The Music Filled Homestead

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The guitar was sitting next to the fireplace untouched.  My children can play various instruments and sing and we always had lots of music in our home.  We gave away the piano so we didn’t have to move it.  Oh, how I miss it.  We sold the violin and the mandolin.  Andy took the banjo and his guitar.  Doug gave me a guitar for my birthday a few years ago.  I wish I could say that I have Andy’s natural talent but I will forget what I learned musically pretty quickly.  Twenty years of piano and I would still need to reteach myself.  I can sing, but not as consistently as the contestants of the Voice.  But I do love music.

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This year we worked like crazy folks to rebuild.  I tend to hurry, hurry.  No time, no time!  But what harm does it do if I am ten minutes behind because I am singing loudly and strumming with chords and following a beginning guitar book?  All that does is add joy to my life!  And I’ll write about it more in the coming weeks, but my goals for 2017 are to live.  Really live.

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I will be on the search for a piano for our new house as well. The piano cares not if I am a maestro or not.  A home filled with music is a home filled with love and joy.

If you could learn any instrument, what would it be?

Firewood, Trucks, and Guitars

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Just a few homesteader necessities!  When Doug’s sister said that her beautiful crab apple tree had finally fallen over due to a storm we didn’t waste time getting down there to retrieve the wood!  Wood is necessary on a homestead with wood stoves. This year we would like to not use the propane (hello heart attack when you see the bill and it doesn’t even heat the room) and not freeze our booties off.

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Now in order to get the wood we needed a truck.  We gave our truck to Emily and thought we could go without one.  You should have seen us packing hay and straw bales in the back of the Chevy HHR we drive.  It has been a patient farm car but it is not meant for this type of lifestyle so with our tax refund we bought a truck.  Mind you it is in the shop again but when we get it back Friday it is going to be one heck of a ride.  I love it.  The HHR is being bought by someone who lives in the city and is excited to have a smart looking smaller car.

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I have fallen in love with my guitar.  I have played lots of instruments but never with this type of passion and sense of fun.  I am trying not to be so serious about it.  I ask my teacher (who I think might be my daughter’s age) a million questions and he says this week my homework is to learn to comfortably strum.  In 4/4 time?  I ask.  Just strum.

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My goal is to play the local town fairs next year and play at my own festivals this year.

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So, I am strumming away on this lovely homestead with my big truck and piles of wood and potatoes to be planted today and the grandbaby coming over.  ‘Tis a good life, my friends, a very good life.

Music Returns to the Homestead

I received something for my birthday today that I have wanted for some time.. music.

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When we downsized to this little homestead I sold the piano, the violin, and the mandolin.  Andy took his electric guitar, his acoustic guitar, his banjo, and the harmonica.  It was terrible.

Now, mind you, I probably would not have set down to play the piano since we moved in, nor would I have had it tuned.  The violin hurt my shoulder, and Doug was never really into the mandolin.  The children moved out and took their music with them leaving our home very quiet indeed.

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I am not a natural musician like my Andy.  He was playing seven instruments and writing songs when he was very young with very few lessons.  I played the piano for twenty years and if any time lapsed at all I wouldn’t be able to play a single song by memory.  At the end of a year of violin lessons I played at the Celtic Festival.  Not very well, but good enough!  The violin and the piano are really loud when one is learning and making mistakes and I am afraid I was too concerned over the neighborhood hearing my screeching and pounding practices.  Oh, my poor husband.  Yes, I did not need any instruments.  Until they were gone.

I took my mother’s guitar to seventh grade to take some guitar lessons.  I took my son’s guitar to college for that semester of lessons.  But then I gave the guitars back.  Maryjane and I have been watching a lot of Sound of Music.  She demands to watch it every day.  It occurred to me that I could play the guitar.  I have ten acres plus hundreds more of listening birds and frogs.  The strings are quieter.  I could have music.  I would learn this time!  I could get a book and it should all come back to me.  I could be the opener for the band I hired to play at the farm after the Homesteading Boot Camp!  I could play at our Pumpkin Festival!

But alas, we are on a tight farm budget.  There is no extra for guitars.

My husband, Doug, has been saving money without my knowing.  And this morning I woke to this beautiful guitar.

Music has returned.

Ma and Pa’s Mountain Music Spectacular!

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“Oh play me that mountain music….like Grandma and Grandpa used to play…” I love that song.  Alabama can sure put a hop in your step!  I am sure their fiddle player started playing fiddle before the age of thirty-eight!  But it is never too late to pick up an instrument.  “I have zero musical talent,” I hear from other people.  No excuse!  Musical abilities are variable but everyone has the music in them and can play instruments.  I have been taking violin…ahem…fiddle lessons for seven months now.  It is so much fun.  My teacher is a saint.  Perhaps he wears ear plugs.  My first few months sounded like the stereotypical small child practicing.  Screech, screech, screech, screech went the bow on the strings.  Dancing not, tripping yes.  My turning point was in September when I begged for Christmas music.  Neil is trying to teach me proper Celtic fiddle, but you know, once we pass August all my thoughts are on Christmas!  Jingle Bells was the song that made me “get it”.  Still screechy but producing genuine sound, I bowed through several Christmas tunes.   The sound of the music soothing to me so long as no one was home.  Oddly enough, I can play in big crowds, or by myself, not with just a few people meandering about listening to me practice.

We are enchanted by good music.  Doug and I quizzed the children growing up, not on algebraic expressions or spelling words, but on “who sang it?”  “What play is this from?”  The kids shocked people in grocery stores shouting out Elvis, or Beach Boys, Dean Martin, Def Leopard when asked, “Who sings it?”  They were especially schooled in Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., and Doris Day.  Doug had them recognizing Chicago, Bob Dylan, and Earth Wind and Fire.

Andrew picked up his first instrument in grade school, the French horn.  Not sure why he chose it, but he learned to read basic music, did a few performances, and enjoyed it.  Then his mind turned to something else, a guitar.  Doug and I found a music shop that had set up at the mall just for Christmas and Christmas morning Andrew received his wish, a pink guitar.  Yes, our son wanted a pink guitar.  Secure early on, that was his favorite color!  He played and played and taught himself how to master the guitar.  Then he wanted a banjo.  He taught himself the banjo and would walk around the neighborhood playing for public works employees and park goers.  He was about fifteen at the time.  Pirate earring, dreadlocks, a desire to open a coffee and cigar bar in St. Thomas and homeschooled.  That child had all day to wander the neighborhood bringing smiles to everyone’s faces.  He taught himself how to play seven instruments.

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I am not so lucky!  I started playing the piano at eight years old.  My mother was my teacher and a great one at that.  I took piano in high school.  I took it in college.  Do you think I could sit down and play you a song?  Heck no.  Use it or lose it and my memorization skills seem to be lacking these days!  Doug has to work at it too.  To his utmost dismay, when he got his mandolin for Christmas, I think he half expected to be like Andrew and just start playing!  After three lessons he gave it up for a while.  I love the sound of the tremolo the mandolin makes.  The music from the mandolin, advanced or not, brings me such great happiness.  Doug has been inspired by my fiddle lessons and has recently picked up the mandolin again.  Perhaps we will go on the road.  A Ma and Pa Spectacular!  Or we’ll just play in our living room for brave friends.  We could charge admission.

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Our house was always filled with music.  Emily played the violin and the ukulele.  Shyanne, not interested in instruments, had her own instrument, her voice.  She sings like an angel.  At ten years old she was belting out tunes most adults couldn’t touch in karaoke bars across the city.  All three kids could sing so wonderfully.  We would take them to bars, yes, to let them sing.  Doug said it was homeschooling.  Music and Social Problems.  It was a great time.  I miss it.  This transition time has been rough on me as a mom.  I did not expect the kids to grow up.  My teen mommy stays with her boyfriend most of the time because he is allergic to cats and nine of them (who love him and want to sit on his face) are a bit much.  They want to get married.  Shyanne, who is 99.9% of the time with her boyfriend, working, or at school will be eighteen this year.  Andrew, ever present at dinner each night, will probably tire of his mom and dad soon enough.  He is saving up to get out of town and move back to Denver.  The music seemed to me to be dying.  I have been crying up a storm trying to get used to it.  I know nothing other than being a mom.  Since I was eighteen years old, my whole world has been my children and I do not know who I am as a person anymore.  So, the new stage in our life is this:  Who is Doug and Katie?  Who are we if we are not parents of small children?  How do you fill an empty house?

Well, to start with, we are going to fill it with mountain music.  Fiddles, and guitars, voices raised in song, friends that want to play as well.  Mandolins and tambourines.  Life is short, fill it with music!  (And for heaven’s sake, go buy an instrument and start playing!)