A LOT has happened since I wrote last, and at the same time, not much. I began our move into the little house in Forkland with grand permaculture ideas and ideals. Then, life happened.
Need I say more?
We began in the middle of winter by living in two back bedrooms of the house, as the rest of the house was unlivable. Since our lovely predecessors had presumably stolen the copper piping out from under the house, we were without running water, unless you count the creek out back. Indeed, for a while, we actually did use that creek for water. Everybody say, Thank God for Berkey (water filtration)! My mother, being a nurse, understandably freaked, but we all survived without any bowel distress.
Even when you’re shivering, you can still appreciate beauty.
As we huddled around the space heaters in the back bedrooms, snow drifted under the back door in the kitchen and stayed frozen on the floor all day. At one point, as I was trying to bake my sourdough bread on our BabyQ, my husband saw that the loaf was darkening too quickly on the bottom, and without thinking, he quickly pulled it out and set it on the frozen kitchen floor. What an exciting moment of living science we had! The “explosion” was instantaneous.
How we survived
Spring of that year came along with great plans I had drafted while dressed like the abominable snowman. Next year, we would have a rocket mass heater, use water from our cistern, fresh-caught from the metal roof, and have fruit and nitrogen-fixing trees in place. We would also be rotating our chickens on plots that had been plowed up by them and planted with their favorite grains and be milking our own cow. Uh, yeah, reality check!
Our beloved Mama Carmen: may she rest in peace.
Instead, this year we have a very small woodstove that kept us fairly warm in one room, we’re still using city water, and we have purchased exactly zero trees so far. Traveling back-and-forth has only gotten three chickens killed by an opossum and six ducks either hit by a car, eaten by a hawk, or carried off by some unknown predator. Like I said, life happens.
Hey, at least we’re still making full-on compost (if you permies know what I mean). That counts for something, right? In the meantime, while I continue to work toward utopia, I have forged ahead learning new skills in the kitchen and wherever else possible. My first Indian paneer cheese came out tasty, although with a slight hint of apple cider vinegar (oops). Though my kefir didn’t seem to like our cold kitchen, it made a fine kefir cheese.
Ha, ha, ha I totally forgot about the pixie shovel I was using!
My pickled kombucha scobies are waiting patiently to be put back into use, and the molded ones that were left in cloth-covered fermenting jars fertilize the garden. Reality knocked my hopes for the garden down several notches. I began the spring thinking, Surely, I will knock a massive hole in our food budget with all this fresh produce!
How about, No, no noticeable difference. I blame it on the fact that I did not have enough man-power or man-hours on my own to properly get the garden into ideal workable conditions. By the end, I was so tired from the work that I dug my garden bed sides out, flopped the sod over onto the bed, scattered as much leaves, sawdust, compost, and whatever I could get my hands on and said, That’s it! Maybe, all things considered, I did get a really good harvest. The budget just didn’t reflect it that first year.
My one decent bed, the one hubby carved out some time to haul mulch for. I’m not going to show you what the others looked like.
However, I believe God sent the Amish to our rescue. The blessings they have provided us have cut our food bill in half, and we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Thus, we come to the subject title of this blog.
My husband alerted me to an amazing opportunity. Asbury Theological Seminary was on the hunt for a Community Developer/Head Gardener. The position was only part time but came with a house on campus. My husband had been spending two hours on the road daily on the days he did not work from home!
Needless to say, he and the kids supported me, I applied, and voilà. Here we are, living between houses. At this point, we still have the animals back on the Fork, so we have to care for them a couple times a week until they find new homes. I was unable to convince my boss in a timely enough manner that our chickens would be a lovely addition to the community garden.
The Fork house still lingers in a state somewhere between not-suitable-for-homeowners-insurance and too-far-along-for construction-insurance. Right . . . Need I describe the feelings of extreme irritation we felt as we tried to justify ourselves to the insurance companies for why we still have piles of lumber hauled out from the wreckage, waiting to find a more orderly home in the garage packed with hay for the cow we never got and no-good salvage lumber for the too-small woodstove. (It’s a very humbling experience to see yourself through a stranger’s eyes sometimes. At the same time, I remind myself, Natasha, when you meet someone new, let this be a lesson to you, you have no idea what they are going through or why their life looks as crazy as it does.)
Doesn’t that fearless face just spur you on to dump your debt-inducing ways?
While I’m on a rabbit trail, how about the irritation bordering on true anger I feel when I think about how far our society has “progressed.” No longer is it normal for a family to want to work their way to a finished house. No, society, insurance, and banks do everything in their power to force you into the fix-it-now-on-borrowed-money mentality. They have tried to make us feel criminally negligent or unintelligent or backward.
I refuse. I stand with my head held high, pleased with our choices and honored to be among the ranks of our great-grandparents and theirs before them who worked and saved and paid their own way with patience and perseverance. Debt is a slave master, and I will not choose the path of slavery any longer. (Any Dave Ramsey fans out there?)
Okay, back on track, life between houses: Only this weekend, as hubby and children were away, I was responsible to go home to the Fork to feed the animals and do our weekly Amish run. Insert really old community garden van and output surprise quiet weekend stuck in town. Yeah, life happens.
Or, how about that time when It’s such a warm, cozy night, and it’s already so late that you decide you’ll ride home to the Fork in your pajamas after a nice shower at your house in town (an hour away). You’re going right home to bed, so why bother putting on a certain feminine undergarment. You’ve got an extra one at home. Except, when you don’t, and it’s Sunday morning, and everyone else is almost ready for church, and it’s waaaay too cold to get away with wearing a sundress with built in coverage. Try to explain to your kids why you may not be able to make it to church with them . . .
When you’ve spent the entirety of your marriage moving from place-to-place, you quickly learn to become a minimalist. That usually works in your favor, except when you suddenly find you have two houses to live in. “Okay children, we’re bringing one spoon for each of you, one fork, etc. You are each responsible to wash your dishes as soon as you use them, so you will have them again when you need them.”
Oh drat, I only brought one mixing bowl! My sourdough bread is rising in that one; I guess I will need to make the pancake batter in my saucepan.
Here we are, and though it gets hairy at times, we are truly thankful for this opportunity. The children are excited to make friends from all over the U.S. and the world. I am extremely pleased that I still have the privilege of homeschooling my children and working with a budget outside our own to implement permaculture design while building community, and my husband couldn’t be any happier to have excommunicated the commute to-and-from work. Once the animals are given new homes for this season of our lives and we figure out a workable plan for making progress on the Fork house, you may well just find us over the moon!
Asbury Theological Seminary Community Garden