THE past few weeks have been a internally very challenging. For many reasons, not all of which are worthy of writing about here, I have felt drained and somewhat heavy. Despite most every day offering some or new skill to master or piece of knowledge to absorb, it has been a time of internal reflection and ultimately, of needed re-adjustments.
As you might be aware, Kyle and I recently launched an Instagram profile, a Facebook page & the Farmstead Journal to share with others our super humble, messy and novice beginnings of a homesteading journey.
I have lately found myself increasingly discontent and dedicating degrees of myself to social media outlets while ignoring the unavoidable internal question (once again) if social media expressions are actually sustainable for me. These new social media creations are not bad unto themselves, and I do enjoy elements of them...however; it also, unfortunately, all costs our family something we value very highly: TIME.
As I have always found to be true: social media is a strange beast of it's own kind with it's own unique good and bad. It can be useful AND it has the ability to very quickly steal our time and attention. And, not just time and attention in and of themselves but time TOGETHER as a family and attention given to the real human beings in our lives.
The floodwaters of social media's pull toward unproductive mindsets is strong & it's endless and potentially insidious requests of time investments may not ultimately pay we think it will. The promise of some type of "successful" social interaction is never quite achieved (though it is "tickled") and because of this it can perpetuate the drain on us even further.
It might sound like I am very much making a case against social media use. But I am not. As is simply (and impersonally) the nature of non-human sources of social interaction, disappointment with the promised outcomes is highly likely.
So maybe a new perspective of social media would be helpful.
Realizing that social media is just that--a type of media--is important. AND, in a less charged way, it is simply not human. Now it can be released from being something it is not, nor will ever be. We are the "benefitters" in this scenario.
It is necessary to release social media from the expectation that is will ever be a soul-nourishing place to meet a need for relationships.
It does not, nor will ever, be a replacement by itself for living connection and fulfillment of relationship with others. We all know this and yet this may be what we continue to ask of it without really acknowledging or realizing it. Thus, setting ourselves up for disappointment.
I am slightly chagrined to admit I have done this many times.
On the other hand, social media CAN facilitate the initial potential for relationships to develop. It just can't ever be those relationships itself.
And that is okay. It is not meant to. It can be valued for what it is and released from what it's not.
Kyle and I started sharing our personal journey to make connections and build community, not for popularity, prosperity or for "likes & follows" (though admittedly the current pull toward those things is strong and ingrained deeply in our culture's psyche).
Being the one who primarily handles the engagement of our social media I have had to take a step back recently and pay attention to a nagging and creeping frustration and the potential soul-draining nature of these outlets. I have had to stop and refocus what it is we want (and what is realistic and healthy) in using these platforms for developing human connection.
It can be easy to be "driven" by social media's glittering promise of some golden social potential. We get it. And truthfully there is real marketing capability for businesses in our modern social-based media...especially Instagram. Being on the road to a home-based business this makes it all the more naturally complicated.
But, is trying to live up to some expectation set by our culture toward another form of image-based popularity-driven context for sharing our lives worth what it can costs us if we are not aware and clear of our own purposes for using it?
Social media can be a very useful tool... or it can be an bottomless pit. It can be a means of making connections and promoting a worthy business endeavor or it can be a sharp knife that cuts away at our time and energy no less quickly and heartlessly than other forms of media or entertainment.
I don't want that loss for our family.
When I look at the real reasons we do this; why I specifically will choose to continue to engage in the social media thing (and how to keep it healthy for us) it is for the following reasons:
It has natural limits and it's mystic is unfortunately its greatest stumbling block. If social media can be taken out from behind this mystical veil and shown for what it simply is: a computer-based algorithmic-driven non-human tool...then it can be released (as can we) and used wisely and well for just that purpose. As a tool for greater connection potential.
Beyond it's very unmystical potential of pre-arranging a possible connected however, the responsibility or onus of true and living connection with real and non-computer people lies with each of us alone (or rather to not be alone, I suppose).
If we feel lonely or disconnected, no manner of social media with EVER fill that need or void. Even as an introvert (maybe especially as one), finding and making social connections is one of my greatest challenges. This is even more true in this season as we settle into a new state and learn to live in a place where we know almost no one very closely.
Family, forests, and farming. These are the three main reasons our little family took the giant leap of leaving Kansas City for the wilderness of Western North Carolina. This weekend we got to relish in two of these: family and forests. Both of my (Kyle) parents decided to spend the weekend up in the mountains for some much needed mountain R&R. Friday was a wonderful evening of errands, grocery shopping, and a hyper toddler hopped up on ice cream causing laughter for all. Saturday started ambitiously with packed backpacks, pancakes, and a “planned” hike. Well, apparently, Mother Nature likes to be tricky in the mountains because the rain that was supposed to clear up by noon was still around at one and two and three o’clock. Not ideal for a Saturday afternoon but we made the best of it by meandering the charming streets of downtown Black Mountain.The itch of the trail would have to wait to be scratched.
We were greeted Sunday morning by beautiful, crisp, cool air and sunny skies. The perfect hiking weather. Unfortunately, we had to bid farewell to Grandpa who had to be at work Monday morning, but we were able to convince Anissi (Grandma) to stay in the mountains for a couple more days (the perks of being a teacher and being out of school). So after some car trading and repacking of backpacks, we were off to the mountains via the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.
We drove for about an hour to reach the trailhead of Graveyard Fields, one of the more popular trails in the area. As the main trail researcher, I wasn’t really sure what we’d find. To be honest, I didn’t do my usual research into the trail, I just saw the label “moderate”, “waterfalls,” and a relatively low elevation gain of around 600 feet and said “SOLD.”
The trailhead was at a fairly packed Blue Ridge Parkway scenic overlook. We were greeted by steps and a paved trail, which is not typically the type we go for. However the restroom was a welcome addition to our usual hikes. We looked at the trail map and decided we’d go to the water and then take the trail to the upper falls — a fairly easy 3.5 to 3.9 mile round trip.
So down the stairs and onto the paved trail we went. Under the rhododendron and through the trees we went until we arrived at a beautiful river cascading over slick, sliding rocks. Off came Adi’s shoes and into the chilly but refreshing water we went. We were able to make our way to the edge of the lower falls and look down on the crowds sunning themselves in the pools and rocks of the lower falls. After some fun sloshing and picture-taking, we packed our bags and headed for the trail that would lead us to the much more breathtaking Upper Falls.
We made our way along the trail stepping over tree roots and dancing around mud puddles. Those over the age of 3 went “around” the puddles. Some of those in our group decided to jump INTO the puddles with squeals of joy. That is, of course, until her shoes got sucked in and then it was “Daddy help you.” Pronouns are hard.
We continued along the trail breathing in the wonderful mountain air and observing the still green, wild blueberries. After a peaceful jaunt, we arrived at an unmarked fork and had to make a decision. One trail was wider but much muddier, and the other was narrower by dry. After a quick scouting trip on the muddy trail we decided to try the other path.
We took this little path for a quick minute and ended up at the main river, which was met by more squeals, laughter, and applause by the munchkin on my shoulders. However, the trail ended here. Well, the marked trail ended here. But the good Lord always provides a trail, and Athena and I knew where there’s a waterfall there’s a river, and we were standing in a river, and if we followed that river upstream, eventually we would arrive at the falls. So away we went, upstream without a paddle.
The water was cool and refreshing, and the canopy thick and green. We splashed and trodded, ducked and dodged, and waded our way up the stream. We sloshed from smooth rock bank to smooth rock bank. We made it to one bank and Anissi called out, “Hold on, stop. Wait a minute. Snake……”. I peered through the low branches and sure enough, a 2 foot black snake, what we would later find out was a rat snake, was lying in a sunbeam on the smooth river rocks. After a couple taps with a stick on his tail he decided the water looked more inviting than the annoyance on the shore and swam off. And we continued on our way.
It could not have been a more rough and fun hike. We had to stop several times and scout out routes, sometimes even climbing up to the shore and taking beautiful, narrow deer paths along the river around the thick brush that blocked the river, before sliding back into the cool shallow water. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t worry- and bump-free. The going was slow, and there were times when heads were bumped and arms were scratched and footholds lost, but nevertheless, we pressed on.
As the rocks became bigger and more frequent we knew we had to be close. Eventually the path became more congested to the point where we would be basically climbing very decent sized rocks, and we decided to climb the banks and look for a way around. As we climbed up to the forest and looked north we caught a glimpse of hikers on the trail, and we headed up the banks to the trail. We weren’t on the trail for 5 minutes before we came upon some large rocks and heard the familiar sound of falling water. And just around a 20 foot rock we saw our destination, the Upper Falls. We stopped and took a much needed break to munch on some snacks and take some good, deep, refreshing breaths, enjoying the shake in our legs and the labor in our lungs.
This is the part of the blog that is supposed to have some deep meaning about letting the negative vibes flow away like a waterfall or something equally cliche metaphor for life, but I just don’t have that. Sometimes a beautiful hike is just that, a chance to stretch your legs, get away from a screen, and get into nature. It’s just a chance to be in the moment and enjoy the path. And sometimes it’s a time to get off the path and follow your own instincts. We knew where we wanted to go and we knew the river would get us there. Sometimes it was tough and sometimes we had to take detours to get where we were needed to be, but nevertheless, we continued to move forward to our goal. And I guess that is my cliche little metaphor for our journey towards homesteading. We know where we want to be, and we know that this path will get us there. We don’t know what’s around the corner, we don’t know what “wildlife” we’re going to encounter, but we know as long as we stay together as a family, and we keep our eyes on our destination, we’ll get there when we’re meant to, and we’ll take some excellent pictures along the way.
The first of many to come. A BASIC journal entry of EVERYDAY "goings'on". More like a true journal entry instead of a public blog--which tend to be more for entertainment or inspiration or education. This is where we will just write about normal everyday things, no need to be EPIC or profound! <Athena>
****(These types of entries will always be in blue so they can be spotted easily for browsing)****
I wish I had pictures from last night's dinner. We ate it all too fast and I was too hungry to think of taking pictures before I served it! I made our first ever fried okra (we're in the South now...!) and stuffed and fried squash blossoms (recipes below) farmers market. They turned out better than I hoped, especially for the first attempt. We will definitely be making the stuffed squash blossoms again. I'll work on the okra recipe (which was good, just a smidge bland). We served these to my (non-vegan eating) "In-Loves" (Kyle's parents) along with fresh farmer's market roasted corn, fried zucchini, homemade sourdough (Kyle, the bread-baking King), watermelon, cherries and a homemade chewy oatmeal cinnamon apple bar for dessert (I'll get his recipe fine-tuned and post at a later date).
I also made our first Jam yesterday. Foraged Wild Blackberry and Organic Blueberry (no pectin and low sugar). You can find the recipe on my Instagram post. I will also upload it to the blog with a few other new recipes I worked out in the kitchen yesterday. It was an all-afternoon kitchen science experiement. Thank you to the grandparents for hanging with the little one and giving me the time to do this!
It's nice to have the "grandparents" in town because we can both get some stuff done while they hang out with the little dragon-girl. Grandpa needs to head home today but Anissi (alternative spelling for Enisi, the Cherokee word for grandma) will be staying and this will give us the chance we need to break ground on our big fall garden.
Happy Summer Sunday y'all!
Squash blossoms --> LINK
Fried Okra--> LINK
Blackberry + Blueberry Jam --> LINK
| #7 | Blog Number Seven: Detoxing from American Affluenza | A Necessary Step Toward Homesteading (Athena)
Our daughter's day and my day are intertwined as one daily adventure. We are a pair of wild girls on a mission. We aim to be curious, find new adventures in simple things, not stay too clean, learn some good character traits and overcome fairly successfully the occasional (and very normal) mother-daughter tussle while she grows into her "big-girl"-hood and I (and Kyle) continue to somewhat messily figure out how to parent a toddler!
Adaline is 2 years & 3 months old at the time of this journal entry. She is very much her own mixture of rightly dependent and fiercely independent! At the start of this writing I thought it would be interesting to share with some of our fellow homesteaders what goes on during a "typical" day for us two gals while Kyle slaves away at his office job all day long every week of the year. However, as I wrote, the entry evolved into something different. I suppose that is normal to writing. It takes on a life of its own. So the following is what evolved.
(BTW on a typical day Adaline and I can be found rolling in mud puddles, reading lots of books, watching some Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime, making muffins, noodles, bread or various other "kitchen experiments, visiting neighbors or our local playgrounds, and eating too many bites of vegan ice-cream--before lunch--while being sure the tomatoes and herbs get watered and the dogs get all the kisses.)
A HOME IN TRANSITION: URBAN TO SUBURBAN TO SEMI-RURAL TO...:
As is common for a homestead in transition from a somewhat standard "Americanized" lifestyle to a simpler, lighter and more earth stewardship one, it takes a lot of detoxing. Americans of middle class or above (and somewhat simultaneously, Westerners in general) live a life that is light-years from simple, minimal, quiet, slow, gentle, modest, mindful, content or other equally distasteful qualities.
We nearly all have a long road in detoxing from all of what is "normal" but not necessarily good for our souls, our communities, or our planet. For example, the move from a consumerist mentality to a "just enough" contented mentality. From a capital-driven market-place economy to a trade and home-based (or community-based)economy. For us, this started with a drive to living with less, curbing our habits that were highly consumer-driven, and generally just being conscious of how we use our "voting power" (money in particular).
ONE INCOME AND BEING A STAY AT HOME PARENT:
One of the biggest decisions we made this year (besides moving to another state!) is moving from two incomes to one. This decision meant that one of us continued working full-time while the other took up the role of stay-at-home-parent. Now, I wouldn't go as far as saying that (as the elected stay-at-homer) life of full-time parenting is exactly equal to actual front-lines of war... but there are days where the battles are decent and the blood and tear-shed is real.
None-the-less--this has been one of the most wonderful, freeing and necessary moves for our family toward our homesteading and life-simplifying goals. And despite rough days, the majority of our days (Adaline and I) are sweet with adventure and the smell of something yummy cooking. Our days, even when it rains or snows, are treasures that I am endlessly thankful for.
In this current season, I am the stay-at-home-parent. This could change. Kyle is just as more than capable...and in many ways much more so than I!
In the beginning of this new season I resisted leaving my career as a nurse "unattended" for this upcoming unknown future. I attempted to find work, but for one reason or another it didn't feel right. So, in the end, we both agreed we should let it be "okay" that I go ahead and let go of the perceived stigmas and fully engage in being a stay-at-home-mom. It is hard to say what will happen with my nursing career, but it's not my only passion (and certainly not my first)...so this is one of many areas in this whole journey for our family that I feel at peace leaving in the doorway of trust, waiting and not-fully-knowing.
Our hero (Kyle) gets up before either of us (or any other living thing in our house) is even able to think about being awake. He is consistently faithful in his work outside the home as an engineer. He is dutiful and loyal to his company. Loyal, loyal, loyal. This man would be the sea captain that goes down with his sinking ship if that had been his chosen career (to be a captain that is...not sinking ships... though he is a bit of a pirate at times too ;-p ).
We do not have a lot of money. We live "comfortable" lives, rich in so many ways, but we are by no means affluent. We have to be wise and we have to be prudent. We are chasing our dreams as normal people, and for us to be able afford to buy land and build a home for our farmstead, we have to combine Kyle's dedication to getting up every day before the sun is even awake, my staying at home parenting and studying AND some real and true sacrifice.
FOOD AND $$$:
One of our other really "big" areas of refinement was addressing how we obtain our food. We had to start by paying better attention to how we spent money on food and make an effort to develop a very simple and clear budget. As plant-based eaters we naturally highly value the source and quality of our food.
This is good. But...
This mentality, when coming from a standard Western-Consumer mentality, also translated into a really high food bill for us. Our food budget is still one of our larger monthly outputs and so is naturally the first and recurrent area we are applying a refining tool to as growing homesteaders.
Our food purchasing and consuming is complicated. We do our best to eat only organic but, as not go broke... we try and follow the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen. We also buy as local as possible, look for things with the least amount of packaging (especially reducing the use of plastics), buy from bulk sections, remember our reusable bags and glass jars, and support local farmers...oh yeah and not eat flesh, eggs or dairy--but still make fresh, homemade, toddler-friendly and healthy meals!! Whew! Good thing we like to cook or we'd have some fairly big issues here.
This is where becoming "growers" comes into play. In order to reduce our food bill we aim to grow and preserve the majority of our own food. We can do this. It'll take work but it will happen. Unfortunately, after a big move this year (which didn't get us into our own home until just before summer solstice)...our full and glorious victory garden will have to wait for next year. (Thankfully we were able to start the Westwood Children's Garden and small staples here at our house and still have time for a fall garden).
In the mean-time, while our food bill is being reduced and our garden is being increased, we try to do things like: eat only beans and rice or other staple macro food items that we have cooked from scratch ourselves; make our own breads (still working on a good sandwich bread if anyone has a recipe they'd like to email us); make our own noodles; forage seasonal fruits in our area; buy from local farmer's markets or a CSA (next year!); fight food waste like ninjas through menu planning and looking in the back of the dang fridge (!); freezing or baking with bananas and other fruit that is moving beyond its prime; putting green onion roots in water and re-growing them for weeks instead of buying new bunch every week; having our own fresh herb garden; buying from local discount food stores or while items are on sale...and do the hard work of saying no to things that aren't on our grocery list unless they make sense in the long run for cost-savings.
Just reducing our "Westerner's appetite" is a huge part of this whole process.
Recently we were incredibly blessed to sell our family's first home back in KC to a wonderful person who will make a perfect addition to our beloved neighborhood there (after the house was already taken off the market no less!). With the money from that sale--which wasn't a ton, but it'll definitely do---we will be able to pay off my car and a small credit card. This will allow us to start putting my car's payment and the CC payment toward Kyle's car payment. His car will be paid off in another year or so his car will be paid off. After his car is paid off we will officially have ZERO debt!!!
You read that correctly...zero zilch nada nope nothing zip....debt free!!!!
This means that the money we have been paying toward those debts can then be saved toward our future homestead/farmstead and land. As we have mentioned before, we have a trajectory of about 5-6 years before we will be ready to move onto our farmstead. So, it will be saving, saving, saving until then!
Other purchases:Aren't women known for their frivolous purchases--especially after marriage?--ha! Well, come to think of it, I really do want pair of overalls (that actually fit my 5 ft 1 in frame) or a wheel-barrow (seriously though)... anyone want to buy me a scythe?...and ya know, I'd really like to have a two handed garden-fork or a broad-fork for my birthday and while we're at it let's get supplies we need to build the green-house we have dreamed up in our collective head.
Well... in my case I may not be too far from the stereotypical woman but I have curbed some habits, thankfully. In some ways I may be different from that stereotype but I still have yearnings to purchase and consume. I am thankful that I am pretty good at not making frivolous purchases (read as: it still pains me to not just go and purchase ALL the seeds from Sow True Seeds, or all the compost, mulch and garden tools I want and need while I do some "window shopping" at my local garden store)...but it still takes discipline and conscious effort.
Maybe it's because I grew up with very little money and was raised by parents who worked VERY hard for the money we did have. But, to me, though I know I will never be monetarily "rich", I am willing to choose not to buy something even if we could in order to be a good steward of our income--which is another resource we intend to manage well. It might mean we have to wait to build our pretty cedar garden beds or our "Pinterest'able" green-house...it might mean I don't get my legit overalls next year or the year after.
And, more importantly, I am very thankful that Kyle has the same mentality. It makes such a different to have very similar mind-sets in marriage when relating to money and other resources of which we sustain our lives.
It won't always be easy to not spend when we want to. It will mean however that we can continue do what we are doing. I can continue to stay at home with our daughter, have some extra time to squeak out a mediocre blog post here and there, watch YouTube on planting for pollinators and predator bugs, read Bill Mollison's Permaculture, learn how to propagate plants and make Rye or Beet Kvass (next project for us, you should try it too!).
And, more than anything else, it will mean that eventually--after much hard work and lots of miracles--Kyle and I both will be able to do this all together. He will have the option of working less away from home and have more time to work at home, learn and grow in his own curiosities and passions and otherwise more fully engage in his own ways with this homesteading journey.
We do this together always. Even when one of us has to be away from home 40 hours longer than the other one and I happen to be the primary blogger, Instagrammer, and mad-scientist. We will continue to work our butts off at what we can, learn as much as we can and also continue to love one another and never forget that playing together is often more valuable than any cash-flow we will ever generate.
So, here is to our messy, wonderful, slowly-growing journey (and yours in whatever stage or speed)! We will see where it all goes, won't we?
With love and great warmth from our Homestead to yours!
Kyle and I began a conversation the other evening while driving home from a date at a local farm event. We had been reflecting on our recent big move from Kansas City to Western North Carolina to begin a new life closer to nature and the "wild" things of life. We shared some emerging thoughts and feelings about the paths we have ahead of us and the large quantity of new and necessary skills and important first steps in building our home-based economy (homestead) before we purchase our own land in 5-6 years.Curiously we found our conversation entering the subject of our "ancestors" who had been farmers and homesteaders. What might they think of our family's pursuit of homesteading, self-reliance and especially of us exploring the possibility of becoming some kind of farmers ourselves someday? We tried to guess what they might say to us in these beginning stages of our journey. After all, they knew what homesteading and farming actually meant--how hard it can truly be--certainly better than we do yet!
Would they be happy for us? Or would they quietly shake their heads at us? Would they feel like they had failed somehow because their descendants are veering dangerously close to choosing the life of farmers-- a life many of them had moved away from intentionally? Would they be concerned that we don't fully understand what a hard life we are asking for (and we heartily acknowledge that they are probably right!)? Or would they be proud? Would they see the value we see in these pursuits and our attempt to honor all they knew as simple common knowledge? Would they see something in us they could believe in?
Could it also be equally true that their incredible hard work to move away from farming might have been exactly what was needed at the time!? That maybe it was right for them to not want their children and grandchildren to be shackled to farming as they may have been. Maybe there needed to be a "break" and that we "children" needed to take our "office jobs" for a time to better appreciate what might be missing in the air-conditioned halls of urbanized American culture. To get out of the cycle of farming that had (and, in truth, still very much remains so for many farmers in parts of our world today) become a prison of depressing lack of control and mere survival.
In survival-mode a person is too bound to the mercy of their livelihood to have the energetic capacity to move restoratively or creatively beyond the next moment of survival--which is needed when implementing concepts such as farmscape research, trade and community or home-based economies, permaculture design or other similar creative whole-system "designs" and important permanent agricultural research.
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!