05 March 2013

Daring to Dream

 I was reading blog entries on my blog feed recently, when I ran across  this blog post by Rachael at  thealisokitchen.com. It made me think back to the days when I was just starting out on my adult life and dreaming about what I wanted my future to hold. I was working as a hairdresser in Blacksburg, Virginia where my family landed after my dad retired from the military. I was 20, living on my own, working hard and dreaming of the day when I could have my own little piece of the Appalachian Mountains, where I could live a simple life, bake bread, raise animals and grow my own food. At that moment in my life I was very far from attaining my dreams, since I lived alone in a tiny little trailer in a college town trailer park, worked 12 hours a day standing on a cement floor, cutting hair, and had little practical experience in doing any of the things I was dreaming my future would hold... but living with your dreams for awhile before you try to make them come true is not a bad thing.. time and experience will help to clarify what you really want. There were many lessons I needed learn while I was waiting to find the piece of land and make my dreams come true.

While I was working, saving and dreaming, something happened to change the course of my life... I found my soul mate. My dreams needed to be blended in with his dreams, to become "our" dreams... We met in the late 70's during a terrible recession, and jobs were not easy come by, so we both joined the military. Since traveling the world was something we both had on our Bucket List, this was a way for us to get started. We lived in the Philippines for 3 years and it was during this time that we would learn many of the life lessons that we would need for our big dream to come true. Living in a third world country taught us much about living a simple life. It changed us, and matured our dreams, it also gave us time to equip ourselves with the skills necessary to make our dream of self sufficiency a reality. We studied and practiced on a small scale, growing plants in pots on our stoop, or in an on base community garden plot, reading everything that the base library had on organic gardening, and animal husbandry. I improved my baking skills, and learned to cook meals over a 8" charcoal burner. I watched our Philipino friends as they lived out their simple, self sufficient lives and tried to take back with me the valuable lessons I learned from them.
Bath Time! Merlyn my close friend and I bathing my son. Philippines Circa 1982.

    Our three years in the Philippines were well spent and upon our return to the states we tried to go back to the mountains of Virginia to apply what we had learned, but that wasn't to be... there was no work to be had in the area where we wanted to live, so we had to look elsewhere. My husband was offered a job in Charlotte, NC and we bought a little house in a residential area in the city. One of the first things we did when we had settled into the house, was to start veggies from seed in a sunny window and dig up the front flower bed and plant zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and flowers.
Spring garden planted in the front flower bed. Circa 1984
Zucchini and pink petunias, front flower bed. Petunias are supposed to deter squash bugs... it seemed to work, we had no bug problems at all. Circa 1984
 Over the course of the 5 years we lived in that house, we terraced our steep back yard into 3 levels, formed up raised vegetable beds, built a 3 bin composting system and rabbit cages, laid brick paths and created a permanent herb garden on one side of the house.
Growing our food in a terraced garden on our steeply sloped back yard. The compost bins and rabbit cages are on the flood plane below the garden. Photo circa 1986
My husband laying a brick path through the herb garden with recycled bricks.

  We put our newly learned skills to good use in the yard and the house and the gardens were much improved by our efforts, but it was time to move on. My brother was living in a small community 35 miles south of Charlotte. So we found a little fixer-upper cottage on an acre of land and moved to Waxhaw to be closer to my brother, who was terminally ill. By then, we had two boys, one who was 7 and an infant of 4 months. We were planning on adding on to the house, living in the old part while building the new addition. All was going as planned and the addition was "dried in", (which means it was under a roof and protected from the elements), or so we thought... Then 18 days later Hurricane Hugo blew in and destroyed all of our hard work. We spent the next several years trying to get back on our feet.Our recovery took time, but we kept plugging away. Our boys grew and the house was eventually finished.
   During all that time we worked very hard to establish the "bones" of our gardens and enrich and amend the soil. We sowed and harvested, built outbuildings and barns to house our goats, chickens and rabbits, and planted fruit trees, berry bushes and strawberries. Somewhere along the way we realized that we were not going to have a homestead in the mountains, instead we already had a homestead in the Piedmont!  Our dream of having a homestead and living a "self-sufficient" lifestyle had come true, but it happened over time and progressed naturally, developing and changing with the needs and interests of our family.
When the kids were too old for their playport, we turned it into a goat barn. Circa 2006

Mouse and Sweet two of our young dairy herd. Circa 2006

My youngest working on the second barn. Circa 2007

E.M. milking "Jelly" on a stanchion that he designed and built himself. Circa 2007
Sisters Izzy and Sunny having breakfast. Circa 2007
E.M. with the girls... he was happiest when he was outside working in the gardens or hanging with his animals. Circa 2006

Comice pears. The pear trees and our apple trees are trained as espaliered trees to most efficiently use our limited space.
This plum tree was one of two standard sized "sentinels" that stood at the opening to our vegetable garden. Both had to be cut down due to a freak accident while we were living in Costa Rica... I still grieve their passing.

   It is important to dare to dream, to follow your heart and live life with direction and purpose, but it is also important to realize that life is an organic process and there is only so much we can do to influence the outcome. We can work hard to shape our dreams into reality, but life will add its own twists and turns and in the end you may not end up where you expected... Our journey has been full of twists and turns and we have enough stories to fill several volumes. I may not have ended up where I hoped to, but I am delighted at the way things turned out!
This young pullet was one of 6o birds we kept in the Taj Mahal ( a three run multi-roomed hen house that my youngest son and husband built. It had three roomy hen rooms, three nice long runs and a "hospital" for birds that might need extra attention, there was also a foyer with a fridge for the eggs and equipment storage Sorry..we never took any good photos of the Taj)

Our youngest son had an egg selling business that he ran as part of his home schooling. He kept the books, managed the flocks, collected and prepared his eggs for sale and sold all the eggs the hens could lay. He did this from the time he was 6 until after he was out of high school. He had a waiting list of people who wanted to buy his eggs... so as a household, we ate the culls, those that were too small or too large, misshaped etc. since the rest of the eggs were claimed by his faithful customers.
We ground our own wheat and made six loaves at a time to feed the household. I still grind my wheat, but now that the boys aren't at home anymore I don't have to bake 6 loaves at a time!
Snap Dragons in the rose bed bloom cheerfully all summer long
    So, I've talked about my dreams... what about yours? Leave an comment. I would love to hear about what you are doing to make your dreams come true! Thanks for dropping by!

Blog Hops that this post is linked to:
Clever Chicks Blog Hop#24
Frugally Sustainable Sustainable Ways Blog Hop #66
Monday's Homestead Barn Hop #101 
Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop #99
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