Being a project-oriented person, I tend to move on to the next idea before the current project is completely resolved. Bret and I balance one another well that way; he thrives on structure and method, which proves a perfect counter to my tendency to bounce from thought to thought randomly. One of the ways I have learned to reign that in even a little is through establishing consistent habits and routines.
When one is looking at building a homestead from scratch, there are a hundred little projects that all will require attention at some point. I find it easy to get lost in the ideas. We are not even on land yet, and I am already planning how to acquire more property for the sheep, cabin, market gardens, and greenhouse. Dreaming about possibilities fuels the fire of determination in my heart, but it can also become counterintuitive. Sometimes while we wait, it is wise to evaluate just how far we have already come.
Five years ago, I had a basic general knowledge of where food originates. I knew that there are foods that feed health and foods that feed disease. I did NOT know that marigolds are essentially a garden’s best friend or that planting beautiful varieties of flowers would benefit a vegetable garden so immensely. They draw beneficial pollinators, they confuse and deter pests, they provide beauty and inspiration, and some are even edible as well! Okra flowers are decadent and beautiful, and a single tomatillo plant can reseed itself in huge numbers. I had 17 volunteer tomatillo plants in my garden the last year I planted! They had to be pulled from every walkway, from the corn patch, from in between sunflowers, and we still found more rogue seedlings. Mint is as much of a garden bully as everyone says. At this point, I think it only fair to apologize to the family that now lives in our old valley house, since that is one of the lessons I learned the hard way. Pomegranates CAN grow in our 7b growing zone, but it took 4 years and planting them near the pool to keep them warmer in winter months. They did NOT like being in planters, even to keep them frost-safe in the winter. Do not bother planting peppers or tomatoes unless you can give them heat and light; they are the ultimate sun worshippers. If you leave Brussels sprouts seeds all winter thinking they just would not germinate, they may decide to actually sprout in the spring as a nice surprise between your planned spring crops.
Animals are another whole level of adventure. Baby rabbits LOVE getting on top of their houses, and when they notice you coming their way, the sentry will give the cutest little double-stomp warning to all its brothers and sisters. This was one of my favorite occurrences, since it invariably sent 8-10 bunnies running frantically in every direction with their adorable bunny tails and noses. Also, rabbits’ teeth are freakish and disturbing. Did you know rabbits can scream? We always played with our bunny babies so that they would be used to humans before they were old enough to sell, but there was always at least one in the litter that did NOT like to be touched. They are excellent at communicating displeasure when the need arises.
Watching chickens and how they interact in a group proved to be just as educational as my college Sociology course was. Rhode Island Red hens are excellent escape artists, and they very much prefer cat and dog food to the food scraps and chicken feed that we gave them fresh each day. Buff Orpingtons are happier to stay close to the coop, but they aren’t nearly as friendly. Little boys are always tempted to taunt the arrogant rooster, and that is never a good idea. All the girls will fight over one bread crumb with an entire feast right behind them just because they want what the others have. Sharing eggs with your neighbor is a nice peace offering when you cannot seem to win the Battle of the Chicken Run with the Rhode Island girls.
I spend my down time right now dreaming of raised garden beds, home renovations, fences, and wildflowers, but all that will come in its own good time. There will be hundreds of new lessons to learn from the plants and animals, and I cannot wait for every single one. I can understand why so many old stories include the wise aging farmer, because there is so much to learn from that life – about patience, resilience, and love. There is a deep satisfaction that accompanies being able to provide for those you love and for those in need, and there is born an innate understanding of how insignificant we are as single individuals in the grand scheme of our universe. Our earth really is merely on loan from those who come behind, and I want to steward my little part of the world well to share with pride all I can for my Princess and Buddy. Those who come behind us deserve the best that we can give.