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Preparing for the Next Addition

Preparing for the Next Addition

We are paring down our herds and flocks in preparation for the next creature coming to Scrumble Wood: our own, expected early this January (or whenever the babe chooses to arrive). 

I am 15 weeks pregnant writing this. Most of the myriad pregnancy literature promises women that they'll start feeling better by 8 weeks! by 12 weeks! by the second trimester for sure ... except for those unlucky few who experience exhaustion and nausea/vomiting through the second trimester, and, OK, also those unlucky very few who experience that unpleasantness basically until they're holding their babe.

I'm not sure which of the two latter camps I fall in, but I am awed by the women who, throughout pregnancy, keep going with their lives, who throw up in their office building bathrooms or lock their office doors to catch a nap on the floor. I have basically given up any semblance of normal life. I'm lucky that I'm not throwing up all day every day, but it's frequent enough to derail my/our normal routines. I'm so lucky to have a day job that is exceedingly flexible and a partner who is incredibly patient, loving, and supportive. 

What does pregnancy while farming look like? I couldn't really tell you, because I basically stopped doing any real farm work the night I joined Vincent for chores, threw up as soon as I smelled animal smells, and watched the dogs gobble up my vomit. I helped with slinging hay and basically slept the entire rest of the day, and the next day as well. I never understood the true intensity of exhaustion.

Vincent has been carrying the whole Scrumble World by his capable but tired self. Chores every day, moving animals, new fencing, new shelters, getting birds ready for slaughter, HAY. I've continued to go get the grain, but he unloads the 1,000+ pounds by himself. 

I'm sleeping whenever I can, which tends to mean hanging out wide awake and frustrated from 2 a.m. - 4 a.m. and sleeping through the mornings. And then, some days, throwing up the rest of the afternoon/evening. I know so many women have to fight through this exhaustion — to hustle after older children or care for parents or wait tables or, to continue to be a presence in the classroom or boardroom, to continue managing a small business when you don't have anyone else to rely on, to navigate the intensity of addiction or withdrawal or the indignities of incarceration while also suffering what feels like the invasion of the body snatchers. Those women are superheroes. I am so grateful to be able to indulge my body by acquiescing to its needs, and to do so within the private sanctuary of my own home.

My sudden and immense debilitation has really underscored just how unwieldy and untidy our little farmstead had become. We have been rather overwhelmed for a while, doing so much and feeling like we're not doing anything particularly well. So it's nice to have a reason and a deadline to be ruthless in our calculations of what we'll need going forward, but it's extremely tough mentally, emotionally, physically for Vincent to be doing the vast majority of the work by himself. (It's also a hardship — though an absolute privilege — to grow a soul.)

At the beginning of pregnancy, we had: 
6 sheep
3 goats
50+ chickens
8 turkeys
6 guineas
9 geese
8 rabbits
22 hogs, including four sows and two boars
2 dogs
3 cats
A sort of sad garden
... a bunch of rats :( 

By November, we're aiming to have:
(Pregnant) cow
4 sheep
1 goat
10 chickens
3 hogs
2 dogs (3 dogs? The addition of a rat-assassin terrier?)
3 cats
A freezer/pantry full of whatever fruit and vegetables we managed to grow and put up
... probably still a bunch of rats :( 

I keep thinking about how reproduction — in one form or another — is one of the basic parts of the biological life cycle that all living creatures share, even if choice or situation prevents them from pursuing procreation. I think about the women of ancient times, who were responsible for the cooking and brewing and spinning and weaving and milking ... all of the general family management, plus bringing in additional income ... regardless of how they felt on a particular day. I think about the queens whose lives and legacies depended on which sex sperm her kingly husband offered and about the women who served as wet nurses for others' children so they could combine the realities of motherhood with the ever-pressing need for an income. I think about the women who have whole villages of support and love and the women who are doing this thing all alone.

It's amazing to me that in 2018, with so much scientific, statistical, medical, sociological knowledge, we give women and mothers and expectant mothers so little respect or support. Our country charges women thousands and thousands of dollars to experience what are often traumatic labors and births in hospitals, and then we, as often as not, send them back to work within a couple weeks, don't check in on how their bodies and psyches are healing, and expect them to juggle this whole new sphere of responsibility while also maintaining and meeting other societal expectations. It's crazy. Not to mention the very real, scary, and arguably selfish implications of bringing more people onto a planet that is already crumbling under shortsighted or downright negligent care. 

Pregnancy is a humbling, magic-and-love-shrouded biological pursuit that derails normalcy and demands sacrifice. I have so much respect for the women who choose it, for the women who don't or didn't, for the partners who carry the burdens of their suddenly sick and tired family with perseverance and without complaint. And to the women who continue to slog through the intense physicality of farming despite the constant vomit and the debilitating exhaustion: You, especially, are wonder women. Thanks for continuing the hard, rewarding work of growing food while also growing a soul. 




Runaway Bun

I didn’t bother to change out of my work clothes or laced shoes (as opposed to pull-on boots) to do chores. After feeding the pigs I went up to the pasture to bring in Filomena, our recently rescued Morgan mare. She was hanging out with the ruminants and puppies at the end of what was a gorgeous, 58-degree November day. Not that I got to experience the lovely weather, as I was inside at work on my laptop most of the day, with a sinus-induced headache and a constant itch in the back of my throat. But no matter. An evening walk with Filomena is the panacea (thank you 11th grade English) of our dreams.

I managed to give the puppies their medicine, let out the goats (and not anyone else), and lead Filomina back to the barn without getting stepped on. As we entered the barn I heard a scampering in the bedding. At first I thought rats, but then I realized it was our buff-colored bunny named Bun, or The Bun. He performed some wicked-fast maneuvers with his white tail flip-flopping behind him as he scurried under our (Filomena's and mine) feet and out the gate. I finished feeding Filomena and the goats, and went to close up the barn when I heard another larger-than-normal, that’s-probably-not-a-rat scurrying sound coming from among the old tote bags and stacked hay bales. Upon investigating, I found the buff Bun behind a barrel of garden implements. He was tucked against the wall, trapped on three sides. 

We acquired this bun from acquaintances who purchased piglets from us. They were looking to downsize their rabbit game just as we were looking, perhaps foolishly, to grow ours. Plus, the male rabbit they were looking to offload is roughly the same color as Atticus Fuzz, our best boodler and the inspiration for our farm’s name (and the mascot for our general bumbly, scrumbly way of life). We housed The Bun in a small rabbit “tractor” we acquired from other acquaintances who had also decided to throw in the towel on the bunny business (bunny business is trending negatively, it would seem). The tractor is a small rectangular prism made of PVC and wrapped in various wires. You drag it along the ground and the rabbits eat (and fertilize) the grass as it pokes through the bottom. However, these particular rabbit tractors were neither exceptionally sturdy nor sound, and The Bun began to find ways out. I caught and repatriated him twice, but eventually he was out for good. For the past four months* The Bun has been hanging about Scrumble Wood Farm, entirely on the loose, spending his days visiting our neighbor’s pond, sojourning up and down the driveway, and keeping our female rabbit (still in her tractor) company. We’ve spotted him in the woods, the pasture, the barn, and, most often, up the driveway holding a patient and persistent vigil next to his honey-bunny, our grey doe. The Bun is like an uber horny Romeo whose long-eared Juliet looks upon him not from a balcony but through the rusty chicken wire of a flimsy cage. Their tragically stirring soliloquies are expressed not in words, but in nose wrinkles and deeply pensive yet sedately somber gazes. Recently, as we drive down the lane, our steady refrains have been, “We’ve really got to catch him before a fox gets him,” and, “Look, The Bun! We really need to catch  him,” and often just a simple, “The Bun!” Every so often I’ll try to catch him, just to have him escape into the woods. I even brought home a D-net from the nature center. A D-net is a kind of net used in wetland ecology but not generally to catch bunnies. I’ve had no success with the net so far, and, until tonight, I had had no luck with any method..

Let’s take the story back to the barn, where The Bun was in a corner, more or less. I paused, watching him and considering my options for about 30 seconds, then, I took a step closer. He made a move, and I hesitated for just a second, but then I went for it and caught him! He struggled a bit, but I got him good, and then curled him up in my arms to speak soothing words and sweet nothings into his velvety, floppy ears. He’s become such a legend on the farm, and Rachel speaks so affectionately of him, and he was being so calm, that I decided to take him down to the house to share the good news with Rachel. She was at the sink, so I called from outside, for her to come out. I hid The Bun from view as she opened the door, knowing she would be slightly concerned (and making the accompanying face of concern [WHAT DID YOU DO THIS TIME, VINCENT]) by my premature return from chores (usually not a good sign). I turned to show her the surprise, and she was delighted. She made a few cutesy noises, and we exchanged smiles of relief and temporary farm triumph (it’s always temporary), and then I turned to take him back up to the rabbit hutch. Feeling proud and glad and enamored (with The Bun, my wife, and my life) I decided to show him that everything was OK by nuzzling him warmly. I pressed my bearded face into his, and nuzzled his ears and head, saying things like, "It's ok, little buddy!" and, "wut a wittle bun wun," and other annoying-to-read but impossible-not-to-say-when-holding-a-fluffy-bunny kinds of things, all as I continued on my way.

I was halfway to the hutch when I began to feel a cobweb in my beard and across my face. I had clearly just walked into a spiderweb, which seemed odd since I was in the driveway and not the woods. I shifted The Bun so I could wipe my face off, but I couldn’t get it off. I didn’t want to lose The Bun if he decided to start scrambling and scratching (they have rather long claws). So I shifted him in my arms and continued to try and grasp the spider web so that I could remove it from my rather long, whiskery beard. Imagine my surprise when instead of coming right out, the web began moving deeper into my beard, sort of crawling through the hairs toward my face. Yeah. Clearly there were baby spiders in this web, and my rather fortified jawline was obviously under attack. I did a scrambly half-jog, half-run up to the bunny hutch, thrust The Bun inside, and hastily closed the door, pausing only long enough to be sure the lock had clicked into place. I then sprinted back to the house, frantically pawing at my face the entire time. I burst through the door feverishly scratching and shouting for Rachel to come quickly! We raced to the bathroom where it turned out the spiders had turned into fleas! FLEAS, Gromit, FLEAS! Without Rachel I would have been lost, or, well, I would have had to google what to do. Without a moment's hesitation she told me to strip and jump in the shower. I didn't stop to question. As I was racing to hop in the tub I asked frantically, "How does one get rid of fleas?" (because my grammar is always perfect, even in emergency situations). "Shampooing, I think?" came the bemused answer. So  I shampooed my beard and head at least five times, and tried to steel myself for the paranoia at every itch to begin. But at least we had The Bun safely caged!

Or, well, actually … After my five showers in one, I dressed, now smelling like a seriously expensive floral arrangement, and headed back out to finish chores, where I discovered a wide open rabbit hutch and a vanished Bun. Evidently the lock did not click all the way down into place, and The Darn Bun must have made a mad leap from three and a half feet up, into the nothingness of space (since he's around a foot, that's like you taking a twenty food dive). We feared we wouldn't have another shot at catching him before winter, when the foxes would line up for a nice bit of coney tartare. 

*This story began months ago, and I’m just picking it up now, in late February. The Bun has survived winter so far! He’s still on the loose, mostly making his home in our garage, which is the building up at the top of the driveway. But recently he’s smelled out his lady love, who has taken up residence in the rabbit hutch in the barn. Yesterday he popped into the barn for a visit with Honey Bunny and also met a goose, and we’re quite sure we’ll have him contained sooner or later. Either way, we’ll be ready with a bottle of baby shampoo and a big tub of water for our long-anticipated flea-union, I mean, reunion. 

Check back soon for the next installment of Adventures with The Bun: A Day at the Spa at Scrumblewood!