It's that time of year again, where things not entirely in my taste happen on our farm. It's slaughtering time, and this week four male lambs and two pigs have gone from being fed to becoming food. I have not eaten meat for twenty years or so, and still find it strange and curious how anyone would want to eat a being that they once knew (or any being, for that matter). I have asked my husband and other people about this, and the answer is always: When it's dead and cut up, it becomes meat, a general thing, a pork chop like any other pork chop, a leg of any lamb, a slice of any animal. It goes from being an individual - Jon Hamm or Kevin Bacon (I am referring to our pigs here, not the actors), to a generic mass, ok to be processed for food. It's strange and very interesting to see the transformation from living to dead, and how obvious it is that the spirit that once inhabited that body has travelled elsewhere.
Which leads me over to something else I thought about today: How can I explain the concept of soul to Freja? She wonders a lot about death and dying and what happens after and what about the body and where do we go - and we try to explain and talk about it in ways that will make her feel less worried, without covering too much up either. Tricky balance! We tell her that when we die, we simply go back to where we came from, that we return to being a star in the sky. And when the time is right, we will come down to earth again. This seems to make her less fearful, but then the big question of the body arises. Of course she knows that people (and animals) are buried in the ground, and she is very much acquainted with the process of composting, being a farm kid, but it's difficult for her to accept the fact that she will also go that way. So I have introduced the soul. And how does one explain what the soul is to a four year old person? (When one doesn't even know it themselves?) I'm still laughing at my own allegory from earlier on today: It's like an egg! Your body is the egg shells that stay on earth, and you soul is the...yolk. And the yolk flies up to the sky. Ok, not great. She just looked at me with a weird look in her face. A friend of us (she's nine) said it better: The soul is your thoughts, your feelings, everything that is you. I guess I'll settle for that, for now.
Note: If you're wondering about my thoughts on being a veggie and also a farmer, read this post from last year - it explains my thoughts on the subject. And yes; our animals are slaughtered in the most humane way possible, free of any stress (for them), only a few metres away from where they graze and live.
One of her favourite times of day are when she's having supper and daddy's there, telling stories. We have a series of stories going around in our family, magical little tales that we've made up, they repeat and expand all the time. I'm thinking that one day, when I have time and space, I will get the daddy to tell them again, record it, and start writing them down to form a book. Perfect project for those cold and dark winter days. Until then, those evening sessions will do just fine.
Sometimes you discover people who will come to mean something extra special, and who inspire you on a fundamental level in your life. I cannot remember how I stumbled upon this woman, but Ina May Gaskin has become one of those people in my life. (The fact that I can't remember is killing me a little, by the way.) She and her husband Stephen were at the core of self-sufficiency and hippie project The Farm in the late 60ies, where they drove a caravan of old school buses from the west coast of the USA to Tennessee, and bought a piece of land there. The village - The Farm - was started from scratch, and they did everything themselves - including midwifery. Ina May became one of the head midwives there, and in the years following she became a political advocate for natural birth. She talks and writes about the power in women and the way our bodies will guide us in birth, promotes home birth and proves that it is safe. She is wise, funny, cheeky and smart. Her books are written so that anyone can understand, they are about birth but essentially about love. I recommend her books Guide to Childbirth and Spiritual Midwifery and also the wonderful and very touching documentary Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives, if you are having a baby now or in the future, or if you're just remotely interested in birth care. It will change you, it will create trust, it will remove fear.
This Monday, I was a part of a conference where the midwives of Jordmorteamet gathered a bunch of amazing people under the header Human Rights in Maternity Care and Birth, and Ina May Gaskin was there to talk about women's power in birth. It was wonderful! She's got that special kind of energy and it just made me so happy to have the chance to see and hear her in person. In a break, I gathered the courage to ask her for some portraits, and she happily consented. I was a bit shaky, yes, but I think they turned out fine. She's already replied to me (I sent them to her), and says she likes them and will use them for press. Ah, what a boost!
The whole conference left me moved, energised, happy and so inspired. It also taught me that we have a long way to go to get back to recognising birth as a gift, and not some sort of hell we have to get through to have babies. Our bodies are made for it, and if we trust that and stop being afraid, we will not only birth easier, but also reduce the risks involved and the interventions which have become so normal (c-sections, forceps, etc.). Stop thinking, and "let your monkey do it", in Ina May's words. It doesn't matter where you choose to birth (and yes! It is a choice you should make, not an automatic thing), what matters is what your experience becomes, because it will stay with you.
Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions,
your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.
(Ina May Gaskin)
See her webiste inamay.com for more.
When your first child travels earthside and into your hands, you are also born as a parent.
Ten years ago today I became a mother to a chubby, beautiful, strong baby, and my life, this life, began. I remember one thing very strongly from the first moments after birth: The feeling of having been given an enormous privilege. This baby is my daughter. I had won the lottery, I was the luckiest mother in the world because this child had chosen me to be her mama. After ten years, this feeling is just as strong. That chubby, dark haired baby has grown into a tall girl with hair the colour of sand and the most beautiful smile. She is funny, open, caring, strong, independent, crazy, smart, artistic, sensitive, reflected. She is still my baby, she still snuggles up close and lets me in, and yet this new person is emerging, all the time. At ten, I have to accept that her childhood is in transit, and that we are entering a whole new path together. It is so exciting and I'm so curious, and still: There is a little lump in my throat that won't go away. I think of all the hugs, kisses, i-love-yous, all the lullabies and mornings, all the meals, conversations, the laughter and the tears, the arguments, i'm-sorrys, of the every-days and all the moments, those moments that were ten years, the moments that make a life.
I think of us holding hands and walking side by side, and in that image lies a promise, the promise that I won't let go, not ever, not in ten years or a hundred.
Happy birthday, my lovely, wonderful girl.
It was raining cats, dogs and rhinoceri today, so I've only left the house twice; both times to get stuff from the garden, carrots for soup and kale (grønnkål) to try something new. I've read on several food blogs about how amazingly delicious kale chips are supposed to be, so I had to try them, with the abundance of kale in our garden this year. And the verdict? They are amazingly delicious! Crunchy yummy healthy treats, and easy to make, too.
In other news, the kids redecorated the living room today (photographic proof below). They made a cozy den under the lounge table, and the house was quiet for a whole fifteen minutes while they played in there. Then they left to play in the rain, and I was left redecorating it back again.
Ah, the joys of domestic life.
How happy I am about making the decision to go into photography full time. It's only three months ago, I made the phone call to my boss at the school I've worked at for eight years, and told her that I was going to go for it. When we said goodbye and hung up (after she had wished me the best of luck), I got the shakes big time. What on earth was I thinking? Three kiddos and a farm and a husband who's a freelancer too?! We'd thoroughly lost it, I thought.
Then fast forward to any day this autumn, for example today, where jobs are lining up and I'm basically doing exactly what I dreamed of doing (but almost didn't dare to). It's busy, but not stressful in that "sucking all your energy out"-sort of way, and I'm enjoying every second of it. The human contact, the creative challenge, the freedom, the way it keeps me sharp and connected, all the time. I honestly never thought I'd have my own business. It makes me laugh sometimes to think about it, that I did it, I suffered a moments crazy bravery and jumped, and now I have this new baby, and it's all mine.
I think the photo pretty much speaks for itself, but don't get me wrong: Today was good. There is something nice about being surrounded by wet, slushy and cold weather, spiting it and going out there, well clothed and determined to have a good time, and then after a while, surrendering to the soft heat of the indoors, with wet hair and cold hands, hanging your dripping clothes up over the wood stove to dry, walking around in your long johns, having tea and feeling like you really accomplished something, you did it, you went out in that weather, and the roses in your cheeks are there to prove it.
What makes me happy: Being outside with all three of them in the afternoon, when Ronja is back from school and we have time to do anything we want. We play, explore, pick stuff from the garden to cook for dinner, visit our animals. Suddenly they will come up with a fun game and lose themselves in it for a while, and then we'll all go in and warm up. Stuff like this makes me calm and happy, it makes me feel that this works, this family life is good. The fact that all three of them are sporting the same classic farmers overalls too, well that just makes my heart burst a little at the seams.
I could go on and on about how great our gardens have been this year, because it really has been overwhelming. I wrote in a blog post here sometime about what sort of magic dust someone had sprinkled on our soil, and when Mr. Payne read that, he dryly reminded me of all the horse/cow/chicken muck he spent hours spreading around the farm in autumn and spring. That is magic dust, actually. (Although I wouldn't go so far as to say a fairy sprinkled it on the soil.)
So yes, the pumpkins were due their harvest yesterday, and a good pile of them and the remaining courgettes/squashes, were taken out of the field. Any great pumpkin recipes are now welcomed!
(And I love it.)
...of joy, hard work, excitement, hardships, bonding, laughter, tears, doubt, bliss, wonder, and love. Most of all, love.
You've been beautiful, kept us very busy, and given us so much fun. Thank you!
(click on the images to see them big)
(You can read part one here.)
A new calf today! Our second one, with Rosalita becoming a mother for the first time. She was a week overdue today. I noticed she was pushing in the morning when she was out in the field, and after a few hours of that without much progress, Mr. Payne went out and checked her. It turned out the calf was both breech and upside down, so the outdoors birth was cancelled and we brought them all in. There, with Ronja as birth photographer and Mr. Payne and myself as home birth midwives, a beautiful heifer (female) calf was born. It was an experience I will always remember I think - the whole family being there together, sharing something so profound and joyful, the birth of a new herd member.
We have named her Buttercup, and I have a feeling she will get her share of the love around here.
Slept late after a wriggly night with Falks feet into my face most of the time (the joys of co-sleeping, haha), got up to a warm and cozy house where the fire had been lit for the first time this season, and left for a little countryside tour. First, we went to see our filly Albertine, who I've only seen once before when she was newborn. Oh is she lovely. She is so gentle and so snuggly, its amazing how tame she is even though she's lived in the woods with her herd all summer. I think we all fell in love with her today. She'll come to live with us in a months time - I cannot wait. (She's the littlest one in the photos.)
Then we headed further into the woods to visit our new ram (sheep daddy). He's all white and his name is Petrus. He will be joining us shortly, and we're excited to finally be able to breed on our own lambs, the ones that were born here, and not just the ones we bought three years ago. Obviously we haven't been able to do that before, because Brutus is the father of these lambs and he's been the only big daddy here so far.
Another exciting thing of the day: It is Rosalitas due date today! We are awaiting our second calf after Pål was born in May, so keep out for another birth photography post á la this one.
Hope you're having a good one, too!
The last few weeks I've been on call for a birth photography job, and yesterday was the day. Such a wonderful experience: Pure birth power and magic all the way, so intense and emotional during labour, a crazy release right after the birth, tears of joy and sighs of relief, and then, that blissful quiet after the storm, where it all sinks in and we breathe again.
It truly is a beautiful life.
Summer is hanging on a bit, and it's nice, because the days are fresher than before, but you can still wear a summer dress at midday. I really like autumn though. The coziness of the fire, the dark evenings, the change of focus.
The garden this year has been crazy. We have had so much growing in such enormous quantities, its been overwhelming. Someone must have sprinkled magic dust in the soil (thank you!). I can't help but feel blessed (although I am not a specifically religious person, but you can feel blessed anyway, right?). Things are going so well with my photography, I'm getting lots of jobs with great variety, the kids are happy, we are all doing well. And after my last post ("On choices"), I feel happy that I wrote it (I really did have my doubts whether I should) because I have received so much wonderful feedback from you lovely souls out there. Thank you so much, it means a lot. Keep writing.
I often think that our society has it all planned out for us, that the road is there and all we have to do is follow along. How our houses are supposed to look, how we raise our children, how we dress, how our bodies look, our work, how much money we are supposed to have, the food we eat - the patterns are all laid out for us. The main stream is easy to follow because the decisions have already been made. So what would happen if you suddenly decided to reinvent your life? If you removed all of those patterns and jumped off the beaten path? If you had to make all those decisions fresh and only based on you - without the expectations of the world around you, without other peoples standards, without the pressure to conform? How would your life look then, if you cleaned it all up?
When I met my husband, I immediately knew that I'd met someone who would go the lengths with me, who had the freedom in spirit to jump off the path with me. He was unattached to culture, wild and free and strong enough to stand his ground. Strong enough not to care. So gradually, we started changing things. We bought the farm, which had been desolate for many years and needed a whole lot of work. Our dream was to be as close to self-sufficient as possible and that the farm would provide food for us. We rebuilt the house, bought animals, cleared forest, put fences up, and not long after, the farm was a lively place again. We had babies, too, in the midst of this, and all that work plus our full time day jobs left us feeling tired. We were crammed in between our dream, so close we could smell it, and the stark and stressful reality of working day jobs and having our kids at day care. Gradually, our day jobs began feeling like something standing in the way of the life we really wanted, and it sucked the energy out of us. Until one evening. The kids were in bed, and we were talking about this, when I suddenly said to him "why don't you just quit your job?". We talked and talked, calculated how much money we would need, discussed it all, and realised that both of us having full time jobs wasn't really making us much money at all. In order to keep the life we had up and practically possible, we needed two cars, kids at day care, Ronja at the after school centre, we spent more money buying food because we didn't have time to make our own food. Working full time actually meant spending more money and losing time. Time with our kids, most importantly, and also time to use our farmland to its fullest so that we in turn could save money on food costs. Where's the sense in that? I saw this quote once, and I think there is truth in it:
"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it." (Ellen Goodman)
Cutting down on all of our luxurious costs (in example shopping, having two cars, holidays/concerts/restaurants), and reducing on the other expenses by becoming more self-sufficient in the food department, we saw that Mr. Payne easily could quit his job and stay home. That also meant that our little ones would stay home with him (Ronja had already started school). Having your children at home full time without the ambition to start kindergarten is very rare in Norway, and I have often felt that I have to defend our decision to others. Luckily, neither of us are very bothered about other peoples standards. What feels right for us and our children is best for us and our children. This subject is very touchy though - because I think many parents put their kids in daycare for many hours a day/week without really wanting to. I am not one to speak for others or generalise about other peoples lives - but I have picked up on that a lot from other mamas. They think they should because its good for the child, and they think they have to because of the family economy. After jumping off that grid and keeping our kids at home with us, my perspective on this has changed a lot. And this is where I have to weigh my words carefully: I do not want to hurt anybody, but I still think it should be possible to talk about other ways of living. I am not a better mother than anyone else. I have just chosen differently.
Now, I have quit my day job too, so we are both home. That is, we are both freelance workers, so we take the work we can get and juggle it between us. If I have a photography job, he's at home with the kids. If he has a tree felling job, I'm at home. We make enough so we can feed ourselves and our animals, pay the mortgage and electricity and not worry about next month. Deciding not to be a part of the rat race means less luxury, but it is so liberating. Simplifying our life like this, cutting it right down to the bone, has made me see clearer and enjoy the beauty and freedom of nature so much more. I have everything I need. I have my children close, the forest outside my doorstep, and a life free of stress and painful expectations.
I have heard many times how lucky I am to have this life, to have this farm, to have this man, to have all this time with my kids. It is not luck. Our life and our privileges are not a result of happenstance. We have been brave, made choices who felt scary but right, followed our hearts, not compromised and worked very hard. Out of all this comes this life we have: time and space to be together. This journey has been hard at times, but what it has taught me the most is that although our culture, the media or the corporate world expect us to keep up with their standards (spend most of your time at work, make money, spend money), we have a choice. We can govern our own lives, and there are many ways of doing it.
Freedom is there, but you have to search for it, you have to want it, and you have to be willing to make that change.