I never knew perfection or easy circumstance in my life–unless I worked really hard and did my best to try to create it myself. That was just my experience and I feel so incredibly blessed about that now. I’m quite sure it was what got me so into and kept me loving art. I love finding the beauty in seemingly unusable or not stereotypically pretty things. I adore seeing what I can create, what I can build. I’m married to a forager that is an even more extreme version of this than I.
Looking back to just four years and four months ago to when we first drove over to this 9.87 acres from our rental farm feels like a hundred years ago and a blink at the same time. I was still so incredibly overweight then, so inexperienced, so disillusioned that this simple life was going to be easy. That the two of us were going to just agree on everything. I’ll never forget the first day the forager and I drove up to this foreclosure. I had no idea until much later that what I saw a farm, and what she saw a lot of forest and living off the land. Yet fortunately, we both saw the homesteader’s life we could stitch together here.
(spring 2013 left, summer 2013 right)
After we closed on our property, I saw my family’s and friend’s faces–as they shook their heads and expressed concern over what we had just bought. I don’t think anyone thought we would stick it out… there was no soil to speak of, it was too steep and scrubby to be a farm. There were houses that were falling down or apart, the property was in total disarray. Yet, from the very first moment we saw it–our hearts fell for it, with complete and total abandon.
(spring 2014 left, spring 2015 right)
Now, it’s four years later–and I love it more with every passing day. I lost so much weight here, grew a ton of skills and confidence here, learned to sew together a simply amazing life here. It’s one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the whole wide world to me, because two women I just love to bits–make it more so every day. And I’m so darn lucky that I get to be one of them.
(spring + summer 2016)
What I love more than anything in the world is the journey. The experiences you have along the way. To me, my homestead life feels like a patchwork quilt. And I would so much rather make my own… than be given a perfect one that had been created for me. Even if I have to learn how to do it as I go along. In the end, I always find myself loving the uneven stitches or unexpected patches the very most. They make me smile–because they are where I learned, where I grew. Somehow those spots always mean a little more, keep me a little warmer when I wrap that quilt around me on my self care Sundays.
Even better than that, when other folks see the quilt of my real homestead life–they won’t expect that theirs will be perfect either. Because I can almost promise it won’t be. But yet… they might just be inspired to try quilting one of their own. And I just love that part of it so dang much I could weep over it. It makes my heart so glad it feels like it could bust.
This homestead life, it’s simply stunning to me. I spent the first 31 years of my life in a very different sort of world. It was all computer screens, jobs I disliked, cell phones, convenience and disconnectedness. Money and paychecks and bills and trading my hours for dollars. Six years after making a huge switch, I’m not yet sick of homestead life–I love it so much more every day.
It is not a cake walk. It’s amazing and crazy and awesome and simple and complex and easy and hard and inspiring and infuriating and crying and laughing and stress and relief. It’s I want to get the hell out of here for a vacation and oh my god I want to do this every minute of every day until I draw my last breath. With your homesteading partner in crime it can be all romantic oil lamp lit nights or big ol free range poultry poop on the porch fights. It’s good things and bad things. I’ve found that in real homestead life, it’s always both–no matter how it looks when homesteaders share their social media posts.
Real homestead life seems to always be about learning. Times and priorities change constantly. I find the most important thing I grow here on this farm is adaptability. The confidence to be totally cool with change… to find learning SO legit. And most importantly to me, to never stick my nose up in the air and think I’m too cool or too experienced to be an eager student of this homestead. I’ve known from the very beginning that I would be for the rest of my days, and any attitude otherwise sure would find the farmer getting schooled by this land or nature herself.
These days, I look out into the world and see that there seems to be a lot of unhappy folks getting bogged down by turbulent times. It appears from here that there are very few threads holding their life together. It truly looks like it makes for a weak bolt of cloth. I often wonder why is that? When we are the ones that stitch together our own experience? We are the ones that have the power to gather the scrappy pieces of cloth we like, a needle and thread. We are the ones that have to begin to stitch together whatever we’ve got that makes us happy. We sure are the ones that are going to be cold if the times and conditions out there in the world get even more harsh–and we don’t have a quilt.
HOMESTEAD TRUTH = These last few pictures are from a photoshoot one of my awesome students did in July of 2016. It was a couple months after I gave up my college teaching job and was trying to be the full time farmer for the first time. Our spring staff had been gone for 7 weeks and we were carrying the workload of high summer. I’d barely slept and was completely and totally exhausted. I was flipping out about our finances, about our farm life and I was quite fussy with the forager about it. About the fact that she had slept great and I hadn’t at all. I had so wanted some pictures of us and I wanted to see my former student as well–but I had gotten up that morning with a crabby attitude and just didn’t want to see anyone. I wanted to go back to bed. I wanted my huge to do list to kiss my butt, burn up and die. But, Shannon came out and took pictures anyway. And I’m so glad she did, because they were the only pictures we had time to get taken of us this summer. I’ve saved this one for last because I hadn’t shared it a ton, like I had the three above it. Because I think I look tired and cranky in it and I know the reason why. If you follow our social media and blog then you’ve likely seen the other three plenty. But, this is the homestead truth. Some days are damn hard. You’re crabby and tired and pissed and want everyone on the farm to kiss your butt and leave you the hell alone. Yet, there are a plenty of other days that are wonderful and amazing and stunning and fun and easy – and those days make the former, SO worth it. And make you SO dang grateful for them too!! And I am at least finding that with each passing year, the good days outweight the bad ones more and more. Thank the homestead gods for that!