As an odd winter – of early warm and then (way below) freezing temps, a late abundance of snow and ice, cancellations and snow days, and now flooding – draws to a close, we’re excited to transition to a new chapter. With spring approaching and some exciting new developments in our lives, it seems appropriate to write about birth and rebirth on the farm.
The most exciting recent news on the farm is that our baby girl Maya was born on Valentine’s Day! She is just perfect, with a full head of hair, adorable expressions that my dad refers to as “a parade of faces,” and a fun personality already showing through. As our first child, she is teaching us what it is to be parents, and to love a little person so fully.
We are quite smitten with our little Valentine. We’re adjusting to sleeping in spurts, spending a lot of time feeding her (she was thankfully healthy but small at birth, so we’ve been putting a lot of effort into chunking her up), and trying to get things done while babywearing (I’ve upped my Moby tying game from a D to a B+; still room for improvement).
We’ll be making some adjustments this season as we learn about the realities of integrating newborn care into our farm routine. We plan to move forward with the help of Scott’s parents, babywearing, and a little extra help from our field crew. While I used to do most of our Madison deliveries, Scott will likely take on this role this year, as well as regularly attending the Fitchburg Farmers’ Market. We’ve also decided not to do our local Argyle Market this summer. We needed to let something go and unfortunately in recent years this hasn’t been profitable enough to justify the time we put into it. However, if local customers still want to purchase some extra produce from us, we’re always happy to sell it directly off the farm.
We’re looking forward to introducing Maya to our community – at markets, events, or here at the farm.
Anyone who has driven by our farm in the last 9 months (yikes!) surely noticed we’ve been undertaking quite the house remodel. After years of living in the old farm house that had little insulation, lead paint, snakes in the damp basement, and other less than ideal living circumstances, we decided it was time to invest in our home and in ourselves, and build something more comfortable to raise our family in.
This included quite a few additions: a new master bedroom facing the fields instead of the road, a nursery for the baby, a home office for Scott, a finished basement, a great room also facing the beautiful view, and a garage. This feels like a lot for our small family, but this isn’t just our home – it’s also our farm headquarters, and a place where we work remotely a lot for our off-farm jobs. We designed the house to function for all three of these uses. We now have a guest bedroom for family and friends to visit, which we’re encouraging so those who don’t live nearby can get to know Maya. Scott and I now each have places we can comfortably and effectively work from home. Our new garage will not only be convenient for us to do less ice scraping on cars and treacherous walks to the driveway with the baby, but is also designed to serve as a greenhouse in spring to start our seeds and a space for caterers to use for weddings and other events held in our barn. The basement underneath will serve as a root cellar to better store our fall veggies in optimal conditions.
To assuage our environmental guilt of building extra square footage in the house, we also implemented several energy-efficient features. We added a ton of high efficiency windows and insulation. (We were only somewhat surprised to learn that our freezing kitchen was only insulated by 1930s newspapers.) All lights in the house are LEDs. The biggest upgrade we made was the addition of a geothermal system. Also called a ground source heat pump, this heating and cooling system uses a heat exchanger to draw energy from the difference in temperature outside (from horizontal tubes buried underground) and the house. The system then heats (in the winter) or cools (in the summer) the inside air, and also heats our water.
Perhaps our favorite room in the remodeled house is the kitchen. We added an island and have tons of counter space, which lends itself well to all of our cooking, baking, canning, and other food preservation projects. We got a new stove which is hybrid – propane and electric – and also has both conventional and convection settings. A local woodworker made us beautiful new cabinets so we can keep all our kitchen gear and gadgets better organized and more accessible. We can’t wait to do all kinds of cooking with fresh fruits and veggies this summer!
And of course, we’re also seeing rebirth all around us on the farm as we transition into the growing season. Scott and his mom have a competition each spring to spot the first robin, and this year Scott found one very early – at the end of February. This week we started to plant our first seeds of the season – lots of alliums including onions, shallots, and leeks. It won’t be long before the snow melts and the daffodils appear, many migrating birds return (we also heard the conclareee! of our first red-winged blackbird this week), and we spend a lot of time with our hands in the dirt sowing this year’s bounty. One of the things we love about farming is the inherent tie to the seasons. There’s a time for dormancy and rest, rebirth and growth, incredible abundance, decay and regeneration. While this winter wasn’t as relaxing as we’d hoped (see prior blog post – “A Wild Winter Week”), we still enjoyed a change of scenery and tasks, so after several months away from the day-to-day work of growing food for our family and community, we’re ready and eager to step back in. (We still have spots in our 2019 CSA, so if you’d like to join or refer a friend, please visit our sign up page!) We’re looking forward to launching our seventh season here at Plowshares & Prairie Farm, bolstered by the support of our community and the new birth that brings much joy and purpose to our lives.