“I miss your writing,” an acquaintance told me in the juice aisle at the grocery store. “Are you going to get back to blogging?”
A few years ago, I was creating and publishing content to this space three or four times a month. If you were a regular here, you saw that taper off and become sparse these past two years.
It’s not that I lost my drive to create — not at all. But the bulk of my creative energy was consumed by other endeavors. It started when I was a preschooler, really. As a young girl, I ached to live on a farm. I was sure I was born into the wrong era or the wrong family or at least lived on the wrong street in a quaint neighborhood of small-town Michigan.
I dreamed of climbing mountains of straw and soaring from a hay loft on a rope swing rather than shooting hoops on gravelly pavement. I dreamed of open space beyond my home rather than houses neighboring on every side. I dreamed of pets that clucked and quacked and mooed rather than squeaking caged creatures taking turns running on the wheel to nowhere.
When I read the Little House on the Prairie series, I was certain Laura Ingalls was the luckiest girl who ever lived. Those open fields. Those prairie hens. Those evenings around the fire with hot cider and a lively fiddle.
I wanted a life so big, yet so small. Room to stretch my legs. A creek in which to cool my tired feet. Snap peas so fresh I’d have to shoo off a dragonfly before biting into the crisp pod. Of course I’d be barefoot in the garden for this idyllic moment.
But alas, I lived in a ranch home on a corner lot in town, and the only thing we grew was a lawn.
In the summer of 2015, everything changed. I was thirty-three years old, married with three kids and two college degrees collecting dust on my shelf when a cherished friend died suddenly and unexpectedly. My friend’s death shouted in my face that you get one chance to do life on this earth. My friend had dream-chased himself to New York City to work in the English department of a Manhattan university. It was time for me to chase my dreams in the opposite direction — so into the country I went.
My husband and I moved our family to this little house on the riverbank and began putting systems into place to create the life this now grown-up girl still longed for.
We started with the garden, of course. In the spring of 2016, we scraped away a neat rectangle of sod and began a compost pile so we could nourish and heal our backyard soil. We fought deer and rabbits and grasshoppers for crops of tomatoes and cucumbers and the best snap peas I ever ate barefoot.
We researched sustainable meat sources for small-scale farms and located local meat rabbit stock. I will never forget the excitement and energy that welled in me when we brought home our first livestock, purchased from a 4-H family with a giant metal rooster in their front yard. The rest of my family was in bed that night and I had my head in the rabbit cage, getting to know the girls who would soon provide us with healthy meat for our family.
A month later, on my thirty-sixth birthday, we added ducks for eggs — and frankly, entertainment. I wholeheartedly promise that aside from toddler boys, ducklings are the most charming, comical, stinky creatures I have ever encountered. And they grow into adults of the same — though the stink is more tolerable in the yard, rather than the bathtub.
In the fall of 2018, a girlfriend and I spread out our how-to books on the kitchen counter and learned how to can our own food. We preserved applesauce and apple pie filling, storing our harvest for the months ahead. Once I caught the canning fever, I was a junkie for the next six weeks, putting up tomatoes and pickles as fast as I could pick the fruits. Those colorful jars in the cupboard had me dripping with sweat and satisfaction (or was it salsa?)
This was happening.
In October, after discovering that our homegrown duck eggs triggered in me a less-than-idyllic commode-hugging allergic reaction, we built a second poultry coop and added a half dozen chickens to the menagerie. That winter was the most outrageously cold season I’ve endured (wind chills of -50 F), but those hardly little hens hunkered down in their uninsulated plywood coop and kept the eggs coming all winter. And I thought I was a tough chick.
In late autumn, we planted four apple trees and installed a makeshift fence that the whitetail deer cackled at before busting through and eating the tops off our trees. They scarcely survived winter (the trees, not the deer), but we are hoping that with some pruning and TLC they may come back. This fall, now that we have a proper fence installed around the orchard and berry patch, we plan on planting more fruit trees.
In the spring of this year, we added two colonies of Italian honeybees to our property with hopes that they will pollinate our garden and provide us with honey and beeswax. Watching these bees establish themselves in the hives, learn their way around our property, and build healthy, strong colonies has been an absolute highlight of our short homesteading journey.
In the midst of the action, I started selling eggs on the side, and quickly learned there is a high local demand for duck eggs, so despite that I can’t use them in my own cooking, we are raising a few more ducks to keep up with demand. We are also raising a small flock of colored egg laying hens and will be excited to add rainbow chicken eggs to our future product offerings.
This summer, I planted strawberries and asparagus, then spent a good deal of time gazing into the field dreaming about what’s next. I see a greenhouse, for sure, and a pumpkin patch, rows of berries and garlic, flowers for market bouquets, mushroom beds, and what is that at the far end — are those sheep?
My husband shakes his head…
So why am I telling you all this? To brag about what we’ve done? No! I’m telling you because although building the foundation of our homestead has been deeply gratifying, the whisper that calls me back to the pen has grown steadily louder. Writing has been the thing that recalibrates my soul — the constant which allows this fumbling introvert to connect the dots between faith and family and people and this earth I’m smitten with. So the gist of this rambling prairie tale is really this — I’m back.
I don’t know exactly how things are going to look around here anymore. I’m sure I’ll still tell stories about mom-life and friendship and faith, but there’s no way I can prevent tales from the farm from slipping in. I can’t wait to tell you about the egg-bound duck or the car full of honeybees or the time we dropped a 500-pound chicken coop from my friend’s tractor. I am totally jazzed to bring back the Grand Edits stories you’ve loved so well, and most definitely recipes now that I’m some kind of Ma Ingalls.
If you’ve made it this far, wow — thanks for reading. Thanks for waiting. More than anything, I hope this space will give you permission to be who you are and build a life you love.
Be back soon — the boys and the ducks are out-hollering each other for supper.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
“Live a quiet life and work with your hands.”
-1 Thessalonians 4:11