When Kyle and I initially started (earnestly) looking into uprooting and making the move from Kansas City, we had had set our sights on Oregon. When we were dating we had road-tripped and camped all over Oregon. As many others have, we found the state to be extraordinarily diverse and beautiful. It was not hard to fall in love with her.
As we talked and waited and researched and waited some more we knew we had to eventually be near the mountains and live a lifestyle closer to the wild, camping, hiking and generally being outside as much as possible (as a family).
We brain-stormed and worked out different ways we might realize our dream of living near the mountains. We knew we would be better off as a growing family if we found a job for Kyle first (especially while I was still nursing our daughter). Engineer jobs in Kyle's specialty were found to be ironically few and far between in the places we hoped to move to in Oregon so we opened up our search to the entire Pacific Northwest.
About 4 months before we chose our final destination and packed up all our belongings to make the big move, Kyle received an offer for a structural engineer position in Seattle, WA. The only catch was that we had to wait an undetermined amount of time before they could confirm the position he would be hired to. We used this time and waiting period as a catalyst to investigate both the area around Seattle and our own gut-feelings about a move there.
We found home and land prices to be quite astronomical compared to what we felt comfortable with and the general cost of living to be much higher than either of us had experienced. Looking forward to the future desire of owning our own land and homesteading one day, the cost of good land was a daunting reality that we were naturally uneasy about.
But the area is utterly gorgeous and we already knew a few friends and family members who lived out there, so we would not be utterly alone moving to this big bright promised land. We were drawn to it. It was hard not to be.
We dug deeper into our research of the area, received more details about Kyle's possible position, re-looked at our budget and our own hearts, and as we did so, we found our hearts reluctant to sign up for such a sparkling "promise"-- though we were admittedly very torn.
We had been yearning for a number of years to be in a place where we could live a more outdoor life for ourselves and our young growing daughter. We wanted more wild than Kansas City could offer. We wanted mountains and rivers and we hoped one day to have our own corner of wild land to steward.
We also felt somewhat of a time-crunch as a family. We wanted to move and set down our roots before our daughter (and possibly more kids) turned school-aged. We, ourselves, wanted to be in a slower paced, gentler living, and more wild area...and to have more of one another and time as a family.
We knew we loved the Oregon area as travelers but we weren't 100% sure it would be the same as residents (though we know it very well could have been). And we certainly weren't sure about Seattle, Washington. A place we'd never been to and mightn't be afford to even visit at that point. We just weren't sure, in our guts, if this was the right move for our family in light of all factors we could see...and many we could not.
More interestingly though, we found ourselves continually (albeit by a gentle, small unassuming voice) being drawn toward a town in Western North Carolina. Kyle's parents lived on the coast of North Carolina, but otherwise, we had no prior draw or connection.
But...there were mountains. So we kept it loosely on the list of possible destinations.
We did what we have found a proven strategy at times like these. We waited. We let it all go a bit (again) and gave our desire to move up to our family-saying, "if it's meant to happen, it will happen. If not, then it won't. We aren't going to force anything". We took this opportunity to practice patience in the midst of yearning and rest in the midst of want for action.
(In a future post I will share more of what led us to making our final decision to move to where we ended up. In the mean time...we continue to actively wait.)
We actively yearn and work hard at learning and growing and continuing our internal reflections...and we wait, doing our best to be content and joyfully patient.
Here we are, in our current home, incredibly entrusted to us by Kyle's parents, in a state that is more wild and wonderful than we ever could have hoped for and we are not surprised that we still pine and yearn.
For more time with one another, as a family and to find our own land to cultivate in a loving and careful way. This in itself is a driving motivation for much of what we aim to accomplish in keeping a homestead.
We know we still have so much to learn.
We are contentedly discontent.
We are thankful that Kyle has a position he actually really loves for the first time in his career, at a company that we both respect. We are thankful that we landed in a community when we first arrived that became our first true and loving friend base (a hard thing for natural introverts that just want to be at home with one another).
We are thankful to have an incredible little sanctuary of a home to live in for the next 5-6 years as we save our money and build our skill-base for our future land and farmstead.
And yet we let that ember from the fire of hope and contented discontentment burn inside us. We let it burn for a simpler life. We let it burn for a more responsibly responsive humanity. We let it burn for more time together as a family. We let it burn for a deeper connection with the sources of our food and sustenance. We yearn for heart-work as well as hard-work. And we are assured to continue to receive lots and lots of lessons in patient waiting, quite listening to the still small voice of Leading and being patient before loosing arrows of direction and destination.
I often reminisce about the times as a child my Dad would take me hunting with him in the mountains of New Mexico. This wasn't the hunting I typically see (and openly do not respect--even if I wasn't a vegan) in the Midwest where someone sets up a tree-stand near their food trap or blind and sits and tries not to fall asleep (or freeze to death) waiting for a animal to pass by while foraging for food in the winter and then the "hunter" snipes it with only the skill needed to not stink too bad, not fall out of a tree, and operate some kind of gun or mechanically balanced bow).(And I know that in some areas deer can be serious (even dangerous) "pests"...but there are much deeper and greater issues afoot there on that mole hill than can be addressed in this journal entry).
My memories of going with my Father hunting into the wild of the cold winter wilderness are deeply cathartic and still move my heart and soul in greatly important ways today.
When we went hunting as a family in those days, we would pack-in deep into the frosty winter woods on horseback into the mountains of New Mexico with all we would have to sustain us for a week or more. We would eat lightly and forage if there was anything to forage. We would build fires for warmth and drink strong dark coffee by a fire each morning before the sun was quiet ready to shed it's own sleeping bag.
During this trips my dad (who will never give himself any credit for the amazing teacher he is) taught me how to track animals, not get lost in the woods, how to respect the intelligence and the wild that is nature and generally be in awe and wonder at the depth of our often neglected tie to this type of raw wild.
These times taught me what it meant to live off the land (even if it was in short, brief bits) and be thankful for having "just enough" amidst the wonder of our own fragility... and honoring, with great understanding and a Spirit long-lost to the white man, the loss of life it took to provide meat for a family for many meals. My family would also make use of, or give away to be used, every part of the animal...nothing wasted...no life taken in simple greed or sport.
Now to be honest, someone could have looked at my little pale, slightly green face watching my dad gut an elk in the sun while eating my orange ....and known, "this kid's doomed to be a vegan..."--or at very least not be able to eat oranges or elk meat for a long while now. Ha! And they would've obviously been right.
Looking back with honestly and with a more "aware-of-my-own- heart" hindsight, I was sad for that animal. I can honestly say though that the memory is both joyful and sorrowful. Like any memory that continues to move us years after its creation.
I would only going hunting wild-life with my camera these days... however, I am thankful for and will never forget the visceral experiences I gained (and the wonderful memories I built with my Dad wondering in the wilderness) during those times that have deeply moved my life and influenced my core values about living, respect for nature and all of life.
The difference is night an day between sitting in a blind (which can be literal or metaphorical for our common Western Culture) and that of riding my strong, well-loved horse into the forest with a pack to spend a week tracking the paths of nature through a wild forest, eating only what we had brought or what we could forage (getting to drink sugar with coffee in it... like a big girl), feeling the fragility of our humanity in the sub-freezing temperatures of the living, singing night and watching an animal die at the hand of a human (even if used in a very ethical way) will forever be in my DNA.
I see sparkling reflections and gentle shadows of these childhood memories, that are overall still some of the most deeply cherished I have (wild moments in the woods with my Dad), and recognize their continual influence on my life today. As a growing homesteader that also values all life enough to eat, clothe, and purpose my life differently, I hold onto these memories and others with a strong gratefulness. The bitter of them and the beauty of them, it all moves me at a level greater than most anything else.
One of our wonderfully emotionally-intelligent Shelties. Brutus ("Bruty").
Can you tell our daughter loves him!
Hi. This is Kyle. I don't really know how to start blog posts so I'll just start with that.In our instant gratification culture, social media is no exception. In fact it often magnifies some of humanities less than flattering characteristics. We are becoming a society where clicks matter more than content, memes are shared more than meaningful discussion, and if a video doesn't load within a couple of seconds we move on or get frustrated. To be clear I am just as guilty of this as most. I bring this up only to serve as a disclaimer. This is not what our journey will be. The Bird and The Beasts Farmstead is going to be a slow process. Like anything worth doing this is worth doing well. And often that means taking your time.
We don't have the resources to go out and buy everything it takes to build to Farmstead. We don't have the connections/friends to make this happen overnight. You won't see silky chickens running around our yard next week. You won't see baby goats bouncing around our yard this fall. One day you will. At least that is our goal. We don't have merchandise to sell, we don't have 100% organic cotton, fair-trade, t-shirts with The Bird and The Beasts Farmstead on them, nor will we. Our goal is to explore the journey of living in a more harmonious way with the Earth, living by our convictions, and becoming more independent in our every day life.
So many times we see people on social media living a life that looks like the life we wish we could live. We see people in exotic places, resting in hammocks against the most picturesque backdrops, trying the most delectable foods, with their impeccable style, not having a care in the world. Or it's more simple, people living in their tiny homes in a idyllic forest in the Pacific Northwest, or cradling their latest rescue dog, or splashing in the waves at the beach with their "tribe". (Is that the term we use now for our friends or is it still "crew"? I can't keep up). But rarely do we see how people accomplish this "ideal" life better yet the failures they had trying to reach their dream. And this is where Athena and I strive to be different. We are starting from a typical America home in Western North Carolina. We want to document the little steps it takes to accomplish this Farmstead, the tiny yarrow plants we place in flower bed, the giant rubber bucket we are using to grow a small herb garden on the back porch, plants that we lose to slugs and disease, hoops we'll have to jump through with our local jurisdiction to make sure we appease the bureaucracy, all of it. We want to share the ups and the downs, the hard work and the small victories it takes for an "average" family to create their own Farmstead. And it's going to take years. We may only keep 5 people who follow us on this journey. Shoot we may not keep anybody's attention. And that's ok. I get it. This is going to be a slow process. We hope you enjoy this journey with us as we learn and grow and share with the world.
(Left to right) | My foot print and Adi's (hard to see) at a local creek/swimming hole | One of the first pictures of the Westwood Children's Garden, a children's garden we designed and maintain at the Westwood Cohousing Community | Kyle and our daughter Adaline this year on our first ever hike in North Carolina, our new home state |
Monday of this week we should have closed on our house in Kansas City. Due to the nature of real estate that didn't happen and we find ourselves in the middle of a stressful "battle" with the buyer's agent and lender. My heart was really heavy over this last night and I had my fair share of a headache today writing an email response to a very unprofessional acting agent. However, despite all this I feel at peace. We have made this far by things falling into place in ways we could hardly imagine or ask for.
On Thanksgiving of this past year (7 months ago) we found ourselves in a hotel room with my In-Loves looking up which restaurants were still open at 8 o'clock at night during a serious winter blitz (serious for the Western North Carolina area! ;-} ). It ended up being a Chinese Place (of course, right!) and we were SO thankful for some good dirty Chinese Food that night.
We were visiting a housing community that was a cross-between a co-housing community and a standard mountain housing development. We were feeling out the air (physically and metaphorically) and checking in with our guts on whether this was where we were to move or not.
We decided not to move into that development but we did feel right about moving to the area. So on January 1st, 2018 we rolled up with the smallest U-Haul we could fit the majority of our belongings in. It was also the coldest day of the year. We had spent 3 days on the road trying to make the trip not entirely torture for our daughter (almost 2 years old at the time)... and us!
We arrived. We unpacked. We settled in as best we could. We had been fortunate to land in a wonderful co-housing community only 20 minutes from Kyle's work near downtown. The air warmed up. The flowers bloomed. We planted a garden for the children and then time came to move again. And finally actually start to feel settled. That's where we are now. Physically and emotionally we can send down roots and grow. We are in a wonderful home with some good land for gardening.
But...this isn't where we will stay forever. In fact, we know we we likely only be here for the next 5-6 years. This home is Kyle's Parents retirement home and we have the next 5-6 years to save and plan for our own land...our own farmstead...our own homestead.
That gives us many days to learn how to homestead right here and now. And to do so in a way that is consistent with our core values. It feels like many days...and then also not many at all! We have 6 years at most to learn how to farm; how to rescue and care for animals on a homestead that doesn't depend on them for food; how to grow, can and preserve our food; how to build fences and grind our own flour, how to manage a solar and/or wind system and everything else a good vegan homesteader will need to learn.
The point for us in this moment is to take one small step at a time. Together. To not get overwhelmed and to stay close to what inspires us to continue. Each other. We want to homestead primarily so that we can reduce our dependency on a system saturated in consumption of resources. We do this to have more time with one another and less dependency on hours that Kyle (or I, when I am working) has to stay away from home to earn our sustenance. Herein is the core of our dreams and goals. This is the reason we are learning to homestead-right-where-we-are.
#veganicfarming #veganicgardening#veganhomesteading #veganhomesteaders#permaculture #veganpermaculture#veganfarmers #vegangardeners#northcarolina #appalachia #foodforests#earthstewatdship #earthcare #peoplecare#fairshare #veganfamilies #simpleliving#kitchengarden #perrenials #annuals#herbgardens #flowergardens #foodgardens#biodynamics #smokeymountaingardeners #morningchores #homesteadchores#veganashville #ashevillevegan
As the first blog we will start by introducing ourselves a bit.
KYLE & I:
I (Athena) am a registered nurse by formal education. My career as a nurse specializes in Palliative and Hospice Care. In January of this year (2018) our family packed up our lives and moved from Kansas City to the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina on the coldest day of this year. Since we moved to this beautiful state I have been a professional stay-at-home dragon trainer (i.e. a parent). I am currently self-studying all things homesteading, organic gardening, plant-based farming, Permaculture, and simple & kind living. I tend to run a nuanced line on various social, religious and political that can make "both sides" of standard-issue camps feel uncomfortable. This is what it is. I honestly feel that it is the most authentic way for me way to live. I'm not contentious at all. Usually, quite the opposite. I just favor the allowance of nuances that can make more "black & white" people frustrated. I don't like to be put in a box and I don't like to see others put in boxes. On that note, I stopped eating flesh, eggs and animal milks October 2012 and try to always be learning and digging deeper. I'd say I'm unorthodox in much of my core orthodoxy and methodology--for example, I typically don't talk about that fact that me and my family are plant-based eaters or rooted in a Jesus-based faith unless expressly asked about it. Though that is hard when you are publicly writing about your deepest motivations in life, I promise will not make those isolating topics if I can at all help it. I stay deeply rooted in core ethics of kindness and passionate loving stewardship of creation, its current inhabitants and our collective future. I don't typically like or feel it necessary to broadcast myself in labels (but I get that this is sometimes unavoidable). I guess believe more in being than talking about being. So, hello!
Kyle. My amazing partner and husband. This man is handsome, intelligent, strong, deep-hearted, an extroverted introvert, not unusually outspoken but absolutely has something to say if one is only willing to quite down and listen (and be glad they did!). He is intensely "deep-watered" (and usually much more "steady" and "cool-headed" than I), our super-hero, an amazing husband and incredible daddy (& he can embarrass me later in one of his own blogs). He is a structural engineer by week-day career and a kindred-hearted, inspiring, world-saver by nights and weekends (really all the time but who's counting hours here...okay maybe we are...we want less office-job hours!! More home-based work!!). His journey toward living a life of simplicity and eventually also his own plant-based journey and now our homesteading journey (I would say...since I'm the one writing this blog) started when he and his sister used to play for hours in a magical plot of woods behind their house in South Carolina as kids. He has an intrinsic understanding and respect for his deep soul-healing need for a connection with nature. Nature and the earth with all its animals, bugs and natural-life has been a place of connection and restoration for our family since the beginning of our Story. He has always been a man who values simplicity and places of sanctuary. When we met we connected on the deepest levels of imagination, child-hood nostalgia, memories of beloved books and core-level desires to be authentic, non-hypocritical, simple human beings and "neighbors" wherever we are.
Together with our daughter and our five wonderful middle-aged and senior dogs (plus all our resident spiders, garden snakes, bush-bunnies and other wild creatures) are pursuing this life of simple, kind, light, loving, green-growing, stuff building, and always learning homesteading-right-where-we-are!
#veganicfarming#veganicgardening #veganhomesteading #veganhomesteaders#permaculture #veganpermaculture#veganfarmers #vegangardeners#northcarolina#appalachia #foodforests#earthstewatdship #earthcare #peoplecare#fairshare #veganfamilies #simpleliving#kitchengarden #perrenials #annuals#herbgardens #flowergardens #foodgardens#biodynamics #smokeymountaingardeners #morningchores #homesteadchores#veganashville #ashevillevegan
Kyle and Athena
Welcome to our Farmstead Journal. We warmly invite you to read along as we share our journey as we learn and grow more authentic is our care and honor of the earth and all our fellow inhabitants, as we pursue our search for our own land and explore the meaning of homesteading and growing within plant-based/"veganic" principles. We seek deep authenticity, true peace, sanctuary for all and simplicity as our continual journey of learning and growing as a family.