Farmer Graduation

Photos from 2013-06-18
I have officially graduated & am now a real farmer. (According to Heather.)

This afternoon i successfully completed my first solo mission on the tractor: get a new bale of alfalfa & put it beside the goat barn. There was not much of a ceremony, but it felt pretty good. I am thankful to my father-in-law for giving me a quick rundown of what all the levers & pedals do, & then letting me figure it out on my own.

My mantra for the rest of the day is: “I can drive a tractor. I can do anything.”

On Yurts & Crowdfunding, Or, There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

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Tonoo (centre ring/skylight) & supporting pillars.

Tonoo (centre ring/skylight) & supporting pillars.

Last Thursday we put up our yurt. (I’m going to restrain the use of exclamation marks for now, since if i don’t i will use them to punctuate every sentence of this post.) Some of you were here with us; some following on facebook. It was a wonderful time, even with the added challenge of rain. I don’t think that we could’ve beat the rain—once we had the roof felts & exterior canvas on, we could put up the rest of the felts in the rain much more easily—without the help of everyone who showed up. Thank you.

Putting up roof poles.

Putting up roof poles.

The felt insulation.

The felt insulation.

Getting the lowdown on yurts.

Getting the lowdown on yurts.

More felt, this time in the rain!

More felt, this time in the rain!

The outer ropes keep the insulation tight against the lattice walls, as well as connecting the doors to the walls.

The outer ropes keep the insulation tight against the lattice walls, as well as connecting the doors to the walls.

IMG_4576Yesterday we had our yurt-warming party. Again, many people showed up; many also followed on facebook. It was also a wonderful time, made even more wonderful by the absence of rain! Burgers & salads were eaten, drinks imbibed, songs were sung, & our new home was warmed—literally & figuratively.

It was during the building & warming of our new home that i rekindled my gladness that we were trying to crowdfund.

Some of you are aware that we have set up a page where people can contribute toward this first major piece of infrastructure in our mini-farm/farmette dream/adventure: our home, aka, a traditional Mongolian yurt/ger. (There should be a link on the righthand side to our kapipal page, but you can also click here.) We started out by getting approved for a line of credit to finance our home—folks at our local bank figured that a yurt wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage—but after giving it more thought, we decided to try to crowdfund our yurt, at least in part. The main reason is that we wanted to give people an opportunity to support us in this new endeavour, we hoped to become an object of generosity. We wanted this to be an adventure supported by our communities far & near. Like many of our other adventures, we hoped it would be a communal undertaking.

When i use the word crowdfunding, i am using it to mean fundraising which uses one or more social media platforms. There are many of these crowdfunding sites already, & i’m sure more are on the way.

IMG_4599So fundraising is not new. But it seems people are using crowdfunding more & more to fund dreams & visions. For a few decades now, a lot of those dreams & visions have been either self-funded, bank-funded, or, in the case of new businesses, venture-capitalist-funded. Now it seems that people in general want to have opportunities to say “yes” to something by giving a small (or sometimes large) contribution. This is evidenced by the success of many crowdfunding ventures in myriad fields, be it filmmaking, product development, charitable projects, or, yurts.

In the introduction to the Foxfire Book, a compilation of articles from Foxfire Magazine, high-school-English-teacher-turned-magazine-editor Eliot Wiggington  tells the story of how his unruly class became the content generators for a magazine that, for many of the back-to-the-land movement, was a source of knowledge & inspiration.

He had tried to get the students engaged with the course material in many ways. He had tried harsh discipline. Nothing was working. So, he proposed that they start a magazine. The content would come from their neighbours & relatives, residents of the Appalachian mountains.

IMG_4606“And money? The school could provide no support at all. Any financial obligations would be my problem—not theirs. … the kids had to find the money for that first issue themselves, and that made them more determined to see the magazine go than anything i could have said.

And so they hit the streets after school. Any donor, no matter how small [the] gift, would be listed in the issue, and [they] would receive a free copy signed by all the kids.”

I was reading this out loud to Heather & i stopped at that point & said, “That’s crowdfunding.”

What i’ve read so far of the Foxfire Book has been thoroughly enjoyable. Stories of elders, their lives, their ways of life, made possible by crowdfunding. Made possible because the students’ community said yes to this vision by supporting it with gifts small & large.

So we have chosen to crowdfund because we need our community, but also because we wouldn’t want to do this without our community. Building & warming our yurt was so much better because of the support from our community here in Saskatchewan as well as those across the globe.IMG_4601

It is a beautiful thing to belong & to feel supported. As we were putting up the yurt, Yves the Yurt Expert/Delivery Guy told us about how each part of the yurt—the wood structure, the insulation, the cover, the ropes—contributes to the strength of the yurt. No one part of the structure is the key. The yurt is strong because of all the parts that belong to the whole. I hope that for many years, our yurt home can be a reminder to us & our community that that is exactly the same way that a community gets its strength.

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We were also told that Mongolians believe that the spirit of a yurt lives in the door frame. People step over the frame & if they accidentally bump their head or foot, they will pass through again, offering an apology for disturbing the spirit. For the same reason people do not knock on the door of someone’s yurt; also because everyone is always welcome in a yurt.

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So the next time you find yourself driving south of Hanley, Saskatchewan, look for our squat-grain-bin-looking yurt with the bright red door, drive right on up & come in. We can’t promise the traditional Mongolian drink of hospitality (fermented mare’s milk), but chances are we’ll have some sort of beverage to offer you.

Welcome.

Still Saskatchewan 2013 – an album

Our first winter back in Canada was long and, a bit, rough. But now, in June, we rejoice in the sun and our ever growing small farm (a farmette?). Yesterday we received a box of chicks in the mail and later in the evening picked up a hive of bees from a neighbour community. Today it rained. So I organized some pictures and now I share them here. Click on the image below to see what has been happening on The Home Quarter for the last 6 months and how we survived winter.

Joel and the parrot-chicken

still frame / still life – june 1, 2013

On Saturday, June 1st Joel and I experienced an important rural event – the farm auction. Not only were we there to buy stuff (Joel found his dream purchase – scythes (sorry no picture)) but I also got to barbeque burgers and serve lunch and supper! We spent the day outside and came home smelling of barbeque. Lovely.

Barbeque and auction ticket.

Barbeque and auction ticket.

And a lot of pies.

Pies pies

still frame / still life – may 2013

The good news: you can see our garden! The other news: I was in meetings ALL DAY on Wednesday, May 1.

I love my job as Restorative Justice Coordinator for MCCS. It means I get to connect with all sort of interesting people. And I was happy that our meetings on May 1 were at the beautiful Catholic Cathedral (and you know, I feel a bit Catholic after our time working for Catholics in S.Sudan). I facilitated two meetings at the Cathedral – the Restorative Justice Ministries Saskatchewan networking group, and then the Provincial Moderating Committee on Chaplaincy. In the evening I went to a Circles of Support and Accountability training session.  I love my job, but I don’t love being inside all day when the weather is FINALLY habitable.

Meetings...

When I got home I was welcomed by my sweets, the new little chicks we had just picked up and all of our plants:

my sweets

The following day I worked from the farm and was able to nip out once in awhile to enjoy fresh air, chickens, goats, and a future garden.

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We also spent some time pacing out our future yurt!!! We used the snow block as our corner stone.

UP NEXT:

  • Our one year anniversary in Canada
  • The yurt gets a water line
  • The grass turns green
  • We look for support in crowd-funding
  • I seriously consider growing chives as a cash crop

Buying vs. Making

I’m currently reading Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer CultureIt is a very interesting book which advocates for the return of the homemaker. No, not the housewife of the ’50s, but a woman or man in a family who is dedicated to the making of a home: growing & preserving food; repairing clothing; cooking food. Doing the things that cost today’s family so much money, causing people to work longer & longer hours, leaving less time for interaction with spouse, children, friends, & family.

I’m not going to get deep into the specifics of the book, nor am i going to go off on a tirade about how every family needs to take back the Domestic Arts (that’s for another post, after i ruminate on this vast topic more). I wanted to share with you something that i noticed in myself.

As many of you out there know—because you know me in person & have witnessed my tendencies—i am a maker. Some of my friends once joked that a statement that is almost always true of me at any moment is that i am “doing arts & crafts.” I think it really started in full force when i learned to knit & crochet, though i did alter my thrift store wardrobe all throughout high school as a result of my grade 8 sewing class. Once i realized that i could now make scarves, toques, mitts, & blankets, the world was my oyster. & i wanted more.

I learned more cooking skills, baking bread from scratch being a perennial favourite obsession. Now i’m learning how to ferment things like mead & sauerkraut. I am also experimenting with woodworking & lutherie.

Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers, points out that when all the labour-saving devices & industrial convenience foods came into the typical North American household, the housewife* became more of a consumer than ever before. Suddenly her “job” was equated with shopping rather than making. “Being productive” became synonymous with “buying things”.

I am in The City (Saskatoon’s the biggest centre near us, so it is generically referred to as “The City”) today, shopping for various & sundry odds & ends: zip ties for goat fencing, rubber boots to protect our feet from the impending spring mud, & new knitting needles. Reading in the pauses between my shopping forays, i notice within myself how i feel productive after i’ve bought an item. Today has felt like a productive day, despite the fact that i haven’t actually produced anything; i’ve only consumed products.

While this does worry me—this productivity-equals-consumption idea wheedling its way into my brain & my activities—i take solace in the fact that most of what i bought are the ingredients of other things, tools & parts in a bigger DIY project. The zip ties represent the jury-rigged fencing that we are devising in our goat barn; the boots are a reminder that chores go on even when the snow melts & mucks up the land; the needles represent hats, socks, mittens.

*While not gender inclusive, my intent here was simply to be historically accurate. I’m a big advocate for a shift toward a word i learned from my friend Kaitlyn: house-spouse. The historical roots of the words husband & housewife are discussed in Radical Homemakers, which i found very interesting. Again, i’ll probably be returning to this topic more & more often in future posts. Get ready, people.