Category Archives: permaculture

My Life is Ruled by Tiny People

You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.

— Song of Songs 4:7


With Baby Geer #3 on the way, (oh yeah? Did I tell you?)


I thought I would reflect a  a little, and write a post detailing what my life has become on the day-to-day with two toddlers running around.  So much different than 6 years ago when I was going to parties (aka getting a hangover), rock climbing (miss this), and complaining about being bored (I wish).  So here we go, a glimpse into the glamorous life of the Geer clan.  I’m sure many of you can relate.

Bathroom trips:  Something that is a necessity of life and something all of us do multiple times a day, right?  Well in my life it usually results in crying or death defying stunts. It takes about 5 seconds for them to realize I’ve disappeared and that I will be unavailable for at least 30 seconds.  One of three things proceeds to happen.

  1. Someone sits outside the door crying because I’ve left them out.  This is the ideal situation.  It means no one is trying to die, kill the other, or do something gross.
  2. Someone climbs on top of the table/counter/chair/any high place really so that I have to rush through whatever it is I may be doing. I know this is the case because it’s quiet.  I walked out of the bathroom this morning to find Caroline standing on top of the table.
  3. I am accompanied in to the bathroom where there is the opportunity to play in the shower, unroll the toilet paper, flush the toilet over and over (with me sitting on it of course), or try, to my absolute disgust, to dig through the bathroom trash.  All done juuuust out of reach.


Fun! Fun! Fun Mommy!


Food:  If you didn’t know, now you will, that…

-A banana breaking in half while peeling it makes it inedible.

-If we are at our house a peel on an apple or peach makes it inedible.  I have yet to figure out why this only applies to being at home, because a peel is totally acceptable in public.

-The only reasonable thing to do when we are finished with food or drink is to dump the remaining on the floor (or me).  Same applies to wrappers or peels.  But only in the house, outside I am handed everything. At least we aren’t littering.

-Everything I have is for sharing.  Food, tools, computers, writing implements. This is not reciprocal.

-If I am wearing clean clothes, this is a big freaking deal.  Everything that anyone in the house under the age of three eats, I end up wearing, because…


-My shirt is a safety line.  Worried about falling? Grab on!  Need help standing up?  Here I am! Feeling happy, sad, nervous or devastated? Here’s my shirt!

-The only acceptable thing to grab on to when throwing a temper tantrum is my pants.  Since baby number three has expanded my waist line, most (all), of my pants have elastic waist.  I have a whole new reason to fear tantrums in public, loosing my pants.

-Talking the two year old into changing clothes in the morning is like negotiating a multi nation trade deal.

-My favorite… if you stood outside our house during a diaper change or clothing changes you would imagine we were torturing children.  Screaming, crying, everything you would expect if I was say, poking them with a fire poker.  But alas all I’m doing is trying to keep them comfortable and to not smell bad, but I’m pretty sure they consider this torture.


-I’ve given up trying to sit on furniture, of any kind pretty much.  This includes eating at the table or sitting on the couch.  Someone always insists on joining me, and then tries to dive off. And then they cry, not worth the comfort.

-I have many children’s books memorized, because I read them 20 times in a row, every night.  Too bad Vice articles weren’t as entertaining to them.

-If I do anything I require assistance.  Laundry involves help emptying the clean clothes out of the basket, while typing I always need help hitting the right keys, and I absolutely can not do dishes with out a small person standing under me or staring at me and trying to crawl on the counter.

Every single one of these moments is peppered with humor.  Either of the absurd situations I find myself in multiple times a day, the variety of faces a one year old can make, or the imagination of a two year old.


 There is so much love too.  Seeing them help each other with a task (usually something they aren’t supposed to be doing, but hey?) Give endless kisses and hugs, or the simplest, what would be meaningless to anyone else, gestures that I can never get enough of.  Every moment of this experience is completely worth it and gratifying.  Though I’ll be honest, there are about 50 times in the day I would say I lied to you about this.  I go to bed every night exhausted but overwhelmed with love.



Farm Life

So what’s been going on at L&S Farm over the last few months other than growing a new family member?

Well… life hasn’t been easy, there has been quite a few ups and downs, but things are looking up, dare I say it too loudly for fear of jinxing us.

We have 12 pigs who are coming of age which will be great for business.  We had two new litters of piglets born in the last few weeks totaling 16 new piglets.  They are adorable.  We have one more mama almost ready to give birth and she is huge.  It will be exciting to see how many babes she will have.

We have successfully plowed and planted our large field in preparation for all these piglets.  They will be raised on a rotating pasture system, moving from fenced off area to fenced off area eating the high protein crops as they go. We lucked out with the timing of planting.  Shawn’s been keeping track of the rain and moon cycles for the last few years, and successfully predicted a good time to plant.  It’s rained nearly every day since we put the seeds in the ground and a week later the whole field started to sprout.  I can’t wait to watch the process happen the way I know Shawn has been planning for the last few years.  He’s also been training the pigs to come when called and Caroline has started using the call too, it’s freaking adorable.  How cute is it going to be seeing this little blonde head leading the pigs out to pasture.

image1 [74982]
We’ve also had the opportunity to experience how truly lucky we are to have our people around us here.  The last few months would have been devastatingly hard if it weren’t for our friends.  From helping kid watch, to helping build fences (in more ways than the obvious), bringing us food so we could have a small break, and even just listening ears and solid advice. I feel so blessed and lucky to have these people in our lives.  There were many times their kindnesses had brought me to tears.  So I say from the bottom of my heart

Thank You.


Some interesting links for you:

The life of a Russian Rhythmic gymnast

Today I Lived and You Did Too



She drank from a bottle called DRINK ME
And up she grew so tall,
She ate from a plate called TASTE ME
And down she shrank so small.
And so she changed, while other folks
Never tried nothin’ at all.


It’s funny how time passes.  I look at the clock and an hour passes in what seems like seconds, at other times five minutes feels like an eternity. How is Gus two already?!

Oh!  The dogs are barking.  Is someone here?  Wait, it’s 2 in the morning, I hope no one’s here.  I hope they aren’t chasing the cats.  Should I go outside and check?

Is that someone looking through the window?  Nope, just my plant.

I wonder if Gus is cold?

These are the thoughts and conversations I’m having with myself while I’m up in the middle of the night with a certain baby.  Who hates to sleep.  I may be loosing my mind.  I wonder how long someone can keep it together running on so little sleep, because I don’t think I’ve slept an entire night since Gus was born nearly 2 years ago.  And I’m positive I’ve had, at the most, 4 hours of consecutive sleep at a time since Caroline was born 7 months ago.  Lately (like for the past month) 2 hours at a time is the norm.  And this girl likes to party.  We have little parties a few times a week in the middle of the night.  She will decide that rolling around like a mad women is much more entertaining than sleeping.  Because her crib is too small for such shenanigans, she prefers my bed.  It’s my job, apparently, to make sure she doesn’t dive off the bed or suffocate herself.  Usually these parties last about an hour or so, that’s about the time she tires herself out and we are allowed to go back to sleep.

Good thing she is so darn cute


How can something that feels so rewarding, be so boring, exhausting, and infuriating all at the same time?  Hello parenthood, I hate you and I love you.  But I’d love you even more IF YOU WOULD JUST LET ME SLEEP.

So it’s been awhile since we last spoke, I’ve been trying to keep everyone alive, while also not succumbing to madness from sleep deprivation. Priorities.

We ended August saying goodbye to Sam and Amy.  They became our family, and the moment they left their presence was missed.  We were back to teaching the ways of the farm to new volunteers every couple weeks, I had to adjust to being able to take care of Gus full time.  Amy and Gus went on adventures every morning while I took care of Caroline and worked on my end of the business.  So many adjustments.  Sam knew the ins and outs of the butcher business, and I don’t think we will have anyone cut bacon better than he did. Frankly, life seemed a little empty there for awhile.  You can follow their adventures on instagram at karmathekombi.  I know they will go far, and I can’t wait to watch.

We’ve had some really interesting and great volunteers come through in the last couple months.  Andres and Amy from the U.S. And England.  Cami and Dennis, a French couple.  Tim from New Zealand,  Elaine and J.J. from Ireland (Elaine could be my best friend if only she accepted Tuna in to her life) Sam from the U.S. and Adrienne and Lawrence from Canada.

Shawn and Gus got to go to the United States for a couple weeks.  I was very jealous, and it was very quiet around the house.  The quiet was especially felt in the mornings and evenings.  No one dancing on the couch, asking to go for a walk or play “choo choos.”  (And that’s just Shawn) I thought the quiet would be nice, it wasn’t.  I realized how wonderfully full my life is.  Isn’t there a saying about this?  “You don’t realize what you’ve got till it’s gone,” or “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  All those apply.

They got to spend time with Grandma Betty, Grandma Jesse, and Gus got to hang out with all of his cousins, Aunts and Uncles, and of course his Nana and Papa.


Isn’t this how everyone travels?


Go Gus! Proud Mommy over here.

Something very cool happened while they were there.  I am apart of a Mommy Group on Facebook. We all have babies the same age as Caroline, well they put together a care package for me that Shawn’s mom picked up.  It really was such a cool and amazing thing.  All these ladies I’ve never met in person pull together and help each other out. So much love and support, I was honored.

While they were gone our good friend Washington helped the volunteers harvest honey from the hives.  So far its been a great year for honey, the bees have been busy.  The volunteers who helped learned a lot and Washington really enjoys teaching.  My house smelled amazing too.


Photo credit to Amy (of Amy and Andres) some honeycombs from one of our hives

We think it was such a successful honey year because we had some late rains at the beginning of the “dry season.”  Ecuador has two seasons, Rainy Season (during the North American Winter) and Dry Season (North American Summer).  The rains encouraged the Eucalyptus trees, which are abundant here and from which the bees get 99% of their honey, to bloom late.

Big Momma had some heartbreaking news (our big sow).  We thought she was pregnant, but as the time for her to give birth came and went we realized something was wrong.  Dany (our vet) came out, turns out it was a phantom pregnancy.  We just can’t catch a break these days. Everything else on the farm is trucking along.  We have 10 “piglets” running around. Everybody had their pastures moved around some, and the rainy season has begun which is always a refreshing change.

image2 image1-1

Caroline has started to eat solid food, sits up by herself for the most part, and is starting to be mobile.  I fear crawling is only about a month away.  She loves her walker and bouncer, and really likes running over her brother.  From his screams you would think it was a train running over him, and he was tied to the tracks because he doesn’t get out of the way. She does this adorable thumb sucking thing too.


First food!


Gus is quite the jabber mouth, he adds more words to his vocabulary every day, and practices them constantly.  We’ve started preparing him for potty training, which has also added some great words to his repertoire. He loves trains, and trucks, and spotting airplanes flying overhead. He will help you out doing anything you ask him to.  Wanna dance? Just turn on some music and he’s there ready to bust a move. He can jump, pretend to be a frog or bear. You’ll know if a dog or cow is within your vicinity as he promptly moos or barks when one is near.  There are quite a few cows and dogs on our drive to town.


Helping with lunch


Finger painting fun


Some of my girlfriends and I are throwing a Halloween party and Gus will get to get dressed up and go trick or treating. I am not going to miss this particular tradition with my kids, and we are so lucky to have friends willing to help. I’m sure I’ll have lots of pictures to share.

The tradition of trick or treating and getting dressed up for Halloween is not something they practice here.  Shortly after Halloween, on Nov. 2nd is the Day of the Dead.  The indigenous bring a meal to the cemetery and have a meal with their ancestors, remembering and celebrating them.  They make bread in the shape of babies and horses, and a drink called Colada Morada out of the tiny wild blueberries that come in to season this time of year.

November and December bring visitors!  An old roommate and good friend is coming down in the beginning of November.  I think it’s been about 3 years since we’ve seen each other. I’m ecstatic to show her around our paradise, and meet her husband for the first time.

Shawn’s family comes in December, and we are going on vacation!  The Mindo cloud forest, sightseeing in Quito, and the beach for a few days, who hoo! We are using AirB&B for the first time, I’ll let you know how that experience goes, but the thought of my two children sharing a room to sleep in is already giving me anxiety. But who knows maybe Caroline will figure out this sleeping thing in the next two months and it’ll all go smoothly. (Hopes and dreams eh?)


Here’s what I’ve been reading/watching:

This fed my adoption bug – The Child I didn’t adopt

This is pretty rad, a language that’s around us all the time as it’s the native tongue of most of our neighbors, this Girl rocks out some Michael Jackson in Quechua.

Cotacachi from the air – so cool

Here We Are

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Rather ask – what makes you come alive? Then go and do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” – Howard Thurman

Two years ago today, May 25th, Shawn and I got married in Holdrege, NE under an apple tree in Grandma Betty’s backyard.

Our wedding day

Our wedding day

Three years ago this month I landed on the farm.  If you had told me then that in three years I’d be married to this guy I had just met and we’d have two children, I would have told you you were crazy.  But, here we are.

My first day on the farm

My first day on the farm

Cows my first day on the farm

Cows my first day on the farm

Tiny cuddles

Tiny cuddles

So much has changed since then.  The weekend I met Shawn was the weekend he got his first five piglets.  All of our pigs now are decedents of Cici, Big Nose, and Muddy, the ladies of that group. What started as a permaculture project, using pigs to work the ground and soil as animal tractors has turned into our livelihood, and business.


We have a business!  Four years ago Shawn started smoking a few chickens to fill a small demand. Now we sell a wide variety of smoked and fresh meats.  Pork, chicken, and soon beef.  We have an official name to our business (L&S Artisan Meats) a cool new logo, and soon a website.  Best part is we’ve held on to the values we started with.  We are still using sustainable, permaculture practices, with happy, healthy animals.

Our logo

Our logo

Rafael and his family no longer live on half of the farm. Our partner in the US decided to sell and they moved a short distance away, but visit often. The house they lived in no longer exists, a new one is being built. There is only one coop left, half of it still holds chickens, but only a fraction of what we once had (they used to hold 20,000).

The fruit trees are slowly growing, but look like trees now rather than sticks in the ground.  The native trees, the Aliso, Poraton have taken off.  We have mora vines, taxo vines, zapato vines, alfalfa, Rocoto plants, kale, achocha, arugula, and dill that all pretty much grow on their own amongst the trees and the pigs. Which is great because we no longer have time to keep up with a garden like we once did.

We, along with some really dedicated volunteers, have built on to the house to accommodate our growing family.

Dek painting the mural

Dek painting the mural


The kitchen cabinets have doors now! Oh and the stairs?  They are no longer throwing people down them.  When Caroline was born Papa Tom built us some new ones.  I remember holding on for dear life walking down the sloping stairs the first day I stayed here.



We’ve had a greenhouse go up, and come down. A chicken coop turn into a carport.  Built an earthbag bodega, built a roof that evolved into a loft for the volunteers, then a butcher kitchen. Built a fancy new entrance with a fancy gate, that was promptly knocked over in an unfortunate chicken manure truck incident, now there’s a not quite so fancy new entrance, forget about the gate.

Building of the earth bag bodega

Building of the earth bag bodega

Adding mulch to the sides

Adding mulch to the sides

What it looks like now

What it looks like now

The mountains still watch over us, and the Big Dipper is still in the wrong spot.  I always used it as an anchor when star gazing in the summer time at the lake growing up in Northern Minnesota.  Nowadays Orion’s belt helps me find my way as the Big Dipper doesn’t break the horizon until after 11.  The fireflies are still mesmerizing, as long as they stay outside.  Piolin is still the noisiest dog, Luna still obsesses over rocks, and Dirk is still the boss of them all.

Shawn fan club

Shawn fan club



Piolin in doggy bliss

Piolin in doggy bliss

Teeny tiny Tony, Tigger, and Cuddles

Teeny tiny Tony, Tigger, and Cuddles

Our evenings no longer consist of playing gin or kings, instead they’re filled with jumping on couches, chasing toddles, diaper changes, bath time, and 8:00 bed times (adults included).




To be honest one day last week after I was particularly sleep deprived and overwhelmed I was telling Shawn about how much I missed our carefree, responsibility less days sometimes, and he put it in perspective. He told me he didn’t, he didn’t miss trying to find things to do to fill time, he said he had a purpose for every minute of the day now, and that he has fun and laughs more, even if it’s just to keep from losing it with the toddler. He’s right.

What will happen in the next two years? Only time will tell, but I hope it’s filled with more of this. (Maybe a little more sleep)



Great group of volunteers

Great group of volunteers

9 month pregnant family photo

9 month pregnant family photo


Brother and sister meeting for the first time

Brother and sister meeting for the first time

Caroline doesn't like headbands

Caroline doesn’t like headbands

Giant Tony

Giant Tony

Being goofy

Best picture ever

We are still working towards our gofundme goal.  If you want to help us out visit our page and donate.

Some places I’ve been:

This is amazing, and should be read by all mothers, especially the new ones.

I’m going to start this today, we’ll see how it goes

I just really liked this one

Chronicling The Adventure

imageMr. Edward Magorium
37 seconds.

Molly Mahoney
Great. Well done. Now we wait.

Mr. Edward Magorium
No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.”

Well, it’s been quite awhile hasn’t it?  We’ve been pretty busy over here at the middle of the world.  In fact, baby number 2 should be here by the end of the month.  Ahh!  Gus is a busy, energetic, 16 month old toddler.  He has his own agenda every minute of every day and definitely lets us know what he wants.

It feels like a lifetime ago since I’ve updated this blog, and in the Internet world it probably has been. But in my everyday, day to day life, time has passed in the blink of an eye.  We’ve had litters of piglets, many volunteers, lost a cherished pet, lost a litter of piglets, and I’ve grown a whole new human.  I think back trying to decide what to write and I don’t know where to start? But when did all of this life happen?

Then I realized it happened while Gus and I were chasing after cows mooing like mad people. It happened when I looked at the first little stick with a plus saying we were going to be a family of four, and then the second little stick because I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It happened when Gus didn’t just start walking, but seemed to start running right off the bat.  It happened while we were in the United States visiting family for the holidays, but desperately missing Shawn at the same time. It happened while we buried our beloved Marley, and then the world seemed to unravel on us in one week.

So I’ve decided it was time to keep all these things written down again.  Another huge life changing event is upon us, and like Grandma Betty so wisely pointed out, I’m going to appreciate writing these events down, reflecting, and most importantly letting my babies read them when they’re bigger so they know what our life was like when they were small.  Their crazy parents who decided to leave the norm and chose to give them a different kind of life here in Ecuador, one that may take a little more struggle at times, but when I watch my one year old son climb a fence so he can play with some pigs, or run to the mora (berry) vines to have snack, I know it’ll all be worth it.
And this life will be the ultimate adventure.














Five Months Under Our Belt

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” -Pooh

Ugh, I’m embarrassed I’ve neglected writing for so long. I’ve written this blog, the next one after Gus’ 1 month blog 4 times now! But for some reason I just haven’t posted it yet. SO MUCH KEEPS CHANGING! It’s nuts! It takes me a lot longer to write a blog now (you know, the baby business) by the time I feel like I’m ready to publish, its been a month and life is so different. I can’t keep up. Just when I’ve gotten used to something, everything flips around again.

Gus is officially 5 months old. He giggles, from way down deep in his belly. Probably the best sound in the world. What makes him giggle? Monkey noises, his daddy tickling him with his whiskers, leg tickles, rib tickles, fart noises (which he’s got really good at imitating, thanks Daddy) toe tickles, Ecuadorian ladies fawning over him speaking Spanish to him, little tosses in the air, and playing airplane. We have a lot more fun now that he’s less delicate, and more rough and tumble. The gymnastics coach in me had a hard time in the newborn phase, I didn’t know how to “play” with him, and was worried I’d break him.

Smiley Monster

Smiley Monster

He’s rolled over a few times by himself. He scoots when he’s laying on his tummy. He ADORES standing, and pushing off his legs. He stares at his hands intently, and has found his feet. He will put anything in his mouth, my hands, his hands, my chin, toys, clothing, you name it he will chew on it. I’m pretty sure we will be seeing a tooth sooner rather then later. I’ve given him “tastes” of avocado and banana, which confuses him greatly.
Gus and Mommy

Gus and Mommy

Up until about a week ago Gus didn’t pay much attention to any of the animals. Now he watches the cats intently when they walk into the room. Reaches for them, and touches them when he can.

Gus & Cuddles
We visit the piglets, he smiles and laughs when they nudge him. Piglets and babies, you can’t get any cuter than that.

Gus and piglets

Gus and piglets

After a week long protest he’s back to sleeping 8 hour stretches at night, then back to sleep for 3 more. The week he turned 4 months he woke up every.single.hour. I almost lost my mind. We discovered he liked sleeping on his side, and it’s been a lot better since then. Even with my rocking, walking, and nursing him to sleep, all those no-nos I did, he prefers to just roll on to his side and go to sleep. I almost cried the first time he did it. He was fussing nonstop while I was putting him down for bed, I laid him on our bed to give my self a 10 second break, low and behold he rolled on his side and was out like a light. I pray everyday that all our children have the same sleep habits… Not holding my breath though.
(Of course I took a picture the first time)
Beautiful sight

Beautiful sight

We got to go to Quito and he now has his American birth certificate, and passport, as well as his Ecuadorian passport, and I.D. To get his American identification we had to bring in medical records, pictures of us and me pregnant, Ecuadorian paperwork, and sit through a pretty interesting interview. All the Ecuadorian identification was easy peasy. Less then an hour in the passport office. I am very relieved to be done with it all.
Passport photo

Passport photo

So What’s Been Going On At The Farm You Ask?
We had a new litter of piglets born to CiCi. They were adorable of course. There was one little guy we were worried wouldn’t make it. He was either kicked in the mouth, or was born with a defect, but he had a really hard time nursing. We’ve been feeding him milk in a bowl and he has since started thriving. He’s still the littlest one but he sure has a lot of spirit.
CiCi is the only pig left of her generation. Saying goodbye to Muddy was really difficult for me. I had to leave the farm for the day.
Muddy’s piglets are getting really big. They aren’t quite as friendly as their Mom and Aunts and Uncles were.
We’ve had to say good bye to some cows. Sabastian, Two Horn, Salvador, One Horn, Mercedes, and Josephine have all been sold. We still have Loki and Perdida and are hoping they will make the next generation of cows for the farm.
The garden is back in full swing and it’s beautiful. We’ve been going behind the pigs and planting. Most everything is still seedlings but it’s really exciting to watch everything grow.
Josephine, Mercedes calf

Josephine, Mercedes calf



CiCi and her new brood

CiCi and her new brood

Newly planted garden looking pretty good.  Can't wait for everything to grow

Newly planted garden looking pretty good. Can’t wait for everything to grow

As for me…?
Of course everyone says that the first 6 weeks are the toughest. Things have certainly fallen into a routine, but I don’t think Gus has gotten any easier or harder. What I think changed was me. I became more at ease with what life as a mommy is. I’m not nervous or anxious about much anymore. I no longer worry that he’s sick or hurt when he cries, babies cry. Most of the time he’s just a little bit bored, or teething, or hungry, or tired. All of which I am confident that I can fix now.
Gus - Brent_03

Gus - Brent_02

Gus - Brent_01
Christmas was VERY tough for me. I had this little being and his great daddy, both were incredible, but I was a little lonely and homesick. All holiday seasons since my mom died have been bitter sweet, but this one seemed more intense. I read an article about having children after the loss of one of your parents, it really resonated with me. I can’t find the blog again, I wish I had kept it, but it talked a lot about how having a child reopens the wounds of loosing a parent. I look at Gus and think about how much my mom would have loved him, and how much I wanted her to see me as a mother. As Gus grows more and more people say he looks like Shawn, and I agree, but when I look at his eyes I see my mom, and I’m grateful.Gus floor

Crazy Daze

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Martin Luther King

Whew! So here’s what has been going on, and there is quite a lot since I last wrote (I am aware that it was a VERY long time ago).
I feel like we haven’t stopped moving.  You know a couple of posts ago when I said I didn’t think we could get much busier?  Well I should have kept my mouth shut. 
The first exciting news is that we have a new calf on the farm.  “One Horn” the one horned cow has been pregnant for what seems like forever and finally, out of nowhere, gave birth to a baby boy we named Loki.  Loki is the Norwegian god of mischief, and my sister was hoping I would name the baby Loki.  I don’t think I’m ready for a mischievous first born, we have more experience with cows at this point, so I thought it was a good name for him.  It fits him well, even his birth story fits.  (But as I write this I’m thinking that our cows may be mischievous enough and I may have made a mistake).
One morning all of the cows were missing and Shawn went to go find them.  They had made it past two fences into a distant neighbors field.  What Shawn thought would be a quick trip to grab them turned into a couple hour ordeal as he discovered the new born calf and momma.  In the end he wound up carrying the calf out, with momma, and our stubborn bull who refused to leave them, in tow. We still aren’t entirely sure why he was so protective of them.  We are almost positive he isn’t the daddy, but it was possible he was protecting his chance to mate with her when she goes into heat again. So now we have Loki, who runs and plays, even teases the dogs.

Loki's newborn picture

Loki’s newborn picture

At this time the only volunteer we had staying with us was Spud.  Shawn’s cousin Dan had headed out to continue his travels.  But boy did we need more help.  The house construction was in full swing. So we lined up four volunteers to come, but the earliest any of them could make it was the next weekend, and Spud was leaving.  So we did something we had never done before, we accepted a last minute volunteer request from an English couple.  Charlotte and Mauricio have now been with us for four weeks.  Those two plus four more volunteers and we have one full house.  Dek, Paul, John, Rosie, Charlotte, and Mauricio have been life savers though.  Without all of them this addition project would have taken A LOT longer, been more expensive, and I may have lost my mind.  I am so grateful. 

Right when Charlotte and Mauricio arrived I realized that I was about to be an illegal immigrant.  My tourist visa was about to expire, like in days.  I had gathered all the documents I needed in the U.S. before I came back to Ecuador.  Lucky for me Charlotte went to college to be a translator.  So her and I had to make a few hurried trips to Quito to apply for my permanent residency visa.  I will be a dependent on Shawn’s visa, and it was fairly straight forward.  They even have a gentleman there that speaks English (not that we needed him, I had Charlotte).  The website has all the different types of visas with the required documents on it, and in English.  Just a lil bit of luck and research before I left the states saved us about $800 in lawyer fees.  

I also had a doctors visit.  I have been having to see the doctor about every 14 days because I had developed polyhidraminous.  It’s a condition that affects 1 in 100 pregnancies, where I have too much amniotic fluid. I have never been so scared in my life.  Half of the time it means I have gestational diabetes, but I was tested for it and tested negative.  Half the time they don’t know why it happens, and means nothing except that I’m more uncomfortable.  The reason I was scared was some of the time it means there is something wrong with the baby.  He keeps the amniotic fluids level by swallowing it, and breathing it in.  So when there is too much it may mean that he has some sort of developmental problem.  During ultrasounds the doctor checked his bladder, kidneys, stomach, and brain and everything looked normal and healthy.  It also means I am bigger then I’m supposed to be.  I was short of breath often, and pretty uncomfortable.  But at this last doc visit, my amniotic fluid was down by three centimeters, and I was almost the right size.  The baby weighed 3.75lbs, and I got to see his little face.  I’m sure he’s going to have some chubby cheeks.  

What a month it has been.

So here I sit, writing this to all of you, almost feeling sorry for myself for all these dumb reasons. I’m uncomfortable, I’m tired, I’m always running around and busy, our house is always busy and I have no privacy, my house is under construction, my baby’s crib isn’t made yet, we have no where to put the baby’s things, the animals get hurt and need time and money we don’t have blah blah blah.
Then I check myself and realize how truly blessed I am.  

I have never been homeless. I’ve never been hungry, lived in fear, or been abused.

I look at the things I DO have. I have a cow that gives me fresh milk when I want it, and bees that turn the medicine provided from the plants around me into a sweet, tasty treat (we got our fist small amount of honey from our bees a few days ago, it’s heavenly).  A garden full of plants that will make sure I never go hungry. Pigs that dig up the ground, and fertilize it so that I can grow the things I need, and will eventually sacrifice themselves to feed my family.
I am never lonely, I have cats to cuddle with, and provide entertainment all day.  Dogs that give unconditional love and protection.  These amazing people who are willing to come into our home, provide our home with life, companionship, and give their time and effort to make this place into that much more of paradise.  Shawn’s birthday was yesterday and they helped make the day extra special for him.

I have a loving husband who works really hard for me and our son. I will have a son to love and care for in less then two months, who reminds every hour, minute, second, that he’s there and coming, and how lucky I am to experience this pregnancy.  Last but not least I have a family, that no matter what happens, no matter how hard I fall, I know that they are there to help me up, put me back on my feet, give me a lil shove and tell me to get going again.  Gratitude really is the key to happiness. 

Oh and on top of all this I’m going to have one kick ass room, in the mountains of Ecuador, that is as big as some of the apartments I’ve lived in in my life.

I'm sure there was meat involved in the taking of this picture.

I’m sure there was meat involved in the taking of this picture.

Seed fair we attended, we found jicama and some beautiful beans.

Seed fair we attended, we found jicama and some beautiful beans.

Seed fair

Seed fair

Loki and One Horn's first picture

Loki and One Horn’s first picture

Our first batch of honey

Our first batch of honey

32 Weeks!

32 Weeks!


They have arrived!! New family members are here. Muddy one of our sows gave birth to five baby pigs, Saturday, August 10th 2013. The first arrived at 9:30am, and the last at around 12pm. This is our first litter of piglets on the farm so they are teaching us a lot. I’ve tried reading up on what was going to happen when the time came, but gathering information that was relevant to us was a challenge. There is tons of literature from universities on the Internet about breeding pigs, but almost all of them focus on the commercial aspect of breeding pigs. I did find a few websites that were helpful, which has individual authors write about what they know. The other was which is a forum based website. The later was the most helpful to me, seems like it was more people just like me, who have gone through some of the same experiences and offer very practical advice.
So here’s how our experience has gone down so far…
We moved Muddy to her new home a week ago. She has a fenced off area to roam, and we built her a farrowing den.

Muddy's new home

Muddy’s new home

I posted about this last week, but it’s purpose is to give her a comfortable place to nurse, and the piglets a safe, warm, place to be so they don’t get crushed by mom trying to stay warm. We have an electric heater on the piglet side and try to keep their half around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We are trying to keep Muddy comfortable as well and keep her side around 60 degrees. But that’s hard because we’ve had a couple sunny warm days here.
Tigger (my constant outdoor companion) inside the farrowing den.

Tigger (my constant outdoor companion) inside the farrowing den.

She hung out in her new home for about a week so the stress of moving her had subsided, and gave her time to get used to her new home.
We noticed Friday night that she had started to get really busy, cleaning, digging a little, and when we pulled on her nipples, a little drop of milk came out. She was still eating so we thought we had at least a day or so. Saturday morning when we fed her she did not eat, and there was a small amount of liquid leaking out of her, which turned out to be her water breaking. Then about 9:30 Shawn runs in the house to let me know it was happening.
We had a couple of soft dry towels, and wet towels to clean off the babies as they made their appearance. From what I read the whole process could have happened without any human interference, and we actually did very little, but we were all feeling a tad overprotective so poor Muddy had four human observers. The umbilical cords, detached on their own, we cleaned off their nose and mouths as they came out and helped steer them in the right direction to nurse.
#1 nursing

#1 nursing

The average time between births was about 30 minutes, the longest being about 45 minutes, and the shortest six minutes. The first two, who were boys were quite big, the middle two girls were smaller then the boys but still a good size, but the last little girl was teeny tiny. We are still worried about her and her size, hoping she thrives. If she can make it through the first week I think we will be in the clear.
Little girl #5

Little girl #5

So now 48 hours later…
Muddy spends a majority of her time in the crate. We check on her and the babies about once an hour during the day, and let her out when she wants to be let out, but I think she actually prefers to spend most of her time in with the babies, unless she gets too warm or wants a drink or something to eat. She only started eating this morning, but was very hungry. We are giving her unlimited access to food at the moment. When ever her bowl’s empty we refill it. We put her in the crate at night to sleep. If we check on her and the babies are nursing she won’t get up for anything, even to use the bathroom.
Farrowing crate in action

Farrowing crate in action

The babies spend all of their time in the crate, we are a little concerned about one of the dogs getting a hold of one of them, or them getting out of the fence.
We were amazed at how quickly they were up and running. Now they are walking around, nudging the ground with their noses, and even playing with each other. They fight a bit over nipples when nursing, which worries me a little, there are a few scratches in the group. There are only five of them so there shouldn’t be too much competition nursing.
Selfie with piggy.  Best I could do, they start to squeal when you pick them up, and it stresses everyone out

Selfie with piggy. Best I could do, they start to squeal when you pick them up, and it stresses everyone out

Muddy’s timing was impeccable (note sarcasm) the only commitment we had all weekend was my baby shower that was scheduled for Saturday at noon. I was so excited I was up at 6:30 on Saturday and couldn’t go back to sleep. I have amazing friends here in Ecuador, and I’m so grateful for them. Saturday, August 10th, is definitely a day that I will remember for a very long time.

I have a human baby doctor appointment tomorrow and will post in a few days about that and update everyone on how Muddy and her babies are doing.
I welcome any advice on farrowing sows, or raising piglets if anyone has any to offer, keeping in mind that we go for the most natural, self sufficient, homesteading direction possible.
We have also decided to go for the cloth diaper approach with our own baby, and NEED advice on this. There are so many options, websites, and information out there that it is quite overwhelming.

Imbabura mountain at sunrise

Imbabura mountain at sunrise