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one choice at a time

In homesteading, simplifying on 03/29/2010 at 11:02 am


While I feel compelled to share this season of our home with you, I find the act of doing so more than a bit intimidating. Namely because I am sure there will be plenty of occasion for failure, and well, that’s not pretty. But I’ve decided to step out anyway and hope that you’ll be gracious and allow a bit of floundering from time to time as lessons are learned and adjustments are made.

On that first crisp day of Autumn more than two years ago, I brought my weary body and a tiny wriggling bundle home from the hospital and something in me stirred in a way I have yet to articulate. My heart turned toward home. Suddenly the four walls and the creaky floor nestled beneath the oak became a canvas for memories…a binding for the pages of the story of us. We spoke many times in hushed voices over a sleeping babe of simplifying. Of editing our hours and days, months and years to allow space for living. Really living.

We talk and dream about land. We have an imaginary house on rolling green acres. But today, our family home is on a small suburban plot, just outside the city limits. We can throw stones at the neighbor’s houses (we don’t!) and be at the mall in five minutes. And really, we can’t complain. It’s the sort of neighborhood where neighbors call each other by their first names and children sell lemonade and cut flowers at your doorstep. It’s a wonderful place to grow up and for now, it’s where God has us. Still, we dream.

Over the past days and weeks, I’ve been pondering what it is about this imaginary place that enchants me so. And I’ve come to realize that it is not one grand thing, but a smattering of small, simple pleasures that I look forward to sharing with these dear ones entrusted to me. 

Gathering around a lump of dough…

a block of wood…

a fireside…

a table…

a whirring sewing machine…

a plot of freshly turned earth…

Breathing fresh life into the tales entrusted to us by grandfathers and aunts and cousins and passing them on for yet another retelling when we are gone.

The warm earth in our hands and fresh bread on our table.

And then the question comes: Why not now? Right now, on this very (small) plot of land, these things are not beyond reach. But I have to choose them. There is enough sunlight that I can plant beans and harvest squash and cook with herbs from pots in my window. I can stitch summer dresses and sacks. I can feed the birds and start a compost pile. I can catch rain for watering and stir up potions for scrubbing and scouring. And while we’re waiting for that dreamy plot of land I can curl up with words and pictures about chicken coops and the like. Learning. Tucking away.

But today I have time to learn and grow and play in the dirt with this little one at my heels. And as we make small, deliberate choices to simplify and savour, I hope you’ll offer your wisdom in that gentle way I’ve grown to love. And perhaps, one day we’ll look back and see a homestead built one day, one choice, at a time.

Right now I’ve got my nose buried in these…

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces

p.s. Thank you for all of the WONDERFUL gardening advice. I love it! Keep it coming!!!

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  1. i just ordered the first book on Amazon on Saturday. Yes, let’s make do with what we have.

  2. such truth to your words. they resonate with me, as well. there’s that “if only” factor: if only i had that dream home, if only we had more land, if only we had a bigger space, etc. i have found that simplifying my ideals and my life bring me closer to feeling at peace with what i have. it’s all about making due with what we’re given. i can’t wait to see what transpires from all your gardening advice!

  3. Thanks for this, Gina. I’m not at all happy with our current neighborhood — college kids stumbling home loud and angry with drink at all hours of the night, violence far enough that we can’t see it but close enough that we can hear it, busy traffic, bad schools. We can’t keep any outdoor toys for the kids because they get stolen. We can’t plant because neighborhood kids stomp through our yard and destroy anything they see, and we can’t put up a fence because we don’t own this house and we’re not allowed. There is a local park within walking distance so we can play, but we often have to leave because people will bring big dogs or start group fights or doing what looks like drug deals on the corner. I find myself hoping nearly every day that we can get out of this place. And it’s hard to choose to make this our home, to make those memories, when we are so actively trying to get out of here. My husband is doing a job search, and any job he gets will take us far away from here, which is kind of the point. So not only do I not like this place, but I constantly feel that it’s temporary, that any work I do may be all for nothing in a matter of months. But I also have the knowledge that we may not leave for years if he can’t find another job. This is my reality.

    I want so badly to do the things you’re talking about. I want your house, your neighborhood. But that’s not my current reality, and I need to choose to make wonderful memories now with what we have. Thank you for the reminder.

  4. I love this, its so true how the ordinary becomes extraordinary with my kids. And I agree with you, no matter where you live, you can do this… share the beauties of life.

  5. What a sweet post and I absolutely love that top image!!
    Dreams do become reality. With enough heart & soul, anything is possible 🙂

  6. I’ve gone through the same same thing. We bought our house as a “step”, but as we’ve been here for five years now, we’ve dug in our roots, knowing that trees can always be replanted elsewhere (metaphorically speaking). The right now is what’s important, planning for the future is always fun, but it takes us away from what we have right now…it’s a hard balance.
    :)Lisa

  7. Love your words. I too am putting effort into making it simple, too much is going on too fast. Whatever can ground me, that is where I’d like to make my place.

  8. So beautiful and so very true! I have lived this myself. Can’t wait to see how your garden grows 🙂

  9. You have such a beautiful way with words!

  10. i’ve been amazed at what we’ve been able to grow on our concrete patio in pots. and with much neglect, i’m sad to say! i need to be a bigger dreamer and realize how much we can do with our little yard.

  11. i haven’t been by to visit your lovely blog in quite some time but i had a few minutes and for some reason “bright and blithe” popped into my head. and then here i am…reading these words that resonate so deeply in my heart!

    we live in a beautiful, cozy, little home with a beautiful rolling hill out our window and a barn and critters to care for and yet i still often find myself yearning for more.

    in many ways our homestead is still a “diamond in the rough” and sometimes it’s so frustrating how slowly progress happens when you are working and caring for little ones. but something wonderful that i (finally!!) recently realized is that our homestead is growing alongside our children. they are part of the process, which makes it all the more special!

    ~erin

  12. You must have read my mind. I just ordered this book on Saturday. And I am so excited to *do* more. To *be* more. Simplicity. I’m tired of the rush…and for what? I’m working on a spring manifesto of sorts. This ties in to exactly what I’m currently feeling.

  13. What a nice post. Thank you.

  14. You are so right! There’s no reason to wait for the perfect opportunity. Right now is the time…

  15. We’re in a bit of an in-between situation too. (We’re currently living with my grandparents while I look for a job.) We are always thinking of things we can do once we get our own place, once we have money, once I have a job. However, I’ve spent the last two months working on myself, learning new skills, living life, and generally doing as much as I can while I have this blessing of time.

  16. I am in love with your writing!!

    We have a humble little back yard garden….every year we learn a little bit more, and it does a little bit better. And the BEST part, even better than fresh tomatoes, is having little ones to help. Their excitement in planting, and seeing things grow cannot be matched!

  17. Oh what beautiful writing!! Thank you for sharing this. Although our family did make the move to the country from the suburbs, what I want to share is that it is possible to find the beauty and incorporate hand/homemade no matter where you are.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  18. Oh, Gina. You have swelled my heart and captured my every sentiment. We are on but .1 acre, and I feel your point, so. I love what you say here. Immensely.

  19. As I read your post, I felt like I was reading my own words. We are in the same situation. I dream so hard of our piece of land in the country; but, I am trying right now to follow the advice, “Bloom where you’re planted.”

  20. Why not now, indeed. I often say, If not now, when? We dream of our future homestead but I try not to ignore the blessings and abundance found on our suburban plot. Dreaming and planning are good for the soul, but we musn’t forget the important work of today. Thank you for the reminder.

  21. such beautifully written sentiments!
    i keep writing and erasing, writing and erasing i have alot to say on this subject… : )
    your dreams will come true and they will be even bigger and better than you imagined because you have already made one of the most important realizations in life to live in this moment and to “Be here now” zo

  22. the backyard homestead is a really great book, it really helped our family when we started out gardening!

    your writing is so beautiful!

  23. What a wonderfully written piece. You have a great talent for descriptive writing.

  24. Wow, yes! Making the absolute most of what you have. I am learning alot about that lately, and it’s been fun taking what I have and beautifying it into something I want. Thanks for sharing!

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