1 whole year, it’s hard to believe that 12 months ago we were sleeping on air mattresses, with no furniture, while dreams swirled around in our heads of gardens, and chickens, and beautiful farm life…
And so I give you my year end review of sorts. This year has been fuller than I can hold and faster than I can run. It has brought me to the brink more than once and has left my heart speechless. It has made me love God more deeply and fear him more fiercely. More than anything, it has connected my feet back to the soil and forced illusions of grandeur to shatter like broken glass. There is no escaping real life out here. Life, death, hard work, sweat, simple joys, and breathtaking beauty are all part of this crazy we now know as life. So here is my list. My “I never thought, I can’t believe this is my life list”. All the memorable happenings of a remarkably life changing year…
1. Heavy duty construction There sure is nothing like taking a hammer to some nails as you frame up a chicken coop and raise up walls all by yourself because your husband has to go to work. I may have been a touch overzealous and torn my rib muscles away from the bones and they may still hurt from time to time, but hey, no pain no gain right?
2. Puttin’ in Fence- I used to watch the Pioneer Woman and wonder what in the world she was talking about! But now I know cattle fence from hog fence, and t- posts from barbed wire and I sure did learn how to throw my back into it and stretch the fence as my husband secured the clips and hammered in the fence staples. We now have our homestead secure and have stopped having to rescue our dogs from yet another pasture excursion.
3. Speaking of securing our homestead that would include several gate installs. Yep, check that off the list. Digging holes, tamping dirt, setting posts and hanging hinges. It’s amazing how much there is to learn out here.
4. The construction never seemed to end, from chicken coops, to chicken brooder, to chicken ladders, to pallet porch swings we have been building like crazy.
5. After severe body pains threatened my construction I returned to the house to try and tackle home school, meals, decorating, and settling in to our new routine. When you can’t jog up to the store in 10 minutes it sure changes how you need to meal plan and shop. I am sad to say that I am still trying to master this art. I hate planning, but love a plan, go figure. I am submitting myself to the process in hopes that I will grow into a great planner of meals, school and the like… PRAY FOR ME!
6. Brown water and logistics. Ever bathe your kids in brown water? It’s not so great. After we moved in we came to understand we were at the end of a way too long piece of city water line where we got all the end stuff right into our house, ewwwww. So we had to put in a well and have learned that with a well comes well and water maintenance. You have to test your water and disinfect your well to keep it running clean and smooth. It’s not just the water that needs doing. We have to haul our trash and do our own recycling too. These new-found responsibilities require equipment like trailers and vehicles that will haul this stuff. We borrowed from neighbors for most of the year, but finally purchased a small trailer and the silver bullet to get the jobs done. While my husband had dreams of a big, heavy-duty, manly farm truck, He chose a 12 passenger family van instead. Because He saw kids that needed homes in our future over and above his own dreams, I was humbled and so thankful for his leadership and vision.
7. The head farmer around here is a good man and a hard worker and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He has grown and stepped into roles he never imaged he would. A servant leader of this clan, we are beyond grateful for his strong back and even stronger love of the Lord. He has been a rock out here and we would not have made it 6 days without his leadership, guidance, physical strength, and love.
8. Animal death… what more can I say? There have been big birds and baby birds and kittens and chickens that have required their final words and a big swift toss over the back fence. It has been sad and shocking and my least favorite part of living out here.
9. Then there is the frost-bitten toes. When you live in Florida your whole life you don’t realize that cotton socks and rubber boots simply just WON’T do the job of keeping those piggies warm. The tingling turned to numb and then hard to walk turned into OUCH! Purple swollen toes, lukewarm water bath and pain like I have never felt before. Just add it to the list I said…
11. Then there’s the garden that we spent weeks laying down. Following in the footsteps of our mentor Paul Gautschi (Daddy Paul as we lovingly call him), we laid down layers and layers of paper and wood chips galore. 6 truck loads of chips raked and in place to create our Back to Eden Garden Space. And then the growing season happened and the vegetables grew and grew and so did the Bermuda Grass. It took over EVERYTHING despite our everyday efforts to pull it up by the root. And so for the last 3 weeks we have been digging out grass, like 4-7 inches deep into the rock hard clay. We praise God for the provision of heavy machinery to do the hard labor from wonderful neighbors! So it’s back to ground zero this year in the garden. Hours and hours of work, gone. Just part of life here. Work hard, learn, mess up, redo…
12. Our orchard is alive, but it is being eaten by bugs. So onto organic pesticide recipes and how to keep those trees from giving up their fight. It isn’t pretty and it too is overgrown with grass and weeds, it is the picture of just too much to do and not enough time in the day around here to do it all. It reminds us that we can’t do any of this, not without the grace, wisdom, and favor of God. The orchard is on our winter to do list. Weeding, de-grassing, setting borders… at least it will be cooler when we tackle that job!
13. Chicken mama…learning how to take care of new babies. I had never held a chicken before this year much less raised any. Our batch of 14 chicks arrived in the mail 1 day old, who knew that was even possible?!?, and we got to work. Feeding, watering, cleaning, building bigger and bigger spots for them to be in until we could add them to the older flock already in the coop. They ended up in the garage and our garage ended up smelling and looking like a dirty smelly chicken pen. Those little guys can make a big mess even when they are confined to a small box! So never again will we have chickens in the garage, but live and learn.
14. Speaking of chickens, we have 29 of them to feed, water, free range and keep alive. The chicken learning curve has been steep, but we are getting it, I think! Nothing beats a fresh farm egg and we are ever on the hunt to raise our chickens to be most like chickens. Meaning, free ranging and scratching and pecking for natural organic foods, not eating junk out of a feeder and getting lazy on us. But like everything else, doing it the right way is harder and requires more time from us, at least up front. Hopefully the pay off down the road is an easier way, but for now it’s liven and learnen.
15. After the chickens we added the pups, who are now about the size of small horses and still growing. I made the mistake of rocking those floppy, submissive, cuddly things on their backs when they were wee, but now those horses think they can paw up on me and I will hold them on there backs once again, but little do they know that it takes all my strength to not be taken out by them, never mind my little people running around! We are working on new training with them… just add it to the list.
16. Cats, we started with a small colony on our back porch and now are down to mama kitty and 2 kittens. It’s been both fun and hard watching their lives from afar. These are not pet kittens, they are as wild as they come. But we do feed them a small portion at the back of the property to keep them around for rodent and snake patrol. One of the kittens got stuck in the our garage this week and after trying to chase him out for days it turned into a capture and release mission. That mission took a turn for the worse when my husband got his hands on the cute little thing and it showed its wild side! I was screaming in horror as he wrestled it into a position from where he could cart it out into the woods to release it. It gave him the business and left his hands a mess. Praise the Lord for essential oils because after applying every 30 minutes and calling the MD, he seems to be in the clear of any infections or weird cat rashes. THAT was a scary one!
17. With all the kids and animals and gardens and trees I have learned to become a vet/arborist/doctor/make everything with essentials oils woman this year. From exzema creams and tree sprays to healing chicken head wounds, I have had to learn how to DIY it.
18. Felling Trees. This is one of those things that you have no idea how scary it is until the thing starts coming down and you have to run! Maybe we should have called in professionals, but they wouldn’t have been working on Thanksgiving anyway, and that was the designated day. So we spent our giving thanks trying to get this massive dead thing down, and what seemed on youtube to take an hour or 2 turned into an all day event. Praise God that everyone was safe and that eventually the thing came down with a big ol’ thud! I learned how to be the caller (by that I mean yelling at him to be careful every 5 seconds), and the farmer learned how to not get his saws and axe heads stuck in the tree, it was a glorious day!
So there you go, my top 18 moments from a crazy year in no particular order. Hopefully it made you laugh with us and pray for us for the year ahead. And if you ever think you to want to do this, my advice is to go for it, but first come here for the week and take over all the chores! :o) Love to each of you!