On Mother's Day Sarah told me to sit down - that she was making dinner, and she did.
Hazel (our cat) has been joining the goats for their afternoon snooze.
Thomas is home for the summer and it is wonderful. He is the activity director here and had everyone out playing hit the wiffle balls over the house to the others on the other side within an hour of being home.
I think I have finally figured out what has been eating at me this last
year or so, why I have been feeling so discontent. I have been afraid of others thinking our
family is poor. Because of the choices
our family makes each day, from the outside we do probably appear poor by the
standards of the American Culture.
Just after reading the first few pages of Saved - How I Quite Worrying
About Money and Became the Richest Guy in the World, by Ben Hewitt, I could
relate so well to a man in his book, Erik.
In 2007, when our family ended up settling on 3 leased acres of land and
buying a 1984 mobile home to put on the leased land and then living in that
mobile home with no electricity or running water for over two years with five
and then six children, I never felt poor but oh my goodness, did neighbors and
church members assume we were. It was
very disconcerting when the day before Thanksgiving a church couple shows up at
our door with a Thanksgiving dinner box - you know the frozen mega-farm turkey
with the boxed side dishes and canned veggies.
(Now, there are truly people in need and what a blessing this would be,
but we were not.) It is so true how our
culture relates your status to appearances - how nice your house, clothes, car
are.... and if you don't meet these
expectations then you are surely poor and down trodden, just like Ben Hewitt
mentions in Saved.
Our family would be enjoying a pasture raised fresh turkey that
Thanksgiving that probably cost nearly 10 times that of the frozen one because
we choose to use our money differently than many. We would rather have one local, pasture
raised turkey per year than a weekly chicken raised with antibiotics and fed
who knows what at a commercial farm. We
politely declined the food box and told them that there were surely more needy
families than ours.
When Mike and I decided to embark on a journey of not relying on a high
income to support our family and instead work, play and learn together as a family, we also decided that we
would commit ourselves to not supporting corporate America and do our small
part by making and growing as much as we can ourselves, keep our bodies healthy
through working the land and daily chores, and find joy in the simple pleasures
of life. We committed ourselves to not
going in debt except for our rustic cottage (in which our loan is now just
$55,000 and will be paid off in 9 years).
Sometimes it can be hard having a very old car and worrying about it
being reliable but to have a car payment and then the extra insurance that is
required and then really, why not drive a car until it is completely used up -
that seems better for our earth anyway.
When we first bought our home almost four years ago, it was such a feeling
of euphoria - to have more space and land of our own. It has
been so easy to let the feelings of inadequacy creep in - the house needs new
siding, paint, a new roof - what are people going to think?
What is with that - what are people going to
think??? Boy do I need to get over that
and realize how blessed I am that we live on little, have no debt except our
home, and eat healthy food and live in a community where so much local food is
I feel myself being revived, rejuvenated, and refreshed as our family
discusses our goals and values and reassesses where we are at and where we
would like to go.
(Full Disclosure: I was mailed a copy of Saved from the publisher and will be reviewing it some more when I finish reading it.)
Still working on the last ball of yarn for the rustic rainbow blanket. I finished a hat for the Kenyan school and
have cast on another. On a car trip to
meet my father in Woodstock to pick up Isaac I started a new project. The Matinee Jacket from Vintage Knits for
Modern Babies. I am using some beautiful
merino hand dyed yarn from a barter with Springtree Road Yarns.
I splurged and ordered a new book, On God's Side - What Religion Forgets
and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good, after hearing the author, Jim Wallis, on
NPR. After listening to him for just a
few minutes I knew he was speaking my language. I have long had a hard time with many
churches, people, factions, etc that call themselves Christian. While it is not for me to judge, and I do my
best not to, I have never understood why so many only stress salvation in order to have eternal life. Please
don't misunderstand me, this is huge but I never felt that - that was all. I just knew that God's main purpose of
sacrificing his son was not just for what is to come but was also to teach us
what we are to do now, during our short stay here in this world. Why would God waste his time making such a
beautiful creation if we are not to care for it? Didn't Jesus teach us to pray saying,
"thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I know that it is not enough to be kind, go
to church, accept Jesus into our hearts.
I always have felt that so many American churches are getting it
wrong. Jesus' main teachings are to
take care of those that need to be taken care of... the poor, the forgotten,
the rejected. That is where I am at in
my faith. I am praying for God to show
me every day how to serve and how to make even the smallest decisions,
like should our family be concerned
about what we want or need and to question spending money God has given
us, when there are children in
orphanages that don't even have a pillow to lay their head down at night. Jim Wallis really gets into how much better
it would be if everyone would forget their agendas (political, conservative,
liberal, etc..) and instead, work for the common good.
I especially like this comment on the back cover ~
"Thank God this is not just another book about God blessing us. It's a book about us blessing God by caring
for God's people, especially the most vulnerable ones among us." - Shane
Claiborne, author, activist and recovering sinner; thesimplyway.org
If not, I highly recommend it. It was great watching it with Isaac (age 14) and Abby (almost 13). Isaac hasn't stopped talking about it - about how eating a plant based diet can actually reverse some types of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Of course he like to share the more graphic open heart surgery scenes. Abby made a list of the vegetables and fruits she likes.
The studies didn't seem to say that having a pasture raised burger once a month or even a glass of raw milk each day is harmful, but what is harmful is the quantity of meat, sugar, and corn syrup the average American consumes and of course this is now relevant to people all over the world as more and more adopt that American diet.
It amazes me that more doctors don't work with their patients to change their diets before prescribing drugs, or maybe it really doesn't. Are doctors not aware that diet is key, or are they really getting large kick-backs from pharmaceutical companies, or has the health care system made it so that they cannot spend a decent amount of time with each patient to even consider nutrition counseling.
I do believe that ultimately it is the responsibility of each of us to take the time to learn what works best for our bodies and most of it is truly common sense.
Our family has been going through a bit of a time wondering if we should
put our small homestead on the market and move two hours south to be closer to
family and also to be a little bit more in "civilization". Is there any way we could sell our small
homestead, use the equity to get a larger mortgage in order to buy a place with
land? (Go into more debt????)
We have been asking ourselves if we are denying our children opportunities
by not being around a larger population where they can take art classes,
computer classes, be more likely to meet mentors? Or, perhaps I just have a bit of wanderlust;
wanting to experience new areas.
Another reason we have been considering new options is because of the
demands of our business on me. I worry
all the time that I am not meeting the needs of our children - being fully present,
keeping up with creative activities to do with them and supporting their
interests (educational opportunities that arise organically).
My brain is so often consumed with our business because I am the one that
does the online work and that is the source of our income - presently the only
Finally, despite our business growing by huge percentages the last three
years, it still seems as though we are just getting by. I am grateful we can pay our bills and eat
healthy food, but there is nothing leftover to save for the huge list of needs (sawdust collector, table saw, wood stove, new roof, car repairs, fuel efficient car, milking stand, baby buck) and wants (cure that wanderlust and visit family more
So Mike and I have been considering what our options are - do we go back to
him having a "regular" job and move to central Vermont? That option isn't making a lot of sense though as it
really goes against what we have worked so hard to achieve. It can seem alluring to be around “culture”
more – to be able to browse bookstores or sit and have a coffee at a café; to
visit art studios and attend fairs. We
have even thought maybe we should just buy a simple house in a small village
But, what would we be giving up?
Our business does allow us time on our own terms. If we can afford to take a day trip or go for
a hike or attend a homeschool event – we can do it.
The satisfaction of working with natural materials that are most readily
returned to the earth feels good to us – it feels right.
Our small rustic homestead is on 3.5 acres (the desire to also own more land
is on our wish list so that we can work toward being more self-sufficient) –
but perhaps we can talk to neighbors (neighbors up here means within a three
mile radius) and barter firewood, for example. Maybe a neighbor wouldn’t mind if we tap
ten trees next March. After getting more
than enough birch for our business from the electric line clearing lately, I also wonder that we perhaps could continue to find ways to make our business work.
This little homestead IS providing more of our needs each year. For example, we are so excited about all the
blossoms on our three year old blueberry bushes this year.
So many wants are “of the world wants” and probably even several of what we
consider to be needs. Working through
the blessings and the desires of our hearts and reminding ourselves that we are
living our dream will help keep us on this path – a path that is narrow and
overgrown – one where I often feel like an alien on planet earth but after considering the alternatives, will continue on.