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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.

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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.

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.

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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