I have often felt that life is comprised of a series of distillations. According to it's dictionary definition, the distillation process is used to extract an essential meaning; a whittling down to a core of importance that drives all other purposeful action in our lives--or should.
You may not be like me. For me, this process of whittling and refining, and distilling and extracting can really suck. I don't like it. I like it in theory, but in reality the process of having my core exposed makes me uncomfortable, moody and annoyed at best.
Multi-tasking for me is not an easy feat and, in truth, it really stresses me out. Since childhood, if I am deeply interested in something, it draws me in to itself and shuts out the rest of the world akin to a passionate musician recording a first album in an bomb-proof, underground, sound-proof studio.
I have a really hard time switching my focus back and forth from different things going on around me. This is especially true when I am engrossed or engaged in a task such as learning something new, writing a blog post about something close to my heart, reading a book, editing pictures or even gardening.
Needless to say, this isn't a great parenting quality. As a stay-at-home mama who is the primary companion to my curious, inquisitive, incredibly bright, very verbal, high energy 2 1/2 year old wild woman I need all the focus I can get just to keep up with her.
I love being able to stay home with her...but I also feel like it is the most challenging thing I have ever undertaken.
And then--I choose to take on learning how we can become homesteaders...
Anyone who has not stayed home with kiddos may think...surely, you aren't complaining. Surely you have plenty of time to study about gardening, permaculture, companion planting, no-till methods, veganic soil ammendments, canning, preserving, pickling, bread making, noodle making, dehydration, farming, caring for rescue farm animals...
Sure. Yeah. Tons of time.
So, yes, in truth I have more time than my husband who works 40 hours is away from home about 50 hours per week. He only has a limited number of hours in the evening and he uses that time to spend engaged as a father and a husband. Our weekends are utterly precious and we use each moment as if it were gold. I do have more time than him...but not extravagant amounts by any means.
But, as mentioned previously, if my daughter is awake and not watching T.V. (which we do very selectively but really try to minimize), I have to be fully engaged as a parent to her and this can be difficult at times. Sometimes I simply don't feel like it. Sometimes my introvert self feels overstimulated. Sometimes I just want to finish my dang text message or take a moment and poop in private. Sometimes my mind wanders into the garden even though my body is still in the house. Sometimes being a stay at home parent is just hard.
You are always on and when you do have a break (naps specifically) you often have a personal to-do list that is about a mile long and still constrained by noise levels.
WHAT THE HECK IS YOUR POINT WOMAN?
The point of all this rambling (sorry, sometimes it just needs to be journalled out) is that we are in a season as a family, especially now that we have settled into the home we will live in for the next 5 to 6 years, where we MUST answer our WHY.
WHY do we want to do ANYTHING? Why would we want to homestead? Why would we want to garden? Why would we want to farm? Why would we want to care for rescue farm animals? Why would we want to own land? Why would we want to live in a more rural area? Why would we want to homeschool? Why would we want to implement veganic growing? Why would we want to build our own house? Why would we want to live in the mountains?
What is our why that moves us steadily and in a centering way in any authentic direction?
I can often get tripped up on figuring out a bunch of HOW's (because I like to learn) and get busy or deeply focused (as mentioned above). Simply because of my focus (issue?) alone I have to be very aware not to get too far off the flight path of my why. Because I am also a we my why is part of a collective why for my whole family.
We have not fully answered our core why yet. We are navigating the answer on a daily basis. It isn't always easy to verbalize these things.
It is very important to do so, however, because our why will determine our path of life actions. Our "doings" that end up making our life in much of how we define it.
So the ongoing questions that are especially drawing us inward as a family in this season are: What is our why? What are we doing and does it align with our why? Are we willing to be distilled?
To conclude, I will lovingly borrow the words of a fellow journey'er on this experience of living distillation:
But my mind is always saying:
"What do I do?!
I am a protector of the old ways.
I am an ally for the soil and the insects and the wild weeds and animals that I share this earth with.
I provide care with my whole heart and soul for the animals that the earth has placed in my care.
I nurture food and medicine from the earth and lovingly preserve it to ensure my family’s needs are met.
I am a provider for my family, in the most traditional sense."
--Kaylee of Project Zenstead
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.
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.
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.