Growing up, I read the Little House on the Prairie books about ten times in a row. I always wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. Not only did I want to be a little bit more precocious and less shy than I was naturally, but I wanted to live like they lived. Maybe not so much in a dugout, but I wanted to live on a homestead. Strangely enough, I distinctly remember fantasizing as a child, how cool it would be to live in a log cabin and grow all my own food and have a milk cow. Obviously, I didn’t quite realize the amount of work that went into a lifestyle like that then, but I loved the idea of living without the inherent need for a lot of money.
I remember asking to plant a garden a lot as a kid. I convinced my dad once, when we were living in South Dakota. Of course, another distinct memory I have from summers in South Dakota is watching the thermometer outside the living room window for the second the temperature got to 75 so that we could go to the swimming pool. (This was my mother’s rule, which, after living in Kansas with our 100 degree summers, just seems downright cold for a swimming pool.) Out of everything we planted, I think we ended up with two crookneck squash that we ate fried. There wasn’t much gardening after that.
The past few years, I’ve attempted to chronicle our gardens on my blog–but container gardens are super easy. There was no weeding, very few pests, and all we had to do was hang the trellis from the roof of the balcony and keep everything pruned and watered; the container gardens were easy to ignore in real life and on the blog. This having a garden in the ground has been a lot of hard, but not unwelcome, work. Turns out, my childhood inclination to gardening was spot on. I like having dirt under my finger nails, I like the way I wake up sore after spending the day digging and pulling weeds (of course, after my recent pregnancy, I still feel like I am building my strength back up, so I am more sore than I would usually be.)
I have been thinking a lot about a few things that seem to keep coming together for me.
1. The power of the human body. Seven weeks ago I gave birth it the quickest and most powerful hour and a half of my life. I felt to strong in the moment, but since then, I feel like that one act took all of my strength. Like I mentioned above, just a normal amount of walking in a day makes me sore. I know I am still recovering, still balancing out my hormones, and because I am nursing, still giving the best of what I take in to my beautiful, and growing-at-lightning-speed child. Nevertheless, I have still managed to take care of our garden (not on my own, Brock is working right alongside me) and work a full time job. I like how powerful I feel after an afternoon of pulling weeds, and believe me our little city yard has some gnarly weeds. It inspires me to push my body further. For so many years I have been so worn out with just the day to day living, that going outside seemed too hard most of the time. Now, I am looking for excuses to go outside, to move, to lift, ever being conscious that I am still rebuilding my muscles–which doesn’t change the fact that I want to walk for miles and miles or ride my bike to the store instead of taking the car. It was like my mad-dash birthing experience woke up in me a sense of potential vigor of wanting to move for movement’s sake, and finally not because I felt pressure to lose weight.
2. Taking Care of the Place I live. Perhaps I have read one too many Barbara Kingsolver books, seen one too many science documentaries, and learned a little bit too much about permaculture, but I keep thinking of ways I can work with my environment instead of against it. This includes everything from how I garden to thinking about ways to minimize my time in my car, the amount of energy we use around the house, to making as much of my own food/clothes/household supplies I can myself, and what I can’t make, out of locally sourced materials. (This is a very lofty goal which I will never fully meet.)
3. I want to raise livestock. It’s no secret that I want to someday have sheep–but it’s not just because I want the wool. I genuinely like the creatures: I find the smell of lanolin heavenly, and they mow the lawn for you. Also, wool is possibly one of my favorite things. But it’s not just sheep I want to raise, I want a whole menagerie. One time, when visiting a nearby organic farm that raised vegetables and sheep, I was speaking with the shepherd’s husband, and he said something along the lines of how he was glad his wife only wanted sheep. He didn’t want to have a farm girl who just collected animals on his hands. All I could think was, why not? Each animal has a job the farm, even if your only exposure to farm life is Charlotte’s Web, you know that. I want chickens and ducks and geese and sheep and goats and bees and a cow–maybe a pig or two, a donkey, a couple dogs, some cats, who knows–preferably not a rat, but I’m sure there will be at least one. The bottom line is that I would like to live on a little homestead farm, and write about all animal shenanigans that ensue.
I am not entirely sure what all of this means for my family just yet. Finances dictate that we are determined city dwellers unless an amazing deal on a farmhouse turns up next when our lease is up next year. (Otherwise, we’ll just see how far we can stretch our little yard in terms of producing food.) You can expect some of these themes to start showing up here just a bit more–which I feel is consistent with the subtitle of this blog: the pursuit of a handmade lifestyle. Plus, there’s no denying that Laura Ingalls Wilder was pretty damn cool. I can still want to be her when I grow up.