Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, unless your idea of fun is raking leaves, weeding garden beds, fixing fences, moving compost piles, and figuring out ways to keep roaming chickens safe at home. It may be a stretch of the imagination to say that all of those things are fun, exactly, but honestly, I enjoy doing all of them, in one way or another.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed being outside, whether I was playing in the woods behind the house or helping my mom in the garden, or my dad shoveling snow. I was the one who had to be called in every night and hosed off before I could sit down to dinner. Now, I find myself staring out the window and making lists almost as soon as I get up. My children have caught on to this, I think, as I see them ducking behind corners or slipping back under their covers when I get my pen and paper out. I suspect the gleam in my eye gives me away every time. Depending on the child, and her enthusiasm or lack thereof for outside work, I may have seven kids sitting with me while I plan the day, or only one.
Still, there’s a lot to be done, and everyone has to pitch in however they are able. Hudhaifah is my go-to guy for anything I need built or fixed, as well as any lifting and moving that I can’t do myself (what do I lift all those weights for anyway???). Nusaybah is up for anything animal related, whether it be working with the animals themselves or cleaning or fixing up their pens. Juwairiyah and Sukhailah are both not much for outside work, but put in time in the garden, as well as raking and trimming and little odds and ends around the yard. Mu’aadh and Maryam will do, basically, anything and everything, if it involved being outside. And Asmaa enthusiastically joins in ANYTHING we get up, inside or out.
A conversation with Asmaa yesterday, as we raked some of the leaves under the oak trees in front of the house:
Asmaa: My, but there sure are a LOT of leaves
Me: Sure are.
Asmaa: And we’re only two people, of course.
Me: We are.
Asmaa looks worriedly at the expanse of tree covered area in front of her.
Asmaa: Are we raking all the way to the road?
Me: Nope. We’ll just rake whatever Allaah makes easy for us before supper.
Asmaa, looking at the piles of leaves we (well, I mean, really I, but I want to give some credit to Asmaa and her little pink rake) have already pushed to the edge of the woods: We sure have done a lot!
Me: We have!
Asmaa: FOR TWO PEOPLE!
And so it goes.
We’ve only got one path left in the woods to clear, though I have been thinking of putting in some new ones sometime in the future. It seems like there are a lot of places that would lend themselves to it, easily. The area we’ve already cleared for our forest garden is looking good, and I am planning on expanding it before we plant there. I just received Black Cohash and ramps from United Plant Savers, and we are hoping to buy ginseng and goldenseal to plant in the fall, insh’Allaah.
We’ve got the garden beds weeded and the boys dug two more right in the garden area. We are planning to plant some blackberry bushes along the fence there to help screen us from the people who live next door. We’ve moved the big hay compost pile and put rocks along the fence to keep the chickens from roaming far and wide, and are planning to build them a portable coop as soon as we have the time and the resources. We still have to fill in the beds we dug. I am planning to put some compost and hay in there, as well as a layer of branches and twigs, pseudo Hugelkultur style.
We’ve talked to someone about digging our herb garden as well as a small area in front of where the beehives will be located, where we plan to plant lots of bee friendly flowers. Hopefully in the coming week or so that will get done.
We’re planning to plant up a food forest along the fence we share with the people next door to give us some much needed privacy along with food and wildlife habitat. We’re beginning with bushes for rosehips and maybe elderberries. I’ve been thinking we will eventually get some shitaake mushrooms growing in there along with everything else. I see so many different fungi in the woods when we walk, I’m pretty sure they’ll grow well.
I was hesitating about getting the bees, and have to make the decision in the next couple of days. I’ve found a local source for the bees, which is exciting, and have picked out the hives I want to get to put them in. It’s always a mixture of excitement and worry, when I start a new project as big as this, so I want to make sure I’m ready for it before I commit.
All in all, things are moving along well, alhamdulillah. Being able to work outside is always a balm to my spirit, helping me to keep things in perspective, especially knowing that in the end, everything is up to Allaah alone. Raising animals and growing things is a reminder of this, from planning to planting to nurturing to harvesting. Being a part of the cycle of life is a gift, day in and day out, that I treasure every day.