Anyway Project Update: Out Like a Lion

admin March 24th, 2011

Life has been proceeding more or less apace, and it feels like a long time since I’ve sat down and contemplated anything, much less my Anyway Project goals. At the same time, all this business is a series of steps on the way to actually many of the things done. I hope that’s true of all of you!

As you’ll remember, the goal of the Anyway project is to integrate our preparations for a harder future with our daily life now, to turn them many parts into a whole. As I wrote previously:

The larger idea of the Anyway Project is to make our lives work more smoothly. Most of us stand with feet in several worlds – our domestic and professional ones, our adaptations to a world with less and our day to day life in a world with too much (in some cases). Making the intersections between these spaces functional, bringing the edges together and connecting them smoothly is the center of my project.

The seed flats are filled with tomatoes, peppers, onions, tomatillos, basil, broccoli, leeks, basil, eggplant, herbs and flowers of all kinds. By now many years the seed flats make occasional forays outside or onto a sunny porch for a sheltered visit to the world, but it is *cold* right now, and winter is hanging on like the old lion he is. The Garden Plant CSA/Herb, Vegetable and Native Plant nursery is growing apace on every window in the house, and with some things under lights as well, as we wait for the cold to let loose. The good news is that next year I should have a greenhouse – our wonderful friend Loren is going to build me one!

Goats are ready to pop in a week or two – today is Eric’s barn cleaning marathon day, so things should be ready when the babies come after the first of April. All the winter’s manure goes on the parts of the garden that get planted later as well. The first batch of chicks is feathered out and ready to start ranging when the cold spell breaks, and there are more forthcoming.

Eric is totally obsessed with bee keeping – and two nucs of locally bred Carnolian bees are coming in early May. I’m very excited about his obsession, which is frankly, good for both of us. This is the first farm project that Eric in all the years we’ve been here has truly taken on as wholly his own. I’m a little jealous ;-) , in the sense that I’ve wanted bees for years, but I’m also thrilled to see Eric so fascinated and entranced. Besides, bees could be gateway drugs to something else cool ;-) .

I’m also mulling over our planned expansion – we have pasture we’re not using, and I have several ideas for how to make it work. For the last four years, we’ve shared sheep with my friend Elaine, who brings them to our pastures for the summer, and then takes them back for the winter. We get lamb and wool in barter, and sheep to keep the pastures down, but it is time for us to be more fully using that land. So I think this will be the last year of the shared sheep arrangement (which is sad, but she’s got other options and it won’t affect the friendship!). So now it is time to fish or cut bait on what exactly we’re going to do. Raise calves on our excess goat milk, and produce baby beef? Our own sheep? If so what breed(s)? Or should we expand our goat operation into meat goats and/or fiber goats. We’re going to do some expansion – I do want to produce Nigora (dual purpose miniature milk/fiber goats) goats, but how far to go? Decisions, decisions….

All of this is also hanging on the fact that once it becomes possible to actually do stuff outside, everything *has* to be done at once. New garden beds. Greenhouse. Planting. Hardening off seedlings. Taking down the old pasture fence and mowing. Running the new pasture fence. Market days and open farm days. Goat baby stuff.

Along with the usual farm projects, there is our family expansion project as well which has taken up a huge space in our life. More than halfway through our MAPP training (foster parent training), I feel rather like I did when the baby started kicking in each pregnancy – “oh, yeah, there’s a *baby* in there – all this hassle (puking, classes, depending on the case) isn’t for no reason.” The kids that will come into our lives aren’t babies (we assume) mostly, but we’re starting to get focused on the mechanics of real people. Friends of ours whose daughter became engaged realized that their daughter will be needing something other than a set of bunkbeds to sleep on now, and are generously passing them on to us – the bunkbeds and some other furniture arrive on Sunday. I still have hopes of painting the kids’ bedroom spring green, rather than the white and muted yellow it is now (boring), but it may or may not happen. We can always leave open the option of painting both kids rooms in the late fall, when everyone can choose their own colors.

We’ve got books in the bookcase, my mother is starting to look around for used twin bedding, a dear friend has kindly organized a project to knit afghans (more on that at the end of the post), the children have done very well with their weekly babysitting nights, we’re still hunting for a van large enough to haul the six of us and two or three more kids (for years we’ve all driven in one Ford Taurus, which believe it or not can safely hold 6 people with carseats and boosters and buckles – we look like clowns getting out of a clown car, though – very environmentally efficient, but as the boys get bigger, its days were coming to an end anyway) – anyone out there in our general region knows someone selling an inexpensive used 8+ passenger van, let me know!

There are a few more steps in the process – Eric and I have to get fingerprinted (think of the crimes I can’t commit now…damn!), my physical is next week, we have to get the well water tested, and we still have a few more classes, but we can see the day coming when we’ll get down to the brass tacks. My mother’s observation is that she’s ready to get to the essentials – ages, gender, clothing sizes. Me too – I always did think that waiting for kids, whether the old-fashioned way or otherwise, took too damned long ;-) . Patience has never been one of my virtues – I’ve always had a “as long as we’re going to do it, let’s get at it attitude” (actually, I felt that way about labor too), but I’m trying to be patient, and I am enjoying the time with just the four boys. We’ve planned some family visits and travel for the next couple of months, since we’ll be staying home for a while after kids come.

The ties between family and community have been really evident in this – we have been able to turn to friends and community members in so many ways. Our friends and family have covered our weekly childcare (non-trivial, since we can’t leave Eli with everyone) for the MAPP classes. Friends have passed along good advice, shared furniture and offered clothing that we won’t have (and there’s that knitting and crocheting thing again…look at the bottom of the post for more!). After some years of being able mostly to offer help, rather than accept it, we have been turning to others, and the kindness they have offered has been intensely humbling and gratifying. While we’re still somewhat flexible we’ve been trying to do our part too to reciprocate – it is harder in many ways to receive than to give, though, and in some ways, better for us.

A lot of my other Anyway Project Goals are sort of mixed in with this – the nursery business obviously has a lot to do with the farm revitalization project. The family stuff seems part of the project as well – life is tough out there already for a lot of people and just getting harder. It isn’t something I can entirely fix, but I’m anxious to do what we can.

We haven’t made as much progress on the reorganization as I’d really like, but we have three weeks of Pesach cleaning ahead of us as we get ready for the Passover holiday, and the rearranging of furniture that accompanies the new acquisitions, so I have hope.

Outside work and finances have also not gotten the attention they deserve. I applied for an IATTP Food and Policy Fellowship and didn’t get it, so now I have to think about what I will do to support my family in the coming year, beyond the usual, and given that because of new children my normally somewhat limited talk and travel schedule will be *really* limited. I do have to finish the Anyway Project/Adapting in Place book, now in progress 3 years (longer than it took me to do my first three books ;-) ), but I’m starting to realize that I probably need to make or find an actual regular paid venue for my writing, because with more family members, our expenses will go up.

Foster parent stipends don’t cover things like eating locally and sustainably, so I might actually have to get a real job! Or maybe not – I’m still trying to figure this one out. In many ways I’ve been so blessed not to be financially pressed – our very low cost lifestyle has made it possible for me to take the speaking gigs that interest me, rather than the ones that pay well, to write for free where I want to, etc… I know most people don’t have that luxury, but I’m finding it hard to entirely give up on the possibility – at the same time, who can complain about something so ordinary as having to work for money, rather than for pleasure? The problem is that other things will have to give if that’s the case – that’s probably less time for the farm, for the things we do that reduce our costs, etc…. Again, this is nothing that everyone doesn’t have to balance, but I’m still clinging to the hope we can make things work without my actually going to the lengths of hunting for a *serious job* – I work more or less full time on my writing and also on my farming, but the ability to be flexible has been so important, and losing that would be a real loss.

Time and happiness – our life is overscheduled right now, mostly in good ways and I haven’t fully been able to manage this. I haven’t kept my “three days a week” resolution as a writer – I’ve got to figure out what would make that possible for me. I find myself looking more and more towards Shabbat every week, to our sabbath that we explicitly clear upfront – time with friends and family, quiet and peace. I’ve always enjoyed it, but as we’ve been busier, it becomes like oxygen, a necessary space for all of us.

After the second week in July, we have purposely planned to stay home, on the assumption that additional children may be part of our family by then. I’m looking forward to this, too. Summer is busy, of course, with harvesting, gardening, preserving, and by July our thoughts start turning to winter, and I’m certain that two or three new kids will turn our lives to chaos. At the same time, just being at home and staying there for a while, building in time to establish a routine sounds satisfying with all the going and doing we’ve been doing.

Did I mention that I was very fortunate to have kindness and generosity coming at me from all directions? One place it has come from is my longtime internet friend MEA (who I have never met in person but hope to one of these days) also known on facebook as Alyss. I mentioned I was planning on knitting afghans for each of the beds for the new kids, and MEA offered to help and suggested others might as well. I think she rightly suspected that if left to me, the afghans might never get finished! So no pressure at all, but if you are aching for a knitting or crocheting project, and would like to make one or more 8×8 squares, we’ll sew them together at a finishing party (hopefully in MEA’s neighborhood – I’ll come down to NJ and we’ll have a bash!). If we get more than we need, we’ll donate any additional afghans to other foster kids – there are certainly plenty of them.

MEA put together a facebook group “Gleanings Knitters” to get us started, so if you’d like to join a knit/crochet-a-long please do! I sometimes get lost in the fantasy of doing everything myself – but the project of expanding our family has been a powerful revelation of how reliant I am on my community. I’ve been reliant on my community here, as many people who have been through the foster and adoptive process have opened their experience to me, and my home community. I feel very lucky that I can rely so much on my community here – thank you all.

So how has this month been for the rest of y’all?


10 Responses to “Anyway Project Update: Out Like a Lion”

  1. Nicole says:

    Here in the southeast we are having an early spring. This is not totally good, since we are almost certain to have at least one more frost and my nectarine is already at petal fall! Other tender plants are coming out and I am starting to wonder if I have enough sheets and row cover fabric for the inevitable freeze. Most of my fruit trees and shrubs just got put in this past fall or winter and aren’t ready to be challenged yet.

    Meanwhile, the early spring garden is in full swing and the exceptionally warm air and soil temperatures are a bit rough on the cool weather crops. Only the spinach is really doing well, and it is stays warm it may be too bitter. Spring gardening here is always unreliable — fall is a better time for the cool weather crops and many of them will overwinter.

    On the personal growth front, I don’t really do yearly resolutions, but I do try to pick lessons to learn, which is less painful than the ones the cosmos decides to teach you when you aren’t paying attention. This year’s lessons: learning to say “no” and making space for myself. This may not sound like much, but it’s a big deal to me. It is painful for now, but I have to stop letting everyone suck the energy and time out of me while still trying to keep up with my own endeavors, which are themselves pretty ambitious.

    I think part of this lesson needs to be learning to say no to myself as well. Sometimes that project I feel I urgently need to do really can wait.

    Regarding that pasture you have — have you considered pasture-raised turkeys? They may be a good (and profitable) addition to your CSA if you plan them to be ready for the winter holidays.

  2. NM says:

    I took a night class on farming in January February, which was fantastic; was very glad to have the opportunity, and learned a ton. However, it plus the night meetings I cover resulted in a lot of lost sleep, followed by a nasty bout of the flu, which husband then caught from me. So there was great frustration there for awhile, as our massive garden expansion plan fell weeks behind.
    However, I’m now working four 10-hour days a week, with Wednesdays off, and that is making a huge difference in my stress level and general morale. Great improvement. Still chipping away at the garden work; it remains behind, but oh well. We bought a greenhouse; it remains in 1,000 pieces in the garage, but I’m hoping we can start putting it up this weekend. (Husband now working out of town weeks, and only home on weekends, further slowing progress).
    We put out mason bees, and are planning to start a beehive this spring; husband’s project, since he’s kept bees before, and loves it.
    Mine is to get the seeds started (tonight, I hope), and get back to looking for land, and work on the garden whenever possible. And maintain a good attitude. Been struggling the last couple years with some very tedious mood problems; dr. thinks caused by hormone fluctuations, but I don’t want to take the medication he recommends, since it has some nasty side effects, so am working on just coping with it. pain in the ass, but what can you do? Training my brain to behave itself the way I want it to is presumably a useful exercise. >:$
    Buying a whole lot of vegetable seeds was a lot of fun. :} Still waiting for a few of them to arrive. Greatly looking forward to finally getting the garden beds in, although it may take a few more weeks…

  3. Claire says:

    In Missouri, my plum and apricot trees and Nanking cherries are blooming, but luckily nothing else as we dropped from the 70s and 80sF for the last week to 40ishF today. I expect we’ll get at least one more freeze. I never put out any veggies this early and the flats are safe in a cold frame and on the glassed-in front porch.

    We’ve accomplished several of our domestic infrastructure goals already. The bathroom floor has been tiled, a new low-flow (1.2 gal) toilet has been installed, we added a grab bar and a non-slip bath mat to improve safety and a longer hose for the showerhead for us normal-height folks (the previous owner was several inches shorter than my DH and I), and the light over the kitchen sink now works so I can do dishes in the evening. Painting still needs to happen, as does organizing and trying to get a more-regular cleaning routine going.

    Re household economy, not much new there. I need to do more research into whether to take my pension next year as a lump sum rolled over into a 401k or just let it be doled out to me month by month by the pension-holder. Must look for a book or website on this – recommendations appreciated!

    Resource consumption: I’ve about got the DH and myself convinced to trial the summer without AC. We’ve done it before but not since moving to this house. Will buy ceiling fans for the front porch next month. Glassing-in the front porch does seem to have made a small dent in natural gas and electricity use during cold weather, but I think we need to do some caulking and add shades to improve it for future winters. Now need to get the DH working on hooking up the 500 gallon tank to the garage downspouts.

    Cottage industry/subsistence: increased veggie garden size, trying to be more careful to not prick-out too many more seedlings than we can use for the garden and a few give-aways. Still improving on overall garden plan. Yanked weed trees (lots of them … darn silver maples) and grapevines out of the backyard garden areas, started on pruning, should do more of that over the next several days. Learned to cook grain sorghum and wheat berries in the crockpot and was delighted to find that the Pyrex coffeepot fits in the sun oven … it now heats water for tea in the sun oven when sunshine permits.

    Family/community: along with another member, will be giving a brief workshop called Preparing for Failure: Living Less Complexly in a Complex World to a few people from our Zen center. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

    Outside work: nothing new, still holding a question about how I might offer skills in the so-called formal economy if necessary in my mind.

    Happiness: have been doing Zen meditation at home most days. Music practice however has dropped off as computer time increased due to preparation of workshop and other things. Still working on better balance here.

  4. I’m slowly chipping away at my goals. I’m afraid I don’t have as much to report as you ;)

    Household economy: I’m finally starting a small nest egg! My tax refund was more than I expected (which means they take out too much during the year – I’ll have to adjust that.)

    Resource consumption: I’ve been able to cut way back on heat now that winter is heading out. I tolerate the cooler house temps better when the sun helps warm it up during the day :)

    Cottage industry: Opened an etsy shop. It’s been exciting.

    Outside work: It’s been hectic and stressful. I’ve got to do some serious thinking about this one.

    Happiness: Meditating. Walking. Gym. And soon I’ll be out on my bike, hooray!

    I’m a long way from where I want to be, but I’m going to get there.

  5. Thanks for the update Sharon, it’s lovely watching your preparations for your new family taking shape.

    Looking back over my goals for March, I did a lot more than I thought. That’s the beauty of a project like this (or Independence Days). Little steps really do add up.

    My progress report and April goals are here:

  6. [...] March went, and it strikes me that I might not have updated for February, but here I am again with The Anyway Project, and reminding myself that slowly and surely isn’t a bad way to work towards something at [...]

  7. Oswald says:

    I read the original ‘anyway’ post a while back and loved it (as with your whole site ever since Causabon days). I planted some zucchini, dill and and artichokes the other day, have some basil (I am in the South at the moment), tomatoes, and poblano peppers (!) soon (was supposed to plant yesterday. sigh…) . At any rate, I am trying to live in the best way for the world’s circumstances, even if things turn out different than any one can see, the basics of living better will be the same no matter what, as you wrote.

  8. Sara & Daryl: in northern rural Alabama says:

    DOMESTIC INFRASTRUTURE: Began addition to home, on roof (operative word is began), to which we added new solar hot water panels (to replace old defunct ones) and additional PV panels. Began work on making basement more habital. Bought 2nd hand windows to begin attached greenhouse. Built storage cabinets and shelves. Made root cellar more accessable. Replaced aging shingle roof with metal roof, will be able to gutter later for H2O catchment. Farming conference/classes literature piles sorted into various file cabinets and boxes. Plan for regular meals and house-cleaning developed and posted, ignored so far.


    RESOURCE CONSUMPTION: Sold 3rd car to neighbor down the road; we can still use it if need be. Using up root cellar goods. Will now be able to make more solar electricity & rely less on outside (coal burning) sources.

    COTTAGE INDUSTRY and SUBSISTENCE: 2011 season garden and field plans created and initiated. Onions, potatos, strawberries, some culinary herbs in. Waiting for a dry spell to get in corn. Bought corn sheller. Joined a greenhouse growing class for acess to greenhouse. Ordered & received 11 Cayuga ducklings, 2 american Buff goslings & 7 assorted chicks and am keeping them in van until weather warms up and they get 2 more weeks older and I get intermediate cage built for them for inside the adult poultry pen to intergrate them.

    FAMILY & COMMUNITY: Put add in paper to start local growers group; some responses so far. Learning to not get so involved in parents messes. Hosted a women’s spirituality group here. Sharing the van space with all the poultry in it with a neighbor and taking turns caring for our “babes”. Continuing to serve on wider community board.

    OUTSIDE WORK: Organized nurse job supplies and paperwork.

    TIME, HEALTH & HAPPINESS: need to put focused energy into this category. Former farm intern returns tomorrow, this will help with all categories tremendously. Enjoying quality time with my beloved.

  9. madison says:

    My son and I relocated from Colorado to Maine two weeks ago and we are getting settled in. 3,188 miles :) We had the pleasure of meeting with several internet friends along the way – and riding a horse, petting a mountain lion, milking a cow and finding eggs hidden in the hay. Lots of driving and some fun, too. Glad to be back online, though! Maybe some day I’ll be able to get over your way for one of your workshops! Who knows?!

  10. Marian says:

    It’s a little late, but here’s my March Update:

    Domestic Infrastructure:My husband and I built a window-seat/bookcase structure in the living-room which gives us more seating, more storage, and more space for all of our books!

    Household economy: We worked on making further cuts on our spending. Doing well except on the take-out meals…

    Resource Consumption: Made progress in using less of everything. My Husband finally drank the kool-aid is is now motivated as well to reduce our consumption!

    Subsistence: Our first-ever baby chicks arrived 3 days ago! 2 packages of honeybees will arrive on Saturday! The coop and the hives are ready!
    I planted sugar snap peas, arugula, lettuce, and mustard greens outside. Peppers, herbs, and poppies for poppy seeds are started indoors. I’ve already planted 2 more fruit trees, 6 white currents, 6 more blackberries, and 5 bush cherries. I still need to build 2 gardens for tomato plants…

    Family & Community- nothing…Need to try harder on this one…

    Outside work: Still working but dreaming of the day when I can stay home and work my little homestead…

    Time & Happiness- I’m always happier when I can begin growing and planting things. This time of year it all seems so do-able!

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