A homestead is a place of learning new things, hard things, emotional things.
It is a place of learning how to grow plants, animals, skills and wisdom. When Jim and I were first married, I expected him to be able to fix anything just like my dad could. I was disappointed and in disbelief that he did not know how to fix things. I did not stop to think that my dad had learned everything over many decades. Day after day, year after year, Jim learned. In our early years of marriage we had managed apartments with our little family. Jim was manager and handyman. He especially learned skills on our first small homestead. No one had lived on the land for sixteen years.
This wonderful man I am married to excels continually. On our little farm, he tackled task after task that he had never done before. He rewired the electric boxes to the well and the RV, putting in new boxes and wires attached to the power pole. He climbed on a ladder to repair the light on the electric pole and felt deflated as dusk came and he could see neighbor lights go on in the distance but not ours. Undaunted he continued to try until one night the garden was illuminated by the brilliant light as result of his perseverance. He adjusted the hot water heater so it burned gas effectively. He put a new fan into the furnace in our RV. Many of these things had been dangerous and all had been unknown.
He did not do it alone.
We have paused in the middle of a project and knelt together for knowledge of how to fix something. We then re-knelt to offer thanks when the project worked out. One night we were out very late. I held the flashlight and handed Jim tools while he did the electrical work by the pole. Most people have their electric box on the side of the house or in the closet, but ours was attached to the side of a power pole in the middle of the yard. Jim’s fingers were numb but he kept moving forward. It was close to midnight before he finished. The wind in southern Utah can be fierce and it tore at us all night. He made sure we had electricity before we went to bed so we could be warm.
Another time, while replacing the fan in the furnace of the RV, he was having trouble connecting a part. There were 60 mile an hour winds blowing and part way through he walked into the house and said, “Will you pray with me?” In his prayer, much to my surprise, he asked forgiveness for specific things he felt he needed to, and asked for help to get the parts connected so we could be warm without using the space heater. He then went back out in the chilling wind and dark night. Several minutes later he opened the door and said, “I got it”. Our homestead was a place of continual learning.
Still another time he was working on the controls for the well in the well house while I was staking out the garden. His success or failure in that well house was the difference between spending $1500 or none. I suddenly felt the need to pray, so I knelt down on the soil in our future garden and offered a prayer of help for Jim. Five minutes later I heard a whoop and holler of joy from Jim as water came pouring out. (This had been a worry to him for weeks.) The replacement part worked and we did not have to replace the expensive pump.
The sad little shack on the property was truly a place of learning. It first became a storage room and then a small home. There was roof damage but Jim rebuilt it. We removed walls that were decades old and replaced them with new ones. He built me a sweet kitchen, building every cabinet himself from his design.
The animals brought life and taught us
The four laying hens we brought with us to our new homestead in Utah were only the beginning as we added more and more hens. We also raised broilers and turkeys. As animals were brought in and gardens were planted and composted, slowly life returned to the abandoned farm. We took the land that had been neglected and nurtured it. We sowed the land and brought a bountiful harvest from the desert soil. We embraced chickens both layer and broilers and acknowledged their willingness to give us eggs, work through tilling and manure and at last, their life for food. We raised pigs, milked goats, and loved our milk cow, Clara Bell. We walked the land, woke up to the sunrises and laid our heads down to the sunsets. We learned how to process our poultry and we learned how to grow food in the desert our garden was admired by many neighbors. Our hearts were filled with gratitude as this place of learning tutored us and kept us humble.
We made it a habit to stop and see the beauty around us. If one of us called the other to come see, we stopped what we were doing so we did not miss a sunrise or a sunset or an animal doing something cute. We generally stopped at sunset and would sit together in the yard and watch as the sun and clouds painted the sky. Then we would go back to what we were doing, richer for having seen it. At night the Milky Way was brilliant and the stars twinkled more clearly than any place we had ever lived. The homestead was a place of beauty and enjoying the small things.
A homestead is hard work
This was a work that filled every crevice of our heart and mind and being. We had to learn how to do hard, emotional things. With animals, there were hard times, because with all the love and joy comes sadness. We lived in coyote country. Come to think of it, where in America is it not coyote country? We bought a Great Pyrenees mix puppy that was being sold outside the farm store. It was one of those cute impetuous buys, but we needed a farm dog to keep our chickens safe. Earlier during our time on that homestead, two stray dogs had come on the property while we were gone. They killed two of our chickens and the other two were missing. They later came home and we knew they had been through trauma. It broke our hearts. We knew we were supposed to protect them and we had not been able. Hence the dog. We named him Tucker and he grew and grew and grew. He was a tall as Jim when he stood on his hind legs. He could intimidate anyone and anything but was a big pile of love. He loved to run if he got out of the fence and he could run far and fast. We always got him back but he scared us several times. Because of him, no coyotes come onto the property.
Those darn cats got into our hearts
Our many cats and kittens were safe on the farm. Jim and I would go for a walk down the lane and look behind us to find a herd of cats following us jumping over the sagebrush. We thought it was funny and cute, but it also introduced them to the world outside our gates and fences. When they would wander out on their own at night, they often did not return. One of our mama cats left right after having her litter of kittens. We had to bring the whole litter into the house and feed them from tiny bottles until they were able to fend for themselves. When they climbed out of their box and did their business in our closet we decided they were big enough to go out and let one of the other mamas take care of them. The cats certainly were great mousers. Our mouse population was thriving until we got the cats, then we never saw another one.
One cold morning as I went to work, I had not known that one of the kittens had gotten under my hood to keep warm. It was not until I was out on the highway and saw a kitten drop out of the back of the car that I knew something had gone terribly wrong. Hysterically, I turned around and picked my lifeless kitten up. I drove back home calling for Jim. I laid the kitten on the ground and sobbed in Jim’s arms. Then to make matters worse, the kitten’s sister came over and licked him and loved him. They had been the closest playmates. This was a horrible lesson for me and we never drove off again without looking.
This is where we learned that animals can think, feel, love, mourn and bring sheer joy.
Our Pyrenees and our cow became the most incredible friends. They would lick the snot of each others face. The kittens would play with the goats. The kittens would curl up with the dogs. The chickens would get out and the Pyrenees would bark to let us know but did not harm them. Animals are amazing. They teach us about love, compassion, caring and so much more. For the animals it was a place of learning also.
Yes, a homestead is a place of learning new things, hard things, emotional things.
It is a place of learning to grow plants, animals, skills and wisdom. It is a place to grow closer together because we depend on each other. It is a place of love. Love for the gardens, the animals, the land, the sunsets, the stars and each other. We have no doubt that this next homestead will teach us even more. Please continue to follow us on our journey as we share our lives with you.