When we first arrive back home after a stay at the pediatric hospital I am eager to hug on and talk with my older kids that couldn’t be with us during that hospital stay. Once I have soaked them in, my next move is to the homestead. It brings such comfort in the struggle that we have been battling for over 4 1/2 years now. It brings stability, routine, constancy, good repetition, renewal, hope, and comfort to me.
This week, Mr. Smiles, our almost 5-year-old, went under anesthesia for the 21st time in his very short life. The unknowns of his combination of rare liver and biliary conditions have plagued us for what feels like an eternity. Watching him struggle with his health, and not knowing the prognosis or outcome as he has become somewhat of a “guinea pig” so-to-speak for the specialists as they try everything they can to help him survive this, has been so very hard. It is a roller coaster of stress that you desperately want to end but it wont. But the homestead remains a constant. It brings comfort. And for that I am so very grateful.
The first place I headed with my wonderful children along with me was to the gardens. In the few weeks before the most recent surgery, I had been neglecting the gardens as I was struggling emotionally to find the motivation to work on pretty much anything. As soon as we got home, I knew that the gardens needed my attention first and foremost. But also, I needed the gardens. Working in the soil, seeing plants grow and produce, and helping them along in that is so full of hope, and I needed a good dose of hope.
We tied up vining cucumbers and squash plants that were threatening to take over all the walkways and helped their corkscrew tendrils grab on to the arches and cages and other structures that were nearby.
We harvested tender sweet peas, as well as wrinkled, dried pods full of pea seeds for next year. Hope.
We cleared out the rotting under-leaves of the large cabbage and lettuce plants to let air circulate better and prevent fungus from gaining any ground. We pulled out spent plants, making space to then plant new seeds for a winter cold-frame and frost tent garden. We admired the progress of the plants – bumpy, red kuri squash in all different stages of growth alongside large bright yellow squash flowers. Green tomatoes, pepper flowers hidden under the leaves, large onions beginning to bulge out of the soil, climbing bean vines getting higher and higher up the fences as they wrap around and around and around. Hope for a harvest. We harvested a big bowl of purple (green) beans and prepped them for canning to be enjoyed in the cold of winter with a hot meal.
We thinned out carrots that should have been thinned a couple of months ago but got lost in the hospital battles. In thinning, we were able to come up with a nice little pile of fresh, tender, young carrots to enjoy with our fresh peas at lunch time. And we pulled the last of the garlic and set them out to cure in the fresh mountain air. It was a wonderful time of working together and healing with garden hope.
Next, I really wanted to see how Mama Hen, Dahlia, was doing with her first ever clutch of eggs. We had candled the 14 eggs right before we left for the hospital, and were very pleased to find that all 14 were fertile. This could be our largest hatch ever – if it goes well. Hope. I peeked into the dark broody coop and saw Miss Dahlia, all huge and crouched flat over her eggs, protecting them and keeping them warm. She looked great and I thought ahead to how fun it will be when they start hatching and we have a bunch of little fuzz balls climbing all over their mama like a jungle gym.
Little Miss had some exciting news to share with me. One of her new duck hens, Violet, seems to have decided she wants to be a mom as well. Little Miss described to me her behavior of spending most of her time in the duck house on the fake eggs we had put in there to encourage the hens to where we wanted them to lay when they first arrived a few weeks ago. Since we are new to ducks, we have never been down this road before and don’t know exactly what we are doing. So, Little Miss and I did some research, and we are also leaning heavily on Violet’s instincts and abilities. And we are hopeful for a hatch of ducklings in a month or so.
Our sweet LGD, of course, needed some extra loving from me.
And the sheep and goats each got their fair share of petting and scratching as well. The two lambs we kept are now 3 and 4 months old, and the ewe lamb’s size is getting closer and closer to her mother’s. She is an exact twin of her mom, but has always been enough smaller to easily distinguish, but now she is big enough that when they are laying down it takes a good hard look to decide which is which.
Everyone in the barnyard was lazy with the heat, laying around trying to keep cool and not expend too much energy. Sitting on the rock in the middle of the yard, listening to them all chewing their cuds, and the chickens scratching through the compost heap looking for food, petting my sweet dog – just being, and in one of my favorite places to be, was wonderful and healing.
Mr. Smiles is doing excellent recovering form the latest surgery. We continue to hope that maybe that was the last one, as we have done every time. Maybe he won’t need any more surgeries and his liver can go it on its own from here on out. Meanwhile, while things are good and easy, we are soaking in this time together and the wonderful homestead that we are so blessed to live on. We are hoping for baby chicks and ducklings, and a good garden harvest to feed us through the winter, while we hope for healing and rest for our baby, and our family as a whole.