Learning to fly

March. The month, not the action.

This week my girls went back to school, and for the first time in years they are both at the same school. However it will only be for a year; this is the last year of school for my oldest. Her last year, and turning 18 in a few months, has made me slow down and focus on her. She is flapping and fluffing her wings with the thought of university, and the possibility of studying away. I would love to keep her close, but I know I have to teach her how to fly.

My youngest is adjusting to her new teacher and classmates, while taking over my studio creating in the evenings and weekends. With the confidence I gained last year in the craft fairs, and with a lot of help and encouragement from my youngest, I finally converted one of the rooms in the old cheese building into a sales room.

The room is the closest to our house and for years we have used it to store our excess “stuff”. The room really needed a clean, and this was partly my reason for converting it into a store. I took “before” pictures, but it is very embarrassing how bad it had gotten! I am a hoarder!

before corner

Before

after corner

After

before window

Before

after window

After

For now it is not open as a store but it is available to show my, (and my youngest’s) work. And we are full of dreams of opening on the weekends!

little store

I have also been busy dyeing wool in my solar oven and making neck warmers with chunky hand spun and recycled silk. I am lucky that my Dad likes silk shirts and that they don’t last him forever!

neckwarmer

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With March here it is also time for a visit to Santiago and my eye doctor. I will have another scan and check up, to see if my nevus has grown.  The first year with my nevus/melanoma was difficult and scary. However, when I learned it was stable, for some reason I felt better prepared; stronger and braver for the day when I do have to fight it (if I do). I learned how to talk about Cancer. I think that was the hardest part, being able to talk to people and not have them react with dread, fear, pity, when all I wanted was to talk.

But why did this happen to me? I believe things happen for a reason, and when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with bowel cancer late last year, I was the “cold one” she could talk to. I was the one who could say Cancer, and let her say Cancer without everything crumbling around her. I love her dearly, and I know she is scared, but I hope I am helping with my “practical” ways.

Her doctor is very positive, the tumour was found and identified early, (no thanks to the first doctor she saw, who sent her home with a cream saying it was just an old person’s complaint, luckily she didn’t agree and went for a second opinion). She wanted to tell her family in her own time, and that is why I didn’t post earlier.

Two weeks ago she travelled to Valparaiso to start her radiation and chemotherapy. She will be there for about six weeks. My husband and oldest are going to visit her this weekend, with her daughters visiting the weekends after. My husband phones her every afternoon, and she says she is doing okay, and I know (like so many women I know here) she is strong. But even with her strength, and wanting to protect her children, I hope she will let them take care of her for a while.

Sara

Living on a farm with animals means at some time you have to face the death of those animals. Sometimes it is wanted, when meat is needed, and sometimes it is unexpected, like when animals become sick or injured. We have had all of these deaths on our farm, and I have helped in butchering animals as well as having sick animals die in my hands. You can usually see it coming, and I am better prepared than when I first arrived on the farm.

However there is one type of death we rarely see on the farm, and that is from old age. Most of our animals are livestock and not pets. There are a few exceptions, like Sheldon, our goose who we raised from a gosling. And Sara, our goat.

Sara came to the farm as a baby In 2001 when we bought our angora goats. Her mother died shortly after and she became attached to us, especially my oldest daughter. The two of them would play games of chase together. She is always the first to come to say hello and have you scratch her between her horns.

Sara

This year we noticed that her age was starting to show, and we knew that she wouldn’t be around forever. She started to separate herself from the flock and was slow to come in from the fields. Last week she became weak, so we kept her in the corral with her own food where the other goats wouldn’t push her.  She spent most of the time sitting, getting up to eat, and giving me the odd “baaa” when I checked in on her.

However, I knew when I saw her Sunday morning that she was at the end, and was prepared for her death later that day. I knew it was coming, and I knew she was in a better place, (wherever it is that goats go to jump and play in their afterlife), but I wasn’t prepared for how much it would hurt when I covered her grave, knowing I would never see her again. She would have been 12 this year, which is not extremely old for a goat, but was old enough for her.

 

Sara

October 2001 – September 2013

Sara2

 

Lets just call this my 100th post

I wanted to write something great and moving for my 100th post, but the more I think about what I should write, the further away I find the post. This happens a lot with me. Constantly thinking, my mind going over every thing so that I get nothing done. However, today I will share.

This morning I looked out of my window, through the mist, and watched the new lambs as they jumped and played, and it made me think of all the beauty around me.

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Like yesterday for instance. My family and I went up the Elqui Valley to Vicuña where we had a terrible lunch, (not new for us), but a nice walk around. We visited Emporio Oveja Negra, which sells products from some of the Creatif participants as well as the owner’s beautiful wool creations. We then visited Galeria Elqui, part of Elqui Total. This is a pretty gallery set in a horse ranch, with textile, ceramic, sculptures and painted art.

I came home feeling inspired and belonging to the artistic/artesian community, – and it feels great!

I have been preparing for the next Observatorio Cultural, but in a relaxed way, enjoying the process. I have more ideas, (have to start thinking of spring) and using more of my handspun.

At the moment I am working on a diagonal weave on my large nail loom.

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I am not sure if it is slower than traditional looms, but there is no warp loss, which is good when I am using my handspun.Image

The handspun is a mix of wool from the south, alpaca, and wool from my sheep.

Loomaug2

I have also been sewing with my youngest daughter and knitting a scarf for my oldest.

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I bought some grey fleece fabric for school clothes, and we made this octopus with some of the leftover.

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This is really simple and great for kids! Here is the link on how to make this no-sew octopus.

There have also been some changes on the farm. Sadly, last weekend we sold the last of our cows. As long as I have lived on my Dad’s farm we have always had cows. But my Dad wants to focus on smaller animals that don’t need as much physical strength to control, (when things go wrong it helps). I am sure this has been harder for my Dad, but he is looking forward to a simpler farm.

And I am looking forward to my next 100 posts!

 

Where has the sun gone?

First it rained.

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Sheldon isn’t bothered by the rain

Then the sun came out and everything turned green and beautiful.

May2013a

And then the sun went away, and we have been left with cold, wet, grey days.

June2013b

June2013a

We are accustomed to misty mornings and grey days, but we haven’t seen the sun in over a week. Clothes are not drying on the laundry line, children are staying home with colds, and where ever you go, people are complaining about the cold.

We are lucky, we have a wood burning stove that keeps us warm. But most businesses, schools and homes do not have heating, so I have been knitting and weaving for my family.

scarf

 

A warm hug of wool to keep loved ones warm on these grey days.

Not wool but feathers

Chickens.  Curious, beady eyed chickens. We have always had chickens on our farm, mainly for eggs, but also for meat.

Before writing this post I had a quick look on the internet to identify the breeds of chickens we have. I found that breed definitions can change depending on the country you are in, and cross breeding means a chicken may show traits from different breeds.  Our chickens seem to be a mix of Araucana, (a Chilean chicken that lays blue/green eggs), Transylvanian Naked Neck, and Brahma.

Originally our chickens were free range, wandering around the farm; they are smart, and they come home to roost at night by themselves. However they can not defend themselves from dogs and tend to lay eggs or go broody where ever they want too.  Dog attacks were the biggest, and saddest problem.  We also had a few small chickens taken by a large bird of prey.

We eventually enclosed the chickens in a fenced area.  A strong fence, dogs can be very persistent.  Part of this area has a net roof to protect the younger birds that are small enough to be carried away by a bird of prey.

We get lovely eggs for most of the year and roosters to eat when we leave the eggs with the chickens to hatch out.  They are fun to watch and I have heard that the Chilean national dance, the cueca, is based on the dance the rooster does to attract the hen.

My youngest daughter loves to come with me in the evening when we close their house door and collect the eggs.  Sometimes there is a hen that is broody and wants to stay in the nest box.  These chickens we scoop up and carry to the chicken house.  Some hens flap and try to peck, but others are docile and my youngest carries them.

I love the feel of these gentle chickens, their bony warm feet hold on tightly to my hands or arm.  They coo and cluck softly as I put them to bed.  And with their naked necks and little cap of feathers on the top of their heads, it is impossible not to smile.

When farm life isn’t so pretty

Some days are full of jumping lambs and kittens, but not all days.

When you raise animals you have to accept that death will always be present.  Sometimes by choice, (when you want to eat a lovely rooster soup), sometimes because of old age or sickness, and sometimes for more violent reasons.  And sometimes nature only does half, and as farmers we have to finish the job, (of course when I say we, I mean the man we pay to help care for the animals, lets call him R).  Male animals in particular are good at breaking bones, ripping skin, or drowning there chosen target.

This morning while we were getting the girls ready for school I heard cats fighting.  When I looked out the window a large orange cat was shaking are little Darwin like a rag doll.  I chased him off, but Darwin had also run off and the trail of blood only led me so far.  Darwin came back 15 mins later and he seems to have a cut under his chin, but otherwise okay.

After dropping my youngest off at school I checked on my dad’s new puppies.  His dog was on the “pill”, but still got pregnant and had 10 puppies two weeks ago.  They are all fat little things, but one of them was half the size of the others, and of course this is the one my daughters thought was the cutest.  When I looked in this morning I saw that this one had died in the night.

And if that wasn’t enough, when I got home R came up to my house with a piglet.  Always bad news when an animal is brought to the house.  This past weekend I was bottle feeding a piglet because it was weak and cold.  (He went back to his mom but died later in the week.)

But back to today’s sick piglet.  Very fat, too fat and R showed me how the little piglet had been born with no anus.  (I know how horrible! didn’t know it was possible!)  R thought maybe we could “make” him an anus, (argggg! Sorry, you really don’t want to picture that!)  I checked on the internet and it is not recommended.  It is also possible with a blind anus that the intestines are not formed.  So I decided we (he) should put it out of it’s misery.

And it is only 10am.

However this is a hundred times better than what I was doing at this time last year, sitting with my youngest in the hospital the day after her operation for peritonitis.

My oldest cries when animals die on the farm, my youngest is more practical, “we have lots, it’s okay” she says.  It is sad when animals die, but you have to have perspective of the things that are really important.  also in my experience, I have found that when an animal dies on the farm another animal is born, usually in the same week.  Life and death are balanced.