Our plum tree bore fruit for the first time this year, and it gave me pause. For the first time I was able to make my favorite Autumn Jam, which calls for pears, apples, and plums, entirely with my own fruit. I reflected that when I first made (and fell in love with) that jam two summers prior we were living in our regular neighborhood house and I had bought all those ingredients at the store. Two years has changed everything.
Two years have passed since we said yes to the dream that had been tucked away deep in our hearts. Two years ago we packed up our four children, our 13 year-old dog, and more belongings than we realized we owned. We left the house we had designed and built and planned to raise our family in and hoped to grow old in. We drove down the beautiful road that meanders along the river, turned left at just the right place, crossed a lovely stretch of railroad tracks, meandered a little farther, and settled onto a piece of land that God gifted to us. I still marvel at the ways this homestead seems to have been designed and planned with us in mind, including
the barn of my dreams (we only needed to paint it red),
a shed that perfectly converted to a chicken coop,
a treehouse with electricity (Yes, it does!),
a large paved driveway for the kids to ride bikes, skate, play basketball and four-square on (plus two gorgeous Autumn trees),
a second barn that would perfectly convert to a fruit and vegetable stand (Woops, just dreaming out loud there), and fenced pastures for livestock,
a fully enclosed 1200 square-foot garden
and so, so much more.
Prior to our move, I had always possessed this vague notion that I should not be tied down to land. Leisure activities and unfettered freedom are often associated with happiness in this American life, and I certainly wanted my fill. I thought that the hard work and time commitment involved in a homestead would keep me from more fulfilling endeavors. But now, this land… my very soul is wedded to it. Truly, no matter the charms of a destination I visit, I soon feel a restless longing to go home – to walk my sod, check my fences, tend my garden, and breathe my sky. For me, the Good Life is not out there. It is right here.
Historically, most people did not have the option to be “animal people” or not. Animals were tied to a family’s livelihood and sustenance. For most people now, animals are relegated to the role of pets, and upon moving to our homestead, in the whole of my life, I had owned a few cats and the old dog that we brought with us. I was not a lover of animals, and considered them a stinky nuisance. And while they are definitely that, as we seek to live more traditionally, sustainably, and self-sufficiently, they have taken a larger and more welcome role in our lives. We have learned so much, and still have so much to learn.
And two years,
and a daring cat (who’s down to at least 8 lives now) later,
I can honestly say that our lives have been deeply enriched by them. These animals bring such life, vitality, and often hilarity to our land. I’ll never forget sitting on my driveway watching Caleb and the kids lighting Fourth of July fireworks, when I glanced over and saw our crab-apple trees bobbing up and down, being pulled at and eaten by the cows. I thought, “Hmmmm…. I didn’t know the cows could reach those trees from over the fence.” And then I stood up and saw that the cows were actually not in the pasture, but standing in our yard. If you could have seen Caleb, Britton, and I trying to herdforcelure these two 1000-pound animals who are not halter-trained and pretty skittish back into the pasture, you would have laughed heartily. And that was Act II. Not ten minutes before, Digs, our cat, had run right through the firework excitement with a rabbit in his mouth. He dropped it and we all cheered for the rabbit as Digs chased it in and out of pasture and bush. We thought the rabbit had escaped, but alas, we discovered Digs feasting later that evening. There is never a dull moment around here.
These animals have led me to praise their creator over and over as I marvel at His designs. I have not bought eggs in 18 months and have provided many friends with fresh, pasture-raised eggs, as well. By the end of this week we will have filled our own, and many friends’ freezers with healthy, humanely-raised, grass-fed beef. I have planted, grown, and harvested food that will feed my family all the year long.
It is the Land that has made these miracles possible. How can I not feel tied to it? And a sweet bridling it is.
Most mornings when I walk outside to let the chickens and goats out and I see the sun cresting over the hill and feel the wind swirling against my face and listen to the blessed sound of silence, I can do little but whisper a feeble, “Thank you.”