, May 21, 2012


Sometimes you go away for a while, say on a weekend business trip, and you come home to a different situation.

Maybe your plane lands late at night, and you groggily make your way through the front door at 2am. Everything looks the same. Laundry piled high on the couch. Shoes strewn about the entry way. A hurried load of dishes waiting to be unloaded in the kitchen.

It's quiet and everyone's asleep. Except you. And that's when you notice the small light coming through the window from the building out back. It's that red familiar glow that's less about light and more about heat. You'd recognize it anywhere, even if you've never seen the actual reason, or reasons as the case may be, for its existence.

"Welcome home," it says, "welcome home Mrs. Bee."

"And welcome home brand new baby duckies, you'll be safe and warm under me."

And so we have 5 more little ones. All girls (we think). Mr. Bee's egg laying pets. An endangered breed called Magpies

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Eulogy for Jerome

The real slaughter day came and went. It was nearly a week ago. Somehow silence seemed superior to an instant recap without reflection.

I still don't have many words. In truth, it's hard to know what conclusions to draw so I'll begin with our unanticipated slaughter day.

(read more after the jump)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Of Greater Consequence

We were only going to be gone for a little while. Just a quick trip. 2 hours . Max.
And that’s all the time we were gone for.
Dusk settled in around our car as we pulled into the driveway. It was quiet but it often is this time of day. 
“You bring the stuff in, and I’ll put the ducks to bed,” I directed to Mr. Bee as I slammed the car door and rushed toward the duck pen. No ducks were in sight. Some nights they go into their house without assistance when the sun begins to go down or they get chilly. I love nights like these. So, so easy. All I have to do is put Edgar [AKA Blind and/or Brave duck] inside.
I checked the Edgar’s usual spot and found emptiness. Maybe, just maybe, he found his way into the house?
Nearly impossible, but worth looking.
I leaned over to poke my head inside the Duckmahal and take stock. Only I didn’t get very far. The Duckmahal’s main door was already latched.

I looked closer.  It was latched improperly, but very intentionally latched nevertheless.
“Someone put the ducks away already. Do you think J&E would have done that for us since we were out later than normal?” 
“Maybe, I mean, last night J did ask whether they had to go in at night and I told him it was because of the opossums. I’ll have to tell him that it’s okay if they’re out for a little past dark and that he doesn’t need to worry about it.”
“Crazy. They’re really great neighbors,” I replied all the while impressed that they managed to get 12 ornery ducks and one Blind and/or Brave Duck inside their house without our Pavlovian tricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were true duck-whisperers!
I shrugged my shoulders, rang the bell anyway and gave the already-housed ducks their 5-minutes of supper.
Inside, Mr. Bee loomed over the sink in the awkward position I know all too well as the only way to get partial cell phone reception to listen to voice mails at our homestead. “Who’s that from?”
No response.
“…ducks..[static] …inside…[skip}…so I…[skip]…[skip]…dog…[crackle]…neighbor…”
My heart rate slowed then sped up faster than it was beating before. “What? Who is that? What happened?”
Still no answer.
I jumped up on the counter, getting closer to the source in hopes of making more sense out of the broken-up message I’d walked in on half-way through.
Finally, the message was over and Mr. Bee explained. “It’s Maya. She was in our yard. In the duck yard. She had one of the ducks. In their pen. E&J got her out. The ducks all ran in their house. Except for one. They put it inside too and locked everyone up. They wanted to let us know what happened. They said no one looked hurt.”
Maya is the one neighborhood dog that has taken an interest in our property and our livestock. Despite fencing, the 6 month old husky finds her way into our place by any means available. Tonight, it was the back gate we left open, thinking we’d only be gone a little while.
Most of the lessons we’ve learned in the country, we’ve learned the hard-way: experience. In the city, we would usually discover the error of our ways just before we made a decision. Other times, it would be right afterward, but they were usually trivial in nature. For example, if you find something you are obsessed with at Trader Joe’s, buy a lot of it before it disappears. Every time you go to the store. Because one day, it will be gone. (Do you remember those seaweed rice puffs?) It’s also important to keep a log of when you called and whom you spoke with when trying to resolve a bug infestation at your apartment complex. Or a leak in your wall, for that matter. Lastly, QFC brand bacon is not very tasty, even when it’s on sale.  Especially when it’s on sale. The only big exception to our trivial rule was the time we bought a used car that later showed up on consumer reports’ “worst used cars” list. That one had some lasting (read: expensive) consequences.
In any case, our learning curve now is one that is both steeper and of greater consequence. It has greater risks but also greater potential for reward. One lesson that we’ve taken to heart tonight is that we really do have some pretty amazing neighbors. Well, the ones without dogs that is.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Those who know me consider me an "over achiever." But those who really know me, know that I do well at what I attempt and only attempt that which I know I can do well.

Did you catch that? Most of my success rests in the fact that I don't take a lot of risks. Overall, I'd say it's a pretty decent plan. It leaves you feeling competent. You never have to put yourself out there. You get good results.

And that's all that matters, right?

Er, I guess you could say, well, that's all that used to matter. This whole homestead adventure has gifted me ample opportunities to attempt new things at a pace so rapid I forgot to be cautious. In fact, in the past 4 months, I have done more new things than I usually allow myself to try in 5 years. In case you are wondering, yes, I do treat "new things" like a controlled substance." Don't all risky things require regulation?

Since January I have:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Week 7

Midweek is my chance to disconnect from the ups and downs of loving living things and simply update on the facts of our flock. This week marks the beginning of their seventh week of life. I'm sad that we're down one baby, but feel fortunate to be left with 12 beautiful, healthy duckies as well as one very kind but very odd duck. (No pun intended). Now that they are solidly teenagers, they're pretty used to our daily routine. In the mornings, I feed them and let them out into their yard. In the afternoon, we give them greens and spend time with them. And in the evenings, we give them feed and lock them up for the night.

Ducks love routine. So do I, really. When evening comes, it's fun to watch them anticpate the next "step" in our routine. If I go to the back door they all jump up and run toward their house. If I walk past the yard, everyone comes quacking and eyes my every move. Sometimes, in their sheer excitement and anticipation, they even go into their house early and just wait. For hours! I find myself coaxing them out, "here, little ducky, eat some bugs outside." "There, there baby duckies, come out and feel the sunshine." It's usually to no avail and I try to hold off on my judgement, knowing that I do the very thing myself.

So now you know ducks love routine and you can imagine how trainable that makes them. We use a convenient method to get our ducks home each night. And now, without further ado, I present to you Pavlov's Ducks:

More after the jump....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Homestead Wins

With so many homestead fails in the last week, it's good to have a win or two.

Those of you who know us personally know that we love learning to forage for our own food. In particular, we (primarily Mr. Bee) love hunting gourmet mushrooms. We've found chanterelles, porcini (and a host of other boletes), lobster, chicken-of-the-woods, oyster, inky caps, shaggy parasol, prince, matsutake, hedgehog, shrimp russula, slippery jack, blewit, candy cap, witch's butter, edible puff balls, and fairy ring to name a few. But in our two years of hunting, we had never found the famed Morel.

That all changed this week. We don't have good phone reception at our house, so on our way home from work we pulled over to make a few calls. On our way back onto the road, Mr. Bee found his prize. In fact, within an hour we had loaded the paper bag we keep in the car for just such opportune "sightings" with more than 300 morels. (I can't describe to you how many that is. Think like, uh, if you reached down to pick up what you thought was a dollar bill and it turned out it was two 100 dollar bills. That kind of crazy!) Most are black morels, which are the most common kind in the PNW. We also have yellow morels and even a few of the West Coast-native red morel (NOT the red false morels, mind you). It was a mushroom hunter's paradise and I'm proud to say that my morel spotting skills are almost as good as my legendary chanterelle locating skills. With more practice, I'm certain they could be refined.

How many morels can you find?
Hint: there are at least four that are visible in this picture!
You can see the answer below the jump.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Slaughter Day--Rescheduled (part two)

I have no [adequate] words.

And for your sake, I will post no pictures.

Farming, as I suppose you could call our little venture if we stretch the word, is by no means glamorous. As farmer, you embody the role of pseudo-life-giver as well as life-ender. "This one will go," you say. "This one, I like this one. He will stay," you casually decide. Then nature takes its course and you realize once again, plans are just plans and your capacity to take a life doesn't translate into the capacity to save a life.

It is heart-wrenching and sweaty. It is terrifying and an unnatural way of life when you've been raised in the city. And yet, it is a good life for me. Perhaps the best I could have right now.

I had no idea how our new life in the country would turn out. Revision: I still have no idea. Everyday I just keep flipping the pages of my life. I'm usually a pretty fast reader, but I can't control the pace on this one. I rarely know what's coming up. I can't even pick up on the foreshadowing until after the events have taken place, which ends up being more ironic than anything else.

I haven't eaten any meat since Tuesday evening's slaughter. At one point in my life, having a single animal-based meal once each week was the norm. Now, it is rare that I go even a meal without meat. The change was gradual and mostly driven by our health--mine and Mr. Bee's. I feel weak and I physically crave the nourishment of flesh.

All the while there is a carcass in my fridge, waiting to be consumed. We plucked her little body void of the duck-distinguishing feathers and removed her entrails. She's waiting like a small chicken body reminiscent of that very first carcass I ever put knife to.

Before we plucked that mix of fine baby down and those emerging adult feathers, we buried her head at the edge of the garden. It seemed like the right thing to do. And hopefully, the neighbors out walking didn't worry too much over our sniffling selves or the fact that we were burying something with flashlights and shovels at 10pm.

Until Tuesday evening, I had never been implicit in taking the life of another living being (except occasional spiders). Since arrival day, I've focused on preparing myself for the eventual slaughter of our male ducks. We've been reading books like this and this one and even this one to help prepare. In this case, Jerome (the injured duck) was a girl and one we planned on keeping around for many years. But in the end, death is death.

I went to "the slaughter" because I knew if I sent Mr. Bee away to take care of it alone, he'd come back a murderer in my eyes. And while I am a firm believer in marriage therapy, the good stuff is expensive and not covered by insurance, and I didn't think we'd have enough cash reserves to work through the trauma. I carried Jerome half-way back into our property and prepared to place her in the makeshift cone. We held her close and vowed to make good use of her body after she passed. I had planned to watch and be fully present but I couldn't. Instead, I took a few steps away, turned my back, plugged my ears and sobbed. The deer that share our backyard, stood by and munched on our flowers and tall grasses.

Then it was over.

Over for me and over for Mr. Bee. Over for her short little life. We held her body again and we cried more. I cried for losing this precious duck that I never meant to lose at all. Then I cried because we chose to end her life and for the overwhelming feeling of responsibility that comes with that knowledge.

The smell of blood and wet feathers washed over me. I cried all over again for all the meat I've ever eaten unconsciously, which if I am honest with myself, is every piece of meat I've ever consumed. I've never allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to know the true cost of meat.

That brings us back to the carcass in my fridge, waiting, waiting, waiting to be honored by its consumption.We plan to have her for dinner tomorrow night. I feel like I owe it to Jerome to feast on her flesh and nourish my body if she can no longer live in hers. I don't know if I can do it, and I am going to try anyhow.

I don't think eating meat is necessary for our survival as individuals or, perhaps as a species. I'm not even sure that it is morally superior to vegetarianism. I do know, however, that Mr. Bee and I did our best to provide a good life for this duck and that, by consuming her, we can complete the circle to enrich our own lives.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Slaughter Day--Rescheduled (part one)

It looks like our week of unfortunate events hasn't ended yet. Or at least, it hadn't as of last night.

We came home to a trailer load of wood from a family member (woo!) and spent our first hour unloading the firewood instead of practicing our usual routine of duck tending. (Hopefully, we'll receive clearance from the chimney sweep and be able to burn that wood sometime soon.) After the wood was unloaded and we said goodbye, we turned to the ducks. The gate wasn't latched all of the way so I immediately started counting beaks.


That's two short of our total flock. We looked all around the yard without success. Then we checked their house. Two ducks were laying quietly inside, with one duck's neck wrapped around the body of the other, as if in an embrace. At seeing us, they stirred but didn't do much else. Mr. Bee brought his hand into the house and they moved. Or tried to move. The duck that had been embraced by the other dug its beak into the wall and tried to stand up--on one leg--without much success. The other leg hung there, limp and dangling.

It was serious. We tried to pick the duck up, but the other duck stepped up its role as protector and went on guard. It circled the lame duck, wrapped its neck around its poor friend, and cheeped the most kind and soothing cheeps you've ever heard.

We eventually removed the duck with the limp leg and brought it inside for examination. With our favorite duck book in hand, we searched the pages of injuries to look for the proper treatment and double-checked with online sources.

The poor duck's hip was either broken or dislocated. If a break comes below the "knee," it will often heal with a quick popsicle stick splint. Above the "knee," it gets a little trickier. We called 6 vets. We researched for two hours.

Nothing could be done.

We thought it would make our decision easier if the duck was blind/brave duck who continually gets separated from the crowd and primarily walks in circles. We thought it would be easier if maybe it was a boy and already slated for slaughter.

Neither of these was the case.

Our lame duck was an otherwise healthy female with a very bad injury.

And so, last night, we killed our first duck.

UPDATE: One of Mr. Bee's students learned of our situation and offered to name the injured duck, even after her passing. She will now be known as Jerome. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Battling the Elements

As mentioned yesterday, we had a minor fire at our house on Thursday. It was/is stressful, but we are fine. bla bla bla.

No more fires have occurred, but today has now had me contemplating other elements. What's the opposite of fire?


Ah, yes. This afternoon, our washing machine flooded. For the second time in one month.

I feel like I'm part of some bad horoscope prediction or at least some cosmic evening-out that I didn't agree to be part of.

We don't know why it's overflowing. In fact, we can't willingly reproduce it. We even took 1/2 the machine apart and followed more online "how to fix your overflowing washer" tutorials on than I care to admit.

Mr. Bee's solution? We'll just install a rubber barrier outside of the laundry room so that next time it overflows, we'll be prepared and it won't get the rest of the house floating in 1 inch of water.

I said that wasn't sufficient.

So now we own a shop vac...?

The entire video can be found here

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Not Funny Yet

"Some day, you'll look back on this and laugh."

Apparently, some day has not arrived because I still don't feel like laughing. Until this week, it's been *relatively* uneventful ever since our initial storm-related homestead fails.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week Four End/Week Five Beginning

Well, the "babies" are 28 days old and heading into their fifth week of life. Which means they are really not babies at all. "Teenagers" would be the more appropriate description.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Week Three

This week has brought lots of visitors for our little flock. We've had friends, coworkers, neighbors and family out to feed and socialize them. Week three is full of changes. Remember when these guys could fit in your hand? Well, not anymore. I barely remember what it was like to have them so small.

The ducks are used to me hand-feeding them. Since I was holding 
the camera, I couldn't but the big Pekin (yellow) is reluctant to 
believe she'll have to eat off the ground!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sweetening the Lemonade

"When life hands you lemons..."

No, it's not the 1990's all over again. And I'm not about to force you to read "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten." Well, you can if you want to.

In general, I hate cliches. (I try not to think about the fact that hating cliches is cliche.) This whole lemon/lemonade saying isn't one that I am particularly fond of either. So when someone who I consider very dear to me and very wise, asked me what I sweetened my life-made lemonade with, I paused.

I knew what she was getting at. I did that mental scan thing where you try to pull up the brain file labeled "sweeteners, life" and nothing came up. There was a whole file for "sweeteners, artificial" and "sweeteners, alternative" but no amount of Splenda or Stevia would answer this one.

I know I am good at working, good at being productive, good at achieving goals. I'm pretty sure I'd have no problem reading through this new book and check off my hidden talents on every page. It's not that I lack the ability to identify my strengths. Or even lack the strengths themselves. Like I said, I'm really good at making lemonade. Out of anything.

The truth is, I am not sure I really know what sweetness is--let alone how to add a few scoops to my life. I wonder if most people do and they seek after it or if other people don't and it just comes naturally. For me, I think seeking out the sweetness is something that will require intentionality and commitment. Now, all I need to do is learn the definition.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Week Two

The babies are growing fast! At 9 days, they've nearly tripled in size. At first, this was surprising, and then I realized all they do is eat and sleep. And they've been doing both (especially the former) a lot. And I take back everything I said about them being soft at 3 days old. Their down is super fluffy and almost as soft as rabbit fur now.

Best of all, they've started recognizing my voice. When I bring them their greens, I call out to them while I'm approaching their house. It's amazing to hear their little feet scrambling over the bedding and rustling toward the feeding door.

Sitting Pretty

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Other "Pets"

I love that these guys (girls?) live in our backyard.

Real pets and er...poultry pictures coming tomorrow

Salt lick coming soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Week One--Updated!

 It's a little late, but here are the pictures from arrival day! In the words of Mr. Bee to his students, "And now I will melt your face with cuteness."

Here they are, 3 days old:

 Update: Mr. Bee took this super-sweet video one night when they were *trying* to sleep.
 Eating, drinking and sleeping are the primary activities of our babies.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's in your mailbox?

This is what we got in the mail a little less than a week ago.
14 ducks in total (they threw in an extra khaki campbell).
Make sure your sound is on for the full experience!

I don't think I will clutter this posts with many more words.
We'll have weekly photo updates so check back often. 

Go ahead, just hit "replay."
You know you want to.

Monday, March 19, 2012


The majority of our flock hatched yesterday. The remaining few will have tapped their way out of their shells this morning. They are all set to arrive Wednesday morning after a long but exciting journey.

I have never had kids before, so I can only imagine what it is like to expect the arrival of another human, whether through physical birth or another way, to complete your family. All I know is that the arrival of our baby duckies is a very exciting and emotional time! Mr Bee's been hard at work designing and building the DuckMahal (actual pictures to follow). I keep feeling the need to clean the house, do all the laundry, and make lots of food so we can be "ready."  We oscillate between anxiety and eagerness.

What if one dies in the shipping process? What if our straight run ends up being all boys? What if we are well-meaning but terrible ducky parents and produce miserable poultry? What if this becomes our biggest homestead fail of all time?

Mr. Bee isn't his usual calm self either. There's something so exciting and scary about fulfilling a life-long dream. We keep looking around and saying to each other, "Can you believe we are making this happen?"

Hardly. I'll believe it when I see it.

But for right now, Wednesday is too soon and too far away, and most certainly, never coming.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On Unpacking & Sorting

Moving has a way of making you realize how much stuff you've been carrying around. We all have stuff. You know what I am talking about. Things have a way of piling up over the years. Gifts from family, hand-me-downs from friends and neighbors, things you picked out yourself and brought along for the journey--It's all there, with all it's weight and bulk, when you move.

Pardon blurry cell-phone picture.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ah, family planning.

How many? Will you bother finding out the gender? How do you know what to expect? What do you want a new one's arrival into the world to look like? How do you prepare for something you've never done before?

The past two weeks, Mr. Bee and I have tackled these questions with the same strategies we've used to make all of our other important life decisions. We first scoured for book reviews, then scoured those books, interrogated knowledgeable friends, heard the warnings from family, and dug deep down in our beings for some sense of guidance and, well...made a decision.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Neighbors (part II)

We were definitely not prepared to go without water for a long time. Sure, we had plenty of almond milk but where were our prescribed stores of water? Shouldn't we have had jugs in the garage waiting for this inevitable emergency? We'd read books, calculated the amount, and even knew to periodically replace it.

Not even a month in, and we'd already experienced our first official Homestead Fail?

Immediately my mind rushed to J&E. They had water stores. Of course, they knew to have water during this storm.

Friday, January 20, 2012


During the aforementioned snowpocalypse, our power was out for many days. Apart from the multiple feet of snow acting as an insulator around the house, we had a stove so we didn't freeze to death. We were fine. (I won't tell you that this state of being only came to pass after a frantic trip to the hardware store to purchase flashlights and pick over the leftover batteries. Because you would know that flashlights and batteries are the first things you should buy when you move to a rural area in the middle of winter.)

The storm lulled and we ventured out to replenish our supply. With a backseat full of almond milk and hot dogs, we drove safely through the winding roads. It was beautiful.

On the street leading to our house, someone had put out a giant sign.