Perhaps a failed New Year’s resolution in the making, I attempt to begin the process of documenting my strange and wonderful life, here on the farm. The first week of January always brings reflection on the past year, all that I am proud of, and all of the things that I was sure I’d achieve by now, but haven’t. Overall, I’d say there’s less regrets than more. One more trip around the sun, one more kick at the cat. We continued many enterprises on the farm that we had begun in year one or two, and I’m confident to say we did it better, which is how it should be. The bees had [almost] all died after last winter; this year great care was taken to wrap them and prepare them for the long cold months, properly. Still, there’s so much left to chance with beekeeping these days, it seems. We expanded our cattle herd with eight bred Lowline Angus heifers, with aspirations to finish their calves on grass. Two were unfortunately open. Still, six calves we can look forward to finishing in 2014 as part of our new grass-finished enterprise. The market garden was challenging once more, of course, but M.N. (Mother Nature) treated us well, blessing us with adequate rain and sun to bring a bountiful crop. We worked hard to provide 35 families with CSA shares, and brought produce and preserves to 2 farmers markets, weekly. We sold many items to folks in Winnipeg (and later, Brandon) through the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative. The laying hen flock increased to almost 30, and we supplied local customers with delicious farm-fresh eggs every week, and still do. Troy built me a brand-spanking new chicken coop, an April birthday gift eventually completed in October, just in time for the snow to fly. It’s been a tough few weeks, with bone-chilling temperatures in the minus thirties and forties (minus fifty some days with the wind-chill), which challenged us to keep all of the animals happy and healthy. Finally, this first week of January, it broke…we hope, just in time. It was starting to wear on all of us, forcing us inside to further reflect and even complete the year-end finances…a dubious task.

Anyways, Troy and I have spent the last 2 months challenging our minds and bodies by embarking on the GAPS diet, restricting ourselves to more whole and traditional foods, keeping away from gluten (and all grains), refined sugar (thank goodness for the plentiful raw honey harvest), and generally, lactose. It was spurred on by Troy’s incessant 10-year battle with skin inflammation problems, and it was time to try something new, to see results. Which, fortunately, he has. It has been hard, but we both feel better for it. We are finally consuming dairy and eggs again, after a 6-month hiatus that made us wonder why we bother to keep our own laying hens (poor Troy laboring in vain on that chicken coop)…and it feels more right. A little more planning and creativity, and hopefully we continue on a path of gut healing.

I’m starting to feel the impending and necessary planning of the coming season, and though working hard to finalize last year’s cold hard numbers, the two of us will have to come together soon to have the talk: the big picture conversation, where we decide what we will embark on this coming year, partially designed around our past year’s financial successes (and less-than successses), and partially a recognition of what we are working towards, purposefully, together. What is worth the blood, sweat and tears, and what isn’t.

I fully embrace these slow winter days, where I reflect and dream, whilst juggling various hats I wear to keep the income flowing in; the part-time, off-farm work, such as shifts at Dad’s ranch supply store, and the local Community Development Corporation contract in which I facilitate Money Management training and RESP workshops. My mind is in many different places at once, and I struggle to bring it back to the farm, where my heart lies and where we will hope to create successes one more year. Where we will strive for more balance, less frantic afternoons cursing our efforts to make a living, only to return at the end of the day with a measly financial return. More banjo playing, more singing, more watching sunsets and less toiling over the stove into the night. More moments to stop and breathe the fresh air around us, to notice one day’s modest progress, and less nights going to bed sore and unsatisfied with the day’s modest progress. More, more, but less.

I’m looking forward to this challenge to document weekly this journey, to who knows where. For now, I’m staying warm inside.

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