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Afternoon Snuggles

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Today it feels like Fall. We bundled up this morning to go for a nature walk together in the woods. We walked quietly, listening to the sounds of life around us, we found Chantrelle mushrooms and plucked bright red maple leaves from the ground. Dave showed the kids how to find tracks and identify them.

Today also felt like a turning point in my heart. I have struggled with the challenges of being a working, homeschooling mom. I have struggled with my role as a wife. I have struggled with the death of my own mother. I have had a year in which I felt overwhelmed and burdened by my sadness, my sense of failure, my faith. Today I felt the fog finally lift. We spent the morning together as a family, teaching, learning, living. It feels like a rhythm has returned to our home.

Spike the Dragon

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Meet Spike the Dragon…..
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Spike the Dragon was made with all of my yarn leftovers and much of it was crocheted in the rental car as we drove day after day looking for a new car. Did I mention that deer might be one of my least favorite animals? Our poor Volvo went to the salvage yard after the sixth deer in 4 years. It was quite an adventure and one the kids will not likely forget. It was late on a Wednesday night as we were heading home from the kids first night of kids club at church. It was also the first date that Dave and I had enjoyed since 7-8 months ago. The kids and I were coming around a bend and were just heading over the Willow River bridge. There she was, the big mama deer and her fawn. We got it straight on at 55 miles an hour. It flew up in the air and landed on the hood. There were many tears from the kids, although not about the deer. We all cried a bit for the car. The trusty Volvo that has taken us so many places. We had just picked it up the day before after our first major repair. I sadly watched all of the radiator fluid pour out into the road and knew this was the last drive in the poor gal. Little Sophie cried and cried about the car, and then quickly realized it was dark, so she switched to crying about monsters. Her tears quickly became squeals when she realized that we would get to ride in a deputy car to get home.
Spike was begun two days later as a stress reliever for a tired mama trying to car shop with her husband and three little kids. We spent a total of four days in the rental car, 35 hours, and 860 miles in all. What did we get out of the deal? Well, we got Spike the Dragon, we got some time at the beach, we got a hefty car payment, and hopefully a car that we will have for quite some time. I do not think that we will ever have kids that are deer lovers. Maybe Spike will sit on the dash for a bit to scare away any stragglers…

Giant Puffball and Shelly Beans!

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We decided to walk the trail now that the mosquito population has dwindled.  Autumn is our favorite time for being in the woods!  The kids and I explored the trail and found this enormous puffball mushroom!  It is apparently edible but we have not decided yet if we should fry it up- wild mushrooms always make me a little but nervous.  Our other adventure came in the form of our over ripe green beans.  We spent some time today shelling them and cooked them up with sausage and onions- yum!  It was a hit and it was really wonderful to eat dinner from the garden.  We got a surprise canteloupe as well, but I picked one too late and one too early, so we will try again in a few days.

Happy Autumn!

Sunflower Smiles

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Today was the first day of school for our Home-Schooled crew!  Jacob absolutely loved Spike the hand-puppet dragon!  He was a huge hit, as were the fruity Cheerios that we ate and doubled as place holders for math!  Jacob begged for more school after lunch and we moved on to science and began our study of flying creatures!  It was an amazingly successful first day.  I had been extremely nervous about teaching two, but Jacob’s Kindergarten enthusiasm and amazement made his older brother more excited as well.  I also found that his brother jumped in to try and help teach him, which was super fun to see.

The afternoon found us outside, enjoying an outdoor treasure hunt and garden time.  The kids picked zucchini, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green beans, and onions, and discovered the much shorter than last year sunflower. It has been a cool summer and the leaves are already turning, much to my dismay.  I truly enjoyed the return to a schedule and it seemed that the kids did also.  This year, my homeschooling goal is definitely to try and relax and bit more and enjoy the ride.  I want to focus less on what they learn as much as HOW they learn, and if we are all enjoying it!  I am looking forward to Autumn and all that comes with my favorite season.

 

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Country Roads……Take Me Home….

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IMG_3920Life is funny sometimes, and not in the way I most expect, but usually in the way that I least expect!  Five years after coming here, my husband finally returned to West Virginia to pick up his machines from storage.  Building our homestead was going to be our 1-2 year plan, and now has become the 5-10 year plan!  It is hard work growing people!  Life has been busy for us and it was not until he returned to West Virginia, that I really took time to reflect on the past year (years).

This has been one of the toughest things that I have ever done- moving here and building our home and homestead from the ground up.  There are many days that we still wonder why God led us here, and other days, we feel more at peace.  Ultimately, we are slowly realizing that we have been given an amazing gift to parent our children in this place.  We were talking with a family member recently about dreams, and how tough it can be to look back at your life and realize that you have always had a dream and were never able to turn it into reality.  Dave and I were able to do that, and of course, the irony is that once we did it, we realized that it was so different than we thought it would be.  What a great lesson for life, though.  Events almost NEVER happen just the way we expect.

We are getting ready to head into another year of homeschooling.  This will be the first year that I am teaching two students instead of one!  I am finally embracing the reality that I can do this!  I am excited and anxious for the opportunity to shape my kids learning experience and provide them the tools to go out into the world and thrive.

 

 

Morning has Broken

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Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Songwriter Eleanor Farjeon

It has been a long time since my last post, and feels like a lifetime in all that has come to pass.  I lost my mother in November and my heart still aches for her almost every day.  We have also grown leaps and bounds in our walk with God and are just beginning to see that blessings that he has for our family.  We continue to enjoy the land, the trail, the home that we have built here.  Most importantly, we have been blessed time and time again with the reminder that while isolated, we are anything but alone out here.  We are beginning to again be reminded as well that our prayers and Faith led us here, and through the Wilderness, we have begun to emerge on the other side.  To others who are just beginning to live out their dream, and to those in the midst of it, I say to you:

“11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

Sunrise on Snow

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The snow has already gone, but this was our morning sunrise about a week ago now.  Fall has always been one of my favorite times of year but this year has not been that great. It has rained most of September and October, and when we are usually walking outside in the evenings, working on the trail, or enjoying the last of the campfires, this year we are cooped up indoors watching the rain. We finally had a break in the weather this last week or so and we have been working almost every day to get ready to pour a concrete slab for the shop.  We snuck in some extra time to cut a new trail in the woods as well to build a winter fort to get out and spend time in.

This time of year has always been a time of reflection and introspection for me, but now with the three kids and already in the thick of homeschooling, I am too tired for any extra thinking! In some small way, even as I dread the bitter cold, I also yearn for the time that it gives me to sit and read or crochet,  a cup of warm tea in my hands. I have struggled with my emotions lately because coming here was so very different than we thought. My cousin reminded me of something though that I must hold on to. We built everything here. We came here with nothing and from our inner strength, determination, and perseverence, we have made this place. I forget that too easily in my tiredness!  God never promised that it would be easy, he only promised to be with us all while.  That is what comforts me the most and will lead us on, victorious!

Happiness Is……

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We have been struggling to finish this sentence, but right now, I am not sure that I can because I am trying to still sort out the turmoil in my heart.  I have not posted in a while, not because I have nothing to say, but because I just have not felt like my heart is in it.  Some seasons fly by with ease and you hardly even notice where the time went.  Other seasons are so painful and slow that you feel like seconds are years.  The season that we are in now is hard.

We recently went to visit family in another state, and as always, we come home wondering if this is really Home, or just the place that we live for a while.  I think that we have always had that question.  Sometimes, we have left a place before we found the answer, and then it seemed to late to turn around and go back.  There are so many things that we miss about Alaska, West Virginia, and even places we have not yet lived.  We have been in absolute turmoil since returning back here.  For some reason, when we leave, we always question what it is that we are doing, and where we are headed.  While we were away, it was easy to see all of the things that we do not have here.  It was easy to visit with family and yearn for the connection that living near family affords.  It was easy to find comfort in the instant and unencumbered love that surrounded us.  It was easy to feel less alone, less isolated, and part of a tribe.  It was easy to not worry about where your children are or what they are doing (even if it involves taking a bath in the dog bowl) because you know that you are surrounded by people who will help mold, correct, and direct their little hearts and minds and bodies.  It was easy to find fault with all of the things that we have here, or more correctly, all of the things that we don’t.

But then, in the days following our return, we were reminded, just as intensely, about all of the things that we have here.  It was easy to spend time in the garden and feel at peace.  It was easy to see the kids running around outside, surrounded by nothing but God’s creation, and feel so thankful.  It was easy to enjoy the campfire in the back “yard” and know that what we have is good.  It was easy to see how all of the time we have together is a blessed thing.  And then it was not so easy to imagine ourselves anywhere but here.

We talked about making a list.  A list that would describe all of the advantages and disadvantages of living here versus leaving here.  We realized, though, that it would not help.  All of the things that are advantages here, would potentially be disadvantages elsewhere, and all of the disadvantages here, would most likely be advantages elsewhere.  So what do you do when your happiness lies on either side of the fence and you are sitting on the fence, unable to nibble on the grass because you are too afraid to jump?  I never imagined that pursuit of a dream would be so difficult.  I always envisioned my dream, our dream, as something romantic and wonderful.  I never in a million years would have thought that the actual journey towards obtaining the dream might wear us out so much that we are not even sure that the dream is what we want.

For now, we are trying to remember what happiness is, instead of what happiness isn’t.  Happiness is walking in the field at sunset.  Happiness is the kids cheeks stuffed full of cherry tomatoes fresh off the vine.  Happiness is sitting by the campfire roasting marshmallows with our little family.  Happiness is catching frogs.  Happiness is the solitude and quietness that surrounds us.  Happiness is my almost second grader begging me to start school because, “Second grade is going to be SO much fun and I am NEVER going to go to school anywhere but home!”.  Happiness is walking hand in hand with my husband while we look at all that we have accomplished.  Happiness is knowing that regardless of all the things that we are missing, or want to have, we have more than many people ever dream of or hope for.  Happiness is having the Faith that God will lead us, direct us, and be beside us in all that we do.  That is what Happiness is…

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

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 You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

–The Rolling Stones

I was having a conversation with a coworker this last weekend about still not totally being sold on Minnesota as our final destination.  After talking with her at length, she asked if we thought we would ever just go back to Alaska.  The next day, the chorus from this song kept playing over and over in my head.  I began to think about all of the many ways that we have exactly what we need here.  We have always had what we needed, we just often lose sight of that because it may not be what we think we want.

This Winter was tough on our family.  We began to feel the pressure of too many days indoors and thought our foundation might be cracking.  We found ourselves in late March with no signs of Spring, and I began to feel trapped and anxious.  We desperately wanted a vacation and made tentative plans to meet somewhere with my mother-in-law later in April.  Within a few days, I found out that my mother was in the hospital and also ended up on leave from work with a broken foot.  We considered making the ten hour drive to see my parents, but they insisted they did not want us to come.  My mother-in-law then also discovered that her plans needed to change so that she could visit an ill family member.  I was devastated.  I NEEDED that vacation.  We made another attempt to visit my parents, and again, we were turned away.  We also tried to figure out a way to meet up with my mother-in-law and it just did not seem to be working out.  It seemed that God was putting up roadblocks every way that I turned and my heart was heavy.  I felt so conflicted between my need for a vacation, my desire to be with my mom, and also with the desire to meet up with my mother-in-law, who seems to have an overflowing source of love for all of us just when we need it the most.  We finally decided that we just needed to get away from the snow, no matter where we went, so we made plans to drive down and visit my Uncle in Iowa.   No sooner had I finally confirmed a reservation at a hotel, when I heard from my dad that my mom was in the hospital again.  We decided that we needed to be there, even if my parents were not sure that THEY needed us there!  We made plans to leave three days later.  We got down there and I was able to spend time with my mother at the worst of her pneumonia, and as long as I live, I will cherish the time that I spent with her, holding her hand, singing to her, and repaying just a fraction of the many hours that she spent doing the same for me.  In the meantime, my mother-in-law was returning to be with her family member and decided to stop at my parents and visit us as well.  She was able to give us a much needed date night, shower the kids with love, and bless us with her wonderful heart.  My husband spent time with my dad, and it was probably one of the most difficult and also the most rewarding visits that I have ever had with my parents as an adult myself.  I never imagined how hard it would be to be a child, caring for my own children, while also feeling the pull to care for my parents.  By delaying our vacation again and again, God allowed us to be right where we needed to be, the moment that we needed to be there.

We returned home to Spring.  The snow that had persisted long into April had gone.  We sat out in the yard today, grilling dinner while we watched the kids playing.  My husband and I, hand-in-hand, began to talk about our many blessings.  We are blessed with a healthy family.  We are blessed with the ability to afford our lifestyle while I work part-time and he is in school.  We have more time together than we know what to do with.  We are able to home school our children.  Our kids can run around without fear on 40 acres in the country.  We have built a home here and we have a pretty good life.  It may not have turned out exactly as we wanted.  But I am pretty certain that it turned out exactly as we needed.

 

 

Mud Springs Eternal

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IMG_2184So I am not sure what happened to Spring this year, but it has become more of an eternal Winter, or my new favorite term, Springter.  Earlier in the week we were out exploring in the snow and slush and the creek ice looked rotten, but had not yet begun to overflow.  Then we woke up to a fresh coating of new snow, as if to laugh at our hopes that perhaps Spring might finally arrive in the Northland.  Today I went for as much of a walk as a broken foot and two little kids would allow, and there were signs everywhere that Spring had finally sprung!  The water was finally flowing over the ice in the creek. Unfortunately, the melting snow in the field is beginning to form its own creeks in our driveway.  The ground, still frozen solid, shows no willingness to accept any of the water, so it continues to pool and puddle and make mud holes that are only enticing to the little people I am responsible for cleaning!  The car is temporarily stuck in the muck in front of the house and we will attempt to bail it out when the ground freezes again tomorrow night.  The truck is down by the road, and I fear that our fate will be to walk the driveway for some time now, until Spring gives way to Summer.  This is only our third Winter here, but it seems really, really long.  The last two days we have been able to get outside more and it has given us a renewed sense of hope and purpose.  Days and days of being indoors had begun to take its toll on us and we were feeling caged, anxious yet bored, and completely unmotivated.  The warm days and sunshine have led us out to tackle the much and mire that our yard and driveway have become, while the kids zoom and race their bikes through the puddles.

My thoughts today are about the warming of the Earth and how it coincides with the warming of my heart, my mind, my spirit.  I have had a bit of a rough month, being off work with my broken foot, stuck inside with three bundles of energy.  At times, it felt as if every turn in the road brought me to another roadblock.  Every time I made a decision, something would happen to foil my plans.  I see, now, that at each and every point, the new road led me to an opportunity that I would not have had otherwise.  I am thankful and wish that I could not be so fickle and always remember that I am not in charge!

I am so looking forward to “break-up” as we called it in Alaska.  Planting the garden, getting fruit trees and shade trees, working on the trail in the woods, finishing the shop, having some fun, and exploring Minnesota.  I am so very thankful that Spring is finally here!

Life in the Slow Lane

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IMG_1888Just when Spring was beginning to peek its way around the corner, we got about 5 more inches of snow, blanketing everything yet again.  We are growing impatient with the snow and ever-growing puddles of mucky slush and mud that are growing around us.  Perhaps  a gentle (or not so-gentle)  reminder about patience came this Spring as well in the form of a broken bone.  In my infinite grace, I fell down the stairs with our brand new railing, and broke a chunk of bone off of my heel that is now floating around wreaking havoc on the soft-tissue.  So now I am relegated to hobbling around on crutches for a few weeks while I wait for breakup.  Perhaps a tiny blessing as I sit and ponder the Spring/Summer and all that we have planned.  Sometimes I think that we are given opportunities to be still and if we do not take them,  we are forced!  This is my opportunity to be still, to be present with my kids, to pour over garden catalogs and dream of plants and trees and chickens, to watch the snow melt and see the possibilities emerge, and to plan grand adventures.  This is the first time in our four years since moving here that we will finally be able to explore Minnesota, and go farther than the local hardware store.  The house is done enough for now, the shop can get done at a leisurely pace, and we can begin to explore our surroundings and discover what the North has to offer us.

A New Beginning

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I am feeling emotional and full of gratitude tonight.  When my husband and I dragged our two little kids out to the middle of nowhere to live in a tent and start a farm, we were so driven, and perhaps a bit lacking in reality.  So many people told us that it could not be done- but of course, we knew that it could be!  The plan, though, was to come out here and build our house out of pocket, with no debt, and live out our days with no mortgage, free and clear, making money off the homestead, and raising our kids on the land.  Most of that is all fine and good- minus the money part!  We came from West Virginia, where wages were half of what we were used to- and even as a nurse, we were barely above the poverty line.  Because of that, our savings were much less than expected.  In addition, we really had no idea what the costs would be for the many things we needed to do.  We never expected the high cost of the septic system, the well that went foot by painful foot to 120 feet, or the solar system.  Framing the house in was the easy and inexpensive part!  The money kept rolling out and eventually, we got to the point where we had to take on more debt if we were going to continue to work on the house.  We could have limped along and taken longer to finish the house, but with two little kids, pregnant, and then a third- we were pretty burned out on living with no water, no electricity, no flooring, etc.

We decided at some point last winter, that we should just refinance the land and pay off all our debt.  We would still be left with a fairly small mortgage, but no other unsecured debt.  What we did not realize, was that thanks to the crash of the economy ten years ago, things had become a little more intense with banking, mortgages, and requirements.  The house had to be 98% done in order to refinance.   As soon as Spring rolled in, we hit the ground running.  Every day that I was not at work, we were working on the house.  So many nights one or both of us worked long after the kids had gone to bed.  I worked off site, Dave went to school full-time, and on all our days ‘off’, we worked on the house.  Days dragged into months and it still was not finished by Christmas.  Our stamina and endurance had  pretty much left the building.  Finally, the first week in January, we were ready for the appraisal.  And now, less than a month later, we have a closing date.  It is a moment filled with such emotion for me.

This house……This house……  There are so many millions of thoughts running around in my head when I sit on the couch and look around at this place.  To most people, it seems small, maybe tiny, and simple, no-frills.  But let me tell you, there is a castle of emotions and memories built up in this place.  We never imagined when we came here, that building this house would be the last time we would see Dave’s brother alive.  We never imagined the sacrifice that each and every one of us would make, just to be here.  We could not have foreseen how difficult it would be sometimes just to get up and do it all again day after day.  We never thought about the toll it would take on our marriage, our relationship with God, or the experience of our son- being a toddler in such uncertainty and transition.  As I sit and look around, though, I know that we also never imagined the personal growth and STRENGTH that we experienced.  Even through all the pain, we are stronger and more steadfast.  Our family unit is stronger and  happier, because we now appreciate each and every moment where we can just enjoy being here.  Each moment of free time was earned.  Each comfort that most take for granted was bought and paid for with hard labor.

So many people have been rooting for us.  My brother and sister-in-law helped with the foundation work.  My husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law prepared and poured the slab and built the shell.  Dave and I worked the first year to insulate, frame inside walls, and run plumbing and electric lines. Extended family- aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents sent unexpected financial gifts to keep us going and we were able to have the roof put on, install the septic tank, buy drywall, and stove pipe.  We hung drywall at night after the kids were asleep, with a borrowed drywall jack and homemade scaffolding.  Even having the camper to live in the second and third year was not without sacrifice.  I had to work a round of night shifts after Dave’s brother died and on the way home one morning, spun the truck on black ice, and totaled it.  We used the insurance money to buy the camper.   The camper was bought from a gentleman that had a stroke and was no longer able to care for it- even his sacrifice unknowingly impacted our future.  Then last year we went from living in a construction zone, to living in a home.  We got tongue and groove up, flooring, carpet, trim, and cabinets.  Sometimes when I lay in bed at night I am amazed by how much this place has changed in a relatively short time.  I feel like so many things happened together that resulted in the puzzle being complete, and had any one of those things not fallen into place, we would not be where we are now.

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I imagined that I might feel disappointed because we wanted to move here and build mortgage free.  Instead, I feel light.  A burden has been lifted off of our shoulders that was threatening to crush us.  For me, I felt the burden of making ends meet and needing to make sure our many obligations were met, while still providing for five people’s needs, and continuing to purchase things for the house.  For Dave, the burden was watching the kids while I worked, going to school, and spending every day that I was off, working on the house.  We limited our fun because of financial constraints, but even if we had been able to afford it, he felt a burden to work on the house in his ‘free’ time.   The freedom that we both feel is unbelievably amazing.

I am so thankful to everyone who has had a part of building this place.  I am thankful for my husband, for his immense knowledge and technical abilities, his strength and endurance to work day after day without complaint.  I am thankful for my eldest son, for being willing to live in a tent and forgo all the comforts of home, to sacrifice his playtime for so long, so that we could build and work.  So many days he asked me, “Mama, is today a play day, or a work day?” I would have to tell him it was a work day and feel bad because there were so many times he begged me to play instead.  I am above all, thankful for God, for His unfailing, unending, unencumbered love and grace.  He led us here and we knew that if we came here and built our house from the foundation up and placed him at the center, that our lives would be forever changed.  We came here looking for a new beginning, but even at this stage of the game, I am not sure that we realized that sometimes a forest has to completely burn down in order for new growth to happen, and a stronger forest to emerge.

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When Good or Easy Just Aren’t Enough!

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After living in the frozen expanse of tundra in Alaska, totally dependent on oil for our very existence, we decided that we wanted to find a way to be more self-sufficient.  In our minds, that meant leaving Alaska for a more temperate climate.  Haha to that, because now, of course, we are in Minnesota, which seems to be much harsher than parts of Alaska!  When we landed in West Virginia , we were committed to healthy eating, raised ducks for eggs, and began gardening in earnest.  I canned anything and everything and began making most of our food from scratch.  When #1 was born, we fed him organic or homemade everything.  Then came #2 and life became a little more difficult.  We still had every intention of being self-sufficient and finding our land to homestead, but ‘easy’ or convenient things began to creep back in.  It became easier to just buy quick snacks for the munchkins than make them. it became more convenient to buy frozen food for everyone while I was at work, instead of preparing homemade meals.

When we moved to our land when the kids were three and six months, we were still completely unprepared for the harshness of the path we had chosen.  Living in a tent with our ‘kitchen’ set up across the field, I began to fall back even more on easy and convenient foods.  We bought things in boxes and cans to avoid things spoiling in the cooler.  I cannot really remember what #2 ate as his first foods, but I am pretty sure that it was not organic or homemade anything.  Minutes became hours became days became months became years.  Three years later, and with #3 in the picture also, life is, well, complicated.   I have found myself straying so far from the intended goal and piling my grocery cart with convenience foods for the kids, quick meals for the days I am at work, and taking consolation in the fact that most of it is, at least, organic.

Today while shopping at the local market, I had the amazing privilege of only having one child in tow.  #2 is at the stage where he is absorbing everything and asking as many millions of questions as he can fit into one breath.  As we rolled up and down the aisles, he began by asking if we could buy this or that.  When he would point to something really awful and ask if we could buy it (like Little Debbie Ho-Hos), I would tell him it wasn’t good for him, not healthy.  He began to point at things and ask if they were good for him or not good for him.  When we got to the last aisle, he pointed at some ice cream sandwiches.  His next comment completely changed my heart and has led me to feel completely renewed in our goals of self-sustainability and healthy living.  Awesome how a little dude could impart so much wisdom as to be life-changing, and not even know it!  He says to me, “Momma, why is it that something so good is not good for you?”.  In that moment, I laughed out loud.  Isn’t that the truth?  Sometimes, things that make our lives easier, or seem really good, are just not that way at all.  Sure, it is easier to buy a box of cereal bars so that my kids can feed themselves in the morning while I am trying to stumble out of my never-gonna-be-a-morning-person stupor, but is it really better?  So today, I made peanut butter energy bites.  I made homemade cereal bars.  I served fresh salad and stroganoff for dinner and dreamed about the day when we could be using our own eggs, our own meat, and our own veggies (have not figured out how to do that yet in the winter in Minnesota).   After the first two years of house-building, even thinking about the garden exhausted me (that might have something to do with the three kids under five as well).  I am finally starting to remember, though, why we came here to live this way.  I have begun looking through catalogues at fruit trees, planning the garden expansion, and thinking about chickens.  It is time to start doing things again, not because they are easy or good, but because they are good for us- for our bodies, our hearts, our spirits, and our minds!  And this, little Jacob, is why something that seems so good, might not be good for you, and something that seems hard, might be best!

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The Lazy Life

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We were having a conversation with someone last week about ‘homesteading’.  This was the first time we had ever met this person and he introduced himself and said that he had heard that we were living with solar power and trying to be self-sufficient.  He mentioned several reality T.V. shows about homesteaders and his next comment was that he had the impression that many of the people who choose to live that way are lazy.  They homestead because they do not want to work.  I seriously laughed out loud and tried to decide if I should walk away from the conversation or try to re-educate this person about our life.  He went on to further dig himself in a hole as we tried to explain to him that his view of reality was just not accurate.  After the conversation ended, my husband and I both attempted to rationalize where these views came from and what exactly he meant.  I believe that this person must really think that what he sees on television is an accurate representation of life and that his narrow view of the world is based on this assumption.  I have thought many times this week about his comment and chuckled to myself as I went about my day.  Perhaps he is right………

Perhaps I am lazy because I really enjoy waking up and coming downstairs in my PJs to make breakfast for the kiddos and read together on the couch under a blanket instead of working every day in the rat race.

Maybe I am lazy because I really think it is cool that we can spend an hour or two on formal education for my first grader and spend the rest of the day cooking, playing, running around outside, and learning by doing things instead of sending him on a bus to be gone all day.

It feels lazy some days to get to spend all day out in the sun picking weeds and tending the garden so that we can harvest food to eat.  It definitely feels lazy to pop open a can of homemade spaghetti sauce for dinner and not have to go get it at the store!

I certainly felt lazy when I needed to do laundry in the middle of a string of cloudy days and I had to run to the store for gas, fill up the generator, start the generator in the 20 degrees below zero temperatures, load the washing machine, and then fold the laundry in the comfort of my home.  This was so much better then last winter when I had to load all three kids into the car for a three hour long adventure to the laundromat!

No question about the pure laziness involved in coming down to the kitchen and having a fridge to open, a full stove to cook in, and a sink to wash dishes in!  It genuinely felt lazy after using a cooler or a camper fridge for two years, washing in a utility sink then dumping the 5-gallon gray water bucket every day, and cooking on a two-burner camp stove.

So many things about our life now are certainly lazy compared to how they were when we were building.  And if it is lazy to have a weekly movie night together on the couch with popcorn, and lazy to spend the warm winter days out cutting trails in the woods with a pair of garden clippers and a machete, or lazy to make pizza together with the kids instead of throw a frozen one in the oven- well, then I guess we are certainly lazy!  Sometimes it seems lazy, I guess, to work less and play together more, and have to do everything ourselves instead of pay someone else to do them for us.  We could just both work all the time and pay other people to do all these things for us!  It does make me chuckle, though, that there are people out there who think that TV is real life.  In my mind, we are really no different than anyone else out there- we just have different priorities and different things that we value above others. Does that make us lazy?  Maybe, but if so, I am the luckiest lazy person I know!

 

Confessions of The Heart

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I have had something brewing in my heart for quite some time now, and I feel compelled to share it, in the hopes that my words may help someone else with a heavy heart.  Before I do, I have to provide a warning.  If you are one of those mommas who has always wanted to have children since you were a child yourself, couldn’t believe your luck when you did, and love every minute of your life, then please skip over this post!  I do not mean to say that I do not admire you beyond belief and wish many times a day that I had your heart, but sadly, I do not.  I really do not even like to utter the words that are begging to come out of my mouth, but I am tired of pretending, tired of smiling, and acting like this is the best thing ever.  The truth:  I do not like being a momma.  There… I said it.  Utter gasps of disbelief if you will, or sigh, because maybe you are one of those people too and it feels good to hear someone else say it for you.

Do not, for a minute, get me wrong.  I LOVE MY CHILDREN.  I love each and every inch of each and every one of them in a way that I never knew possible.  I love who they are, who they will become, and who God made them to be.  I am just overcome day after day by all of the things about motherhood that drain my spirit. I do not like the snot, the poop, the bickering, the whining, the disobedience, the constant testing, the consistent corrections over and over and over again.  I do not like ME when I lose the ability to be patient.  I do not like how I feel when I need to go outside for my own mental health, and I spend 45 minutes getting various feet, hands, heads, and wiggly bodies into bibs, boots, hats, mittens, and coats only to have one kid need to pee and another one want to go inside 5 minutes after being out.  The list could go on forever, but I just am not finding joy right now in the millions of mini-moments that make up our days.  I miss being able to have a conversation with my husband and complete the thought from start to finish.  I want to look at him and feel that new love joy in my heart instead of profound exhaustion from all the many needs we have to fill all day.  I want to pee alone.  I want to read a book under a blanket on the couch and have QUIET.

For Christmas, I got a book that looks outstanding if I can find the time to read it.  It is just for me- the momma that does not like her job.  It is a God-centered, hope-filled feast for my mind and spirit, and I desperately pray that it changes my heart.  I had to be honest, though, because so many of us just struggle through it all, feeling alone, and I do not want to do that anymore.  Tonight, I fought the urge to cry as I did the bedtime routine.  I sang to the middle child and wiped his tears after a tantrum over no bedtime vitamins (which occurred because he sassed me when I told him to get ready for bed).  I then disciplined the oldest for being disrespectful and disruptive while I sang to his brother (because he was mad that I didn’t sing to him).  Last but not least, I prayed with the youngest, who insisted on holding everyone’s hand and hugging us all three times before going to sleep.  It all just seems so hard.  Where in all of this do I find time to recharge?  Where do I find time for me?  When do my husband and I get to work on our own relationship when the only time we have alone is after the kids are in bed and we fall down exhausted?

Please do not think I am a terrible person for disliking my job.  It is a job that I cannot quit or get fired from but I desperately need a paid vacation from.  I need to somehow find ME again in this mess of wiggly, squirmy, squiggly toddlers.  I truly believe that God picked these kids for us, and picked us for them.  I know that every day that I am alive is a day that I can strive to be a better person.  So for today, my prayer is that God fills my heart with an unfailing love for my job as a momma.

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The Path Before Us

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Dolly Sods West Virginia

We have been frequenting the new path through the woods almost every day now, while the weather holds.  We headed out last night for a late night adventure-  over the bridge and into the woods for a campfire and conversation.  It is always funny to me how a campfire brings out talk that can never happen at home on the couch.  We walked side by side back home and stopped, at a distance, and looked at the small house sitting on the edge of the field.  The warm glow of the Christmas lights through the window made me feel happy.  We looked back down the field, to the spot where all of this started, the location of our ‘camp’ three years ago.  We began to talk about the craziness of it all.  I remember so vividly laying in the tent while we were waiting to do the groundwork, still finalizing the drawing of the house- sketched again and again on graph paper, erased and re-drawn so many times the paper was worn thin.  We laughed about how many people told us we were crazy, that it couldn’t be done.  “You cannot move to a field and live in a tent”, they said.  “You cannot build a house like that”.  But here is the thing about us- we can do whatever it is that we say we can do.

I do not mean that to sound prideful, or arrogant, because it isn’t meant that way at all.   God certainly guides and provides each step of the way.  As we stood looking at the house, we began to talk, again, about this process.  We began to look back and realize that God knows so much more than we can ever give him credit for.  When we began to reminisce, we realized that our path has been laid out before us for quite some time.  Everything that has transpired has led us here, to this spot, at this particular moment in time.  I know, this sounds kind of like some hippie mumbo-jumbo, but believe me, it is most definitely not!  We started thinking backwards about all of the events of our lives that landed us here, building this house, and we had a difficult time knowing where to stop.  Every decision, every event, every consequence was all part of the plan that brought us to this moment in time.

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West Virginia

Before we met, Dave and I separately wanted to have land and build our own house, and then we found each other and began pursuing the same dream.  Before we left for Nome, we bought land in Talkeetna, Alaska, with every intention of building our homestead there.  Forced out of our rental home on December 1st, the beginning of a harsh and unforgiving winter just South of the Arctic circle, we moved into a seasonal summer home out in the tundra- uninsulated, no running water, and 1 mile off the main road.  The challenges we faced there made us second-guess our desire to homestead in Talkeetna.  We felt that perhaps we should be somewhere less remote.  This was the first time we became aware that following a dream was not the same as attaining it.  Seeing the dream become reality was much harder than just moving through life pretending that the dream is all there is.  When we left Alaska, we went with no direction- just the trailer and some abstract ideas of where we might want to go.  We landed in West Virginia, again camping (aka homeless) while we waited for the plan to become more clear.  So many things happened during our time there that led us here.  In the quiet of night, God’s voice whispers to us all, and it seems that Dave and I were listening and making decisions based on what he wanted for us, even if we did not know that we were hearing his voice at the time.

The funny thing about a dream, is that the coming true part is really not as glamorous as the movies want you to believe.  This has been hard.  Super hard.  But as we stood in the field, looking at the glow from the windows, we knew, without a doubt, that this is EXACTLY where God wanted us to stand.  We spent most of our adult lives dreaming, and planning, and then making it happen.  This is the first time that neither one of us has a plan for what is next.  It is really quite exciting, because we both are aware of the fact that God has amazing things planned for us, and coming here, stripping away our desires, our idea of what WE wanted for our lives, opens up a whole new world of adventures that is led by what HE wants for our lives.

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Triple Creek- Nome, Alaska

Our First Thanksgiving at Home

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We sat around the table feasting on yummy food and I realized that this was our first Thanksgiving at the homestead.  We got a much needed reprieve in the cold weather and the kids spent most of the week outside.  Everyone was around the table laughing, talking, and eating, and my heart was full.  This has been the most amazing week for us.  My father-in-law was able to come and help us build a bridge across the creek and for some reason, that bridge meant so much more to us than just a way across the creek.  We have already cleared about a quarter of an acre of trail around the property and we have been out every day with the kids.  Our boys are so much happier and easier to handle now that they are romping in the woods.  Suddenly, with the construction of that bridge, everything seems to be coming together for us.  What a difference it makes to walk across that creek and into the woods!  I never imagined that a few days work, two 40-foot telephone poles, and 40 treated 2×6 boards would  open up such a world of possibilities.  Mt heart feels full and happy!  We were sitting at the table last night and we asked our six-year-old what his favorite part of the week was.  His answer echoed all of our own answers, “eating Thanksgiving dinner with Grandpa and Gigi, and hiking out in the woods together”.  I feel so blessed and so thankful that we have finally made it to this point and can actually appreciate what it is we have here!

 

Bridge Building

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We have been going full bore on the house to try and finish the major projects before winter hit.  All we had left before we were going to take a winter break was the closet door, some trim upstairs, and some sort of temporary stair railing.  Then Algebra happened.  Dave has been going to school on top of everything else we have been doing, and his eight-week Algebra class started and everything else stopped!  We faced the tough decision of either stopping the work on the house and passing Algebra, or dropping Algebra and finishing the house.  I voted for passing Algebra.  Every fiber of my being wanted to scream out to forget Algebra- who really needs that stuff anyway?  But sometimes we have to make decisions that have nothing to do with what we really want and more to do with what is best for the team.  The house can wait….  Dave said that sometimes he feels like our motto should be the Latin phrase, “Auribus Teneo Lupum”.  I tend to agree.  If you are not familiar with this phrase, it basically means that you have the wolf by his ears, so he can not bite you, but you cannot hold him by his ears forever.  Essentially, either decision that you make will have consequences, and none of the decisions is really all that great.  I do not mean this in a negative way, just realistic, that our time here, building this house, has been inundated with all sorts of decisions like this. So, in line with this phrase, we decided to drag out the house project and subsequent refinancing of debt in order to ensure that Dave can finish Algebra and still graduate in the Spring.

Since we have had some down time while Dave works on school (Haha!), we decided it was time to get to work building a bridge across the creek!  I wish the photos were better, but we have been weeks without true sunshine and cloudy photos just do not turn out as well.  We rented a trailer for our two wheel drive farm truck, picked up some 40 foot telephone poles, got the truck stuck in the field, hauled it out with our other truck, pulled the poles over to the creek with the also two-wheel drive tractor, pushed the poles across the creek with the same tractor, and await the come-along to come along in the mail so that we can finish hauling them across the rest of the way.  Once complete, we can buy the decking, fasten it to the poles, build a side railing, and off we go through the woods!  For three years now we have lived on the edge of the field with 25 acres of woods at our backs, with no way to access the woods without walking all the way down to the road and back up on the other side of the creek.  We decided it was way overdue to build a bridge and start making trails so that we can use the property for some desperately needed recreation!  In true Sims fashion, we spent a free day working instead of lounging about.  This is the kind of work that feels good, though, because it will get us access to the rest of the property!  Sometimes it is nice to pause the projects that never seem finished in order to complete a task that is immediately beneficial!  It was really sweet for me to get to watch our oldest steering the tractor while sitting on his Papa’s lap.  I have memories of driving the same model tractor while sitting in my Grandpa and Uncles laps!

 

Just Like That

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Just like that, the cold winds are blowing in on us and winter is fast approaching.  Early Autumn is my favorite season, but lately, late Autumn is my least.  All of the sudden, the looming shadow of all of the things that are not yet done seems to be threatening to swallow me up.  As I sit and listen to the wind howling tonight, and survey the forecast of suddenly dropping temperatures, I feel disappointment in my heart.  I wanted to be done with the house.  I know, it has only been three years, but I just wanted to be done.  I want to spend time with my kids, play games and watch movies. I want to have time again to sit and talk about the world with my husband.  I want to focus on educating my first grader without having to interrupt his schooling for more and more projects.  I want to be present.

We had not been to church in months, since the finish house marathon began again in earnest, and my oldest son was asking to go.  I loaded everyone up and drove into town for the evening service.  Funny that the pastor had a message just for me.  I do not remember the entire sermon, but several things popped out at me.  He was discussing part of Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  He talked about the things that he saw from the story that get in the way of our relationship to God and in the way of listening to God.  The first thing he listed was a loss of strength, and the second was a loss of vision.  I absolutely cannot remember the third, and the fourth was a loss of security.  We are experiencing these three things in totality!  We have lost all our strength to keep moving forward on this project.  We look around at all that needs to be done and find ourselves just not caring.  Vison?  We have definitely lost that!  What exactly are we doing here?  Why did we want to build our own house, and a rather small one at that?  Why did we leave the comfort and security of our last home to literally camp in a field in Minnesota?  As for the loss of security, that has happened as our tensions mount and we begin to snap at each other.  That has happened as more and more money gets poured into these four walls and more and more debt threatens to overtake us.  His message  did provide solutions, and very much provided a sense of hope to me, but I have to dig deep to find the mental reserves to do anything about it.

Tonight I spent about three hours moving things downstairs in anticipation of having carpet installed upstairs.  I am sitting on the sub-floor as I write this.  It is the last real reminder of how we have lived for so long, and I am overwhelmed by the mountains of stuff that I still have to move to get ready.  Five people living in a space that is under 900 square feet, and we have stuff packed into every available space.  All that stuff has to go somewhere, and while my husband is dutifully studying for a large math exam tomorrow, I have to figure out how to get it all downstairs and still manage my flock.  I feel so weary.  In the sermon, the pastor gave three specific things that we can do to get back on track, and of course, in my fatigued mom-brain, I cannot seem to remember what they are.  I know one of them was prayer.  One of them could perhaps be perseverance (or patience).  Since I cannot really remember what they are, I will stick to prayer!  Praying that I will find the strength to get all of this stuff moved downstairs while somehow managing to make my children feel loved, cherished, and cared for.  Praying that I will be able to get it all moved back before returning to work.  Praying that we will be able to finish up the trim, baseboard, and stair railing despite the challenges that winter brings when hauling materials and painting.  Praying that we will somehow be able to head into winter, into the oncoming wind, with our heads up, our hearts ready, and our Spirits renewed.

 

Garden Harvest in Spite of Madness

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We had a good year in the garden despite my serious lack of attention.  We planted early (the middle of May in Zone 3b) and promptly left to go on a two-week vacation.  We eagerly strained our necks coming down the driveway to see if anything had survived the lack of daily watering and attention.   Everything but the strawberries survived and thrived.  Days turned into weeks and I often found myself neglecting the garden when I should have been mulching, weeding, loving.  I was too busy, though, weeding, mulching, and loving my own three little people plants.  I wandered out into the garden every now and again to see what was happening, but I did not spend the hours upon hours that I used to spend.  Somehow, in spite of my attention, the garden provided us with an amazing abundance of food.  We have canned salsa, canned spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, frozen beans, carrots, and zucchini ready for making relish.  The cupboard has onions, potatoes, and oodles and oodles of roasted sunflower seeds.  The still plywood counter top boasts butternut squash, and the pumpkins are on the stairs awaiting carving.  There is applesauce, spiced apples, pineapple zucchini, and zucchini lemon pie filling.  A bag of still crunchy carrots sits in the fridge, ready for little hands to grab and munch.  The crisper drawer is full of the last of the corn, ready for boiling and rolling in butter and salt.

The garden looks lonely now, covered in brown leftovers and a few remaining pumpkins.  It is hard for me to believe that the garden could have provided us with so much food, for so little work.  It seems a little bit wrong.  Autumn is my favorite season, and this year is no different.  I love to see the last of the produce going into jars, bags, or boxes.  This will be the first year that we will get to carve pumpkins from our own garden- the kids have already picked out their favorites.  I will not say that I am ready for winter, but this year, for the first time, I look around and see what we have done and do not feel so overwhelmed by  all that still needs to be accomplished.

The kids are in bed after a late night by the fire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and watching the stars and northern lights.  The downstairs is almost done, the upstairs just awaiting carpet and trim.  The scented candle burns on the newly installed cherry windowsill.  Our little house on the edge of the field is finally starting to feel like a home.

 

The Risk and The Reward

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Ecclesiastes 11:
Invest in Many Ventures
1Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
2Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
3If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
4Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed
Or know how life (or the spirit) / enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.

 

The Bible contains so many references to risk, and includes so many stories of people that must take huge risks to reap huge rewards.  When we came here, we felt so solid in God’s calling, so certain that our risk in giving up everything would reap benefits that we could not yet see.  We felt so sure that there was a deeper purpose for us here and building the house and starting our homestead were just the tip of the iceberg for what God would do for us.  It was a huge risk.  We literally sold everything and drove away with just what we could fit in the trailers (and maybe some at my parents)!!  We camped in a field and watched it rain and rain and rain while we attempted to plan how we were going to build.  So many times in so many ways, we were at the end of one rope or another, yet we prayed, and believed, and we made it through. So many times we could have literally been homeless, without shelter, or heat, or water, or food.  Although I know that not all risk is rewarded with success, I also know that there is never a reward without some risk.   Risk and reward. We gave up everything to come here and build OUR dream.  But once we realized that everything we needed was in God’s hands,  we really were never at risk of losing anything. We made a commitment when we came here, to put God at the center of our lives and build our house, and our family, around that faith.  Since being here, we have realized that none of this even matters without God, and that all of this could fade away, and we would still receive the reward of spending eternity with Jesus!

As we come closer and closer to completion on the house, I am constantly reminded of the risk and reward of what we have done, and see all around me the many ways that God has blessed us.  We came here with the child-like faith that God would provide for us.  Many people saw us as irresponsible, maybe a little crazy, and might have wondered if we would fail.  There were times that we wondered these things as well!  Our intentions when coming here were to risk everything to return to our lives and live each day with faith the size of a mustard seed.  We wanted to slow down, and stop barreling down the highway of technology and progress so that we could teach our children how to survive in a world that feels increasingly unsafe.  We really wanted to restructure our lives and put our faith in God first.  I feel like we were somewhat misguided initially with our vision of life here, because we often fought the knowledge that none of it was possible on our own, but ultimately, it led us down the path that perhaps God intended all along- to bring us back to the realization that the ‘reward’ in all of this was not that we were able to accomplish our dream, but that none of this even matters without centering our family, our lives, and our daily existence around God.  Had we not sold everything and driven here (the risk), we would never have realized what God really wants for our lives (the reward).

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In Ecclesiastes 11, the first six verses, the Bible talks about risk. These verses to me talk about what we cannot control, what we do not know, and what we can do anyway if we believe in a power outside of ourselves.  Verse 3 of Ecclesiastes 11 says, “If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth.“ This verse makes me laugh when I think about the rain and the many things in this building process that have slowed down or been impossible because of the rain.  No matter how much we wanted sunshine and dry weather, the clouds did not ask our permission before they made things wet. When it rained, it rained, and there was nothing we could do about it.  Just as obvious was the statement in verse 3: “Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie.”  Life happens. We are learning to deal with it and move on!

Not only do we not really control everything (anything), but we do not know everything (anything) either!   Verse 5 of Ecclesiastes 11 says, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”  Verse 6 of Ecclesiastes 11 closes the section by again urging us to take risks and not to be paralyzed by fear of failure.

Life is a risk. The Bible is pretty clear about that. I find it very easy to be anxious and frustrated when I forget  who holds the future.  I don’t know everything or control everything, but God does. So there are basically two options:  either get frustrated at the fact that I am not God, or else put my faith in the Lord and rejoice that God is God. Trust him. Life is an adventure, full of challenges and risks, and faith helps us to take those risks.

The last few days have really brought all of this home for me.  Yesterday we took time off from building to just BE.  The kids were lined up at the counter, helping me make dinner.  We had a great day playing at the beach, catching frogs, and stomping around in the creek.  I realized just how wonderful it was to have this space to be living in together, and everyone was clamoring to help me make dinner!  After dinner, the kids were climbing all over my husband and giving him hugs while I cleaned up. Tonight, again, I was struck by the many blessings of what we have here.  My husband was sitting on the couch playing the Ukelele while the boys played together upstairs.  I had our youngest in the kitchen, ‘helping’ me get ready for dinner.  We all sat down together (as we do every night) and prayed together.  This is the reward.  After three years, it is all starting to come to light for me.  And let me tell you, it was so worth the risk!

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Out of The Rain

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Hindsight is always so humbling, isn’t it?  Today it rained most of the day.  Although I have had a long stretch of time off of work (the one I actually get paid for), we decided that we would try to work on the house every other day and spend some time together as a family the rest of the time.  Today was a work day, actually, it was a painting day.  We are finishing the trim in the bathroom and starting on the trim upstairs around the windows.  I waited and waited all morning for a break in the rain.  The break came right after lunch, so I ran the trim down to the new building and set up to paint.  I painted off and on for a couple of hours.  While I painted I listened to the rain on the metal roof (one of my favorite sounds).  As usual, I spent the time alone thinking about our life, and reflecting.

Such a simple pleasure to be in the shop painting while the rain poured down.  Dave spent a little bit of time with me while the kids were sleeping and we laughed about all the times in the past three years when just having a roof over us would have been such a blessing.  We still cannot figure out why we talked ourselves out of building the shop before the house!  We could have had this huge space for the kids to play in the first year when it rained all but about ten days while we lived in the tent.  We could have had the tent set up in the shop!  We kept having to move the kitchen tent around because the ground underneath it would get so thick with mud and muck.  We could have had our ‘kitchen’ in the shop.  We could have had a space for the many tools and building materials so that  I wasn’t sharing the living room with them once we moved in to the house.  I did not think about all of this to make myself feel miserable for not making the right choice, I just thought about it because I realized that things often look much clearer in the rear view mirror.  I felt so blessed to be painting on a day that would have been unproductive.  We waited the rain out for so long.  We used to love to hear the rain and we came to dread it because of what it meant for our project.  Today, I loved the rain again.  I painted and hummed to myself while our little guy, up from his nap, played in the sand at my feet.  He didn’t remember the muddy days in the tent, the days on end stuck in a small camper, the panic of rain coming in the new windows because they had been sealed incorrectly the first time, the lost time when the rain pushed back the site work, the concrete, the roof, the septic, the well, etc., etc.  He just knew the rain made mud and it was fun to play in.  He looked up at me when I was almost done and said, “Mama, it is nice to hang out with you- just the two of us, while you are working.  It makes my heart happy”.  Me too, little buddy, me too.

Can’t Get There From Here (but we did)

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Funny how just looking at the house from the other end of the field gave me more perspective.  The kids and I walked down to the other end of the property to look at the progress on the shop.  Standing on the edge of the site, looking back at the house, I was hit with a memory of when we drove in from West Virginia and saw just open field in front of us.  For so long now, all I see everywhere I look is more projects, more work, not enough money, and not enough time.  Tonight, though, when I look at the house and outbuildings from the shop site, I see our home.  I see the garden built with love and hard work.  I see the sheds built with Sophie in a backpack sleeping.  I remember each and every moment of making it happen, but rarely get to really appreciate the view from afar.  There is more work to do yet, but it is neat to see the property with a wide angle lens instead of the magnifying glass.

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Garden Bounty

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Somehow, between all of the millions of things we did this Spring, we still managed to put in a garden.  We literally worked every day to get it planted the week before we left for vacation, and then we were gone for two weeks, and prayed that it would still be there when we got back.  We rigged up an anti-deer fence, anti,bunny fence, and watered the new plants.  We pulled in the driveway two weeks later and it was all we could do not to run straight out to the garden and see what survived.  Guess what?  EVERYTHING!  We have munched on snap peas, enjoyed fresh salad greens, and the boys eat the carrots whole.  Zucchini bread, zucchini relish, diced onion, summer squash  boats, radish and carrots dipped in sweet chili sauce.  The boys check almost daily for the emergence of green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and their beloved pumpkins.

I feel like there was some mistake, because the garden that I almost virtually ignored in the beginning has exploded into a crazy jungle of food-producing madness.  I can barely walk the rows between the tomato plants taller than I am and the various squash plants that are creeping across walkways.  I look for deeper meaning and hope that our spirits can grow this wild and wooly with little attention.  I love watching the kids beg me for fresh carrots while I am making dinner.  Looking forward to next year when we can add chickens and maybe goats to our funny farm.  As we enjoyed the cool evening by the fire, I feel secure in the knowledge that God is with us.

Eyes of a Child

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So I asked for a different set of glasses in my last post, and continued to pray about it after I posted.  My new set of glasses came in the form of my older brother who said something extremely powerful and wise beyond what I have ever given him credit for (who ever gives their older brother credit, right?).  He reminded me that I regularly post photos and updates about all of the wonderful things we are doing in a daily basis and that my last post was not in line with what he saw of my life from outside the fish bowl.

He said,  “I think when it comes to happiness, we never ‘arrive’.  It’s more of a process than a product.”

This comment hit me in a profound way and I realized that I too often look at life like a fish in a fish bowl.  I look around and if the water is clean, I see clean water, but if the water is dirty, I forget that it was ever clean.  When I get overwhelmed, I tend to only see what is right in front of me.  I may see the shark, but not notice the hole that I can wiggle into to get away from the shark, or the escape route that might be right beyond.  We spent so long dreaming about our land, dreaming of our house, and the life that we are now living.  We have always viewed our happiness as contingent on that dream, and because of that, we got caught up in a cycle that found us chasing something that we have always had and just could not see.  I think part of this is our culture.  We are taught to ‘pursue happiness’ to ‘be successful’, like it is something that we have to attain.  This goal becomes our purpose in life, instead of our purpose in life being LIFE.

To further reiterate this point in my life, I was driving in to work this morning and there it was, blaring at me from the True Value sign…….Life is all about the Nuts and Bolts……. The nuts and bolts that hold everything together.  This is where we went wrong.  We got so caught up in the product that we forgot to enjoy the process. Shakespeare must have also thought about this and said: “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing”.

And as C.S. Lewis puts it, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.”  We are on the final stretch of finishing the house, we have learned so much- about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, our faith, and our path.  Thanks to my big brother for helping me to look up and see what is really around me, even in my darkest, toughest moments.  I am going to strive to see my life, our property, this PROCESS, through the eyes of my children.  Where I see problems, they see opportunity.  Where I see tasks, they see adventure.  They are happy simply because they are HERE.

Meg

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.”
John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live in

I Need New Glasses

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I must have had on a different pair of glasses when my eyes saw this view of our property.  I can still see this view in my mind, but my eyes have a different filter now.  I remember the day that we first pulled in to our property with our trucks and trailers.  The grass was long, and we drove all the way to the back to set up camp.   Our minds were full of ideas, dreams, and an unwavering sense of adventure.  We knew what we wanted to do and we knew no bounds in making it happen.  That seems like a lifetime ago.

Today, my eyes see all the work that has to be done.  They see the money that we need to have to finish the work.  They see the pain and disappointment.  They see the decisions that still have to be made.   They see the three kids that get ignored day after day so that we can do what ‘needs’ to be done.  They see the stress and fatigue that threaten to overtake us every morning when we get out of bed.  I am so tired.  I feel lost.  I feel like this dream that we had has somehow separated us from each other, from God.  We worked so hard to get what we thought we wanted and now we do not even know if we want it anymore.

Many times I do not write because I do not want to publish my weakness, my sadness, my doubt.  I am realizing, though, that this is also my reality, and may be the reality of many people trying to do what we are doing.  This is hard.  The hardest thing I have ever done.  It is hard almost every day.  I pray that my husband and I will make it through this with our minds and hearts intact.  I pray that our kids will forget the stress, anxiety, and harshness of their beginnings.  I pray that God’s light will shine down through the darkness and make me feel whole again.  I feel broken by this life.   I pray that I will have the energy to find God when I can barely find my socks in the morning.   I pray that through these difficult times, our family will come together and find strength in our faith.

God led us here.  He paved the way for us to be here, doing this.  He promised me that if we built our house from the ground up, with him at the center, then he would be our foundation and our house would never fall.   I REMEMBER the early days when I knew this with all my heart.  I just cannot feel it right now.  I was reading another blog this evening before I wrote this.  She wrote about her own suffering and hardship.  She reminded me of Paul’s message about grace and hardship.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is all that I can do to remain standing right now, in this moment and I pray that I will hold on to the very, very small thread that reminds me that, “when I am weak, then I am strong”.  I do not feel strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Down the House…..

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Today marked the end of another testament to our craziness.  I cannot believe that I did not take any photos of us driving the two trucks and trailers from West Virginia to Minnesota to start our life here.  All I could find was a photo of Dave in the old trailer that we bought down from Alaska to West Virginia and lived in for three months.  We packed everything in the front and had a bed in the back.  When we dismantled that trailer, we felt a little bit sad.  We called it, the ‘hobo home’.  We kind of missed the freedom, the feeling of not being tied down, not belonging anywhere.

This time around, it was very different.  This time when we took the trailer box apart, it was more of a celebration.  We built the box on a utility trailer and packed as mch as we could inside.  We had to rent another Uhaul to get everything up here.  We used our old door from the house in West Virginia as the trailer door.  We actually even used the hardware and some of the wood from the Alaska trailer, so part of this trailer came with us all the way here from Alaska eight years ago!  The last three years were rough on it, the roof was leaking, mold was taking over.  We decided it could be repurposed as a wood shed for the time being, but that meant pulling all the nails in the floor and somehow getting it off the utility trailer (enter the tractor).  Dave drilled a couple of holes in the sides, ran chain through, and attached the chain to the bucket of the tractor.  Up went the bucket, up went the box- sort of.  After a few snafus, I drove the trailer out from under the hanging box and Dave set it down not-so-gently on the ground.  I am not sure that it will be able to be moved again without falling apart, but it will do for semi-dry wood storage this winter (or a large mouse house, anyway).

It was nice to look out the front and not see the ugly box anymore.  Now we can use the trailer for more exciting things, like picking up old telephone poles to use for a bridge across the creek!  And this time, I am NOT looking back nostalgically at our time camping in the field.  I am TOTALLY fine to be living in a house, with a foundation, that cannot be driven away!

 

One Day at a Time

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We were laying in bed last night, talking, and I started looking around at our room.  I expressed my continual amazement to my husband that he has built every inch of our house with his own two hands.  He dug the forms for the slab.  He did the foundation.  He built the walls, wired the house, plumbed the house.  He did the drywall, gas lines, lights.  Every single thing that my eyes stop on, he did.  I have a memory of each and every inch,  every added comfort, every moment in time that our lives improved with some added form or function.  Many people have a house built, but not many people build a house.  When you hire a crew, things get done quickly and in the proper order.  Our house has been one upgrade at a time, which has made us appreciate each and every thing that most people take for granted.

When we moved here, we had no comforts.  Life was about as basic as it could ever be.  We washed our clothes in a bucket with a hand plunger-washer.  We upgraded to the laundromat, and now, after almost three years, we have our own washing machine.  We ate in a tent and kept our food in a cooler.  Our laps were the dining room table.  When we moved into the house, we were able to have a card table to eat at.  It took another year to get a proper table and chairs, and eighteen months to get a refrigerator.  After more than two years we upgraded to a proper kitchen sink and kitchen cabinets.  We began our journey with a solar shower, ‘bathroom tent’, and a bucket.  A year and a half in, we took our first showers in the bathroom with a makeshift hot water heater and flushed the toilet for the first time.  We just upgraded to a permanent hot water heater and no longer have to heat the kids bath water on the stove.     We have upgraded based on necessity.  When I could no longer make myself use a cooler as a fridge, we got the power running and received a gift of a fridge.  When we found ourselves tiring of emptying the water bucket and hauling water, we were finally able to get the water running and hook up the plumbing.  It almost seemed as if God gave us the financial resources and means to complete a particular project just as we were reaching the breaking point.  I know that there are going to be amazing lessons in all of this as we continue to look back and remember.  Each and every thing that we have been able to do has not only increased our comfort exponentially, but because it came at a time when we were feeling overwhelmed, we appreciate each step all the more.  We were blessed with a gift of carpet just as I began to worry about the baby having to crawl on subfloor.  I made just enough extra at work to get the washing machine, right when I was feeling like I could not bear the laundromat even one more time.  When our third child was born, I could not stand the thought of coming home to no power or running water.  My husband turned the water on 9 days after she was born, and the power came on a week later.

We are nearing the end of Phase One, and have found ourselves looking back on our journey on a regular basis.  We are both amazed and awed by what we have done here, and how God’s provision has allowed us to not only endure amazing hardship, but use that hardship to appreciate everything that we have.  Sitting on a couch, washing dishes in a sink, keeping food in a fridge, playing with the kids on a carpeted floor, closing a door to separate us from everyone else….these are things we do not take for granted.  We remember each and every painful step to comfort, and it has taught us so much.

The progression of the kitchen and bathroom……..

The living space metamorphoses…….

The kid zone…….

Laundry Day……

We are almost there.  The flooring is waiting to be installed.  The last two doors are on order.  The trim and upstairs carpet will hopefully follow, and then we can begin on the finishing touches to turn it into our home- photos, paintings, bed frame, medicine cabinet, towel rack.  Hopefully we can get finished up just in time for……the addition!

It is hard to believe sometimes that three years have passed.  At the same time, it feels like it has been the longest three years of my life.  As this chapter comes to a close, though, I know that God has been and is with us every step of the way- guiding us, providing for us, and preparing us for the journey ahead.

The Long, Dark Night

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I have had a difficult time writing for the blog lately.  Admittedly, we have had a long, hard winter and I felt burned out.  What is there to say when you cannot say anything positive?  I did not even realize that I was feeling pretty down until about a month ago.  We were offered a crazy opportunity to go out West to a 30,000 acre ranch  and manage the property.  In some ways, it felt like a dream come true, but the timing was terrible.  We have spent almost three years building this place.  To abandon it now seemed almost criminal.  What this opportunity did, though, was start the process of unthawing our hearts from the long winter and made us really reflect on what it is we are doing here, why we came here, and what we want moving forward.  It has been hard to see any of that because we have gotten so caught up in the details of finishing this place that we got a little bit lost.  When we moved here, it felt very intentional.  It felt like God was leading us here for something really amazing.  We felt driven.  Over  the last three years, we have really felt like we were lost in the wilderness, so to speak.  We felt like God was really silent, which made all of our struggle seem even more challenging.  In the last few weeks, in addition to really finding our center again, we have also been renewing our resolve to live ‘the good life’ as described by Scott and Helen Nearing.  That is how all of this started.  My husband and read their book years ago, and shared it with me when we were still in Alaska.  We became convinced that a better life consisted of a life that involved growing our own food, spending more time outdoors than in, and raising our family around God.  We wanted to utilize technology, but not be slaves to it.

As we begin to unthaw, and the dawn begins to break, we have begun to have hope and purpose again.  I have been reflecting on our journey here, and everywhere I look, I see the progression of our house, and feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Tomorrow we will finish installing the hot water heater and washing machine.  The flooring is on order.  The last two doors are soon to be installed.  We are beginning to wrap up Phase One of Project Homestead.

You have realized by now, I am sure, that I like to reflect.  It helps me to see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.  I have been reflecting as we prepare to install the washing machine, and thinking about how our lives and comforts have progressed.  I find it interesting that it is now that we are becoming burned out, instead of at any of the other points in the last three years when we have been so much less comfortable.  When we started here, in July of 2014, we were bathing with a solar shower, washing clothes in a bucket, cooking on a camp stove, and doing dishes in a portable camp sink.  We upgraded slowly, VERY slowly.  One year later, we were living in a travel trailer (relative luxury), going to the laundromat, and eating, cooking, and cleaning in the camper.  It took  one-and-a-half years to get indoor plumbing and electricity.  It took two years to get a proper kitchen.  Now, after three years, I am done with the laundromat, done with boiling water on the stove for the kids’ bathwater.

There is almost no evidence left of the way we lived, and what we suffered through to be here now.  The memories linger, however; and make me thankful- every time I take a shower, every time I make a meal, every time I grab something out of the fridge, every time I  sit and watch a movie.  I am thankful for what God has given us, and that he has made us work for every little bit of it in order to give us REAL perspective.  It is so easy to be complacent and just plod along in life – especially now with cellphones, Internet, and technology all around us.  As we come to an end of what has been, for us, a long, cold dark night, I look forward to the coming dawn and all that God has in store for us!

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What If?

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What if we are the kind of people that are always waiting for the next adventure?

What if we are always wondering what is JUST over that next hill?  Around that next bend?

What if we get settled and become uneasy?

What if we stop moving, just for a moment?  What will happen? What will we find?

People ask where we are from and we tell them where we grew up.  But answering the question of where we are from makes us uncomfortable.

People ask how we ended up HERE of all places.  I do not know quite what to say.

What made you go to Alaska, they ask.  What brought you to West Virginia?  How did you pick Northern Minnesota?

So many normal questions that have no easy answers.  We often wonder what makes us different.  What makes us leave, or stay, or pick what adventure will come next?

Why are we not satisfied with the status quo?  Why do we shiver and cringe at the stabililty and normal life that most people have?

Why did God place a Gypsy Spirit in our hearts?  A Wanderlust?  An ability to have a dream, a wish, a desire, and the motivation to make it happen- without getting caught up in the anxiety, mental blocks, and fear that keep most people from moving forward?

Sometimes I WANT to be that person.  But I am not.  And I wonder why.  I wonder what God was thinking about when he made the Dave and Megan molds?  I am not sorry, not for a second.  I just sometimes wonder…..What if?

The Date and Rediscovering Ourselves

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We had an extremely rare opportunity yesterday to spend an entire day without the three kids.  It was like discovering a new, exciting world that we forgot even existed.  The weather was amazing so we made the hour drive to a local State Park and hiked out into the woods.  We set up a spot for a campfire and sat for almost two hours just talking, snacking, drinking tea, and warming ourselves by the fire while we watched the sunset.  We hiked back out at dusk and headed into town for a nice dinner.  I was struck by the strangest feeling while sitting there in the woods.  It felt so foreign, yet so familiar, to be sitting there, enjoying the silence and scenery with my husband.  The silence struck me most of all, because our days are never silent now, interrupted constantly by the whims and whines of three children. I remembered what it felt like to just have the two of us.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE our kids, but there are things I miss for certain.  It was so amazing to experience some of the things I miss and remember why I am so blessed to have found my best friend and be spending my life with him.  It gave us time to reflect on our life, our dreams, and what we are hoping for in coming here and starting our homestead.  It allowed us to talk about what things are important for us to pass on to our children.  We reminisced on our own childhoods and the outdoor experiences that we had that helped to shape who we are today.  It was a wonderful time and I feel so blessed to have had it.

Turning Form Into Function

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When we finished the sheds in the Fall, we were totally burned out and overwhelmed.  We decided that we would take the winter off and not work on the house.  We needed to recharge.  In typical Dave and Megan fashion, though, we cannot sit still and let life go one while we sit idle.  We have done a few small projects that have ended up having a big impact on our happiness.  It seems like it is finally time for our form to turn into functionality.   We have built the house and still have some major projects (flooring, trim, a bit of drywall, etc) but this winter has found us looking around to finish projects that make the space more useable and enjoyable.  Today we moved the kid table downstairs and did a bit of rearranging.  The boys needed a space downstairs to do projects, paint, do schoolwork.  We all have a tendency to sprawl about on the dining room table and with five people, it can get a bit crazy.  This way, the boys can have a kid zone.

We installed the door a few days ago and today I attempted to put one coat of paint on the jamb.  I still need to do a second coat and then tackle the door itself, but finding time for that with three little ones around is proving to be a challenge.  I kept asking for the door to be installed and Dave was dragging his feet a bit.  He kept thinking that it would not make that much of a difference in such a small house, especially since we had been in such close quarters for so long.  We both agree that it has made a definite difference, though!  It is quieter in the morning when the kids wake up and play.  We can close the door on naptime or in the evening, when we want to watch a show.  It also seems to be good for the kids, because now they have a more defined space that is their own.  They spent a good hour the first day knocking on the door and letting each other in!

Last, but definitely not least, we have finally installed the shelving and rod for hanging our clothes properly in the closet!  Now I have to find a place for the mass of bins that we had piled in the closet, but that is for another day.  It seems that with each small project we are exponentially increasing our happiness and finally getting the opportunity to enjoy the space that we have created.  We also have a new coat rack that has replaced the mountain of coats piled in the corner!   As we turn this form into something functional, we are learning a great deal about ourselves, about each other, and about what each of us needs, wants, and can do without.  It has been really exciting to watch this place transform and become a warm, cozy little abode that the five of us call home.

Making New Memories

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My last post probably seemed a little bit on the negative side of things.  In typical Megan fashion, I have to follow-up with a brighter message, because, thank goodness, that is how my heart works!  I had a wonderful thought tonight while laying in the pop-up hunting blind tent in the boys’ room.  We were up there telling stories by fake candlelight and I just felt super happy and warm in my tummy.  We had roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on the woodstove, gone out for a night hike, and were now getting settled in for a camping adventure in their bedroom.   A few days prior, I had been having severe doubts about our life, our isolation, and whether it was good for us, the kids, etc.  As I sat in between the kiddos, telling camping stories, I realized that we were making memories.  SO much of who I have become was shaped by the memories that my parents made with us.  We camped, we hiked, we had adventure upon adventure, we were read to, and sung to, and loved beyond belief.  It does not really matter where we grew up or what our experiences were, because we were loved, we were surrounded by people that wanted what was best for us, and we had parents that believed in making memories.  I am certain that it was not as fun and exciting for my parents as it seemed for us.  I have so much more respect for my parents now, as we attempt to make these memories for our own kiddos.  It is hard work, and not always very gratifying.  I questioned my sanity at 10:45pm when the kids were still squirreling around in their tent whispering to each other.  But I know that no matter what happens, no matter where we are, or what we are doing, we will be making memories with our kids, and they will be memories that help shape the people that they will become.

 

 

The Price of Freedom

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All my husband and I have always wanted was to own property and build our own house. Over time, the dream morphed a bit and landed us here in Northern Minnesota.  We have been building our homestead for over two years now and could write a book about all of the many things that were different and much harder than we ever envisioned. The one thing that has been the toughest on me has been the lonliness and isolation.  There are five of us in a tiny home- it seems like we are never really ‘alone’ but it is absolutely astonishing how lonely I still feel while surrounded by the noise and madness of three small children.  I really do feel that God has a purpose for us here. I pray often for him to reveal that purpose to us.  Sometimes I wonder if he wanted the isolation for us, so that we would turn to him and seek him out in all that we do. But it is hard to seek God in the bathroom, while changing yet another poopy diaper, or in the kitchen, doing the millionth load of dishes, or in the dark of night when  the kids are in bed and I hang my head in exhaustion. There are so many things about this life that are hard… Super hard.  It is made even harder by the lack of community. There is no one for us to talk to, or have over for dinner. There is definitely no one to watch the kids so we can go on a proper date.  I want to be happy here.  I want to embrace our life and all the blessings that we have.  What will the kids think about this life? Will they need more of a social life than we can provide? Will they be happy?

I read a quote today from one of my many books that basically said not to cry over things that cannot cry back. I do not want to whine, or cry, or moan and groan about our life here.  I want to be positive and uplifting. Today, though, I am just lonely and a little sad. I miss family and friends, fellowship and community. I think often about my grandparents, living on their farm in Iowa.  They never went on vacation, rarely had company, and I do not know how much of a local support system that they had. I do not know if I want to live that way. I wish she were here still so that I could ask her how she combated the lonliness.  I think it would be less challenging if it were not for the three little ones. We have stretches of days upon days where we talk to no one but each other and three kids under five. Life is exponentially easier than it was before. We no longer live in a tent, or without running water and electricity. It is my hope and prayer that this coming year will be a time when things not only settle down a bit for us, but allow us the opportunity to start putting down roots and establishing a church family. In the meantime, I will continue to pray about God’s will for us here, and hope that he will send people to us that can become a soure of fellowship and friendship.

Little Sophie Rose

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Little Sophie Rose

Oh how I love you so

There are so many things

that I want you to know.

During the time that you came to us

there were so many fears

The loss of someone dear to us

had brought a flood of tears.

The darkness was unbearable

our hearts were full of pain

It seemed that life could never

be the same again.

We had left our home, our comfort

to move out to this land

to forge a new road

to follow God’s hand.

The road was fraught with peril

the boat was difficult to steer

When I found out you were coming

I was overcome with fear.

How could we find a way

to make room for another.

We were not even sure

when we had your brother.

You came into our life

on a dark and rainy night

A mere 3 hours and you were here

You came in without a fight.

No water, no power, no comforts of home,

I had no idea how we would get by.

So many nights I held you close

and tried not to cry.

But Sophie Rose you shook our world

You grabbed us by the heart.

Your smile, your laugh, your gentle dance,

Have held us from the start.

We were fragile, sad, and overwhelemed

When you first graced our day.

But Sophie Rose, I took one look,

and you took it all away.

God knew what he was doing

When he blessed us with your smile.

He knew we needed you right when you came

He knew it all the while.

Little Sophie Rose

from the moment you were born.

Little Sophie Rose

our Rose amid the thorns.

Blast From the Past

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phone

Today we brought something back that some people’s kids may not have ever seen—- the good old telephone.  When we moved here over two years ago, people who knew us probably thought us a bit odd for our extreme views on cell phones and Smartphones.  When we got here, we ended up with a SmartPhone in an order to connect with family and make the many calls that we needed to make while living in a tent in the field.  Not only did we not have phone or Internet service, we also had no home to plug a phone into!  We have become regular users and went from using the phone on occasion, to having it on all the time, and often in the same room with us at all times.  It became a perceived lifeline for my husband while at home with two, then three kids, while I worked twelve hour shifts.  We went from never sending texts to sending regular texts as a way to communicate quickly without the commitment of talking on the phone.

Well, we have no more excuses.  We came here to provide a different way of life for our children.  We came here to build a farm, build a life, build a family that values experience over objects, that understands and appreciates how each person fits into the harmony of our life, that would always rather be outside than in, that still knows how to think critically and survive over just knowing where to look the answer up on Google.  We have been derided, teased, berated, and belittled– but we stand firm in the belief that we will be smarter, happier, more well-adjusted, and able to survive without the constant bombardment of technology all around us.

We are returning to the days of the house phone and prepaid cellphone for travelling.  If people want to talk to us- they might have to just call and leave a message.  I want the kids to still know how to write a letter or make a phone call and understand why that is even important.  Perhaps we are as misguided as people seem to think, but I do not think so when I see the kids and how happy they are, how connected to one another, to us, to the world around them.  Feel free to leave a message after the beep, we will hopefully be doing something outside, in the kitchen, or somewhere else together as a family and we will be happy to call you back later!

Happy Autumn

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Typically this time of year finds me feeling nostalgic as I look back on the Summer/Spring and all of the fun that I had.  I begin to feel some mixture of sadness and resignation at the coming of Fall and the long, cold Winter.  This year is proving to be very different.  The days are already feeling colder, and the leaves are beginning to turn.  I find myself looking forward to the Winter and the opportunity to snuggle up on the couch with a good book, or spend more time playing games and doing projects with the kids.  I am absolutely amazed by all that we have accomplished since Spring, but  I am also completely exhausted and overwhelmed.

I look back at what we have done and it seems unreal, but when I look at how far we still have to go, it seems just as overwhelming.  I never imagined it would take this long or be so difficult.  We installed our bathroom vanity at the end of March, and here is all that we have accomplished since….

We started off the Spring with just the utility sink and a working toilet and shower.  Dave spent March getting the bathroom vanity and sink installed, while working part-time and taking care of the kids when I went back to work after the new baby.  We spent the last part of Spring and early Summer doing drywall.  We hung the last of the drywall and Dave taped and mudded while I took care of the kids.  When he was done, I would do the painting on naps and after bedtime.  The tongue and groove went up in July, and the kitchen cabinets and sink were installed in September.  We also prepped a new garden bed and planted a full garden.  We have harvested and stored cucumbers (into pickles), zucchini relish, carrots, green beans, squash, and tomatoes.  I have yet to put away homemade ketchup, tomato sauce, salsa verde, tomato salsa, corn, and herbs.  We also stopped working on the house long enough to split 3 cords of wood (only half of what we need), build an 8×16 shed, and start on a 12×16 shop for Dave.  We still have to finish the shop, add some extra stove pipe to the chimney, install the range hood and hook up the gas lines to the oven/range.  Then we will finally be ready for winter.

Last winter I was facing this moment without running water or electricity.  We have come so far!  We are so exhausted and I will shamelessly admit that I am just ready for the snow.  I am ready to be hunkered down in the house with nothing better to do.  We can celebrate birthdays, enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, and perhaps find a hobby that doesn’t involve our house.  There is still much to do, and it can wait until Spring, when the snow starts to melt and we begin to feel the yearning of finishing things unfinished.  For now, though, I long for the days when we can make homemade tapioca pudding, start homeschooling our Kindergartner, and enjoy a book by the warmth of the woodstove.

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

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The sink

This sink and I have a very love/hate relationship.  This sink was one of our first purchases at Menard’s shortly after we moved here.  We set it up  in the kitchen tent when we were camping in the field two years ago.  I cannot quite remember, but I think the kids may have had a bath or two in that sink.  We had a blue water jug above it and I did so many dishes in that sink, with a bucket underneath for the gray water!  I got used to it after awhile, but that bucket overflowed a few times before I got the hang of it.

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The Kitchen Tent

At the end of our three month camping adventure, the sink went with us into the house.  We set it up with the bucket below and the water above.  For over a year we washed dishes that way.  We still did not have officially running water when I came home with our new baby last December,

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The first winter

I carried that gray water bucket out in the snow, the wind, the rain, when pregnant, postpartum, tired, sick, and overwhelmed.  I stood at that sink so many times washing dishes, feeling bitter, feeling overwhelmed, feeling so, so tired.  Each time we upgraded to a slightly better kitchen, the sink stayed on, alongside the Coleman camp stove.  I began to forget what it was like to live comfortably.

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The Upgrade

This was my ‘new’ kitchen shortly after my daughter was born this past winter.  I was so excited to have a ‘real’ countertop!  THe sink and stove had become a part of my new normal.  It never occured to me that most people would think we were nuts if they really knew how we lived, how we cooked, how we cleaned, how we raised our children.  We had an oil lamp in the evenings, an eventually got a rudimentary electric lamp that we plugged in to extension cords running across the kitchen floor.

This past week it happened. The sink was disconnected and moved out to the lawn.  Every time I walk outside, I take a bit of satisfaction in seeing it there, but it is some weird bittersweet feeling.  I cannot begin to describe the joy that I feel in seeing my new sink in the house.  I somehow feel like I am cheating, though, that life should not be this ‘easy’.

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The imposter

It feels as though an imposter has come into the house.  What is this thing that makes my life so much easier, so much more convenient?  What do I do with all the time that I have saved?  I walk by the sink outside again and again and admit that I feel a little bit of nostalgia for what it represents.   Do not mistake me, I am glad to see it go, but I feel like I am saying goodbye to an old friend.

Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

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As is always the case on our homestead there is never an idle moment. If it is not working on building and finishing the house, doing driveway improvements, or any of the other homestead chores, I …

Source: Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

Blinded by Your Presence

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I had this huge epiphany last night when I should have been sleeping. Our newest child has been putting us through the ringer at night. She is 8 months old and has been waking up every hour or two since the day that she arrived in our arms. Due to the space restrictions while building our home, her portable crib was set up in our room, right next to our bed. We felt that this was necessary due to her frequent waking, so that she did not wake the boys. As a result, we have been severely sleep deprived for months, and everything else has been much more difficult a a result of our general fatigue. Two nights ago, we made the decision to set the portable crib up downstairs and put her down there so that we could attempt to train her to soothe herself back to sleep at night without needing our assistance. The first night she nursed at 10:30pm and did not wake up again until 7:30am. I, on the other hand, woke three or four times to check on her and make sure that she was still breathing! The second night, she woke up at 3:30am and then slept until 9:00am when the rest of us came down for breakfast. It was at this 3:30am moment when I realized that my tiny little daughter has much to teach all of us about presence. In our presence, she could not sleep.

As I was walking back upstairs to bed, I was struck by this hilarious irony. How many times in this process have we been blinded or frozen by presence? Because we are immersed in this madness of building a house, we cannot see the joy in what is all around us. Because we are in the presence of our children 24 hours a day, we have difficulty enjoying them and appreciating them the way we might if we had some absence from them. And just as true as presence, is absence. Because we have felt God’s absence in our lives, we have doubted, also, his presence.

My little Sophie taught me so much in these two nights. She has taught me that just because we want something does not mean that we need it. Just because we feel something, it does not always mean that it is in our best interest. Just because something seems good or helpful, or loving, does not mean that it is what we need. Also on the flip side, just because something is absent, does not mean that it is not present. I am always present for my little girl, but being absent has proven to be better for both of us. Perhaps this is the way with God. Not to say that his absence is better, but to say that if we feel his absence, he is still always present. I pray, as I go to sleep tonight, that my children will always feel my presence even when I am absent. That my children will always feel God. That my husband and I will never doubt God’s presence in our lives even in what feels like absence. That we will be able to look back on this time and see beauty, and growth, and success, even in times that feel ugly, and full of struggle, and pain. I thank God for using this tiny moment to teach me something that feels huge. Presence and absence bringing us to the same truth.

Two Years Later… Almost Home?

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Here it is, two years later.  It feels surreal that we even came here and lived in a tent! It has not gone as fast as we had hoped, and many things have changed in our realization of our dream, but in the past two years, we have gone from a tent to a travel trailer, and now, almost, to a home.  We are on the ‘home’ stretch, if you will, and this, in many ways, feels the hardest yet.  We have almost completed all of the drywall work, only a bit more mudding and sanding to go.  We have 80% of the walls painted.  Tomorrow we will begin preparing the tongue and groove to go up on the ceiling downstairs.  After that, we can finish the electrical work to have full power and lights downstairs.  The kitchen cabinets are on order and the cabinet maker is starting them now.  My son keeps saying that he remembers when things were not very nice, when things were not finished and that now, finally, it is beginning to look like a ‘pretty nice house’.  To me, it feels like there is still so far to go, and I know that my husband still feels extremely overwhelmed when he looks around at all of the projects yet to come.  The truth, though, is that we have come so far……

Tonight I spent a bit of time trying to get things set up for our last round of ‘roughing it’ before we are finished.  I want things to be more normal for the kids.  I want things to be more normal for all of us!  So I have spent the last few days cleaning and sorting and painting and moving.  When I look at the photos, I still see unfinished, but hopefully you can look at them and see progress!

I feel tired, but I also feel hopeful.  We have gone through so many emotions in the last two years and I cannot even begin to describe the many ways that our hopes and dreams have changed.  We are glad to be here and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to do such an amazing thing.  We still yearn for the spiritual growth and fellowship that we left behind, and we keep wondering what exactly God has in store for us.  We cannot help but wonder what exactly he brought us here to do.

I find myself almost anxious for winter.  This summer has been one project after another after another, and when winter comes, we will settle in and be left with just the finishing touches.  This is the most exhausting, emotionally trying, difficult thing we have ever done, and I am just thankful that we are still together as a family to talk about it!  It is my deepest hope that this next year, the third year, will bring us closure on this chapter in our lives, closure on the building of this house, and that we will begin to grow the farm, grow our spirits, and grow closer again to God as we have the time and energy to again focus inward and upward.

The Grain Bin

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In typical Dave and Megan fashion, we decided on a bit of a whim to drive 3 hours with the kids to go check out a grain bin on Craigslist. The price was right and it seemed like a good cheap and fast way to get some storage space until we could build a shop.

The reality of doing this with three little kids was a bit overwhelming. We drove up in the evening, spent the night in a hotel, and got up early the next day to meet a friend for the ‘take down’.

 

 

After a dozen phone calls we managed to find someone with grain bin jacks. We picked them up and the boys began the arduous task of dismantling the bin one layer at a time.  I hit the road for the three hour car trip to pick up the trailer. When I came back, things seemed to be moving along!

It took them eight hours to get it down. We finally got home that night at midnight. Tired, dirty, and hoping this was a good idea, we fell into bed.  This project would be so much easier if we just had the ability to build what we needed.  Now we have to pour a slab, put this crazy thing back together, sprayfoam it, and then finally be able to use it for storage.  We certainly do not need another project, but we do need storage and we do need to turn our house into a home without the living room being full of tools.   To quote the five year old when he came downstairs one morning,  “This place is a mess. It looks like a garage in here!”.  Ah, the infinite wisdom and lack of filter…..

Another day in the crazy life at Simbow Farm….

 

How Low Can You Go?

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I am dating myself, but do any of you remember playing limbo on the roller skating rink?  I do!  We were out there roller skating with the lights flashing and the music playing and the announcer yelling, “How low can you go?”.  There was always a line, different for each of us, that meant the difference between rolling smoothly under the limbo stick, or falling on your butt on the rink floor.   I feel like we are in the throes of discovering where our line is and I am not sure that we are skating so smoothly these days.  We are tired of playing the limbo game and we are ready to just be skating across the rink with no more obstacles in our way.

It has been almost two years since we drove onto this property.  Everyone is tired.  We are tired of living in limbo, we are tired of having all our belongings in boxes.  We are tired of having our living room be consumed by power tools.  We are tired of coming home and not being comfortable.  I think the most difficult thing is not knowing when we will be out of this state of limbo and into the comfort of a finished home.  Today we spent most of the day moving back out to the camper.  It makes me tired and anxious to pack things up and move them yet again, even if it is only to move them thirty feet across the yard to the camper.   Tomorrow we will finish clearing out the downstairs so that we can finish the drywall, paint,  get the tongue and groove on the ceiling, and install the rest of the electrical outlets and lights.  We will get a quote for kitchen cabinets and hopefully get them installed by the end of summer.  I am apprehensive.  I do not know how much we will get done and we are both feeling really, really tired.  We need to finish enough by winter that we can stop living in limbo.  I want to unpack.  I want to have my clothes hanging in the closet.  I want to have carpet in the bedrooms.  I want to have a living room that has a couch in it instead of a band saw.  I want to cook on a real stove and use the Coleman Camp Stove for camping, not daily living.  I want to wash a load of laundry after the kids go to bed, not trudge everyone to the Laundromat and have it take all day.

I know that God will work in our lives to teach us to be humble, to be more patient, and to lose our pride, and selfishness.  I know that he wants to be the center of our lives.  I know that we also do not get any more hardship than we can handle, but I am really wondering right now how God knows where my breaking point is, because I feel like I am there.  I pray every day for strength, for stamina, for discernment, for guidance, for hope….. Some days are good, many are not.  Each time I tackle yet another challenge, it gets harder, because I am tired of playing the game!  I keep having to remind myself that we chose this path and it is our path to walk through to the finish line.   Praying and hoping that when we get to the finish, we will still feel like skating.  Joseph is my guide these days, as I think about how long he struggled before he was able to realize the true meaning of his dream and follow it to fruition, and how much loss and heartache he must have felt in the meantime.

From Cabin Fever to Spring Fever

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I was thinking the other day about the blurry line between cabin fever and spring fever.  This winter seemed particularly long to me.  Perhaps it was the new baby in December that made it drag on, or maybe it was the snow cover that remained into March, but it was well into March before I began to feel the stirring of energy and motivation.  It is still much to muddy to begin doing many outdoor projects, although I am slowly plugging away at the garden expansion.  The energy is being focused into finishing the house.  I am beginning to look around at the unfinished drywall, uncarpeted floors, doorways with no doors, and I want to see it finished!  We have come so far and it will be such an amazing feeling to see things come to completion.

It is difficult to believe that we are almost two years into this project.  Our  younger son was only seven months old when we came here, and learned to crawl in a tent!  He is now running, jumping, talking, and doing his best to keep up with his big brother.  This is all he will know- this property, this house, this way of life.

Spring is running quickly into Summer, and before we know it, Fall will be knocking at our doorstep.  I have such high hopes of getting this place whipped into shape before we begin another Winter in the harsh North.  The past two years have made me jaded, though, and anxiety creeps in when I think of the possibility of another winter without the comfort of having a home to relax in.  Yes, we have a house, but I am so ready for a home.  I know, realistically, that time and money will both restrict how far we can get on this project.  There was a time, when we were still suffering with cabin fever, that we looked around at this place, and hoped for a house fire while we were away at the store.  We have been beaten down by challenges, and have become much more realistic about the struggle and strife that come with the realization of a dream.  As we move out of the season of struggle and hardship, I am trying to keep my chin up and believe that the warm Summer sun will thaw out our dampened spirits and that we will be able to find the energy and stamina we need to finish our house and begin to make it a home!

Thinking Back on Crazy….

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For some reason today I sat in the house, listening to the rain, and I was reflecting back on the summer we moved here.  What in the world were we thinking?  How did we just drive 1500 miles away from ‘home’ and pull into our field with a cheap Walmart tent and think this was a good plan?  I am not saying that we made a wrong decision, but who does this stuff?  We had a plan, sort of, that consisted of building a house, but we had no idea how the details were going to go.  I just keep thinking back on how if any one thing had gone wrong, it could have been a disaster!  The rain, the mosquitos, the mud, the madness.  I would love to know what the neighbors thought as they heard my sons shrieks from his ‘time-out’ chair in the middle of the field, or what the locals thought of these crazy, homeless people living in a tent with their two little kids.  It rained so much that summer that when we stepped into the tent, it felt like walking on a water bed- with the rain water pooling in between the thick Mississippi clay and the tent bottom.  Our kitchen tent, 300 yards away, never got ransacked by critters, although we both lost 10 pounds each from having to go so far for food (kind of killed the late-night snacking problem).  Our younger son learned to crawl in the tent, and saw the outside world through a mosquito screen.  Our oldest son had to transition from just being potty-trained to using an outhouse and went from a cozy three bedroom house to sharing a 10×20 tent with four people.  I still hear the wind and think about the fear of losing our tent the first week we were here to the 70 mile an hour gusts.  I cannot listen to a thunderstorm without shuddering because of the horror of mud and muck invading our lives.  I cannot slap a mosquito without remembering the clouds that surrounded us everywhere we went. We laugh about it now but it was madness!  We are still a long way from finished and the house is still more construction zone than home, but it is getting there, in slow, steady little steps.  Someday it will be a nice, cozy home, and we will look back on the photos from the beginning and not even remember how crazy it was getting here.

A Single Moment

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I used to lay in bed at night after a particularly good or bad day and review the events of the day in my head- like a slideshow.  I would see pictures of things that happened as if I were watching a movie.  I would review the individual moments that made up the whole of my day and if they were bad moments, I would sometimes try to think in my head how they could have been good moments, or how the outcome could have changed.  I was thinking about that yesterday, as I was trying to survive another day at home with the three kids.  The baby screamed whenever she was awake, the two year old skipped his nap and screamed for two hours, and I was exhausted.  I had these MOMENTS during the day, that made it all seem okay.  The moment where the baby smiled at her brothers as they were cooing over her her and giving her kisses.  The moment where the boys were actually playing together instead of fighting.  The moment where my four-year-old came up and gave me an unsolicited hug for no reason.  It is the moment that perhaps defines us, or at least how we view the moment.  I have resolved to try and review these good moments each and every day and let the bad moments slip through my mind like sand through my fingers…..

There are days when the good moments are few, but it is the good moments that will make memories.  I cannot be a perfect mother.  I cannot be a perfect wife.  I cannot be a perfect ME, but God sees me and loves me where I am, not where I need to be.  If only I could be this forgiving of myself!  It is the moments that I will remember when I think about building our home.  It is the moments I will remember when I think back on the kids.  I do not want to let the bad moments define me or my memories.  What we are doing is TOUGH.  What we are doing is also AMAZING.

When I think back on the moments that have brought us to this place, this house, I see us driving away from our home in West Virginia with two trucks, two trailers, two kids, and a dog.  I see us so idealistic, pulling into our field and setting up a tent to live in with only vague ideas of how the house is going to get built.  I see the baby learning to crawl in a 10  x 20 tent.  I see our older son taking a bath in a storage bin and loving it.  I see my husband working hard every day to build this house.  I see my son running through the field shrieking because a cricket (or was it a frog?) attached itself to his Spiderman boot.  I see the MUD everywhere from the torrential rains that had to come the summer we camped in a tent.  I see my son learning from his father how to hold a hammer, how to light a fire, how to be a SURVIVOR.  I see our younger son sitting on the floor ‘carving’ with his papa.  I see the baby smiling at her brothers and completely, blissfully unaware of the unfinished drywall, the madness and mayhem of an unfinished home.  I see my husband and I up on a lift at 10:00 at night trying to put the stove pipe up by headlamp while the boys are sleeping inside- he keeps trying to move around on the lift and there is no room because I am so pregnant.  I see my older son riding his bike with no training wheels, racing down the driveway ahead of me while I walk with our younger son.  I see the boys running to the garden to pick the ripe tomatoes and bring them back to me, squished by their fat little fingers, but offered up as a wonderful delicacy.  I hear the boys giggling and playing in their bunks in the travel trailer and I want to be mad because they should be sleeping, but it reminds me of my brother and I in our bunk many years ago….  I remember playing cards with my husband by oil lamp and talking about what God wants for us.

There are so MANY things that I remember, and many of them are hard.  It is my hope that as a family, we can all look back on these years and remember the moments that brought smiles, laughter, and love and that these moments will hold more POWER than the moments that brought sadness, anger, or tears.  I never really thought about it before- how much power a moment can have, and how much power I can have if I choose to redefine the moment and make it something positive to help me get through my day.  It is interesting to look at the definition of the word MOMENT.  Websters defines it as 1. a brief period in time 2. importance 3.  a tendency to produce motion..  What a cool idea that a MOMENT can be an important period in time that has a tendency to produce motion!!   May the moments we play over an over in our minds at the end of the day be something that we choose to hold onto to help propel us forward instead of keeping us stagnant or held hostage to our fears and anxieties about what the moment COULD have been.

The Power of The Sun

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Today was a typical day at home with the kids (as typical as it can get when living in a partially finished, tiny house with 5 people).  We had breakfast, a fire in the woodstove, some YouTube dance party, a cartoon on the computer, some library book reading time, a nap.  What was not so typical about our day was the fact that all of our energy to power the house came from the sun!  We spent more on the solar system than we thought we would and maybe we could have just run power from the road, but it feels really cool to know that if the whole world went nuts around us- we could still have power and water and flush toilets!  There is something  really cool about having this house just run without any help from anyone else.  This is why we came here- to build a self- sufficient homestead.  Some days, I feel like the house is alive- the humming of the inverter, the roaring of the woodstove.  It all needs constant upkeep and attention, but that is part of what makes ME feel alive- choping wood, brusing snow off the solar panels, feeding the fire, monitoring the batteries.  It makes me feel different about the sun, too, today, knowing that its warm glow is helping to make our house a home…

The Not-So-Simple Life

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I remember ten or so years ago when my husband and I began talking about buying land and building a house, we had such a romantic notion of what it would all be like.  We schemed and planned and stayed up late talking about all the things that we would do.  When we rolled onto the property and set up camp, we still had a fairly skewed view of what it would actually take to make this dream happen.  We had lived in all sorts of crazy situations in Alaska- one room cabins, no running water, no road access.  We never did it with kids, though.  We lived in an old house in Nome that had no running water, and we had to ride in and out on a snowmobile, hauling water, fuel oil, groceries, etc.

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When we left Alaska, we camped in a modified horse trailer for three months while we looked for property or a house.  It was a pretty basic existence, but it wasn’t so bad.  We actually kind of missed it once we moved into a house.

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When we moved to Minnesota, it was a much different scenario.  Setting up our 10×20 Walmart tent in a field didn’t seem so crazy, but having a three year old and six month old while we did it seemed kind of nuts.  It has been a year and a half since then.  We camped in the field for four months, had a brief respite in a rented house for the winter, then into a 30 foot travel trailer for six months.

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We have now been in the house for two months and it has been anything but simple!  For the last two months, we were pumping water into 7-gallon jugs to use for dishes, drinking, etc.  We had a rather glorious composting toilet (aka bucket with peat moss).  For lights we used a propane lantern or oil lamps combined with various flashlights and headlamps.  We have cooked on a two-burner Coleman camp stove for longer than I would like to think about.  Let’s not even talk about showers (lots of baby wipes, visiting family, and other creative means).  For food preservation, we had to resort to using a cooler with frozen water jugs, and occasionally running to the fridge in the camper for meat or dairy.  Every part of my day was consumed by doing something to have either water, lights,  or sewer.  If I got up to make coffee, I would first need to do dishes.  To do dishes, I would need to empty the gray water, then fill up the water jug that ran out the night before.  Then, the propane would be empty for the cook stove.  On and on, my day would go, making me feel more and more crazy with every passing moment and every chore that piled on to the chore before.

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Our first upgrade took place on Christmas Eve, when my husband worked all day to hook up the water to the bathroom.  We still had to run a generator to use the water, but it was a start!  The bathroom buckets went outside with much happiness.  I would be fine to never look at those buckets ever again!  A few days later, the bucket for gray water went out to sit with the other buckets.  My husband was able to get the utility sink hooked into the plumbing and septic.  The next big project came  on New Years Eve when he stayed up to work on the solar system and switched the power on at midnight!  For the last week, we have had power upstairs, in the bathroom, and to the well pump.  The downstairs still needs to be wired but it feels absolutely amazing to have power to even part of the house.  Today the refrigerator came and we should be able to get it powered up by tonight.  Then the cooler will join the growing pile of things outside that we no longer need.  The propane lantern and oil lamps will go into storage.  Little by little, I keep adding things to the pile of stuff that needs to go to storage.  There goes the water pump, the hose, the 7-gallon water jug.  There goes the cooler, the lamps, the buckets.  With each upgrade that we do, life gets that much more simple.  The trick now will be finding the balance between simple and cluttered.  Turning a light switch on or running water out of a faucet is simple.  These are basic necessities that makes life so much easier.  It will be so easy, though, to jump right from simple back to cluttered.  Cluttered with Internet, television, and all of the busyness that we came here to get away from.

The issue that we are struggling with now is how we use our ‘free’ time that is no longer tied up in just existing.  When we sit down in the evening to finally have some rest, do we give in to the temptation and watch a movie on our newly hooked up Internet service, or do we play cards and interact together as a family, or read a book, journal, or have some Bible study time?  This is the struggle for us.  We wanted a ‘simple’ life.  We came here to start a homestead, grow our own food, raise livestock, and be more self-sufficient.  In simplifying, we are still doing more hands-on work to sustain ourselves than most, but by adding more of the modern conveniences, we are allowing more time for other activities.  Where do we find a balance between activities to sustain our bodies, activities to sustain our mental health, and activities to sustain our spirits?  This will be the challenge moving forward.  Up to this point, all of our time and energy has been spent on activities to sustain our bodies, and there was no time or energy left for anything else.  As we begin to free up more time by upgrading, we must discover how to ‘simplify’ and upgrade the other areas of our lives as well.

A Season for Love

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Last night, we were finally laying down to sleep after a two hour adventure to put together a Fire Station for the boys to have on Christmas Day.  It was after midnight and we should have gone right to sleep, but we lay awake talking about the boys, about being parents, about things that we wished for our kids.  I made the comment that if I could have any present in the whole world for Christmas, I would ask God to make me the parent that my kids need me to be.  I get angry sometimes; I yell sometimes; I get impatient; I do not always nurture their spirits but I get frustrated and say things that I shouldn’t.  As we lay in bed, talking about Christmas, I finally verbalized what I have been thinking about for a long time.  Just make me the parent that they need.  Just do that for me, God, and I do not want anything else in the whole world.

This afternoon our oldest son was jumping up and down, begging for me to go on a walk outside with him.  I didn’t want to.  We were all still in our pajamas at 4pm in the afternoon on Christmas Day.  I reluctantly put on our younger sons shoes and coat and we trudged outside for ‘an adventure’.  We walked the length of the field, down to the edge of the trees.  I walked beside my younger son, holding his hand in mine as our oldest ran ahead of us, constantly narrating out loud his interpretation of the world around us.  I was overcome with love for these boys, for this moment, for the chance to walk with them and reflect on our life, our property, our path.

So many times in the past four years, I have had people speak to me about the ‘seasons’ in life, and specifically how this was my season to be a parent.  They were referring to the fact that this is my most important job right now, and one that I need to be completely and totally devoted to.  This is my season, and like it or not, this is where God means for me to be.  I never quite grasped this idea, because I wasn’t sure that this was a season that I WANTED to be in.  Not to say that I did not want to be a parent, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a parent to the exclusion of everything else in my life.  As I walked in the field, crunching through the snow, holding my sons hand, I suddenly GOT IT.  This evening, as the new baby lay sleeping downstairs in the bouncy, I took an extra 20 minutes to sing to my youngest son in the rocking chair and hold him until he fell asleep.  Then I read some extra books to the oldest, and tucked him into bed, and finally, I sat on the couch with my husband on one side of me and the sleeping baby girl on the other side, and thought about seasons.  It doesn’t matter if this is what I thought it would be.  It doesn’t matter if it is what I want to be doing every minute of every day.  What matters is that right now, for this brief moment in their lives, I am their everything, and they NEED me.  They need me to be present.  They need me to be loving.  They need me to be patient and kind and nurturing.  I have finally, after four years and three kids, figured out that there is no room in my life for selfishness.  It serves no purpose.  My kids did not ask to be here, it was a choice that we made and now it is my season to give all my love and life to them.  I cannot promise tht I will not yet get impatient with them, or angry, or say things that I shouldn’t, but I finally get my purpose, my season.  RIght here, right now, my days are meant to be spent sitting on the floor playing games, or singing songs before bed, or brushing teeth, getting clothes on wiggly bodies, and holding hands while we walk in the snow. Instead of thinking about all of the other things that I could or should be doing, I just need to be present for them and given them all of my love.  Thank you, God, for giving me the only thing that I wanted for Christmas.  Thank you for finally opening my eyes to see what a precious and important job that I have been entrusted with.    Thank you for the chance to love them- may I continue to grow and become the parent that they need, and the parent/person that YOU want me to be, instead of the person that I think I want to be.

Why Our Family Needed This

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I didn’t know if I wanted a baby girl. I knew what to do with boys. They were familiar, even in their madness and mayhem.  I felt strangely indifferent. Then I saw her. In the first hours after she was born, my husband lay sleeping beside us after a long night, and the boys were watching cartoons with the midwife. I lay awake and just stared at her tiny face, her soft lips, and silky hair. I could not stop looking at her.

Almost a week later, I have not put her down for more than a few minutes at a time. I have the bassinet next to the bed, but she hasn’t slept in it yet. She sleeps snuggled up in my arms, cuddling her soft face into my neck. I have so few moments to myself, but what time I do have, I spend in precious quietness with her.

I didn’t know how much I needed her until I held her in my arms. She brings softness and beauty and grace to a world that feels out of control. It has been a year and a half now since we left the comfort of our home to come to this land and build a homestead. In that year and a half we have lived in a tent for five months, a camper for another six months, and we are now living in a partially finished house. I am surrounded by harshness. Our reality consists of chopping wood every day for the stove, using a generator or oil lamp for light, hauling water in blue seven gallon jugs, trying to keep the house clean with two boys, my husband, and two dogs crammed into a tiny living space- it makes me weary. Concrete floors and unfinished drywall glare at me downstairs while I am attempting to make dinner on a camp stove by oil lamp. I look past the card table that serves as a dining table and see tools in the area that should be a living room. The boys are loud and rambunctious upstairs and keep wearing holes in their socks and pajamas on the unfinished wood floor. They run and scream and jump and the only quietness comes when they are sleeping.

And then, surrounded by madness, I look down and see little Sophie sleeping in the sling, completely at home against my chest. It melts my guard. It softens my weariness that this life is giving me. It lifts my burden of stress and anxiety and makes me feel quiet and soft and peaceful. At night, I rub my cheek against her hair and drift to sleep listening to her breathing. This is why God gave us a girl, and this is why he gave her to us now. We all needed her gentleness, her softness, her beauty. Even the boys seem to recognize that she is different. They whisper around her, and stroke her soft hair. They tell her that they love her and then run off to continue screaming and jumping and playing. My husband says that she is the rose among the thorns.  I thank God daily for giving her to us and pray for him to continue using this little rose to  lift up our tired and weary hearts.

If You Give a Couple a Homestead

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So I am sure that most of you have had an opportunity to read some of the children’s books by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. If you are not familiar with them, take a look at our favorite, If You Give a Moose a Muffin [Laura Numeroff, Felicia Bond]. Dave and I decided that this book is similar to our daily life right now in so many ways, but without the yummy muffin as a reward! I have decided that instead of whining about the craziness of our lives every single day, I should just turn it into a parody based on these books. So here is the Sims on the Homestead version……

If you give your husband and kids some eggs and toast, they will want some juice to go with it.
To get the juice you will have to bundle up in winter gear and go out to the camper to get it from the fridge.
When you get out to the camper, you will realize that they may want a yogurt also.
You grab the juice and yogurt and take them into the house.
To eat the yogurt and drink the coffee, they need a mug and some spoons.
To get a mug and a spoon, you have to wash some dishes.
To wash some dishes, you discover that you need more water.
You go out to pump more water from your barrel to your jug.
While you are out there, you remember that you both like to have creamer in the coffee.
You go back to the camper to get the creamer.
When you are back inside the house, you start to wash the dishes.
You see water running towards you on the floor and realize that the gray water bucket has run over.
You go back outside to empty the bucket.
While you are out there, you know you might as well get some firewood for the wood stove.
You carry the bucket of wood and empty water bucket into the house.
It is still too dark to do the dishes without light, so you grab your headlamp.
It is out of batteries. The batteries are charging in the camper.
You bundle up and go back to the camper AGAIN to get the batteries.
You take the juice back to put in the fridge and trudge back to the house with your headlamp and new batteries.
You replace the water bucket, wash the dishes, and serve coffee, yogurt, and eggs and toast.
When eating breakfast and drinking coffee, you realize that the kids might like another glass of juice…..

I’m Not Ready (For So Many Things)

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I have stalled and stalled on writing another blog- partly a lack of time, but more because I have not felt that I could really present a positive view. I finally decided that I should just write anyway, because this is reality, and if you are building your own homestead then you know how hard it is, and if you are just reading to follow along, then you need to know the day to day truth about choosing this life.

I am tired. I am overwhelmed. I am 32 weeks pregnant. I am tired of living in a travel trailer (five months now). It snowed today in between rain. Winter is coming and we are not ready. We were able to get the siding done, and we installed the chimney pipe and have a working wood stove. The septic was completed and the well line run to the house. We are now working on installing the main components of the solar system and building a housing/frame for the solar panels. I would love to say that once that is done we will have power, but there is still so much more. We have to wire the outlets upstairs and install lights. Downstairs we have to finish the plumbing so we can test the water lines, put up the rest of the drywall, then wire the outlets and lights downstairs. Then,we can turn on the power. Then we can begin to think about what needs to be done to finish the bathroom, and buy a refrigerator. After all of that, we will need to find the time to chop more wood, cover the new septic with insulating hay, and button things up for snowfall.

I keep thinking about my last post and how I was trying so hard to be optimistic. That really is my nature. Perhaps it is the pregnancy that has robbed that from me, or the 18 months that it has been since having a home to relax in. I am not afraid of what the future holds, I know that as is the case and has always been the case, that Dave and I will persevere. I know that we will make the best out of a tough situation. I am just tired. Every day seems like it has too many tasks for me to accomplish and still somehow take care of myself, my husband, and the kids. I feel bad that I cannot sit on the floor and play with the boys. I miss reading stories to them every night before bed. I long for the day when we do not have to ration water, ration power, and ration our time. I want to lounge about in my pajamas all day on my day off and bake cookies with the boys. I want to think about tomorrow with enjoyment and look forward to the time to spend with my family, instead of dreading the list of things that needs to get done before I go back to work. It feels overwhelming to know how much still needs to be done. It feels overwhelming to look down at my growing belly and know that we are not ready for this new life. It feels overwhelming to go into the house and look around and see all of the things that need to be done.

I pray every day that God will shine his light down on our little family and help us to see the way ahead. I pray that he will pave the way for us to get done what we need to get done. I pray that he will help us to feel calm and peaceful in the face of adversity. I pray that he will help us see the blessings in the things that most people take for granted- water, electricity, leisure time, carpet, washing machines, and so much more! I pray that he will help us to find our way in this crazy adventure and in the stillness of the night (the only time we have any stillness!) that he will help us to hear his voice whispering to us that what we are doing is good, and right, and that it will bring our family closer together and closer to him. I pray that he will remind us over and over again that just as we are building our house from foundation to roof, that he is doing this for us and so much more!

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One Year Later- It is All About Perspective

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August 22

August 22

August 25

August 25

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Well, here it is……One year later. One year ago we finally began building the house that had been a dream for longer than I can remember. There have been so many challenges, too many hurdles, family tragedy, and more lessons and growth than I can even begin to describe. One year ago we were living in a 10 x 20 tent with two small kids, waiting for the rain to stop so that the concrete trucks could come out and pour the foundation. Today we are living in an 8 x 30 travel trailer while we struggle to get the siding on the house and drywall finished and painted before winter.

I have so many people on a regular basis ask how the house is coming. Are we making progress? Will it be ready for winter? When will it be finished? I do not know how to answer these questions. What is ‘finished’ to you is not the same as what is ‘finished’ to me. I lived in a tent for 3 months. I will live in a travel trailer for 4-5 months. When we move into that house in whatever state of finished it is, it will be a mansion. I will be living in luxury. I will have lights that come on when I flip a switch. I will have a toilet that flushes and a bathroom that is bigger than my current bedroom. I will have a regular sized refrigerator. I may not have carpet. I may not have kitchen cabinets or counters. I may not have a house that is ‘finished’, and it will be wonderfully, gloriously awesome!

It is such an amazing feeling to walk into that house and think of the memories that are embedded into every square inch of that house. I am actually getting excited to think about the new life that will begin in that house, and to see my boys grow and have their own memories there. Our oldest will remember living in a tent. He will remember the process of building a house from the ground up. My younger son will not remember, but I believe his life will be shaped by his ability to adapt to life in any circumstance. The new baby will have to suffer endless stories about the crazy life we lived. All of us will be better for it.

We have so much left to do to be comfortable this winter. The septic has to be finished and the well put in. We have to complete the wiring and install the solar system. We need to hang the rest of the drywall, finish it, and paint. The siding needs to be put up. The wood stove will need to be installed with wood chopped and stacked. I have wavered between feelings of anxiety about the work that needs to be done, complete panic about it NOT being done, and comfort, knowing that whatever is done will be fine. Ultimately, though, it is all about perspective. I feel calm because I will not be living in a tent. I know that the travel trailer will be closed up for winter. I will be sleeping in a bedroom regardless of whether it has a door on it or not. I will be using a bathroom that is finished, and I will be cooking and eating in two distinctly separate areas. My kids will be able to play in one room, eat in another, and watch a cartoon in yet another. I find myself comforted by the coming change of season, knowing that it will mark a new chapter in this journey. We will begin our life in this new house, and although there will still be a significant amount of work to be done, it will begin to become our home. We can begin to construct our vision for what we want the property to become, to talk about the garden, the livestock, the landscaping, the outbuildings. We can dream again and relax in the knowledge that what we want, we can accomplish. We can rejuvenate, recuperate, and reflect. We can begin a new year of this crazy adventure, eagerly awaiting what God has in store for us!

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A Good Day at the Farm

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It has been almost a month since we moved back to the property. It has been a super busy month- getting settled back into simple living; setting the ‘new’ travel trailer up to serve as our temporary home; getting the solar system up and running; mowing the area around the house and camper. It has taken some time to readjust, but it is definitely easier this time. Living in the tent for three months has given us some perspective. We are now in the lap of luxury with our travel trailer and its running water, electricity, refrigerator, and occasional air conditioning! I would like to say that we have made mountains of progress on the house, but we, in fact, have not! We have taken time to clean up the property around the house, get things moved into the ‘storage’ room upstairs, get the kids room set up as a playroom, and work on setting up a storage tent for all of our many farm implements and tools. Dave has just begun work on the bathroom again and we are getting excited as we begin picking out trim options, paint ideas, and a bathroom vanity.

Today was the first day since being out here that I have had time to sit in relative quiet and reflect. The boys were playing together (finally) on the sand pile. The four-year-old was busy ‘working hard and making a garden’ with the hoe while his brother was using a plastic shovel to fill up the dog bowl with sand. Dave was driving the tractor and mowing the spot that will eventually become our garden. I had this overwhelming sense of happiness and peace. I realized, as I sat in my son’s Red Flyer wagon and watched my boys and man, that this was exactly the moment that we had been waiting for. This was the reason we trekked across the country in search of a better life for ourselves and our kids. The last year has been full of questions about our move, uncertainty about our decision. It has also been full of a longing and heartache for our old church family, friends, and even small little house in town. We have been tired and frustrated, homesick and lonely. Today, I finally felt like my heart has settled a bit.

Tomorrow we will try a new church closer to home. When we get home, Dave will use our ‘new’ ancient plow to till up a garden plot for a very late planting. We will begin to see our ‘property’ turn into a farm. We can begin to envision where the chickens and goats will go. We are talking about where the crops should be planted, and where the trees should be planted for wind protection and privacy. After a long, hard year, we have begun to dream again. It is funny, my dad commented that we always refer to our land as ‘the property’ and he wondered why that was. He always called his boyhood home ‘the land’ or ‘the farm’. Today I realized that we are now starting to call our place ‘the farm’ but this was a title that we had to work for. It was ‘the property’ for so long because to us, it was just a piece of land. Now it is becoming a home, and a farm, and the end result of many years of dreaming. Today was a good day on the farm. I am glad that we are here, and I am thankful for the many blessings we have had along the way.

Letter to Myself….and to You

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This is a letter that I would write to you, but cannot seem to say to myself. It is me, of course, but I will write it in the third person, maybe in the hopes that some of it will sink in eventually…..

To the mom in the tile section of the hardware store:

I love you. You are wonderful.

It doesn’t matter that you are sitting on the cart looking dejected while your kids are running barefoot up and down the aisle.

It doesn’t matter that they are building a house out of sponges and wanting you to ‘blow their house down’, while you wish you could disappear into the inventory.

It doesn’t matter that store employees keep asking if they can help and you just tiredly ask them if they can babysit while you pick out tile. All you want to do is to pick out tile.

It doesn’t matter that they keep walking nervously by, wondering when you are going to leave with your unruly children.

It doesn’t matter that you feel like a total loser as your children run around screaming and acting like wild animals in a zoo.

I love you because I KNOW that you are a good mom.

I love you because I know that you have high expectations and set high standards for your children, even if you cannot make them live up to them.

I love you because you get up every day and try your hardest.

I love you because you are doing something very hard.

It really doesn’t matter that you feel like you have lost total control of your life.

It really doesn’t matter if you question every day if you are qualified for this job.

The fact that you ASK, means you ARE.

I watch you push your cart out of the store, with barefoot, dirty children in tow, piling your purchases in the back of your truck, and I know that in spite of your fatigue, in spite of your deep fear of failure, in spite of your complete embarrassment at how your children act EVERY TIME you go to the hardware store- you will still read them bedtime stories, you will still sing them to sleep, and tuck them in after they drift off after an hour of whining about monsters.

I know this, because you are me…….

Our Newest Addition to the Family

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Massey Ferguson 65

Well, tomorrow we are having our ‘new’ tractor dropped off. It was a pretty tough and scary decision when we still have so much else to do. In the end, we decided that we really need to start working on putting in a garden, doing our own hay, and turning our homestead into a working farm! With luck, we will have enough left to still get a shop/garage up this summer, too. Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota!

A Quiet Winter

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Our First Winter

Our First Winter

It has been a relatively quiet winter for us after what seemed like a crazy, busy, stress-filled Summer and Autumn. I am not even sure I really remember much of it! We raced to get the house ready for the coming Winter, and work suddenly screeched to a halt as our funds dwindled along with our energy and stamina. We have picked up working again and are almost ready to paint the upstairs, but the list of things still to be done is daunting. We are looking toward Spring with a mixture of excitement and dread- excitement for all the things that we want to happen, and dread for the work that it will take to make them happen! We have had a fair amount of time this Winter to reflect on the past year, and it still amazes me that we have gotten this far with our sanity somewhat intact! We try not to dwell too much on what we find ourselves missing- but we are acutely missing our ‘family’ that we made while in West Virginia. It has been hard here, to carve out a life for ourselves, build a house, and raise two small children without the support of those around us. We feel somewhat isolated and alone, which makes the stress of everything we are doing that much more intense. We take comfort in knowing that when we finally have our home completed, and begin building up our farm, we will have such an amazingly strong and tight-knit family. We also know that once we are back out at our property full-time, we will be able to become more involved in our community. This will help us to begin to build the strong ties that make a place become a home.

A Dream Realized

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I read a quote the other day, and I have no idea who said it, but the quote said, “the only difference between a dream and a goal is setting a date”. I remember one year ago, when we were tentatively deciding to put the house up for sale in March and ‘set a date’ to begin building our ‘dream’. What a wild ride it has been! I have never actually posted the timeline of the build with photos, and I figured it was time to do so. We finally began prepping the ground for the foundation on August 22nd, and are finally getting the drywall in 4 months later. So far to go, but oh, how far we have come!

The Field

Site Prep

August 20

August 20

August 22

August 22

August 22

August 22

August 24

August 24

August 25

August 25

Day 3

Day 4

Day 4

Day 6

Day 6

Day 7

Day 7

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August

August

August

August

August

August

September 3rd

September 3rd

Night by Oil Lamp

Camping Inside

September

September

September

September

Downstairs Drywall

Shallow Well Attempt

Shallow Well Attempt

Winters Coming

Our first accessory!

Our first accessory!

November Project

November Project

Decembers Project

Decembers Project

Headlamp Drywall

Headlamp Drywall

Upstairs Drywall

Flashback to Another Adventure

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I was going through some things today in our process to simplify and de-clutter our lives.  I came across a notebook with a single journal entry from our time in the summer of 2009 when we moved to West Virginia and lived in a modified horse trailer in a campground for 3 months……

My thoughts were suddenly broken by Dave’s voice as he looked at me, bewildered, and said, “What is the purpose of all of this?”.  I felt temporarily confused as I swam out of my own reveries. “The purpose of what?”, I inquired.  His hands flew up in frustration as he gestured all around us.  “This, all of this, living for three months in a horse trailer.  What lesson is there in all of this?”.  I looked down at my camp chair, the mud on my jeans, up at the blue tarp over our picnic table, and then at the horse trailer itself, our home.  It made me tired.  Why is it that some of life’s most valuable lessons come out of such struggles?  I wondered, too, why the lessons themselves are so long in coming.  At first, I was slightly embarrassed when people I hardly knew would ask where we were living.  I would mumble about rentals being difficult to find and try to change the subject.  Now I just say it matter-of-factly, “We live in a campground”………

End of entry.  Funny how some things just never change!  It makes me ponder our lives, to think of what it is about the two of us that leads us into such crazy adventures.  What makes us different? Most people would not live in a campground for three months, or move across the country with two kids and camp for ten weeks while building a house? Most people would not live in a 100-year-old house in Alaska and haul water, fuel, and commute by snowmachine (snowmobile). I know that we are not most people, but what is it, I wonder, that makes us different? It must have been the same with pioneers back in the old days, moving West with their families, or the Pilgrims, going across an ocean by boat to a new land. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing that we could just be content with ‘normal’. But alas, here we are, in the middle of another crazy adventure. This time, however, is vastly different than previous ones, because this time, we have been able to see the lessons, as they happen, and thank God for bringing them to us to make us grow into better people and a stronger family.

In God’s Time

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Today just did not go the way I had hoped. Our plan was to go into town and get our supplies for putting in the wood stove. Tomorrow, we had a guy coming out to install the roof pieces. Instead, we didn’t find one piece that we needed, and the whole thing is put off for a couple weeks. We were grumpy most of the day. This evening, we talked about timing. Timing really is everything. The funny part is that our timing is nothing, and Gods timing is everything. God knows what we need, and I am just way too proud if I am going to pretend to know anything about what I need. We have had so many things from the start of this adventure that have been perfect examples of this. God’s timing brought family here just when we needed them. We have had money come just when we needed it. We have had people help us exactly when we needed it. Projects have not worked out and as a result, other things have been able to happen. It is so easy to be angry about not getting the wood stove in. It doesn’t change anything, though- it still isn’t going to get done. Realizing this will hopefully allow us to realize that because it isn’t going to happen, something else will. This entire project has been one crazy lesson after another. We are tired- tired of uncertainty, tired of being unsettled, tired of daily having to make decisions that we do not feel prepared for, tired of things not working out the way we hoped. We are trying to remember each and every day, though, that in the end, things work out exactly as they were meant to.

To The Mom of a Child With a Behavioral Disorder

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This post is as much for me as it is for you, because I need to hear and believe the things I am going to say.

You are a good mom.
You didn’t make this happen.
It isn’t because you didn’t love him enough.
It is okay to fiercely love your child and not always like them.
It is okay to want to bang your head on the wall when you hear other people rave about their easy children.
It is okay to cry.
It is okay to get angry.
You are not a failure.
You are not alone.
You are a loving, patient, kind person.
You ARE the best person for the job.
You ARE their advocate.
Sometimes they hate you.
Sometimes you hate them.
Sometimes you yell at God.
Sometimes you yell at your child.
Often, they yell at you.

And it is still okay.
And you still are a wonderful mom.

Sometimes you cry when you think too long about it. You want your child to be perfect, to be unharmed by life’s tragedies. You want to be enough for them, to be able to comfort them, soothe them, hold them. But sometimes you can’t- because they can’t let you, or won’t let you. And it is okay to feel all of these things. It means that you are human. It means that you are trying to do the best you can every day, every hour.

Sometimes you have good days. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it feels like a success to have one good hour out of the day. You find yourself stretching to give them a gold star, and you don’t feel like you deserve any at all. But you do….

Sometimes you feel like it is an impossible task to avert all of the mini and major meltdowns in a day. Sometimes you feel like you have it down. Sometimes you just want to get away, to run, to have peace, and quiet. Sometimes you feel like supermom, and sometimes you wonder why you ever became a mom at all.

Sometimes you sit and watch them sleep because it is the only time they seem peaceful.

Sometimes you don’t want to go out because you are afraid of what might happen. Sometimes you want to go out because you can’t imagine another hour stuck in the house with this raging little person.

Sometimes you give in because you are just so exhausted. Sometimes a cartoon is the only replacement for entertainment that you can offer.

But always you love them. And always you want the best for them. And always you would do anything to protect them. And always you would fight for their well being.

You are enough.
You are what they need.
You are their mom because God knows what he is doing and they need you as much as you need them.
It is not easy .
It may never be easy.
But it is what was meant to be.
Somehow, someday, you will be able to look back and see the gifts that this little life has brought into your life.
You will see the joys, the triumphs, the successes and you will be glad.
You will be glad that God gave you this amazing, powerful, wonderful being to look after for a little while.

A Mountain of Stuff

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When we lived in Nome, we bought stuff…..lots of stuff. If we thought we needed something, we bought it. Despite our accumulating tendencies, when we left Nome to drive across the country to West Virginia, we fit everything we owned into half of a 16 foot utility trailer and slept in the other half while we were on the road. Somehow, while we were in West Virginia, we slowly let ‘stuff’ creep back in. When the time came to pack it all up and move, we felt consumed by it. We knew that we didn’t want so many possessions in our lives, but we felt compelled to keep it all anyway. Day after day we sorted, while the pile of stuff that we were keeping kept getting bigger and bigger. We found ourselves saying, “I don’t NEED this, but I might someday”, or “I do not want this, but it is worth something, so I don’t want to just get rid of it”. When we finally pulled out of West Virginia, we had grown from that half a trailer, to two full trailers, another trailers worth of stuff at my parent’s house, and a storage unit full of machines that we were temporarily leaving behind in West Virginia.

I still chuckle at the absurdity of driving through our field of 2 foot tall grass with our two trucks and trailers to set up a tent at the back edge of the field. We took one trailer worth of stuff to yet another storage unit and proceeded to live for the next ten weeks in a tent with the barest of essentials. Once we moved into the ‘house’ we were basically still camping, with no electricity or running water. We lived in the house for about a month, hauling water, using oil lamps for electricity, and playing cards for fun. Our life was simple, but meaningful. We spent time talking to each other, playing games, and being outside. Then we temporarily moved into a rental in town and slowly got our stuff out of storage.
Once we had most of our belongings, we started to look around at the mountain of stuff and realized that somehow, this stuff was overtaking our lives. Don’t get me wrong- I like conveniences like blenders and coffee makers and things like that- but especially as Americans, we all have SO MUCH STUFF. So we have begun the process of sorting that really should have happened before we moved. We are getting rid of things rarely used, barely used, and things that have no purpose at all. There is freedom in lightness. There is a definite need for simplicity that allows distraction to slip away and be replaced by things more meaningful. I want my life to be full of experiences, full of memories, and full of God, and less full with the mountain of stuff that threatens to consume us all. Sometimes I wonder if this is one of the many lessons God wanted us to learn by bringing us here the way that he did. By removing us from our possessions, we have begun to learn the value of a simple, uncluttered life. So we will continue purging and sorting through the winter and hopefully Spring will find us back on our property with less stuff and more soul!

Blessings on Our Home and Family

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I want to tell you a possibly long, but very wonderful story. It is the story of God’s blessings on our family, and how those blessings got us to where we are now.. You may be the type of person that does not believe in God’s blessings, and I am not going to convince you otherwise. I will tell you, however, that many of the blessings that we received were specifically prayed for, and had one thing not fallen into place, it would have been the domino that knocked down all the other dominoes. God is blessing us each and every day and it is so obvious to us that this is exactly where he means us to be, doing exactly what he means us to be doing!

In the Fall of 2013, we flew to Minnesota from West Virginia to do a land search. We rented a car and with an extremely uncooperative three year old, we executed a painstaking search across Northern Minnesota to find a piece of land to call home. Our land in Alaska had finally sold six months prior, after being on the market for almost four years (blessing). We had the money for the down payment, but just needed the land. We drove over 3,000 miles in our little rental car, and after two weeks of looking at over forty properties, we were ready to admit defeat. The last day in Grand Rapids, we prayed and prayed for God to show us his path for us. We expanded our search to include properties above our ideal price, and found the piece that we are now building a home on (blessing). We drove out on the last day before returning to St Paul. When we got out of the car, my husband knew immediately that he liked the property. It had a field, a creek, wooded area, and was close to 40 acres. It was everything that we wanted, except the price was slightly higher than we were comfortable with. We ended up having almost exactly enough for the down payment and closing costs (blessing), and purchased the property later in the Fall, after returning to West Virginia. We did not know the exact timing of the move, or how it would play out, but when Spring came, I prayed about it, and felt that we should try to sell the house and if God wanted us in Minnesota this year, he would make it happen.

We listed the house on April 14th, 2014, at 4pm, and received an offer the next morning, at 11am (blessing). It took a couple of months and another offer to finally sell, but the closing date was ultimately set for July 11th, 2014. In order to get out of the house on time, we had to take most of our belongings to storage at my parents, pack up an entire machine shop, and house, and use a fork lift to move my husband’s machines to storage, while also managing a three year old and a six month old. The last two weeks, God was again answering prayers to provide people to watch the kids, help us pack, find someone to move the machinery (who charged a nominal fee), obtain the needed trailers, get work done on the trucks (that would have prevented us from moving had it not gotten done), and other odds and ends that fell into place at just the right time. By God’s grace, we closed on the house at 11:30am on Friday, July 11th, and drove away in the two trucks, with two trailers, the two kids, and the dog at 1:30pm.

We arrived at the property on Sunday, July 13th, around 4pm. We set up the tent and settled in for our first night. We were excited, nervous, and hopeful. Little did we know the rain, mud, muck, and hardship that we would face for the next ten weeks. The neighbor introduced himself the next morning, and offered to let us get water from his well as long as we needed it. We gladly filled our tanks next door instead of driving in to the local campground (blessing). The second night in the tent, a storm blew in that brought 70mph winds, rain, lightning as I have never seen before, and fallen trees. My husband and I stood braced against the poles of our cheap Walmart 10×20 tent for about 25 minutes while the winds howled and sounded like a freight train bearing down on us. We still have no idea how that tent stayed in one piece (blessing). Eventually the lightning, rain, and wind subsided and we went back to sleep to the sound of cracking and falling trees in the forest around us, praying again that none would fall on us (blessing). That was the beginning of many events that started in prayer, and ended in blessings. The next six weeks seemed to be anything but a blessing, with rain, rain, and more rain. The rain stopped our progress, the rain kept contractors busy so we could not find anyone to help with the site work, or the foundation, the rain dampened our spirits. Everything was wet and moldy, the tent was leaking, and we had yet to get anything substantial done on the house, but we spent those four weeks learning so much about our family unit. God used those four weeks to strengthen us and bring us together (blessing). As a result of the delays, he also allowed the next sequence of events to happen just the way he intended.

My husband’s brother and dad had planned to come and help get the shell of the house up, and we needed to get the foundation done prior to their arrival, but the rain just kept coming. Finally, we got the site work done, and my brother and sister-in-law had one last day to help before returning to work (blessing). They came out and helped get the forms ready and do the ground work for the slab foundation. We had one day to pour the foundation during a break in the weather (blessing). My husband’s family unexpectedly were able to arrive a week earlier than planned, and arrived two days before the pour (blessing). They were able to help get the concrete work done for the slab and then spend the next few days waiting out the rain to get started on the house. I took the kids down to my brother’s house in St Paul and over the next two weeks, the guys built the house from the ground up. They were able to get the house almost completely ‘dried in’ save the metal roofing. They were able to stay an extra three days to help finish things up (blessing). After calling over twenty five roofing contractors, we finally found one that could get the roof done and came out the day after the family left, and got the metal on in about six hours (blessing). The roof was paid for with the completely unexpected gift from family in Texas (blessing). The roofing company was the last option before we would possibly lose the entire house to the weather if we could not get the roof on (blessing).

This was the first week in September, and we moved into the house fairly quickly after the roof went on because the temperatures were expected to drop into the forties at night. Once in the house, work slowed considerably, but we were dry, and fairly warm. We still had no electricity, no running water, and no septic. The house was uninsulated and completely unfinished, but it was better than the tent. We began attending a local church shortly after moving into the house. The pastor and his wife offered (after meeting us once at church) to let us house sit for them and get hot showers, do laundry, and relax (blessing). They offered again the following weekend, and we were able to continue getting work done on the house while having a much needed break at their house on the weekends (blessing). The following week, my husband’s grandparents came to visit, offering us an extra room at the lodge they were staying at ten miles from the property. We spent two wonderful days with them, letting them get to know the kids, and talking about God and his plan for us, and they surprised us with another unexpected monetary gift (blessing). The same week, my parent’s gave us a loan with no conditions that would allow us to spend the next four weeks trying to get the house insulated before returning to work (blessing).

I was able to find a job just in time with a flexible schedule, not horribly far from home, and they were going to allow me to start a month after hiring me to give us more time to work on the house (blessing). We still had no electricity, no running water, no septic, no heat, and no insulation. The second week of church, we were approached by a couple who had heard our situation, and pleaded with us to move into their vacant home that was for sale, and refused to take any compensation (blessing). We began house sitting two weeks ago, and have since been able to complete the insulation, get the permitting process started for the septic system, find someone to do the work for the septic, and I will get paid just in time to get the system in and ready. Tomorrow we will begin with the drywall, and with more of God’s blessing, we will hope to move back into the house in the first or second week of November.

It would be so easy to see all of the hardship, all of the arguments, all of the rain, and pain, and not see God’s blessings on us. The truth is, though, that if just one thing had not happened in the sequence of events, we would not have gotten here when we did, or we would have run out of money, or we would not have had enough help to get the house built, or we would not have gotten the roof on, or we would have had no jobs, or we would have had no backup plan, or we would have simply flopped in this crazy plan to move across the country, live in a tent with two kids, and build a house. Many people would think we were foolish, or hasty, or just plain dumb. But we were relying on God every step of the way to guide us and protect us. We asked him for help daily, and prayed for his direction in our lives. He has blessed us so richly and deeply, and we are so thankful for his love. It is so exciting to be taking on this adventure, knowing that his plan for us is so much grander than we can imagine. We know without a doubt that this is where he wants us to be. God wanted us to be here, building a home from the ground up, building our family from the ground up, and rebuilding our lives with God at the center.

Moving In and Moving Up

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We moved into the house about three weeks ago- nothing on the inside was finished yet, but everyone was tired of the tent. It has been aggravating trying to get the electrical wiring done and insulate, while working around all of our things. The kids ‘room’ is in the future bathroom- the interior walls are built but no drywall yet, so it is essentially still like living in one big room together. Our bed is in the future kitchen, and we have the utility sink and propane stove set up by the door. The downstairs is insulated and we are waiting to finish the upstairs before we drywall. This seems to be the hardest stretch yet. Everyone is tired of working, tired of ‘roughing it’, and tired of thinking about all of the things we still have to do before winter. It is hard to muster up the energy to work day after day while feeling like the end will never come!

We took a mini-break the last few days and tomorrow we will start back up again. Projects to complete first include installing the soffit and fascia, the outside insulation for the frost-protected slab, building the interior walls for the upstairs, electrical and insulation upstairs, building the stairs, drywall, and installing the woodstove. Projects that are going on the side include putting in the shallow hand-pump well, having a holding tank installed (hot showers, yay!), and working on solar hot air and hot water collectors. In addition to all that needs to be completed, I will be returning to work part-time in two weeks. It is going to be a tough winter, I know that, but hopefully we wil have plenty of time and energy to dream about the year to come- finishing the house, getting a garden in, planting trees, obtaining some livestock, and building a garage.

We feel more peaceful now about being here. Being in the tent was intense. The rain beat us down, literally, and washed away our steadfastness. The mud and muck and wetness pervaded our lives and dampended our enthusiasm. Everything became harder to deal with. Making decisions felt impossible, and we felt a bone-weary fatigue every day that seemed to chase us from sun up to sun down. Now that we are in the house, things feel more manageable. There is no mistaking the fact that we still have a mound of things to accomplish, but we feel like no matter what happens now, we will be okay and we will get through it. We are enjoying the quiet evenings together with no distractions. We thought that electricity would be the first thing we would want, but we have since realized that septic and water will come first, with electricity to come later. Neither one of us minds the lanterns and the kids really do not notice the difference.

I am sitting in our one comfortable chair while I write this, looking up now and then at the crescent moon staring in the window at me, and feeling quiet inside. I am so thankful that God opened the path before us to bring us here. I miss my friends, and I miss many of the comforts of ‘home’, but I know that this is where we need to be right now, and my heart is quiet and still. Peace is knowing that the kids will grow up out here, hopefully loving the land as we do, and peace is knowing that our family will be stronger, richer, and more connected with God for having done this.

Ten Weeks In

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Today marks the end of ten weeks since driving onto our property with our two trucks, two trailers, two kids, and the dog. It seems like so much longer. The hardships, the emotional roller coaster, the rain and mud, the isolation, all add up to make it feel like an eternity since leaving our comfy home and friends in West Virginia.

We rolled in late in the day on July 14th and set up camp. It took a couple days to get set up and we took a few days in St Paul at my brothers house- to rest up and stock up. We got the building permit two weeks after arriving but realized fairly quickly that things were not going to go as planned. Our initial desire for pier and beam foundation was not going to work with the heavy clay soil on our property. The locals were pushing a frost protected shallow foundation but the problem was that no one could do the foundation work for six weeks or more. We finally decided to do the slab ourselves. Rain and more rain kept us from doing any more work, but four weeks and $2200 later, we got our slab done!

By the time the slab ready to pour, we had two family members come up from out of state to help get the building up. I took the kids to my brother and sister-in-laws house for a week while the boys worked. Two weeks after starting to build, they got the house ‘dried in’. They ran out of time to get the roof on, so we had to pay a crew to get the metal on, but everything else was done by my husband, his brother, dad, and some help from my brother and his wife as well. My help mostly involved shuttling supplies, taking care of the two kiddos, camp cook, and support. I wanted to be more involved in the building process, but a three year old and an infant made that pretty much impossible.

We moved into the house eight weeks in, and have spent the last two weeks wrapping the house, putting in the electrical, insulating, and completing the outside insulation for the frost protected foundation. We do not yet have any water, septic, or electricity, but we have a house, we have hope, and we have the excitement of seeing our dream become a reality.

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Refine Me

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Today I had a serious discussion with God while standing on the back of the truck, siphoning water from our 55-gallon drum to our 7-gallon jug. Since coming to Minnesota, our path has been blocked so many times that I lost count. We have had weather delays, material delays, delays on getting help for projects. It took six weeks to get a foundation, and at almost nine weeks, we are still ‘camping’ in our house. We have had anger issues, communication issues, discipline issues with the kids, spiritual issues. We have fought with each other, fought with the kids, fought with God. We have prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. Today I finally reached the breaking point. I sat on the edge of the truck and cried. I pleaded with God to take my anger from me, my bitterness, my grumbling. I prayed for him to replace it with the light and love of Jesus. I want to be a beacon of light to my family, my community, my friends, my kids, my husband. I got down on my knees and asked God to refine me. We talked for a bit about my selfishness, my inability to remain steadfast when I am tired, and crabby, and feeling worn down. I came back into the house with a renewed sense of purpose, and also a bit of happy sadness. I know, I know, that is an oxymoron, but it is true. I felt happy because I know that God is working with all his heart to refine me, and sad because it is rather painful and is going to require me to do many things and give up many things that I cling to desperately in my humanness.

Refining in the spiritual sense means a process similar to refining silver. There are many references to the refining of silver as a metaphor for the refining that God will do within us. Refining means being broken, and crushed, and put into the fire. It means being thrown into the fire to remove impurities, with more and more heat until all that is left is the pure and true. I always had some notion that following God would be easy. There is nothing easy about being refined! But this is what God wants for each and every one of us. Two verses came to me throughout my day:

1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV) 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

James 1:3-4 (NIV) 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I know that God wants us to be here in this place. I know that we cannot do it alone. I know that God will refine us and if we let him, he will complete us. So today, while filling up the water jug, I prayed. God, refine me in the rain and mud and wind. Refine me in the tantrums of a toddler. Refine me in the cold morning frost. Refine me in the endless sea of dishes and laundry and dirt. Refine me in the hauling water and slop buckets. Refine me as we build our house from the foundation to the roof. Refine me as we lay in a cold house with no insulation. Refine me as we try not to worry about having enough money to finish it all. Refine me as we head into winter with possibly no water,no septic, or electricity. Pull out my impurities- my bitterness, my anger, my selfishness, my stubborness. Heat me to the point of boiling so that all that is left is a reflection of you. Refine me God, so that in the Spring, I will emerge as a butterfly from its cocoon- fresh, new, and beautiful.

A Moment in Time

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imageJust a quick post of our progress over the last two weeks. So much more to do- so little time. It is supposed to be 37 degrees on Thursday night so I am really hoping we can get into the house to sleep.

The Things We Miss Game

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We were laying in bed the other night, waiting for the kids to go to sleep (which is much later than usual due to living in a tent that is not dark until sunset). We somehow started listing the things that we miss. Almost all of them, thankfully, are things that we will have again, but we miss them nonetheless…..

I miss having a living room. (me)
I miss having a shop. (husband)
I miss fresh food from the garden. (husband)
I miss popsicles on the porch. (me)
I miss having a porch to have popsicles on. (husband)
I miss having a swimming pool. (husband)
I miss staying up after the kids go to bed and spending time together. (me)
I miss having dinner at a table. (me)
I miss our church and small group. (husand)
I miss our friends and having people to talk to about life. (husband)
I miss MOPS and my fellow mom friends. (me)
I miss having time away from the kids. (me)
I miss home-cooked meals. (husband)
I miss washing machines. (me)
I miss having more than one room for the kids to play in. (me)

This was where our list ended and we rolled over and went to sleep. It felt good to voice our ‘misses’ and it also felt good to realize that there are not any that we cannot replace with time. In time, we will look back at this list and realize that we have all of these things again and much, much more. Our lives are much harder now, there are so many more decisions to make, but our days are so much richer, so much more full. We are growing as people, as parents, and as a couple, in ways that we never imagined. Some of the growth (okay, most) is painful, but it is good stuff. Do you ever find yourself missing things? Look at your list- Is it full of things that you can have again, or things you didn’t really need in the first place? I am full of thanks today- I am thankful for family, I am thankful for God, I am thankful for my husband and kids, I am thankful for everyone that has been on this journey with us in body and in Spirit. I hope the next time we play the ‘I Miss Game’, our list will be much, much shorter….

It Has Begun!

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We have had so many setbacks this summer that we were seriously starting to doubt our sanity. Who brings two kids to a rural property in northern Minnesota to camp while building a house? After wasting a month trying to find a contractor to pour the foundation, we gave up and decided to do the slab ourselves. The slab was far from our first choice but it was our only feasible choice on our budget and with our heavy clay soil. Once we finally decided to do it ourselves the rain came….and came….and came. There was no way we could do concrete work in the rain! A family member suggested building an ark!

The weather finally cleared two days ago and we have begun! Five weeks after pulling in, we have finally started building our house. In many ways, it feels like what a barn-raising must have been like in the old days. We have family coming from all over the country and state to help and once we pour the foundation, we are expecting the house to go up in about two weeks. We did not originally want a standard stick frame house, but again, our limited budget and time has dictated changing some of our plans. It feels exciting to be getting some work done! After such a long time camping, I cannot even begin to tell you how sweet it is to look down the field and see that house starting from the ground up!

A Dream Is…….

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I guess the young and foolish part of me always thought that making a dream become a reality was something fun and exciting. The truth is that this is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It is not really difficult like learning a new skill, or overcoming some obstacle. It is difficult to the point of being completely overwhelming. It is difficult to get up in the morning, because what used to mean padding downstairs in our pajamas to get coffee and breakfast now means so much more. It means getting everyone dressed, in mud boots, and tromping through the field to heat water for coffee and make breakfast while trying to also keep the baby occupied and the three year old from getting eaten by mosquitos or kicking the dog. Every simple task becomes a challenge. Laundry means pulling out our buckets, washing everything by hand, and getting it on the clothesline before it rains. If it is raining (like it is now), there is only one place to be. So we all attempt to get along while fighting cabin fever in our little 10×20 tent. There is no place to hide, or hang out, or be alone. Decisions about the land or the house building project seem impossible to make when you are trying to just simply survive. I am torn at night when I go to bed because I have this weird mixture of relief that I finally get to go to sleep, and mild horror at the thought of having to wake up again the next morning. Sometimes we lay in bed at night talking about how there is a large majority of people in the world that live like this every day, with no hope of anything different. It makes me feel somehow selfish to even be grumpy about my four weeks of hardship, but I am grumpy about it anyway.

We have been here four weeks. How can that be? It seems like it has been a lifetime since we drove away from our house. I thought we would have something built by now. I thought camping might be more fun. I thought we might have campfires in the evening and roast marshmallows and talk about our dreams. But dreams are just that….talk. Turning them into something tangible is so much less glamorous than most of us probably realize. Every day we spend hours trying to just get basic needs met, and the ‘down’ time that we have is spent working out details of the house plans, making phone calls to get things ordered, or make lists of things that need to happen for the project. There is ‘rest’ time, but no reprieve from the rain or sun or bugs or chores.

I guess I am glad that I didn’t know how hard it would be, because then I might not have done it. I am glad that God lets us dream. I think about the settlers moving West, leaving their families behind and heading into hostile, unfamiliar territory. They did it for a dream. A dream of a better life for their families. A dream of land and prosperity and opportunity. Sounds much more glamorous on paper. I am sure that it was beyond horrible at times. I am also sure that for most of them, they questioned daily whether they should have come or not. The dreamer in me, though, also believes that at the end of the day they were glad that they were there. I am trying to also be glad. I am trying to look past the hardship and see the glory. I am trying to look through the rain and see the deer feeding at the edge of the field. I am trying to keep dreaming……

A Day in the Life

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I was talking with a good friend of mine yesterday, and she asked me a funny question. She asked me what I liked the most about being here. I had been consumed by all of the things that I DIDN’T like about camping in a field with two kids. I never really just sat down and thought about all of the things that I did like. So today as we went through our day, I began to reflect on everything that we were doing and not only did the day seem much easier, but I enjoyed myself so much more. In order to fully appreciate our life, I thought it might be helpful to lay out our typical day for you, and then maybe you can better appreciate the things that are wonderful about our life.

5:30am- the baby wakes for an early morning snack. We snuggle in bed and fall back asleep.
7:00am- big brother wakes up and we all snuggle in bed together. He gets back up and plays quietly with his cars for about 30 minutes.
8:00am- we all get dressed and head out to the kitchen for pancakes and cocoa.
9:00am- the baby has a nap and big brother and I take the dog for a walk around the field.
9:45am- big brother and I fill up the water jug and play together.
10:30am- everyone has a snack and we shoot the bow and arrow for a while
11:30am- the baby wakes up and we all eat lunch together.
12:00pm- Papa takes a shower while the boys and I ‘hang out’ and play
1:00pm- we all go to the coffee shop for ice cream
2:15pm- everyone takes a nap together. Papa plays his ukelele.
4:15pm- everyone is up from naps and we head to the lake to play
7:00pm- dinner together and dishes. While I do dishes, Papa and big brother go for a walk together.
8:00pm- bedtime for the boys and we have some quiet time together.

It may not seem that exciting to you, but here is what I love about our time here. I love that we do everything together, as a family. I love watching my husband teach our son and go for walks with him. I love that he wants to go for a walk with us more than he wants to watch TV. I love that we all snuggle in bed together every morning. I love that I get to lay on the floor and watch the baby roll around and eat his toes. I love the routine of camp life. I love doing laundry by hand and hanging it up to dry- and doing it as a family chore. I love the sunsets that we see every evening. I love looking at the stars when I get up in the night. I love that we have somehow adapted to living in one room together and we all still love each other! I love laying in bed at night and listening to the sounds of the night and hearing the deep, sleeping breathing of my boys.

There are so many, many things that I do not like about camping in a field while we wait to even begin building our house. But the things that I DO like– these are the reasons we came here in the first place. These are the reasons we wanted a simpler life. These are the things that make our hearts happy and full. This is why we are doing what we are doing. This is the Good Life!

Braving the Storm……in a Tent

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imageI did not check the time when the storm started, but I know that it came in hard and fast. It was the lightning that woke me up first. It was not like any lightning that I had ever seen before. It reminded me of a fluorescent light bulb that is going bad- it was a constant strobe of light, flashing continuously. Initially, there was a light sprinkle and some distant thunder. The wind was whipping the trees around, but it was far above us and there wasn’t much wind blowing the tent. Within about 15 minutes, we knew we were in trouble. Konrad woke up and sat on our bed, eyes wide with a mixture of awe and fear. The baby had managed to get himself into a sitting position in his crib and was staring up at the top of the tent with wide, wild eyes. The wind started to sound like a freight train coming and the West side of the tent blew in to what seemed like a 45 degree angle. For the next 20 minutes or so, Dave and I braced against the tent poles with all of our weight, while the wind and rain pummeled the tent. I remember looking around and it all seemed so surreal. Konrad lay on our bed watching us, silent, as if he sensed the gravity of the situation enough to be still. Jacob sat in his bed and stared at the lightning strobe in the sky. Dave and I looked at each other during the flashes and seriously questioned whether we were going to make it or not. I had begun to pray when the lightning woke me, and continued my prayer incessantly while the storm raged around us. Several times it struck me that it was not the best idea to be in a field during an insane storm, holding a metal tent pole, but the alternative was much, much worse. Being in the middle of a field with two small kids and no tent would not have been a viable option over the possibility of being struck by lightning. The freight train wind slowly subsided and the rain pelted us in sheets.

We lay in bed after, the four of us, and my heart raced with the surge of adrenaline. The next challenge arose when we heard the cracking. Trees to the South and East were cracking in the forest and there was no way to tell how far off they were. We lay on the bed and listened to the cracks and I held my breath every time one fell, sighing with relief when it fell in the forest instead of in camp. The lightning began to fade and the thunder rolled off. We could still hear the freight train sound in the distance, but the worst had passed. I got the kids back to bed and finally stopped praying. Dave told me later that it made him feel like God was throwing us into some crazy team-building, family strengthening madness to see how we would fare. Our teamwork, communication, and ability to act quickly had saved the tent poles, the tent, and us, from certain disaster. We read the next morning that the wind gusts had been anywhere from 60 to 80 miles per hour. I silently laughed to myself at the irony. A day earlier, my brother and sister-in-law had assured us that we were well out of tornado territory this far North. It was no tornado, but I imagine that is as close as we will get, and it was close enough! The next mornings survey revealed that our cheap Walmart sun canopy was shredded, but the huge 8×20 tent, and 10×10 screen tent had survived intact. I saw pictures of the devastation from the wind across the state, and knew that we were so fortunate to have made it through with so little damage, especially being in a tent! We definitely felt a renewed sense of purpose today for getting a move on the house building project! It is amazing what security comes with four walls and a roof.

Two Trucks, Two Trailers, Two Kids, and a Dog

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We started our adventure to Minnesota on July 11th, after closing on our house. It was a mad three-day drive with me in one truck with the two kids and a trailer, and my husband in another truck with the dog and a trailer. We did not have any major mishaps although at times I thought that I might lose my mind while I plopped pacifiers in the baby’s mouth, got games ready for the three-year old to play, handed out massive amounts of snacks to both children, talked on the radio with my husband, and tried to drive at the same time. I listened to a large amount of music at a rather high volume and pretended that I did not feel like some sort of fish stuck in a fish bowl. We arrived on our property and were welcomed to Minnesota with some serious rain and some more serious mosquitos. It has been four days now, and we have retreated to the ‘city’ for a little break from camping. I am feeling tired, discouraged, and uncertain how to proceed. We are working on getting our building permit, but are running into difficulties. The kids are not adjusting well to camp life. It feels fairly overwhelming. On a positive note, I have done many things for the first time, and have enjoyed some really sweet sunsets looking across our field. I saw my first moon bows two nights ago when I woke in the night. I drove a motorcycle for the first time, tooling around the field at a Grandma speed. I went for a walk in the field and heard our boys laughing and playing together when they should have been sleeping. I watch our oldest son run around outside all day and see the joy on his face at being able to run free.

I am trying not to worry. I am trying not to think about all of the unknowns that I cannot prepare for or prevent. I am trying to believe that we are following our dream instead of feeling that we are completely insane. I am trying to believe that our boys will not somehow be traumatized by living in a tent for the summer. I wish that I could say that this is some dream come true. I wish I could say that it is easy and fun and full of adventure, but it is hard, really hard. Maybe the hardest thing I have ever done. I am trying to pray every day, all day, and wait. I am trying to learn to listen, and be patient, and be still. I am thankful for our solar shower. I am thankful for our neighbor, who has already had us over for coffee. I am thankful for my brother, who has provided us a rest stop in the city. I am very, very thankful for mosquito repellant and anti-itch cream. I am thankful that I have a healthy family. I am thankful that I have this wonderful piece of land and hope that we can endure this period of trial to see it become our home.

A New Chapter

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I cannot believe that a new chapter of our life is coming to a close!! It seems like we have been here forever and it also seems like it was just yesterday that we rolled in from Alaska with our modified trailer. It seems like a dream that we were living in the campground for almost three months while we tried to find housing and jobs! It seems crazy, and yet, here we are, doing it again. The difference this time is that we have many more belongings and an additional two kids! The house is full of boxes now, some packed, some not. Dishes and cookware have been replaced with paper plates and aluminum pans. I explain to my three year old on a daily basis why some toys are going away and others cannot come out of the boxes. We discuss frequently how all the things are going with us, the kids are going, and the dog. We talk about ‘the farm’. He wants cows and a blue tractor! We talk about chickens and goats, winter in Minnesota, helping papa chop wood. He seems excited, but his little three year old mind cannot quite wrap around the enormity of what is happening. Now that I mention it, neither can mine! We have such a short time left, such a short time to get it all done, to see loved ones, to say our goodbyes.

I try not to be anxious. But I am…. I am anxious about getting it all done, finding the time and the energy to make it happen. I am anxious about getting to Minnesota and living in a tent with two kids and a dog. I am anxious about getting a small house built soon enough for winter. I have to trust. God knows what he is doing, and I most definitely do not! We asked God for this. We asked him to make our path clear, to pave the way ahead of us. He is doing just that. So onward we will march, and continue praying for his strength, his wisdom, and his guidance as we close a chapter in our lives and open another one full of blank, yet-to-be-written pages!

Six Weeks

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Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Six weeks…. It seems like such a short time to get an entire house packed and moved with two small kids. Not to mention the prep involved in moving to a piece of land with no house on it– the planning for what we will need, ordering supplies, making arrangements. We are having such a difficult time getting motivated. It doesn’t feel real. It feels overwhelming. We prayed and prayed for God’s direction in our lives. We prayed for God to show us where he wanted us to be– if he wanted us to be in Minnesota, we prayed for him to have the house sell and to make the transition easy. This is what we have always wanted. For some reason, though, we both feel very strange about leaving. We are leaving a place that we were never sure we wanted to be in the first place. We are leaving a place that we complained about and never felt like we belonged in. Now that we are leaving, we feel sad. This is where both of our kids were born. This is where we both became stronger in our faith and learned how to put down roots, ask people for help, find forever friendships, and be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We have an awesome church family. We also prayed for God to make his will known. So we listed our house and got two offers with three showings. We are in a contract, and the house is going to sell. It happened at the right time for us to be able to move to our land and take advantage of the summer to build our little cabin and camp with the kids while we build. It happened so that we have enough time to work out the details of the move and make a trip to my parents to store some things. It happened in just the right way, and I have nothing to complain about. But here we are, with six weeks left, feeling sad, feeling conflicted, and feeling frozen. I should be packing. I should be making phone calls. I should be planning. I should be excited! Deep down, I am scared. It feels weird to be leaving here after five years and going somewhere to start all over again. It feels scary. Of course, I know that God often asks us to do things that we don’t want to do, things that are scary and make us nervous. This is how we grow.

So tomorrow, I will begin packing……but there is definitely a piece of my heart that will remain here with the many people who have been such a pivotal part of our growth. Thanks to each and every one of you (you know who you are!!). You will be deeply missed. Perhaps a goat or a chicken will bear your name on a Minnesota farm in the near future!! In the meantime, I will continue to look to God to guide us in this journey and adventure and know that we will be where we are supposed to be!

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Mother’s Day with a Side of Poo

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So, before I had children, I always thought I had this whole Mother’s Day thing down. I go out, buy a card, or chocolates, or flowers- some visual reminder to my mother that I think she is wonderful and I want her to remember how much she has given me and how thankful I am for all of her undeserving, unending love…… Then I became a mom.

I really do not remember either my first or my second Mother’s Day- but this year will not easily be forgotten! I woke up this morning at the usual Early ‘o’ Clock and made some french toast for boy number one. Boy number two had a mid-morning nap while we ate our french toast and drank our smoothies. I was able to trade with my husband at around 9:00am and take a nap while he hung out with the three-year-old. The rest of the day went pretty much the same as every other day- there were no noteworthy special events to remind me that this was in fact, a day to celebrate mothers. The afternoon was hot and we decided to put the pool up in the backyard. While it was filling, my husband and son splashed around and had a grand old time. Our son, for the first time in his almost three years, decided he would finally try to pee somewhere besides a diaper. Him and my husband stood side by side in the back yard, aiming at flowers. This was a monumental event and really was a wonderful gift for Mother’s Day- less diapers in my life will always be a good thing. He nodded in serious understanding while we explained to him the importance of trying again before going inside. I was just getting the hot dogs ready for the grill and the baby was beginning to fuss when the boy came walking around the corner with poo dripping down his legs. Awesome…….. Apparently, he decided to take a poo in the garage. And so why am I bummed about changing diapers? Bring on the diapers, I think to myself as I am scrubbing crusty poo off his legs. So the veggies got overcooked, the baby screamed for 15 minutes, and my husband ended up with a pile ‘o’ poo on his shop floor.

At the end of the day, when I am supposed to be reflecting, I guess, on this whole Mother’s Day thing, I am thinking how really sweet this day has been. It has been chaos, it has been screaming, it has been laughing, and playing, and napping, and peeing on flowers, eating hot dogs, cleaning ketchup off chins, time-outs, discovering new things, and to sum it all up, a pile of poo on the floor.

Isn’t that really what this Motherhood thing really is? It stinks sometimes. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. It challenges me in ways that I never imagined and makes me see all of my faults, all of my flaws. It makes my heart melt to see how they look at me anyway, how they love me anyway, how they accept me no matter what I say or do or whether or not I deserve it. It makes my days rich to see all of the things they learn and makes my senses full to experience things as they do. And when it is all said and done, sometimes it just all comes down to a big pile ‘o’ poo to make me see all the wonders of being a mom……………

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Minnesota Bound?

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Well, I have been silent again for a bit- I could blame it on the birth of our son in December, but that really isn’t the reason. The reason is that I have been thinking so much about our journey, about our dream, that I became stuck in thought and could not translate that thought into action.

We have been dreaming and scheming for over eight years now about having our homestead. We bought ten acres in Alaska in 2006 and after three years of planning, decided that it was not what we wanted. So we moved here, to West Virginia in 2009, thinking that we might buy land here. We decided that West Virginia was not the right match either, and after our land in Alaska sold last year, we finally decided on Minnesota. It is closer to family, still gets the winters that we love, and would give us more of the similar attitudes and lifestyle that we miss about Alaska. In September, we bought a 40-acre piece of land in Northern Minnesota. We have been struggling with how to sell our house, pack up all our belongings, and get from West Virginia to Minnesota with two young kids. We have planned, and over-planned, and we just felt like we thought so much about the details that we became frozen and could no longer effectively move towards our goal.

After six weeks of getting our house ready, we decided to try to sell it so that we could relocate this summer and get things started on our land! After exactly twenty-four hours on the market, we have already signed an offer and are looking at a contract to sell. That was two weeks ago, and I have packed exactly 2 boxes, sold a few items, and done a small amount of research that will help us in our move. We have a whole house to pack, trailers to buy, things to sell, and we feel completely frozen! After all this time, we are finally in a place where we can move towards our lifelong goal, and we feel so uncertain, so afraid, so insecure about our decision! Doesn’t that just seem so ironic? And after five years here, we are finally making connections, finally feeling like we are more at home here. Security is so very deceptive. It tricks us into thinking that we don’t want to take on the unknown, that we can’t jump off the deep end because we might have forgotten how to swim.

So here we are, needing to pack up a household, figure out how to move said household, secure a storage container for storing the household, and build a yurt to live in while we build something more permanent, and all I can do is sip on a glass of wine and think about all the things I need to do. I know that part of it is just plain old fear- fear of the unknown; fear of starting over; fear that things will go wrong; fear that as a parent, we will somehow damage our kids by camping in Northern Minnesota for the summer.

Through all of the uncertainty, fear, and insecurity, however; is a deep-seated faith that God somehow orchestrated all of this. For our house to sell in less than a day is pretty remarkable. I have to believe that through all of our prayers for God to lead us down the right path, that this is him leading us. There have been so many closed doors for us here- although I have to say that there have been many doors opened in our hearts, in our spirits…..I will look back someday at our time in West Virginia, and be so thankful that God brought us here. It was here that we really learned about faith, and trust, and really giving our lives over to God.

What a crazy road we have already been down. A mere five years ago, we were living in a campground in a modified horse trailer- having just rolled into West Virginia from Alaska. We loved the adventure, the freedom. Now, after having two kids, we feel like this whole undertaking is foolish. How strange…. Well, as I finish the last sip of my wine, and feel good that I got at least two boxes packed today- cheers to new beginnings, cheers to dreams that come true, cheers to a cross-country moving extravaganza with two kids and a dog, cheers to West Virginia and the relationships here that have transformed us, and cheers to our transformation and faith in God to lead us through all of this with our heads held high.

Stay tuned for adventures on the road and living in a yurt in northern Minnesota!

Quiet Time

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We have been discussing quiet time with God in church and our small group lately. It has made me think quite a bit about what exactly that means to a mother of small children. I have been feeling particularly distanced from God lately, as I struggle just to survive the sleep deprivation of a newborn, the madness of life with a toddler, and the general lack of any measurable quiet time. I specifically pray for God to reach out to me and find me in the midst of all of this. It is amazing to me just how quickly and obviously God can answer our prayers!

He has shown me that quiet time as a parent of small children means sitting in the rocking chair with my infant, praying quietly while he sleeps.

It is talking with God while doing the dishes, or folding laundry, or cleaning up countless toys on the living room floor.

It can be reading the Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible and explaining to my young child what Jesus did for us.

It means singing and praying with my toddler while he falls asleep.

It means the hour that I walk every Tuesday morning while the kids are with the babysitter from our local MOPS group.

It means reading my own Bible in the soft light of the bedroom while I nurse the baby when I should be sleeping.

It might be the ten minutes in the shower with just the sound of running water to interrupt my thoughts.

It can be the moment when I look down on my sleeping children’s faces and imagine how God must feel when he looks down on us, his children.

It is then that I realize that I am not distanced from God at all. He is with me in every moment of my day- it is simply that the quiet moments are not where I used to find them, and I have to listen much harder to hear him- but he is there, whispering softly to me, beckoning me ever closer in the dim light while I kiss my babies goodnight….

A Snowy Winter Day

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I had the bright idea to make the short drive to a friend’s house with the two and a half year old and the six week old to attempt a sledding adventure. My husband was at home napping away a cold and I thought it would be ‘fun’ to get out for a bit. AM I CRAZY??? We drove the fifteen minutes to her house and got out, donning all the best snow gear. The baby was bundled up in a sling and the toddler was jumping around with excitement. We went down the hill ONCE on the sled and the baby started screaming just as the toddler started to cry and insist that he was all done. In utter defeat, I climbed back into the truck to have a snack with the toddler and try to pretend that I wasn’t completely disappointed in this total failure of a sledding fun day. I was about to make the decision to bail when my friend’s husband knocked on the window and said that his two older kids were coming out to play.

An hour later, after MANY sled rides down the hill for the older kids, my toddler happily playing in the snow by himself, and the baby sleeping in the sling, we decided to stop for a snack. The three kids sat on the tailgate of my truck munching cheese sticks and Hannah, the older child, looked at me with her big, bright eyes, and declared, “You are a good mommy. They are lucky to have you.”. I could have jumped for joy. God knew that was exactly what I needed to hear just then, and used this sweet child to pass the message along. Despite my earlier anger at my toddler, my frustration with the baby, and really, truthfully, my sadness of a potential failed adventure- I AM a good mom, a good wife, a good friend, a good person. Hopefully my toddler will not remember the moments of anger when I feel like smoke might be coming out of my ears. He will hopefully remember instead the snack on the tailgate with friends, the hours spent building forts, the ‘little adventures’ where we roast hot dogs and marshmallows on our pretend campfire.

I realized that day, as I was driving home after warming up with cocoa in the house with my friend and the kids, that much of what we do with our children is somehow weirdly tied into our own memories. That our expectations and disappointments often have more to do with us wanting to give our kids the experiences that we remember enjoying so much. I also realized, that even if this day HAD turned out to be a miserable failure, that I am a good mom for trying, and trying again, over and over and over, because I love my kids, and I want them to have every opportunity for fun and adventure. Even if they don’t enjoy it as much as I think they should, they will be better people for having the experience, and not sitting at home watching the tele instead…..

25 Things I Never Thought Would Happen

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Some things that I NEVER thought would happen and kind of mildly horrify me still when I read them in print……

1. My T-Shirt would become the perfect burp rag (less laundry, and it already smells like sour milk anyway).

2. It would be acceptable to stay in my pajamas all day, for four days in a row, and not be ill.

3. I could pick a booger out of someone else’s nose.

4. I would willingly wipe poo off someone’s balls and not get paid for it (I’m a nurse).

5. It became normal to watch a movie with my husband and have a pump attached to my chest, and that making cow sounds while doing it still seems hilarious to us both.

6. My husband and I can complete a sentence without pause, ignoring the 60 second long toot that came out of our child’s back end.

7. Now that I mention it, can we complete a sentence at all?

8. I hear babies crying when I turn on the faucet- seriously, don’t you?

9. A shower has become a freak show- either with my toddler opening the curtain every 5 minutes, or with me madly soaping up and rinsing in a crazy rush to get it done before someone NEEDS something.

10. Pooping has become an escape- how long will it take for anyone to notice the door is locked and start wailing on the other side of it?

11. If your fingernails aren’t dirty, you probably don’t need a bath (this goes for anyone in the house).

12. You can gauge how fast to move by the intensity, pitch, and volume of the scream from the other room.

13. Watching my toddler eat food off the floor that might be from sometime this week seems okay.

14. If I eat that piece of chocolate REALLY fast behind the cabinet door- I might not have to share…..

15. There is no longer morning, noon, and night- it is when is naptime? How long until naptime is over? And when is bedtime?

16. I no longer worry about cleaning up a small something spilled on the floor- isn’t that what socks are for?

17. Opening the granola bars at the grocery store before paying for them is totally worth getting yelled at by the cashier- anything to survive the two-year old meltdown.

18. If the diaper isn’t sagging enough to be a third leg- it might survive one more pee.

19. Peanut butter and jelly is okay for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. Same goes for cheese tortilla or cereal.

20. Clothes can be re-worn based on the sniff test (again, this goes for anyone in the house).

21. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would tell my child not to hug the dog because he might give the dog fleas. Nor did I ever imagine my CHILD would bring home fleas from the petting zoo…..

22. Sometimes I go to a social function based on whether they have babysitters or not… just to have a little bit of time away.

23. My husband could scare our toddler into moving faster by making a ‘moo’ sound (and subsequently having a toddler that is terribly afraid of cows).

24. My husband would ask if the clothes in the laundry bin were clean or dirty, and sometimes we wear the clothes right out of the bin until it is time for laundry again, at which time, the floor pile gets moved into the now empty bin.

25. I often have no memory of what happens between 8pm-10pm because my husband and I are so fried that we can easily waste two hours on something…or nothing….just to have quiet.

Prepared for Spring?

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Trees

Well, this is about all I have to post about the garden moving from Fall to Winter to Spring. The trees we planted three years ago are growing quite well to form a privacy screen that will probably be just about perfect by the time we move to our new property! The garden, well, it is just what it looks like- a big pile of straw. Being about 8 months pregnant when it was time to prep for Winter, I decided to go a different route this year. I knew after having one child already, that my time in the Spring will be tied up with other things besides weeding and prepping the garden. I decided to lay down a new layer of cardboard covered with a super thick mulch of straw to complement our lasagna garden. I knew from previous experience that this will not only inhibit weed growth, but also keep the soil nice and moist for planting. We have a heavy clay base, so the straw seems to keep the soil from turning into a big, baked layer of clay that is impossible to till and impossible to plant into. Last year I did not put down such a heavy layer, but where I did place straw, I was able to peel the straw back and have a nice, moist garden bed ready for planting. I am still uncertain what we will be doing with the garden this year, but I want to be ready just in case. At this point, we ar hoping to be transitioning to our new property in Minnesota- but at least this way I can have the option of planting if the circumstances allow. It will be a sad winter without all of our garden goodies!!

How Home Birth Healed a Family

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Another Boy!

My husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our first son on October 2nd, 2010. We knew from the start that we wanted a home birth and researched extensively on the topic. We knew the risks, the benefits. Having lived in Alaska for years, we also knew it was something that was common, normal, and did not need to be about fear or uncertainty. We watched videos, we read books, we planned and prepped. We began receiving prenatal care from a home-birth midwife. The baby was breech at most of our appointments, but we all tried our best not to be concerned. A breech baby could turn. I read more, I performed strange stretches designed to turn the baby, I went to a chiropractor. The day before my 39th week of pregnancy, I had an appointment with the midwife. My husband and I stopped for our customary greasy fish sandwich at the restaurant on the way home. The midwife was mildly concerned that the baby had not yet dropped. We discussed an ultrasound. I woke at 8:00am the next morning with contractions. They were 4-5 minutes apart fairly consistently and quickly. We went in for the ultrasound at 3:00pm and discovered that he was still breech, and probably not going to turn. I remember crying on the way home and my husband just holding my hand. Everything we had worked so hard for was about to fall apart. I was in constant communication with the midwife as we tried to decide what to do. At around 9:00pm, my water broke, and I knew it was over. The midwife still wanted to talk options, but I knew that it was time to go to the hospital. Our son was born at 11:04pm by cesarean section on June 1st, 2011. It was devastating. Of course we were happy that we had a healthy baby boy. But we were also completely shattered and traumatized by an experience that was everything that we did not want. Our son had problems with his feet from being breech that resulted in 18 months of braces. He had problems with his head and neck from the delivery. He screamed more than he slept, it seemed, and we cried more than we laughed. We both struggled with postpartum depression- my husband and I both grieved in our own ways, and often separately. We felt detached, we felt disconnected. We felt like it was difficult to really bond with this little person that was handed to us wrapped in a blanket behind the blue shroud that was my open abdomen. I don’t think that we really healed until December 15th, 2013, the day that our second son was born at home, assisted by the midwife.

The day began like any other day. We had just had company, and I was feeling unusually tired. I felt like it was fairly difficult just to get up and off the couch. I was making dinner at about 5:30pm and felt a little tightening in my abdomen- similar to the Braxton Hicks, but this one was slightly uncomfortable. The second one rolled in like clockwork 15 minutes later. This continued for about an hour. I casually mentioned it to my husband, cleaned up dinner, and put our son to bed. We decided to let the midwife know that things were probably starting. The phone call did not go through. I tried again…and again…..and again. The contractions were about 7-10 minutes apart when we finally got in touch with the assistant. She decided that she would need to drive the 3.5 hours round trip to our midwife’s house and pick her up, since the phone seemed to be out. That 3.5 hours seemed so long. I had sent my husband to bed to rest, and as I paced downstairs, he jumped out of bed upstairs every 10 minutes or so to see if they were here yet. I listened to music and prayed. I prayed like I never had before! At this point I had a pretty cool talk with God. I was feeling grumpy because I was uncomfortable and felt like I shouldn’t have to be alone. I was feeling a little bit abandoned. God and I had a pretty serious discussion about how delivering this baby WAS something that I was alone in, but with God by my side, I really wasn’t alone. He made it clear to me, though, that no one but him could really walk with me in this journey- that it was just him and I dealing with this pain. I felt him in the room with me that night, touching my shoulder, and reassuring me that even though there are times in life that I will feel totally alone- I will never be alone with him by my side.

The midwives finally arrived at the house at 1:40am. By this time, the contractions were taking a little more concentration, but we decided that everyone should try and rest. I was having a tough time resting, so I paced for awhile.
At about 3:30am, the contractions were getting more serious and the midwife came upstairs with me. I do not have a very good sense of time from this point on, but I can tell you that from about 6:00am until our son was born, I experienced some of the most intense moments of my life! My husband was absolutely wonderful- rubbing my back, whispering how much he loved me, encouraging me to keep going through each contraction. It was super tough, though. I felt frustrated, I felt hopeless at times, I felt exhausted, I felt like giving up. And then, in an instant after what seemed like an eternity, I held our son in my arms with my husband behind me, looking down on us with such an intense expression of love and joy.
There are so many things that stick out in my mind about being at home, delivering this new life with just my husband and midwives present. It intensely bonded my husband and I, and strengthened each of our separate and combined relationships with God. It bonded us with this new life in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. One of the coolest things about it, though, is what it did for us as a family. In many ways, it healed much of the trauma from our first son’s birth and changed how we view the whole experience with him. It really made us all feel more like a family, and not so disconnected. I cannot say that a home birth is for everyone, but for us, it has been, and probably always will be an extremely powerful moment in our lives as a family. I am so thankful that we got to experience it together, in the quiet of our own home. Welcome, little one!

Our New Home Away From Home!!

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Well, ironically enough, exactly two months ago we first walked onto this property in Northern Minnesota. We had been in Minnesota for two weeks already and had only two more days to look at properties. We were worn out from traveling with a two-year-old, logged more than 3,000 miles on the rental car, and had looked at over 40 properties. On a whim, I decided to expand the search to slightly more than our intended price range, and we found this piece in an area that we had already researched extensively. We decided to go take a look, and when we got there, we realized right away that this might be home. 40 acres- our target amount of land- with 15 acres in field, 25 acres in mature hardwoods, and a very small creek running through. Surrounded by a mixture of farms and large wooded tracts, it was on a maintained road not far from the snowmobile trail and within a comfortable enough distance from the Mississippi River to allow for recreation but not flooding! There have been many ups and downs over the last two months and finally, today, it is ours. Now that the dream is finally realized, we get to begin the scheming phase! At this point, we are contemplating building a yurt and securing a shipping container for storage. Another idea is to put up a steel shop/building, and use it as home/storage while we build our primary home. We are planning to live simply, cultivate a food-producing garden, and have a manageable amount of livestock.

I know that we have many challenges ahead of us. I know that this new adventure is not going to be easy. I know that after four years of being in West Virginia and wanting out, I am finally feeling rooted here and will miss many people. I know that even the idea of starting over, of packing, and moving, makes me feel very, very tired. But I also know that our time here, as well as our time in Alaska, has prepared us for this adventure in ways that we could not have imagined at the time. We are much more realistic about what to expect. We know that our immediate priorities must include shelter, a garden, and small livestock. We know what we can and cannot live without. We know the price of sacrifice and how to ensure that it strengthens us as a family instead of weakening our bonds. We know that after the year that we have had- God is on our side, and we are praying for this land to serve as an opportunity for us to reach out to others. We know that this life is not going to be easy, but it will be fulfilling. We know that the values and life-skills that we received from our grandparents can now be passed on to our children.

There are so many unknowns between our lives at this moment and our first day on our new land. There is a baby to be born. There are financial challenges. There is a house to sell and a house to plan. There is five years worth of stuff to sort and pack. There is 1,165 miles to move all that stuff. There are jobs to be found, and connections to be made. Most of all, though, and most importantly, there is finally the realization of a dream that has been years in the making. I really do not know exactly when the pages will turn to this new chapter in our lives, but stay tuned, because it is sure to be an exciting, adventure-filled ride!!

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The $50 Tomato…..

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Well, this is about it for the year. I got many herbs (basil, oregano, peppermint, sage), a few cucumbers, and a small bag full of cayenne peppers. The few scraggly strawberries never made it past my son’s mouth to hit the kitchen. So I am guessing that my $50 spent on the garden this year may have been better spent at the grocery store.

My biggest mistake was planting too late, but it may not have mattered because it was the every other day rains that took me down. This year, people’s gardens either flourished or flopped and it all seemed to depend on drainage, slope, and soil composition. Our garden is perfectly flat in a perfectly flat yard with primarily clay loam, and an extremely high level of ground water. Most of the people that were able to eek a decent amount of produce out of their garden had a sloping garden with good drainage, and less clay.

Nonetheless, even with a pitifully producing garden, our son ate all of the small handful of strawberries right off the plant, and spent many afternoons helping me water, pick tomatoes, and wander around among the rows. As I think back on the garden and spend my afternoons preparing the beds for next year, I think on how valuable this garden was, even if it did not really give us anything to eat. It gave me time alone doing one of my favorite things. It gave me time with my son to teach him where his food comes from. It gave me perspective and taught me valuable lessons in patience, endurance, and perseverance. Regardless of how much or how little this garden produces, it still gives me so much that cannot be measured in gallons or quarts or jars in the basement.

Being Myself in a World of Pinterest Supermoms

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I have been very quiet this summer with my posting, and much of it has to do with our absolute lack of a productive garden. We planted too late, got too much rain, and I just didn’t have the enthusiasm for it this year. Our strawberries were a bust, we got a few tomatoes and peppers, and everything else just died while trying to struggle up through the puddles of rain that fell every two days.

This would have been much more depressing had I not been super engaged in watching this amazing two-year old of ours grow from a baby into a little boy. After surviving the very painful stage of him asking, “Waas that?”, every time he saw ANYTHING, he has now begun talking at an alarming rate and naming everything in sight. This intense time of growth and language development has been absolutely amazing and much more productive than a garden could ever be! I have, however, been thinking about my lack of posts and the reasons behind it and feeling like I need to say something.

We are surrounded with technology of all sorts, and most of this technology (Facebook, Pinterest, etc) is aimed at making our lives simpler, right? Someone posts about some awesome new recipe that you just HAVE to try. You see a post about ten things to do with your toddler and how EASY and FAST they are. You see pictures of a friend with her family and they all look so HAPPY. But let’s face it, this just isn’t reality. The reality is that sometimes we succeed at being organized, successful, and productive, and most of the time, we just succeed at making it through another day! I had a horrible garden this year, and feel like I have nothing to blog about, because my blog is ,after all, about gardening, and sustainable living. But this blog is also about my life, and my life right now sometimes consists of just being thankful that I got out of bed, fed my family, and maybe had some fun! I am not a supermom, but I AM a superwoman! Yes, my toddler spent the first half hour of his day screaming in his room because he refused to have his stinky diaper changed. Yes, we ate cereal and pizza for dinner. Yes, he went to bed with dirty feet and I may do the same. But we made a wonderfully huge mess on the kitchen floor with rice and dump trucks and bulldozers. We cut play dough into a million pieces with a butter knife. He danced around and tried to catch bubbles with his tongue. We went for a walk and talked about life and all the wonderful things out there in the world. Let’s face it, guys, we all suck sometimes- maybe we have a rotten garden, maybe we have a rotten moment, maybe we have a rotten hair day. But at the end of the day, we are ALL supermen/superwomen, because we keep getting up again and again and brushing off the dirt and trying again to be better, to do better, and to sometimes just realize that this is all the better it is going to get for the moment.

So as I try to find the momentum to wrap up this years garden and prepare it for another year, I am reminded that I also need to prepare myself. I need to be ready for the reality that I do not have to do everything, be everything, and have a beautiful garden, family, life for you to see. I can show you the stuff that just IS. So in the coming days, I will take some pictures and try to show what I have done right with the garden that will help me in the future, and things that have blossomed more than I ever expected (the herbs, the elderberries, the privacy screen, and celery!!). I would like to follow-up on our success with lasagna gardening- and how much that has been such a blessing to me, especially having a small child and not enough time for anything else! Most of all, I would like to just share our struggles, our triumphs, and our constant learning on how to get through this crazy life being more self-sufficient, more responsible, and more aware of our impact on the world around us.

Home at Last?

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Well,  after almost ten years of dreaming and scheming, my husband and I have found ourselves in Northern Minnesota looking at land  We have found an amazing piece of property and are waiting to hear if our offer will be accepted.  It is everything we dreamed of and I am trying not to get my hopes up up, but it really is the perfect piece of land!

This could be the start of building our homestead! Over the last five years I have learned so much about establishing a new garden, raising fruits and vegetables, raising ducks for eggs, butchering chickens, and canning/preserving. I am ready to get out on our property and start using all those skills!! Here are some photos of the property- would appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers that it can be ours!!! Megan

Beans!

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My canning project for the day- 16 pints of black beans…. Next up, kidney beans…..

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A Little Behind!

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Well, it is June 27th, and we finally completed the garden planting. I know, I know, it is super late, but let’s just say that there were a few distractions.   In our quest to follow God’s path for us, we meandered to Texas for a few months to work and play.  Our return was delayed and we drove back into West Virginia on June 8th.  Ideally, I could have planted the garden right away and not been too behind, but maybe the weeds had a little party while we were away.  I am so glad that I mulched before we left.  The soil was nice and loose and moist, and the weeds came out easily, but work, nonetheless, and with a toddler at home, it meant weeding in the two to three hours of nap time each day.  So, the garden is finally planted and weeded and ready to go.  The blueberry bushes have a few green berries, the elderberry is now an official bush, the fruit trees survived the winter, and the garlic is in full production.  My task for today is to set out the little dishes of cheap beer for some slug control.  I always feel a little bit odd at the grocery store with my cart full of organic veggies, fruit, and other wholesome goodness, and then my cans of cheap beer.  The slugs sure do enjoy it though, and least for a few seconds!

I am also very excited about our Thuja trees that we planted for a privacy screen- look how much they have grown since last year!!

Happy Gardening everyone- hope it is productive and fun!

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The Blue Heron

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My husband and I were sitting on the dock this evening just after sunset.  A large blue heron landed in the water to our right and we watched it walk ever so slowly along the shoreline, stopping now and again to nibble a minnow.  When it passed the dock, it flew off with a resounding, “squawk”.  It struck me how awesome this moment was, how awesome to be a part of God’s kingdom on Earth.  What a beautiful moment in time to just sit and observe.

How many times in a day, a week, a year, do we get caught up in the whirlwind of life and forget to just sit, listen, and observe?  People  so often surround themselves with so much stuff, so much to do, so much to see- do they really have anything, see anything, do anything?  Do they know God?  I think that is one of the reasons why our path brought us here to Texas- to remember why we are even here in the first place- to love….to listen…..to learn…..to remember who we are….to know God…..

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mothernaturephotos/4380172895/”>Elliotphotos</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Texas Wanderings

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Well, life has taken so many crazy twists and turns this past year.  We found ourselves becoming more and more unhappy in West Virginia and yearning for the life that we have always dreamed of.  We decided to take a short hiatus to East Texas.  What a blessing it has been to spend our days walking on the beach, playing in the sand, and enjoying the outside time with our son.  It has made us all the more resolved to find our land to build on.  We have slowly begun to refine our dream and have decided that our small homestead should include animals as well as a garden.  We have dabbled in ducks, and hope to expand to chickens, goats, and maybe a pig!  It has been so fun to take this time to dream big and make plans.  Our gardening will suffer this summer as a result of being gone for the Spring, but we will still try to plant when we return.  We are still not exactly sure where the road will lead us, but we plan to return to West Virginia with new purpose to get out of the city and continue our homestead life on a bigger chuck of land!  Happy Spring!

Calling all Ducks!

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We got Khaki Campbell ducks our first season here and then we gave them away after the boy was born.  We were feeling overwhelmed with the extra work.  This last summer we decided that ducks were definitely worth the work!  I had no idea how many bugs they ate until they were gone.  Not only did we have less bugs, but as a result of less bugs, our garden did better.  So the last warm day we had, I spent the day cleaning out the duck cage to prepare for our new arrivals.  I have no idea what kind of ducks they even are, but we are going to save them from the chopping block and give them a home in our back yard.  Here is the duck house along with some pics of the old gals, Crackers and Cheese….

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The Alaska Factor

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Well, our land in Alaska is under contract and we have been discussing why exactly this makes us sad.  It makes us sad even though we know that  selling that land will allow us to buy our homestead land somewhere in the Lower 48.  We have finally identified the difference between our experience in Alaska and our experience thus far in the Lower 48.  The places we lived in Alaska were sometimes remote, sometimes not, but there was a pervasive feeling of remoteness, maybe because the state itself is cut off from the rest of the country.  As a result, people banded together, and everyone made their own family out of the people around them.  Few people actually had blood family, so we learned to make our own families.  We had dinner nights, we had game nights, we had pajama and movie nights.  Holidays were never lonely and the people we went to church with were also the people we called our friends.  Maybe it was the winter darkness that brought us together.  Maybe it was the cold.  Maybe it was the distance from everything else.  I don’t know the reason, but it was different.  Since moving down here, people don’t seem to need each other the same.  People don’t help each other the same.  People don’t need to make their family out of strangers because their families are close by.

As we move into this next chapter in our life and begin to look for where we want to buy land, I know what we are going to be looking for.  We will be looking for a place that we can we go that the environment, the circumstances, or the geography forces people to live as they lived so long ago- as a community of people joining together, not solitary people simply occupying the same space.

Taking Back the Garden!

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Who in the world would have thought that I would be mowing the lawn on December 4th?  The first year we lived here I was picking Brussels Sprouts in the snow!!!  What ended up being a small project ended up being a much bigger one, as is customary on our little urban homestead!  I went out to try and take back the duck house from the weeds.  Little did I know that this seemingly simple project would turn into a complete yard mowing project!  When our son was born, we had two ducks that we got rid of because we were completely overwhelmed with being new parents and did not know if we could take care of the decks as well as we should.  Haha!  How could we not have known that the sucks would be the easy ones to take care of!!  So, after almost a year and a half, we are bringing ducks back into the yard.

My second reclaiming project this year has been to take the garden back from the weeds.  While our son was busy growing like a weed, our garden was being taken over.  I think that we have finally completed our project and our garden is finally ready for growing more food instead of weeds!!!  We have also planted 20 trees along the fence to provide a privacy barrier and spent most of the fall weeding and mulching the 110 foot section.  Here is our progress on the duck house, the fence row, and the garden…. And here is to a wonderfully random warm December day!!

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The next project will be to get a load of wood chips from the city so that we can add some more weed barrier and/or mulch!!!

 

Life With a Toddler

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I had such good intentions when I began this blog…….. and then I learned about life with a toddler!  I have so many unfinished posts, so many unfinished thoughts, and so many unfinished projects.  This year was not a good year for the garden, but I guess that is okay since we were busy growing a human!  It brings me such joy, though, that one of his first words was tomato, particularly referring to the tomatoes that he helped me pick in the garden!  He already knows where the strawberries come from and delights in going to the garden with me for a walkabout.  Even though we are not on our ‘homestead’ and are instead on a little lot in the city, it means so much to me that he knows where most of his food comes from and he wants to be involved in helping me each day.

My main goal for this month is to plant the garlic- late again!  This year we will plant much more than last!  I am still undecided how we will start our plants this year as we have had mixed success with starting things from seed.  The first year was stellar but we sprouted everything in the dining room at 72 degrees!  The basement is much cooler, and I have had a difficult time with germination.  Perhaps this year I might put plastic around the growing shelves to create a little mini greenhouse environment.

I will try to be better at writing- if only a short little blurb..  No one is expecting a novel, and it is important to document our travels to the good life, because I know that most of the travel is the journey itself!

Slackerville

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Oh my!  It has been so long since I have posted anything and yet so many wonderful things are happening in the garden!  I had all of these gran intentions, of course, about posting every week, taking pictures of my progress, and then I realized that life with a baby just isn’t as productive as I thought it would be.  Well, actually, let me rephrase that… Life with a baby is EXTREMELY productive with things like naps, giggles, crawling around, experiencing a million things for the first time….. It is not so productive when it comes to things that I get up in the morning planning to do!!

Thankfully, I have clocked enough garden hours that the garden almost continues without me.  The potatoes are already as high as the fence, the onions are swaying in the breeze.  The garlic is reaching for the sky, the rhubarb is calling my name.  The artichoke is spreading its beautiful leaves and the strawberries are calling all slugs in for a berry fest.  In the greenhouse/porch, the peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, brussells, lettuce, etc are growing stronger every day.  The basement holds it own treasures with emerging cucumbers, okra, pumpkin, and watermelon.

Most of my Spring has consisted of taking back the garden…… from the weeds.  That is an entire post in and of itself.  The garden is starting to look like a garden, though, and I should be able to eat peas soon enough!  The first year that I gardened seemed so intimidating.  I was anxious for everything to grow, to survive, to thrive, and now it seems to come so much more naturally.  I won’t say that it comes effortlessly, but it is becoming a part of my existence in a way that makes it fun, not burdensome.

Today we took a walk in the yard, my son and I, and he babbled away excitedly while examining the strawberries.  It makes me happy to know that he will grow up eating, growing, and appreciating the bounty of the garden.

The Garden Plan 2012

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Well, for some reason I am having a supremely difficult time getting excited about the gardening season.   I just ordered my seeds, I still have beds to prep, I have not started any seed, and I am just now thinking about garden planning.  It is probably a combination of factors from having a small infant to the lack of a good winter.  Regardless, I am at a point where I really need to get in gear because we need and want the food to eat and will be disappointed and hungry if we do not have any to eat!  Here is my garden plan for the year.  It is rather rudimentary, but accomplishes my goal of having a general layout.  This is my third year gardening in this bed and I have managed to rotate every year so that the same veggie types are not in the same beds.  I may go back to the original layout next year, or do one more rotation.

I have two more beds to weed that should have been done last fall, but having a new baby has been a major adjustment!  I am having to mulch very heavily because we did not keep up with the weeding last year, so we are going to have to be much more aggressive this year.  I am using heavy layers of straw and will add more once the soil warms.  West Virginia has more weeds than I ever imagined possible and they are super aggressive.   Would love to hear your thoughts on how you handle the weeds in your area!

Walmart to Sell Monsanto GMO Corn This Summer | Care2 Healthy Living

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Okay, so this is just so absolutely disgusting to me that I have to re-post it.  Unfortunately, Dave and I have not had super good luck growing corn, but this article is just a testament to why we are trying to grow our own food.  What a sad world we live in where the very food that we buy is full of poison!  Boo-hiss…. as my mother would say….

 

Walmart to Sell Monsanto GMO Corn This Summer | Care2 Healthy Living.

Portable Salad Boxes

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Okay- these wonderful boxes are not mine- but my dad made them and I am super excited about the idea of a portable salad box.  They sound like they were pretty simple to make with the box being made with 1 x 4 pieces of wood.  The bottom is layered with screen and poultry fencing.  This allows for the water to go through, but enough support for the soil to stay put.

Stay tuned- hopefully I will get some pictures from my dad when he gets some things growing…… Stand by!

Homemade Crib Rail Covers—- a.k.a foiling the baby beaver….

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So my son recently discovered how to stand up in his crib, and soon after that he discovered the joys of scraping the finish off of his crib with his bottom teeth.  Much to my dismay, our brand new crib looked like this when I went in to get him this morning.  Too cheap to buy crib rail covers, and not exactly a domestic goddess, I did a quick search on how to make my own covers.  It looked like about $40 to buy covers, and that was not an option.

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A quick trip to Wal-mart (my least favorite place) and less than $10.00 later, I came home with two yards of green fleece, and two packs of Velcro.  I cut out two strips of fleece that were 53″ by 22″.  Then I folded each strip over and sewed all four edges.  The last edge I sewed to within about 6″ of the end, and then turned the whole thing inside out.

I then painstakingly put batting into the covers before sewing them closed.  Because I was using an ancient Singer sewing machine, I had to sew the Velcro on by hand (my least favorite skill EVER)…  This is the final product on the crib….  And the Beaver trying them out for a taste test….

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July 2, 2013- Okay, so I have to add an addendum here.  I assumed that my son, now being two, would have gotten over the scraping beaver phase.  I went to get him from his nap a couple of days ago and discovered that lo and behold, he had scraped a fair bit of the finish off the end of the crib- the only part uncovered!!  Feeling much more lazy and disinclined to sew, I grabbed some of the leftover fleece, cut a strip long enough, and folded it in half lengthwise so it would be double thick over the rail.  I cut a few holes in either side, cut some tie strips, and tied the cover in four places.  I know that it will probably not last as long, but it only took about 10 minutes, so for those of you who do not have the desire to sew, this may be an option for a quick fix!

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