Finding My “Village”

We have all heard the saying, “it takes a village” but what exactly counts as a village in this day and age? We certainly no longer live in little hamlets where kids run from one home to the next and everyone looks out for everyone else’s kids. In certain communities today we do not even know our next door neighbors despite the close proximity. But raising a kid is hard work and having a close knit group of people around you is important from the day you return home from the hospital with a crying bundle in your arms. Every mom (and dad!) needs a “village”.

I will be honest, there have been days these last few months where I have been more homesick than ever since my arrival in France. It is a busy time of year at the farm so there are nights where Fañch doesn’t get home until nearly midnight. Those are the moments where I think to myself what I wouldn’t give to be able to call up my sisters and have them come over for dinner and to give me a hand with putting Lewis to bed. On days when Lewis is fussy and maybe throws up a time or two, I am relieved to see Fañch walk through the door and take over in the evening. When that isn’t possible and I am on my own all day the fatigue can be rough.

So can my “village” include those loved ones who are a nine hour flight away? Or are there limits to what support we can receive from afar despite technologies like Skype and FaceTime? I love my family and friends back home and every call, message, email, and letter I receive from them encourages me but there is that physical presence that is still missing. My village no doubt has the virtual hut bustling with loved ones from back home but it still needs a few members that are within driving range.

Building a village from the ground-up has proved to be no easy feat. I remember reading Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman and how she would talk about the difficulties in forming a group of friends as an expat. French people don’t go about making friends the same way as most people do in the U.S. People here have their established friend groups and breaking your way into one is not as easy as it seems. I’m lucky that Fañch has such a close-knit group of friends from school who welcomed me into their group immediately. However, I have been here three years and have yet to truly make a connection and meet friends of my own. To be honest, up until now that hasn’t been much of an issue for me. I am pretty introverted and a Friday night spent reading or going for a walk at the farm or at the beach with Fañch suits me just fine. Though now that Lewis is here and I am learning about this thing called “motherhood” I realize I am missing something in my village.

For the last few weeks I have begun my search to meet other moms who have babies Lewis’ age. Someone who can talk breastfeeding and diaper brands. Someone who knows what it is like to get to the end of the week and realize you only showered once. Someone who can sympathize with that simultaneous desire to always be there for your baby but to also want to work and make progress on your own personal life goals. Someone who understands the struggle to find balance.

A couple weeks ago I attended a “mommy and me” playgroup. It was wonderful. There were play mats and toys and comfy couches. When Lewis got hungry and I started to breastfeed one of the women who was working there came and offered me a glass of water. Being a mom herself and having breastfed, she knew about that immediate thirst that kicks in as soon as your baby latches on. One of the other moms, whose son is a couple years older than Lewis, smiled encouragingly as I asked her an endless stream of questions. So far so good.

The other day I also responded to an ad for cloth diapers. When I went to go pick them up I found out the woman selling them has a son just three months older than Lewis. We got to talking and found out we are both expats, me form the U.S. and her from Hungary. She hesitantly asked if I have had much success making friends since my arrival in France and upon my saying that no, I haven’t, she breathed a sigh of relief and admitted that she hasn’t either. So we exchanged numbers and hope to hang out soon!

Another thing that helps is that in Fañch’s friend group there are five of us this year that will have had a baby. When we all get together it is reassuring to not be the only one breastfeeding at the dinner table or worrying about whether or not baby will fall asleep despite all the noise. The only problem is that we all live rather scattered about the region and it is difficult to just pop in and see each other or to share a cup of tea.

It is an ongoing process but I am confident my village will soon include a tight-knit group of both physically present and emotionally present people. I will always rely heavily on the love and advice from those of you back home, even if I can’t swing by to see you on a moment’s notice. And little by little I will succeed in opening up to people here more and forming the village that is so vital in raising a child.

Here are a few pictures of Lewis to finish up!

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It’s No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk

But what about spit-up milk? Because after a week of high temperatures outside, a fussy baby, and what feels like constant cleaning of spit-up milk, you either want to laugh it off or cry. At the end of last week we had a heat wave and I can tell you that Lewis liked the heat about as much as his parents do, which is to say not a lot. For me, anything over 75 makes me want to spend the day in a cool lake. Add in humidity and you’ll find me in the nearest walk-in freezer…eating popsicles.

To escape the heat we spent most of the day at my in-laws’,whose stone house stays cool despite the heat outdoors. I took advantage of having internet to get a few things done while Lewis napped comfortably having finally cooled down.

I ended up researching a little bit about baby reflux and breastfeeding. Lewis’ reflux has been a heck of a thing to juggle as it causes him to throw up much of the milk he drinks. There is no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes he has just stopped feeding to catch his breath and has hardly unlatched before it all comes pouring back up, drenching us both. Other times it’s an hour after he ate and he goes from smiling one second to spraying his latest meal all over the living room. He always looks so surprised and sad each time that despite being covered in spit-up milk I can’t help but to snuggle him and whisper reassuring words to him while internally my exasperated side sighs “not again”.

There are supposedly formulas made for babies that suffer from reflux but breastfeeding has become so important to me that I hope to find a solution that doesn’t involve weaning at three months. In the coming days I hope to meet with a few different professionals (a pediatrician and a lactation specialist) to determine what I can do differently. I know some women have to eliminate certain things from their diet while breastfeeding so maybe the doctor will suggest that. Perhaps Fern Island Farm’s future cheese maker will have to stop eating cheese…

Cheese or A New Home?

There are no shortage of projects here at the farm. Every day there are the typical tasks such as milking the cows, bringing them to pasture, and weeding the vegetables gardens. Beyond that, there are always multiple ongoing projects that we decide between whenever we have a spare afternoon or weekend. Whether it’s working on extra farm jobs or spending time on personal goals, each member of our family seems to have a never-ending list of options. I’m sure most people can relate, whether you live on a farm or not!

The housing situation for each of the three families here at Fern Island Farm is currently undergoing major changes and represents a significant portion of the “extra projects” I’m talking about.  Last fall Fañch’s brother and his wife purchased a one-hundred year old farmhouse down the road and decided to completely redo it top to bottom. It had been redone in the 60s with questionable taste and quality of building materials so they want to return it to its original rustic character, uncovering the original stone walls and hardwood floors. My brother-in-law Julien has been using every spare moment to work on remodeling so that his growing family can move in by this fall.

Fañch’s parents also purchased a new home with the intention of redoing it and passing along their current farmhouse at Fern Island Farm to Fañch and I. The main farmhouse has been in Fañch’s family for five generations but the stones that make up the foundation date back centuries before that. However, before we can move in, his parents have to remodel their new home. It is a small and simple Breton penty whose owner had not done anything to update it since his parents lived there 100 years ago. Well okay, he did have two light bulbs put in and a hose spigot next to the stone fireplace where he cooked every meal in a large black pot over the fire. As you can see, despite the small size of the home the remodel job remains relatively extensive.

So, for the last year and a half while they have gone through plans with the architect and decided on how they want to move forward with the work on their home, Fañch and I have been living in a mobile home on the property (see previous post A New Year, A New Nest). Fañch will be doing much of the work on their home which makes for another large project tacked onto his ever growing list.

Finally, as most of you may know, my longterm goal here at the farm is to make cheese and other dairy products to sell to our customers at the market (see previous post The First Taste). In order to do this we need to construct a cheese-making lab complete with an aging room. Both the cheese project and the houses have been common themes of conversation here for the past two years but for an array of reasons are just now about to come to fruition.

We had originally planned to work on my in-laws home this summer and complete at least enough that they could move in this fall. We would be able to move into the main house just as Lewis was getting to crawling and walking age, allowing him more room than he will have in our tiny nest. That would leave the winter to build the cheese lab so that next spring and summer I would be able to start offering our dairy products alongside the vegetables.

Then the other day Fañch walked in and had on an expression that I know to mean he spent the morning obsessing over something. He clued me in pretty quick, “if you had to choose between having one thing done by next spring would it be the house or the cheese lab?” Ah, so it looked like our original timeline was unfeasible.

He could tell the question caught me off guard and smiled, I think we both knew all along that the farm had bitten off more than it could chew for 2017. So ultimately it came down to me deciding if I would rather prolong our stay in the tiny house with a rapidly growing baby or put my dairy project on the back burner. My immediate reaction was cheese can wait, we need more space. Then as I began to think it over I wasn’t sure if that was necessarily the case after all.

I know from experience that I need to contribute to what is happening around me, sitting back and watching everyone else pursue their passion just won’t cut it for me. Those first couple years here when I was still figuring out what I was going to do were some of the toughest of my life. I felt as though I were just treading water and not moving in any specific direction toward a more fulfilling livelihood. Of course, now I have a son to raise and staying at home to raise a child is the furthest thing from “treading water”, but I know that for me personally I need a job to pursue and work towards that is outside the family unit. So, cheese it is.

For now we are comfortable and happy in our little mobile home. Lewis can be playing in the living room and I can hear him from anywhere in the house. We have everything we need and all in a space that only takes 30 minutes to clean top to bottom. I have been able to work towards mastering my organizational skills and finding storage space in all kinds of places. We have put so much time and work into making our tiny home ours that in the end we aren’t as rushed to leave as we thought we might be. Though, if by next winter we truly feel as though it isn’t sufficient, we can always rent elsewhere while waiting for the main house to open up.

We feel confident that this will be the best option for everyone here at Fern Island Farm. Plus, even if there isn’t endless square footage for Lewis to crawl/walk/run around indoors, he still has plenty of acreage to get outside and become our little ragamuffin!

A few pictures of Lewis’ room:

Cooking With The Seasons

Before moving on to a farm I never could have told you which vegetables were in season when. Except for corn. Being from the Midwest, one of the trademark signs of summer for me is spotting pick-up trucks, their beds holding mountains of ears of corn, parked in gas station parking lots. A wooden hand painted sign hung from the side of each truck bed: Sweet Corn 4 for $1. Beyond that, I, like most people, would go to the supermarket expecting to find whichever vegetables were on my shopping list. Tomatoes in December, leeks in June. Our society has grown accustomed to having what we want, when we want it.

Since my arrival on the farm I have been fortunate to have had nearly all my vegetables come from our very own gardens and greenhouses. My brother-in-law has spent the last few years creating his organic vegetable project and at every meal we reap the benefits. However, he sticks to the vegetables’ natural growing season so I quickly had to adjust how I approached cooking. In the end, I discovered that cooking with seasonal produce has a long list of positive attributes.

When we make the decision to center our cooking around seasonally available produce we enjoy better tasting food, we support more sustainable food practices, and we push ourselves to discover new flavors and recipes.

If you live in a colder climate and go to purchase a tomato in January take a moment to think about the journey that tomato took to arrive in your shopping cart. It most likely came from a place with a warmer climate, meaning it traveled quite a distance, the truck it was packed into emitting more carbon into the atmosphere. Otherwise it was grown in an artificially created climate such as a hothouse that relied on more energy consumption.

A locally grown in-season fruit or vegetable also has more nutrients and a better flavor than those grown out of season and shipped in from a far away place. When produce needs to travel before being consumed it is often harvested early. The food doesn’t ripen as it would have if left to its own devices, this can affect both the taste and the nutrient levels. Think about the difference between a perfectly ripe juicy apple that you picked at the orchard in October compared to one that was shipped in from a completely different time zone. Which would you rather use to bake grandma’s famous apple pie?

I will admit that living on a farm certainly makes accessing seasonal produce much more simple. But for those of you that would have to drive an hour to even spot a farm don’t fret. Try looking into local CSAs, they are a great way to receive local produce throughout the year and can encourage you to try vegetables you might not otherwise cook with. You can also visit food co-ops that tend to focus more on supporting local growers and supplying in-season fruit and veggies. And of course a trip to your local farmer’s market makes for a great Saturday morning outing. You can not only find baskets and baskets of mouth-watering produce but you can also get to know the person or family that grows your food!

For me, eating seasonal food has encouraged me to broaden my scope of recipes and taught me how to pair up flavors in order to valorise those seasonal veggies. In the winter we bake squash, we boil it, we steam it, we puree it and put it in pies, or mix it with garlic and use it as a sauce with pasta. Parsnips are mashed, mixed into soups, baked as fries in the oven. Beets are served raw or cooked, shredded or diced, mixed with feta or drizzled with vinaigrette. You get the idea! It may seem daunting to only stick to in-season vegetables but you quickly discover the versatility of veggies and the endless number of ways you can prepare them. Not to mention at the end of each season, when you can’t possibly think of another way to use a zucchini, the next season’s vegetables arrive and it’s feels like a seasonal holiday, right along with the solstice. Seeing those spring onions appear on the shelves or finally getting a taste of that fresh tender spinach makes the wait so worth it!

If you are looking for a good cookbook I highly recommend Clotilde Dusoulier’s The French Market Cookbook. I received this book from a dear family friend who gifted me her very own copy for my bridal shower. It is an excellent book, organized by season, full of delicious recipes. At the beginning of each section is a list of the vegetables in season at that time of the year so you know what to look for while strolling through the produce aisle. Lately we have been loving her recipe for spinach pancakes so I have posted it below.

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Don’t be afraid to give seasonally cooking a try! Obviously no one is perfect and sometimes you just have to fulfill that craving for homemade salsa while the snow is falling outside! Though chances are, by focusing your produce grocery purchases on in-season products, you are going to discover many new dishes, flavors, and an appreciation for what the earth can offer us at every moment in the year.

Lewis

For the last week I have been able to sleep five or six hours straight each night. With all the renewed energy this has afforded me I am finally getting around to writing. And I have a lot to catch up on.

On March 13th we welcomed our son Lewis into the world. Afternoon sunlight streamed in through the blinds of the birthing suite, the sounds of Andrew Bird’s violin soared through the room from my meticulously planned playlist, and the midwife with her short cropped hair and infectious reassuring smile lifted the crying mauve-colored boy on to my chest.

Then things got a little complicated. I had not even counted his ten tiny toes and ten tiny fingers before Lewis and I had to be separated. The little red splotches covering his body that I had assumed were normal baby markings were actually small hemorrhages forming beneath the skin. The midwife, no longer smiling, had recognized these at once as the first sign of missing platelets.

Lewis had what is called Neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (NAIT). Summed up, this means that due to an incompatibility between my platelet type and Fañch’s, Lewis’ platelet count at birth was only 5000. To put that number into perspective, a healthy level is between 150,000 and 400,000. This is why instead of having our two hours of skin-to-skin contact, Lewis and I were separated. Accompanied by Fañch, he was whisked off to get an ultrasound of his brain to check for a possible brain bleed caused from his passage through the birth canal.

Within an hour the midwife came back to update me. Lewis’ brain scan was clear. The first major hurdle was cleared. By that point he had been transferred up to the NICU and was going to receive his first transfusion of platelets.

By that evening the epidural had finally worn off and I was able to leave the confines of the birthing suite, pushed in a wheelchair by the midwife student who had assisted during the birth. We headed straight for the NICU.

It was quiet up in Lewis’ corner of the hospital. The lights were dimmed and the only noise was that of beeping monitors from his room and those around his. Fañch stood next to Lewis’ bed, staring down at his son through tired eyes. He looked up when she wheeled me in and gave me a small smile meant to reassure. Lewis was wearing nothing but a diaper, his gangly arms and legs sprawled out, with wires and tubes crisscrossing up and around towards the monitors and IV fluids. Fañch and I sat at his side all evening, staring at his little sleeping form, exchanging few words. Little by little Fañch filled me in on all that had happened after they left the birthing suite. It had not been easy for him to watch as they inserted IVs into Lewis’ hands and head, or to see him put through so many tests in those first hours of life. Talk about a crash course in some of the toughest parts of parenting.

In the days that followed we continued to spend nearly all of our time with Lewis in the NICU. The hardest part was at night when I would have to say goodnight and leave him to sleep in my own room on the maternity ward down the hall. It was a battle between feeling like I was abandoning him and being so overcome with exhaustion that I knew I had to get some sleep. The only thing that allowed me to leave at night was knowing he was being taken care of by the best nurses I have ever met in my life. The stellar NICU team felt like family by the end after having walked alongside us for every step during those ten days.

By the 10th day his platele count had reached 180k and the doctor informed us that we would be able to take Lewis home. Seeing her walk in the room, her smile giving away the good news before she had even spoken, I felt as though I had finally exhaled after holding in my breath for much too long.

During our hospital stay I had avoided looking online for information about NAIT. I did not want to read about worse case scenarios or success rates. I counted solely on the doctor, the intern, and NICU nurses to tell me what I needed to know. Seeing Lewis all hooked up and receiving transfusions was scary enough without the added stress of Google search results. Only afterwards, once he was in the clear, did I allow myself to read a little more about what he went through. And I am glad I waited. As my doctor told me afterwards, someone or something was looking out for Lewis that Monday afternoon in the sunny birthing suite. NAIT is rare, in the ten years she has been seeing patients my doctor has never come across a case. 1 in 3 babies born with NAIT either don’t make it through the childbirth due to a brain hemorrhage or they are permanently brain damaged. Upon hearing that we were even more thankful and in awe of our boy. That day could have turned out so differently and we are fortunate to have him in our arms today.

Now that that chapter of his life is over we have moved on to typical baby life. He eats (a lot!) and sleeps well. He has begun to smile in response to our smiles and our songs and the other day he even made what sounded like a laugh. He is a pretty serious little guy and observes all that is around him, often staring transfixed by faces and lights. In a couple days he will be two months old and we have begun dressing him in six month sizes already!

I will write more soon as I continue to figure out this thing called motherhood. Every day is a new adventure here at Fern Island Farm with our Lewis. Thank you to everyone that has supported us and encouraged us these last two months, especially during those difficult first days at the hospital. Lewis is lucky to have to many people that love him already from both sides of the Atlantic!

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The First Taste

When I left the U.S. in July of 2014 my intention was to complete a Master’s degree in Ethnology. In all honesty, my main motivation in selecting a program so far from home was the timid, curly-haired farmer who spoke to me passionately about animal welfare and local food systems. I wanted to continue my education but I also wanted to see where this new relationship could lead.

I figured I would spend two years studying, returning home for the summers, while gradually getting to know this paysan through occasional weekend visits to the farm.

Fast forward two and a half years. We are now married, our ceremony held beneath the shade of his apple orchard, and we are expecting our first child, a baby boy who will arrive just as the farm springs back into life with the warming March weather. Things have changed quickly and in a small space of time. As I sometimes point out to Fañch, there are few things from my pre-France time that I do regularly today and vice versa.

Before getting on that plane I had never milked a cow, I never used to spend Sunday’s sitting along the shore of the great Atlantic ocean, I never used to watch calves leaping around in a barn of fresh straw while coming to give me big sandpaper-tongue kisses, and I had certainly never spent the day transforming milk into cheese. At the same time, I no longer spend Saturday nights in crowded concert venues, I don’t spend hours in front of my computer alternately working on homework and watching Netflix, I no longer go for bundled up walks through the snow, and I can no longer spend an afternoon browsing a large bookstore full of books in English.

During these last two and a half years I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this and struggling to find my place in this new world. When the idea was brought forth of me making cheese it instantly peaked my interest but did not spur in me the usual 0 to 100 enthusiasm that has always marked my various ventures. It was so unlike anything I had ever done that while I could envision one day working in my pristine lab at the farm, I did not have anything to instantly latch on to in order to launch my project.

When I wanted to be a doctor I volunteered at a hospital and shadowed doctors. When radio became my passion I listened to as much music as I could and arranged interviews with musicians. When I wanted to return to France I applied for all the programs and scholarships I could. But all I had at the beginning of this new adventure were a couple cheese-making books that might as well have been written in another language.

During this last year and a half, since we first started talking about making cheese at Fern Island Farm, I had a lot of doubts. Yet something kept tugging at me, this idea felt right and I knew that if I could get through the confusing early stages it could become a fulfilling project. So last year, when the opportunity arose, I began to study with a friend and local cheese maker. Every week I would join her in her lab to watch how she transformed the milk from her sheep into delicious dairy products. From the start she pushed me to try out each step of the process and encouraged me to take over on my own within months. Six months into my “internship” she would leave me to my work while she attended to other work on the farm.

Every week my confidence increased and I began to see that I was capable of pursuing this project. For the last few weeks I even brought milk from our farm so that we could taste our very own Fern Island Farm cheese and butter. As I crouched next to the heating tank and stirred the gradually forming curd, I watched as the milk from our cows transformed into a new product. I could, now more than ever, imagine my future in this world of rennet and whey, of fermentation and aging.

The last step was to wait. The cheeses I prepared in December and January needed to age before I would know for sure if I had succeeded. During this time I was preoccupied with other work, ultrasounds, and midwife visits. I thought of my cheese often, wondering how they were aging in my friend’s cheese cellar. Then a few weeks ago we prepared a place here at the farm where they could finish their aging process. Now that they were here and under my control I suddenly felt the pressure return. Despite it being my first foray into this complicated world of chemical reactions and measuring acidity, I wanted it to be a success. I wanted to start out on a positive note.

So two weeks ago, when I chose the most advanced looking one from the group, wrapped it in paper and brought it to our home, I prepared myself for disappointment while simultaneously crossing all my fingers and toes for a good tasting cheese. Fañch and I finished dinner and then I took the parcel, unwrapped the paper, and placed the wheel of tomme on the cutting board. I started by cutting it in half and paused before pulling the two sides apart for the initial glance.

The color was good, first sigh of relief. The rind was thin, second sigh of relief. And it smelled appetizing, first hesitant smile. We cut off a piece and took it to the table, taking our time to trim off the rind and look a little closer at my handiwork. Then we each took a slice and took the first taste. Instant relief and pride flooded through me. It tasted good. It tasted good enough that I wanted a second bite. Fañch looked at me and smiled wide, his eyes full of excitement and pride. And then I started to cry.

I was completely caught off guard by my reaction. I had not realized how much pressure I had put on myself to succeed in this first attempt. All those months of doubt, of wondering if I would ever be able to pursue something so drastically different from anything I had ever done, had paid off. It was by no means perfect, there are things I want to change and improve, but it was good.

Months had led up to that moment and the taste of what the future could have in store for me was overwhelming. These next few months my attention will be focused elsewhere (only a few more weeks until baby Guillou’s arrival!) but next autumn we will start construction on Fern Island Farm’s very own cheese lab. With this first success under my belt I know that even if the next ten attempts are failures I am capable somewhere deep down to make a cheese that people want to eat! So here is to many more first tastes!

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Traditions New and Old

Christmas has come and gone here at Fern Island Farm and while we are still working our way steadily through the buckets of Christmas cookies I made, everything else is quickly returning to normal. Not that it strays too far from the usual, even on Christmas someone has to milk the cows morning and night. It was my third Christmas here and now that our little family is about to grow I have been thinking a lot about family traditions. How they manifest themselves when we are far from home, family, and the context where those traditions have lived for years or even for generations.

For as long as I can remember, my parents, sisters and I have spent Christmas morning together as a family. When we were younger we would wake up early and wait impatiently for our parents to join us in the family room. We would wait in front of the Christmas tree and the fireplace where our quilted stockings bulged with candy and gifts from the North Pole. Mom and Dad would eventually arrive and put the cinnamon rolls in the oven. These we would eat while trying to pace ourselves as we each took a turn opening a gift.

This has always been one of my favorite times of the year and I know I want to create similar memories with our little boy one day. My dilemma this year was figuring out how that will work with a farmer’s schedule. This year on Christmas morning, the alarm went off at 7am like every other day. Fañch got up right away, ate a clementine, and went to the barn to get a head start on the chores before beginning the milking at 8 with his brother. During this time, I put the cinnamon rolls in the oven, turned the Christmas music on, and tried to wait patiently for when he would return. Nearly two and a half hours later, he returned home and we exchanged our gifts while eating the cinnamon rolls with plenty of cream cheese frosting.

As kids, that half hour or so between the time we sprinted out of our beds and the moment our parents finally joined us in front of the fire always felt like an eternity. How will this work a few years from now when our kids awake at dawn and have to wait several hours before we can celebrate together as a family? For now, I hope to use that time to make the cinnamon rolls with them, working together to set the table, put out the orange juice, and lick the spoon after mixing the frosting. Perhaps we will read a few of our favorite Christmas books or draw pictures to show dad when he returns. Hopefully I can make the ritual of preparing Christmas morning as interesting and special to them as the actual moment when dad gets back from morning chores and the gifts can finally leave the stockings. In any case, it will be good practice for instilling patience in our kids!

 

Catching Up

A list of things that have happened during the last four months (or my attempt to justify why the blog has remained silent for far too long):

– wedding preparations

– a trip back to the states

– wedding preparations

– welcoming friends and families from the States to our corner of France

– wedding preparations

– a wedding

– ultrasounds

– announcing that we won’t remain just the two of us much longer, baby boy in March!

– baby preparations

– ultrasounds

– baby preparations

– belated honeymoon trip through Normandy

– baby preparations

– cheese-making, butter-making

– teaching English

– vegetable selling

– baby preparations!! so many things to think about!

– milking cows

As you can probably tell my blog-writing has unfortunately fallen by the wayside these last few months. While I have some good excuses I do regret not taking the time to write more considering all the exciting changes that have been occurring in our lives. In the coming days I will be posting more in-depth updates. I just wanted to get this out there now to say that things at Fern Island Farm are humming along, baby is doing wonderfully (mama too!) and while this winter promises to be just as hectic as the summer months I will be keeping everyone in the loop!

I’ve posted a few photos from the last few months, more to come soon!

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Wedding Preparations

In addition to the typical wedding preparations such as choosing an invitation design, deciding on and creating decorations, and figuring out who in the world we could place next to that one uncle in the dinner seating arrangements, we have had some few extra projects to tackle.

The dinner at our wedding and the dancing that follows will take place in an old barn. However for many decades this building has been used mostly for storing the winter wood stockpile, keeping various machinery out of the relentless Breton rain, and chicken feed storage. For the last several weeks we have been steadily chipping away at the work. Together we are moving toward our goal of emptying everything out, putting a wooden floor in place, cleaning from top to bottom, constructing large wooden barn doors, and putting up the final touches such as garlands and strings of lights.

One of my personal projects has been to use a hammer and chisel to remove the plaster that used to cover the 100+ year old stone wall of the cider cellar. Regrettably, I forgot to take a “before” picture and only have these two to share as I near the end of the workload.

 

 

Besides the wedding-themed work things have been humming along here as usual. There is no shortage of things to be done and everyone flies from one area of the farm to the next, in sync with the bees who have now emerged and go from rose blooms to raspberry bushes to apple tree blossoms. My favorite work remains all that brings me in contact with the cows. Whether that be the morning milking alongside Jean-Yves, walking a kilometer in the morning mist to herd the cows, or going to check on the calves and heifers in their new summer lodgings.