Farm Update: Early Summer

A Swarm Of Bees In May is worth a load of hay...

We moved the hives to a different location closer to the orchard and in the shadow of huge pines trees. Nathan and William have been checking on the new bees to make sure they’ve been settling in and making themselves at home. No stings yet!

A was an Apple pie; B bit it; C cut it; D dealt it

Nathan and the boys planted eleven new apple trees this spring. We love that they’re mostly heritage apples which one can’t find in the grocery store. The happy little trees are Harrison, Orleans, GoldRush, Early Fiji, Cox’s Orange Pippen, and Russet. Even though it will be a few years until harvest, the kids are putting in their orders for pies and crisps!

Mary Had A Little Lamb

The sheep are very low maintenance during the warmer months when the pasture is thick with nutritious grasses. Harry is our ram, and the four ewes stay pretty close to him. We expect that two ewes are pregnant and due in August! Larry, the llama, still keeps guard, but Harry has mostly taken over moving the sheep around the pasture.

This Little Piggy…

We’re discovering that Holly has a temper sometimes. When she’s annoyed at the flies, she squeals lets out a loud grunt. Holly gets so excited when one of the kids is coming near and when Nathan pulls up the drive way. She’d been in a temporary pen, but just a couple of wees ago moved onto a bigger and better abode. She shares pasture with the sheep and the llama, and they don’t seem to care. You already heard that we added little Rosie who follows Holly around.

More news about the pigs: We are borrowing a boar (a mature male pig) from a nearby farm in hopes to have piglets in early September. The boar has made himself at home, for he insists on eating first. He also tilts the water trough enough to make puddles and cool off in the mud.

There was an old woman, Went blackberry picking…

The raspberries have been unkempt and overgrown, and finally this spring, Nathan tilled a larger plot and has been transplanting them with the boys. It’s a larger raspberry patch now and has room for growth.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

We planted the garden in May which seems late to other hardier zones, but not much earlier than that we still have nights below freezing. We have become used to this rhythm, and it works well for us because around that time, we are finishing the longer schooldays. Also, waiting till May allows for less careful watch over the seedlings. We plant everything at once, even the hardier varieties that would stand lower temperatures. This simplifies the process for us, and we still enjoy a hard day in the soil with as many hands as are available to help. This year, Nathan’s Dad shared his insight and labor all afternoon. It made a huge difference in how much we were able to get planted!

I’m enjoying putting a blog post together about vegetable and herb gardening. It will be ready soon!

with love. Damaris

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Family Currents: Swimming, Ants, and a Baby Pig

All of life is learning. We just need to be alert.

Our homeschool group wrapped up classes a few weeks ago, and we’ve started to transition into fun, outdoor activities that we don’t have time for during the structured schoolyear. Don’t you just love the chance to switch up some routines in the summertime?

The children started swim lessons, which they say is the most fun activity because it feels like vacation. It’s helping them to gain confidence and the older ones to get better technique.

All the kids started flag football and softball on Saturday mornings. We have so much to learn! Nathan coaches softball, and the children seem to prefer it over flag football. It’s so good for them to get comfortable with the rules of the game and be a little sore the next day.

We also got an ant farm. Have you ever had one? They’re available here. It’s very interesting to watch them make tunnels and communicate in some way. Providence is so scared of the ‘man-eating ants’. Never, ever open the lid. Don’t ask how we know : )

We’re so excited to introduce you to Rose, the new baby pig. We got her the same way we got Holly at Christmastime. She was also free, so why not? The piglet is about 20 lbs. with a very curly tail. She’s purely pink, and since she came to us in May, Eva thought Rose was fitting. Isn’t she cute!

There are other big happenings at FirstFruits Farms, and we’ll be sharing more in a full farm update soon!

with love. Damaris


Stop Eating Your Kids' Leftovers!

Pizza crusts, a cold bowl of tomato soup with soggy goldfish, dried sandwich crusts, brownie corners… Are you guilty of eating your kids’ leftovers and counting it as your meal, or maybe you eat them in addition to your meal? I do.

This absolutely must stop. We focus on what we feed the children. Do you carefully make menus so they enjoy a variety of nutrients? What is happening!?

The other day, I made tuna salad for the children’s lunch and gave them each a handful of crackers and a peeled banana. I went back into the kitchen feeling hungry for a crunchy romaine salad (yes, I’m one of those people-ha!) and thought that opening a can of tuna and soft-boiling two eggs would be the perfect addition. Topped with some olives- yum! So I’m chopping away my lettuce, and hear the baby waking up. Give him a little lunch, and now everyone is done eating their lunch. The kids run back upstairs to finish their schoolwork – My hunch was right, they hadn’t finished their lunches.

So I eat the leftovers on their plates and the quarters and thirds of bananas. Then I thought about what had just happened and about how often I do this. The romaine was in a bowl, the water in a pot boiling waiting for the eggs, and I ate soggy crackers with tuna salad- I don’t even like mayonnaise! Don’t count the bananas – thirds of bananas x 7 kids… This happens fairly regularly: I don’t serve myself breakfast because the kids aren’t going to finish their pancakes. Seriously!? Today, I’m gobbling up the kids’ waffle pieces and finishing their yogurts. This must stop. Here are my rules:

  1. Give them smaller portions

  2. Bag (or cover the plates) the leftovers

  3. Save the leftovers for Holly (our Yorkshire pig)

I can’t help but wonder how different if would be if I sat down to enjoy a meal together even if it’s just the children. It would be enjoyable and taste good. Mindlessly eating their leftovers while I cleaned up was not in the least satisfying! We shouldn’t just feel satiated – meaning reaching capacity, but satisfied – enjoying the meal experience.

Do you struggle with this?

with love. Damaris


Christmas Simmer Pot

Few things have been bringing me more joy these blustery winter days than listening to Handel’s Unto Us A Child Born from the Messiah masterpiece. My kids surely think my heart will burst as I sing along with my eyes closed for focus. To perfect the moment, this simmering pot has been steaming for hours now on the stovetop, adding warmth and sharp aroma to a day spent at home. Just like the world outside my windowpanes, the simmer pot is delicate and woodsy. It’s is all the smells of the season in one pot. The amazing aroma also looks lovely. There’s no better combination than citrus, spices, and some springs of nature. This simmer pot is a beautiful way to enrich your space with homemade Christmas scents (in lieu of pricey candles) and also adds a little needed moisture to the dry winter indoors. If you’re feeling restless on this very still Monday, a simmer pot will undoubtedly warm up your senses.

  • one sliced, whole orange

  • a large handful of cranberries

  • a couple cinnamon sticks

  • a few bay leaves

  • rosemary sprigs (or cuttings from your Christmas tree)

  • a large pinch of whole cloves

Fill a large pot with water and add all the aromatics in. Simmer for hours and hours adding water as needed. This makes a fun kitchen experiment when you switch things up by using what you have or choose your preferred winter scents.

with love. Damaris


Our Very Own Holly

Who remembers when Scrooge wakes up thrilled by Christmas morning, calls to the boy in the street to buy him the biggest goose at the market, then heads to Tiny Tim’s house to surprise the little family with the most opulent celebration they had ever experienced? Well, it wasn’t a goose that showed up on our doorstep last week, but maybe the next best thing – a Christmas PIG!?

Meet Holly, Larry’s next best friend (if the sheep will allow it)! A farmer from around the corner, who operates a petting farm (with a fantastic business model – it’s mobile. He brings the farm to you, and his 20 ft. trailer actually looks like a miniature barn and silo!), apparently wanted to relocate his little ‘wilbur’ after the petting farm season wrapped up. So, what a blessing, we are now the proud (and rather clueless) owners of our very own 3 month old Yorkshire sow.

Last Monday was welcoming day at First Fruits for Holly. I raced home from work, threw some chore clothes on, and helped our farmer friend get Holly acquainted with her new pen in the barn. With little time to prepare, we just converted the old sheep pen into Holly’s pen. Alexander and William were a big help in getting the pen to work. While sheep often get a bad wrap for being “dumb”, it is actually quite nice for the shepherd – sheep stay put. They stay in a pen with little complaint. Pigs are a different story. Our temporary home for Holly (now 17 pounds) will do for a little while – we took some salvaged galvanized roofing sheets that were laying around, set them on edge on the barn floor, and screwed them to the inside of the pen. Now Holly can root around all she wants, she can squirm and squeal, but she won’t be able to get out of this pen for a while. This is definitely a temporary measure, though. At a weight gain of 15 pound per week. Holly will need a permanent pen with both physical and mental (electric) barriers pretty soon. Right now we’re thinking that, if we get a break in the weather, we can run some quick fencing around the garden plot and let Holly till the garden for us until planting season. I scored an electric fence charger off of Craigslist (the go-to farm supply store). I have the fencing and posts – now just for some sun to melt the foot of snow (my mental barrier)!

And, really, this is how so much in life happens. There is certainly virtue in planning and preparing, but sometimes you just have to ‘go with it’. You can probably think back to twists and turns of your own family’s that follow this rule. Sometimes you figure things out along the way, together. And those are the real-life adventures – the best times and the best memories that your family creates and owns. I have a feeling that the “…remember when you and Mom…” and the “…I can’t believe we ever…” conversations that Damaris and I look forward to having around cups of coffee with our kids many years from today will now include stories of Holly, our Christmas pig.

some thoughts, Nathan