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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.

 

 

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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!

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 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!

 

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.

 

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