We get this question a lot. “So, what do you guys do over the winter?” Well, quite frankly we just sit around in matching footie pajamas and binge watch Netflix until the first sign of Spring. Not really, but that would be awesome. Honestly, winter work at the farm feels more hectic than summer at times. The days are shorter and we’re continuously beholden to the weather. Spring just isn’t the beginning of the growing season, it’s a deadline for many projects. Income is less consistent but expenses always seem to increase. In general we hustle more, we budget tighter and we bundle up warmer to get everything ready for Spring. And this winter is presenting us with a new venture that is the biggest, most exciting and most challenging thing we’ve ever faced… which is saying a lot.
To start, we’re building a whole new structure! Preparing the site, pouring the foundation and trenching, trenching and more trenching has taken most of the Summer/Fall. Now we’re ready to start putting up the building. But this project wasn’t chaotic enough for us, so we built a terrace garden on the back hill of the building. It was either that or mow an extremely steep and dangerous hill forever. This way we can make use of otherwise unusable space and also increase our planting space. We’re calling it the “apothecary garden” and it will be planted with perennials, fruit bushes, native plants, culinary, medicinal and tea herbs.
Next, the animals. The goats have been bred since October/November so now I’m getting ready for their pregnancy care. We’re also planning on expanding the goat pasture by the time they kid in the Spring. We had heavy (and emotional) losses this summer due to parasites and that could have been mitigated if they had one more pasture to rotate to. Losing the girls that I did was a big kick in the balls and not something I was ready to be vocal about. Because it was hard. It still is. And I felt so much guilt when I couldn’t save them. Luckily, we have a new pasture in the works and baby goats that will be here before you know it. I’m guessing late March if you guys want to book your family vacation around our kidding season. I don’t know.
And now our pigs… Oh sweet hammer of Thor, our pigs. After three years, we’re almost finished with our 20+ acre Intensive Rotational Grazing System. We have about two pastures left to fence and it’s just in the nick of time because…
We’ve recently added a whole new breed to our pig family. And when I say “whole new breed” I don’t just mean new to us, but entirely new to the region. Maybe even to the whole country. It’s like the introduction of the Iowa Swabian Hall all over again! We brought home three sows and one boar. Two of the sows are sisters and have never been separated their entire life. In fact, they seem to walk in tandem with each other throughout the pasture. To put it delicately, these ladies are very cylindrical. They’re about 100lbs overweight, which make them look like Tsum Tsums. Getting the weight off of them will be a challenge and a long road. But that just means that I get to take long pasture walks with them everyday. Maybe I should get them a fitbit for Christmas. A PigBit. You know, just to make sure they’re getting all their steps in.
We’re starting the next phase of our pork program and I’ll go more into detail in a later post. I wanted to give you guys the Cliff Notes of what’s been going on lately. But speaking of next phase, let’s get to the biggest venture yet.
This month I’m officially starting IVF (In-vitro Fertilization). Dave and I have been trying to start our family for two years now and have been with the fertility specialists since June. He checks out fine and I check out fine. But even with four cycles of Clomid, mid-cycle ultrasounds and IUI’s (which I liken it to artificially inseminating a cow), we still fall under the category of “unexplained infertility.” Which feels like a big ol’ shrug of the shoulders and a lousy “I dunno why.”
It’s time for IVF. And this has posed some difficult (and sometimes funny) situations. When we found out that IVF was the next step, we starting planning. First was the scheduling. A typical IVF cycle is about 2 months long and involves over 100 injections of certain hormones, multiple visits to the doctor’s office (sometimes every other day), the egg retrieval surgery and implantation. Needless to say, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling my best. We knew we wanted to start no later than February because that’s when I’m starting the garden and getting the farm ready for spring. The goats will be kidding in March and the pigs will be farrowing after that. Basically, after February, it’s go-time and by May we’re in a full on sprint. I don’t know if there’s any other women out there that plan their IVF schedules around seeding pastures and planting a 3 acre garden by hand… but if there are, I would sure like to talk to them! The best case scenario for us is to start in December or January.
So we had a general and ideal time for when we wanted/needed to start. But guess what? IVF and fertility treatments are hella expensive! During the summer I started making and selling soap in order to save up for IVF. I did the calculations a while ago and came to the conclusion that I needed to sell 2,000 bars of soap to pay for one IVF cycle. I mean, we have other ways to help with the costs and other avenues of income. But I wanted to take on a project that was “mine.” Everything else at the farm is a group effort and Dave has his metal working. But I wanted something to call my own in the efforts of funding my infertility. And it turns out, I love creating soap way more than I thought I would. Now, I’m not saying this to make people buy my soap out of pity for my baby maker. (However, you can buy our soap via our online store :wink:) But if you think you might go down this IVF road, doing something on the side (and bonus: that you love!) can really help out with the finances. Especially if you’re in a situation like me and can’t really go out and get a part-time job. Or another part-time job. Or a part-time job on top of your full-time self-employed farm business.
And don’t worry, I’m not turning this into a full on pregnancy blog, although I am going to try to be vocal about my experience and go into more detail on a separate post. For a long time I felt embarrassed to talk about it, and I think a good reason why is because I felt lonely in my journey. Hopefully this will reach someone in their journey. I’m planning on talking about my IVF journey more as I figure out how to schedule my mid-cycle ultrasounds and bloodwork with delivering a cord of firewood into the city. Or how to incubate chicken eggs while my eggs are incubating.
So thanks for listening. More adventures to come, it feels like we’re never in short supply of those!