Cultivate Diversity

Building Community with Skill Share

This past weekend we invited friends over to learn how to graft fruit trees!  Rob and a couple of other attendees have attended workshops with Ken Taylor to learn how to graft onto root stock.  There were a few reasons for us to host a work party.  Realistically, we have been meaning to do this grafting for a while, but it never seems to make it to the top of the ‘to do’ list, so scheduling a time on the calendar with people coming over made it possible to get the work done.  We also enjoy having many like minded people around, and any excuse for a gathering is a good one.  We were also excited to share the skills we’re developing with others.  The most beautiful and unexpected part for me though was sharing the process of learning – that messy bit where no one really is sure they’re doing the right thing.  Muddling through the learning process with others to support and guide each other made the whole process so much more enjoyable.

We took it slow.  We started by watching a short video demonstration of what we were about to do before heading out to the garden.   During the grafting process we took time to pause and talk, look at each others work, ask questions, and generally meander through the afternoon together.  It was nice to have a relaxed but purposeful atmosphere.  There were many children in attendance as well, which added to the joy of the afternoon.  Because there were so many adults around, no one really had to watch them, they were playing close by.  It all seemed so natural.  There was flow to the afternoon, as the grafting finished up, we drifted into a pot luck dinner.  People came and went as they needed to.  It was easy.  It was what I envision life should be like.  It was a taste of life lived in community.

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Biggering our Brood

This morning we had the extreme pleasure of going to pick up our chickens!  We stopped en route to pick up some wood shavings and peat moss for bedding.  We were told by another homesteader friend about including peat in the bedding.  There are a few benefits.  The chickens do the work of mixing it in with the wood shavings, it reduces the smell due to its high absorption rate and when it comes time to clean out the coop, the former bedding can go right onto the garden beds as rich compost once it sits for a year.  We then headed to my friend’s place on the far side of the city to meet the new additions to our brood!

The children were very excited to meet the chickens, and spend some time with my friend’s son, who happened to be cuddling a chicken when we arrived.  He showed us around their urban farm.  My children especially liked meeting their rabbits, since they’ve always wanted their own!  It was nice to see their birds free ranging in the yard, something we hope to be able to carry on.  Failing that, there’s the garden enclosure that didn’t get planted this year that is now full of delicious things for chickens to eat.  We don’t have a fenced yard, and there is a dog who lives next door.  We’ll have to see how that goes.  We’ll find out this afternoon after the children finish their rest times.  Right now they are in the coop, getting used to their new surroundings a bit.  I left some food in there for them, so they’ll hopefully associate it with ‘home.’

My friend has been thinking for months about which of her beloved birds she was going to give us.  I can’t imagine how difficult that choice was for her, as she and her sons are very close to them all. We feel so blessed to add some of her loved and well cared for chickens to our homestead. It has been a long time coming since we’ve wanted chickens all along, but due to a rat problem had to redo our coop before trying again.  It feels so right now that the day to have chickens again has arrived.

I am excited for my children to have the rhythm of animal care introduced.  I am also looking forward to fostering a closer bond between my children and the food their eat.  The more levels of food production and preparation I can involve them in the greater chance they will learn the true value of what they eat.

Introducing the new additions to our family:

From left to right: Goldie who is a mixed breed who was hatched in a classroom and is already a good layer.  Then the three Swedish Flowers, Brownie who was named by my oldest son, Daisy who was named by my middle son, and Lucky the rooster who was named by my friend in honour of his narrow escape from her soup pot!   We decided to take a rooster mere hours before my friend’s chicken harvest in hopes of having some chicks of our own in the Spring.

Welcome to your new home!

Anticipation

We lost a great deal of our orchard blossoms early in the season during a frost.  It was a disappointing day.  We tried hard to save them, throwing a sheet over each tree, which knocked off some of the blooms in the wind before we decided to remove them.  After the frost hit, Rob got up before sunrise and misted the trees in an effort to prevent the frost from doing damage, a trick we learned from an excellent DVD we own called, “The Permaculture Orchard.”  We still ended up losing most of our fruit.  We have some pears coming on and a few apples.  Last year we were only able to harvest four pears and four Asian pears.  It looks like we’ll have an equally scant year this time around.

We have many interesting and different varieties of fruit.  Apple, pear, plum, corneilian cherry, paw paw, chum.  We are eagerly anticipating the year when we can sample all of the different varieties, selected for winter heartiness, disease and pest resistance.  I can’t wait for the day we have to give fruit away because we couldn’t possibly consume it all!  But this year, I look forward to sampling whatever our orchard offers us, no matter how small the yield.  There is nothing quite like biting into something you’ve grown yourself.

Child’s Play

We went to the park this morning to meet the children’s grandmother and great-grandmother.  It was a beautiful summer morning made better by being together with four generations of people we love!  The playground was bustling with children running feverishly from activity to activity.  My children participated wholeheartedly in the slides, monkey bars, and teeter totters.  The gross motor activities were great for my boys, who enjoyed testing their agility on the rock wall and pushing their limits by daring themselves to run the steep slide by themselves.

What I noticed about my children is that they were not engaging in activity at the same pace as the other children.  They were content to stand aside and watch another child race past and down the slide.  They were happy to observe another child use the spinning chair first before deciding to try it themselves.  Some may view this as an inability to engage with other children.  I see it as a healthy connection to their inner voices.  They are already observing and interacting with their environment.

Less than an hour into our visit, my eldest was drawn to a small creek that ran through the shade of an old willow tree alongside the edge of the playground.  The buzz of a gas powered edge trimmer held by a man wearing protective ear and eye wear was working it’s way along the opposite bank.  I tried to redirect his desire to head to the creek.  When the worker had made his way down near the end of the creek, I allowed my son to play in that area.  He was so happy, so much more engaged.  It wasn’t long until his younger brother and sister came to join him.  They were still observing and interacting…but this time it was with the rapids, the plants, the water, the crayfish and the frogs.  They befriended some (much older) children who were catching crayfish upstream, taking a peek at their latest catch.  They fell in the water and got muddy.  I heard many other parents and caregivers distracting their children away from the creek, worrying they would get hurt, wet or dirty.  Isn’t this what childhood is all about?  Risk taking to build self-confidence?  The learning my children had in that creek was of far more value to me.  Especially as they coaxed their grandmother under the footbridge to check out the huge crayfish they found down there!  What a beautiful moment.  They were drawn to the natural space.  They were happy to be muddy and wet on a hot day.  And it wasn’t just the water drawing them in, since following their creek stomp, we headed over to the splash pad where again they stood mesmerized by the flurry of activity around them.  I don’t think my three year old went in the water, he seemed content to run around the outside of the concrete pad splashing in the puddles.  I have to admit that a rocky stream with critters seems much more appealing to me than water jets spraying at eye level in unpredictable ways.

I’m so pleased to be raising children who value nature and unstructured play!  I am satisfied with their desire to play in the shady creek instead of the sun drenched desert-like play park. I admire their ability to follow their hearts and sources of joy rather than worry about trying to fit in.  I want to preserve that for them for as long as possible.  In all honesty, this is what I wish for myself…

The Day After the Day After

A predictable schedule works for our home.  We have a predictable rhythm to our days.  But summer seems to throw a kink in this wheel, making it wobble and veer to one side.  There are more things to do in the summer, and as it seems, so many reasons to cast aside the schedule we’ve worked so hard to establish.  Our family rhythm really gives us a container to live within, but when it is gone, we’re more free to explore and flow through our days together.

The last few weeks have been a series of events that have taken us out of our normal rhythms.  We have had a wonderful time sharing in the company of each other and living without the stress of watching the clock.  I feel so much more rested as a mama, since I’ve had a break from my routine and an opportunity to cultivate diversity in my days.  My children are able to rise to the challenge posed by abandoning our schedule, but it is when we try to return to ‘normal’ that things start to unravel.

I find the day after my children get a solid night’s sleep they are pleasantly sleepy and contented to be at home (because usually the ‘busyness’ has taken us afar) but it is the day after the day after that we start to run into trouble.  Yesterday was that day for me.  I struggled through my post yesterday, as I was interrupted by a crying baby, a crying toddler and a crying child all trying to resist naps or rest time.  So much crying.  I became frustrated and rushed through my post, and will only get around to reading it again when I’m finished today’s!  I realized just how important my schedule is to my functioning.  My children also thrive with the predictability, and seem to understand what it feels like to be fueled with good food and enough sleep.

When they are tired, hungry, or have been eating poorly, they start to unravel.  Of course this doesn’t happen when we’re busy, engaged in new exciting activities, and ultimately overstimulated.  It happens when we start to regain the stability of our daily rhythm that these things seem to appear.  When my children actually begin to tune back in to how they are actually feeling, retreating from beyond their edge.

This time around the transition back to normal has been noticeably more smooth.  Perhaps we’re learning how to come back to ourselves.  My children have been letting their emotions out…a lot…but in acceptable ways.  Knowing our schedule, routine, rhythm will still be there for us when we’re ready to return to it.  But more importantly we’re working on really knowing that we’ll be there to support each other on the journey home.  In consciously pursuing radical empathy and compassion we are growing trust in our love for each other in spite of our imperfections.

Trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.

~Alan Watts

To the well meaning man at the library…

Dear Sir,

Thank you for taking the time to stop me to address your concern for young children using computers.  You took the time to engage with our family even though your sentiment wasn’t clear when you were lurking around the children’s computers glancing at my children then around the library while I was trying to select books for them.  When you asked me if those were my children, I tried to ignore the disdain in your voice.  When you said, “computers, ugh,” I tried to remain compassionate, despite my inner lurch to defend this few minutes they sat in front of screens as their only computer time in the last several weeks.  When you followed up with a comment about how they looked like zombies with their headphones on staring at the machine, I couldn’t help but agree in spite of the uncomfortable feeling in my stomach indicating the pushing of an edge.  When you offered to show my children a ‘trick,’ I tried to remain open to possibility as I entertained the offer enough to ask my children if they would like to see it.

When asked, my children came away from their computers with no hesitation to witness your trick, I was a proud mama.  I hope that you noticed. As my three children sat to watch your ‘trick’ without judgement, I hope you noticed.  When they had the same look of concentration about them that they had in front of the monitors because they were transfixed on something new, interesting and engaging,  I hope you noticed.  They smiled and thanked you when you finished,  I hope you noticed.  We left with a giant bag of books, I hope you noticed.  But even if you didn’t, I did.

I know I have wonderful children who do not need to be plugged into technology to be entertained.  They enjoyed your juggling act, despite the dropping of several balls.  They accepted your intrusion into their very limited computer time with grace.  They accepted you for who you were and what you had to offer.  So did I.

I hope that one day you will be able to grow compassion for people who allow their children to use a computer.  Ultimately, we have the same hopes for the future of our children.  I didn’t feel I needed to defend my life choices to you in that time and space.  Perhaps because I know that I am doing right by my children.  Thank you for reaching out and engaging with us on a human level.  This is what I assume was your desired intent.  In this instance it worked.  Thank you for that, it is a rare day when that happens.  I appreciate that you took the time to become involved with our experience at the library that day.  Might I make a suggestion for the future?  Perhaps a thoughtful question posed to a stranger rather than a judgmental statement relayed in a guttural fashion could improve your chances of connection with others.

Pushed and Pulled by Change

Pushed or pulled, either way I move.  Does it matter what force caused the change when the end result is movement?  How comfortable it seems to remain still.  But like water, if I’m not circulating, flowing, moving, I will stagnate.  Change is inevitable.  It is what sustains life.  Without embracing adaptation, I might as well consider myself next in line to be consumed.

Nature models change with such ease and beauty.  She shows effortlessly how to tumble through periods of turmoil.  Like trees that exude grace as they bounteously bloom into leaf, offering gifts of shade and oxygen by their mere existence.  When this season of giving is done they shed their leaves in another offering, regenerating the soil with their castoffs.  It is then that they fall into rest.  As spring returns, the tree will fearlessly bloom again embracing a cycle of change that is innate.

Are the trees conscious of their cycle?  Pondering when to send forth a first bud, or drop their first leaf?  How deep does their knowing run?  Are there unheard languages spoken in the forest?  Does their version of consciousness elude humans because it is created too pure, generous, and unassuming for us to understand?  If trees feared which of them had the tinniest trunk or prettiest leaves, natural cycles would surely go awry.  Existential trees could be even more problematic.  Instead, they grow.  They don’t resist or question their own growth.  By some internal guide, they find the strength to push through oppressions like concrete in order to expand.  Or perhaps it is a set of external forces that pulls them into change?  Nature’s bidding that calls them to action.  They listen and respond.  I’d like to believe they exist through change being both pushed and pulled.

I have a lot to learn from the trees who wind wildly through all the seasons of change.  Growth.  Joy,  Decay.  Stillness.  Each beautiful in its own right, offering up different aspects of what it means to be alive.  A full spectrum of experience.  The constraints of my humanness remain, but by trying to embrace my cycles of change I hope to make progress nonetheless.  Change is what keeps me in line with nature’s cycles.  Pushing and pulling me through the often ugly beginnings of spring, the beauty and wonderment of summer’s bounty, the decay of old ideas and into dormant rest to recuperate for the inevitable return of spring.