Little Mister Williams Arrived

For our last unassisted birth and the 911 audio recording, check this out. Edit: *I wrote this a couple of months ago, but am only just getting around to sharing it. I’m not editing any of my words but I want to clarify that we had midwives here in Charlottesville that practice traditional midwifery and I wouldn’t change a thing. They gave us the complete, holistic, incredible care that we needed and didn’t even know that we needed.*

It’s been just over two weeks since our son’s beautiful birth and it’s time to share a little bit of the story. We knew that after sweet Tupelo was born (on the side of the road), that we wanted to have a homebirth so we found a midwife from Savannah to help us along the journey and when we moved to Charlottesville about halfway through our pregnancy, we found another midwife. We were fully supported by both of them and their co-midwives/partners throughout our pregnancy and I know that the confidence and peace that they all instilled in us gave us the confidence and peace to deliver this precious little boy without intervention.

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We weren’t planning an unassisted homebirth and I don’t think we were truly unassisted because of the midwifery care that we received and the invaluable training and support that our doula provided a few years ago when we had our first vaginal hospital birth after two csections.

All of those things, in addition to the endless research and prayers and preparation and past birth traumas and good birth experiences, gave us exactly what we needed to have the best homebirth experience that we could have asked for. And we did.

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The night our boy arrived, I got incredibly ill.  Major dizziness and food poisoning symptoms wreaked havoc and I prayed that no one else in the house would get sick. Andy asked if I’d had a drink of the river water earlier that day, because of the sheer magnitude of the symptoms. The ‘sick’ was actually early labor but I’d never had out of my head dizzy/light headedness like that in my life so I just thought I was really sick. I called our midwife and told her I was sick but I wasn’t having any contractions. I just wanted her to know how utterly miserable I was and perhaps I thought that after vomiting my guts out that i’d be dehydrated or go into labor or who knows. Maybe I just needed her sympathy as I was on the toilet and crawling around, but she told me to take some Benadryl and lay down and try to rest and stay hydrated. That was around 9pm on Saturday night.

Andy had already put the kids to bed while I was on all fours dry heaving into a bucket, but I was able to sleep after my body emptied itself of everything except our baby. It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned this birth story beginning but when I woke up at 1am with those blessed contractions, I knew labor was upon me. I didn’t wake andy up. I didn’t call the midwives. I thought about what one of them said at my last prenatal appointment so I started fluffing up the living room and putting some bananas in the freezer because I knew I’d want a banana and peanut butter smoothie after the baby was born. Elizabeth said that ‘if you only had one hour until your baby arrived, what would you wish you’d have done. Do that.’ So, I prepared our living room for company and got some smoothie ingredients ready while the contractions got closer and stronger. I probably should have called the midwives when my contractions started or when I knew they were increasing in strength but I didn’t want them hanging out playing cards (totally kidding!) or wishing they were in their own beds if we had 36 hours in front of us, like we did with our hospital births. So, I labored privately.

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I started a bath and got back in bed and labored alone until 2:30 when Andy woke up because he heard me. I got into the bath and I was gripping the side of the tub trying to get comfortable when Andy looked at me and said something along the lines of ‘I think you’re in labor’ and then he walked out to call the midwife (I found out later that he called them and told them that he thought we had about four or five hours to go).

At that point contractions were very intense. I was focusing on breathing and trying very hard to relax in between contractions. I knew that we were in the throes of active labor and that the best thing I could do was to breathe and relax and let my body do the work. It wasn’t easy. It was hard. I’ve forgotten the feeling of those contractions already, but in the midst of them, I was overwhelmed.  Andy started timing them and it was all I could do to say ‘now’ when a contraction started. I’d moved back to our bed by now (the tub didn’t quite do it for me-it’s not a soaking tub and we didn’t have a birth pool because I didn’t call the midwives) and I was probably gripping Andy’s arm out of its socket by this time and totally inside of myself because he says he lost contact. I thought I was communicating plainly with him because he was very in tune with what I needed and following directions (come to find out I wasn’t verbalizing anything to him). The rest that I had between contractions felt like hours and I relished them. It was actually only about a minute but the relief that it gave me was so much greater. As the contractions increased, I reached the point where I couldn’t go on and I told andy that I couldn’t do it. Before that point, I was saying, I can do this, I can do this. But, then I couldn’t.

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I felt the baby’s bag of waters emerge. I’d been on my side on the bed throughout those 20 minutes or so of intense contractions (or waves or surges as some schools of thought like to suggest) but I instinctively got up off of the bed and stood next to it for the next ‘wave’. My waters broke and with another push, I felt the baby crowning but, I wasn’t ready to deliver, so I placed my hand on its head to sort of support it and relieve some of the intense pressure and feeling of being torn in half (that’s called the ring of fire for good reason!).

Andy asked me to move to the end of the bed where he’d put down some waterproof pads and had more room to maneuver around me so I moved a few feet over before the next push where the baby’s head emerged. I didn’t rush to push again but waited until the next urge came. It came within a minute or so and the baby’s body was delivered. Andy was behind me and told me he would catch the baby after I told him that I would. I acquiesced and he ‘caught’ our 5th baby and our 2nd that we delivered together without anyone else around. I leaned on the bed a bit for some deep breaths and a moment of respite while Andy looked over our precious blessing and exclaimed that we had a boy. This was our first time being surprised with the gender and it was amazing. I sat down on the floor after Andy passed our son back to me. He started to clean up the area and get a bowl for the placenta that I would soon deliver. We didn’t cut the cord, we didn’t immediately start weighing or measuring or finger printing or heel pricking. We just slowly embraced this new life and I held him and let nature take its course.

It was the most beautiful birth I could have asked for and despite the pain near the end and dealing with the most challenging pregnancy that I’d had yet, it was all worth it!

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I remember feeling so completely broken when our first son’s birth ended in a csection and the doctor told me that I was incapable of ever having a vaginal birth because my body wasn’t built for it. I knew it was a blessing to be able to carry a baby at all and I tried desperately not to dwell on the shame that I felt from having a csection (and then another one), but with our third baby being born without a csection and our last two being born without anyone else around, i can say that I’m finally not afraid of childbirth. It’s a beautiful and amazing thing and I love that we had the most wonderful midwives by our side throughout the entire process. They did arrive shortly after Little Mister arrived (they’d have been present for his birth if I’d had called them!) and they checked our vitals, checked me for tearing to see if I needed stitches and did a plethora of other things that go unnoticed by an untrained eye like mine. I can’t recommend midwives enough. They are empowering and the care that we received was starkly different than the mainstream care that we received in times gone by. To say they are ‘with woman’ is an understatement. They are with woman, with child, with husband, with family. They are the support and the hands and hearts and care that we all need. They are masters of their craft and know when to do what and why. They are the unsung heroes of maternity care and i’m grateful to know them!!!

XO.

Beekeeping Barbie

She got her very first Barbie from her Great Aunt Jane. This Barbie is a super cool beekeeping babe with her own bee hive and honey stand complete with an honor system cash register. 

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I wasn’t sure if we were going to introduce Barbie dolls to our kiddos, but this the coolest one I’ve ever seen.

XO

Elements in Lyons

There is this gorgeous restaurant with really great food just down the road from us. It’s half an hour down the road and I drive by hay fields and cotton fields and cow pastures to get there. I drive down rural highways and arrive at this historic downtown corner of Lyons, Ga and am immersed into another world. I’m immersed into a world of delicious food, culture, history and beauty and it reminds me of home. It’s a taste of where I grew up in the beautiful historic district of Savannah and I’m so glad that I found it. It is a night on the town, every night that I’m there and I’m there way more than I ever expected.

A few weeks ago, Andy and I thought it would be a fun social outlet and a chance to make a little extra cash for our businesses and a more reliable family vehicle if I started serving again. It’s been a LONG while since I’ve been involved with the restaurant industry but it’s definitely something I love and am familiar with and something I grew up around since my mom has managed some of the best and most reputable establishments in Savannah.

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So, here I am thinking I’ll go work a couple nights a week and meet some locals and have more adult conversations and try great food that someone else prepares and I’ve gotten way more than I bargained for. In fact, I’ve gotten myself into a gig that I wasn’t seeking but can definitely be thankful for how it fell into my lap.

I’ve been at Elements for just over a month and I started managing it 2 weeks ago. I have met some incredible people. I definitely have my work cut out for me and some huge shoes to fill, but I’m doing my best to take it one day at a time and not get too far ahead of myself. I’m not sure exactly what the owners are thinking or how I got myself into this position, but I’m thankful for it and for how it’s challenged me and broadened my horizons. I’m thankful that Andy has more time with our kiddos than ever before and that we can balance each other out. I’m thankful that I get to meet so many amazing people and be involved in a sweet community.

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We are still committed to homeschooling, farming, growing our businesses (Ox and Broadfork & The Honey Bee Queen) and raising these precious souls that we’ve been entrusted with. We still have some crazy dreams and goals and hope to see them come to fruition someday and we still trust God to lead us and carry us wherever we may serve and glorify Him best. If that’s in rural GA, then let it be. If it’s across the world, then we’ll go.

Right now, it’s Andy working days while I teach and take care of our babies and then Andy takes care of the homefront and goes on adventures around town with our little ones while I go to work at Elements. I don’t know how long I’ll be at the restaurant. I’ve learned that many things are subject to change. Even if I never stepped foot into Elements again, my life is richer and fuller because of the time I’ve had there so far. It’s been a blessing in a lot of ways and the biggest blessing has been the people. The crab cake stack is pretty awesome too…

XO,

Melissa

Good Book Lady

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The grapes have ripened and over ripened. The kids made all sorts of concoctions and I got to be the taste tester. The summer is still going strong. The goldenrod is blooming.

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I’m reminded of John Steibeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ because of how many of these beauties didn’t get processed and sort of just wasted and fermented on the vine and the ground. I’m also reminded of the Cynthia Rylant’s ‘The Relatives Came’ and I’m also reminded that I’m a book nerd.

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I told Andy that I was going to join the ranks of these awesome book sellers that I’ve come to know and enjoy online and he laughed and said something about me being a librarian now… yes.

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That’s me. A wife, mother, homesteader, gardener, writer, dreamer, junk collector, beekeeper and librarian. I even have a name for my library all picked out and ready to go.

XO,

Melissa

Alys and Buttercup

50496626-2613-43AB-9B0D-596485BC4005.jpegOur girl got a lamb for her birthday from Auntie Olive and Uncle Johnny. Alys (the lamb) and Buttercup (our girl) have been getting to know each other and I must say Buttercup’s method of making sure that Alys has her own bowl of alfalfa pellets is helping their bond tremendously.

XO,

Melissa

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The Flowers Will Come Back

 

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A few years ago I was invited to speak at a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group about gardening with children. For some reason, someone decided that I was qualified to teach on the subject. Andy and I had 2 kids at the time. Our boys were just a toddler and a baby. We were renting 26 acres right outside of the city limits of Savannah and we had a small CSA that consisted of 35 families that came to the farm to pick up our organically grown veggies every Saturday.

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The most charming part of that place was the herb and flower garden mural that was painted by one of our friends/CSA members onto a pile of free pallets that we used to surround the herb garden. The rest of it is a vague and distant memory that I’ve tried to block from my mind, because it was one of the most challenging and stressful times in our marriage. We questioned everything that we were doing and whether it was worth it and whether we had the determination to keep going. We are still going, but our farming model has shifted from the vegetable CSA to a honeybee and premium craft meat business.

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Anyway, I don’t remember much of what I shared that day to those ladies, but I do remember reading a little story aloud about the flowers coming back. I don’t remember the title of the story or the author or all of the details  but essentially it’s about a mother of young children who are always tramping and playing near the neighbor’s yard and garden. In fact, the entire gang of neighborhood kids does so and even the dog seems to find its way into the old woman’s flower beds.

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The old woman tells the frazzled and impatient mother, ‘don’t worry, the flowers will come back’ time and time again. The old woman enjoys the neighborhood children and doesn’t seem to notice the flowers being trampled as they run and play or when the football accidentally lands in the roses or the kid’s dog lays on the daisies. Many years later, the old woman is in the hospital, very ill and the mother of those once young children goes to visit her and say goodbye and notices the hospital is bursting with flowers. There are bouquets and plants and vases of flowers crowding every corner of that room. The mother notices many of the names on the cards because they belonged to that once scraggly bunch of kids that grew up and played in the neighborhood and lived near the old woman. The children had all grown up and they remembered the old woman.  The old woman looked at the mother with a knowing smile on face and said ‘I told you the flowers would come back.’

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I think about it often. While I know that there are very practical ways that we can and should work with our children in the garden the more important issue is that we are gentle with their hearts. We need to remember that the flowers will come back but crushing their spirits is much harder to overcome. We can give them age appropriate jobs, set boundaries, designate children’s areas, teach them how to plant, cultivate and harvest and let them work alongside us. Ultimately though, if they mess up a garden because they stumbled and fell or they picked a flower that they didn’t have permission to pick or they unknowingly walked through a row of freshly transplanted seedlings, our reaction will help shape the rest of their lives for better or worse.

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We should plant more flowers, let them get dirty, smile, thank them for the beautiful bouquet they just brought us with roots still attached (even if we were saving it for a special occasion) before we yell at them or lecture them or become overwhelmed or disgruntled or frazzled. Remember they are young. They are impressionable. They are worth our love, patience and kindness. We will reap what we sow and if we sow good seeds then the flowers will come back. 

XO,

melissa

“The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14

‘Blueberries For Sal’

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Yesterday was a ‘Blueberries For Sal’ kind of day. It is one of our favorite children’s books. We didn’t get mixed up with any bears but we did eat some Tremendous Mouthfuls of the sweetest blueberries around and had plenty more for the winter. I feel like we’ve stumbled upon incredible riches in the most unassuming plot of a 2 acre parcel of blueberry bushes.

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The bushes were still loaded down even after they’d been picked over for weeks and with 3 families and a brood of magnificent kids, we picked over 50 pounds of berries. I am thankful for good friends to grow alongside and share awesome memories with. Here’s to many more years of filling our cups and harvesting excellent fruit.

XO,

Melissa

Sesame Honey

38768BC1-E967-4D6C-8618-35299A998FD5.jpegA few nights ago, Andy and I transferred the beehives from our bee yard on the Ogeechee River to our back yard on Sesame Street. It was done just in time because the sesame is blooming.

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This will be our first time working with sesame and we are eager to see how things unfold for the bee’s sake and ours. We need to expand our tiny apiary and having the bee hives closer to home will make that work much easier.

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We learned that the concentration of Chinese Tallow trees was not as dense as we originally thought at our bee yard in the swamp, but with our neighbor’s sesame crop and a bit of sweat equity, we may be in for a pleasant surprise.

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Sesame honey, here we come!

XO,

Melissa

Lemon Balm Love

I know that I’ve shared my love of lemon balm numerous times but that love story just hasn’t faded. Lemon balm is still one of my all time favorite plants. This morning I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the garden trimming up the ‘tea time plants’ and I decided to go ahead and make some more lemon balm babies…

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They are one of the easiest things in the world to root and I don’t think you can ever have enough. Even if it is just planted somewhere for you to brush your hand through and smell the incredible aroma every now and then, it’s worth it. I’m really looking forward to having more of these precious plants around.

XO,

melissa

Local Honey Love

Keeping bees was always a dream. Marrying a beekeeper was a special bonus. These last couple of years, our honey hobby has created quite a special little following. We’d usually have honey available throughout the year to sell, but lately it’s been selling out within weeks after harvest. I can’t say that I’m not surprised because I am. I’ve always known that we had some really great honey (thanks to an awesome bee yard on the Ogeechee River located at the northernmost tip of where you’ll find Tupelo that produce the best honey in the world!) and that the supply was very limited, but I just never imagined that we’d ever have a waitlist for our honey and yet here we are. Our little hobby of a honey farm has been a sweet little facet of our lives and it’s evolved and changed over the last few years. We got a new logo and moved away from mason jars to another style. We even started using buckets with gates to pour off the honey rather than ladling every jar by hand. Go figure we’d start using the right tools for the right job.

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We are still a very very small operation. I don’t know if we will ever produce an actual barrel of honey in a single harvest. I can count the gallons and it’s never been remotely close to 50 at once. Still, we know that we need to either increase our prices or increase our supply so we are adding more beehives. We love beekeeping and we love encouraging other people to become keepers of the bees. The fact that our local community (no matter where we’ve lived) has supported our beekeeping efforts is not lost on us. We are a family that is firmly planted to the ground we live on and work. We do our best to invest in the people around us and the fact that the people around us are investing in us gives us pause for gratitude. It’s good to live locally.