Silencing the Noise

kiwi garden

One thing I realized after getting out here is how much noise there is in the city. It’s not just the traffic and airplanes and throngs of people. It’s the fabricated activities that cause noise too. The endless errands that I seem to no longer have. The shopping that I no longer seem to need to do. The non-stop activities that we don’t seem to miss. The constant, endless noise in life keeping you from doing what you really want to do.

I realized after having a hard time forcing myself to post on this blog that it too had become a source of noise keeping me from spending more time with my family, from getting this farm off the ground, from spending time on myself. So I took a bloggy rest that stretched and stretched into a longer bloggy rest but the noise was silenced. And I got lots done.

I am slightly embarrassed to think just how long ago I left off with regular updates. I may even have left off updating when things went crazy LAST kidding season. I never even updated Mary and Mona’s kids, and now they and their kids are on to new owners. And Val has kidded a second season and I have added a newcomer and sold Bessie and am already planning to breed Val’s second round of kids since I left off updating.

After last year’s mini Dairy Goat Show, I changed directions and got more serious about breeding. Val walked away with 4 ribbons. I had no inkling she would do so well. In fact I never even shaved her or bathed her and she sported a dog collar and I let the kids nurse the whole time. Meanwhile everyone else had matching outfits, fancy collars, kept kids separate so udders would be near to bursting and just milked off enough before judging to make sure the goat didn’t leak on the judge. And yet at the end of the show it was Val and I versus Lacia Bailey and Pegasus for best in show. Lacia took it which made me happy because I didn’t even plan to attend the show. But it opened my eyes to what I had suspected all along made a good dairy goat, and that is what I decided to breed for going forward. So I sold most of my herd, and all the babies, re-bred Val and brought in some new blood from far away lines.

Like I have done with the chickens and bunnies, breeding livestock is addictive. Choosing whom to separate out and combine together to create the perfect conversion rate/temperament/eggdairymeat potential/udder capacity, teat size and opening, mothering instincts, etc. It’s a lot of thinking and you don’t know until several generations later if you are even on the right track. But I think I am.

This time last year the 1/4 acre adjacent the house was newly cut deep forest, with all the topsoil bulldozed into a pile tangled with logs and stumps and branches and rocks, making it all completely inaccesible. Since then I have dug through by hand and pulled out the stumps and logs and branches, woven them into a large hugel and planted an orchard in it. The remaining areas I am landscaping or have painstakingly leveled, cleared branches and rocks, amended and planted new pasture to hay or for meat birds. I started the driveway hedgerow project that will be deer fodder and pollination as well as living fence. I’ve planted living chairs of willow and secret gardens that will take several years to fill in. Where others see sticks I see my vision and it makes me happy.

There has been endless fencing and sub-fencing to complete the chicken rotational paddocks, the turkey rotational paddocks, and the goat silvopasture. There has been constant and deep amending of forest soil in the pasture and the newly fabricated garden area soil. I’ve renovated the extensive flower beds, and attempted to clear the woods of buttercups and Himalayan blackberry.

I’ve learned that you never, ever want to gravel because it’s a trap that begs for roundup. Instead I’ve been hand weeding (over and over) 1/4 acre of legacy gravel so thin it’s mostly dirt. Half of that I will bark over, the other half I will bring in more gravel for the driveway. If you are considering going with gravel – please don’t. It increases surface runoff, decreases organic matter and therefore soil life, and traps you into needing to continue buying more and more gravel and then weeding or spraying or flaming said gravel. Consider that gravel needs to be mined, is usually exploded and then trucked to you. Just say no to gravel.

I’ve raised and processed countless chickens and turkeys, milked countless gallons, made a fridge full of cheese wheels, coordinated countless produce bulk buys, canned or fermented or cellared all the food we needed, strained honey, gathered eggs, learned to spin and knit and repeated the cycle again even without updating this blog regularly.

I’ve buried pet bunnies, dogs and new puppies even, taken up the piano again, built arbors and stairs in the earth and cozied things up. I’ve switched to the Ruth Stout method of gardening whereby I lay a thick layer of straw mulch down, open a hole and plop a transplant in or thin a spot and sow seeds. It’s magical I tell you. Forget weeding ever again. Just invest in lots and lots of Sluggo and grass hay.

I’ve managed to find time to watch tadpoles develop in the garden pond, listen to hummingbirds, chase dragon flies, challenge my kids to see who can pick the most strawberries. I’ve done so many things in the last year getting this place up and running that I can’t even remember most of them but it is up and it is running. It is finally a work in progress enough that I can enjoy the journey and relax without looking around and thinking of everything that needs to happen. The project list is dwindling despite me adding to it daily.

So I want to thank you for your patience – you who never removed me from you daily readers, who followed me on Facebook to get my cryptic updates whenever I managed to log in and make them. You who have followed my journey all the way from the 1/8 of an acre in the middle of the city to this incredible oasis that feeds my soul.

I think this place is finally ready for prime time. I think I am ready to blog again. I think I am ready to handle some noise. Especially the croaking of frogs, the singing of song birds, and the sound of the breeze in the high tree tops far up above our hollow. Now to get my broken camera fixed…

16 Responses to Silencing the Noise

  1. Welcome back! It is so good to hear from you! I can sympathise with lots of your thoughts hear due to our recent move last year to a little farm in need of a lot of love. Amazing difference from living under SeaTac’s flight path and next to I-5.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your haven you’ve created and see the fruits of all you labor and love. Wishing continued success to you!

  2. Welcome back, girl!

  3. Missed you :) We’ve been daydreaming about a few acres out in the midwest, and I keep thinking about your little house in the woods :)

  4. Yay. Not to put in pressure but I’ve missed your posts.
    Living in a 1 acre farm right under the flight paths for SeaTac, I have the city noises, and the other noise you mention as well. Looking for the quiet. We’re all on a quest.
    So happy that you and yours are finding time to enjoy and notice as well as all the work of making a piece of land into a farm and a place into home.

  5. Welcome back – your “voice” is always a refreshing read for me :)

  6. Welcome back. We’ve been waiting patiently to hear your noise again. Go to!

  7. Really good to hear from you. Glad it’s going well and that you are choosing what feed your soul.

  8. Really good to hear from you. Glad it’s going well and that you are choosing what feeds your soul.

  9. You remind me of my secret dream, a longing for those childhood days! I’m amazed at how you managed to get these things done and it sounds so magical..glad you’re blogging again!

    • Annette Cottrell

      Noemi this is my childhood dream as well. It’s so amazing to have a second chance at your childhood dream while you still have the body to pull it off! I hope you have that chance as well. xo!

  10. I have missed your posts and am so glad you are back. However, I so totally get the need for a break and am in serious admiration of all that you have done in the past year or so. Glad you are playing the piano too…. music in our lives is as important as the connection with our particular patch of this earth and our families.

    I am taking a pseudo break from my blog this year. Going lighter on the frequency of posts and as a result some of the substance is getting lost too – but honestly, after five years I need a break from it and yet I am not ready to just walk away. I may have to morph into a different focus in the future to keep my interest keen. Not sure what that might be yet, but it will probably come to me eventually.

    Been there on the gravel before and am of the same opinion. :)

  11. Joshua McNichols

    Yay! And what a wonderful little essay with which to re-enter the blogosphere.

  12. Annette Cottrell

    I’m so happy to see you all back! I have missed that interaction with my community and each of you. I get lots of visitors though so I am not ever truly alone out here. But the time alone with my family is fantastic.

    In the city the lure of the million things to do is too much for everyone and once we go somewhere for one person then everyone else needs their turn. Sarah our first house was in between I-5 and the 50th street fire station. We walked around all the time muttering “it sounds like the ocean, it sounds like the ocean.” I think that constant noise is somehow better than the not quite constant air traffic above though. I’m not sure how people can complain about livestock noise when the city noises are so much more crippling!

    Whit – where did you end up? How exciting!!

    Myrnie – you too! We have baby goats and bunnies again. :)

    Laura I totally get that. I finally dropped off a few of the forums I am on and passed the baton on many of the produce buys. Once I had a deadline for writing the book it suddenly became drudgery to write and then when my camera broke it became even worse. I need to get it fixed so that the images can guide the posts and I won’t have writer’s block. I am so amazed at all the bloggers, including you, who blog so consistently for so long. It’s a true gift.

    I am looking forward to better weather so I can at least snap some phone photos to share. This place is really coming along!

  13. I “discovered” you during your break, and have been anxiously hoping you would return! Your book put into words how I’ve been feeling for the past few years. After having read my own thoughts (that had been only simmering ideas and impressions) in your book, I’ve started down a similar path. Instead of planting just a few vegetables and being wary of fruit trees attracting rats and raccoons, I’ve jumped into the gardening world with both feet! My husband is fully supportive and my kids are excited at the idea of going to the backyard for an apple instead of the store. We are looking forward to the harvest and canning, drying, etc…all of the food we’ve grown. Azure Standard may just change my life…thanks for that tip! My friend and I are soon going to be purchasing a hog to share, and maybe a half of beef. I have Emmer simmering on the stove as I type. All these changes are improvements to my family’s way of life. I thank you for the encouragement to “Just Do It”. Welcome Back!

  14. Dear Annette,
    My name is Raoul Perez and I live in North Seattle in a 7000sq/ft lot. Over the last 5 years I have been attempting to transform my backyard into an edible landscape and, more recently, my neighborhood into a gardening community. Through these efforts I am realizing I may be interested in what you describe as a COA. I am wondering if it may be possible to visit your farm sometime and hear how you went (are going) about creating a COA? Please let me know if this would be a possibility at some point this year. Thank you.

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