Highlights From the Farm
We continue to survive the rains! Humorously the rains have invited a family of Mallards to float between rows at the end of our field. We can’t complain, they are great at managing the slug population. Adaline seems to think she is one of the duck’s hatchlings. We’re hoping, however, that she’ll decide munching on slugs isn’t quite her idea of a good meal! ...
What’s Happening on the Farm This Week
The past month or so since the last update has been a whirlwind complete with floods and late frost but the veggies are strong and we are so excited to finally start sharing them with you all!
First, I want to brag a little on our incredible work-trade crew we have this year. ...
What’s Been Happening on the Farm:
This month has been both beautiful & challenging. As two young farmers with two young kids in tow and really big dreams (who might struggle with an itty bitty bit of perfectionism at times...ha!) the reminder Nature gives us to let go of the need to control EVERYTHING and take a few good deep breaths is truly a gift to us. As the spring sun has begun to warm the soil & our newly transplanted baby cabbage has grown strong and the sweet earth-scented breeze rolls over us in the field...
What’s Been Happening on the Farm:
This past month on the farm…
When our family began this 2019 growing season we were pregnant with our second child (a 2nd little girl, due November 9th!) & had no idea this would be the year we became farmers! It has been our crazy dream for several years now to grow food on a community scale (and have the opportunity to share it with others). We simply expected it to be at least 3-5 more years before we could even legitimately start small-scale farming and make the transition from office to field. Boy, were we in for a surprise! ...
Today was a down day in our little garden. No beating around the perennial bush, no flowery intro, just a rough down day. We’ve had about 4 days straight of beautiful gentle rain. Which is wonderful for our thirsty little plants, who went for about a week and a half of beating sun. And it was beautiful, gentle, wonderful rain. And I can’t quite put my finger one the cause of my melancholy mood. It might have been the flat tire on the truck, a truck essential to a few of our bigger garden jobs, mainly hauling gravel. Or perhaps it’s that our spring veggies, cabbage, broccoli, etc are stunted and small and there is standing water 6 inches below the surface in our beds because the clay is so compacted. Or maybe it’s the strange black spots on the underside of our clover, or the fact that the cowpeas aren’t grabbing on to the trellis the way I think they should. Most likely the cause of my gloomy mood is that the garden my family and I put our hands into isn’t the perfect Eden I think it should be by now. I mean it’s been like 60 days, shouldn’t it be a lush and fertile oasis by now?! If I can’t cultivate my front yard how will I be able to farm multiple acres?
But this is a learning process, a process full of frustration and low points, mistakes and errors. Something I have historically not handled well. I want to do things perfectly the first time. But sometimes it seems like ...
| Blog #14 | Number Fourteen | The Challenges of Motherhood While Building Our Future Farmstead | <Athena>
We finally got some rain this week. I should be happy about it. And I suppose I am. Our home garden loves it! And the Farm at Junebug needed it. However, I also have felt a little bummed and I am reflecting during this quiet time of toddler naps on why...
We started this summer knowing that Kyle would be busy learning lots of new skills and forming a knowledge base around a whole new area of work (namely: farming and growing food, among many other skills). We (I) knew that he would often be working or at internships for long hours and that even though we could usually pack up the car and go see him more than when he worked at the office...it would still mean he would be away from home as much or more as when he worked in the office. I knew that it would be a whole new world. And I was pretty sure he would enjoy it... What I did not anticipate was how much he would love it. And how much he would want to be there even on days where he would not be faulted for taking the day off (like a rainy day). We don't need the money although I am positive he feels some pressure to "provide" in that way. But, he is also just incredibly loyal and a monstrously dedicated worker. I have never before ran into the feeling of him possibly wanting to be working on his "work" even slightly more than wanting to be at home... home: where the work is a lot slower, more messy, and likely not as exciting.
I'm not really complaining. I love that he loves this whole new world. I love it! I wish I could be there working alongside him more... And he HAS to if that's what we are considering building our future around to any degree. He loves working outside. He loves doing physical labor. He loves being part of a team. He loves the feeling of knowing he is doing a good job. Like a REALLY good job. He is really good at this kind of work.
So why am I here all melancholy on this overcast but beautifully rainy end of the week? When I know that he though he really probably could be home, he can also legitimately find work to do at Work and has joy doing so. Sure, we have stuff to do here around the house and property and being pregnant can't be my excuse for everything. But, I just miss him. And I know our daughter does too. (We get to visit him at work and stay all day if we want. This was something we would never have been able to do while he was an engineer).
We can also actually get out in the field and HELP him at work on the farm (up to the limits of toddler endurance that is)...
...And maybe that is part of it as well.
I recently read a post by a mom who is a also farmer. Her husband snapped a precious photo of her nursing their youngest in the shade of a large tractor parked in the middle of a half-tilled field. She expressed her thoughts and emotions related to her years of strong primary identification as a farmer before other roles in her life and how recently she has been accepting and truly embracing her role as a "grower of humans" (a mommy) as well as a grower of food.
This struck a sore chord in my heart I hadn't realized was even there!
I think more than even missing Kyle...though I SERIOUSLY DO...and I really was super bummed all day today wishing he would just let the rain chase him back home!
...I think... just maybe... I might be jealous?
Jealous. Yes, maybe...Or something of that general color and angst.
I have felt the very real "pull-back", the sense of being "held-back" by motherhood only VERY rarely. I never truly felt it as a nurse. I love that career and will do it alongside whatever else I do as long as I can, however, it does not make my soul ache to any unbearable degree to step away from my nursing career while I stay home to be a full-time mama in the various capacities I have done so over the last 3 years.
Having to leave the field while the men "get to" (in my mind) do all the farm work so that I can follow my toddler to the stream or the playground... and knowing that with pregnancy (and the impending delivery of a tiny new human) I will be essentially resetting this type of restriction on my freedom to get my hands in the dirt in the focused way I want to... it kind of sends waves of something close to my own type of toddler fit through my system.
As of right now, for us (and maybe also for other homesteaders out there), the reality is that I AM the primary "human grower"... that is my primary crop. Kyle is VERY much a dedicated co-farmer on this project, but whether either he or I like in (both of us bump up against our own unique frustrations with this reality), he is literally FREER to do "other work"... and I am not. Especially while pregnant or nursing. This is in part because we have chosen this to be the way we want to raise our children. And we would not change that core decision despite emotions that buck against it at times.
We want there to be a least one full-time parent with them and not put them (or us) through the various stressors of daycare. Kyle has historically made the larger paycheck enabling me to naturally (and willingly) be the primary stay-at-home parent. Now with Farm Work and various "big chores" related to our homestead building Kyle is the man, stronger, and much more able to work outside for 8+ hours of hard labor per day. I will readily admit that pregnancy also turns me into a floppy, wilty wimp! (I am only a feminist up to the point of reality and personal willingness... ;p).
In all reality, I would not WANT to work 40+ hours doing his work right now. I have never been good tied to a typically scheduled 40-hour work week. AND, I'd really ONLY want to do the Farm Work anyway! Not the large swaths of exhaust stinky, sticky, hot lawn mowing...or the setting up chairs for the wedding venue...or moving heavy equipment... or really, even the tractors are not my favorite.
I am simply running up against my own impatience. AGAIN.
I want us to have our own land NOW. I want us to already have our own FARM now. I want to be able to tell my compliant 6 year old to play well with my compliant 3 year old (3 more years to this ideal and possibly unrealistic dream) while I work alongside Kyle tending to our large 1/2 to 1 acre field of food and flowers and permanent beds that require no large tractors. I want to be able to go inside at lunch while Kyle finishes up our current project in the greenhouse and make a large vegan meal for our family and our small crew of dedicated and wonderfully-hearted workers and interns. I am impatient and now that the dirt is literally within grasp (and all over Kyle), I feel deep emotions that are manifesting themselves in strange broody ways.
I do miss him. And I do wish he would have stayed home today while it rained. But maybe even more, I grieve a little for what I am restricted from doing (and what we are still waiting for) right now and kind of want his simple comforting presence more than anything (he is good at that too). Being pregnant makes one emotional, but am have never been of the sort to just write my emotions off as illogical. There's a reason. Many really. They are real and likely not to be fully resolved any time in the present. They all require patience. WHICH IS THE THEME OF MY LIFE IT SEEMS... it all comes down to learning to be patient and honing my own Presence.
Right now it is right for Kyle to be free and flourish abundantly in this new atypical work (according to our overriding culture of money security first...and a little of our parents sensibilities too). It is good and truly what I want for him. To feel freedom internally and externally to explore. To try his hand at something NEW and be free of pressure to provide or fit in a traditional career mold (I can't totally help his own internally imposed ones). I want him to feel affirmed and feel joy.
...And, if anything, I truly know that beyond our own ability to be "good listeners" to the still, small Voice guiding us along this unknown road we are walking, somehow we are still meandering in the right direction (possibly a bit drunkenly...but meh, whose really watching that matters other than those who really love us anyhow)!
I am where I am supposed to be. These roles we have chosen are truly of our choosing. My actual ones are are as important as any I could wish upon myself. Kyle's are also right and good and in God's timing. We are walking together along this road. As a mom and a wife I am strong and capable and more than able to grow magical things right where I am--both human and edible! My passionate (sometimes tending toward impatience) and Kyle's loyalty (sometimes tending toward rutting) are two of our greatest mutual assets.
We are where we are supposed to be.
...Let these thought be a prayer when the rain seems oppressive instead of life-giving.
I wrote a message to a friend on Instagram this morning and it was a great summary update on us so I thought I'd post that while I work on a more in depth blog post:
Kyle parted ways with office work at the beginning of this growing season and is now working for a local organic vegetable farm and wedding venue/Airbnb (LINK). He absolutely loves it and cannot imagine going back to the office. He will stay there through the winter and into the next growing season next year when he and whoever is on his team will get about 30,000 sq feet of field to farm (they have about 15k right now). It's a beginning farm (the wedding venue is their primary business) so they are totally non-dependent on the outcome of the farm so Kyle and his crew basically get to farm totally risk free and creatively. It's an incredible opportunity! Otherwise, I'm continuing to bake our second little sour dough bun and our 3 year old is loving the idea of being a big sister! We plan on trying our hand at vegan cheese this month with the help of Miyoko's cheese making cookbook. I'm excited about that. Our garden is starting to take off and I love that people here in WNC (Western North Carolina) think that 80 degrees is hot...lol!!!! 🤣 I'll take it!
Sending Down Our Mountain Roots
In June we made our final move for the year of 2018. We are finally beginning to feel settled for the first time all year!
Appalachian Mountains. North Carolina.
As many of you know, Kyle and I have been on a journey of growing a dream for our family; mountains, a space to be wilder & closer to the land (and each other) & for community are at top of our list of goals.
On Thanksgiving of this last year our little family took a last minute trip out here to Western North Carolina with Kyle’s parents to look at a possible piece of property to buy. Kyle had also landed a rare job interview with a structural engineering firm in downtown Asheville at the same time. He interviewed on the Monday after Thanksgiving Day (which we spent eating veggie burgers at a local pub) & got a job offer during the interview! After a lot of thoughtfulness we decided to accept Kyle’s job offer and make the big move from Kansas City (our sweet 750 sq ft home, our irreplaceable friends, our family and years and years of familiarity and memories) to the wild and unfamiliar Mountains of North Carolina.
January 1st, 2018 marked our first day in our new homeland as a family! It was the coldest day of the year and we were outsiders as we pulled up with our U-Haul but the day was sunny & bright and our hearts were brimmed with peace and joy.
Our first home here was a room-for-rent in an urban intentional community in West Asheville. It was a safe and affordable place to rent and it kept us together (the alternative was Kyle renting on his own and me and Adaline staying with his parents near the coast). It wasn’t an easy living situation because of some strained roommate relations but we were endlessly thankful to be together and wouldn’t change that decision even in hindsight. We learned a lot in that community and grew a lot as a family. When it came to moving into our current home (and our own space to regain our familiar family rhythms) we were ready and deeply thankful for new perspectives we had gained in that first chapter of this year.
In June we moved into a beautiful semi-rural home in Candler (about 20 minutes from downtown Asheville) in a small wonderfully wooded neighborhood with amazing neighbors. We had searched weekend after weekend after weekend (after weekend...after weekend….) with Kyle’s parents to find this home. This will be their retirement home (unless we can convince them to build on our future land! ;p )
It was wonderful to finally have our own space AND to get ALL our doggies back together (we were only allowed 1 out of our 5 while in our first rental). The others had stayed with some incredible & loving friends and family those first 7 months.
Since our move (and real settling in has begun) we have enrolled Adaline in a great Forest School twice a week and we continue to attend a parent/toddler class once a week. We visited the Biltmore this past Spring and spent a wonderful week at the beach with Rick, Patty, Charlotte, John and Carter. It was such a joy to be together, play at the beach and see the cousins play! We have been on more hikes this year than the three previous years combined.
We carved a medium-sized terraced garden into our front yard which will continue to thrive this coming Spring with our continually growing compost pile. We plan on expanding the garden as we grow our skill as food growers. Our goal is to grow 90% of our own food. We also plan on learning more and more this year about preserving and other forms of “putting up” our food.
We lost my Mazda in the summer due to failed breaks (thankful we were all okay!). We bought another car and then both our cars got crunched by a huge pine-tree branch. We finally have both cars almost 100% fixed. We liked our rentals but they aren’t AWD and in the snow that wasn’t fun!
We made it through our first major mountain snow storm. Power was out for about 16 hours and suddenly a wood stove and a 4x4 truck made a whole lot more sense!!
We also became a refuge center to Rick and Patty during Hurricane Michael. That was an intense time for people on the East Coast in this area. Many lives were lost, both human and animal. We were grateful for the minimal impact here in the mountains and Rick and Patty’s home by the coast faired well.
I (Athena) took a nursing job at the local hospital this winter. It is a great job on a wonderful, dedicated, kind-hearted unit that serves only women’s surgical patients (no male patients).
Kyle has been super busy with a BIG job this year which has meant many LONG hours but he is content and happier than I have ever seen him with his job. For that I am willing to give up some hours at home together. He is learning SO much and growing by leap and bounds as an engineer and each hour is an investment in our future!
We deeply (and daily) miss our Kansas City friends. Building community is high our list this next year now that we are more settled in and have a place to send down our roots. We continue to work toward learning necessary homesteading skills (growing food, building, preserving food, etc) and continue to post updates on Instagram and our blog (less frequently at the moment with mama working!). We are always casually looking for land while aggressively saving toward our big-dream land fund. This coming year we are looking forward to more bear-sightings, farmer’s market and CSA connections and, of course, TONS of hiking, camping and outdoor adventures this year! We are always have an open-door for friends and family who’d like to come visit! All seasons are beautiful here but Summer, Fall and deep Winter are the most beautiful of all!
With love ALWAYS!
From Our Homestead to Yours,
<Kyle & Athena>
| Blog #13 | Number Thirteen | Superheroes Don't Fit in Boxes ...And Other Things We Want to Teach Our Daughter | <Athena>
"What would we being doing differently NOW if we were on the Farmstead already?"
(Circa 2 nights ago before bed after the toddler finally fell asleep after yelling at us for about 20 minutes that she had lost our kisses and needed more).
As we settle into the daily to-do's associated with what will be our home-base for the next 5-6 years Kyle and I have been feeling a tug on our souls to further refine (again) how we are living our daily lives with both our current values and our long-term vision in mind-sight.
This is challenging at the outset when we do not fully know yet what our "destination" will look like. It is a naturally evolving process and vision all the time.
Before we moved here to the Asheville area we were pretty much normal city folk who happened to be living in a 750 sq ft 1920's house near downtown on a 1/4 of an acre. It was a treasure of a home in a sweet older neighborhood. We were close to everything. We were walking distance from the hospital where I had worked prior to moving into home-health nursing. We were also walking distance from coffee shops, restaurants and even a couple parks.
It took us only about 10 minutes to get downtown to the farmer's market where we picked up our CSA vegetables and about 8 minutes to get to our incredibly special church family that held services in a dual art gallery space. We were 2-3 minutes from the HWY and it took Kyle about 25 minutes to get to his workplace from home.
The property had more than enough land for self-sufficient gardening and we were allowed to have up to 4 chicken on any property in the city. We had a chicken coop ready to go but with a new baby we never ended up getting chickens. We were also so new to gardening at the time that we could only do so much as new parents and as formerly "black thumbs" to transform ourselves and the garden into a recognizable patch of life. We tried. We maybe could have done more there but, such was that particular step along our journey.
It was our little urban farmstead in some real ways. Our first home was such a sweet start to our lives together as new parents and as a life-partnered pair.
But, we knew it was only a place we were meant to remain for a continually diminishing amount of time. We knew we wanted to raise our family someplace with more physical room to grow and explore.
We knew we wanted to be somewhere where we could "own land" and experience "more wild" and other more unnameable desires. And we knew we wanted to make our move before our daughter got too old and the act of pulling up roots and putting down new ones became harder.
So fast forward through a few previous blogs and here we are today. It has already been (and only been) 9 months since we said goodbye to a life and friendships we had built over many years in the Midwest and moved here to the mountains of inland North Carolina. We now rent a house and have a small start of some land to work with but we are really still acutely aware of many limitations that we face as we look toward the road ahead.
Personally speaking, after nine months, we still have yet to "make friends"... like real, adult, non-internet friends. This is partly a challenge because we are incredibly contented introverts and homebodies. We like each other and our little family's alone time and we have a hard time giving up that time for any reason.
As introverts we naturally have limited "inner circle" capacity to begin with so we already take a LOOOOOOONNNNNG time finding people of true like-mindedness-- and by this I mean "like-minded" in the ways that really count. We don't want to think and believe all the same things (that's lame and boring) but sharing a few core life-navigational commonalities is important to us.
HOWEVER, we have to actually spend time hanging out with people to find that out about them and ourselves with them as friends... AND: ugh, socializing... (says every introvert prior to most large or novel social engagements).
And. We are kinda weirdos. We don't really fit in any one decently shaped (said: socially popular) box. We are truly satisfied with this aspect of who we are because it is an expression of honesty and a striving for a genuine and non-hypocritical life... and we can also find it difficult when trying to find new people to create deep bonds with.
Additionally our non-conformist boxes at first might not be noticeable because we don't like to shove them in people's faces as an act of marketing. If we do happen to use labels, at the outset, our "boxes" may (to the uncritical eye) look not at all non-conformist. They might look very defined and quite possibly offensive because of the unfortunate use and expression of them in past and present history. That's why sometimes finding people to whom we connect with on issues surrounding core parts of who we are can be a challenge in the greatest capacity. (More on all that in another blog post).
I also have a hard time being patient. I get a drive and an itch for something and I want to be all-in NOW. Not 6 years down the road. I want to dive in the deep end with all I have... and, for a purpose I have yet to accept, we aren't able to do that yet. I want to start growing and preserving ALL our own food right now, have chickens, goats, rabbits, farming neighbors, horses, all of it. But. I have to wait and take it in small bites. And be choosy about the bites I do take. If not in the least for the sake of my daughter. I can't just run off with Kyle to intern on a farm with a toddler... as much as I really REALLY wish we could.
We have to wait to swim in the deep end. We have to wait at least until we have saved enough for land. And even then we'll feel like we are crawling along while Kyle has to work full time. And I am bad at waiting. AaaaaaaGGHAAAAGh!!!! OH, how it drives the little only-child girl inside me nuts! (Being an adult at times feels like partly being at war with your own self half the time). Even if I do know somewhere inside that there is a deep and meaningful purpose in the waiting period.
So, that all said.
It is easy to just keep on doing what we are comfortably accustomed to doing despite the possibly edge-dulling convenience of it all. It is SO easy to minimize the affect it all has.
Until Kyle puts it all in perspective (as he is a genius at doing--and why I love him so much). It matters when we realize that in 6 years our daughter will be 8 years old. She (and we) will be, for better or worse, accustomed to whatever life-style we choose to live on a daily basis. If we decide to just up and move out to an off-grid tepee on a farm in the mountains without having incorporated LOTS of positive rugged-living experiences into our lives over the years... this next move could be a shock that our family is more than likely not going to be ready for.
When we move to our farmstead in 6 years as a family I want the transition to feel as natural as anything else we have done (including moving to the Appalachian Mountains). I never would have imagined myself saying that I now feel like there are too many houses too close together and that I am leaning toward commuting a hour or more to get away from power lines (and lawn mowers). I see a yearning in both Kyle and I to find the daily rhythms right here where we are that line up with what we are continually defining as our future "destinations". I see and feel a current existence of "here" and "not yet" in each of us so acutely that it sometimes feel painful.
For now, we have no absolute and clear answers to the question of: "What would we bei doing differently NOW if we were on the Farmstead already?". Many things of course would be SO different... but that is not the page of the journal we are on yet.
We know some of those differences have no choice but to be limited because of where we are living so we can save our land money (i.e., living within an HOA in a residential neighborhood on a half acre lot of land with lots of trees and lots of shade on one income with a toddler).
But, what parts of our lives do we still have available to work with in order to prepare for the future we have in mind? What parts of our lives are still mutable enough to prepare us for a veganic, self-sufficient, earth-stewarding farmstead? What can we still lovingly simplify or give over to a more rugged-care without sacrificing our time together as a family or our soul-care? What parts are purposeful in giving up and not simply an aesthetic motion?
The first thing we know for sure & certain is that we want to try and spend a heck of a lot more time living outdoors (camping, hiking and otherwise). As much as we are able to we want to live, eat and sleep in nature over the next 6 years. And we will try and grow as much food and learn as much as we can about homesteading, farming and animals. We also know that the transition may still be a HUGE learning curve but will try our best to not get too comfortable but also be balanced and strive for peace in our hearts and a life that is kind, simple, alive responsive to each other and the world around us.
So, I suppose, as we grow our little Superhero --and maybe others-- (and do our part in stewarding our part of the planet right where we are) we want her to know (and remember ourselves) that a hero's cape is not earned by "already knowing everything" or already "being there" but by the continual internal and external motions of expressing a heart of a hero in every day life. We want her to know that even the most simple part of every day (like writing outside to the sound of a summer rain or doing the laundry and dishes with minimal energy usage) can be opportunities for nurturing the hero's heart in each of us. We do not intend to try and be a "heroic" family... but we do want to be loving and kind and honest and real.
What introspective questions or motivations are shaping your lives right now?
From Our Homestead to Yours
Kyle and Athena
Welcome to our Farmstead Journal. We warmly invite you to read along as we share the day-to-day successes and road-bumps we encounter as we learn organic farming, pursue our search for our own land and our passion for homesteading, plant-based/"veganic" eating and growing, simplicity and our continual journey of learning and growing as a family!