Monday, December 13, 2010
Joys and hardships of starting from scratch
The dream of building a simple homestead meets up every day with reality. In the dream, equipment starts, when things get done they stay done, our bodies have sufficient energy and learning from a book is all that is required to make something happen. In the dream, I would make herbal preparations to bring in a little income to the homestead and how hard can it be to build a website with a shopping cart?
In reality, equipment breaks at a regular pace and we're not mechanics, we get tired and sore, and not everything is covered in the books. In reality I don't have time to spend on online marketing and building a website is about to make me pull my hair out. Food and shelter have to be the top priority. So every day I have to think about what needs to be done to accomplish those goals and squeezing in everything else at the end of a long day.
I thought I'd try affiliate marketing on our blog, other homesteaders bring a little money home that way. There are many ethical businesses out there that we've used and I like. But do I spend time learning affiliate marketing, or do I learn more about seed saving and how to keep heirlooms from cross pollinating? Do I learn this shopping cart software or more about adobe plaster?
I gave learning to build a website a good old college try and the front page looks pretty good. But it's not connected to anything and now other bigger projects won't wait. It was not fun at all, so I'm putting it down for a while. Maybe when the garden prep work is done and it's too cold to build, I'll take it back up.
Taking up this life has been and is so rewarding and I wouldn't' trade it for anything. Some days it would be nice though if we weren't doing re-work or fixing things that were already fixed.
It was much cheaper and easier to bring in a local concrete truck for the footers instead of mixing 200 bags by hand. The weight of the concrete truck snapped our footer and gray-water drain lines and they have to be dug up and re-done.
The lines to the spring are frozen and blocked even though we thought they were drained. Just last night we heard a pop and now the water pump in the RV doesn't work. We had no running hot water, now we have no running cold water either.
Fortunately, the spring water comes out of the hill is about 55 degrees or so and doesn't freeze. We haul water by hand anyway, because I didn't want to drink water that flowed through a plastic pipe, now we'll just bring back more for dishwashing and such.
Sometimes I think that we are so slow and it takes forever to get something accomplished. Then I think about the day to day life of ancient man. They had to roll with the punches and things weren't that "instant" for them either. Progress is made eventually though and the rewards are great.
Winter won't last and spring will be here in the blink of an eye. Some of the no-till garden beds are ready and we'll keep building more. I love the idea of food forests, so anything that is shade tolerant will be started in the woods. It's been fun the last few days to get the seeds organized and I'll work on mapping today.
Like most people, we have such a handicap trying to start a self-sufficient life. My father didn't teach me how to build a house out of the surrounding materials because his father didn't teach him and and his father didn't teach him. My mother didn't teach me how to preserve food without canning because her mother didn't teach her and her mother didn't teach her. We don't have family around us all day to help with big projects like building a house, because people live in nuclear families now and go away from the home to work all day.
"Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we've put it in an impossible situation." ~Margaret Mead
"The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people - no mere father and mother - as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born." ~Pearl S. Buck
So now in our 40's, we're trying to learn everything that ancient man knew as a teenager and doing it mostly by ourselves. Thankfully we do have some great neighbors. We'll be glad when the house is built though so we can focus more on food production and the day to day tasks that go into this life.
The cistern is finally parged, so we'll have water at the house site and stored water that won't freeze. The blocks have arrived and we'll start laying up the walls for Judy's house very soon. We're just doing our best and that's all anyone can ever hope for.
The joy though is that it's so beautiful outside, to look up at the stars in a dark sky and the tall evergreens. Listen to the owls and coyotes, taste raw living water, smell fresh air and feel the warmth in our muscles from a good day's work.
We're trying to build something that will last and that can be passed down, that takes time. Infusing that time mindfully with joy, means when I'm old I can look back and remember happy moments. When I touch the wall, it'll be touching the happy time spent building that wall. It's easy to forget to be joyful when things don't work the way I want them to, but I'm trying hard to remind myself to get back to that place every day.
I hope you all have a safe, warm and happy winter.
The photos are some ice ribbons that formed recently.