Let The Homesteading Begin!

With much excitement I write to you from my new home! It has been a month (to the day!) since we closed and moved in, but we are finally settled and the building of our dream in this place we have landed has begun!

As can be the nature of beginnings, our first projects have been humble. It has taken me some time to find a day off from work with which I can tackle a sizeable project. Having first emptied the shed of all its contents and replaced them in a more organised manner, I decided to clean up one of our property boundaries which was marked by a “fence”. Now, I’ve seen many examples of fencing, but in my opinion what we had could only be loosely defined as such. Some rotting pallets propped up against trees, mixed in with a roll of chain-link fence, on top of a pile of buried trash, and partially submerged in dead leaves and brush… does not a fence make. Perhaps I am simply not open minded enough.

In order to create easy access to the site in question it was in need of some weed whacking, so what does this new home owner do having not yet acquired many yard implements that were not previously needed at her in-city apartment? Why, use the weed-whacker she found in the shed, of course!

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Luckily its primitive nature was no burden to me, seeing as I struggle daily to crawl back through time in an attempt to slow the frantic pace of life down. Laughing gaily I whacked away! Before promptly getting distracted by this magnificent mushroom…

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We’ve had an unusual amount of rain of late leading to an awesome abundance of mushrooms. If anyone happens to know what kind of mushroom this is, I would be most interested to know! It’s brown and flat on top, looking much like a pancake, and the flat of it is bigger than my flexed hand.

Meanwhile, my partner Mason arrived home with a shiny new lawnmower causing much excitement (because at this point mowing the lawn is the height of excitement and satisfaction). We have been trying to find something used, for it is our intent to try to reuse and recycle as much as we can, but the stars had not been aligning for some time and the jungle was at our doorstep. The lawnmower was christened “Chippy” and put straight to work.

Having emerged from gaping at mushrooms in the woods, I went to work changing this:

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… into this:

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Again, humble beginnings, but though it is a small thing it feels SO much better and makes me happy.

At this point the hour was getting late, but we were not done for the day! Mason (taking a break from mowing), Ruth (our good friend who currently lives with us and who had arrived mid “fence” demolishing and thrown herself into the fray), and myself moved onto the matter of the fire pit. One already existed, but it had the misfortune of existing on top of the dry well of our septic. It had to go. Or at least go three feet to the left.

I’ve been joking with people that one of the pleasures of owning a house was I could on a whim dig a hole wherever I liked. This had been a wild and humorous example… but why not? Especially if you get to end up with this:

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And what better way to celebrate a satisfying day of work than to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire with a little celebratory flare from some leftover sparklers…

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A Long Delay, Bursting At The Seams (A.K.A. Healthy Photography post #1)

Well, I must say I have done very poorly at my weekly blog posts lately. My apologies if anyone has been remotely affected by this, but I suspect it is likely only I who have noticed my absence. A philosophical thought for contemplation if I’ve ever heard one, feeling the absence of oneself.

The explanation lies in my last post where I was marvelling at the effects of excitement, specifically concerning first time home purchasing. Sadly, the house that sparked that tirade fell through, but we are now most of the way through the process on a different house. This process has been exciting, stressful, and very time consuming, even if time has only been consumed by the gnashing teeth of useless fretting while at a standstill in the proceedings. I just keep reminding myself that we are that much closer to our homesteading dreams!

Of course, it’s not only house related adventures causing the distraction. Work has picked up as the farming season gets into full swing. There is never a dull moment with beds to weed, vegetables to harvest, seeds to be sown, and deer to thwart. I am just grateful that I do still have some farming in my life as it is an activity that brings me joy, and I am extremely lucky to be enjoying my sixth season on one particular farm which is very special to me.

But that’s not all! In case you were wondering where this rambling (and perhaps slightly dull) life update is going, you are about to find out! …In a moment.

At my other place of work, a local food co-op, a friendly health challenge has been proffered. Having been one to accept I am now obligated to spend the next three months building healthier habits, which is great! It just also happens to take time because one of the things you can get points for is how many steps you take in a day, and I’m just not one to let my team down. (We’re almost to the point…) One way for a team to win a prize is to have the most posts on social media. Now, I would love to help with this, but… where we are right now, you and I, is the most social media I’ve got. I’ve had this grand idea of giving myself a photography challenge (because what I need are more challenges in my life just now) of taking a picture a day somehow related to health and getting it posted… somehow… somewhere. I have a sneaking suspicion that “social media” means Facebook, Instagram, and that sort of thing. Yet here I am, the lowly blogger (and proud of it), wondering if I count.

I point my wordy, un-breakfast related finger at you, Facebook, and declare that I count!

Anyway, here are my pictures so far. I hope to update them more frequently than I have, but it took being rained out of farming to do this today, so we shall see.

(Descriptive, humorous, or simply inane captions are included if you click on the photos.)

 

The Moment You Realise You’ve Gone House Mad

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Snow day in Fitzwilliam, NH – March 2018

To begin with being snowed in while excitedly house hunting is a difficult combination of factors. More specifically, finding a listing that looks like it could be THE house (but who are we kidding, your mind has already convinced you that it most definitely is and it hardly matters that you haven’t seen the thing in person) while being stranded house sitting in your friend’s recently purchased beautiful abode that you admire (and possibly covet) everything about is nearly crazy making!

I say nearly, but that’s only a lingering wisp of optimism. The general population is lucky to be separated from me. Except for my partner (who, I’m very fortunate to say, still loves me), two cats, and a dog most people are safe from my madness. Sans those few unlucky souls whom even a foot and a half of snow and no phone could not be kept safe from my emails.

Do you know the feeling when you’ve decided you need to move on from a job, but you have to keep working there for awhile before you can leave and suddenly, even if it really isn’t that bad, because you’ve set your mind on this change IT BECOMES UNBEARABLE?  I’ve discovered this feeling can also be present when you’ve decided to move. I’m trying to enjoy the excitement, but all I seem to be doing is losing my marbles.

So far I don’t think I’ve truly related the madness I’m experiencing. The issue began when I found a listing for a house that was perfect. Not actually perfect, anyone involved in trying to buy a house will know there are always compromises, but this one the pros definitely outweigh the cons AND it might actually be doable price-wise. What more could a person ask for from first impressions?

This is where being stuck in someone else’s home, my personality, and the general excitement of the endeavour became a manic episode. My partner and I set up what meetings we could, but they aren’t until the end of the week and… there is nothing else I can do.

You just don’t understand how much I want to paint a wall right now. I NEED to paint a wall. My wall. With a colour I have chosen. If I were let loose in an area with paint swatches it would be a tornado of colour within which I would be sitting at its centre drooling (literally) over lavender, moss green, and burgundy with a wild look in my eye.

No one would want to come near me as I babble about the goat pen I have already planned from Google satellite view, or how I know exactly where to stack the firewood, or where the hedgerows and apple trees will go, or where I plan to hang the pots and pans.

I realise to a certain extent these feelings and this planning is normal, but I’ve only seen thirty-seven pictures of the place (possibly a hundred times) and a short description. I tell myself to get too excited now could lead to only a more severe disappointment later. Alas, my lack of other things to do only leaves more room to obsess so with a manic glint in my eye I research the price of cord wood in my area and whether it is sustainably harvested.

By the end of the night I am exhausted and emotionally spent, trying to close my eyes and banish thoughts of what fabric I will want to make napkins out of, only to wake up the next morning and start all over again.

It is today’s misfortune that my email contacts have run dry and I am now desperately blogging to relieve my excitement. My apologies to you all.

This has been a day in the life of the homestead dreamer.

When Magic Pervades My Thoughts

 As is often the case when I settle in to compose a blog post I had set my mind on a likely topic, but promptly found myself unable to find the words… for days.

So I go with the flow. As I sit here now instead of my intended narrative about my month long journey from Nuneaton, England to Lerwick, Shetland (hence my absence here) I feel much more inclined to ruminate on magical children’s books, particularly of the late 19th to early 20th century.

There is no denying that this has much to do with the fact it was only hours before now that I finished my first reading of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is not the first children’s book to leave me in a state of child-like wonderment, I have a growing collection of favourites on my shelf, not all from the same era, but they are more often less modern and technology heavy than otherwise.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Five Children and It, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Enchanted Castle, The Dark is Rising Sequence… The feelings these books leave me with is a swirling mix of desire to run across a meadow collecting flowers, building faerie houses, discovering a quest among the trees, taking delight in every little thing from acorns to the gurgling of a brook, having generally no concern for time, but I also feel inclined to sit myself down immediately and focus on the construction of my own story to enchant children and adults alike.

All of these things can be accomplished, in fact the latter would probably be better off with plenty of the former happening beforehand, but my first task must be the attempted civil conversation with my judgemental adult self about how it must loosen up. For Her High and Mighty Judgementalness has a tendency to accuse me of foolishness if I frolic and looks down on me with disdain when I suggest I might be able to write a story well enough someone might like to read it.

My intent to keep a shelf of these books is my attempt to keep myself inspired and reminded of that moment after devouring the last word on the last page, closing the back cover and staring at it entranced while my brain struggles to relocate from one world to the next. At that moment anything feels possible, perhaps I should toss the book aside and charge from the house to plant my own secret garden, or grab another book and quest out for a tree to clamber up and read in, or get in the car and drive somewhere new! Yet I have never done these things at this moment, and why? Because Queen Judgement says “Wasn’t that lovely. Now let’s do some dishes and then spend time worrying about some things that you actually can’t do anything about right now.”

Honestly. There is no reason to feel like I am leaving the magic behind. For here I sit watching the sun gilded clouds drift across a blue sky, while the trees stand in silhouette as the sun has forsaken them in its progress towards the horizon. While all below is a pristine white from the recent snow storm I had the privilege to observe in all its snow globe glory without concern for warmth or food. If all that doesn’t convince me of the magic around me then I shall just look at this photo…

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St Ninian’s Beach, Shetland – February 2018

… this beautiful beach may not be on my doorstep, but I have been there and it is of this world, and without a doubt it is magical.

All it takes is to notice it.

I know this is a reoccurring theme with me and I have mentioned it before, but it seems to be a lesson I am taking my time in learning. It seems so simple, but then life does have a way of rearing up its head and grabbing my attention away again.

In the meantime, I would gladly welcome anyone’s suggestions of their favourite magical children’s books. Whether the magic is obvious or just a feeling you’re left with. Please do leave a comment with your recommendations! Thank you!

The Beginning of a Dream

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A new path has appeared beneath my feet.

It’s funny how they do that. Perhaps life has left you wandering without a path, it might be pleasurable, or you may feel lost, then a path appears before you embodying curiosity or salvation. Or maybe you are already on a path, but an unexpected turn off appears with a myriad of tantalising possibilities.

Honestly, I’m not sure which my case is, but my toes have touched down on a very distinct, broad, and exciting new path. It is a natural path, no man made efforts in sight, just the lingering tale of many feet having left their mark on the earth. It is a natural journey I am hoping to find, with each step I hope to move away from the world of man made things; the plastics, the removal from nature, the hurried life.

I have been bitten by the homesteading bug.

This means large changes are now in motion. My partner and I are ready and eager to move from a rented in-town apartment, to buying a rural house for ourselves. For all our excitement, it is still much easier said than done. Then there is the rest of it. Luckily I have done seven years of vegetable farming which will come in handy, but my experience with animals is woefully minimal.

And I am dreaming BIG. Naturally there will be some chickens, because what would a IMG_0665farm be without chickens! There is a painter’s palet of egg colours, chicken colours and personalities bright in my mind’s eye. My partner is rather keen on having ducks as well, with their sleek feathers and delicious eggs.

He also has a preference for goats, and since we’re going big I say why not! Goat cheese is a favourite in our household, and they are certainly ideal to have about for the eating of less than desirable IMG_0258 copyvegetation.

I am strongly inclined towards some beautiful sheep, because I love to knit and just learned to spin wool. Being engaged in the full process of raising the animal, shearing, cleaning the fleece, spinning, and then knitting something means so much to me. To be able to give my thanks directly to the animal that has supplied me with warmth, and be able to appreciate each step and what it entails is a cycle I long to be a part of. Something I could say of my interactions with all these animals.

Also very important to me would be having a dairy cow. I am ready for milk, making butter and cheese, sharing surplus with friends and IMG_0676family. It is amazing the difference between thinking about taking care of a goat and taking care of a cow. Is it the difference between being able to pick up the animal if necessary? Okay, maybe you can pick up a cow, but I certainly can’t, either way I sorely wish I had been brought up on a farm so that all of these animals care was second nature, but I say it is never too late!048_48.JPG copy

Now, I grant you that this fellow is perhaps not the poster child of beauty, but he’s awfully smart and I wouldn’t mind a few of his kind in my life as well. Pigs are fascinating creatures and quite handy to have about. Besides, how can you resist a face like that?

In addition I dream of bees, apple trees, herb gardens, and vegetable gardens galore! Not to mention renewable energy, more home made goods about the house, canning… I’m just naming things at random because there is so much on my mind!

Thank you for taking a little stroll with me down the beginning of this new path and seeing the shiny possibilities of my hopes and dreams. I’ve decided perhaps it will be interesting to track the progress of this journey and thus have started a section for it on my blog. Who knows where I will be in five years, or even just one.

I certainly don’t. Anything is possible.

The Magic Of Snow, One Sunday To The Next

Last Sunday morning I awoke at where I was house sitting to this peaceful, rural New Hampshire scene.

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Feeling like winter in Fitzwilliam, NH – December 2017

It was impossible not to feel its serene effects, impossible not to be in awe of the dawn over one of natures magical changes of season. Even though the day before had been so stressful it felt like I had lost years off my life. I do not enjoy driving in the snow.

That is the main reason for my struggle with enjoying winter. The potential for the IMG_5771harming or loss of life has never felt worth whatever I am driving to. Unfortunately, the day before myself and two friends had been vending at a craft faire 50 minutes from where I was house sitting when the snow started. It took us 2 hours to get back there with sorry sights of many cars off the side of the road. There are two strong mentalities about winter where I live. 1. That no matter how much it snows we’re from New Hampshire and we can drive anywhere in this stuff! 2. The first true snow with accumulation is always surprising and everyone forgets how to drive in it. Contradictory, I know, and neither safe.

I do realise that I have somewhat extreme feelings about the matter, and am definitely a bit of a worrier, but it is possible to also be extreme in the other direction, which I think happens sometimes here. The end of this tale of caution is that I managed to get us all safely back to somewhere to stay and I am grateful that this year I have been blessed to be able to arrange my life in a way that will require my driving in the snow less, leaving me time and energy to enjoy it as it falls from the sky.

My secondary struggle with winter is new to me this year. I have been experiencing a shifting in myself concerning the holidays. I was brought up with what is consideredIMG_5774 the usual around here, which is fine, I had many an enjoyable festive season in my life. Many shifts have been happening for me this year and as December has approached (and arrived) it has become very clear that the holidays are now on the board for consideration. Having been brought up without any religious influence I suddenly feel like I am appropriating someone else’s holiday. Besides the fact, if I am not celebrating the religious aspects of the season, I am only caught up in the materialistic take over that has happened to a sacred time. Materialism has never been in good favour with me.

This year has also been one for the strengthening of my spiritual side, and the connection I feel with all that is around me, especially nature. Which means this time of year is definitely one with a call for celebration, as the days grow shorter and your mind, body, and spirit struggle to find the light they need, or maybe it is just trying to find a new rhythm for the season and not fighting to uphold the ways of summer year round. Let there be beautiful lights in the windows to guide our happiness, may there be reminders that nature will be green again soon, pray there be warmth and love for all.

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Cinders wonders why there is an explosion of nature in the kitchen

And so it was that I decided to not encourage the chopping down of trees (plus not only would it be chopped, it would likely find itself down a few more times due to a certain wee beastie), but instead made an exchange for a few branches from a backyard tree for IMG_5802my decorations. It was another snowy day on Tuesday and the timing felt right for a little decorating. Now my partner is hard pressed to get me to turn on any actual lights, because I love living by the softness of these lights, perhaps with the flickering addition of candles.

I don’t know when this battle with winter began in my life, I certainly had no opposition to it as a child, but at some point that transition happened into adulthood and I swapped a little bit of joy for a little more stress. It is good to be responsible and not too risky, but it will do nothing for a person to lose joy. Besides, it is a losing battle to try and fight the seasons.

Nature is all flow and cycle, constant movement and constant change. It seems so obvious and yet why does the connection with it feel so far away? It is a focus of mine to find that connection again, for it seems to me to be full of sense and joy.IMG_5792So it was yesterday morning, a Sunday one week from the last, while I stood outside in the woods in a different location in Fitzwilliam, NH that something became apparent to me. Living in a small city has had its benefits, its experiences, and its conveniences (for which I am grateful), but I need to return to the woods and all the knowledge and energy it holds.

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Fitzwilliam, NH – December 2017

Those You Know #1

I have this friend, she may seem “normal” (whatever that is) if you meet her in passing, perhaps a little edgy with her short black hair and bold lipstick, but if you get to know her “normal” (and all its overrated/superfluous connotations) goes flying out the window and I love it!

She is the maker of puppets, a cake decorating virtuoso, dinosaur enthusiast, last minute seamstress, and much more besides. Something I admire to no end is her work as a support staff for those with a more challenging journey through life. A profession I know I would never be capable of, but someone needs to do it, and she does so brilliantly. On top of it all she is a friend like no other whom I am honoured to have encountered on my own journey.

It was her birthday yesterday, and I am writing this post in honour of her completion of another year cycle and the beginning of a sparkling new one. Full of possibilities, surprises, and growth.

Now, as I mentioned before, she is a rather talented cake decorator. It’s more than that, it’s constructing as well. Over the years she has made a number of masterpieces for myself and other friends, but this year another friend decided she deserved a fancy cake of her own, so us “amateurs” decided to take a crack at it.

What followed was a myriad of back and forth emails about different desert features (we had decided on a desert landscape for the cake as our friend is rather fond of Arizona): cactuses (obviously), rocks, sand, what could we make tumble weeds out of, were we brave enough to try spinning sugar, how about the bones of dead animals that just didn’t make it in the heat of carrot cake land, and why not have mountains!

The time of the baking started with many shopping stops at grocery stores and sweet shops (I don’t suppose you have any candy bones?) Next the baking commenced motivationally accompanied by the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack. We discovered that the opening song can really get one racing about the kitchen.

Honestly the whole thing went with surprising smoothness. From the start of shopping to the last dish being washed we were at it for seven hours. Okay, when I say it like that, it seems like an awfully long time, but for all that we accomplished it really wasn’t bad. Shopping, two batches of carrot cake, two batches of cream cheese frosting, three rounds of spun sugar (all with drastically varying results, I’m not sure we’ve got the knack of it yet), the piping of white chocolate bones (because, no, the sweet shop did not have any), moulding of fondant cactuses, construction, decorating, and cleaning up!

We had to de-construct, as it were, a layer of cake in order to make the canyon on top. I must say, it might be one of the most satisfying experiences in life to purposefully destroy a cake. Anyone who has had to invert a cake from its pan knows how nerve-wracking it can be. Satisfaction seconded by then eating leftover bits of cake dipped in extra frosting from a bowl.

In the end it was a success. Thank you to the friend who made it with me, and a huge grateful hug for the birthday girl. May your next year be filled with blessings and joy, and may it be everything you hope it will be!

I am proud to have a friend who is exceedingly excited to have a ribcage on her cake.

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Writing About Writing

There were grand plans in place for a piece of fiction to be written for this week’s blog post, but alas it would seem that trying to push out the last 5,000 words for National Novel Writing Month and writing a short story for here was just too much for the creative writing part of my brain. In fact, just writing those last 5,000 words seems to beIMG_5742 taxing me inordinately.

Which is probably why I was taking these pictures instead.

Apart from the fact that it was a rather pretty sunset shining through the bare bones of the willow tree in my backyard, it gave me a moment to surface for air from the 45,000 words I have already written this month and contemplate what I have managed to accomplish.

With the support from the wonderful NaNo staff who make everything possible, the well known authors who give a little time to write pep talks for us aspiring authors, the fellow writers world wide who are supportive in chatrooms, in person at write ins, and friends who are willing to prod you into action in the comfort of your own home; I have managed to get where I am today.

Where am I today? Well, I appear to be waist deep in a story that, for all my planning, has certainly taken the direction in its own hands and run with it. Characters have run amok and behaved quite badly before my very eyes (one of them murdering multiple people quite unexpectedly), all the while I can feel an enormous pile of research that needs to be done teetering at my side, and by the end of November I will likely only be half way done at best. However, it seems that this year I may have encountered the right time, story, and inspiration to make something of it! Which is very exciting.

Perhaps next week will be the right time for me to share a short story here!IMG_5744

The Cat’s Mrrrrup!

At least that’s the sound my cat makes. He just doesn’t get around to opening his mouth, instead he seems to roll an ‘r’ in his throat, it’s very cute. I feel bad sometimes though, because he will carry on for some time quite seriously in this manner and all I can do is giggle, then he looks at me like this:

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I sense a lack of amusement on his part.

It was only a matter of time before this post happened, and it won’t be the last time I cute cat my blog. I grew up with a cat in the house since I was three, and it wasn’t until a recently moved in with my partner that I was without one. After a little over a year without a furry friend in my life I found myself yearning for the company of a cat and to my surprise I found my partner was feIMG_5494eling the same way! Within days we had found this wonderful kitty at a shelter, his name is Cinders.

He looks very cute (in addition to sounding very cute), but he’s no timid beastie and when he plays his natural predatory behaviour takes over, much to the chagrin of my hands.

Still, the Great Hand Hunt aside, it has amazed me having had the comparison of not having a cat around how much of a difference it makes. Nothing against my partner, who’s company I enjoy very much, but there is much to be said for having a cat around, too!

The relationship between animal and human always amazes me. Granted I go through those mixed feelings about how we’ve domesticated so many animals and frequently the only reason they interact with us is because of that, but they still are animals that relate on a foreign basis from us human animals and yet we have an interesting coexistence.

On a daily basis I marvel at our interaction. Cinders is a more social cat then some I have known, but the fact that he seeks out our company tickles me pink. If one or both of us IMG_1056are home Cinders will hang out in whichever room we’re in, and follow us wherever we relocate. Unless he tires of our antics (a.k.a. trying to pet him because he’s being adorable) in which case he’ll find a different room void of annoying humans.

Perhaps it is because it feels like a human interaction. We humans are always happiest when we can relate something to ourselves, though I do try to think outside the box.

Whatever the reason, I know I am extremely grateful for his company and every time I come home and he’s waiting for me at the door (which he never fails to do) it makes my day.

First Snow

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First Snow in Keene, NH – November 2017

Today I had a moment to reflect on the ways I have changed my life. Having given myself more time in the week by working less I am finally falling into a rhythm of feeling like I have enough time to accomplish the menial things in life as well as pleasant projects I wish to spend time on. It never ceases to amaze me how much we try to cram into too little time with it being the average expectation for life. Hello stress!

No! Goodbye stress, I say! Which is why I must have been so leisurely about getting my autumn clean up taken care of, for I only tackled that process today! Though it is technically still autumn, it has been awfully cold here and definitely feeling like winter. A feeling only intensified as the first snow began to fall on the leaves I was raking.

For once in my life this was not an instigator of stress. Instead I stood and listened to the patter of tiny ice particles falling to the ground and marvelled at the change of season. I was grateful for the time I had to appreciate it, that I was able to complete my clean up just in time, and a sense of excitement about what the next season has in store.

Yet I shall endeavour to stay in this moment and season for now, enjoying this lovely subtle sunset, abstractly seen through a prism ball.

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Abstract Sunset – November 2017