Reading the passage in Little House on the Prairie where Laura Ingalls Wilder recounts leaving in the wagon and watching out the back as their homestead grows smaller and smaller, becoming a tiny speck in the distance has always had a profound impact on me. When I read it as a girl, it seemed more tragic than the ending of Old Yeller. When I read it as an adult, it blew me away that they had built a cabin and homestead on the open prairie with their own hands, and then had to pack up and leave it behind. How did they do it? All I could explain it with is that we all do what we have to do in life, and just go on from there. They must have done just that.
At the beginning of September, I moved off of my own homestead. This post has been a couple months delayed, and for those readers who have been wondering where the blog posts went for so long, life has been busy. In early Summer, my husband of ten years and I parted ways after trying for a long time and realizing it was just not going to work. We needed to not be sharing a life and homestead together. It was as simple and as complicated as that. This was a weighty decision not taken lightly for me, not just because of the impact on our children, but because I had gotten to where I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing in life. Homesteading and homemaking were the dreams I had built a life around and I was at a point where I had to let go of that. It seems that letting go was meant to be the theme and major life lesson for these past few months. So, I shifted gears and redirected my energy from running a homestead to looking for a job and figuring out where I was going from there. Let me tell you, job-hunting after being a homemaker for the better part of ten years is frustrating. My college degree and work experience from a decade ago could only be stretched in so many creative ways, and in the middle of this economic downturn, jobs are far from abundant. In the meantime, I kept watering, harvesting and caring for my homestead knowing I would be saying goodbye soon, and gradually preparing the kids for all the changes ahead. I don't know that I could even describe the ways in which these parts of the summer were hard. The upside to things was that in the midst of upheavel, I endeavored to do everything I could think of to fortify myself for weathering the transition. I backpacked more than I had in years, I taught myself the banjo, I took up weightlifting with a friend to get in solid farm shape, I picked berries, I caught wildcrafted crawdaddy dinners, I dug out my old target throwing axe from College and found my axe-throwing aim was still fairly true, I worked on my storytelling skills, I went on expeditions through the wilds in search of rare carnivorous pitcher plants, I ate bear for breakfast, I made time for reading again, and found many ways to get to the center of who I am and cope with difficulty. While letting go of all the aspects of my life I enjoyed but couldn't take with me off of that homestead, I made darn sure to gather all the ones that I could take wherever I went.
Late in the summer, and opportunity came along to become a live-in farm intern at an intensive small-scale permaculture homestead in the area, and I jumped on it. I visited the farm, worked some mornings with the farmer, and we all decided it was a good fit. I figured that if 80 chickens to tend, bountiful permaculture gardens to work in, and breathtaking views of fields with grazing cows weren't enough to help see me through the transition off my own homestead, I didn't know what was. I packed up what would fit into my small but cozy new living quarters in the back of my friend's truck, and drove away watching my homestead grow smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. It was the height of the growing season, with crops in the field, berries on the vine, fruit trees taking off in their second year of growth, and chickens peacefully scratching for bugs. It was the perfect image of a dream realized, and will always stand in my mind as one of my greater accomplishments. I watched it disappear in the distance and had to let it go.
Time has fairly flown by since then, and I find myself settling into the rhythms of the seasons on this farm where I live and work and this new life I am creating for myself. I am both enjoying and navigating through the challenges of my half of the time as a single parent, and the other half of my time as a single individual. It is filled with much that is different, much that is the same, far less old stresses, a few new stresses, joys, losses, exciting adventures, and quiet moments all to myself. I can honestly say that life is good, but I would be lying if I said it was easy. Sometimes I miss my homestead terribly, and it hits me at the most surprising times like in the middle of preparing a garlic bed, helping with a chicken butchering workshop or turning compost. Farm work, however, is a very therapeutic endeavor for a displaced homesteader such as myself, and every time I clean a chicken coop or plant a cover crop, I feel a little better. I'm literally working through it. I have no doubt in my mind that I will have my own place to homestead again one day. That may sound like a very grandiose dream considering where I'm at right now, but I got there once somehow, so I'm sure that I can do it again. Whatever twists, turns and adventures life has in store for me, I know I am ultimately headed in that direction and it will be a good day when I arrive.
One evening when the kids were with me this past week, we had some friends coming over for a playdate, and decided to throw an impromptu Martinmas lantern walk at our new place. I spent the afternoon cooking some hearty food, baking a pecan pie and gluten-free brownies and mulling hot cider, and we gathered up all our lanterns from past Martinmas celebrations at our Waldorf school. We lit little candles all over the house, ate by candlelight and walked all over the property serenading the chickens and next-door goats with our lantern songs. When I was pouring up the hot cider, my son told me in a very serious manner that it felt like home now. I had to agree with him. It really did.