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Maybe it’s the new baby in the house…

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or perhaps the entire month of February in which our whole family was sick.

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Or, maybe we could chock it up to two full and lovely weeks of family visiting… and the car accident that kept them here a bit longer. (They were spared injury but the vehicle didn’t fare so well.)

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It probably doesn’t help that since Joshua was born I’ve noticed a need to replenish my nutritional stores more than ever.

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Perhaps it is this tipping point I’m feeling now that five little ones are in our care. It is a blessed kind of full I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. It’s the kind of full I’m not sure I am great at.

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Like usual, it is probably a combination of all of these factors and then some that are muddling my days, leaving me a bit dazed by all of the excitement.
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After the whirlwind of the past few months and the excitement of things to come, it was nice when we all gathered in the garden in the early evening last week. There were no trips to town or emails to send or checklists staring us down. Just us and a pile of soil amendments and a garden bed to prepare for summer vegetables and melons.

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It’s funny how you can live and work in the same place every hour of the day and still feel like you haven’t seen each other in a while. Sometimes the dinner table and the garden are the only spaces in which we all gather together. Sometimes these are the only places in the day in which Stewart and I get a chance to catch up.

But things slow down when dirt needs to be moved and that’s the kind of slow we all could use a little more of.

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Despite the relative ease in which I spent my earliest days of motherhood, I was never the kind of Mama who gave her little boys baths every night. This was partly because, in our fairly suburban existence, they just never got dirty. I had grown up with farmers as friends and farmers as family and I knew dirt and manure when I saw it. These boys certainly were not covered in those things.

It wasn’t until we started gardening in our rented backyard that a frightful reality became evident. Stewart and I were digging up the soil and encouraging a three-year-old Elijah to get in there with us. His response was an emphatic “But I don’t want to get my hands dirty!”. That’s how I knew that this little dream of homesteading needed to become a reality. Well, that and about a dozen other reasons.

Of course, once we moved off-grid there was no problem completely integrating the boys into the dirt and manure that comes with it. They thrived covered in the stuff, actually, and it was only then that I realized how unnatural it is for a child to spend such a significant portion of their life detached from the outside world, from the dreaded dirt and grime that cover every inch of our lives out here.

And then we had Annie and Ruthie right there in our makeshift cabin – our first girls and my first real dirt babies. From the time they were left on the floor they picked up pieces of dirt and hay and wood chips and smeared them anywhere they could. Their little chubby wrists had an almost constant tinge to them, their diapers often held a sandy surprise.

As with all of the children, Ruthie continues to want nothing more than to go outside. She wants to make dirt pies when Mama is working in the kitchen. She wants to go with Daddy to plant trees. She wants to bring me laundry at the clothesline. And she absolutely loves to get water for the baby chicks.

But she knows that before the chicks and the pies and the dirt she must find two things – boots and a bonnet, if she hasn’t already got them on. Mama knows that when the day is done those two, and everything and everyone in between, will be covered in dirt.

Like most things, I’m not too worried about it. The laundry piles up. The laundromat is kept in business or Mama gets an extra work out at the washboard. But most hours of most days if you stop on by you’ll find my apron looking at least as covered in dirt and dough as the rest of ’em.

And that’s alright by me… and I suspect Ruthie too.