not so simple.

IMG_6698Sometimes when I tell folks, especially city-dwellers engaged in the fast-paced 9 to 5 ditty, that my husband and I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and try to live sustainably, homestead, raise our own food, homeschool our kids, and basically do as much as we can for ourselves, I often see a glazed over expression take hold and hear utterances of “ahhhhh, the simple life.”

heh heh heh I think to myself.

I’m not exactly sure how on earth bucolic living ever could be described as simple, unless you engage in the scene as a mere pastime and therefore aren’t really living it. As far as my limited amount of experience will testify, homesteading is a heck of a lot of work. (I sometimes feel like a hypocrite even calling myself a homesteader. I don’t have the slightest clue, really. I engage in internet commerce, bop on over to the local dollar store for toilet paper, and zip into the gas station to “fill ‘er up”. Geez.)

So. Just in case you were wondering, here’s a few things I’ve taken note of lately that challenge the idea that this homesteading way of life could be viewed as simple. Here goes:

1. I’m pretty sure a bag of dogfood from the feed store trumps cutting open a dead lamb as sustenance for the livestock guardian dog in terms of simplicity. You tell me, what would you rather do?

2. Walking over to the thermostat on the wall and fiddling a bit seems far simpler than heading into the woods with a chainsaw.

3. When a cup of coffee begins with chopping wood, the corner Starbuck’s is a piece of cake.IMG_6668

4. What time does the school bus come again? I’ve forgotten. Oh, right… school is right here. And I am the teacher. And the cafeteria-lady. And the janitor. Simple?

5. When a dozen eggs from the grocery store costs a mere few dollars, why exactly have I spent several hundred on chicks, several hundred more on feed, and several hundred more on fencing? Tack on all of the hours spent raising the chicks, feeding them, protecting them from predators, and moving their fence around the pasture every few days… well, wheeling the shopping cart to the refrigerated section of the grocery store seems downright easy.IMG_6657

6. The laundromat is my friend. Following a night of my little girl puking on every single heavy blanket on her bed, the “simple” task of hand-washing all of those loads felt daunting. I caved. My simple life was made even simpler by cramming some quarters into a machine.

7. Last year we planted a few hundred strawberry plants. We unrolled big heavy bales of wheat straw to mulch the plants and keep the weeds at bay. But the straw still had many, many wheat berries in it which sprouted so nicely that the strawberry plants were shaded and the task of plucking that fine carpet of wheat grass was completely overwhelming. Then the deer moved in on them. They love strawberry plants, you know. Now that the wheat grass has been weeded out of what plants remain, a freeze arrived just when the plants were blooming for their first big crop. The heavy piece of 10′ x 150′ row cover didn’t just magically decide on it’s own that those tender blooms needed protection. Who do you think was left to do it? And we haven’t even arrived at the picking part of this equation. The fact exists that this is just one crop. We grow dozens of different crops each year. You see where I’m going… not so simple.

8. Can’t we, just this once, call the plumber to remove the giant hairball that is clogging the bathtub drain?

9. A cow’s gestation is about ten months. A good grass-finished beef animal requires about two years to mature and finish. You’re looking at three years before that first bite of hamburger. Calving season is about to unfold here very soon. Want to come over in about three years for a cookout?

10. When you build your own house, and the front door is framed in a slightly cock-eyed fashion, and you look at it sideways each time you go in and out, there isn’t anyone to blame for that detail but yourself. (In this case I could slightly nudge Eric in the ribs. But we’re a team and I’ve done many more half-cocked things than he has!) Best just smile and tilt your head. The door works just fine anyhow.

Carving out a life is not simple, no matter what style of life you live. The reality is that each day is far from simple. Not just for me and this way of life that I have chosen (for I did happily choose this), but for all of us. Some of us pay electric bills, some of us adjust solar panels. Some of us drive big trucks, some of us drive horses and buggies, some of us walk. Even the monk who has rejected all earthly possessions and sits for hours each day in meditation has a hard row to hoe… sitting still with a clear mind? Now that is hard work. I just can’t do it. Despite the heft and magnitude of each decision we make, it doesn’t really matter how big or small. Every little decision requires a human at the helm to decide what path feels right. Life is complex. We are complex creatures with the amazing knack for adding complexity to just about everything we do. I know we all feel this way, in our own way, each and every day: Fully living life is not so simple.

IMG_6706For me, I think the simplicity comes with the unambiguous nature of my work. Nothing is ambiguous around here. My actions have direct consequences: Forget to water the greenhouse? Dead plants. Tend the garden well? Full bellies. No firewood for the stove? Cold house. Love my children despite totally obnoxious behavior? Watch them grow and flourish. And on and on. Hmmmmmm. When I look at things in that light, maybe I am living the simple life after all.

right now :: a quick dip

Can you believe it?

We actually went swimming. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say swimming necessarily, because that normally implies a length of time spent in the water. So I’ll just say the family took a quick dip in the creek on Sunday. We were having a little break after an arduous morning of hunting eggs and eating chocolate. The sun was so warm while we were relaxing on the rock beach, and the water looked so sparkly and inviting, that we just couldn’t resist…IMG_6705IMG_6704IMG_6703

a reunion

i’m fairly sure i am not alone in having had a teenage super star crush. whether it be tv, film or music, i imagine everyone can recall that beloved heart throb you dreamed about. mine was bruce springsteen. no one could count the number of hours my best friend and i spent listening to the music, chasing after unusual tracks, swapping bootleg tapes (you know readers, cassettes). we went to as many shows as our teenagehood  would allow and stopped short of nothing to meet the man himself, an event that actually happened in the parking lot of that sheraton hotel in rosemont, il. sometime in the mid eighties (date please jeannette?)

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my life’s path veered away from bruce’s trails and those of my dear friend, but she stuck with bruce seeing shows around the world and back. in recent years, once the internet reconnected my friend and i,  the thought of a shared springsteen experience has come up again. there was talk of chicago, an attempt in louisville but it couldn’t come together until last week, bridgstone arena,  april 17th,  nashville.

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the last time i hugged these two dears simultaneously could easily have been our final field hockey game of our senior year in high school, 1984. the last time i saw bruce springsteen was in college, not long after. in the first minutes of greeting my old friends, the decades evaporated and i was full of that familiar love that you can only feel with people that have known you long and well. in the flurry of preparing for the show (a process far different from what i can recall) we caught up on years of life. the joys and tragedies that we each have experienced in our twenties, our thirties and our forties. gosh.

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we arrived at the venue hours before the gates opened to get a numbered wristband. i was soon to learn that at 5:00 they would cease offering the wristbands and promptly draw a number. the person wearing that numbered band and the 399 people sequentially following,  would be allowed into the pit, the area front and center, of the stage. in these hours i gradually met countless people who comprised the amazing circle of bruce fans that were travelling buddies of my old friend jeannette. these folks not only invited me into their world with open arms, but they also, i was soon to find out, had a special spot for us, a place from which we were to view this reunion concert, it took a few hours to unfold, but when i discovered the spot they had in mind, i couldn’t really believe it, yep, it was the front row.

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perhaps it goes without saying, but i am going to say it anyway, i had the time of my life. i was dancing and singing like i hadn’t in, well, i can’t remember when. in those hours that began in the mid afternoon and didn’t end until well past midnight, my heart soared over and over again. i was embraced by friends old and new and listened to some pretty amazing music. it was somewhere in the middle of “spirit in the night”, with my hands reaching out and touching bruce himself (this was to happen over and over again throughout the show) i was filled to the brim with the moment. it was an unusual one for me, rock concerts are not in my normal routine. somehow the company of my oldest friends, the support of a new group of people, and the familiar tunes of my truest rock star love came together in the most memorable of evenings. now, days later, i still have lyrics dancing in my head and spilling out of my mouth (the kids are finding this completely hilarious), amazing thoughts of that wonderful night, and the deepest heartfelt thanks to all that made it happen…you know who you are!

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show a little faith there’s magic in the night