Mad Mother

The day was quiet and calm.  Our first farmer’s market was going really, really well.  Lots of new faces, lots of folks to help, and it was nice being around our old farmers market vendor family.  Then towards the end it happened.  Usually microbursts come later in the season so this one certainly took us all by surprise.  The familiar yelling and the words, “Hold on!” and “It’s coming!” at the market is the equivalent to “All Hands on Deck!”

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If you are new to microbursts, they are invisible, highly volatile, mini tornados on the ground.  They wind up, sometimes with dust and debris, but often without a sign until you see the first tent fly up in the air, weights or no.  You can often hear it, it sounds like a train, but this one was quieter and more stealth than most.  It picked up more tents slightly as folks held them down, vendors jumping to help others with theirs, and then it picked up speed and turned.  Right towards us.  We had two tents.  Doug was on one side and I on the other.  I had one hand on the tent and one on our shelves of medicines.  A customer held onto the shelves as well.  Our buckets were filled with large rocks and securely fastened to the tents.  The back of the tents were attached to our van.  I held on with all of my might but the microburst picked up our tent, and me.  It carried me in the air until I hit the van, the leg of the tent caught under my skirt and cut and bruised my thigh, then released my hem and flew up and over the van, both tents and buckets, and rocks and debris flying away, crashing down into the street, narrowly missing two cars.  The customer that held the shelves with me was shocked and scared as Doug came running over to help her with the large shelf.  The smaller had flown off.  Sample jars, cards, bags, product just gone.  Broken, missing, blown away in parts of the city we may never know.  The power of Mother Earth is astounding.  If the van hadn’t stopped me I would have kept on flying with it.  A ragdoll on this planet.

A few weeks ago I had another dream about her.  The soil was loose and unassuming as it opened and sucked down entire towering trees.  It is not improbable that that could happen.

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We were walking through Castlewood Canyon on a trail that just opened for the season.  As we turned a bend I heard something, saw something, so fast I could not comprehend but I suddenly felt like prey.  My stomach went in knots, nerves, I held my breath.  My eyes grew large, I tried to listen, I froze in place.  But it was gone, or seemingly so, watching us as we finally passed by.  We are not the top of any food chain.

Her name in Cherokee is Etsia Eloheno.   She is known in other cultures as Gaia, Terra Mater, Maka Ina.  I believe, from experience, that she is not viewed as a living being.  In many major religions we are to not have any other “gods” and for some reason the earth gets viewed as such and we forget that she is a real, living being with destructive and life giving power and only focus on the Creator and forget about our mother.  Every single thing on this planet has a spirit.  Each rock, each tree, each animal, each of us.  We are no greater than a rock on the path, than a dog on the street, than a tree growing tall.  We are children lacking respect.

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I have returned to the city and watch bags and bags…and bags of trash being thrown out in my apartment complex alone.  Electricity, oil use, driving two blocks, modern conveniences, privilege, waste.  More and more counties aren’t accepting recycling anymore because there is no money in it.  We expose animals in factory farms, bastardize our crops to make genetically modified organisms, we pretend we are on the top of the food chain, that we are the rulers of the world.  No religion or belief system will save us from the consequences of how we treat the Earth.

Let us walk quieter.  Let us leave less foot print.  Let’s take less.  Let’s talk to trees and plants.  Let’s acknowledge that we are but visitors and children.  Let’s love her.  She gives us medicine and food and places to play and everything we need to survive.

I highly recommend the book “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel and to take more walks.

5 Steps To Becoming a Homesteader (or just simplifying your life)

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1.Write down your goals. 

Do you want to quit your job?  Move to the country?  Have an urban farm?  Homestead on the weekends?  Live a more peaceful, mindful life? 

We have been on the path to simplicity and homesteading for about seven years now.  It started with reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” by Barbara Kingsolver and wanting to learn to can and grow all of our own food.  I started canning (badly) and started a sad little garden in the city.  I got better!

Our goals were to leave our corporate world and busy suburban lifestyle.  When Doug had a nervous breakdown our timeline sped up.  Our goals constantly change and morph each year.  We have a pretty extreme list of homesteading goals right now.  I have no way of knowing if they will work, but I have written them down and am working towards them.  Ask and you shall receive!

  • Find a place with a small house that has a wood stove.  Wood cook stove?  Even better.  Said house should be around $850 a month.  Don’t laugh, it could happen.
  • Small house would be on a bit of land.  I need a full acre of garden.  A quarter acre at the moment provides us with 90% of our vegetables during the summer and early fall, and 80% of the medicinal herbs I use.  Another quarter acre could be the remaining herbs I need to grow, and additional fresh eating vegetables, plus a pond.  A green house and hoop houses could inhabit part of the remaining half acre and a large preservation garden (everything I need to can) and a spice garden (Lord, do I spend a lot on spices!) could round out this menagerie of growing Eden.  An orchard would be added as well and then of course we need room to walk about, have our goats, chickens, and ducks, and be able to ride our bikes to town.
  • A composting toilet and gray water systems could be in place.  We will use as little electricity as possible.
  • This will be a haven for our friends, children, grandchildren, and wildlife.

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2. Learn two skills. 

There was a vast amount of information about homesteading lost with our past generations.  We just don’t know how to do many of the basic skills and farmstead chores anymore.  Find a mentor or a class or a great book and make a goal to learn two things.  Two things a month, or two things a year, whatever works for you.   

A few years ago on this homestead I wanted chickens and to preserve almost all of our food for winter.  The next year I wanted goats and alpacas and to learn to spin.  I learned to spin, didn’t like it, didn’t care for the alpacas, gave away the alpacas, fell in love with goats, got more chickens, and canned over 500 items.  Homesteading is constant rearranging of goals.  This year we got bees and ducks and started growing almost all of our medicinal herbs.  We dug up the driveway to make more space to garden.  Last year we dug up the front and side yards.  Last year I learned to make soft cheese, this year hard cheese.  Doug has learned fencing methods and how to milk a goat.

We have learned what we enjoy, what we don’t, what’s a waste of time, what’s imperative to our homesteading journey.  Learning everything at once is not possible and would be overwhelming.  Just pick two skills.  What do you want to learn?

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3. Get Money Savvy    

Rethink your finances.  Get out of debt.  Stay out of debt.  But don’t wait for pristine credit before you make the jump.

Our BIGGEST mistake that will continue to haunt us for years to come was getting into debt.  We had fourteen credit cards, owned our house (or the bank did), had two car payments and had amazing, perfect credit.  Ironic, isn’t it?  We took the Dave Ramsey program at our church six years ago and it changed our lives.  We paid off and cut up all of our credit cards.  We do not have any still.  We paid off a lot of debt.  We then lost our house and one of our cars in the crash and our credit went to crap.  Which didn’t matter at the time because we were content renting for half the price of our house in Parker.  We have everything we need but there is the little matter of $50 grand from the second mortgage that still says it is an open account and $25,000 for the student loans we still owe.  There should be a money back guarantee.  If you don’t use your degree you should get a refund.  I do not see, with the interest rates the way they are, how we would ever in this lifetime pay these off.  If you are in debt, get out.  If you are not, do not venture into that pitfall.

Save a hundred dollars a month.  Pay yourself first.  Put it in a coffee can or the bank.

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4.  Simplify.  REALLY Simplify!

Every hour you work is money spent on something.  How many hours do you have to work to make enough to pay for the car?  Gas?  The house?  Cable?  Cell phones?  Restaurants?  Is it worth it?  What do you need?  How much time would you like?

It goes against every grain of our society to make less.  The mantra is make more, spend more, the more you make the more you can give, the more you can have, the more secure you will be.  Wrong.  I highly recommend you read “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel.  It outlines our footprint on this planet as well as radically simplifying your life.  If you work less, you leave more work for others.  If you consume less, you leave more for others.  If you have less, you have to work less (this does not include the good kind of work on your own time on a farmstead).  The less you consume, the less resources you take from the planet, less pollution, less animal habitat loss, less unfairness.  Do you need a huge house?  Do you need to buy all of that packaged stuff?  Does it really bring happiness?

My goals are to lessen even more.  We are stressing over bills still and have too much stuff.  What is it with the seven sets of (gorgeous) antique dishes in my cupboards?  All the clothes I don’t wear?  The jewelry I don’t wear?  Where is our money going?  I am now writing it all down, the spending for each day.  See where the leaks are.  See what we don’t need.  What we don’t need to buy.  How much is everything really costing us?

And despite the stressing of leaching money, I want to make less.  No, I have not lost my mind.  I want to stay beneath the poverty line.  I have all the food I need, I am looking at lessening my rent, getting rid of my water bill and most of the electric bill, driving less, less gas money and wear and tear.  High taxes?  Don’t have them.  Where is your money going?

I am ready to simplify even more.  Make less money.  Offer medicines on a donation basis so that everyone can afford them.  Does cable television make us happy?  We don’t really watch it, so no.  That glass of wine in the evenings?  Yes, I don’t have to give that up.  By freeing up your money and where you spend it, you have only what you need and love.  And lots of time to watch the sunset and play with baby goats.

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5. Just Do It!

No more five year plan, maybe next year, only if he gets a raise, or when the kids move out.  There are no guarantees you will live long enough to live the life you really want.  Now is the time to act!

What can I say?  I have friends my age in their forties heading on to the Great Beyond and ones in their eighties who are too tired to do any more.  What is the best time to pursue your goals, cut your spending drastically, move to the place of your dreams, and start living self sufficiently?  Now is a real good time.  And if you cannot move yet or don’t want to, if you don’t want to quit your job or change much at all, just learn a few skills.  Cheese making?  Crocheting?  And urban garden?  Simplifying and homesteading can be done on many levels.