This past year has been one of great challenges. When I look back at all that has happened, I am amazed to be sitting here blogging again, still under the same roof, surrounded by my 4-legged menagerie of furry friends. Over the past couple of weeks I have been re-reading previous posts, deleting some that I wasn’t happy with–primarily those that sounded more like my personal journal or a few that ruminated over the dramatics of a brief and, hopefully, soon forgotten “relationship”; the latter is definitely not one of my strong suits. But I digress. This blog is about homesteading, a single woman homesteading in rural-Connecticut on just under an acre of land.
The challenges of this past year? For starters, a year ago I was facing foreclosure, terrified I was going to lose everything that I have worked so hard for in my life and, more importantly, the myriad creatures who share this home with me and make it all worthwhile. For me, it is all about the animals; it always has been. One of the biggest goals of this homestead is to provide a safe haven for unwanted and/or abused pets and small livestock (as many as I can adequately care for), and a wildlife sanctuary where all manner of wild creatures may find a safe place free from the threat of hunting or urban encroachment. The latter part I have only a limited amount of control over; I live in the commercial district with grandfathered use. Traffic grows ever thicker due to the recent opening of yet another Walmart store. Normally, I am not as opposed to Walmart as most people are. I understand their less than stellar practices but, another side of me is the self-proclaimed tightwad who is always looking for a bargain. I do not find Walmart to be cheaper on all things and, even some of those items that are cheaper at Walmart have a less than stellar quality, but I am not hosting viewings of “Walmart, the Movie” in protest of the chain. We did protest this Walmart, as it abuts a very important wetlands, but failed. And, unfortunately, this particular Walmart falls short of even, well, Walmart standards being poorly-lit, disorganized and inadequately stocked. The heavy traffic, however, affects the homestead in higher carbon emissions, noise pollution and, being a homestead where passersby see myriad animals in the yard, it is the recipient of unwanted pets. Yes, I know I said earlier that taking in unwanted pets is a large part of what this homestead is about but, where I am going with this statement is that people simply leave their pets on the doorstep and I have Suicide 6 just beyond the front yard; rare the animal, especially cats, that hasn’t lost its poor life to Route 6 before I can befriend it enough to bring it safely indoors. It is heartbreaking! The latest was a pair of orange tabbies. One of them lost its life in early-February during a snowstorm. The dreaded thump-thump as he/she met their end awakened me at 5 am-ish. By the time I was up, dressed, etc., the plows and early morning commuters had eradicated any distinguishing features. The ground was so frozen I would not have been able to bury him/her anyway. That same evening after he was struck down I heard a “meow” outside my kitchen window. This is how I discovered there were two orange tabbies. The second one is still surviving. I have been putting food outside and was actually able to pet this one but he/she scurried away when I tried to pick them up to get them inside where the threat of traffic and also predation, as my backyard butts up against a shallow forest that sees all manner of wild creatures, would disappear.
Another challenge this year has been the loss of my stepfather and the soon-to-be addition of a roommate–my mother! While I am saddened by the loss, it has not been unexpected as he was given less than a year to live last November. They were both supposed to come to live with me last fall but his doctor felt traveling would not be in his best interest (they live in Missouri) as he was on oxygen almost 24/7. With his passing, however, Mom is ready to travel, to come home. She is planning a trip to Tennessee to visit my brother and sister-in-law, Shaun and Stefanie, and her two granddaughters, Leah and Zoey, first and then she, the dog and the cat will come here. I am ecstatic; it has been many years since I have seen my mother as homesteading alone with livestock and pets to care for makes travel very limited, if at all. Having her here will be a blessing…and a challenge!
A blessing because I love my Mom and I have missed her over the years that she has been away. Also, she has quite the green thumb and it will be fun having someone to play in the garden with. She is the creative type; I am sure we will have some great times crafting, going to yard sales and flea markets, antiquing, plant nurseries and various other endeavors. But the challenge will be getting her onboard with this whole homesteading concept. It is not just green living, as she calls it, but deep green living; it may be a culture-shock for her. There will be an adjustment period for both of us as we re-learn each other’s ways but I am confident we are both equal to it. For myself, it will mean being a little more flexible. The homestead will no longer be cable-less; Mom has certain TV shows that she loves. And that’s okay because, as a family, and in today’s challenging economy, families can and should be pulling together as a unit for survival. Aunt Sandy may become another roommate in the not-so-distant future so the homestead will be growing; energy usage and modern accoutrements will also be a growing facet of the homestead. Eventually, not the total abolishment of modern accoutrements but the alternative energies to power them. I have already taken the first step in becoming both a customer and a representative of North American Power. At present, I am only using 25% green energy; once my introductory period is over, I am switching to 100% green energy with that energy coming from the wind farm in New Jersey from where NAP gets their supply.
One of those re-learning adjustments will be in personal habits. I am the OCD/OCPD person; everything has its place. Mom has multiple “junk” drawers as she calls them. Of course, I say this about myself of having everything in its place but, last year’s foreclosure threat brought about a depression so deep that I lost interest in all but the bare essentials. The homestead has been sadly neglected. The animals are hale and hearty but the grounds and the house itself are dusty, disorganized and I am scrambling to straighten it out, to get its appearance back as comfortable and cozy for Mom’s arrival. I am also struggling to make room for Mom’s things as she will be bringing some furnishings and special treasures of her own.
However, probably the biggest challenge with having Mom as a roommate will be the constant “battle” to not be reduced to a child again; nearly impossible as I am her child even if I am close to 50 years old. She’s been having kittens over my becoming a full-time (online anyway) student again plus the homestead, freelancing, two businesses to grow (NAP and my holistic practice with Dr. Tobin, DC), 5 additional classes with the local library, volunteering in the Folk Group at church and at Old Sturbridge Village and working off-site at the dealership. She wants me to slow down. I am trying to figure out if, once I complete the 5 additional classes, can I handle another degree program with Everglades University in receiving my ND (Naturopath Doctor)? I am currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with an Emphasis on Biblical Studies with Grand Canyon University. The work load has been a little overwhelming at times but I made a promise and I intend to honor it as well as I am able.
This was the miracle that saved the homestead. I did what we all do in times of crisis–I wheeled and dealed with God. I wasn’t sure how I would pay for it, or find the time for the studies (He would have to take care of those details for me) but, if He would save the home from foreclosure and, most importantly, my animals from suddenly being homeless and the agony it would bring me from being parted from them, I would become the best minister that I could for Him. In November, I received Emergency Mortgage Assistance, full benefits at a time when this is becoming as rare as flying goats. Even the mediator at the courthouse said this was nothing short of a miracle. Granted, in 5 years, I will have to pay it back as it is a loan but I also intend to put this time to good use, to be more productive and grow my businesses, my writing career and the homestead so that Mom and I can live comfortably throughout the autumn and winter of our lives. I intend to live up to my part of the bargain with the Lord but, I confess, there have been plenty of weak moments when I am ready to walk away and quit. Last week saw one of the lowest points ever but, after turning the matter over to Him, my confidence was bolstered and I am happy and confident again. If I am going to be that minister, then I am going to have to learn discipline and better time management skills; GCU has certainly been helpful in these areas. One of our first lessons was in time management. This is one lesson that went straight to the heart and, by taking it step by step, I am finding ways to incorporate those time management lessons into my daily life as well as my college life.
Homesteading has been a lifelong dream of mine. I am still trying to do it all at once; I am learning through trial and error, and higher education that each goal has to be taken in increments so that the skills are learned and stay part of you for life. This is a lesson worth learning. And Mom will understand.
God bless you and keep you!