My rubber boots have rested for a spell…and so have I. I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but there have been so many irons in the fire here on the homestead that I’m afraid blogging has been sadly neglected. All is well. In fact, I wrote this to the sound of absolutely gorgeous orchestral music being rehearsed in front of me. I attended the Anabaptist Orchestra Camp in IN last weekend with Evenstar, who played violin.
It dawned on me as we traveled there that this is the first time in eight years I have done something big alone with my oldest daughter, who for ten years was our only child. Before God blessed us with our remaining five children, she was my little girl. Now, as an adult, I greatly enjoyed this opportunity connecting with her. And I also didn’t mind taking a break from the intensity that has dominated us the past two years setting up our off grid homestead.
Yes, it will be two years in October since we moved to our wild 20 acre plot in the boonies. Slowly but surely the wilderness is being transformed into something productive and sustainable. Where there was only scrub, palmettos, and white sugar sand, now there are spots bursting with green and colorful growing things. We aren’t the only ones who love it. The birds and butterflies are attracted as well.
Working together with the occasional help of friends or family, we have a comfortable and cozy tiny house with a grand covered deck, a well, a windmill for pumping water, new fences, a small solar power system, a rainwater collection system partially done, fruit trees and perennials planted, fodder beds started for our chickens and livestock, sugarcane planted, an herb garden, and raised rows and beds for gardening. We’ve learned to make butter and various other dairy products from our goats’ and cow’s milk, cook with solar heat and a rocket stove, do basic blacksmithing (Silver Oak), and set up a successful rabbitry (Evenstar).
Our most recent projects have been planting 22 olive trees, gathering a huge load of free bamboo for trellising, rendering tallow and making soap, adding a much needed small air conditioner, and pouring a footer and building a support wall for the front of our tiny house to make it a better hurricane shelter. God has graciously provided to make these possible.
But there is much more to do, staring at us every day: paddock fences for rotating grazing, forage grasses and legumes planted, rainwater collection completed, trellises built for grow beds, and the greenhouse finished. With school lessons and instrument practices, Silver Oak doing landscaping in town, as well as installing windmills for other people, and the debilitating heat slowing us, how can we be productive with homestead projects?
Last year we got many comments about how hard we work and how tiring it was just to read about everything we were doing. Well, it made us tired too. We were running on adrenalin getting ourselves completely settled. But we are not created to live on adrenaline long-term. There must be rest and return to normal function or we will crash and burn.
On adrenaline and under great pressure we accomplished much by often staying up late at night. We even used Sunday afternoons to meet deadlines. We crashed from sheer exhaustion, only to get back up and going again. We had no time to think of vacations or extras. We were in survival mode. But is this really how God designed for us to be productive?
Rest. We finally came to our senses and let the dust clear a little. The Lord helped us out with some obvious stresses and reproofs that got our attention, and we re-evaluated. He gently reminded us that from the beginning of creation He designed us to work and then take times of rest on a regular basis. If the Lord practiced it Himself to demonstrate this importance, shouldn’t we pay attention? So we again made it a priority to rest on Sundays (even though I realize the day He originally set aside for that was Saturday, which is another subject). And we’ve built simple family vacations and field trips into the schedule, whether or not everything’s finished.
Trust. We let some things go and gave more time to reach our goals, trusting God to take care of us in the meantime. An emergency is one thing, but creating our own crisis is pointless. Relationships are more important. While we may have legitimately been in emergency mode at first, we couldn’t stay there too long.
Early Rising. Psalms and Proverbs applaud the benefits of rising early in the morning. In emergency mode we stayed up late and usually dragged around the next morning. By nature I’ve always been a “night person,”much preferring to work late into the night. But I have had a revolution in my “old age.” This past year we’ve been getting to bed in better time and rising an hour early several mornings each week for family projects, experiencing a new level of energy and productivity.
A sense of excitement comes with planning what we’ll do together the next morning. The alarm is set an hour early. Upon rising we have personal quiet times of Bible reading and prayer, then grab a quick healthy snack before heading out with rubber boots and gloves. After a word of prayer everyone is given a job, often with older and younger ones working together.
There is nothing so invigorating as cool early morning air, the rising sun, and choruses of birds singing. There is a strong sense of family camaraderie in working together like this.
In the early mornings we have prepped holes for planting our fruit trees and built our grow beds and rows, hauling in manure from the barnyard or from under the rabbit hutches, spreading tree mulch, ashes, old hay, and other organic matter to build up the soil. We’ve cleared palmettoes, spread load after load of wood chips and leaves, and completed various other projects.
Rising early starts the night before by getting to bed on time. It doesn’t work every morning, but usually several mornings a week. It’s amazing what that extra hour can accomplish. Not only do projects move forward, but it’s a jump start which makes the rest of the day more productive.
During these hot summer months early mornings are especially important to avoid the blazing heat. As fall approaches we’re preparing to plant a vegetable garden, as that is Florida’s best growing season. Our incredible edible gourd vine planted in the spring has been uprooted, and the big gourd we saved is drying.
Buttercup finally had a calf, so we’re milking her again after a dry year, following a false pregnancy. Fresh sweet butter again, with no GMO’s!
There’s lots to do to keep a homesteading family busy and out of trouble. It’s a good life!
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