Farmsteading Scenes and Living Life Well

When we first began this journey, we went into it wholeheartedly and completely naive. We learned, we cried, we laughed. A homesteading/farmsteading lifestyle makes life amplified. The good is really amazing, healing, and life-giving; babies being born, fresh food from the garden, baby goats prancing sideways, a lamb’s comical yell, gathering fresh eggs from the coop, watching the sun set, waving at friendly neighbors, gathering wood to bring inside before an approaching storm, hanging clothes on the line while watching wildlife.

Crop losses, predators, freak accidents, money worries; there are a lot of things to worry about while being a homesteader. The neighbor’s wolf/husky got into my coop last night and killed my favorite chicken, Bubba. I was mad at myself for not closing the coop sooner. I was mad that I purposely chose this lifestyle! Where there is life- and farms are teeming with life- there is death. And it is much more in your face than apartment living. When we lived in an apartment, on our way to our next homestead, we had plenty of stresses and things to worry about then too. So, it really is a matter of how you want to live. This lifestyle gets ingrained in you, so that you have no other choice but to live like this. And we do love it.

Being a homesteader and farmer comes with a great sense of accomplishment. I tend to point out everything on a guest’s plate that I grew or handmade. I love the methodical motions of traditional domestic work. We appreciate the intense rush of love that comes over us when we see a baby being born. We appreciate seeing the horizon and knowing how to judge the weather by watching nature. Homesteading and farming is all about family, and living life to the fullest. If life is short, then I want to spend time bottle feeding precious infant goats, and being followed around by lambs and chickens. I want to laugh at duck antics while sipping homemade wine. I want to watch the fire swell up as it fills the wood stove. I love tying off the final piece of yarn to finish a project or snipping the last thread on a dress I have made.

If you are considering adopting this lifestyle- Do It! You won’t regret it. It costs some to get started but it pays itself back quickly. We save money, eat well, live healthier, have a happier marriage, a closer family, and a sense that we are really living. Start somewhere. Get chickens, or cheese making equipment, or get out yarn to make holiday presents. This is a very good life.

Farewell Nancy Mae

I know she can hear me…

Her eyes closed, pressed into drug induced coma.  The air from the oxygen clashing with the rattling rasp coming from her throat.         The death rattle.  I recognize it.

So much I want to say but as I go to speak my words catch and my eyes well and the words cannot tumble out without the crashing of tears inhibiting my sentiments.

So I stay silent.

She taught me to be a woman.  A good woman.

A good wife, calming and agreeable.  No matter what grandpa says, even if it is terribly obvious that she knows that bit of information, she looks grateful and sweet and nods.  Everything he says is fascinating.  Ever caring, every meal made with love, every thing taken care of for him.  The looks they share.  A love affair of seventy-something years.  To be a wife like that.

A good mother, adoring and loving.  Her children make up the fiber of her essence and she would have done-or did do- anything to help them.  Across the miles or next door, her love for them never failed.

A good grandmother, ever supportive and beloved.  Beloved.  Cookies in the cookie jar and hot coffee at the ready.  Even if we were six years old.  Always there for us.  Always cheering us on.  Like we were the most important people in the world.  Grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great grandmother.  She has lived a life of loving.  I think she waited until my second granddaughter, Ayla Mae, was born a few months ago, on their 70th wedding anniversary.

Every piece in me she filled, that of mother, grandmother, friend.

There was room in her house for anyone who needed a place to stay.  Always ready with a handout or a smile.  Her generosity extended endlessly.

She taught me to sew, to crochet, to cook eggs.  Every Tuesday for years as an adult I would pick her up and we would go to IHOP or a new restaurant (usually IHOP though, she loved the pancakes) and then shopping.  We talked about anything and everything.

She grew up on a farm.  She married a dashing cowboy at the age of sixteen.  Grandpa.  She was a waitress for many years because, in her words, she had nice legs.  Oh my goodness, I will miss that woman.

I know she can hear me.

Goodbye Grandma.

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Grandma and Grandpa used to take me and my cousin, Helen on many fun adventures.

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My first crocheted blanket that Grandma taught me to make.

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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for. A life well lived.

Nancy Mae Horner

May 26, 1932-February 18, 2009

When Homesteading is Life

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When one is faced with starting over there is an underlying gift involved.  One that creates space.  Yes, it is sad to lose everything one owns and it is odd to have to reinvent one’s occupation and lifestyle but what this creates is a place to only bring back in what one loves.  What one needs.  What improves life and doesn’t clutter or overwhelm it.

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I am living in a beautiful home with friends.  Electricity is used as needed and sometimes when not.  I have relearned to use a dishwasher and a dryer.  We flip on lamps to read.  I walk around their house in the evening squinting for the overhead lights are so bright.  I do not like overhead or artificial lights.  My forever farm will have oil lamps again.  I miss them, love them, feel better by them, and will not miss turning on the switch.

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I rinse and lightly scrub dishes and put them in the dishwasher.  One more good rub and these dishes could be put away.  I do not feel I need one.  The dryer has been fun and makes laundry day a snap with these beautiful machines but I miss hearing the flick of the clothes as I snap them in the air before placing them on the line while listening to birds and taking a few breaths to myself as I enjoy the outdoors.  My clothes, wrinkle free and not shrunk coming off the line in piles of aroma that could not be matched with dryer sheets.  “Perhaps I will love city life again or at least modern conveniences,” I thought.  Wrong.

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Right now we don’t miss milking twice a day but we really miss our chickens.  I haven’t eaten more than four servings of fresh food all summer.  My gardens filled with bounty in my memory and planning.  No eggs, no produce, and no milk on hand is sobering.  Maybe we will get a milking goat again, I know not as of yet, but the chickens and gardens will be taking over available space on the forever farm.

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Our neighbors hope we get the place.  They miss us and our goats.  We have only been farmless for a month and a half so perhaps more things I miss will come up.  But we will start house with as little as if we have just left home.  Mementos and little else.  No clutter, only build what we love and treasure in our new home.

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We are having trouble securing work that pays over minimum wage despite our experience and education.  Another interesting dilemma.  But, we are following open doors and not trying to force our way through bolted ones.  Let’s see where this meandering path leads us.

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“It’s a good thing you know how to homestead!,” my friend exclaimed.  She said that most people faced with our situation moving to the country with little wages would think they wouldn’t survive!

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I know how to build a fire, how to can, how to preserve, I know friends who raise their own livestock for meat, I know how to make bread from scratch, and how to make a corn field come up in a driveway.  I am not worried.  I got this.

Transition, Exhaustion, and God’s Great Canvas

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We are moving to our dream house.  This is the scene looking across the goat pens and chicken coop.  It is breathtaking and inspiring.

We are so very tired, I’m afraid.  We have been taking loads out to the new house every day along with our regular farmer’s markets, farm chores, and household chores, and fixing up the new house.  I have great muscles I haven’t seen in some time and even though we are fatigued, we can see the end of the our current transition.

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The end of this transition has been a long year full of more friend’s passings and animal losses (another friend and my favorite cat this week) and this year has been ever so arduous.  It has been full of fantastic joys though as well.  Like being able to watch Maryjane so much and having such a close little bond with her.  Like finding the exact homestead we prayed for.  Our son getting married, and our daughter graduating.  Watching them all work and grow up and find their passions, healthy and beautiful children.  The homestead angels that have come to our rescue out of the blue.  Friends that have taken time to come help us paint.  To help us move a load or two to the new house.  To help us finish tasks that have us exhausted.  To come teach us how to use our stove.  Our friends are many and we are so blessed.

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I am looking forward to being able to sit on this bench, perhaps with a cup of coffee and a writing book, or maybe a sketch book, and exhale.  To look out upon this amazing canvas and breath in the beauty and rest quietly and whisper words of thanks.

The Inspirational (and Inspired) Life

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I was always fascinated by grandma’s bay window of plants and her rose bushes.  Of Aunt Donna’s heavy laden apple tree, grape vine, flowering bushes, and crisp rhubarb.  I wonder if they know how much they inspired me and that I am a farmer today because of their memories on the farm they grew up on and watching them grow things.

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Jill and Nancy inspired my love of goats.  I had trepidations about goats after babysitting a friend’s unruly rescued male goats.  A bruised hip bone made me very leery of ever having goats.  But these girls showed me how fun they could be.  They let us come over and play with new baby goats.  They answered questions.  I am now ready to start milk shares and am sharing my home (and lap) with adorable and fun loving goats who make this farm more enjoyable.

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Sandy and Debbie inspired me to grow more herbs for my medicines.  I thought it would be too difficult to grow all the herbs I need for my medicines so they grew things for me, with such ease that I felt I could do it myself.

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Kathi taught me and Nancy how to make soap.  Nancy taught me how to make cheese.  Claudia tried to teach me to knit.  Another Sandy taught me to spin.  There has never been a shortage of inspiration surrounding me.  Kat and Rod taught me to be a better parent, be more loving, accept people for who they are.  Pat and Rodney taught me unconditional love.  I have so many lovely friends who inspire me every day and that I love dearly.  I need to tell these people that they inspired me.  Thank them for helping me on my path and for being a part of where I am today…living on this mini-farm, enjoying what I do.

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I  hope I have inspired ideas through my teaching and writing.  That is the thing, we don’t always know how we have affected other’s lives so it is important to live a life that you enjoy and that makes you proud and passionate.  And always be kind.  For others are watching and taking ideas that will better their lives and so makes our short time on earth more enjoyable and filled with beauty and ideas.

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In this blog, every holiday and entertaining picture is with Nancy and her family.  The 5 Farmgirls was made up of me and Nancy and our daughters and Maryjane.  The early pictures of Emily with goats were Nancy’s.  We learned skills together and played together.  That is one of the sweetest gifts on earth.  Someone to inspire and be inspired by and be in cahoots with.  I am so sad that she passed away this morning.  But I will not focus on her passing, but on all the inspiration that she gave to me and the memories we made.  Her spirit is indelibly on this farm as she helped make it possible with her brainstorming over glasses of wine with me.

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I hope that I am an inspiration.  Life is too short to have any other reputation.  Let things go. Don’t focus on the past.  Don’t worry if some people don’t treat you like you think they should.  Focus on those that are good to you.  Notice the good and the blessings.  Do what you want.  Don’t be afraid.  If your heart desires something….a homestead….a child….a beer….it will come to you!  Today work on it coming true!

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March has been a rough month over here.  Many losses of human and animal lives.  The important thing is to focus on the positive.  My son is getting married this summer.  My granddaughter and I have a special relationship.  My children are well and happy.  My marriage is good.  I bottle feed three baby goats a day.  We have hope.  What a beautiful life we live that inspiration is everywhere.

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