“Crazy” has become normative after twelve years of wacky matrimony. I’m not sure why, but my hubby and I can’t quite seem to do anything according to the standard model, and as a couple we seem to have a cumulatively crazy effect on each other —a sort of fanatical synergism. Getting married before turning twenty (that’s me!), having kids before being anywhere close to what the grown-ups call “financially stable,” moving across the country not once but thrice (once with a two-week-old in tow), living for four years in a skyrise apartment in Miami of all places, getting a puppy a few weeks before a big move . . . these sort of things have just become life as we know it.
But this year may take the wacky cake even for us (and I don’t mean my grandma’s delicious depression-era chocolate sponge).
My hubby and I are finally putting down roots, but I can’t say we feel very grounded. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve begun on our craziest journey together yet.
FOREST to TABLE
I’m not sure exactly when my hubby and I first started dreaming about our one-day-family- farm, entertaining visions of vermicomposting and setting our sights on that specter who goes by the name of Self-Sustainability. Undoubtedly, the bulk of these musings were born out of our four-year sentence in the city —a sort of phoenix, if you will, of our Miami misery.
Skyrise cinderblock imprisonment has a way of awakening an ache for all things green. At least it did for us.
During our Miami time, we made some lovely and dear friends (most of whom happen to love Miami 😆 ), and for them and the memories made together we will always be thankful. But every single one of those friends (shoutout to my Miami mamas!) knew clearly that my hubby and I just didn’t belong there.
We were so desperate to get out of the city that when my hubby’s residency years finally came to an end in the early summer of 2020, we fled the scene the very day after graduation. To do this, we actually pulled an all-nighter spent carrying loads down our long apartment hall, down three flights in an elevator, out through a dismal parking garage, down a sidewalk, and across the street to where there was room to park our Penske. We heaped our belongings inside and locked up our mess. The next day we drove off jittery from excitement and lack of sleep. We held our breath and, Sodom and Gomorrah style, literally refused to look back over our sore shoulders.
As we drove out of the city that day, garish cement murals glaring down at us from all angles, I felt more than ever how hard it was to breathe. I know some find beauty in the city, but we are not among them. Before we had escaped the shadows of the skyscrapers, I actually became overcome with anxiety and an unshakeable feeling that something was going to go wrong, making it so we would have to stay an extra day or three in the city.
“Did you check the tires? Did we turn in the keys to the concierge?” My hubby ignored my list of panicked questioning. He knows all too well that there is nothing to be done when I start overthinking things except for wait for the inevitable energy crash. Thankfully for me, sleep follows closely on the heels of overload. I sat back and tried to breathe; tried to enjoy this moment we had waited so long for.
The car felt claustrophobic —even more so than the crushing summer heat and humidity warranted. Surely something was about to go terribly wrong. I just knew we were going to have car trouble, or that my hubby’s residency program would call alerting us that he had forgotten to file that last piece of paperwork. This worry is kind of the medical resident equivalent of that showing up at school in only your underwear nightmare. Seeing as how this city had been our home for a few years, an extra day or two spent there should have posed no call for anxiety. But it did.
I couldn’t bear the thought of spending one more hour within that flat expanse of so much and yet so little.
My logical self knew this to be absurd just as you probably do. All I know is that our souls felt like they had slowly been dying during those four years spent among cement and traffic lights. For two souls that had grown up in the country, it had been almost more than we could bear and our visceral urgency to get out felt almost refugee-like.
The endless expanse of gray, the angry honks and out-the-window-gestures, the relentless onslaught of rush . . . the city was giving us a parting farewell that was almost farcically representative of our time spent there. I don’t know if any two people have ever longed to be rid of *it all* more than my hubby and I had grown to be after those four years of self-inflicted captivity.
And now, credentials in tow, we were finally done. . . truly not an hour too soon. I threw a “peace-out” sign from my passenger window amid flying birds (not the feathered variety) and set our navigation system to “far away from here” as we drove off into the sweltering sunset.
We were heading across the country to the Great North —home to mountain majesty, fresh air, clear water, and down-to-earth souls— to pick out a piece of land to love, cultivate, and recover on. But first we would waylay at a rental house, buying us enough time to search out that perfect plot for our little family to flourish on.
Family and friends encouraged us that moving out of the city would be enough. We didn’t need a homestead to restore our souls. We simply needed to live in a neighborhood, complete with green grass and automatic sprinklers, to help assuage our homestead hankerings. Much to our homeowner’s association’s chagrin, we made every effort to take our loved ones’ advice and satisfy our cravings for self-sufficiency in an on-grid setting. In fact, we spent a year and a half in that golf course community, transforming a pointless lawn (is there any other kind?) into a suburban garden. To our surprise, the results were more than a little inspiring.
We grew heaps of herbs, tons of tomatoes, and crazy cucumbers. We filled our freezer with more than fifty jars of salsa and lined our cupboards with forty some jars of dried herbs and teas. Our friends were somewhat right. It did prove to be a restorative time for us. But my hubby and I both knew our time spent gardening in suburbia was only the rough draft of a masterpiece waiting to be written into our lives.
In the end, our urban gardening efforts, although lovely, were something like trying to use layers of decoupaged tissue paper to fashion blackout curtains. It’s pretty hard to block out that light with anything other than the real deal.
For my hubby and I, it turns out that homestead is where the heart is. Ignoring it would be futile. In a way, it seems that our desire to work toward self-sufficiency is somehow foundational within us —a heritage that can’t be nurtured away. And so, we bought a homestead. Well, to be more accurate, we bought a future homestead. A bare (and largely barren) clearing on a forested mini mountain in our beloved corner of the Great North.
It’s not going to be an easy task considering we didn’t move to fertile flatland in the valley. That would be too obvious of a choice, I suppose. No, we moved up to a mountain homestead, entirely covered in forest save our inner acre and a half clearing where it snows seven months of the year! 😆
And while we may be surrounded by forest life, complete with rich fertile soil feasting on decades of sloughed off bark and needles, our clearing itself is practically dead.
In fact, the “soil” in our clearing doesn’t even deserve to be called “soil.” Truth be told, what we are working with may not even be worthy of the name “dirt.” The way in which the previous owners cleared to build the house has rendered a horrifically unhospitable concoction of rock fused together by a yellow-green clay. In other words, our clearing is truly good for planting, ummmm, nothing . . . other than a cement slab for a house or barn to be erected on (which we do appreciate). The only other thing this brew may be good for is making a puke-green face mask, provided you filter out an array of gravel of many different grades.
Here’s what we’re working with . . .
These are just the little rocks, by the way. Their mothers are lurking below.
BOTTOM LINE: It is going to be a long, arduous process turning our clearing into a farm within a forest. And my hubby and I, true to our natures, are nuts to take this on. Already it has required an incredible amount of time, work, and personal resources just to begin working this land. And yet, I’m not sure my hubby and I have ever been more at home.
And so . . .
We are breaking ground, my dear friends, both on this homestead project as well as a new branch of our blog that will be documenting our journey: Our Holistic HOMESTEAD! We invite you to follow along with us as we work to restore this piece of land, even as it is working to restore us.
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Thank you for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~