Thursday, April 16, 2015

Resilience

The cucumber trees are just beginning to bloom.  I remember Jim, and trying to get a photo of a cucumber tree in bloom for him.  I don't remember why, probably just because I wanted to.  He killed himself.  He may well have had good reason.  But still, that is hard.  And I will still think of him and still miss him.

And for reasons that I can't even fathom, cucumber trees are some of my favorites.  Maybe it is because my mother used to hand build ceramic bowls using the leaves as the relief on the clay.  Or maybe it was the one that grew more horizontal than perpendicular and I could walk out on its smooth bark trunk barefoot and sit rather hidden in a grove of wild trees in my grandparents' yard.  I only knew them as cucumber trees, and honestly had rarely if ever even noticed the flowers until the day I was thrilled to learn that cucumber trees were magnolias!!!  Deciduous magnolias!  Wow, imagine that.  And then, of course, steel magnolia.  My mother certainly was one.  My mamaw certainly was one -- I remember her telling me of her firstborn struggling to breathe for almost a month before she died and that memory still, all those many years later, broke her heart.  Lois.  That was the baby's name.  Her baby Betty died at 18, rheumatic fever.

People think they have it hard.  People should man up, woman up, deal.  So somehow cucumber trees are tied in with thoughts and wonderings about resilience for me.

Of course, life is hard (or as what's his face put it in the opening sentence of A Road Less Traveled:  "Life is difficult").  No sh*t Sherlock.  But I like the graphic that I've seen come across lately that, "A pessimist sees the glass as half empty; an optimist sees the glass as half full; a realist adds two shots of whiskey, two cubes of ice and says cheers."  Well, a realist who isn't otherwise an alcoholic anyway.   And I do not like water with my whiskey.  But other than that. 

So life is hard.  So life is blessed.  So comparisons are noxious.

When I think about resilience, it isn't being brittle, or useless, or quitting.  It is finding meaning, and purpose, and doing (sometimes doing anyway, doing in spite of not feeling it).  I don't think hallucinations are very useful but then again, I think by the time you get down below the hallucinations, you've really come a long way already.  Resilience is not about being numb or shut down but managing to feel it in full.  Anyway.  Confidence comes from competence, not esteem, so skills, problem solving, taking steps.  There are not insurmountable problems like boulders in your path, but, really, your path may change and it is not all that out there you control but only "in here".

As with so many things, I don't know.  I do know that the view that nothing bad should ever happen is stupid.  Life happens.  Life on the farm is good for that.  The road is alive.  Try to control the stream and it will laugh at you.  There will remain many mysteries.  Life will tell you not to be fat, not to be lazy, not to whine and complain.  The cucumber tree will listen, but it won't care.  The garden will listen to your hoe, and it will listen to the chicken manure you brought to it.  And the chickens, they will sing but if you die they will peck your dead body and this is not tragedy, and they will die also but if you manage to kill them all, that is tragedy.  And there is something useful for everyone to do.  And there are creative outlets galore.  And challenges.  And and. 

And there are failures.  And difficulties.  And sorrows.  And in these are the gift of resilience.

And here is a website to help you think differently instead of staying on the "hooray for our side" side of things:  Resilience.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

old old old school

You know, we try to figure out how to live.  And how to not live.  And nobody gets it perfectly.  And all of us get defensive.  And sometimes strident.

So yeah, I was revisiting a few posts, and a few comment threads, and a few bloggers I haven't read in about a million years.  The nasty ones are all divorced.  I don't think I'm supposed to notice that and certainly not say it.

But mostly what I was thinking was, oh shit and WTF.

Mostly I just wanna say, this is what I'm thinking about.  And doing because of what I'm thinking about.  And I think it is worthwhile.  The doing.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

promised photos

Uncle in the hay
mammas and babies
I love the reflection of the sky and mountains in the bee syrup

cabbage protected (from nibblers) by hay nets

peas, onions, hay nets

seed bed
blueberries

rhubarb

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Get 'er Done

Get 'er done just isn't a mindset for a homestead.  A part of me thinks that is all I have to say.

We have set up a sort of Thursday work day.  For two whole weeks now.   En famille, all hands on deck, spend a few hours on some identified project.  I don't know how long it will last.  I don't know what all will or won't get done.  Any is always better than none.  We all have our work anyway, and on these days, that work may well take a backseat.

And so while we set for ourselves rather modest goals (today to finish cleaning off the bridge, to haul 3 loads of rocks (we ended up hauling four) to the road and take a look at that swamp near the bottom that has recently decided to dump on the road when it is very very wet and maybe redirect that), it is rather amazing what a difference it makes.  We'd watched this before with the road when the husband was still working in town and on his way home he would fill up 3 buckets with shale from a nearby bank and dump it strategically on our road and how very quickly that changed the whole experience of the road.  I suppose I could do the stop and get three buckets of shale thing now since I am more often the one out . . . and maybe I will.

It is also pretty amazing how many projects you could come up with and keep yourself busy or drive yourself crazy with.  I think we kind of have the "not drive ourselves crazy" part down -- really a lot fewer things "need" done than you might think, especially if you are having someone else do it for you.

It is pretty amazing how much, working together, you can get done.  It is pretty amazing how much fun we all have working together, how much gets talked about, how many other things get decided or understood or communicated in that time.  It is amazing how good food tastes after really burning off those calories.

So in our world, there are rocks and roads and ditches and water humps and swamps, and ducks and eggs but no chicks yet emerged from the woods, and goats and milk and seeds and plants and things in the garden (maybe photos tomorrow) (and it would be far better if we could more consistently keep the goats OUT of the garden!  there needs to be some laughing emoticon here), there are horse projects and sewing projects and rabbit projects and harp projects and house ideas and creative just for joy projects and there are the dailies of eating and cooking and cleaning and creating and resting and being and especially BEING a family and also being with friends . . .

And having someone say the words to me today, "I just want it done already" made me think about how I don't.  Like I don't want to retire and I don't want to take a vacation and I don't want to exploit someone else into cleaning my toilet.  There is never a dull moment, never a lack of something to do, never do the words "I'm bored" come.  You can only "get 'er done" if you are paying someone else to live your life for you.  Or only paying attention to the things like is the fence row clean, the things that I think can't possibly matter.  That's what I think.  That is certainly what I see.

I will also say, dear frogs, come to our swamp.

Friday, March 27, 2015

the duck wave

Once,a long long time ago, in a land far far away, I knew someone with Daffy Duck on his car, and a mantra of "like water off a duck's back".  Something like that.


We had ducks at least once before but it was a long long time ago.  They didn't last long.  We were hoping we could train them to go to the creek and come back but they went down stream in the creek instead.  So we'll not be doing that again.

But things come in waves, and the duck wave has come again.  Daughter #1who usually takes care of all baby birds is "taming" them, and she's really good at that.  She once trained a chicken to ride with her on her bicycle.   We have some plans, some intentions, but as with all things, we'll have to see how it goes. 

I know there are people who do everything perfectly.  We are certainly not those people.  And I know people who fail at everything, and next year do the same damn thing over again.  We are not those people either.  We surf, riding the waves.  So we'll have to see how it goes.  I'm hoping it goes the way of really great duck eggs!  And maybe roast duck.   It has been a long long time since we have been able to afford a duck. 


Friday, March 13, 2015

on faithfulness

I grew up in Christianity, and Christianity is always trying to define how it is DIFFERENT; how it is unique.  The real truth is, of course, that it is not unique in any way, shape or form.  Every single one of those things is found in many other religions.  But people seem to want to be exclusive, to be special, to be different.   I'm saved but you aren't.

Personally I have found it far more enlightening to look around and see what is similar and learn from that.  What do various religions, for example, have in common, hold in common to be important.  Because whatever they have in common they more likely all have right. How do various people around the world manage to feed themselves?  What is similar, where's the overlap, what might seem different on the surface but be the same underneath? 

I have found a similar principle with growth and change.  Often the more people think they are growing and changing, the more they are staying the same.  If they are wildly vacillating in what they are doing, first one thing, then another, then another, finding meaning here then there then this other place, chances are they are really doing the exact same (wrong, or at least wrong headed) thing again and again.  I have found for me, I have a direction, which has pretty much always revolved around the same core things that are and always have been very important to me, and I'm still doing them.  I've changed, I've adjusted direction, but there are only rare hard starts and stops.  Ok, maybe only, well, maybe not even that.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

dumb decisions

"Just so y'all know I brag about him every time he does something good because I realize that at 14, he's just one dumb ass decision away from ruining his life...."

I could say some things about people who believe this (that is pretty darn close to a quote) about their children, and I would believe those things to be true but they would be speculations into motivations and frankly the behavior itself is enough to speculate about.

So listen to me.  There are decisions, lots of them, that affect your life, short term and long term.  But there isn't a decision that ruins your life.  You have the life you have.  Make the most of it.  Enjoy it.  Be brave.  Do real shit.  Sure, sometimes you have to act "as if" to get there.  Get there anyway.

And there are some things that if you don't start at 14, or at 3, you aren't going to get there.  I'm not gonna be Buck.  Maybe if I hadn't had 20 years off, but I doubt that.  Besides that's not what I thought I wanted then back then.  I wouldn't have known to have wanted that back then.

And maybe sometimes we should give thanks to the Gods for unanswered prayers.

Then there are things you do thinking (and often with everyone else thinking) they are exactly what you should be doing with your life that, it turns out, are not at all what you should be doing with your life.  Although I don't believe in coincidences or accidents, and I realize, for example, the role that college played in my life but it isn't something that was in and of itself valuable to my life.  I'm not sure what else I could have done with that time and realize that it was likely just part of my re-entry process because, yes, things do have consequences.  And life has a process. Pay attention to the process and the task will take care of itself.

But seriously, I made a decision that "ruined" my life.  Or a series that fell one into the other and exactly where that fork in the road was, well, I bet I know someone who thinks she knows where that particular fork was but I really only know the last one at which I could have stopped it.  Which was lunch.

Other people may have thought, or may think, that I ruined my life when I didn't go to college out of high school.  Because pre-vet.  (Even tho when I thought about doing that again when I was 40 I decided I didn't actually want to BE a vet which at 18 I hadn't the integration to fathom through.)

Or it could be a dozen or more other times, before and maybe even after the abyss.

Certainly a whole lot of people wouldn't be able to see the life I have here as not "ruined".  Yesterday I slept in, farted around, rolled hay (with family) in to the animals, carried wood, split wood, did dishes, fed fires, made bread, ate, wrote, wrote some more, debated whether a dress on tumblr was white or blue and researched why, discussed manatees and steller sea cows and dodo birds and Przewalski's horses and have humans caused all extinctions and did flowers kill the dinosaurs.  And other things.  Today was likewise full but different as a "work" day, a day off the farm, but still a day with a daughter, and a day full of horses, a day during which "the work" was resumed,  a day with some time spent with friends and also home before dark to eat supper and bake a birthday cake.  I live in a house my husband and I built together, up a road we know intimately from walking it, with family who are interesting and useful people, and eat food we grow a good deal (but by no means most) of.  Pretty much when I ask myself "what do I want to be doing in this moment" what I am doing is it.  I don't long to get away (except I did long a bit for February to be over).  And pretty much every day I learn some things.  There is no "arrived". 

Right now I look at a large arc of my life and see this:  that I have spent some time learning to feel honestly, that I spent more time learning to think honestly (deeply, clearly, authentically, whatever the words are).  And that I've spent the most time learning to think AND to feel, together, not one or the other.  To be honest thoughtwise and to be honest feelingwise in the same moment and in the same movement.  There is no "arrived".

It is like there is no "arrived" in homesteading.  There is trying to be a strong link in the chain and there is trying to join links and it takes both.  Give and take:  exchange-exchange.

You know very well, to each his own.  Live and let live (or live and let die).  And it harm none, do as you will.

But I do think my "dumb decision" helped to make sure I was to perfectly become a homesteading cowgirl.  And I'm pretty good with that.

Although it could all fall apart and find success something else tomorrow.  I learned that from the abyss. 


Friday, January 30, 2015

Intention too.

My grandfather, the Free Will Baptist preacher who bought his first and only car in nineteen sixty-late-something with mostly one dollar bills got mostly from marrying people mostly in his backyard, said, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

But intentions *do* matter.  They are magic, true, but well, anyway.  If you think that maybe intentions don't matter, I'd be interested in hearing about it . . . somewhere else.  Write away.

And I look at this cat, I hear this cat bleep because she is in heat, again, and I wonder what the intentions were of the person who dumped her in the woods.  Did they think she was a predator so it would be ok?  Did they think it was near some farms so it would be ok?  Did they think anything other than their own convenience?  Yep, I vote that they didn't think anything except what was easiest for them.  There are always things you don't know when you pick up one of these animals, things that don't make sense, like why hasn't she been pregnant given that she seems to be older than old enough and fertile enough, and why did she scream every time a human came close to her, and how in the world had she brought herself to be allowed to be picked up in the woods and brought home.  You don't know what the human's intention was, but you do know the effect and that is never, ever good.

There is a stray cat at the barn.  That is what I call him, Stray Cat.  For months no one could get within 40 feet of him, but he came daily to eat (after I put the food out for him that is).  Now we get within 4 feet or so, sometimes at least.  I assume he is a him because he has a big head (nothing personal meant by that).  Anyway, I'm sure he's the cat from the other side of the bridge actually.  See, there was this cat who had gotten old and disappeared from here some time ago, and after that I would periodically see this cat who looked like him near the bridge.  No connection between the two except in my head.  Several times I stopped to see if he'd come to me but no, not even close.  I thought about leaving food for him but he seemed pretty competent gleaning the lake leavings, avoiding the cars and people.  Then this cat showed up at the barn and it took me some time to realize that I hadn't seen the cat on the other side of the bridge in, well, some time.  And one of my lessons in the power of intention is that this cat, this wild, wary cat, was aware of my intention to feed him and he made it possible for me to feed him.  His intention, evidently, was to get fed.

We don't know where he came from.  We don't know when.  We don't know what all he's been through.  We are the other end of the dumpers.  It doesn't matter what the dumpers' intentions were; their actions sucked.  That these animals, so many of them that are with us (me and my friends), have found people who love them and care for them is not an assuage to the dumpers but an indictment.

We have a horse who is technically a "rescue" although I dislike that term.  But her people, even tho she was underfed, managed to get her a coggins and to the auction.  She had a shot at a real home.  And she got one.   Her people tried for her.  This cat's people, whatever their intentions, didn't try.  They dumped her to be a coyote's next meal or a greasy spot in the road.  That she allowed me to talk her into my arms is a testament to her.  When I got home with her, that my family just said, "She got that cat," is a testament to them.

It isn't that you have to keep an animal forever, although we tend to.  It is that it isn't lightly entered into, any relationship, nor lightly left.  Not lightly left and not wrongly left.

(referencing the previous post) Yes, you study intention at the splitting block.  Because if you fail there, your house is cold.

Monday, January 19, 2015

*intention*

If you ever even have any inclination to visit *intention* as a spiritual path, the splitting block is a good place to do it.   To begin it, to continue it, to revisit what it really means without any trappings or soundtracks at all, the splitting block.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

ordinary extraordinary cold

Extraordinary cold.  We usually get it at least once during the winter, cold in the single digits, either above or below zero.  "Normal" coldest temps are usually somewhere around 40 high and 20 low but you know there is variability in that.  We can have weeks that it stays below freezing 24/7, the coldest I've ever seen it was -33F in 1985 which was truly extraordinary -- there wasn't much people could do but try to survive that.  I remember people getting their batteries out of their car and putting it in the bathtub to warm it up.  All kinds of water was frozen.  My boyfriend wondered if his guitar was going to crack.  So I guess then that this is the ordinary extraordinary cold.  You know that this is likely and hopefully you know what to do.

So, what do we do to prepare for a night near zero and several days highs only in the mid-20s?  One is wood of course.  We didn't have to do anything extraordinary this year because we'd just hauled up about 3 cords of standing dead mostly poplar, so all we have to do is saw that up into rounds and then split it and bring it in.  It isn't the dryest so we make sure the creel is full and that there is plenty of twiggery and kindling.  You might see fancy kindling in stores or catalogs but to me it is the chips left over from splitting the wood.  Sure, if I come to a nice straight grained log, I might split it smaller but if I have a nice hot fire and come to the small stuff in the creel, it will NOT get fed into the fire.  Right now most of the wood is the same species, but when we are cutting smaller limb wood, we'll also choose the species to determine the heat of the fire.

Anyway.  We make sure we have plenty of wood ready for all the stoves.  If it is going to snow, which it didn't this time, we'll also stockpile water because if the electric goes out, it is pretty much only water that we miss.  But this cold, the water system would freeze if we didn't do a few extra things for it.  We put it in so that helps.  The "well head" is tarped anyway (a spring feeds a buried cistern and a pump is in that) and as long as the water is plentiful, it takes a lot to freeze it.  Running water is that way.  But this cold we put a lantern under the tarp.  There is a narrow place where the pressure tank is in the basement and that will freeze sometimes -- we that gets checked to make sure it is covered.  There is one other spot where the pipe runs close to the surface of the ground and we'll put something over that -- a box, some leaves, anything.

When we moved up here we were wondering how deep we really had to bury the water pipe -- an important question since we were hand burying it.  So during cold nights we took short lengths of pipe and filled them with water and buried one a foot deep, one six inches, and one on the surface.  It takes a lot, for a long time, for the cold to go down.  And it isn't that it won't but that it won't often and by and large you can deal with that.  When we lived in the old old trailer, when we very first moved up here, we'd have to drain the whole water system for nights like that.  It was doable.

But that is one thing I notice -- that we are willing to put up with things and do things that other people aren't willing to do.  And also, we're not willing to put up with things other people are willing to put up with.  Like debt.  Like enslavement.  Like exploiting others or being exploited ourselves.  Like living in a place we don't like.  Little things like that.

So mostly that is it, wood (with a little coal) for fires (the coal helps to hold it over night), and water.  Hay and food (and water) for the animals are even more important in the cold.  Supplies.  But generally we have those.  Hopefully we are not out when we are getting the next.  The washing machine is outside so it gets a dose of alcohol but it gets that all winter long.  We're not gonna try to do laundry in temps like this.  We feed the fire and eat in temps like these.

Maybe first should have been STAY HOME, which of course the world could use with a lot more people staying home a lot more anyway . . .

(and then, some days later, there is preparing for the wet.  The car won't come up in the wet.  Get wood in before it gets wet -- even tho it won't be cold.  Etc.)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Culture: the dance

Now, I'm no expert on culture, no analyst, no academic -- just a person who is of a culture, who has noticed it even when I can't define and describe it all, and who does have a preference for it.  I don't claim it is all wonderful, or should be static, or anything else.  But I like having a culture, and I prefer to interact with other people who share that culture.  I don't think I'm alone in that -- I only think I'm more honest about that.  It always feels like a relief to share the same culture.

First, anyone who says anything even remotely like "People from around here" (fill in the blank) can go to blazes, and I don't care if you are filling in that blank with something derogatory or complementary.  But there is a culture.  It moves and changes slowly as you move around the area.  The culture doesn't determine political or religious or lifestyle preference, although culture, the culture I'm talking about, is more common in older country folk.

Nope, culture is really a dance:  how we relate and talk (or don't talk) to each other about specific things, how we dance together.

Now, I know how to be very direct.  I know how to communicate to be clearly understood if I really need to although a lot of the time I will decide that it isn't worth doing so, because most of the time if you have to get really clear with someone, they get really mad, or already were mad and just not being honest about it.  But I prefer the dance.

The not being direct thing is the first thing I think about Southern Appalachian cultural communication.  I was listening to Mountain Stage one time, and I don't know who this was and it was a long time ago but he was an Irish musician who was touring the states and had been in upstate NY or somewhere and told this story about it.  He was at someone's house.  They'd asked him if he wanted a cup of tea.  He'd said "No thanks."  And he'd never been so surprised in his life that he didn't get a cup of tea!

Because, you see, the dance you do is that, in order to be polite, you say "no thanks" even if you are dying of thirst!  There might be several more steps to the dance before you get to you both having a cup of tea (or coffee) together.  And you could say "please, thank you," and that would be fine but it isn't as polite as saying "no thanks" and people would know you weren't from around here, at least not culturally.

One of the backgrounds on this cultural thing is that the north has the culture of the Anglo-Saxons, while the South has a Celtic culture.  Clashes between these cultures?  How many of them can you name?  Honestly, it is because the Anglos always think they are better and are gonna change the Celts, and no, in fact, they aren't.

Another culture example that comes to mind is the time Alecto came to see us and her yuppie machine's engine light came on and she wanted the dealership to check it out before she went back.  (I solve this problem generally by simply not driving that far away from home and not driving anything that any "dealership" would touch anyway.)  So we found the number to the dealership and she called.  "I need service," she said, and I cringed, knowing there was no way they'd get her in today for that.  In this culture, you tell your story.  You might want to try to do it succinctly, but you tell your story.  "I'm a woman, I'm a long way from home, I'm concerned, could you find it in your hearts to check this out for me?"  Minimal.  Personally I'd say, "How ya doin'?" too.  I know people who get away with not doing that stuff, but they are mostly considered rude and they don't get a lot of favors either.

And really, that is what community is; favors.  Everyone obligated to everyone else.  If it is working well, everyone tries to give everyone else a good deal and everyone feels obliged to everyone else.  What does NOT work is for someone to attempt to be the Patron, the oligarch, the Lord -- sometimes I think there may be a genetic memory of serfdom where freemen learned to trust only other freemen.

Over the years I've noticed a lot of cultural things around money.  Like in the neighborhood, if there is money to be exchanged, the bargain is driven mostly by the men, even though in at least half of households the disbursement is done by the womenfolk.  When I am handed a check or money to be paid for work I've done or am going to do, it is always handed to me face up so I can examine it.  I always fold it without examining it.  If we have formally settled on an exchange, it will be there.  If it isn't, there is some misunderstanding that is best addressed after consideration.  If we have not formally settled on an exchange, if I am in fact depending on "generosity", if the exchange is generous, I will do it again next time I am asked -- and if it is not, I will not.  But it will get done this time anyway.

Plus, in community  exchange is made equitable in many different ways.

One thing that I noticed more recently was this:  Don't push.  That would be a part of indirectness I suppose but it was more specific than that.  The specific was that my "hay guy" might well not have as much hay for me to buy as I will need, and so would this other guy let go of any of his hay to me?  But it was still December, and not much hay has been fed yet, and no one will hurt their own animals feeding yours (nor should they) and will they have enough hay themselves?  So I told him first that I might be short and I'd appreciate it if he could think of anyone who might have some extra.  A couple weeks later I asked if he knew anyone or not.  Now I know, he IS someone.  He knows he IS someone.  But the thing is, if I push it and need an answer, a commitment, now, that answer will be "No."  I think that is because a commitment is a commitment, your word is your word.

And I think this little quality here is often why it seems to people that this is the land of maƱana, of procrastination -- because in many ways it IS but it is because that works better.  Things don't always work out the way you think they will so you wait -- on commitments, on getting stuff done.  You wait.

Hay, you see, will be much easier to let go of toward the end of February than in the middle of December.  But if I push and get a "no" now, I won't get any hay in March either.  But if I leave it open, just let the need be known, I know that this person is my friend and will do his best to help me one way or the other.  So you have all these other factors in there -- vulnerability and trust and caring at the least.  Demanding a commitment, however, means that you don't leave yourself vulnerable and you don't have to trust that they care for you either.  Demanding that is business and not community.  There is a lot of overlap in business and community but there are also differences.  There are certainly people in my community who I will only do business with -- who I will not humble myself to by being vulnerable to them.  But the richness of my community is the people I will be vulnerable to, who I would hurt myself for. 

Don't push is part of the dance of culture, of how we relate.  I wouldn't say it has anything to do with how we treat each other -- people get treated relatively the same, as in 'not cheated' and the like, but you know you will go further out of your way for friends, and it is easier to be friends with people who know the same dances you do.

I will always remember our old neighbor, slave to the military-industrial complex job, Brian.  I will always remember when Delmer up the holler stopped by to talk to him, just chew the fat, and then stopped at our place to chew the fat with us.  And all Delmer said was, "What the hell is wrong with that boy?"  Brian moved on to the next job site.  Delmer died in his home up the holler last year.

We did, of course, indulge in collards and black eyed peas and a piece of pork for New Year's Day!  Hope we ALL have good years!  And dance the dances that matter well.

Friday, December 26, 2014

How to successfully homestead

There are lots of books out there, and we've found our share of inspiration in them.  Some of the favorites are of course the Nearing's whole lives but especially Living the Good Life, John Seymour's Fat of the Land, Harlan Hubbard's Payne Hollow, all of Gene Logsdon's stuff but especially The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening.  Likely more.

Then there is a whole genre unto itself of "How we failed at homesteading."  They usually call it something else, like "A Year Doing Something".  They have all sorts of reasons it wasn't their fault, or it wasn't really failure.  And maybe it wasn't really failure.  But if the goal was homesteading, it was failure.

So it occurred to me the other day after a chance e-mail interaction that I know how to succeed at homesteading.  Learn to not spend money.  Pretty much period.

Except buy your land because otherwise all your effort is for naught, abandoned on someone else's whim (or your own whim).

Now, there are times to spend money, or money spent that you won't regret.  I don't regret installing our septic or improving our road, and if I had the money now, I'd improve the road some more.  But the fact is, we can improve the road with some effort and discipline ourselves.  By "littling along" (which if I remember correctly came as a term from Harlan Hubbard). In the meantime, in the wet, we'll park in the bottom.  And walk.  And if we get use of that stone boat, or when we fix that tire on the cart, or when we fix that brake on the truck, we'll little along with some rock fixing it along.

And if I were building again, I think I'd do with a bucket toilet.  Although not having actually lived with one, I don't know for sure, and especially with young kids with poopy diapers but I'd say that could be thought around.  I just haven't done it.

The easy way is the spend money way, and it is the way of non-thinking.  There are always more options than you've thought of yet, so if you don't like (or can't afford) any of the options on the table, keep thinking, there are more you haven't thought of and one of those is better.

A lot of people think they will work and save up enough money to "go live on".  Something like that crossed our minds but we got out here before seriously trying it.  I've known some people who tried but I've never known anyone who wasn't seriously rich who didn't blow through whatever money they had. We did save up, put back, and left untouched enough to "finish" the house.  This meant a big check to the roof guys.  This meant I got the expensive kitchen sink I wanted.  But most things we tried to "buy along", as we went, out of the income we had.

A lot of people think they can make enough money off their land to pay for their land.  Again, I've never known anyone who did this -- at least not anyone who didn't sell it for development during that insane build up to 2008.  Pay for your land -- don't ask it to pay for you.  I mean, really, you owe it; it doesn't owe you.  Be a steward.

And then finally, have less, be more.  It is really all about the skills.  That last post title was a bit of hubris as there's a LOT of grace involved in that, but there always is.  Quit buying your life and make it from scratch.  That doesn't mean be an idiot about it and not allow anything not made from ingredients you also made to pass your lips, but it also means knowing the difference in making cookies and eating some store bought ones that passed through your oven.  Do stuff that is worth doing in and of itself -- not that you are doing only for some end result, only for someone else's eye.  If there is only one possible job out there that will satisfy you and you will sell your soul and all your days to attempt to get there, just go ahead and shoot yourself now.  You only control you not all those other people.

So spend less money. And do more.  You'd actually be of use to your community then.  Little along, making progress, allowing organic evolution, learning, ever changing but ever . . . not changing too.  Because the individual IS important.  The family IS important.  Because the earth IS important (thus, you know, not spewing pollutants unbridled, or eating excessive crap because the earth and your health are not separate).  Because not being exploited nor participating in the exploitation of others IS important. It remains, unchangingly, important, even as other things do change because change is the one thing that never changes.

Where ever you are, who ever you are, what ever you hope to accomplish, if you find yourself hemorrhaging money, stop.  Especially if homesteading or being even slightly kind to the earth is part of it.