Anyone who has followed my blog for a month or more knows that homesteading, the euphemism for ‘simpler times’, is the dream that I desire to return to. It has been a few years since I lived that life, 2011 to be exact. Previously embarked on by me and my husband, it is a lifestyle that I truly enjoyed, despite working full-time while doing so.
I just returned from a road trip up the coastal areas, then over and across the Smokies, back through to my former place in Tennessee. I really enjoy driving and seeing new places. The trip brought back many older memories though, as the last time I traversed that particular route was the return to our home after my husband died. My oldest daughter was with me, but I didn’t even recall going that way before, until I was well into the travels. It is not as painful now to recall our excitement about investigating the area, the animated discussions we had about the scenery and the majestic beauty found along that route when he and I first visited. I am a passionate, animated person most of the time. Natural beauty can move me like nothing else, except perhaps love. The amazing waterfalls tucked into the roadside, splashing and flashing silver in the sunlight, requiring a constant watchfulness to catch the next hidden opportunity. They delight me. This trip, it was a little harder to do since I was the one driving, and the emergency lanes were coated with ice. Still, they take my breath away. The grey and jagged slate rock faces, sprouting beards of neon green moss still peered at me, alternating with brilliant shine when the sun hit them, and then appearing mature in muted tones when the clouds flitted across their sentinel planes. The gauzy covering of haze that the Smokies are aptly named for did not disappoint on this trip either. I even risked danger to snap some cell phone photos as I crested the tops of the rises, trying to capture that beauty to revisit again and again while I bide my time here in the flatlands and the heat, waiting to return to the country. It was teasing with snow flurries when I exited my hotel room in the quiet of the morning in North Carolona – most visitors were probably truly vacationing, and enjoying the sleeping in time.
As with most things in my life, this trip did not go as neatly and tidily as my imagination had crafted for me. When I arrived at my old place, the items that I had stored for a return trip pick up were not in the locations where I left them clearly marked. This required a quick call in to my boss to ask for another day’s extension of vacation, and a lot of work by myself that I hadn’t anticipated. Out the window went the idea of a leisurely supper with a friend and catching up on girl talk, and out came the work jeans, boots and ball cap. There was no water on at the farm, so I had to get creative about some of my needs, and my solid column of water jugs was no longer in the place where I had previously stored them for unexpected power outages. But I made do. It wasn’t truly cold enough to use up any of thew new owner’s wood for a fire, so I just layered clothing and availed myself of a small ceramic heater to take the chill out of the air before piling under a thick comforter and turning the heater off. I am most comfortable sleeping in the cold anyway, and the comforter kept the heat in. Despite sleeping on a couch, I slept deeply and restfully, rising as I usually did when there, at sunrise. I had to unpack a room and a horse trailer to find the things that I came to collect. Thankfully the day warmed enough that while working, I was able to shuck my heavy cable knit sweater and work in shirt sleeves for a while. Alone in the quiet, the work went well. It was nice to be away from computers, from cell phones, from people talking, and just enjoy the manual labor and the sounds of a quiet country day. Once the majority of the work was done, I did manage to make it over to have girl talk, a long hot shower and a meal. The following day also saw an early rising around 5 a.m., as I had an hour and a half drive to make back to my place to load up the car for the return trip. But it was worth it to have a good, hot shower after a couple of days of work, that’s for sure. The return trip home was brutal, even for me as one who embraces road trips with gusto. Sleeping in a car seat at a rest area isn’t my idea of fun, but I know when I hit the ‘need sleep’ wall – and the work day that began an hour and a half after my arrival home was torturous, considering that my back up person didn’t uh, back me up. But I made it, and two nights of good sleep have restored my sanity and good mood. I’d take more trips on the weekends if it weren’t for the self-discipline I’m having to impose to follow my dreams. Speaking of which…
While in my beloved Tennessee, I received an offer of extreme generosity, even if couched in some rather limbo-like terms. My former neighbor and friend who owns 200 plus acres, offered me a zero dollar permanent lease on ten of her acres when I approached her about possibly buying five acres from her. Color me shocked, and of course my brain went straight into overdrive, lol! It’s a nice piece of land, with power and a driveway already in place, and partially cleared. There are a whole passel of positives about this offer, which I will list in no particular order: I know the area. I know the people. I know the weather. I know the soil. I like the neighbors. I’d have free access to livestock paddocks should I decide to raise something other than chickens. I know the local processor and his abattoir. There would be people that I trust to watch my place if I am somehow able to retain my job with monthly trips down to the office for face time. It is quite private. The hunting is good. She has all of the tools to clear, till, dig and otherwise prep the property for habitation again. It would move my dream into reality far sooner, since cost of land would be only piecemeal as I made the improvements needed to create a dual-purpose homestead. I could camp there ahead of the time that I have a home in place, since I have my own portable internet that works up there. Her brother is a builder, plus there are many Mennonite and Amish builders around as well. So yeah, I am more than excited at the moment. But there are drawbacks.
Not having title to the property makes all of my improvements a huge gamble, and I’m not flush with cash. I’m working on a first-right -to- purchase lease should they sell or die or whatnot, with the investment in improvements that I make to count towards the purchase price. I plan to see a lawyer about it, as I’m minimally savvy in that arena. Even friendships can tank over the smallest thing, and I do not wish to be living on someone else’s whim factor (although, we do live like that while married, lol!) It will be slow progress, as I plan to pay cash for everything, and the first thing to be done is to have a well dug with a manual pump on the side. I am not up for hauling water, especially in my little princess of a car (Francesca the Fit) – although the cost of land moving out of the picture moves up my plan by a year, maybe more. If there is good lumber on the property, I can retain some of that for outbuildings or the house. I had to tell her please not to clear it before I can walk it and check what I’d like to do. Since I sold all of my mowers, I’m not terribly keen on having a lot to mow, especially since I’ll continue to have to work somewhere even if I am debt-free when I alight up there. In addition to a well, I will have to build a root cellar/tornado shelter of some type, as I’ve lived there long enough to know I won’t do it without that! I made some price checks on some of the builders while there too – reasonable costs for a shell, but I lack the electrical, plumbing and otherwise any type of house building skills to do finish work, although I suppose I could learn, hah! And there are several people there that I know who do have those skills available for purchase. Then there is the basic lack of some essential skills for living alone this way that I can only acquire by just doing it. It will be a steep learning curve, even though I’ve already done a bit of it for three years. It was difficult alone.
Making this choice, if legally feasible, also puts me potentially out of the partnership – relationship stream, as not many men wish to move to where a woman is. I’m not sure how I feel about that, really. They just like to bring the ‘stuff’ to the table as a general rule, the kind of men that interest me. There might be some of that ilk who are looking to make a move, I don’t know though – haven’t really explored much in all honesty. Maybe there is a man out there with a ready smile, goofy sense of humor, appreciation for the sensual side of life, that is looking to make a move and take a risk. I’ve been doggedly pursuing this dream for years now, but somehow I kind of thought I’d do it WITH someone, as a shared venture – complementary strengths pulling in a harness together. I’m really not everyone’s cup of tea; possibly very few people’s, come to think of it. The fact that I’ve had several men in my life that loved me is a good thing, but most of those were when I was a younger bombshell of a chick, not a nifty-fifties widow. A few of them were not even people that I had a relationship with and so I’m not sure that they really and truly knew me and were more in love with the idea of me than the flesh and blood me. Having had someone that truly knew me, faults and all, and who loved me intensely in spite of the facts of who I am – well, that makes me not want something again that falls anything short of that experience. All of that though, takes time, the acceptance and appreciation of another person. Being on a two-lane track of building towards a homestead and remaining open to relationship possibilities is really precarious, and tiring for me emotionally, truth be told. I don’t do anything half-way, so dreaming, building and planning a place takes energy, as does exploring, knowing and sharing with a potential mate. I know me. I have limited energy to expend. I work long hours. I have family obligations from time to time. I need a lot of ‘alone’ time to recharge – giving up that time to another person means they have to have true potential to me, as communication and writing are my ways of getting to know someone, and those are time-consuming endeavors. Can I be comfortably alone for the rest of my life? Possibly. Loneliness only comes in small bouts for me currently, but I do wonder if that will increase as I age. I certainly miss physical affection, but I require an emotional connection for me to engage and that is not anything that I am willing to entertain on a casual basis at this time. Mostly I miss sharing – the sharing of dreams, fears, accomplishments and excitement, which I guess is really saying that I miss emotional intimacy the most at this time. But enough blather about that – it is something that will resolve itself if left to come along organically in my life.
So if the legal hurdles can be satisfied, I may be taking off on the adventure of a lifetime, yet again (smile). Standing beneath the full moon at my old place provided a taste of the beauty that I miss, that I yearn for every day that I am stuck here in the city. The deer that I saw during my visit in April of this year have grown into fat, sleek does that still amble across my path to the neighbor’s place. The coyotes and the barred owls were quiet during this visit, and I really missed hearing the owls. They embody something primal for me about partnerships, with their constant back and forth communications. I neglected to bring my good camera, but I’ve shared some of my experiences captured by the little cell phone camera.
So hang on to your hats readers, as you may get to go along for the ride of my life. If not, you’ll get to watch me pick up the pieces and continue on pursuing my desire. Either way, I know that it will be a wonderful and life-affirming journey, despite road bumps, detours, flats and breakdowns. Life is just like that, and you simply have to embrace it as it comes with a smile and dogged determination. This photo, taken in what I label ‘First Widow Winter’, drives my search for beauty everywhere. It is completely unedited or re-touched, and thrills me every time I revisit it. It is taken from my former driveway looking down the bend in the road – yep, there is a road under that snow, lol. We don’t get snowplows out this far, and rely on neighborly farmers to clear it for us.
And a quote on life:
Be well. Hug somebody today if you can. Never stop dreaming. Always keep your neck craned to see the unexpected, and keep a ready smile in your pocket.