Looking Back on 2018

Here we are once again, at the birth another new year. The older I get, the quicker the years seems to pass. On more than one occasion last year, I had to double check the calendar because it sure felt like we had just started into 2018 not that long ago.

But alas, we’ve now turned the last page on 2018 and will start a new chapter in our story. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish this year on the homestead, but we don’t really know what the new year will bring do we? Not with any certainty anyway. No matter how much we plan for, things have a way of working out just a little differently. Thus is the cycle, this rhythm of life. I’ll cling to the good things, and hold on to faith that God will see us through the hard things to come, as he always does.

But what of 2018? Is it too late to look back and reflect on the things that had an impact on our lives over the past year?

If we were to name one thing that really summed up 2018 for us on the homestead, it would most certainly be WEATHER. To describe Iowa weather in 2018 one word quickly comes to mind: BIPOLAR.

During the spring we had sub-zero temps that flopped to unseasonably warm temps within days, and that kind of instability usually creates an extraordinary weather event. We saw that firsthand when a downdraft (straight line winds) hit our property at almost 100 mph and sent the whole family to the basement. These winds uprooted giant trees, shredded our roof and destroyed several of the farm buildings around us! By Memorial Day we were north of 100 degrees (a shift from the 50 degree days we had just two weeks before) and it rained all summer, flooding much of Iowa. Between the sudden heat and rainfall, it was a very difficult year to grow vegetables, not to mention the abundance of storms had us looking at the skies more often than normal.

In May we officially became pig farmers when we brought four gilts and one boar home. Was that part of the plan? Absolutely not. But it certainly has changed our lives in a positive way. Caring for animals is a noble task that will challenge you in ways you can’t really ever imagine. Until you go through it. But it also gives joy. And pigs? They really are funny and inquisitive animals. Plus bacon. I do love bacon.

In June our eldest son graduated from Naval boot camp and moved on to his next phase of schooling in Pensacola. It’s a bittersweet feeling to watch your kids grow up, become adults and usher into their own adventures. Among the sense of pride that you feel in these moments there is also a heavy weight of longing, the kind you feel right in your chest. You long for the years that have gone by, because scattered among those years like gems are the memories of when your children were small and the world much smaller still.

2018 was our second year of growing vegetables for our local market. I am honored over how overwhelmingly supportive our community has been. The market garden has been something Katie and I have desired to do for many years, and now that we are seeing our dreams realized it’s been very rewarding. Every year we learn more, we improve (often through hard lessons) and we refine our focus. The past year was no exception. The 2019 growing season will look a little different for us, and I can’t wait to share our plans for the new year!

You can never have enough chickens. Can I get an amen? Chickens have these quirky, almost cartoon like personalities that simply entertains me. Sometimes I’ll just sit and watch as they hunt and peck around the yard and woodlot, eating berries and insects. They make me smile. So we gave not a second thought at expanding our flock, which we did indeed do last spring. We now have forty plus egglayers and one ornery rooster. And I’m making no promises that we won’t add more in 2019…

The close of 2018 brought both sadness and elation. Two of our pigs, Petunia and Charlotte, gave birth a night apart from each other. It’s been bitterly cold at night and we lost all of Petunia’s litter, a total of seven piglets. We stayed up most of the night with Charlotte as she gave birth to six healthy babies, all of which have (so far) have survived. The most incredible part of this story is how Petunia has been working with Charlotte as a surrogate mother, letting the babies feed off her milk and vigilantly watching over them as if they were her own. Pigs really are amazing creatures and we are learning more and more with every one of these moments.

Flipping through my pictures while writing this post, I’m reminded at how full 2018 was. We’ve experienced tragedy. Disappointments. There were projects we didn’t complete and things that didn’t go how we wanted them to go. But there was laughter. There were bright moments of happiness. There were good memories made, some of them captured in images but most of them not captured at all. Only experienced, which I think it really the way life is supposed to be lived. Looking back on these things, I realize how full our life really is, and how I wouldn’t trade any of it for another life.

So here to new experiences and new days. Here’s to the new year. May yours be full my friends!

Be well.

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