Going to homestead school

Can you imagine if, as a child, you got your little lunchbox packed up with organic foods and walked outside into your parent’s yard? Or left for a place like Mountain Sun Community School that focuses so much on educating students on the environment or their mental well being as well as math and science? I CAN.

I can, because I see my homestead tribe and the way they spend time with their children in the fall. I see adorable pictures on their instagram of their youngins’ digging up dahlias for transplanting next spring or gathering kindling for their wood stoves. I see it when friend’s youngins’ visit here and are over the moon excited to help me butcher an old retired hen for the first time. Because they want to eat meat, but because they also want to save every single feather and the skull to make something out of when they get back home. I see how excited they get when I tell them even the parts of the meat we don’t want to eat, their new cat likely would love to. I see it on the faces of the well rounded middle school students I spend time with from Mountain Sun, shortly after they got back from a cold weather camping trip led by the school. Just this week, when one of those Mountain Sun middle school girls told me (after I was warning not to be afraid to get your hands in there to mix the soil for micro greens because that manure I mentioned was in there is well composted.), “Oh don’t worry, I’m not afraid of dirt.” and just plunged her hands right on in there. It plain ol’ makes me feel like we are ALL winning at life. It shows me the tide is turning. That these young folks are totally ready to be taking on changing the world. And they ain’t afraid to get their hands dirty while they are doing it.

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Can you imagine if women like me hadn’t had to learn homesteading from YouTube and books alone? If they could get their hands in there and have someone supporting them while they learn some skills? I CAN.

I can, because I saw it this week when a woman we are friends with came out here to learn to process a rabbit for the first time. She learned to process it and how she could handle the hide to make a blanket from the forager, how to preserve it and how to cook it from this farmer. She took not only those skills home to her family of five to share, but the rabbit meat itself to try her hand at making that stew we discussed. I saw it when that same woman was here the week before learning how to make friction fire. It makes this farmer feel so good that that lady is one step closer to keeping that family of five fed and warm, under just about any circumstances. It humbles me that those skills we just spent time sharing, will get shared again–at least to four other folks in her tribe. Talk about a ripple effect from a rain drop.

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Can you imagine if 8 weeks after we bought this piece of land, we’d gotten to visit another that was four years in and had a lot of experience and examples to share? Experiments that shook out and ones that didn’t? So we could hear how they processed their emotions, how they can finally laugh at their mistakes and aren’t afraid to share them now? I CAN.

I can because I spent yesterday morning walking around this farm doing what I now feel like was the most organically grown lecture I’ve ever done in my 11 year career as an educator with two amazing new homesteaders. It was the first one ever that I went into with absolutely no plan and just felt my way through. Those two are just now 8 weeks into their own land. One of those fine folks is a female veteran who has not been back stateside all that long in the grand scheme of things. Sharing information with those two in particular means the absolute world to this veteran’s daughter–and I don’t know if they even know that. I don’t even know if they know how much it heals my heart to talk to them about how to homestead better than we did.  How much it made every single mistake I made SO worth it. Well, I guess they do know, because they also told me they read every one of my blog posts. I simply love spending time with you two ladies, I’m so glad you walked up and into my world at farmers market this summer. I’m so glad you found your homestead (complete with rain barrels already, wahoo!!), and I can see already just how much better you are doing than we did. It makes my heart so dang glad, it could just bust.

As we sat out there yesterday, talking about swales, ponds and orchard trees–the forest and wind gave us a pretty stunning show. It was hard to capture in a picture, but the leaves seemed to be trying to blanket the sky. It felt like the winds of great change. It felt like nature herself wrapping us all in a hug of wind and leaves and saying thank you for trying to find a better way through the world that you were previously taught…because I need you to.  I stopped mid sentence and just looked up and said something like, my God that’s stunning. I’m so glad that one of them tried to capture that moment by taking this picture. For once, I completely forgot to take any pictures of their visit here. For once, I was just too darn plugged in to hanging with them to even remember to pick up the iPad. Winds of change indeed.

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So… can you picture it now? Going to homestead school? What it would mean to be able to if homesteading was important to you? It means every single thing in the world to me. I can feel my eyes welling up right now, my heart swelling and beating harder just thinking about if this kind of education had been easier to find, affordable and attainable to someone like I was when we started. It would have made such a huge difference. But, it wasn’t there for me or the forager… we didn’t know how to find it six years ago. We wouldn’t have been able to afford it, hadn’t built the confidence yet to attend it–even if we had been able to find it. Which is why each one of these experiences I’ve written about here, that all happened just this week on this homestead–were at no financial cost to any of these folks I’ve mentioned. It’s why this blog doesn’t have ads to distract you from my words, because I talk enough already to fill this space completely. I write because I think it might be able to inspire folks, not to get paid. How can I charge people money that already have so much motivation to change our world? I don’t even write because I know people read it, I purposefully have no tracker or stats on this thing… so I have no idea how many folks read what I write. I just write, because I love it. Because it makes me feel good. And so that means, I’d do that even if no one read it at all.

It is way more important to me to have a planet to live on that is habitable for human beings than it is to pull a paycheck from these amazing people I meet that are willing to do the work to heal land and grow organically. So… I work off the farm one day a week for an artist friend of mine in an attempt to pay for it myself. It’s the best I can do, to help and be of service to my community and mother nature–so that’s what I do. I’m fully aware that I have not always done it in the best ways. There have certainly been a ton of things in the past I’ve rushed into, people in the beginning that did not get the best version of the farmer. But, I grew perseverance right here on this farm too… and so, I will never stop trying. I will never stop growing, adapting and getting better.

Yet, I saw some other things this week too. Those students from Mountain Sun have to take shifts with the two shovels we own. Those new homesteaders have to use the one rake I have left that doesn’t have a broken handle while we are working in the rabbit colony. The steep road you have to traverse just to get here and learn always seems to need gravel I can’t swing purchasing, so we just keep climbing off road and pulling what washes off up the best we can. The two of us almost never have pulled a paycheck from the 50 or 60 hours a week we put in on this farm–it would be nice to know what that feels like one day. It would be so nice to see the forager not have to push herself to total exhaustion trying find a way to squeeze all 60 of them farm hours into the one day that she is not working off the farm–when a certain week finds us  needing a little extra cash–like she did yesterday. The farm’s truck has recently broken down and now, after a run in with a tree that was bigger than it–it also needs a new door. (enter the reason that lady is working extra time away right now, she loves that dang truck so much!) The two axes we have taught so many women to split wood with, have both finally succumbed to those beginner’s mistakes… so we no longer have one that still possesses its handle.  And that means I’ll have to pick up extra work off the farm in the coming week to get the sixty bucks I need to replace them with the even better axes I know we need–before this upcoming weekend, when we have another set of women coming out here to hang with us. The Forager will be continuing to pick up more off farm work for the truck’s repair and new door–as we just simply can’t go without that truck anymore like we did in the beginning of being here. And it finally occurred to me yesterday afternoon, that it might just not have to be that way. That perhaps, I could just ask. I could just tell folks that read my blog, that love what we do here…. hey, we take donations here on this homestead from folks that feel inspired to do so. And if you do, I’ll have even more time to share cute bunny pics and stories with you. Getting told we should start accepting donations in early 2015 is what has kept our heads above water since–because I also have this tendency to keep donating any extra vegetables or meat we have to folks that need those too…. which is one big reason why I so rarely had much at farmers market this summer. It’s why I finally just gave up my spot there to not take it from someone else.

So, I didn’t do a crowd funding campaign in 2016, even though I kept getting told to. I didn’t do it earlier and I’m not going to do a full on crowd fund campaign in 2016 because I just see so many more people in the world that are in need that I plain ol feel guilty asking. Yet, this week and its experiences shifted my perspective. We are providing a service here, one that we hope is of inspiration. One that I keep hearing lately, makes lot of folks feel hope or just plain ol feel good. One of us stands out there and shovels or shapes growing spaces. One of us stands out there and speaks about how to grow (and shrink!) in that space. I find it so important, the work we are trying to do. And, if the work we do inspires you – I do want you to know that we do. Take donations.

Checks can be sent (PO Box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712). Big ones, small ones–every single one of them makes a difference and puts seed or soil in someone’s hands in the form of an organically grown experience. Lump sums or commitments to monthly donations in 2017 are currently being totally welcomed around here. But hey, you already heard me say what we need – donations sure don’t have to be just in the form of cash. We need things too… shovels, rakes, hoes, axes, hammers and other tools. Books for our loaning library. Seeds. Cardboard, straw, leaves, your kitchen compost and any other organic matter. Building supplies, nails, and screws. Old windows for cold frames. And we just love second hand stuff that is in good working order too. And even if you don’t have any of that stuff to share…. I also take donated time. I love working with groups, my wife more likes working on her own with her headphones on, but I love having folks out and I’ll always take volunteers that want to get their hands dirty while I’m telling homesteading stories. For those that don’t have interest in or ability to do any of those things… you can share our pages on Facebook and Instagram (@8owlsfarmstead). You can share and comment on this blog. Your support and kind words is what keeps me going, keeps me sharing stories when you ask great questions, keeps me posting cute pictures.  And any one of those things I’ve listed above would be a huge help and make a huge difference with what we are able to do on this homestead. {And, that crowd funding campaign I mentioned earlier–I’ll go ahead and warn you, that you can be darn sure there will be one in 2017. Because I want to share with you all even more, and even better than before. And we’ve spent the last six months out here on our own figuring out exactly how we can do just that. How we can slowly and organically get there. How we can answer all your awesome questions. How we can make it much easier for more folks to learn from the eight owls experiment. And what we have planned… is going to take some funding for more than just shovels.}

So, homestead school. Ain’t it fine? It sure is for this farmer–it’s where I learned who I am and what I’m made of. It’s what has me weighing in at 154 pounds this morning and not 300. Homestead life, it’s what helped me change my whole lifestyle. It’s what made it enjoyable and easy to keep my pants size one I was proud of. And that sure is what had to happen for this lady to lose that weight and keep it off alike.

That’s all. I’ll sign off now, and just ask for you to let me leave you with this song. I listen to it every time I get in my head too much about money. Every time that finances find this farmer all frazzled like. Every time I kick myself for giving up a lucrative career behind a computer in a classroom for being a donation based homesteading and healthy living outdoor educator. It always helps me remember why I do what I do. How much better I feel now than I did when I had a bigger bank account balance. Because now I have something that I so didn’t before…. a simple life that makes me so darn happy and healthy alike! It’s catchy and I hope you like listening to it! I just love it….

Small changes change our world. Striving to inspire the change we want to see.” -Eight Owls Farmstead 

-the farmer

2 thoughts on “Going to homestead school

  1. I am trying to do something similar here in Northern Arkansas. I have a 4 acre piece of ground I bought a year ago to build my garden on and to teach folks things i know about different. I am a strawbale instructor and I garden in about 80% bales and 15% containers and the rest is fruits, nuts, and berries. I live on less than $800 a month so after the land payment comes out and all my utilities I am lucky to have $100 left over each month. I barter for lots of stuff and my family and friends help out when i ask. last summer I donated almost all my veggies to the local food pantry and this coming year I am going to expand my garden 4 times larger so i can still donate but also have produce to sell to help keep the farm running, Keep up the good work, the world will need many more like us in the coming days, those of us who love to teach.

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