Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The End of January

January comes to a close and I am lost in thought. The past couple of days I have felt unable to do anything, though motivated to do everything. Sometimes I feel locked inside myself. Perhaps I am in deep hibernation, but it is my body that is asleep and my mind that is awake.
I watched Stranger than Fiction the other night and was really impressed by it. It was much better than the fluff piece I thought it would be. I was particularly moved by a line one of the characters says. She says that she decided if she was going to change the world that she would do it through cookies. She has been a student at Harvard and had impressed them with her essay on wanting to change the world. She began baking cookies for her study groups - the result being the number of study partners in the groups got larger and her recipe collection grew and grew ... and she ended the semester with a D-. So she dropped out and opened a bakery. I loved that. Perhaps it is the stay-at-home mom in me who once went the Hollins, but it has struck a chord and remained lodged within me. Ever since watching that movie I have had the urge to bake, but find myself lacking the direction.
Thoughts of food have been consuming me lately (an ironic turn of table?). I'm yearning for more vegetarian meals. Not because I want to become vegetarian, far from it, but because I see how long our meat lasts us now that it isn't something we simply buy at the store. When we run out of beef we will be out until next fall. I worry we will run out. We haven't had the luck of having a deer this year. Since we aren't really buying chicken at all, there is another meat that is mostly lacking from our diet - a meat that used to be a staple. So, I'm longing for good vegetarian meals to help us get through. We, as a people, don't need the amount of meat (nutritionally and wellness speaking) that we are taught to think we do. So I see this as nothing negative, but an oppurtunity to really round out our meal-times.
It is amazing when one day you open your eyes and the world around you is different. When you see it all through new eyes. When you can recognize pivitol moments and be in them. Could this be a sign of the end of hibernation perhaps?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Good, the Bad, the Sad

Time to fess up, I've completely failed so far at one of my homesteading goals. I had been planning on hanging my laundry out to dry all winter long (unless it was wet out). That hasn't really panned out like I had planned. The call of the dryer has been too strong. For the holidays I even found a way to make our clothes smell like peppermint (and it was all natural, so brownie point there). True, it has been an unpredictably wet winter thus far, but still the main fault is mine. One day perhaps. Still washing my clothes in cold water (unless warm or hot is specifically needed for that load), still using homemade laundry soap, and vinegar as softner. So, I suppose it isn't a complete fall off of the horse, is it?
On another note, we have recently acquired an mini-RV. It is a 1972 GMC Minnie Winnie. It's old, it needs some loving. The engine supposedly runs fine though. We've begun painting it and working on fixing it up some, making it our own. A process that is proving to be slower than we would like with the kids around. We're hoping to be able to use it to go on long-distance camping trips with the kids (we have tents for local trips) and also to be able to see festivals and visit breweries.
Justin brewed our first batch of brown ale the other day. I'm so eager to try it. It should be an Imperial Brown Ale (lots of bang for your buck!). We also are getting closer and closer by the day, it seems, to all-mash brewing. Exciting times.
There has also been some drama here lately. I do not wish to dwell on it really, but felt it only fair to mention. I don't like the all-happy Christmas letters, and life isn't always rosy. I'm nursing some very hurt feelings at the moment. I'm disappointed in some of my loved ones in that, if what occured was a simple misunderstanding, they haven't the courtesy to call and say so ... and in the gut wrenching feeling that if it wasn't all a misunderstanding, then it was done without care, with intent, with malice. The longer that goes by without hearing from them the more it seems, sad to say, that that must be the case. Hopefully this will all remedy itself out.
Until then, we will keep taking the steps we need to take for our lives. To work towards our own goals. Baby steps. But if you want to lay a proper foundation, you gotta give it time to settle.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Preserving Mountain Homesteads

I was doing some research last night and stumbled across a website. A woman named Vera Guise has been able to buy back some of her family's original homestead in the North Carolina mountains. Not only are they working at returning the land to a mountain homestead (non-profit) but they are also working to teach others. Here is a quote from their site:
A board of trustees provides guidance and support in crafting a 21st Century vision for this 19th century mountain farmstead, a vision that includes:
· Outdoor education and heritage/cultural arts experiences for mountain youth. Look for information coming soon about summer youth opportunities and cultural events you don’t want to miss this!
· A farm and folk-life center featuring an authentic living history farmstead, raising organic heirloom fruits and vegetables, and demonstrating such early farm and home tasks as churning butter, making molasses, canning fruits & vegetables, spinning, quilting, splitting shakes, and keeping bees for honey.
· A Spirit of Appalachia Farm & Folk School where mountain families can learn those forgotten skills the world, now at our door, yearns for-- a bit of the past when the pace of life was slower, the trees greener, the air cleaner, and the people friendly and authentic. It is time local people, old and young, had the opportunities and the resources to regain these lost skills and knowledge, arming themselves to succeed in today’s economy— now called agri-tourism and heritage-tourism. Yes, it’s way past time that mountain youth could keep and practice the unique features of their heritate with pride, AND advance themselves academically AND hold onto the family farm, and using those special sets of skills and knowledge to support themselves and their families. THIS would be mountain living at its best!

WOW ~ I am so utterly blown away!! I was moved to near tears to find this site and to see what they're doing (they offer youth camps among other things). Truly I can not accurately express how happy finding this site has made me.
The stigmatism of the mountain homestead and Appalachian way of life (hillbillies) is actually laughable. I say this because if you were really to know anything about that way of life you'd be able to see the wisdom of it, the beauty of it. It is a stigmatism based in ignorance and "outsider" mentality, those too busy thinking they're better than everyone else, that they know more than everyone else, to take the time to experience things that are foreign, different, or new to them. It's easier to dismiss it all and put it down that to take the time to learn about it a little bit.
Justin and I are dedicated to raising our boys to know the Earth and the world around them. To approach things with open eyes and open minds. To not worry about dirty "hippie" feet. We are blessed to have friends with similar missions in life. Here is a favorite picture of mine: Shannon playing in the Doyen's chicken coop with Max & Sam. The chicken they're holding is a flock favorite, and a big inspiration for us in deciding to acquire our own chickens. We're hoping to breed one of our hens with this particular chicken.
Here is a picture that Vera just sent me today. It is one of several, but it moved me beyond belief to see. I LOVE this photo!! It says so much without saying a thing (a mountain trait I suppose):

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My Mother (and also the rest of my parents)

My mother drives me nuts. She is a drama-queen, she is nosy, and she is also my best friend, whom I love so dearly. No, she isn't dying, or dead for those of you whose heads will jump to morbid conclusions. She just is deserving of some out-loud lovin' right now.
Without her I wouldn't have grown up believing that women are capable of doing anything they damn well want without needing a man around. Of course, it was my father who taught me I can be as strong as a man, so he'll be needing the credit for that one. But, watching my mother be a single parent, watching her juggle life and its many, many hardships taught me .. well I suppose how to juggle. It taught me that things never are quite the way you want them to be and even if they get that way life has a way of tossing them all back up in the air again, so you better learn to juggle.
My parents haven't always believed in me like I wish they would've. If they did, they didn't show it to me well enough or convincingly enough that I knew and felt it. I'm not writing this to condemn them, though it is something I'm trying to take into account in the raising of my own children, because it taught me a lot. It taught me that I really had to believe in myself, because if I didn't there certainly was no guarantee that anyone else would. That in turn taught me to trust my gut and my intuition. My mother used to like to tell me "that's reality, deal with it," to which I would tell her I couldn't. And I couldn't, I can't, I can't live her reality. I had to learn that reality can be different for different people. You must be able to see your own path, know your own reality, and then try to find a way to coexist with others (and their realities) in this world. In every way it was their lack of belief in me, their inability to see my reality, to trust that I knew what I was doing that made me strong. And I am strong. I will never doubt my strength for one minute and I trust in my intuition. I trust in it and myself even if others don't, though when they do it is certainly a great deal of comfort and support.
I'm sure in reading this it doesn't sound like a compliment, but that is what it is meant as. I am so grateful for my mother, and also the rest of my parents. I am lucky enough to now have double the usual number of parents. But it is my mother I am closest to. We fight and we bicker, but we're always "back to baking brownies" before you know it (a term coined by my stepfather). My mother is a very active and involved grandmother in my sons' lives ... even if at times I think she forgets that they aren't actually her own children. But I would much rather it this way than the other way.
Even if they haven't always shown it the best way, or if they haven't done it the way I would prefer, I know my parents will always support me. I know they will always be there for me. I am grown up enough now to know that some things that came across as a lack of faith were more likely a showing of fear. No-one tells you about the fear that comes with parenting. That constant fear that something bad will happen to your children and you won't be able to do anything about it. Ok, maybe they do tell you, but it never sinks in, because it can't until you have your own children and you feel that terrible, terrible, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping fear. I am grown enough now to be able to see that perhaps what I was seeing all along was their fear that something bad would happen to me. Of course, that is the other side of the coin: if nothing bad ever happens to you, how can you really live and be alive?
So this is my thank you to my mom, as well as the rest of my parents. My ode to them, to let them know how much I love them, how grateful I am for everything that they have done, and continue to do, for me and for my own family. ~ Namaste ~

Friday, January 4, 2008

Welcome, welcome New Year

I posted about feeling like I was on the crest of a wave. It has broken. This is, of course, a wonderful thing, and I am so eager to start the new year off with such a fresh view of things. I feel so wonderfully refreshed and recharged.
We were able to sit down the other night and work on details for our 5 year plan. Nothing is ever set in stone, because the only thing certain in this life is change, but still, we have a nice, general 5 year plan we hope to work within. We had one goal on it previously, and now we have several more things written down. I heard a quote once about how when you right your dreams down they become goals. I like that. I try to practice it whenever I can .. try it as well, see what you think.
Things feel like they are really falling into place. More and more I feel aware of the different life we lead, and I like that. Yes, it is often a realization I come to due to a negative event or occurance, but I am trying to pick the object up and see if, when I look at it from a different angle, it will present itself anew to me. It usually does.
I have written friends lately, encouraging visits. I realize now that we actually have a good time for visitng. Summer is a grand time to visit here. The chickens will be outside by then. The garden will be in full bloom, as should the flower beds. We will be into our bbq-season, where we are constantly open to having people over for cook-outs on the grill & smoker. I'm sure this sounds silly, but it just struck me yesterday that we now have a time. A time when things are best presented.
I look back on 2007 with little regrets. Things might have been hard, but they were good and the hardness was necessary. I look forward to 2008 eagerly. It will be hard too, but again, that is necessary.
I will end this by sharing the glow of the season, after-all tomorrow is the Twelfth Day. We will be having friends over for dinner and, naturally, drinks. What a grand time for basking in the warmth. I love this picture because it truly captures with warmth of the season.