The First Twelve Months: Month Twelve ~ This is Home

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Back of our Homestead

In the months before we moved out to our homestead, we would spend the weekends traveling back and forth to mow the grass, clean up, and just keep tabs on how the building was coming along.

During those drives we would listen to John Denver.  We felt that the flavor of his music epitomized our view of country homestead living.

The day we sold our home in the city, I took one final walk through the now empty shell that had once been our  home for four years. By then,we had been living on our homestead for about eight months.  We had put down roots, and were working to settle into our new lifestyle.  Imagine my surprise then, when standing upstairs in the room that had been our office I suddenly felt emotional and began to cry.

What were we doing?

Neither of us had ever lived in the country before.  Neither of us had ever attempted a project on the scale of our ten acre homestead: a project that in some regards wasn’t going quite as we had planned.

Some days, to be brutally honest, I felt like a fish out of water.

We finished that morning by turning the keys over to the new owner and celebrating the event with an early lunch at a pub that had been a favorite of ours during our city days.  Then we headed back home for afternoon chores.

Sunflower Black Fox Homestead.com

Still feeling a bit emotional after the events of that morning I wandered back to our grasshopper infested garden and stopped to linger in front of a lone, perfect sunflower.  It was then that I noticed the music coming from next door.

Our neighbors are actually a welding warehouse who like to play country western at a high decibel with all the bays open.

 

In the past it has gotten my goat, and their presence has been the single imperfection in the location of our homestead.

However this afternoon, their music caught my attention.

It was John Denver.

And the song? “Back Home Again”.

…Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend,

yes, and hey it’s good to be back home again.

It was as though Someone Upstairs was saying “It’s ok Jen, just ignore the funky feelings because you are right where you should be.”

Not too long after that incident we seemed to turn a corner and things just began to fall into place.  There was nothing in particular that triggered the change, we just seem to hit our stride and began to feel a bit more at one with this slice of land we call our homestead.

This week as we head into Thanksgiving and devote a day to  gratefulness I want to look back over this past year: taking a look at where we have been, and how things have progressed.

home

 We began this series with Month One: A New Beginning. 

Then: We had talked about moving in, culture shock, the wind, and placing a deposit on our eight Rhode Island Red Chicks.

Now: That post was published just about a year ago. The culture shock has significantly subsided although it took a good 6-8 months.  The wind will never change but we’ve learned to deal with it and I don’t mind it so much anymore.  In fact, some days I think the sound of it is beautiful.

Month Two: Putting Down Roots

Then:  We began to settle in to our new community.  Our biggest challenge then was losing our fall crop to the first hard frost ~ a crop that had been protected against the elements.

Now: This fall we learned our lesson: our hoops above theprevious crops were too high allowing too much cold air in between the plants and the covers.  This year we lowered them significantly and have been able to keep our heirloom lettuces growing.

Month Three: Making Plans

Then: Husbie began work on our chicken coop and we began to knock around the idea of dairy goats or other some such livestock.  Our spinach that had overwintered had sprouted and started to grow earlier than anticipated.

Now: Coop is finished and inhabited (more on that later).  We’re too overwhelmed at this point to take on anything else just yet.  What were we thinking?  The spinach: it grew, we harvested a small amount but enough that we still have some “stored away” in our freezer at the moment.

Month Four: The Leap of Faith

Then: We made the major decision to take a leave of absence from computer consulting to see if we could earn enough as market growers to make a go of it.  That was our big news.  We also planted a number of young seedlings to use as a windbreak.

Now: We learned there unfortunately isn’t much of an interest in our little neck of the woods in heirloom organic vegetables to make a living full time.  While growing and selling wholesale might still be something of a possibility, we don’t have the infrastructure for that yet.  So husbie had to go back to work some part /some full time.  With the exception of a few losses, nearly all of the 200 trees we planted survived the summer and seem established enough that they will survive the winter.  We look forward to seeing them take off in the spring.

Windbreak 101 Black Fox Homestead.com

Month Six: Reality Check

Then: We struggled with bolting spinach, and wonky weather.

Now: We ate the spinach and the weather is still wonky, we’ve learned to plant extra and just always be prepared for the unexpected.  ::shrug:: What else can one do?

Month Seven: The Expectations and Reality of a New Market Grower

Then: We took our local Farmer’s Market by storm and discovered, as mentioned above, that there is little interest here in local organic produce.  People here want corn, GMO or not; and round, red tomatoes in February.

Now: I still feel very strongly about our lifestyle:  what we grow and how we eat.  I feel a burden to share it with others.  Perhaps this will catch on some day, perhaps the market isn’t the best platform to share my passion.  We’re looking at other options.

Month Eight: The Arrival of the Chickses!

Rhode Island Red Chicks

 

Then: After years of wanting chickens we finally brought our little flock home.

Now: The girls are growing, well past 24 weeks and just chillin’.  Laying they are not; hopefully by this spring we’ll have eggs.

Month Nine: Two Steps Back

Then: We finally sold our home, and as the spring crops phased out, we were in a holding position until the summer crops phased in.  We also realized that once again, we may not have the infrastructure just yet to go great guns with market crops.  We stepped back into a holding pattern to reevaluate what is/is not doing well.

Now: We’re still in that holding pattern but our summer crops, when they phased in, did not disappoint.  While we didn’t have quite enough to sell, we had more than enough for ourselves.  I have several beautiful quarts of canned tomatoes in my pantry.

Months Ten and Eleven: The Garden: What Worked and What Didn’t

Then: We took stock of what our garden was able to support and what didn’t hoping to make better plans for next year.

Now: We took our cues from that evaluation when we planted our fall crops and enjoyed a sufficient harvest.  We are looking very hopefully towards the spring.

beets

In Retrospect:

Homesteading is a beautiful lifestyle.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I could never see the sun rise from my bedroom in the city.  I had never before stood with my husband in a pitch black field as we watched a golden harvest moon inch above the horizon.

I had never seen such glorious sunsets or felt a part of the seasons as they change.

There is nothing more thrilling than planting a seed and eight weeks later heading out with a colander from the kitchen to fill with greens for supper.

Homesteading is also incredibly hard.

The slick coffee table picture books and reality tv shows don’t often capture the fact that so many things are beyond your control.  The weather can change in an instant and mother nature isn’t always your friend.

As far as plans not working out as you hoped they would, our homestead was founded on broken dreams.  I have learned that is just life.  I have also learned that broken dreams, if you allow them, can be an incredible blessing in disguise.  Someone once said “Not getting what you want is sometimes a stroke of luck.”

I don’t know what year two will hold in store for us.  I have decided that rather than make  our plans and force them to go one way or another; it would be best to stand back, and let whatever we’re supposed to do here just grow organically, on its own.  The right thing will happen in its own way and in its own time.

cows and a rainbow

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Comments

The First Twelve Months: Month Twelve ~ This is Home — 52 Comments

  1. I long to escape to a homestead. We have a small 9 acre. 151 year old, falling down farm. Our business keeps us from enjoying it at the moment. Enjoy your blessings.

  2. Jen, I remember when you were first moving in! I can’t believe it has already been a year. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post.

  3. Wonderful post! I’m glad you didn’t give up and head back to the city! :) It’s a beautiful life, and it gets better all the time! Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. This is a lovely journal of your first year of homesteading. Look how far you’ve come in a year and how much you’ve learned. I admire your choice and your commitment, and your photos tell it all! Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing this Jenny. God’s blessings on your new year! God’s mercies are new every morning! ~Katie

  5. What a beautiful reflection! We are ending year 2 on our homestead and I am amazed at home much I’ve learned and how far we’ve come- and how far we have yet to go!

  6. What a great post! It’s made me think back on our last year and really think about what worked and what didn’t work. You guys should totally get some goats, I’d get them in a heartbeat if we lived out in the country!

    • Hi Meredith! I’m still toying with the idea. I think we will eventually. We definitely have the space for it, just not the fencing at the moment.

  7. Homesteading can be a very bittersweet life…from finding your hen house raided by possums to biting into the first ripe tomato of the season, you really experience a lot of highs and lows. I think because I saw this as a child on the farm, I have been a bit more resilient than I would have been otherwise.

    I hope that year two contains way more highs than lows for you two! Best wishes!

  8. This is a very nice, honest and touchingly realistic post of what every new homesteader must go through – even very far back in the history of the U.S.A. Thank you, and please keep us updated.

  9. I really, really love this post and identified with so much of it. :-) “There’s nothing certain but change” seems to encapsulate our farm life. :-) I love it, treasure it, am so glad we’re doing it, but it knocks me sideways regularly and has turned me into a much more flexible person. :-)

    • I like how you put that, that it “knocks you sideways regularly”. Flexibility was never one of my strong points but I’m realizing now that is something that needs improvement. :)

  10. I’m so glad to have found your blog! I am sitting in a coffee shop drying my eyes as I read this post…we are a little over half-way with our homesteading first year. There is so much to be thankful for and I know that this is definitely where we are supposed to be. I’m anxious to read more.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • It is nice to meet you! Thank you so much for reading and best wishes on your first year of homesteading.

  11. I so enjoyed reading this. We recently made a move to start homesteading too. Bad organization on my part we lost our fall garden and the chicks grew so fast we had to empty out a storage shed so they had a home. Still only 3 months in and would never want to go back to the city.

    • I’m sorry about your garden. :( That was us last year. It is so difficult to work that hard and lose everything like that. We’re having better luck this year.

    • I did too. My parents had his Back Home Again album when I was little. I loved it. Best wishes on achieving your homestead some day. :)

  12. In about 2years we’ll be able to move to NC to start our own homestead adventure. This was an excellent post. letting us know what to expect. May all good things grow for you.

  13. I enjoyed your blog….I’ve been there and can relate!…Remember sometimes good enough IS good enough…Don’t let any one thing desuade you… If your able to feed yourselves and pay your bills your doing well. At the end of the day we don’t NEED much and will feel better with an uncluttered life!.. Homesteads are a nlessing. Enjoy yours!

    • Bonnie that is such good advice. My husband has frequently said to me that “good enough is perfect”. I’m a perfectionist and that is hard for me but this experience has been a good one it that it has forced me to let go of perfection and just focus on necessity. :)

  14. love this, thx. We are trying to do the same thing. Still in process of finding the right place in SC.

    • Hi Linda! I hope that something works out for you soon. We had one door close before this opportunity opened up. It was hard to be patient but worth the wait.

  15. I was raised on farm (child of the 60′s).I am so blessed to have been raised learning all about animals, plants, farming, family and friends. We grew most everything we ate, with no chemicals. Alwas had a couple acres for gardening , and fruit trees too! We raised cattle to milk make butter cheese and sold some and filled the freezer. We had chickens, ducks, pigs, geese & rabbits. We made sausages, cured our own hams, bacon etc. I milked cows till the day I got married the moved to town with my now ex husband. Miss the farm every day, mostly the animals. I recently moved to live in a little city on3/4 acre. Plan to have chickens and rabbits at least. I have always had the biggest garden I could. Now I can even have a bigger one. Loved your story. Would love to live on more acreage so I could do many of the things you are, Thank – you for bringing back memories of the things that make it all worthwhile. Good luck with your farm. It will get easier and better all the time!

    • Shelly thank you for sharing your memories with us. :) What an encouragement to know that all of that is possible. Blessings on your urban homestead. It sounds like it will be very productive.

  16. I have read of some of your struggles and triumphs over the past year at this or that link party and this was just a wonderful wrapup / synopsis for your first year. Congratulations on your successes thus far and your perseverance! :)