| 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
| Blog #12 | Number twelve | Answering the Question: Are Our City Jobs Kosher With Building A Homestead? (Athena)
Some of you who have joined us on our journey here or IG and FB may know that Kyle and I both have non-agricultural career backgrounds. Mine is as a Registered Nurse (Kyle is a Structural Engineer).
Kyle works full time and, recently, after our move to Appalachia, I have been a 100% stay-at-home parent. It's been about 7 1/2 months of all the wonderful and difficult things about being a SAHP.
Just in the last couple of weeks I have felt a strong desire--and different sense of readiness--to return to my nursing work in some form or capacity. When we first moved here to North Carolina we did not know for sure geographically where we would find our permanent home (we were in a temporary rental for the first 5 months of arriving in North Carolina). It makes a difference where you drive to work from around here where you can drive 30-60 minutes to a location that is still considered all part of the same centralized area.
Now that we know where we will be rooted for at least the next 5-6 years it makes searching the area for a job a lot more straightforward.
More than that, though, it makes a difference as a mama to finally feel like my nest is settled. Now I can fly around a little and feel free to do so.
Also, many of my career ambitions have changed in the last year or so. Actually A LOT of both of our career ambitions have changed. Most of that change has intensively been since we have arrived and started making our home here "boots on ground". There is something both physically and spiritually influencing about the soil actually you put your roots down into. This is true about plants and how they grow in various soils and it serves as a metaphor for humans as well I believe.
When Kyle and I first met I never would have imagine either Kyle or I would actually seriously consider being farmers (in the sense that we could actually see it being truly viable & possible). But something has done it's work in us the last 3-4 months. Something "in the water". And it's certain to be only beginning it's work in us. The culture of this area has awoken a deeper and clearer longing for things we would never of assigned to our lives back in Kansas City.
Much is clearer and more real and much can be said to also have become more complicated...as is true for the actualization of any dream into living reality.
Part of what is yet to be determined still where our educational and career backgrounds fit into this richly colored tapestry we find ourselves weaving. We have asked the question, "what role should our 'city jobs' play in our homestead journey and our family's pilgrimage in the next half decade--particularly because we don't hate our careers.
We do really desire that we could have WAAAAAY less time away from home and WAAAAY more time together as a family. Whenever we get to the end of the weekend we always wish we had just one extra weekend day...or whenever Kyle has to go to work we wish he could just do so from home. Just to be together. Idealy, we love working out in the sun sweating and getting dirty together...but even when that's not possible yet...if we could only just have him with us more and away at his office less. Or vice versa (if our roles were reversed--which, they TOTALLY could function as such if that ever presents itself as a better alternative).
And, well, that principle right there is pretty much the casting form for which our future career and farmstead will most likely find its shape and function. For us to have more of each other and to be able to do so with financial viability.
As a nurse I am incredibly lucky enough to be able to work only one day per week if I choose. I can also get 12 hours our of that day, that "day" be overnight so I am never away too long during any daytime hours, and I can make descent money. All these things are invaluable when building a homestead or starting a major family life a career change, like entering farming or starting a business. And, as a hospital nurse, I have A LOT of control over how much or how little I work and that is an incredible blessing I will never be ungrateful for. I am aware how invaluable both my career and Kyle's (as an engineer) are as building blocks for our farmstead.
In fact, that awareness is in large part why I have decided to return to work. In reality, we have slimmed our budget down enough that we do not need me to go back to work. For this I cannot ever express enough thankfulness and encourage anyone to work toward living off only one income even if both partners choose to work.
If I stay away from my career too long, it will be harder and harder to get back in (at least to get hired to a decent unit or company).
And, if I give up my career altogether, as I contemplated seriously at few points over the last 7 months, I would be honestly sad (I really DO love being a nurse). It is a deeply satisfying skill-set I have to offer my community. I don't love a lot about our healthcare system in the U.S. and I don't really like the litigious "machine" that is the hospital. I do, however, love having a skilled "nurturing" and healing career that, at least in most of our society, is valuable and respected. And, I have no shame in admitting that this value and respect is important to me and brings me personal fulfillment.
If all goes according to our very ROUUUUUGH plan for the future it will be incredibly useful for me to be able to step in with more hours as a nurse while Kyle steps down his hours at the office (either altogether or bringing work home) and we can BOTH have more resources for building our farmstead. (Not to mention it is simply helpful to have nursing skills and knowledge for a variety of events that can occur on a farmstead, out in a rural area or while parenting a tiny wild human).
This whole scenario is kind of the crux of the struggle, it seems, for the new generation of farmers in our world today, doesn't it? Yes, we younger ones have heard the calling. Yes, we want to respond and many of us are taking some major steps toward that engagement. But, most of us are transitioning from a "standard western career mindset" and the actual reality of moving from our city jobs to something more simple like farming or even part-time homesteading can be seriously challenging.
Besides, most of us grew up in cities and have a POOP TON of stuff to learn (or unlearn) in order to not DIE when we move out to our dream property in the country or mountains...we also have a whole personal identity invested in a different kind of cultural lifestyle. A different kind of wealth. A different kind of friend and neighbor. A different kind of happiness.
The transition from the typical American Dreamer of our generation to this emerging Liberated Next-Generation Farming and Saving the Planet Through Personal Responsibility and Taking Action Dreamer is not as simple for everyone as quitting a city job and moving out to the country with a horse, some chicken, a plow and some seeds.
It takes periods of detoxing and relearning a new way of life. It takes finding where you truly find joy and incorporating that into the fabric of this new reality. It might mean you still work at your "office job" in some capacity. It might mean you don't work at all and instead give yourself totally to raising money to run a rescue farm for animals with an associated farm-based boarding school. It might mean you don't fit in a box.
And, thank goodness the biggest part of this whole movement we see in our world today (away from factory farming and big-ag to earth-stewarding and authentic simple living) is that, beneath all the labels, we are joining our hearts and minds and actions and lives together to throw out the box entirely.
We all hate to be put in a box. And, now we can be freed from the expectation that we have to put ourselves in one to be socially acceptable. We might not know exactly how it all will look or exactly what we will be wearing once we step our of the box (yikes... ;p!), but, we would rather be out of the dang box and free to experience the fullness of joy rather than sit obediently inside a box and never fully walk in our own skin.
For this gal, a small and practical-level part of this "unboxing" process is being loved, secure and supported (and frugal) enough to be able to move in and out of full-time parenthood. And, after 7+ months of wondering when, how, or IF I would return to my nursing career, I am now embracing that particular thread into the fabric of our Homestead Life. Let us all see what this colorful life tapestry continues to look like as the fibers weave together!
S T O R Y | S H A R I N G |
| As always, we love to hear our reader's stories! | How have you managed to make your own transition to your dreams of living closer to the land, being a future farmer, running a rescue farm, or urban homesteading? | Have you kept your "city job"? | Do you plan to move away from working in the city 100% or keep working part time? | You can email us or message us or comment below! | With Love, From Our Homestead to Yours! <Kyle and Athena> | Appalachia, North Carolina, USA |
| #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 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.