vermont

ROSEMARY, IN WORDS | PT. 1: DISCOVERING PREGNANCY

 
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Before I was ever pregnant I knew I wanted to birth at home. Home is where I feel safest and most comfortable. I have witnessed hundreds of animals giving birth and knew without any doubt that I, also a mammal, could give birth in my natural environment. I was eager and curious about pregnancy, wondering how my body and especially my mind would respond. I desired sincerely for my body to become a vessel for another life: an incredible act of feminism and strength; a sacred transformation exclusive to women.

Mark and I track my fertility so we didn't need a test to tell us we were pregnant. My body had already let us know, charted out on a piece of paper, clear for the eye to see. Despite it being obvious, I was in total disbelief. (Mark: "Sam, you're pregnant." Me:"No, I'm not!" "I think you're pregnant." "No, I'm not!") In wanting so much for it to be true I convinced myself that it couldn't be. That night we drove to three separate grocery and drug stores to buy a test to no avail. I still can't understand it, but all three places were either closed or without pregnancy tests. As fate would have it, we would have to wait to find out until the following day on the feast of Saint Isidore the farmer, to whom we were developing a growing devotion and after whom we would name our baby. Receiving the news of a positive pregnancy ranks among the most sacred and wonderful moments of our life. There we were, two hopeful kids in love sitting in a doctor's office, uncontrollably laughing and crying after the nurse told us 'Yes' and kissed me on the head. We were full to the brim with the mystery that was always going to be Rosemary. Insofar we had cared only for goat kids—still very much in the throes of kidding season, actually. Barely the size of a poppyseed but already our beloved baby: everything was changed.

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I had the day off while Mark had to manually dig fence posts. I drove to my favorite town, bought a new water bottle and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, then treated myself to a fancy little lunch. The sun was shining and I felt heavier in the best way. (That heaviness would become so cumbersome that I would later rue the day I ever became pregnant, becoming so convinced that I would set the record for the World's Longest Pregnancy that I would actually google who held the record. Poor, poor Mrs. Hunter. . .) For all the things that have already blurred in my mind's eye, the first 24 hours of knowing I was pregnant are crystal clear. 

Mark took the best care of me. We had a CSA that provided fresh fruit, vegetables, and chicken. My body craved fruit and protein, so I listened. I continued to drink raw milk and eat raw cheeses and allowed myself small cups of beer. I was lucky to never lose my appetite despite feeling nauseated 24/7. The notion of coffee (my first love) suddenly became unpalatable, so I switched to the antioxidant juice Ningxia Red every morning before milking. We decided we would stay in Vermont for the birth (ha!) and continue working the farm (ha!). I can see now that it would have been too much to reckon with if we thought we were having a baby and quitting our jobs and moving home. That is exactly what happened, but God knew the ways of our hearts and I'm grateful for those first weeks of imagining a Vermont birth. It allowed us to choose a home birth midwife in Vermont who was wonderful and ushered us into pregnancy very gently. When her heartbeat came through the dopplar for the first time, we wept. We would both weep in the 17th hour of labor when her heartbeat stayed steady and strong while she rested stubbornly in my birth canal. Our Rosemary Isidora, child of the good earth, waited until she was perfectly ready to join us and not a moment sooner.


—S

A DIFFERENT CADENCE

 

The heat broke. After what seemed an interminable spell of humidity and heat for us northern dwellers, the heat broke and a cool wave washed over the valley. Mid-fifties cool. I was jumping up and down for joy in our kitchen, literally, because cold weather energizes me in a way that always has me wondering if somewhere in me there is Scandinavian blood. If it seems like we write about the weather a lot, it's because A) as people managing a farm we spend a huge amount of the day analyzing radars and guessing what the sky will do, and B) weather is everything! To a farmer, at least. And to a pregnant woman, definitely. And I am both. Pregnant and farming; Farming and pregnant; With child; Expectant; and Moving Home.

We have a mere week left, more or less, of this cadence we've known and abided for as long as we can remember. Not quite two years on this farm, but all we can remember. We have lived, worked, slept, awoken, eaten, napped, and toiled together, every single day, for all these months. And for the last several months, we've done so alongside a growing human on the inside. This summer has been a beautiful season in our marriage and our hardest season on the farm. Balancing what I can no longer do physically on the outside with what I am physically doing on the inside has been a game of gratitude, patience, and grace. We are both bewildered with fascination and awe over something as miraculous as this—the creation of another human being, complete with fingernails and veins and and a beating heart—transpiring in our marriage. 

I am having a hard time smattering together a blog post that touches on our new reality of "parents-to-be who are leaving their jobs to move back to the Midwest so they can be near family and hopefully find fulfilling work until they buy a farm but if not then Oh Well because Life Is More Than Work." But, in my head, all I can think is: hot damn, sex created a human that is half-me, half-Mark!?!?! We movin' home! We don't have to milk at 5:30 in the morning and clean out barn floods anymore! We can focus on ourselves and our baby and our families and not the welfare of 200 animals, if only for a time! Our parents can cook us meals again! We can cook our parents meals again! And on and on. Despite the occasional worry that creeps in (you know, the What If This and How Will We That) I am not afraid for our uncertain future. I am cloaked in armor, especially if armor can be a soft washed linen quilt and a bouquet of wildflowers. I wear a breastplate of marital love that entwines itself more securely all the time. My helmet, a big family awaiting us in Ohio. My shield, unwavering faith in a God who I know has got this one in the bag. I am all good. Mark is all good. Baby is all good. 

Cheers to continuing on the journey that never halts. Like a little bumble in a field of dandies: Ever onward!


—S

A (WEDDING!) CAKE FOR JULY

 

Last summer when two of my closest friends got engaged here on the farm, I immediately started dreaming about making their wedding cake. Not because I had the wherewithal to do such a thing—more like, I love cake, and our little group of friends had all grown accustomed to mini cakes for special occasions, and I love cake. When I was actually invited to make a mini cake for what would be their gorgeous, down home farm wedding, I knew I needed to get practicing. Vermonters are a discerning bunch, especially when it comes to food. Thus, I started my Cake-A-Month project. I pored over cake recipes for the first few weeks of 2017. Then, in classic fashion, I got busy and thoughts of cakes left my mind entirely. In the end, despite my lackadaisical approach, the cake was baked and the bride and groom loved it.

The wedding itself was one of the most beautiful affairs I've ever been present for. Pete and Abi are remarkably un-extravagant and very special. Nothing was contrived and everything was authentic. Yes, they were married on an idyllic Vermont hay field called The Hogback, but Pete was the one who baled all of the hay. Abi was a vision in an ivory linen dress and a wildflower crown, but it was the same dress she wore to her high school graduation and the flower crown was whipped together an hour before the wedding. I was honored to bake a simple cake for two of my best friends. Cheers to baking mini cakes for everyone you love! Hooray! 

This was my second wedding cake. I baked a last minute funfetti mini cake for my sister's wedding. (By "last minute," I mean I flew home two nights before the wedding with a cake stand and sprinkles in my carry-on, put it all together the morning of the wedding, and scribbled a decorative rainbow pennant flag with crayons right beforehand. I told myself I was a good little sister for ensuring they would eat cake, but never again.) For Pete and Abi's wedding, I went with a lemon yellow cake that was super delicious and everything I love in a cake: dense, moist, not overwhelming. I topped each layer with Maine blueberry preserves, and decided to use American buttercream because it's simple, sturdy, and more stable than its lighter (and superior, in my opinion) cousins, Swiss and Italian. My main consideration with frosting was keeping it stable and un-melting, as it was going to sit outside on a hot summer day. A few things went awry as they are oft to do. Overall, I loved the process so much that I am almost willing to offer my unprofessional (dare I call it down home?) cake baking services for your next low key affair. Emphasis on low key. 


—S

LATE SPRING FARM HAPPENINGS

 

I think this goes down as the longest stretch without a new post on our blog since its inception. Life has been admittedly full and busy, maybe a bit more-so than seasons past. It's all been good timing, though, as our previous post about spending five hours in Quincy deserved a few weeks front and center. To those of you who felt touched, enjoyed the post, or reached out with words of love for our family and for Erica, thank you. I am positive that Erica's greatest hope is that we all experience, deeply in our hearts, connection with her. Now, onto what's been happening in farm land . . . 

Immediately following our visit to Boston, my mama, my sister, and her four children came to stay with Mark and I for several days. If you're wondering how eight humans did sharing our tiny house and all sleeping in one big room, the answer is: great! It was a true taste of our family commune dreams. I've oft wondered what a big family in a small house would be like; now I know. The kids loved the farm (especially the baby goats) so much that they refused to go anywhere else, so we didn't leave! Settling into a farm rhythm ended up being a gift. My sissy milked the goats with me while my mom got the kids dressed for the day. Mark would set out on farm chores and the kids would meander up to the kidding barn to cuddle the babies. After milking, all of us (including the kids) would herd the goats down to pasture, while my mom would head home to cook breakfast. The rest of the day would follow suit, with adventuring, farming, and mama cooking for all of us. I learned that children are happy as clams with huge puddles to jump in, cow bones to check out, and coloring pencils. A favorite anecdote of mine happened when my nephew jumped into such a big puddle that water poured into his rain boots. With tears quickly filling his eyes, someone told him that "wet socks are part of being a farm adventurer!" He smiled, jumped into another puddle that flooded his boots, and said, "see? totally ok!" Ah, the magic of children.

Other farm happenings include: awaiting the arrival of our bees, who will hopefully flourish in this valley of meadow flowers and organic pasture; closing the books on kidding season, and opening the books on pasturing the kids we're keeping on the farm; preparing for the pigs to farrow, which will reintroduce piglet mayhem; praising the return of our CSA and the best tasting vegetables our money can buy; foraging and cooking some morel mushrooms and eating endless ramps (wild leeks); moving the chickens in their movable coop every few days so they can do the good work of spreading nitrogen-rich manure around the fields; digging holes for building projects and fixing fence lines to keep the animals from escaping. Haymaking is about to start, and with that the farm officially gets thrown from Spring into Summer.

All of these photos were taken with our iPhones as part of our 'Photos From Afield' series.


—S