Monday, December 26, 2011
Nothing much new has been going on here, which is why I haven't been writing. There hasn't been much to say, other than that I am caught up a bit in my own head, trying to find my way back to the homesteading I love so much from this world I have fallen into of caring what people think, dressing to impress and aiming to please everyone around me. To be honest, that isn't me at all and it is taking some adjusting to figuring out how to balance the work side of me and the real side of me. It's challenging in that I don't really work hard physically and that's all I really want to do around my house. It's been easy to get caught up in a sort of lethargy that takes hold and sort of sucks the will to do anything at all out of you. I'm slowly getting it back, but it's been a rough way to go.
My moods have been a lot more balanced lately- that is to say that I feel flat and a bit empty like everything is colossally boring, except I know of all these things I used to love and now I can't bring myself to really care so much about anything, which totally sucks. I love homesteading, I love the lure of being independent and self-sufficient out here on my pretend farm. (That is, it will someday be a farm.) I love this lifestyle, but I am having such a hard time getting going again, getting over the hump of this mental block that I am sure I am making much more difficult than it should be.
I need some inspiration, and my darling hubs got me some for Christmas in the form of Jenna Woginrich's new book, Barnheart. It's neat to hear the story of another real-life homesteader and all the things she has gone through. I'm reading it and probably will read her other book, Made from Scratch again shortly after to get my juices flowing again.I just love Jenna's writing and like her, long to be making money with my words so I can live out the dream of homesteading full time.
That's another realization I have come to these recent weeks....I want to farm, but I want a subsistence farm, not a farm for profit. I don't want to raise or grow food for other people, just for myself and my family with a little bit to give away to others. I think that is one of the things that separate me from others in this niche- that I don't want to really farm. I want to SemiFarm, just for us.
Do you want to farm or semi-farm? What do you think the difference is for you? How do you balance who you are at work with who you are at home- are they different faces to the same person or do they integrate well for you? How do you do it? I would love to hear...
Thanks for listening to my hot air and about the hot air. I promise this blog will get better and better as I practice my writing and practice my thinking with this whole new way of living I am learning. Give me your feedback about what you like and hate so I can keep on growing and going.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I'm not really one who gets into the holidays. To me they seem mostly about stress, rushing around, spending money you don't have on things people don't need and encouraging rampant consumerism. I want a simpler holiday, home with my family, without all the parties and the hustle and bustle. I want to do it slow, cook a goose all day and hang out with my family enjoying each other. Still wishing there were sheep bleating in the back yard to my sentiments of "baa" humbug, but we'll get there someday eventually.
I'm really blessed with all I already have. I have a steady job, some freelance gigs (though I'd happily take more of that kind of work), a (mostly) healthy family and a pretty architecturally stable roof for over our heads. Our cars are old but they run well. Our neighbors are nice people and not serial killers and I can forget to lock my door and not worry that the place will be empty when I return. The chicken coop is built and ready to go with some fencing and next year we'll welcome some hens to the property. I have two loving dogs who are a huge part of our family and two cats and a fish that also help keep up company.
This year has taken a downward curve on the financial side of things, so there won't be much under our tree but there'll be some. What's more important are the two other people who'll be sitting there with me in pj's christmas morning, next to the fake tree with the handmade ornaments others have given us. That's what really matters and I hope I can put smiles on their faces with what little we've scraped up.
It's a simple Christmas at the SemiFarm, and maybe it is a simple holiday where you live too, but that's okay. We're simple low-key people and we like it that way. Homegrown, homemade and homespun are how we roll, and if I can't keep up with the outside world spinning at a million miles an hour I'll take my dusty living room and broken old reclined and family any day of the week. Our hearts are way bigger than what would fit under the tree anyways and that's where real gifts come from, not the mall.
After tonight's office holiday party, the only one I'll go to, I'm going home to my kid, my dogs, my husband to sit near the lights on my Christmas tree, enjoy a glass of local wine and be myself at home in comfort, slow and easy.
Wishing you and yours a holiday season full of what really matters.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Today was hubs' birthday and we didn't do too much celebrating because that's the way he likes it~ as close to a day like any other as he can get. Presents were exchanged, dinner was ate, and everything carried on just like every Thursday here at the homestead.
The neighbors are almost back from their trip, but the cow hasn't really wandered any more. It's been a quiet ho-hum sort of time here, a little on the boring side.
Me, I'm searching for a new weekday routine as I adjust to a five day workweek- five days in a row, that is. Banking has been very different than retail in a lot of ways but the schedule, though I love it, has been the hardest to adjust to. Mornings are the same as they ever were but I have so much time in the evening and no real routine of what to do with it just yet. Maybe some yoga is in my future before bedtimes once I gather up enough energy. This awesome Ohio weather has me so exhausted lately I've started to take a vitamin D supplement to help with the sleepiness.
Making a dog sweater for our newest dog, Jabba, who came home a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving, He's a boxer mix and gets so chilly when he has to go outside even though it isn't cold yet, so we're prepping not only the house but the puppies as well.
Otherwise, things here are pretty dull and I mosey through my days half in a sleepwalk. I really need to start making things by hand again, doing things the slow way. I think that brings the magic to homesteading and keeps all the chores from sucking~ knowing you are connected to some sort of past, something bigger than yourself with your actions. Maybe this weekend as we put up the tree and get in the holiday spirit I'll start baking bread to heat the house up and make it smell nice and can some items for gifts this year. With all the expenses we've had lately a good, low-budget homegrown Christmas is in order and I haven't time to knit.
Hope you and yours are bundled up warm this evening with a cup of hot tea or cocoa all snuggled in for the first bit of snow.
Monday, November 28, 2011
The truth is I have bipolar disorder and have been battling an awful depression, something straight out of a greytoned commercial where all you do is look sad and sleep. Until today I think I could honestly say I could barely smile and felt I had little or nothing to look forward to in life at all. I'd cry at random if you looked at me sideways or sometimes even if you just said I did something wrong (just ask my poor boss). I was a hot mess, but I think that's finally lifting a bit. When I get in a funk like that it's hard to think let alone write intelligible sentences that might provoke thought or tug heartstrings. Hence my absence here. A friend of mine met me for dinner the other day and asked if I was quitting the blog because I hadn't written in so long. It was hard not to cry just at that. This blog is my life and writing is what I am. Anyone who has ever battled depression knows it is more than just being sad: it is all-encompassing. You feel like you are drowning and it is hard to remember to wake up and brush your teeth let alone be grateful for what you have and how well everything is going in your life.
It needs to be said that my life has been almost without drama and as normal as can be through my whole depressive episode, although we did lose a car and have to suddenly replace it. No one has gotten sick or died, we are all still employed (again, thank you to my very understanding new supervisor), my house is fine, all is well... just I wasn't and I couldn't help it.Really I couldn't, and for no good reason at all. Thanks you to my fabulous friends and family who have been helping me as I adjust to a new life with meds and learning to combat my stress when it starts before it gets too terribly bad and learning to adjust to sometimes rapid ups and downs my mind throws at me.
The upswing started Thanksgiving Day, when I awoke to my dog going crazy in the back yard after several hours of too much depressive sleep. I looked out the back window to find my neighbor's cow, Uncle Wiggly, staring back at me from next to the chicken coop, knee deep in the mud that is our yard when it's as rainy as it's been. He'd decided to take a Thanksgiving morning romp by himself outside his pasture and had busted out and wandered over to our yard.
Ordinarily I'd just walk over and have the neighbors help with the cow but they are currently in Russia for a month adopting some children so no one was home and I had no one to call about it. We stood there staring at each other for a few minutes and he tried to eat my daughter's pants until we began to walk back toward his pasture. Thankfully, he followed us and waited patiently until I figured out how to open the gate he had busted through wide enough for him to get back in and stayed there until we discovered how to latch it back up securely.
So that's how this wanna-be farmer spent her Thanksgiving, sweet talking cattle and taking Prozac. Some things around here might not look normal and I might be fighting this uphill battle in my mind everyday until things get a little leveled out, my posts may be sporadic and make little sense sometimes, but deep down at the bottom of it all there's a lot of heart, a big part of me that just wants to provide as much for my family from these 2.5 acres that I can, that just wants to be happy with the simple things and leave the drama for some other folks. If it takes meditation and pharmaceuticals to make it happen, so be it. I'll be chasing after my dream with this bottle of pills by my side to keep me going.
My friends can't be available 24/7, so here's to hoping you don't think less of this homesteader for needing a little help to get by from some other source and that you'll keep listening to my ramblings whether I am a little down on my luck or grinning like a cow out of his pasture on Thanksgiving morning.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The blog here has been quiet lately, mostly due to my beginning a new job and not having the time or energy to keep up with it as well as my freelance gigs. Things have been churning here at the Semi-Farm, and we've been busy nearly every day and relishing our downtime as soon as we are afforded it.
It all started with a casual hunt for a new career during my leave in betweeen times of weeding the garden. I was fortunate enough in this rough economy to impress someone with my resume and personality and was offered a job with a local bank where I'd work hours similar to my husband and, for the first time in my adult life, no evenings or weekends. The pay is much less than I made at my last job, but the trade-offs in scheduling and vacation benefits are well worth the little belt tightening we will have to endure. I just couldn't say no, so I turned in my notice and have been in training ever since, learning a whole new system and various policies and government regulations I never before thought I'd ever need to know. It's been invigorating, exhausting and stressful but fun.
In between commuting to Sandusky and Norwalk, each over an hour from home, for a month, we've managed to finish painting the chicken coop and now it only needs a shelf with some nest boxes, a perch and a chicken door and we are ready to go. We have decided to wait until spring to bring our girls home, as we can take our time with fencing and building a covered area for them to run in for the winter months. So our poultry adventures are stalled for the moment as the days grow shorter, cooler and, at the moment, more moist than we'd really like.
Yesterday we said our final farewell to our first garden which, for weeks now, we'd slowly been retiring to the compost bin as the last of our peppers and eggplants were harvested. I've learned a lot from that patch of land this year, including having patience for the earth and myself and the ability to see mistakes as opportunities rather than failures. The earth is a grand teacher is we're observant enough to hear her over the hustle and bustle of our crowded and chaotic lives. When I feel like imploring, it's most often because I haven't made the time to spend outside, breathing in clean air and with the grass beneath my feet. Especially inside the shady woods, all my problems seem to drift away on the wind, hastened along by the soft rustling of leaves, whether overhead or underfoot. I'm reminded by the grace of the seasons that some times my greatest efforts are too much pushing and too forceful and if I step back and let go, magic will certainly follow. This is evidenced in last year's spontaneous tomatoes grown from playtime creativity and this year by the fully formed butternut squash that emerged from the brush that grew over last year's compost. When I try to hard and rush things, my impatience stunts my eventual progress. This is a lesson my over-caffienated life needs repeated, often and loudly.
Otherwise, life carries on here at a slower pace now that training is over and the garden laid to rest. I am knitting my first sock very slowly and deliberately and am enjoying the calm before the winter sets in, meeting new faces and adjusting to an autumn of ease and reflection.
As winter's cold chill threatens a forced rest indoors in a few short weeks, I'll be outside enjoying the leaves and the crisp fall air and remembering that,like careers and seasons, soon everything eventually changes.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
The days are getting shorter and cooler. The garden is dwindling but still blessing us with a few tomatoes and beans. Thoughts of future weekends spent digging potatoes are dancing through my head like sugarplums and I am happy, content here on my little bit of land where we farm the half-assed way only we can around our health issues and full time jobs. I am at peace with our perfect imperfections and wouldn't have this any other way.
After a little paint and a few finishing touches like chicken doors it will be finished. My chicken coop, one year in the making, will finally be done.
All I can say is that it has been a blessing to spend this much time united for a common goal with my parents and even though there was a lot of swearing involved and he swears it isn't up to par, I have loved spending this time with my dad.
Pictures will be coming soon when I bundle up to go back outside. It's not exactly level or perfect but I love it even more for all it's flaws.
Hope you and your family are enjoying this preview of fall together as much as I'm enjoying mine.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Here at the SemiFarm, autumn is changing leaves already and changing lives. Only a week into September, we are already gearing up toward colder weather, shorter days and the end of the growing season. This next weekend I plan to harvest the rest of the chard and put in some broccoli and start some lettuce in a few pots now that it won't bolt. It's time to rotate the guard, so to speak, and get some cooler weather crops in yet if we can.
Our garden this year isn't the only thing that is changing. In less than a week I'll be starting a new job, my daughter will have a new sitter (one of the neighbor kids), and my whole life will have to settle into a new, hopefully easier routine without the swing shifts of retail. I'll be working a normal 9-5 (really 8-4ish) for the first time in my adult life. Makes me a little nervous, really, but I think it will be great for this writer and aspiring farmer to find some routine amongst the chaos. I'm sure it is there, somewhere, just waiting for me, the ease of a regular job with people and new responsibilities. Like my watermelons are hiding among the weeds, good things are just lurking where I can't see them clearly yet is all, but very soon we will see the sun again and all the craziness will ebb as we adjust to our new routines.
We've all been busy growing and planning to get in our new roles and finish up old projects like the coop, which is nearly done. This weekend if the weather holds I plan to paint the door and build some nest boxes for the inside unless my dad plans on finishing the exterior. Then maybe we can get some fencingng in. Hubs brought home a rabbit hutch for free from a co-worker that needs a little love too and then we will have rabbits and chickens here on the SemiFarm.
Stay tuned for more updates as we establish our little flock this fall.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Thanks for this Fleet Foxes...thanks. That is all.
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see
What's my name, what's my station, oh, just tell me what I should do
I don't need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful and say "sure, take all that you see"
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me
And I don't, I don't know who to believe
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see
If I know only one thing, it's that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak
Yeah I'm tongue-tied and dizzy and I can't keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?
And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I'll come back to you someday soon myself
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm raw
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
And you would wait tables and soon run the store
Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
Someday I'll be like the man on the screen
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I don't know what I am getting into. I haven't even cracked the cover of the book and here I am committing to following a plan with a friend I know nothing about. Sounds and feels kind of crazy, but it also feels necessary, like breathing or water or even waking up each day. I'm not really sure how things will pan out, but, you know, that's been a theme for me lately so I guess I will go with my flight of fancy and see where it ends up.
One thing that attracted me to this crazy notion was the list at the beginning I had heard about in another book I read, a list that includes the caveat that if you don't make mistakes you aren't trying enough. I tend to focus so much on being perfect that it's stressed me out and landed me here, so what have I got to lose?
As soon as her copy comes in at the library, a friend of mine and I are launching our own mini book club with our own once-a-month standing discussion date based on The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. My friend has just been tremendous and, though I have known her for years and years, we had drifted apart until recently, busy with our lives and such. I am so happy she came back into my life and she's been more of a support to me the last month than she probably knows and more inspiration than I think I could ever tell her. I think we both need this~ a dedicated shared effort towards being happy. Maybe we can help each other reach it like she's helped me get used to the idea that I don't have to be perfect to be liked and that it's okay to make mistakes. It'll will also be good for me to have a friend who holds me accountable for having fun, which is something I forget to make time for with everything that needs done around this place.
I can use a little more happiness and a little more gratitude. I think we all can and I am super excited! If you want to join our happiness project, you are more than welcome to~ just grab a copy of the book and I will let you know when we get started...just let me know in the comments what your email address is and that you want to play. Are you ready for a total surprise? I am!
Monday, August 22, 2011
I've neglected, like every blogger does at some point I think, to keep pace with writing about our homestead. I've begun my writing life and quickly the had-to's took over the want-to's in my writing schedule and all but pushed out the writing for myself that I most enjoy. It's time to recapture the last few moments of summer here for an updaet for you all, and to re-establish, for myself, the craft and habit of slinging down the words I love so much to write, about my homestead and my family.
The chicken coop has made steady progress and, although we still aren't ready for hens, there are now windows that peer out over the weed patch that is my garden and the woods beyond. Some day some girl squeezing out an egg will be perched in a nest box and relaxed with that view. I know it helps me get through some tough days and remember what all the hard work is about.
The weed patch, or garden, dependent upon which angle you are looking from, has yielded us very little in this, its first year other than several cucumbers which I put up as kosher dills in another homey new pursuit, canning. I'm having an awesome time with putting lids on things as a blogging idol of mine, Ashley English, says. Her canning book was actually my first inspiration to try this rot-stalling, produce-keeping tactic I watched my mother use when I was growing up. Sadly, there aren't many recipes I could find for small batch canning so I have done way more math than I care to and have taken a break after 2 pints of tomatoes and about 6 pints of pickles. I also ran out of produce, other than the local peaches sitting on my counter.
Speaking of Ashley English, if you visit her blog, Small Measure, you might see a familiar sight there in the recipe for some amazing homemade laundry soap. If you remember when I made it, way back in May, you'll have to agree that it is a miracle with my kind-of farming family of 3 that I have not yet run out. This stuff is awesome! If you like those sorts of tips, Ash has tons more gorgeous ideas in her blog and her Homemade Living series of books. There's a book on canning (my favorite!), one on bees, one on chickens with amazing pictures and one on home dairy I can't wait to read. :)
Stay tuned for more updates and pictures as I find more time this week to blog for me. ;)
Friday, August 19, 2011
Moments splinter like the sun
Beyond the weathered fence I see
I sit, gazing through live wires
At today's possibility
Tomorrow is but an illusion
This instant in time my chance to win
So real and fleeting but yet out of reach
Dying already as it begins
Shriveling and hopeless before my eyes
Some days turn grey before they're born
While radiant sunshine lights up others
Like a lightening bolts precede a storm
Grapsing is senseless yet I claw and clutch
For all will wither like the blooms
And blades of grass beneath my feet
Grow ceaseless though the thresher looms
And yet there's hope as clouds drift past
When tiny tips push through the snow
In asparagus season a new world looms
While the old is still frozen below
This poet ponders these fields of hay
As silently the present drifts along
Like clouds and lazy day rememberings
With gentle breeze and sweet birdsong.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Today I forced myself to finally do it. Although more than a year had past, I stood on the sticky linoleum floor in my kitchen, fidgeting and fingering the rubber keys on the cordless phone, my palms sweating with nerves. On my way back in from bringing up the now-empty trash barrels I thought I caught a glimpse of goats, so here was my in. It was time to call my neighbors and introduce myself.
We moved here a year ago this past May and, as I was unpacking one day before work, a sweet lady had dropped by with a small blue basket filled with handmade love: two dish scrubbers, a jar each of applesauce and strawberry jam, a dishcloth and the one store-bought item, a jar of peanut butter. Attached to the basket was a note encouraging us to call if we needed help finding anything as we settled in. It was a kindness I'd never really thanked them for but one that did not go unappreciated as I spent those afternoons last year painting and smacking on those labors of love.
I punched in the numbers on the note that'd been hanging on my fridge for a year as I gathered both my courage and something passing as a suitable excuse to call. "May I speak to Diane please?" I asked when someone picked up and said that word I find the most difficult sometimes to say. After that same sweet lady came to the phone, I introduced myself and asked to come and see the goats, which she said I could do. So I trudged across the yard, wringing my garden gloves in my hands, fearful I'd never know what to say.
Instead I found myself standing in the warm summer sun with Diane and her two daughters, Anna and Abbie, talking about all manner of livestock, our gardens, my future chickens and our own plans for goats. I finally got a chance to properly say thank you, was invited anytime for coffee or crafts and might just have made a friend. After several minutes chatting I excused myself to start my weeding and thanked her again for her thoughtful gift, inviting the girls to come and meet my daughter and them inviting us to meet the animals.
I'm so glad I took a chance today and said that word, the hardest of all for shy suburban folks like us new to all these country customs. Sometimes great things come out of small risks, even if it takes a year to muster up the courage.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
This year our garden has been largely an expensive set of learning experiences. This, folks, is a picture of our largest harvest to date. Tomatoes were basically a complete bust. We've gotten a few cherry and pear tomatoes from the plants on the porch, but everything else just sort of grew and then died without fruit.
The purple pod beans did reasonably well as did the one blue lake bean plant. Sadly though there's no need for a chest freezer to store this year's bounty. The only thing that seemed to do well were the cucumbers, which last year died of powerful mildew. This year, it's all we've really gotten, and my desire to can turned them into pickles. (I just did them today so I hope they turn out!) It felt amazing to be in my kitchen when the thermometer is pushing 90 outside and we have no air, sweating and knowing that, however small in scale, I was spending the day as many women have for generations, putting food up. I feel someone more grounded and a part of something larger than myself.
I doubt three pint jars of pickles will last us the winter. In fact, they'll probably be gone before the snow flies, but this year I learned to not start seeds inside in February, that it takes a good solid year to build a chicken coop and that you should always, ALWAYS plant through mulch to avoid spending the rest of eternity pulling weeds.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Dear Universe (or God or whatever you go by these days),
This is just a note to share with you know a few things I discovered this morning during my sweaty hour of meditation while pulling weeds in my garden. Please bear with me on the length and the fact that, most likely, this will be the most rambling, poorly connected post ever. I have a few things to say and, at the moment at least, they seem pretty damned important to get off my chest.
I want you to know, first and foremost, that the irony of events you've bestowed upon me over the course of this year so far are not lost on me. I can see quite clearly the lessons you intended for me in these things, from the way I reacted to a shoplifter's mental illness to the patience required of me in chicken coop building, all the way through to the futility of the act I was engaged in this morning as these things occurred to me. I get it. I've been an ass.
I realize also now the irony in the concept of homesteading itself, which is something I turned to as an effort to honor my heritage and slow the pace of my life in this hectic world that seems hell-bent on planned obsolescence, exponential growth, and repeated manic episodes of materialistic consumerism and excess. I realized, I think, early on, that those were values I wanted no part of and, instead, I wanted to reconnect with the very essence of life by producing my own food and clothing myself to the extent I am able here on these 2.5 acres with my immediate family. I had thought this would allow me a less expensive, slower, more thoughtful and deliberate pace of life, and I can see now that was an assumption made in error. If anything, homesteading, while rewarding, has cost me more in terms of time and money than I can ever hope to recapture during my lifetime. It has not, in any way, done anything to remedy the hectic pace of my life. Rather, it has increased it for both my husband and I, as each of us tries to fit in the chores of this lifestyle around the necessary paid employment it takes to buy all the things that have become obvious necessities as we transition to life in the country, such as chicken yards and tomato stakes.
In moving to a place where I had hoped that I could spend more time relaxing in nature, it seems I do less of that than ever and am more often engaged in a seemingly futile struggle to ward off the invasion of various insects and plants I hadn't intended to co-exist with so intimately. In just the last week alone, I have spent more hours battling ants and pulling out plants that I am sure serve some purpose I will discover at a later time from my garden, only to have them both reappear as soon as I drop my guard. I would like to thank you for the continual test of both my patience and my memory simultaneously. Weeding my garden this morning was an excellent reminder that all of life is but a grand experiment, the key to which is being able to recall what did not work long enough to avoid repeating it in the future. Next year, come hell or high water, there will be raised beds here or I will be planting directly through mulch. This much I am sure of.
Not only do I find myself with fewer hours I can devote directly to relaxation, but I find myself, being all the way out here and most often alone, more prone to bouts of madness and melancholy. I have also discovered myself in the same position I once faulted another for, treating her coldly and without compassion. If I weren't certain there would be repercussions I might not recover from (and the victim as well), I'd certainly apologize right now and tell her I understand, finally, her suffering and am sorry if I had any part in aggravating it. From this point forward, I promise I will strive to be more compassionate towards others and work towards a career that can grant me more control over this aspect of my integrity.
I need to thank you too for the fresh perspective you've given me in regards to money and completion of projects, the two of which there never seems to be enough of. The chicken coop, in particular, is a very raw reminder of this that I can see from nearly every point in my yard. What began as a cost-saving and eco-friendly reuse of materials has morphed into a project costing several hundred dollars that I could have spent on a pre-built coop and had laying hens here months ago. However, if I had done that, I'd be missing some very precious moments spent working with my family toward a common goal and opportunities for both some much needed motivation and reflection.
There is not only irony here amongst these weeds, there is often contrast, a yin and yang I often overlook in my day-to-day existence. I will try to be more mindful in the future and more appreciative that what once was a constant rush and blur of activity can suddenly and without warning come to nearly a complete stop. I will try to find peace and meaning in these moments, no matter how frustrating they may be.
So thanks, Universe, for these varied and important lessons. Thanks for the chance to pursue my dreams and a lifestyle I wouldn't trade for all the money in the world. Tomorrow when I am out weeding my little patch of earth, I'll smile at the under-ripe tomatoes and know it's all ultimately worthwhile, even if I scream and cuss and fight life as it happens day to day.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
This fluffy little rascal whom we named River, I'm convinced, saved my life a few years ago when, against my husband's better judgement and wishes, I bought him with my daughter from a local rescue group for my birthday. At the time we were living in a tiny apartment, two cats and three people, and I was suffering from what I can only describe as one of the most crushing bouts of depression I've ever experienced. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to bring another living thing into the mix of the madness that was our lives at that time, but it is a decision I would never change for a million years. Not only did bringing River home force me up and out of bed at a time when the very idea of doing so was exhausting, he brightened up life for all of us, gave my daughter a live-in best friend and gave me hope.
River is my constant companion. He sleeps by my side of the bed, watches me write in the living room during the evening hours, shares his toys with me and follows me everywhere, even to the bathroom. During thunderstorms, we share our anxiety with each other and hide in the laundry room together as we weather the storm. He still gently nudges me awake every morning around 8 am to let him out and remind me to get out of bed and that life is indeed exciting, full of love and worth living. On more than one occassion, he's used his scruffy doggy mane to dry my tears as I've hugged him tight.
I can't imagine life without him and as I spend all this extra time at home lately closing one chapter of my life and beginning another, I am so blessed that he's here to share it with me. Thanks, River, for being this girl's very best friend.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
With a later shift at work today, I was afforded a little time at home this morning to tend to the various things that need addressed around a homestead: dishes, laundry, watering the containers on the porch, and, of course, the never-ending chore of weeding the garden.
I've taken to this enormous task lately with zeal, using it as sort of a time for decompression and meditation the way some people do with an evening run or a beer after work. Since everything, including the weeds, sort of exploded with life once the rains subsided, there's no shortage of work here in my plot of earth, allowing plenty of time for reflection.
I'm on my third day so far and have freed the bean plants and the cucumbers, discovering steadily growing foodstuffs amid the undergrowth. I've also made progress near the peppers and tomatoes, which, in exchange for supporting me in finding momentary peace, will have my help tomorrow getting support from their stakes.
This month's been a trying one for me as I struggle with keeping on top of the needs of the homestead, learn to balance the demands of my jobs and discover things about myself and my limitations and try to discover a path that's uniquely right for me. My moments alone in the garden with the silence and weeds give me space to think, to imagine, to channel my anger in a positive way, and, when necessary, to grieve. Each plant I rescue from being choked by the invading grasses is like a part of me saved, a small portion of my life redeemed and, for a brief instant, I am filled with purpose.
My garden and I are very wabi-sabi, tattered, overgrown and homely. It, as well as me, will never be manicured and pristine, free from flaws and untouched by the ravages of time. We are imperfect, this land and I, and rather than rally against what I cannot control, both in weeds and in life, I'm learning to find beauty in things as they are and discovering ways I can cope with these challenges as they come. It's a long and arduous process and, much like my garden, might never truly be finished. It's a process and I'm struggling, but in the company of friends and loved ones who are helping to cultivate me as I work to cultivate my beans, tomatoes and the rest of my garden.
As my hands grow calloused from my moments of gardening Zen, my heart's getting softer, my body stronger and my mind more clear. Who knew such a chore could be such a gift.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Somewhere amidst this lingering fog
Exists a flame of buried hope
Beyond the dreariest of days
A lantern's light across the moat
Through canyons vast with waters high
My ship is battered, tossed and worn
And there within the tempest's rage
My spirit crushed as sails are torn
With eyes fixed on that distant light
That glimmers weakly from afar
I set my course so stubbornly
Through jungles frightening and bizarre
Whether I'll reach that glimmering coast
Or drown before I reach the shore
There's peace in that I've given all
In knowing I could not do more
So on I struggle towards the light
That promises both joy and rest
From all the torment I've endured
If only I will try my best.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Saturday, July 9, 2011
I woke early this morning before the earth had even entirely shed it's sleep, the ground still covered in dew and a calming hush lingering in the air. After coffee, bill paying (which seems to suck less if I'm not yet fully awake), and the obligatory feeding of animals four-legged and two, my parents arrived.
This morning held great hope. Today we were coop building.
This coop of ours is a little miracle of economics. One of the reasons it's taken us so long to complete is because nearly every last piece of it has been repurposed, reused, recycled or free. So far the only things we've had to purchase are nails, two storm windows and a door. When you are re-using lumber, checking it for and pulling out old nails is a time-consuming, but VERY important part of the process. So is making sure those same rusted bits of steel don't get forever lost in the lawn, where the undoubtedly be rediscovered by an unsuspecting pet or person with the bottom of a foot.
After several hours of searching through and sorting out a pile of random 2 x 4s and pieces of OSB of varying sizes, several gallons of sweat, a brief break to run to the library and meeting some new locals by stopping to help rescue a neighbor's elderly retriever from wandering in the middle of the street, we've actually managed to make progress. I finally have something to report, folks. The coop has a roof. There aren't shingles just yet, but there are eaves and boards that block most of the view of the sky (we also cut out the ridge vent today).
It's brilliant and beautiful and I was both grateful and awed as I watched my dad, who I am pretty sure is now officially 60, scale the ladder to lay the sheeting and figure out the pitch of the roof in his head. I feel blessed to have a mom who finally learned to use a circular saw to help me, a daughter who hauled the tree limbs we trimmed with the tractor to the burn pile and a husband who did everything from measuring to hammering, not to mention who has exhibited the most incredible patience during every let step of this process.
My dad is not the type who does things at all half-assert, so this coop is damn near indestructible as well as being pretty and functional. We've started calling it the "poultry palace". I'll post pictures for you later this evening to enjoy, but for now I'm enjoying my family and they're enjoying the pool before it closes. Hope you are enjoying your families as well. If they're half as special as mine, make sure you make time to do it.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
All things around this homestead are in a state of suspended animation. The garden has paused its growing and, unless you look very closely at the flowers that remain, you can hardly tell they are still living. They look so lifeless and limp in the hard, clay soil. On some plants the leaves have tinted themselves the hue of sour lemons after being water-logged by our continual rains. It's hardly consolation, but we're not alone in our struggle by any means. Loans have just been made available to farmers in my county and several around us to cope with their losses as fields lay fallow and barren. Knee high corn? Not this year in most places, folks, but if we're talking weeds, perhaps. Everything but our crops seemed to germinate once the rains subsided.
Building the chicken coop is also stalled again for the moment, although now there are four walls, openings for windows and a door frame. As a semi-private hiding place with a great view of the stars, it is perfect, but otherwise it needs a roof and a few other things before it's fit to house hens. So far the plan is to focus some effort there this coming weekend, but, as with the garden, we are at the mercy of time and others so we can simply do nothing but wait.
Meanwhile, most of my writing has been for paying clients instead of patiently waiting blog friends. I've not really been focusing on my own blog for lack of progress to report and too few hours in my harried days. In my few moments between ghostwriting blog posts, I'm pouring my soul into marketing what seems to me to be my singular talent, one that borders on obsession at times. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keys and giving birth to ideas, phrase by phrase, is all I can imagine doing joyfully as work, and so I find myself driven to realize that dream. Again, although my business is steadily increasing, it seems like just another dream suspended as if under glass, so close my eyes can take in every minute detail and commit them to memory, but too far away to touch. It's this same proximity mostly in all these half-realized dreams that's driving me nearer to madness, the anticipation and frustration mounting like being teased ceaselessly by a lover without release.
Instead of creating food from soil or worlds with my pen, necessity drags me back to days filled with agonizing solitude in my retail job. While I keep hunting for something I could turn into a career and nurturing my home-based business, I still need a way to provide for those who depend on me, so five days a week I sit alone and in silence at work and wait for something to happen. It's overwhelming and depressing at times, but doing nothing is not a viable option, so I simply try and do more. There's little room for self pity when you're aiming for progress.
Instead, I keep trying to remind myself that, much like life, building this homestead's a process, and not an end in itself. I can't will it to happen any faster on my own. Truth be told, there really IS no destination, just a series of stops and starts in the endless circle of life. Instead of fighting the current, I need to simply float sometimes like waves on the ocean, and not wish away the minutes. This is difficult to do without tremendous focus (a skill I'm pretty sure at the moment I lack), because all my farming mentors are years ahead of me it seems, and I see where they are and grow impatient that I seem so far behind.
One day we'll be closer and those folks will likely be farther ahead still, waving at me from the rearview mirror. Or perhaps fate may have other plans I just can't see now. That's just the mystery and seduction of life. For today, all we can do is pause, take it in and breathe. Some days that's all there is to do.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Slowly the bird, a Great Blue Heron, crept into the water, where it stood and peered intently into the choppy murk. I lost all interest in my fishing was transfixed; it's not often I get a chance to so closely observe such a large and beautiful creature in its natural habitat. As I silently looked on, the majestic bird patiently crept further into the lake until, in one sudden and graceful motion, it stretched out its bill into the water to snatch out a rather large, wriggling bass and carried it off into the brush on the bank. The whole act of watching this bird catch his breakfast was at once violent and moving and left me awed and breathless. I sat for a moment, feeling blessed for having been able to see a small sampling of life in the wild. Turning back to my fishing pole, I noticed my hook had gotten hopeless ensnared in the weeds. After a few minutes struggle, I had freed it and the heron had moved on as well. At least it was having better luck than I was.
I headed back to grab my coffee and find another place to fish and discovered a curious visitor when I arrived.
My daughter had grown weary of fishing and said the caterpillar had bitten her and she was regretting having named it, so we left my husband to fish and went for a walk down the path. Here are a few of the other things we found as we explored:
Although the pictures don't really do it justice, it's been a very long time since I've felt so surrounded in peace, beauty and tranquility. Even though my fishing trip was far from a smashing success, it was an excellent chance to combat the Nature Deficit Disorder that's been defining my busy life lately. I feel inspired and refreshed and all it cost was some fishing line, a hook, a bobber and a few hours of my time. Thanks to a heron and some insects, I remembered why I love it here and that it's important to slow down and notice the little things.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
There will be a second portion attached to the side of this one that looks exactly the same so we can turn the compost easily from one side to the other as we need to. This is super exciting to me because it means we can stop sending a good portion of our trash to the landfill and instead use it to grow yummy veggies in years to come.
It's exciting when you get a chance to turn the death and decay of one thing into the birth of something new or better. First pallets, then food scraps, and afterwards our dependence on the grocery store. We're blessed to have this little bit of land we can use to change how we interact with our world.
Now my husband only has about a half acre more to clear to make room for his dream: dairy goats. We're getting there folks, but it's a slow evolution.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I remember being maybe about four years old, playing in the living room with him. I think the carpet was a mottled grey shag in that room and the couches we had were probably second-hand like mine are today. A grey plaid pattern and a scratchy material covered the cushions we used to make our forts under the table as we listened to John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy. We had great adventures together. Once I even got to ride my imagination as far as space when I climbed inside a welding suit and put on the mask. I was an astronaut and he was my hero, with his uniform shirts and steel toed boots.
As I grew older he taught me other things: how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, who sang all the songs on the radio, to plant marigolds at the edge of the garden and what the names were of every bush and tree around the outside of our humble home he worked so hard for us to have. From him I learned what metals you can recycle, how the inside of a toilet works and how to drive a car. Our adventures evolved too, from car rides through the park to look for deer to going fishing and then to him visiting for dinner at the restaurant where I waited tables, where he would smile proudly and leave a generous tip.
Although he challenged me to always do better, he was never discouraging or angry when I didn't get straight A's. Even though he worked long days to make sure we were fed and clothed and comfortable, he always made time to shoot hoops or come to school plays. And most importantly of all, he showed me that it's always worthwhile to help those in need, even if you are tired yourself.
These days I have a husband to kill spiders, wipe tears and chase off things that go bump in the night, but he still lends me his tools, helps me build things and helps my husband work on my car. And even though we don't play spaceman anymore and I'm all grown up, he's still my hero and I'm his biggest fan.
I love you Dad. Happy Father's Day and thanks for everything, especially sharing your time and John Lennon with me.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Been SO busy @ the SemiFarm lately! The garden is finally in, the grass is mowed, every single dinner has been grilled outside and there's a really cool, handmade, homemade twig fence around the strawberry patch to deter the deer. It's working too folks! There aren't many berries, but the plants will slowly recover and there's no more hoofprints. (It's the small victories. Really.)
Though we're still working on the coop, the earth's doing her thing quite nicely! Peas and potatoes and purple pod beans are creeping out of the dirt. Even the cucumbers I direct sowed from seed are showing their adorable little heads. We put some straw down for the potatoes tonight and it looks like a little rain might be headed our way again. So far the weeds have been tolerable and quick to take care of. (Another of life's tiny pleasures.)
We've been hard at work, all of us, on getting the homestead going and me, solo, on my writing which, (happily) also is keeping me quite busy. I really thrive on the chaos, but being over-extended so much and so often lately has been "aggitating my soul", as a friend of mine likes to say. The stress must be getting to my body finally too because a co-worker pointed out today that my token grey hair (that I blame entirely on my job; I'm still young) had broken and multiplied. Now I have several badges of honor on my head to show my strength and determination!
Last weekend my super amazing husband, sensing my anxiety, forced me into an impromptu fishing trip. I've sworn off caffiene too to ease my jitters a bit too. This coming week, then, will also be intentionally quieter, as I force myslef to slow down and enjoy life a little more. It's sweeter that way anyways, and I'll be better for it in the long run. Maybe I'll take a few minutes to admire my new silver locks.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
there is more than this in life
than toil and worry and fear
if i hide amongst the trees
the warm breeze sometimes drowns it out
hands over ears, huddled
under my green canopy
i pretend my songs come from
the river's edge
safe here. home.
and i won't bow down to your
gods of perpetual motion and
all lies, it surely is,
as nothing lives forever and
i long instead for stillness, light,
warm dog kisses and a lover's touch
poetry, not progress
world whizzing by me seems so
muscles tense, eyes closed
i dream of meadows and journals and
time, precious time
not devoured by my overwhelmed senses
the earth is not a
cold, dead place though she
and i cry out together
for solace from the
storm, so carried off we have been
in the deluge of life
Thursday, June 9, 2011
It seems slightly comical in practice, but one of the reasons I've pursued this homesteading lifestyle is to simplify my life. I want to be in a position to not need to rely quite so much on this money-based economy and trend back towards a life where we know our neighbors' names and trade our skills with one another.
In doing so, I've been trying to think of simple things I can do myself rather than paying out my hard won cash. We started small back in the apartment with baking our own bread, which eventually morphed into growing our own tomatoes, to wanting our own chickens and goats to making my own laundry detergent. Now I'm taking it one step further. I'm going to start making all my cleaners in house, except dishwasher soap (can't find a recipe!), as they run out.
We already do laundry soap and fabric softener, but nearly everything else is being replaced by a few essential oils, lemon juice, vinegar and the magical, mystical Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Castile Soap, which is a gift straight from the heavens. If you haven't tried this stuff, you really ought to. So far we've successfully used it as a dish soap, hand soap and body soap. I've also been experimenting with it as a shampoo and, although you need to condition afterward, it seems to do that pretty well too. The stuff is pretty darn amazing, contains no SLS, and I'm pretty excited at the potential of getting rid of all the yucky chemicals under my sink. How great would it be to only have one package to dispose of instead of many? One thing to buy instead of five or six? And I get the ability to customize how it smells on a whim? Score!
Dr. Bronner's isn't paying me for this, but they are a pretty special progressive company you might like to learn about. Their policies towards the earth and their products are admiriable, as are the benefits they offer their employees, which makes them great people to add as teammates in my quest for eco-friendly and simple living. Check out their website to learn about their history, or you could try a bottle and read the million words printed on the outside too.
So today marks the beginning of a six month experiment to replace each and every cleaning agent in my house with an earth-friendly septic-safe alternative, right down to the toothpaste, without breaking the bank. Stay tuned along the way for updates on our progress and if you have a dishwasher soap recipe that works, please share!
Monday, June 6, 2011
You still can't really tell that we aim to grow our own food around this place from the looks of it. We've plowed three times! It's frustrating that we've only managed to put in one row of potatoes so far this year. Honestly, it feels like the instant we THINK about planting, the weather radio beeps and whirs to life with a warning or watch about one thing or another. Any plants we have in that have survived are equal parts lucky and strong for surviving hail, torrential downpours and fierce winds all within their short lifespans.
My seed starting has been a failed experiment on a grand scale, though I am by no means discouraged. I don't remember if it was Einstein or Edison but someone much more intelligent than I once penned a line about discovering ways that do not work, and I contend that I've merely been a huge success in doing THAT rather than farming. Yep. Been real busy with that around here lately.
Since there's no shame in asking for help, tonight the family and I visited a local garden center where we picked up a few seedlings (plants! pre-growed!). Tomorrow, hopefully before the 90 degree heat the weathermen call for, I'll be back at it with my dirty hoe by my side, trying to get them in before the next round of thunderstorms, which are on their way Thursday... it's a small miracle when the dry days match up with my days off. I'll take it when I can get it, even if means lots of sweating, swearing and starting over.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
At long last, the plows are finally out in force now here in Ohio. Yesterday was a near perfect day off from the-job-that-lets-me-buy-things-like-toilet-paper (thank Lydia for that description!) culminating in a goregous sunset, a new (& exciting) freelance gig, and the soft purr of the tractors pulling disc plows down my street, headed towards home after a day in the fields. This, folks, is the stuff bliss is made of, and I wouldn't have seen it if I wasn't standing still.
Too often my days off are filled with the rushing, chores and errands that keep this homestead thriving, so much so that when I find myself not needing to dash off to the grocery or pet store, I often have to actually try hard to remember that my days aren't meant to be based just on consumption, whether that's measured in time or material things. It's hard to do in a world where every waking moment is a barage of commercials, every flat surface a billboard for "progress". It's times like this, in the stillness, that we have a glorious opportunity to pause and reflect on whether we need more material things at all and what the real reasons might be behind a compulsion to shop.
I'm a victim in this game sometimes myself, teetering on that great grey line between "prepared" and "hoarding". (See my post about yarn if you've forgotten.) Though I'm pretty thrifty, I have times where there's more week left than paycheck and I drive with my fingers crossed that I have the whole red rectangle before the tank's really empty. It was so nice, then, that this week there was one more day off than usual, one day usually spent at work, that afforded me some quality time for rest, a good book, and, of course, some gardening, while still getting paid. (There are small bits of good in corporate America after all...)
I'm discovering that there's a lot of beauty right here, right where I already am, if I slow down and shut off the ads in my head long enough to really listen and look. There's reminders right here that I have all that I need. Bet you'll find it too if you can learn to see peace instead of impatience in the orange triangle on the rear of a plow.
Like my dad always says (but sometimes forgets to practice too), slow down. You'll live longer.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
|The beans from the little lakes, transplanted.|
|half a coop|
|two windows go in this wall|
|framed out windows|
|door will be on this front wall, yet to be built|
|some day soon I'll be watching hens from my porch!|