Chelsea Green Publishing

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What We Learned From Swimming With Leeches

We don’t go away much in the summer. Highways and traffic grate at our nerves, we fixate too much on what could be getting done on the farm, we get grouchy filling up at the pump. That is not to say our summers are without bliss. But once things are growing in the soil and critters are out on pasture, we tend to stay within a small radius. We don’t take “days off” in the conventional sense; rather we find our summer vacation in the interstices of our daily labor and take our seasonal bliss in place—long lunches, naps, or reading novels on the back porch; staying up a bit later in the evening to watch the girls wrestle and dance in the grass; early morning hikes before the sun rises too high in the sky; and best of all, retreating to the farm pond on the side hill across the creek. If “family vacation” exists for our clan in July and August, then it is defined by late afternoons and early evenings beside the pond, watching the sun retreat over the hilltops, zipping back and forth across the water with dogs, kids, friends and neighbors alike. Our retreat was suddenly whisked away by freshwater vampires — evil, spineless, bloodsucking parasites. Thus, when Saoirse, Ula, and Grammie came down from the pond one hot day this past May and reported that they’d found leeches on their legs following their first swim, three generations of our family fell into despair. Our retreat was suddenly whisked away by freshwater vampires—evil, spineless, bloodsucking parasites. We tried to keep it a secret while we decided what to do. We didn’t want our friends and neighbors to start avoiding our summer watering hole. But news of leeches leaked through Ula and her five-year-old network, parents were made aware, and we suddenly felt as though we had a highly transmissible social disease that was isolating us from our community and friends. No one wants to swim with leeches. Or, at least, that was my initial conclusion. Grammie began doing research on leech control. She concluded that they had probably been present all along, but that our activity on the pond’s edge obliged them to burrow deep down or linger along the backsides of the pond where the cattails obstruct our swimming and play. She grew angry. Leeches didn’t bother her if they wanted to live on the far side of the pond, or if they wanted to inhabit one of the many other smaller farm ponds that we use for our gravity-fed watering system. But this was her space, where she played with her grandchildren. We were sent up with rakes, hoes, and stick-retrieving dogs to stir up the water and disturb the area where they’d settled. She began scavenging around for tin cans to build leech traps. Keep reading over at Yes! magazine’s website, and find out why leeches might not be as creepy as you think…
rawmilkrevolution Shannon Hayes is the author of Radical Homemakers.

What Bullies Can Teach Our Kids—And Us

Saoirse and Ula have a favorite story they are forever asking me to retell. It is about my first encounter with bullies in my kindergarten year. It goes like this: At the end of each day, my older brother and his best friend would pick me up from my classroom, and together we’d walk to […] Read More..

Radical Homemaking … With Houseguests?

I wouldn’t say I’m a slob. The toilets get scrubbed, I’m a champion when it comes to de-cluttering, and the sheets get changed. But I do possess a certain, ummm … blindness to grime. Since most cobwebs are above my sightline, I don’t notice them. The windows were last washed in 2008. Dusting really only […] Read More..

The Downsides of Upselling: 4 Tips from the Farm

A few weeks ago Bob and I had the delight of sharing the day at our farmers market with a young man who is preparing to go into grassfed farming. He worked closely with my mom and dad to understand the production end of the farm, then chose to spend a day with Bob and […] Read More..

The Audacity of Acting Out: What Our Kids Can Teach Us

Originally published by Yes! magazine. Saoirse and Ula are three years apart. Saoirse, 8, is unusually tall, slender, well-spoken, and comes across to grown-ups as particularly well-behaved and extraordinarily poised. Ula isn’t any of those things. At 5, she’s about a foot shorter than her sister, demonstrates an ability to move exceptionally heavy objects for […] Read More..

Just Me and My Sink

Seven weeks of vacation was fun, but our farmers’ market starts in two weeks, and there is a backlog of work that needs tackling in order to be ready for opening day. We’ve been making soap, lip balm and candles; cleaning, repairing and updating our display spaces; weaving baskets to have in inventory;reclaiming the blueberries, […] Read More..