For the last month we have been nestled back in our cozy straw bale home in Missouri, submerged back into the rhythms of our simple life here. Morning light streaks through our bedroom window and wakes us, (or rather, our daughter, who then wakes us by gleefully pouncing on us.) One of us will then reluctantly lumber downstairs to chop up kindling to start the fire in our stalwart engine, our Ashland cookstove. As the stove warms, so does our breakfast (and dish water, and lunch meal often too), and our day is underway. On these bleak winter days, amidst bleak and uncertain changes going on in our community and our nation, I focus on gratitude for small things: the bright red beacon of a cardinal sitting on the garden gate, the surprise visits of friends and neighbors, the way the sun lights some angle of our home, the joy of our daughter learning something new. These are small but buoying things to focus on instead of losing oneself in the undertow of uncertainties swirling around us.
Every season or month has its projects and tasks, and it seems February—with spring around the corner—is the cozy month for dreaming and visioning for the year to come. Recently I’ve noticed everyone in the community swapping seed catalogues, gardening books, and brainstorming big projects for the year. At a potluck dinner a week ago, talk turned to gardening and everyone sheepishly disclosed their latest vegetable fantasies for the coming season: “flint corn”, “alpine strawberries”, “rutabegas”. Our own garden fantasies for the coming year include building a garden shed and expanding to our second garden area with storage crops like corn, dry beans, potatoes and squash. Another gardening goal is compost, lots of compost. These dreams have been fueled by two books published by Chelsea Green (anything by them is excellent): The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe and Will Bonsai's Guide to Gardening. Both of them are seasoned and opinionated old-timers who know their stuff. Not just know it, but who breed, grow, store and eat their own stuff year round. Suffice to say, we are inspired to great gardening ambitions. Surely, to end a fall garden season with stores of roots, beans, grains, bushels of fruit and nuts and cold hardy vegetables growing under row covers is a deeply satisfying vision hard-wired into our genes. At least, it feels like it.
|We have running water!|
|Bacon curing in the bathroom|
Besides getting swept away with garden fantasies, Mike and I are headed in new directions with our vocational energies this year. We are each embarking on different ventures that we hope will yield more financial stability for our family. The financial equation is something that almost every homesteader has to tinker with: rarely is it possible to make your living entirely off of the land. Even our Amish neighbors who are masterful at growing crops, raising animals and putting up prodigious amounts of food have side gigs like carpentry, milling, repairing small motors, making buggies and the like. Having a child has meant that Mike and I can no longer do renovation work during winters in the city, saving up for the year to come, so a shift of home economies is in order. The puzzle for us has been to figure out what work would be rewarding to us, what would allow us to still mostly homestead, and also be viable in a somewhat depressed NE Missouri economy.
For Mike, the answer seems to be free-lance organic crop inspection, working for certification agencies. This kind of work would mean some travel for him now and again, while I keep the home fires burning. But perhaps not far—apparently there are around 480 organic farms in Missouri alone! Organic farming is one of the fastest growing sector of the agricultural world and certificates get reissued to farms yearly, meaning lots of work for inspectors. Meanwhile, Mike and our friend Cynthia continue to dabble in coopery (barrel making) when they get the chance to, and have dreams of ramping up production in the near future.
|Ella making copies of a penguin lino print she created|
|Everett carving his hummingbird print block during art class|
|Regina trying out Mark and Alyson's water pump|
|Retreat at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, in their beautiful dance hall|
|Rocket mass heater at Red Earth Farms|
|Cool stair design at Dancing Rabbit|
|Dancing Rabbit ecovillage- a mix of communal and private natural buildings (white one is straw bale!)|
|The straw bale Milkweed Mercantile Inn and Cafe building at Dancing Rabbit|
|Mark and Alyson's straw bale building with recycled pallet wood roof trusses showing|
As you can tell, another year is slowly making its contours known to us. We have a lot that we are juggling and surely more to come, but for now we are able and ready for our busy 2017 homesteading season to begin!