Fall at the Satellite Homestead

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I have shared our passion for homesteading and our practice of “Satellite Homesteading” until we find the farm of our dreams. This summer satellite homesteading has looked like harvesting from our beautiful gardens, gratefully  harvesting from the gardens of our friends, a countertop full of fruits and vegetables threatening to steal my sanity if I don’t soon place them in perfectly sanitized jars with freshly warmed lids. I won’t fully rest until I hear that pleasing ‘pop pop pop’ of each lead singing to me that they’ve been firmly sealed and will be there when I miss the flavors of summer. Many days, my to-do list involves putting on a sweet apron after I put the kids down for a nap using every pot and bowl and spoon I have, all to fill my growing collection in my grotto of canned goods. I got my hands on a pressure canner this summer (woot woot!) so I’m dipping my feet in and canning my first batches of chicken stock, beans, and corn.

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I always say surround yourself with people you want to be like, and my good friend Beth invited me over to teach me how to use a pressure canner and I’ve been hooked ever since. She taught me the ins and the outs and even gave me the green beans we canned that day. Her latest gift was a gigantic hubbard squash that I’m too intimidated to even touch, let alone hack up and can. Canning is a skill I’m glad I’ve been practicing in the Satellite Homesteading years. It is a lot of work and a big mess when you’re first figuring it out. 

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It is also looked like my sweet husband doing the dirty work of all of the beekeeping because it is late season and the bees are desperately harvesting their final batch of pollen. They are on ferocious guard for robber bees, who are always looking to steal the honey they have worked so very hard for. Because of this, the bees are ornery and one hive check, fully covered head to toe in the proper beekeeping attire, will still leave Jordan walking away with seven bee stings in the field and two sneaky be stings later in the car driving away. Harvesting honey hasn’t been what we dreamed just yet. We have some that we have taken and stored in a sanitary dry place on the frame still, but we will forfeit it to the bees in early spring if it looks like their supply is low. Watching the bees, even from a distance with the baby on my hip, has been remarkable and life-changing. Their fuzzy little bodies and superior cognitive abilities astound me. What an honor to watch them so closely.

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 A couple weeks ago, we spent a couple days at my in-laws house while they went on a well deserved trip. That meant 10 ducks 10 chickens, three dogs, and 10 acres. You should’ve seen me out there. A baby commando in footie jammies, a four-year-old collecting poop covered feathers and me trying to wrangle in a rogue garden hose as I refill the 20 waterers my very tenderhearted-animal-loving-mother-in-law has out for her precious, precious birds.
I just like to refill them all every day. So that it’s fresh the ducks will immediately poop in them and then continue to drink it with the poop and then mate in it and it and then drink it some more…but it’s really important to me that at least once a day they have fresh crisp ice cold water…in addition to the gigantic pond that they’re too afraid to swim in.
Bless her. I’m over here trying not to think about Alfred Hitchcock and desperately wanting to reheat my coffee for the fifth time! None the less, day two was much better and I have survived the whole thing. And yes I still want more babies and I still want to be a farmer and I still want it now. So, hush. 
There are other little moments as satellite homesteader. They are so special that I struggle to find the words to explain how much. My cousin Angela is in Richmond at her Halfway Farm Her “ferme de frenchy french french”. Her goat, Coco has been pregnant and I have acted like her gushing little sister, so eager for her to let me meet my very first goat nieces to nephews. When I found out Coco was in labor I did not keep my cool, I immediately freaked out and asked if she was asking for me and started pacing in my living room until I just had to call Angela. “Tell me everything, birth is my deal birth is your deal, I want to know the stats. I invited myself over that day. To check on things and to look that goat sister of mine in the eyes and tell her it’s OK and she can do this. The next morning Ang signed on periscope to say that the goats were born! I was the first one on the first one sending 1000 hearts and immediately after the scope is over I hung up and FaceTimed her. Congratulations to my favorite farmer family on becoming so dang legit! I took screenshots of the periscope because I just wanted to see these goat kids and I couldn’t even wait till after work to go see them. Guess that means I invited myself over…Again. (sorry guys! I couldn’t help it!) In hindsight, I should not have worn my good yoga pants to this. But otherwise, I was prepared and wore grungy clothes and Muck boots. Let’s pause here to remember that Angela was my Doula when I gave birth to Daniel it’s a bond you’ll never know. To hang on to another woman who’s given birth five times herself, when you’re in the thick of it is something. Begging for her to promise you it will be over soon. We have this birth thing- whenever we find out anybody in from labor we are in a fit of questions and worrying and barely controllable urges to give birth advice. So here we stand, looking at this brand new mama goat, and we know her and we want to help her. But, it’s been seven hours since she’s given birth and she has not nursed her babies yet. They’re out of grain so me and Aiden and Amelie watch all the kids and hold down the fort while and runs to get some grain. Amelie and I sneak back in the barn and we catch Coco nudging the firstborn to her and we hear the sweet sound  of suckling! We get it on video to make sure Ang can see it when she gets back. And soon she returns. Her theory is that Coco is engorged and has a clogged duct and the sweet clumsy baby goats are hurting her in their attempts to nurse.  Coco doesn’t know that that’s the only way for the engorgement to go away and so, with empathetic hearts and farmers hands, we get in there and help her.
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How about this sweet photo one of Angela’s kids snapped when we were in the thick of it?

Let us PAUSE to talk about what “in there” means. As we mothers know, there are lots of sauces involved in the birth process. I like to call the combination of sauces Special Sauce and when you make a decision to get “in there” in the farmer context that means much of  your favorite yoga pants and your clothing and your spirit are going to be covered in Special Sauce and you need to accept this and stop being such a Fremd girl about everything all the time. You are in this moment right now whether you like it or not and you need to toughen up a bit sister. 
Ang holds Coco with the strong hand only a confident and experienced goat lady has and I go in for the kill on the clogged duct, like only a mother who has struggled with clogged ducts can. Juliet rushes to give Coco some grain to keep her distracted while Amelie holds the goat baby up. As a group it takes all four of us, well I guess all six of us, to get the baby latched and the duct unclogged! Soon after we step away, covered in special sauce, and then we see. We see mama nudge another baby up to her to eat and hear the sweet sweet suckling sound. Between two cousins, two friends, two women, we share  a knowing sigh.  
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Would you just look at it? The sweet world we live in. There are so many tender moments. For those who are willing to get in there and get dirty. I never really knew what people meant when they said “I can’t even”, but when it comes to tiny baby goats nursing for the first time with their first time mommy with the first time goat Doula by their side, I can only say “I can’t even. I couldn’t even. I still barely can’t. I’m failing to can as we speak.” 
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 My dream is so alive and so desperate. I have faith that it will come to fruition that we will be real farmers one day. Until then I am so so blessed to have my role as a satellite homesteader and people who are willing to share (or let me blatantly barge in on) their homesteading journey with me so that I can learn from them and stand in awe of their lives. My time will come. But until then, I can’t help but feel like my time is right now.

2 comments

  1. Brooke says:

    This reminds me of my mom, when our first cow went into labor she had to be out there…we kept teasing her that she was breathing through contractions with the mama cow lol.
    Looks like you have canned a ton, I didn’t get any done this year, maybe next year:)

    • DearDarla says:

      I have to admit, I’m super jealous of your Mom! I would love to be a cow doula 😉
      I did can a lot but still couldn’t keep up with it all. I try my best! I hate that I already have to use it. I doubt the stash will last the winter.
      Still counting on meeting you for coffee!

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