My parent's house is built. This time around, the person managing the build was lovely, and we were able to implement all we learned from our last construction attempt (just you wait until we build a third house... no...wait...).
|another red house!|
Previously when I had heard about homesteader burnout, my response was a pretty smug, "you don't know how tough I am." I am sorry for that smugness. I think burnout is very normal because homesteading is often illogically difficult, and when you're in the thick of it you can't remember exactly why you're sitting cold, dark and sick in a modern city. Self-righteousness just feels stupid! At that point, we often end up at the McDonald's playground, though this time we didn't-- not because we're above it but just because somehow the brief satisfaction no longer feels worth it (if you want to get serious about being frugal, buy a nursery and track all non-essential spending to how much more you could pay your employees.. no wait, don't! Seriously, though, the nursery has changed my experience of money in a pretty visceral way.).
In these experiences, we are learning homesteading is less about self-sufficiency and more about learning about deep interconnectedness-- our dependence on the grid, on not having our stuff stolen, on the weather and our surrounding ecology/soil, on technology, on our fragile health. Even though we can sometimes produce some of our own food, we're inherently vulnerable, and understanding that vulnerability increases our empathy for those around us who are indeed cold, in the dark, and sick (and maybe even hungry) in our supposedly modern city. It's still possible to keep learning from our mistakes and to slowly work on resilience-- not to make ourselves invincible but to learn to be more peaceful, empathetic, and hopefully less exploitative.
Part of resilience seems to be making peace with hardship and imperfection, and being able to cope with our own smallness and lack of control and knowledge. For the first time, in the thick of it, we haven't just fantasized about moving somewhere where we imagine we wouldn't have problems: we're rooted here, at least for the next while. I am constantly learning new things I didn't know I didn't know. There's a spiritual dimension to this process, which for me takes the drudgery away and replaces it with a sense of wonder.
In hard times, there's anger and indignation and a sense of helplessness-- perhaps it is this age of Trump (though perhaps there is also the Eritrean-Ethiopian peace to look to in amazement and hope). I am not sure where it comes from or where it will go, but there is injustice and inconsistencies in our own lives that could take a lifetime to work out, so perhaps it is not right to direct anger towards an other (Here I don't mean to advocate apathy). Again, there is something to be said for empathy in absurd situations, for the bigness and goodness of God, and tapping into that rather than into the despair enacted around us.
|Hana has been cutting her hair and, unrelatedly, bringing a lot of grass to Bubbles...|
|Minecraft and orange juice...|
|Potato planting. Our vegetable garden has been a bit of mess with grass taking over, but we've planted a lot of potatoes and garlic because that was what I could wrap my head around, and with a few hours work I'm cautiously optimistic about the growing season ahead.|
With building we haven't had time to think too much about farming -- either starting seeds or caring for fruit trees. Thankfully it is winter, so watering is taken care of by the rain. Perhaps because of the winter, we still had a fair amount to eat from the garden, and there's quite a bit of self-seeded vegetables emerging. I can see that a little bit of consistent work (primarily involving improving the soil) over several years is cumulative-- we may well get as much food this summer as last summer, despite my lack of attentiveness. Having kids is also helpful- I plant with them, with more attention to the process and less to whether we'll grow anything. I figure a pack of seeds is a pretty affordable homeschool lesson, right? And over time, we have a garden.
On optimism: I remember two early goals on my farm googledocs spreadsheet: to have around 20 granadilla vines throughout the farm, and to have around 10 tamarillo trees. I struggled to start tamarillos from seed, and granadillas kept being destroyed by ducks or weevils. At the time it seemed impossible and things kept failing. Two years later, this goal is no problem-- 16 granadilla vines are already well established and some more are newly planted on my parent's fence, with plenty (60 or so) ready to be sold or planted depending on space and irrigation. We were able to get just one tamarillo to a good size, and it fruited this past fall. I planted some tamarillo seeds from this one fruit haphazardly (aah, to have an abundance of seeds instead of the pitiful 10 included in those seed packs) and now I have maybe 100 tamarillo seedlings (though they still need to survive planting into the ground.) Anyway, gradual incremental learning and soil/infrastructure development is meaningful, and the historical view is always helpful when we're facing challenging times.
Also helpful: going to visit penguins at low tide, before any tourists arrive.
|(running alongside, not towards-- we respect the penguins' space! )|
While Eugene and I have generally been a little tired and worn out with the many demands of the last couple of months, we press on! I'm guessing that many more happy, exciting and hopeful updates on our farm will follow- and many more photos!