Reflections on A(nother) Crazy Year

This jam brought to you by a plethora of blackberries.

But like, not crazy in the way that news media outlets or your whiny friend on social media likes to call 2021. No – 2021 has been crazy because, admit it, every year is crazy, and we brought a new human into it. So, in the grand tradition of reflection near NYE, let’s talk about the trials and triumphs 2021.

Let’s start with trials:

  • New Baby Homesteader. This one will appear in both categories, because babies and children are, in fact, both trying and triumphant. Babies are hard, y’all. I struggled, and still struggle, with taking care of an infant, and did so especially in the newborn phase. I’d never had extended contact or experience caring for babies before my own, so there was a sharp learning curve in dealing with diapers, crying, feeding, and just figuring out what the heck to do with a baby. Like, for fun.
  • Navigating life with Baby Homesteader. Those first weeks were especially difficult because I’ve never done well with asking for or needing extra help. I foolishly pride myself in doing so many things on my own, where I would benefit from outside help. But when we didn’t have the energy or time to remember to eat regularly, let alone make a meal for ourselves, we had to ask for help. But because I love to cook, having to cut out this very basic need and diversion was depressing.
  • Cat drama. So if we thought we had it hard with Baby Homesteader, our cat was having none of it. When we returned after three days away at the hospital with a new human in tow, the cat would not stop running around the house, and in subsequent weeks, kept licking off her fur and skin to where she was covered in scabs, and basically didn’t have any tail fur. I felt awful for neglecting her to take care of baby. However, there is good news: she is currently sitting next to me, asleep, with all of her fur intact and calm as ever. Whew.
  • Peach tree failure. Thanks to a freak frost in the beginning of spring, our peach tree never fruited. It took us until about early June to realize that we never went through the pit-pruning we usually do in May. (To be honest, though – while we missed having peaches, it was nice to have one less thing to worry about while taking care of Baby.)
  • Main veggie bed fail. Sort of. Sooooo, even though we’ve been quite good with rotating crops in different rows on the main veggie bed, that rotation wasn’t enough to produce good yields of crops this year. Also, even thinking about weeding and watering regularly on top of taking care of Baby was impossible – it would be days or weeks after a weeding session that I’d remember that, yes, I’d need to do it again. Oops.
  • Chicken drama. Dinosaur chickens and chicken mites, is all I gotta say. 0/10, not recommended.
Boom!

Aaaaand the triumphs:

  • Random side garden boom. That tiny bed set aside for our strawberries that will be used for strawberries next year? That’s where we got our plethora of kale, tomatoes, and peppers this year, yay! It’s also the impetus for us to completely redo our big veggie plot, from rows into more chunked beds, and to use a large and newly sheet mulched bed in front for cold-weather crops, in the new year.
  • Moon garden. Thanks to the trellis we built, the moon garden actually looked like a planned garden, rather than an ugly mishmash of random plants. My lavender turned into a beautiful bush, the moonflowers actually did grow from seed (didn’t flower much, but oh well), and the bee balm was a great form of entertainment for baby (as in, she liked to grab and pull it.)
  • Blackberries. Holy crap, so many blackberries. We had enough this year to make jam for ourselves, use them in baked goods for sale throughout the summer, and invite our friends and family to pick them when we just couldn’t get all of them. It looks like we’ll be getting even more next year, and starting a new row, which is extra exciting. Yay!
  • Chickens. After relocating our Dinosaur Chicken, Tendie, and ridding (as best I could) the coop of nasty mites, our chickens are still thriving and doing what they do best: tearing up the grass in our yard, and laying the occasional winter egg.
  • The meadow. Partly because we’ve always wanted to do it, but also because mowing the lawn was one of the last things on the household task list with Baby, we turned our lawn into a planned meadow – that is, we mowed paths through our tall grass to places where we frequent (e.g., the storage areas, chicken coop, garden beds, etc.), as well as near property lines, and let the rest grow. I’ve never seen so many grasshoppers and butterflies, and didn’t know until this year what flowers and other plants besides grass grow on our property. I’m also happy to report that a) no one got any ticks, b) our veggies were mostly left alone by pests, since bugs had nice tall grass to munch on, and c) watching tall grass and flowers sway in the wind is quite relaxing on a summer or fall day.
  • Butternut squash. This crop was the only one to do absurdly well in our big veggie bed. Not only are these squashes huge (they start at two pounds for the smallest!), but we harvested over twenty-five of them from four or five total plants. I’ll take it.
  • New Baby Homesteader. I harp about how a new baby makes things from pre-baby life more difficult – basic household and homesteading chores, socializing like we used to, and doing things together, alone, as a couple, often. But almost nothing has brought me more joy than watching a small human experience the world, and everything in it, for the first time. Have you ever sat and watched a baby play with wind chimes? It’s untainted, pure, real delight, unmarred by any of the “stuff” I worry about, like time, what I’m “supposed” to be doing, and what I perceive someone else is thinking about what I’m doing. She stops me, and allows me to see her delight, and the purity of those around her – children squealing to see a baby, my family gooing and gahing over her chubby cheeks, and Husband being his best as her Daddy. I pause, and stop, and just am with her.

So cheers to 2021, and double cheers to a new crazy year. Happy homesteading, y’all, and see you next year!

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