And forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
I am ever so grateful to again have some amazing volunteers and husband in my life. We are just a few days out from the birth of our little girl and Gus is a very active 16 month old. He is most definitely a farm kid, and is not content being indoors, and to top it off he climbs everything. Fences, tables, chairs, dogs, and I am at the point where my body says no more, frankly standing is a chore. So thank goodness for others who are willing to chase the little bugger around the farm because I can’t anymore. My friends here in Cotacachi have really helped me make the most of the last few weeks. We’ve gotten in a few girls nights and ladies luncheons.
9 months pregnant with little girl
Shawn’s fan club
Because I haven’t written in so long I thought I would recap what has happened over the last year. I think where I left off last Holly and Brent had just arrived. In the end they stayed with us for more than 5 months and really became like family. They knew the ins and outs of the farm. I can’t believe it has been more than a year since they arrived.
A long while ago I gathered all the past volunteers email addresses I’ve collected and sent out a “Where are you now?” Email. I am really anxious to do this again, and because this is a year in review blog post I’m going to include it in the email. I can’t wait to see where everyone is and what they’re up to. Last time some were still traveling, and we got responses from across the world.
So here we go, here’s what’s been going down in our lives.
I’ve been back to the U.S. twice now since Gus’ birth. Once when he was about 6 months old, and the second time through the holidays. Each trip we were entirely, completely, overwhelmingly spoiled with attention and love. Not to mention that we came back with entire suitcases full of toys. Though I have to say, as fun as all these toys seem to you and I, nothing beats playing in the dogs water bowl, or “helping” daddy.
The most important thing to me on these trips was for Gus to meet, and get to know, all the people who have helped make Shawn and I who we are and whom we love and miss daily. I am so grateful we had those opportunities. I needed a little breather as well. I could relax some, I wasn’t Gus’ sole source of entertainment. There were Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Grandparents to play with. I got to take a step back, and settle back into myself. I even got to connect with friends I haven’t seen in a long time, my dear friend Becky threw us a baby shower, Jana came to North Dakota with her new little one, Celissa came to Omaha to see us, and I had the chance to spend time with some life long friends, not enough time, there never seems to be enough of that.
The farm is always busy, as of late here’s what’s been going on: The last time Shawn’s dad was here (Papa Tom) he helped us build a loft for the volunteers to stay in. Humberto, our maestro, returned to help us build a butcher kitchen under the loft. Gus has moved into his own room, which meant it was time for the volunteers to move out. We just don’t have enough space. They now stay in the loft, they have a kitchen and their own bathroom out there. I think it makes everyone a lot happier with us all having our own spaces. We still eat lunch family style, and often dinner, part of the fun of hosting volunteers is getting to know them, and this part was really important for us to keep up.
Volunteer loft upstairs, butcher kitchen down
Wow has the butcher room made a huge difference in our business. It’s easier to do everything. It is 100% dedicated to making great meats. We re-purposed a bathtub into a huge wash basin, Shawn made a stainless steel table, and all but one of the refrigerators/freezers is in there now, as well as every piece of sausage, ham, bacon making equipment is kept there. We have a lot more space in the house, and it makes things a lot more efficient. Best part is 97% of the materials used inside and out were taken off the farm, or re-purposed from things we already had.
The garden is a jungle, and because of a lack of time being so busy with the business and the babies we are focusing more on long term plants. The pepper plants are a good example, because of our climate we can have pepper plants that live and produce for years. One of these are a Peruvian pepper called Ricotto, we use them in our spicy cilantro chicken sausage. We’ve had jalapeños growing for a long time as well, but the greenhouse fell down a few months ago and we had to transplant them, they are just now are starting to bounce back. We also have asparagus, alfalfa, Uvilla (also known as ground cherries), a random eggplant, and kale all growing. The lavender, rosemary, oregano, and thyme are all doing miraculously well, and we have a taxo vine growing which produces beautiful flowers and fruit. A neighbor came over and helped us prune the trees and we’ve finished fencing around them so we’ve created a pig paradise. We can now let the pigs free between the trees and they’ll dig and fertilize the soil for us.
Now for the downside of trying to make a life on a farm. We don’t use antibiotics regularly for any of our animals, well awhile back we had a male pig start to act sick and unable to walk. Dr. Dany came out, the pig had a common bacterial infection that was brought on to the farm from the outside by a visitor. We quarantined the pig and started him on a round of antibiotics.
At the time we had two pregnant Mommas, about two weeks away from giving birth. One of the Mommas started to act sick as well, and gave birth to her litter early. She had 11 piglets, and the volunteers and Shawn spent most of a night trying to keep the litter alive. Unfortunately, two weeks was just too early and we lost all of the piglets. Momma was put in quarantine and given a round of antibiotics, she has now recovered.
The other momma pig we thought was healthy and well, and we had stopped the spread of the infection to any of the other pigs. Two weeks later momma gave birth to her litter right on time, 11 healthy piglets. To our dismay, tragedy strikes again. After labor she wouldn’t get up. Dany came out and we discovered she had the same infection the other two pigs had. She stopped producing milk, and a few of the piglets started to get sick. We spent an agonizing week bottle feeding and trying to keep as many of them alive as we could. In the end 5 survived. In a two week period we lost 17 piglets which was a huge blow. It has put the farm in jeopardy for the latter part of 2015. Shawn has found a healthy reliable source of piglets, now we just need to work on purchasing them.
Only 5 of these 11 survived
We’ve had to ask for help. We set up a gofundme page hoping to recover from the piglet tragedy. Each piglet was worth $80 to us just by being born, most become much more valuable as they get older, at least 10x more, as they are the farms primary source of income. It’s already a struggle starting a business, and this really hit us hard. Without the pigs we can’t have volunteers, water the trees, everything we’ve worked so hard for. There’s always the underlying fear of our whole business failing. If you’d like to help us here’s the link, we are grateful for anything anyone is willing to give. http://www.gofundme.com/nf1w6g
We also lost a family member this year. Marley the cat, was my 30th birthday present. Very outspoken in private, but always a tad bit of a scaredy cat. She had finally started to get a bit more adventurous and started going out side more often. We aren’t sure how it happened but one night she was chased and killed by a dog. We were heartbroken, and she now sleeps forever in our garden. We have no more cows. The two we had left, Perdita and Loki disappeared one day. We are pretty sure they were stolen. But on the positive side we let a few of our neighbors bring their cows in to graze. In exchange they bring us corn, avocados, lemons, and milk from their harvests. One even helps with yard work.
The big coop side of the farm has been sold by our partner to a very nice couple who plan on turning it into a horse/mule farm. This means for us we can have egg laying chickens. Hormone/antibiotic free, free range, fresh eggs are a couple months away! I’m so excited, it also means it is one more product we can offer Cotacachi. We will still be selling our own fresh chicken, and chicken products, but hopefully we will be able to offer them on a more regular basis. Before we were raising 20,000 chickens at a time. Now we can have batches of 100 chickens at different ages and offer chicken products every couple weeks. The drawback is we are almost starting from scratch with this so it will take us a couple weeks to get going.
Egg layer chicks about a month old
What about the volunteers this year? We’ve had people from China, Argentina, Sweden, Germany, Italy, England, Austrailia, U.S.A. Poland, Ireland, France, a few return visits, and so many more. Each one has left their mark on the farm. I’m sure I’m forgetting so much of what’s happened this year. Gus’ first birthday, our chili cook off party, but a year seems like such a long time.
If any of the volunteers have anything to add please do so in the comments, and please comment, or send me an email to let us know what you’re up to, I’d love to know how everyone is.
A corner of the farm at sunset.
One of the most recent groups of volunteers to pass through.
House crew: Mauricio, Charlotte, Dek, Paul, Rosie, and Jon. An oldie but goodie
Just for fun here’s some things I’ve enjoyeod reading lately.
and of course my favorite website right now http://www.pregnantchicken.com