One of my favorite traditions around here–my “gift” to myself, if you will– is that around my birthday I take some time off from my day job, so that I can focus all of my attention on the farm for a week. Which, well, basically means 12 hours of manual labor a day. So maybe not a break in the conventional sense of the word, but when you spend most of the year juggling a day job, and a long commute, and a farm, and a house that currently only has half a working kitchen… well… taking a couple of things off my plate for a week feels like break, even if it means I’m using those hours to dig a lot of post holes.
I swear, farm life is at least 65% digging post holes. (I dug most of those with the auger on my tractor though, because the other 35% is owning heavy equipment and knowing how to use it.)
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here, and since I had such a long a fruitful week last week, I need to break this down into a few parts.
Part 1: Wherein Shit Does Not Go As Expected
Okay, so I only took 3 days off work, but with the long weekend that meant 6 uninterrupted days of working on the farm. It also meant I might be home for the eventual hatching of baby chicks from the eggs my broody hen has been sitting on for the last 20 days.
(Fair warning: This story does not have a happy ending.)
The short version is this… after anxiously watching the nest for two days (and increasing suspicions that something wasn’t right) on Tuesday evening (the day before my vacation started) I found one dead chick in the nest and four unhatched eggs (she started with 10.)
The chick was bloodied in such a way that I was pretty sure the hen was responsible. That was a total bummer.
I took the remaining 4 eggs out of the nest and made a modified incubator out of my solar beeswax melter, on the off-chance that any of them were close to hatching.
(I don’t know where the other 5 eggs went, but I assume they were not viable and she ate them, which apparently is… common.)
After 24 hours I looked in my makeshift incubator and saw an egg that looked like it was hatching, but then realized it was just rotten and had basically exploded from cooking in the incubator. So that was fun and ended my chick-adventures for this year.
While the guinea may have another hatch, I think that’s the last time I’ll be attempting to hatch my own nugs on the farm. At least for a while. I’ve yet to decide if I’ll add to my flock this year the old-fashioned way (by raising chicks in my bathroom, obv.)
So, that didn’t work out well, but on the flip side of the coin, we do have some babies on the farm…
I mean, if you count bee larvae as babies.
This is actually great news, as it means the queens are active and laying in all three hives. I even found a queen-cell in my remaining hive from last year– which means they might have been thinking of swarming– and was also something fun and new I haven’t seen before.
(It’s that round cell on the bottom left that a worker-bee is hanging out on.)
I know it’s early in this season, but I’m already excited about setting up more hives out back next year. Bees are such fascinating little creatures.
This all happened basically Day 1 of my vacation, so I’d already gone through an emotional roller-coaster, and the way I typically like to deal with emotional roller-coasters is by letting the Universe know it won’t get the best of me, because eff that. There’s a lot of things I’m not perfect at, and a lot of things I can’t control, but the one thing I can do is continue to push my limits, learn new things, and surprise myself when that little voice inside me starts to say “you can’t” or “this is too hard.”
So I taught myself how to change the starter on my truck…
This, by the way, is a totally new skillset for me. Building houses and repairing engines have almost nothing in common except for the fact that they’re a hell of a lot easier if you own the right tools. And are a little stubborn.
My truck hasn’t started for 2 weeks now, and, yes, one of the things on my life-list has been to learn how to fix an engine, but in my head I sort of thought that would be a leisurely activity… something to pursue on late-summer weekends when there’s nothing else to occupy my time (ha), but definitely not in early spring when I NEED THAT DAMN TRUCK. Like, I have a small-vineyard’s worth of vines showing up in the next 48 hours and I need to get lumber to build a trellis system for them. And bulk mulch. And a vehicle that can pull a 20ft tractor around. And, holy shit, why now?
You know why? Because that’s life. “It is what it is” as my grandpa always says.
I’m not a mechanic. I don’t know the intricacies of how engines work (I’m not sure I even really understand the broad-strokes of how they work.) I own a basic set of socket wrenches, a voltmeter, and some Liquid Wrench, and that is the extent of my ability to fix shit on my truck. Well, except I also know how to access you tube, and I have enough people in my life that know things about engines to say “you should replace the starter first and see if that works.”
So I watched some videos. Learned some things. Got some replacement parts. And then shimmied my way under my truck to figure it out…
Because it is what it is.
And, you know what? I did.
A starter isn’t a very complicated thing to change–5 bolts and a couple of wires–but you know, framing a wall isn’t really a hard thing either– just a couple of boards and a nailer– unless you haven’t done it before. And unless the “I haven’t done it before” makes you so uncomfortable that you’re not willing to try it. So I tried it. And, honestly, if I’d had someone there with me while I did it, there are several times I would have handed the wrench over, so to speak, because I was convinced I couldn’t do it–couldn’t loosen those rusted on bolts, couldn’t hold the new part in place while I got the bolts back in– but I kept at it, and eventually I did it. And it worked.
That’s a pretty amazing feeling. Actually, maybe the most significant feeling in my life… not just knowing how to do something, but for a moment believing that I can’t, and even believing that– or maybe, deep down, never really believing that– pushing through the things that make it seem impossible until I succeed.
And, let’s be honest, the best part of my life is that even when I’m questioning my abilities…
There’s always a chicken around to help me.
(Part 2– with less disappointment and more grape vines– coming soon!)