Our Christmas Gifts to Us

Recently, hubby came home from work and wanted to talk to me about our homesteading dream.  As he began spilling out all of his thoughts I sat there thinking, “He’s right.”  Yes hubby, I said it publicly – You are right!  🙂

We’ve been waiting for the perfect moment.

We’ve been waiting for that perfect location.

We’ve been waiting for the perfect property.

We’ve been telling ourselves that until all the pieces fall into place, we can’t make our homesteading dream a reality.  The problem with that philosophy is that we put our lives on continuous hold.  There is no perfect moment.  There is no perfect location.  There is no perfect property.

All the obstacles that seem to stand in our way are only there because we’ve put them there.  For 2+ years, we’ve stood in the way of making real progress toward our dreams, our goals and our desires.

Our Christmas gift to us was letting go of all those things holding us back.  It was realizing that the most important thing we could do was to make our dream reality.  Not next year or the year after, but now.

We aren’t in a perfect moment or a perfect location,  but we need to take advantage of the moment and we’re in a location we know.  Hubby and I have lived in this area for the last 19 years.  I was born and raised here.  Hubby spent the majority of his growing up years here.  Other than the 10 years we lived on the West Coast, we’ve lived most of our married life here.

We live in prime farm country.   No, we aren’t necessarily fond of the landscape, but we know the land and this land is made for raising food.  Better than some of the areas we’ve considered.

No, we don’t necessarily like the weather, but we are fully aware of what each season brings.

We have friends here.  We have family here.

Our girls like it here.  They love that it snows in the winter and that the snow sticks around to enjoy for days or even weeks at a time.  Then they have plenty of hot summer days for water fun.  They have activities they love and lots of friends.

We are well established in our homeschool group and I have trouble imagining a better group for us.

For these reasons and others, we realized that we don’t have to pack all our possession and move to another state to homestead.  We can homestead here as well or maybe even better than anywhere else.

Our other Christmas gift to us is to begin shopping for property that will allow us to fulfill our dream of  homesteading right here in Central Illinois.

It’s not our dream location, but we don’t always have to live out every detail of the dream for life to be truly wonderful.

The best Christmas gift we can give to us is being good to ourselves and for us that means finding our homestead.  That place in the country where we can garden, raise animals and begin living the life that we long to live.  A life in the country!

 

Should Have Known

When I was a little girl, the church we attended had a toy farm set.  I loved playing with those toys.  I would set up the fences, carefully place all the farm animals where they belonged and pretended to be the farmer.

Guess I should have known that one day I would want my own farm with real live farm animals-)

Today the girls and I purged toys and got everything organized.  Lili really likes having things in her life somewhat organized as do I.  As I was putting all the toy animals into a canvass box and into the cubby, I shared the story of how much I loved playing with the toy farm animals as a little girl.

My little farmer in the making said, “I want my own toy farm to play with.”  I told her to put it on her Christmas list.  Although if  truth be told, I’m kind of excited about the possibility of playing farm with the girls as I continue to dream about one day having my own farm.

 

 

Yes, We Still Long for It

A homestead that is.

Land in the country.

 

A house, smaller than the house we currently inhabit.

Animals.  Farm animals that serve many purposes for our family.

A view.  I want land with a view.  Not a view of flat lands and prairies where I can see for miles and miles, but hills.  Mountains.  Obstructed views that allow me to imagine what’s on the other side.

 

The dream hasn’t changed.  The dream continues.  The longing remains.

What hasn’t changed are circumstances.  Circumstances that keep us rooted where we are.

I have accepted that we have a purpose where we are now.  We have two little boys who are relying on us.  Two little boys who want to feel safe, secure and loved in their new environment.  And I see new signs everyday that they do feel safe, secure and loved.

But while we were here, I still long to be there.  To be on that homestead that for the time being, only exists in my dreams.

Absence

They say it makes the heart grow fonder.

My absence has been for good reason though, so let me try to quickly share.

As some of you know, about 2 1/2 years ago, we became foster parents.  We had two sisters, ages 4 & 6 for about a month before they went on to live with another family.  There were many emotions wrapped up in a small package and after the experience we put foster parenting on hold and eventually turned in our license.  We had set a goal to move to our own little homestead for a life of more self-sufficiency and discussed the possibility of getting back into foster care once we were on the farm.

Fast forward 2 years and we aren’t on that farm nor do we know when that might happen.  We’ve put many things on hold while we have been waiting to make that dream our reality, including foster care so for many personal reasons, we decided to reinstate our foster care license.   Our reinstatement was quick and we got our license in the mail about 1 1/2 weeks ago with the expectation that we wouldn’t get a call until after our late summer/early fall trip.  Imagine my surprise when our licensing worker called late Thursday afternoon about two brothers, ages 7 months and 3 years, who were sitting in the Department of Children and Family Services office and in need of a home.  So many things went thru my mind in a matter of seconds, including the fact that hubby was out-of-town on business and wouldn’t return until Saturday night.  Then I said, “We’ll take them” and our life has been full of craziness ever since.  Not that our life wasn’t crazy before, but taking in two little guys who have been thru so much in such a short period of time adds an element of craziness that is difficult to explain.

As expected, we have had some challenging moments – A 3-yr-old with big feelings that have come out in some tough behaviors and a baby, who I now know is almost 9 months old, and who doesn’t feel comfortable enough to fall asleep (he only slept about 6 hours during the first 24 hours here and hasn’t improved a lot since then).  But we’ve also had some very enjoyable moments like watching Naomi and the 3-yr-old (who I’ll call TT) laugh and play together.  Or seeing the baby (who I’ll call TK) finally smile and belly laugh.  Although some of the most enjoyable moments have been watching Lili care for TK.  It’s the first time she’s spent this much time with a baby and she has been so gentle and nurturing.  She got the first smile from TK and he lights up when she walks in the room.

I know we have many more tough moments ahead of us, but I also know that we’ll have many more enjoyable moments ahead as well.  We just have to ride the waves and do the best we can.

Longer periods of absence here seem inevitable right now.  Please know it’s not that I have forgotten about my little blog and it’s not that we’re put our homesteading dreams aside.  While we’re waiting and hoping for our homestead goal to fall in place, we’ve accepted a very important role as caregiver for two cute little boys who need our love, nurturing and family right now.

I hope you’ll check in from time-to-time and I’ll do my best to update any chance I get.

How Have Things Really Changed?

I was asked a question by a WOW reader. What is interesting about her question is that I had been pondering the same question myself.

“having been to the Farmy have any of your ideas changed?”

The short answer to this question is, yes.

First, let me go back a few blog posts when I mentioned that our homestead isn’t happening in the foreseeable future.   In that post I said I would discuss this later and I think now is an appropriate time.

While our plan has not changed, the timing of our plan has now changed.  Hubby and I would very much like our own little farmy to happen sooner rather than later, but sometimes life and the responsibilities of life have to take the lead.  Our hope had been to find property by this fall, but upon further inspection and introspection, we decided that it would make more sense for us to wait several months before we begin our property search again.  Not that I haven’t perused the real estate sites from time-to-time, but we won’t be making any property shopping trips in the near future.

Our last property search made us much more aware of some things that we needed to take care of at home before we could move forward.  Much like our visit to the “farmy” has made me much more aware of things to look for and think about as we move forward in finding property.

For example, we have struggled with the amount of land we should purchase.  Our visit to the “farmy” gave me a much better picture of how we could set things up on less land.  Maybe I don’t need to look at the 30 acre pieces of property, even though most of those 30 acres are in trees.  What if we find 5 acres of land, is that sufficient?  10 acres?  How many acres of land do we need in trees if we want to use wood as our heat source?  How many acres of pasture?  My visit and conversations with Cecilia has caused me to seriously reconsider some of our land requirements.

I had also envisioned spreading things out more on our little farm, but now see how having things closer to the house makes much more sense.  A more compact farm makes complete sense to me.  Less steps to the barn.  Less steps to the garden.  Less steps to the orchard.

We had also been concerned about having too much open land.  In our minds open land means more work for us.  That thought process had changed for me now.  More open land means more pasture for grazing.   If we want to raise pasture fed meat, then having more open land is a good thing.

So how have things really changed since our visit to the “farmy?”

I feel like I have a much better vision of what it will take for us to create a successful farm for our family.  I better understand the importance of keeping things compact.  I see the amount of work it takes to run a farm and having everything close will help us run our farm efficiently.  Finding ways to make work easier is key.

This was also the first time I was able to see guinea fowl at work.  They are indeed noisy birds, but I love the noise they make.  I love the fact that they move all around the farm, hard at work taking care of bugs.

 

As I stated in my last blog post, I now want a cow.  I didn’t want a cow before.  They are big animals and the bigger the animal, the more the feed.  However, I hadn’t considered how milk from cows can be fed to other animals such as chickens and pigs.  I hadn’t considered how much good compost a cow can produce.  I didn’t realize how easy it is to make wonderful, creamy butter.  Because I hadn’t considered a cow on our farm, I didn’t think about the fact that a calf could potentially be raised for meat.  Cows have great purpose on a farm.

The thing that probably changed the most for me is how my desire to live the homesteading lifestyle grew.  Being there and participating in a small way made that fire burn hotter and I am armed with more knowledge that will only help in our little farm’s success.

Now, as I peruse the real estate sites, I’m armed with more information, a better vision and knowledge that will help us find the right property for our homestead.  A slower pace to our future than we had first hoped, but we’ll get there one day.

 

 

Shop Til You Drop

We left early Friday morning for another property shopping trip and looked at a total of 8 properties. By the end of the day Saturday, I was exhausted. We saw some beautiful properties, but each of them had something that just didn’t appeal to us. Not that we are expecting to find any property that is absolute perfection, but these properties had some big things missing or some problem we just couldn’t deal with.

On Friday we looked at three properties.

The first property was nice and although it didn’t have a pond, there was a spot that could very easily become a pond. It was down a road that had several other nice homes along the road and once a portion of the land was cleared of the trees, we would have had some nice privacy. What we wouldn’t have, was the view we are hoping to get. We would simply be nestled amongst the trees, which isn’t a bad thing, but not what we want.

The second property had way too many negatives to list, so I’ll just say that we only visited for maybe 5 minutes before driving away.

The third property had some potential, until we started walking closer to the pond and discovered how marshy the land was. We had too much concern about flooding and just weren’t sure where we could build without flooding being a potential problem.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early and at the realtor’s office shortly after 9:00. We headed out to property #1, which was the property we were most excited about seeing.

Getting to the property required that we cross a beautiful creek that winds its way thru the country and is part of the property. As we pulled into the driveway, about a dozen wild turkey began running and flew away over the trees. It was a spectacular site and we were immediately drawn to this beautiful piece of land. The property sits at the top of a hill, overlooking the Ozarks. It has a pond on the property, which we could only get a glimpse of because of the overgrowth, which means we would have some work clearing things off. There was a lot of open land for farming. For a matter-of-fact, a chicken coop is already on the property, along with a storage shed. The girls loved the swing hanging from one of the big trees and there was a play house for the kids. We began walking the trail thru the woods, leading to the creek. About 33 acres of trees which has deer stands and turkey blinds set up. After a walk up and back down the hill, we finally arrived to the creek. It was gorgeous, which a large rock bar and I could imagine many summer days spent at the creek fishing for perch, crawfish and looking for turtles. As perfect as the property sounds though, there were some problems, the biggest of which was one of the neighbors. This neighbor owns cattle and decided that he owned the creek, so he put fencing up to allow his cattle free access to the water. He only owns the land to the middle of the creek and the property owners took him to court, spent thousands of dollars and the end result was an agreement that he could leave up the fencing and put up a gate giving the property owners access to the creek. It just wasn’t a good deal in our book and was now deeded that way, so the new owners would be buying property that ran to the middle of the creek, but could only access the creek by going thru a gate and climbing thru barbed wire fencing. There was also the problem of crossing the creek twice getting to the property which does flood and would make the road impassable during heavy rains. So we drove away saying no to the property that had so much going for it.

We drove onto the next property with an old rustic cabin sitting up on the hill overlooking another creek. There wasn’t easy access to the creek and all the open land sat at the bottom of a steep hill. Every time I went to my garden I would be hiking up and down the hill. It would have been great exercise, but also very inconvenient. The land would have been great for sheep and okay for goats though.

The next property was so unimpressive, that I can’t even remember details of the property, but the fourth property was intriguing. I found a nice spot for building that would have give us a beautiful view and there was a nice trail going thru the approximately 49 acres of woods. There was a small pond on the property, but we would once again need to go a lot of clearing to access the pond. The bigger problem was the neighbors property which was very run down. We would be looking at that property every day and it also meant less privacy on our property than what we are hoping to get.

The last property would have offered us some great views, but the owner has been running a logging operation (which the realtor didn’t realize until we went to look at the property). He has cleared a nice spot for building, but has also taken a lot of other trees off the property that would have been better left. It was off a heavily travelled highway and would make an awesome location for a roadside stand. However, it also means contending with a lot of traffic noise up and down the highway. Since we have no plans for a roadside stand and don’t want to listen to cars and trucks all day and night, we said no.

With that, our weekend of shopping was done and we now know of 8 properties we don’t want to purchase which puts us that much closer to finding that one property we really want to buy.

We also had the opportunity to talk to a couple of folks from the area who gave us some great information that will help us as we move forward in our search. Information can be a powerful tool when used correctly.

After a good night’s sleep, we packed up and headed back to Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. They have a festival the first Sunday of each month from spring thru fall. There were vendors selling plants, homemade baked goods, crafts, herbal creams, and much more. They had live music and of course the store was open for buying seeds. We met up with some friends and spent the day enjoying each other’s company as we browsed the vendor tents. Eventually, I made my way into the seed store and came out with 14 packets of herb seeds along with a free packet of romaine lettuce seeds (they give you a free packet of seeds with each seed purchase). I’m not on my way to starting my own herb garden.

It was a really good weekend and I look forward to our next property shopping trip in the not too distant future.

 

Ready to Pay the Price

After months and months and months of planning and researching and searching, our homesteading dream is finally happening.

The excitement!!

The joy!!!!

The utter amazement!!!!

Bring on the chickens, goats, pigs, ducks, turkeys, and sheep!!!!

Let’s get this garden started!!!!

And I can’t forget the orchard!!!!!  Apples, pears, cherries, and peaches.  Yum, yum!!!

I’ll also grow grapes and I’ll eat them off the vine and make jelly.

Oh, wait a minute . . . . .

April Fools!!!!!!

Our homesteading dream isn’t technically happening, but we are going back to Missouri to look at potential property.  We have a realtor that will be showing us 9 properties near Ava, Missouri and another realtor will be showing us some properties around the Buffalo, Missouri area.  I do feel that we’re making progress in the right direction.

While nothing has necessarily changed, the dream remains.