Homesteading comes with its sacrifices. Sleeping in, for example. Time. Money. Energy. Bathtub space.
You heard me. Ever since the beginning of the month, our bathroom has morphed into an unrecognizable meshing of barn and greenhouse. It smells slightly of fish meal (from the chick feed) and soil, not anything like the essential oil scent that usually lingers.
Instead of taking long, bubble baths in the soaker tub, I'm instead soaking my newly emerged seedlings with fresh water daily. And instead of feeding my spirit through a little bit of rest and relaxation via painting my toes, shaving my legs, or pampering with a body scrub, I'm instead feeding the 14 little chicks that noisily remind me of their presence multiple times per day.
As I reorganized the vegetable seedlings for the umpteenth time last week, I glanced over at my dear Stuart (who had just spent the last two hours of his busy night helping me transplant cabbage seedlings into larger pots).
I gave him the best doe eyes I could and gently said “Did you ever think you'd be here? With chickens on your bathroom floor and tomatoes in your tub?”
He laughed. A real laugh. “No way.”
You see, my dear husband didn't grow up on a farm. Nor did he ever aspire to own, run, work on, or be involved on one. And then he met me, a Scot and a cowgirl, and well – here we are.
And after spending 12+ hours on Saturday building the pig shelter, pig pasture, and sheep pasture (more on that later), I'm sure he was beginning to question his lifestyle decision. Homesteading, particularly homesteading that involves livestock, is (after all) quite encompassing. Stuart is by nature a born traveler – a man who longs for adventure, open roads, and new experiences. And while homesteading no doubt brings adventure and experience of it's own, I'm sure he was secretly hoping for more of the European-backpacking sort of experience. Digging post holes and being charged by a rouge bull probably weren't on the top of his list.
I, alternatively, long for home always. While I too dream of seeing the wide world, I'm much more content spending my days tending to the seedlings and the milk cow. This is a lifestyle that I've dreamed of for the past decade of my life and getting to see the fruits of that, even if they're spread all over my bathroom, is all I could ever ask for.
And yet, somehow, Stu and I find a happy medium. A medium in a lifestyle that brings more satisfaction for both of us than we originally though possible. From seed a few days ago to that first smell of tomato-leaf on my fingers. From teeny chicks to blossoming teenage chicks, anxiously awaiting their new free range home outside. From the dirt. To the pasture. To the early mornings. To the satisfaction of a hard days labor. There is adventure here.
Though, let's admit, adventure takes on many forms. This past week, adventure involved hunting down the perfect supplemental lighting system for all our seedlings. As desperately as I long for a greenhouse, we decided months ago it couldn't be a priority year – acquiring the livestock took priority. And so, seedlings in tub, I set to work trying to find a system that would keep me (for the first time ever) from growing leggy seedlings (tomatoes, in particular). After much frustration… no… anger…. no… “adventure”, I finally settled on three of THESE LIGHTS, each equipped with two plant bulbs (like THESE):
I have two rods stretched over the soaker tub on which all three lights lay, a few inches above the tops of the seedlings. As the seedlings grow taller, I can remove some of the boxes that are elevating them up to the lights, and adjust the distance accordingly. Thus far, it's working great. No leggy tomato plants to be found. And actually, if I do say so myself, they're looking quite extraordinary and healthy! Though it wasn't the cheapest of set-ups (those bulbs can be spendy!) it's a one time investment, really. So I'm taking the expense in stride.
The chicks have been easy thus far, requiring little more than some high-quality feed, fresh water, and warming light. To be honest, I'll miss their company when they have to move into the coop. I think everyone should have a pet in their bathroom.
We've set ourselves an ambitious list of goals this year and will be welcoming a variety of new animals over the new month: geese, turkeys, a sheep (and her lambs) and two pigs will soon be making their arrival. On top of the daily milking of Sal and fourteen new chickens that we will add into our laying flock – it's certainly enough to keep us on our toes.
Couple that with the 1000+ square feet of garden space to fill and you've got the stuff homesteaders like us dream of.
Spring is the time to work. It's the time to lay the foundation for the summer and harvest season ahead. It's the time to stay up late, get up early, and make each minute of warm daylight count. Spring, on the homestead, is not for the faint of heart.
Spring, as I've said many times already, has arrived and sucker-punched me in the nose.
And yet still, as I listen to the chirp of the new chicks while I fall asleep at night or check on the seedlings for the millionth time that day (just to see if anything new is happening) I can't help but breath in the richness that comes with this lifestyle. An appreciation for hard work, diligent care, and the simplest pleasures.
Spring, as far as I'm concerned, is a time of new life. It's the best time of the year!