” I am more than I appear to be; all the world’s strength and power rest inside me…within me lies the sun, the moon, the sky and all of the wonders of the Universe and you too…”
I am feeling quite reflective this morning as we get closer to the arrival day of our goats.We are preparing and decorating the “goat box” today and going shopping for goat supplies in Harvard, Il. Harvard is in a direction that I have never been before, so it makes for a new adventure.Nipple and hay shopping are never dull.
No matter how much joy I feel about our soon to arrive goats, I have felt sad about the goats that we had to leave behind in River Falls. If you are not an animal person, it maybe hard to relate to what I am saying.. What I am saying goes beyond being an animal lover. Those goats, especially Moe, were apart of the beginning of knowing myself enough to risk looking like a failure to others and start embracing who I am. All of the long walks through the woods with the goats at my heals was so healing. It reminds me of the quote I love so much:” If a person does not keep pace with their companions, perhaps it is because he or she hears a different drummer. Let them step to the music which he or she hears.” I seem to hear that “Goat Song” that has been written about. I know I am not so unique but I know that I do not always fit with our cultures norms.
There were so many wonderful and frustrating times with those goats. I will never forget when our neighbor Mark came over and told us that the goats had been wandering over to his house when we were not home. He finally had to put his foot down (laughing). Mark said that he used to leave his cigarettes out on his porch and one day he came out and all of the goats had his very expensive cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. Makes me laugh just thinking about it.
Those goats loved to be anywhere they were not supposed to, like on top of my dad’s Fiero, in the garden, ripping the insulation out from under the porch, or eating the chicken feed in the coop. No matter what, it was one of the hardest things I ever did when we packed them in the van and dropped them off at our dear neighbor Marion’s house. They have a wonderful home today, and are loved, so we are choosing not to move them, but I miss them everyday. That is life though, isn’t it? We are open to lots of pain when we feel and love fully.
In this reflective mood, I have decided to add a writing I did several years ago while living on our property.
My family and I have been living on 11 acres of land in rural Wisconsin for over 2 and
1/2 years. I really count our time here in winters, which is 3, because that is when time and lessons are deeply felt.
The four of us live in a 27 foot travel trailer with an illegally attached porch (which is a whole story in itself), so winter has a more profound effect on day-to-day life. Our travel trailer was supposed to be a temporary dwelling, just until we built our house. Chris lost his job a week after our little home was delivered, at one of the most inopportune times in our nation’s financial history. There was no job to be found, so there was no house to be built. Our situation shrank both our bank account and our egos. All of the plans and designs we had were quickly shoved aside to reluctantly greet many difficult questions about our life. One of those questions was “What is really important?”
There have been many evolving answers to that one question, but there has been one answer that has stood out from the rest for our family: There is such depth in the simplest things of life. The most ordinary, mundane, uneventful things of life hold the greatest beauty, meaning, and mystery. They hold the lesson that the simplest things of life are not ordinary, mundane, or uneventful at all.
Electricity was our gateway into mindfulness here. For our first 6 weeks here, we charged our travel trailer battery with our vehicle. We found out quickly which features used the most electricity, like the television and the fridge. We didn’t want to have to go out into the cold and hook up the car to the battery, so we began to conserve more than ever. It is funny how when something becomes inconvenient, it is taken a bit more seriously. It was amazing to see the drain in power each time we chose to run water, watch T.V., or leave lights on. There would actually be a surge, where the lights would dim, when we were using a lot of power. It was a great visual lesson about a resource we completely took for granted.
During our first two years here, we did not have our own access to water. We started out by buying a 35 gallon tank on wheels that we brought to the nearest RV Park, that had water access, for 2 dollars. Our family actually has very fond memories of what we called “dump station night”. (This was also a place that one could dump the contents of the “black” tank, which we also utilized). We would fill up while the kids played at the park, bring it home, and fill up the travel trailer tank. That water would last for about 3 days, if we conserved well. (I have recently learned that there will inevitably be a water shortage for all of us in the not so distant future. It does matter how much we use!) We got a membership at our local YMCA and took most of our showers there. (I remember once showing up there so embarrassingly dirty because the kids had been playing on our temporary dirt mountain, from driveway construction. I met a man who worked there that noticed that we really only came for showers and commented that he did the same thing. He had no running water, in his old log home. That connection made me realize that we were not alone.)
Once winter was upon us, we had to change our strategy for water because the RV station closed (We did receive a bulk water permit from the nearest large town, but their water source was shut down shortly there after due to freezing also). Our neighbor, who sold us our land, graciously let us come over and fill up our tank weekly. (That neighborly helped make it possible for us to continue to live this adventure) Usually Chris would drive the quarter of a mile, with our little tractor, over to the neighbors and fill up, even when it was 20 below zero. I have to admit there were days that I cried when I heard the travel trailer pump making its loud grumbling noise that proclaimed “I am almost dry!”
That struggle taught me so much though. All of my family realized that water is not something to be taken for granted and that just because one has unlimited access to something does not mean that it should be wasted.
I listened to a lecture, shortly after we moved here at the Unitarian Church of River Falls WI, about women in regions of Africa that have to walk 5 miles to get about a gallon of water that may or may not be clean. I know I really don’t have any concept of what they have to endure, yet I am grateful that I have begun some mindfulness in that part of my consciousness That is one of those core beliefs that I always wanted to align with my actions in our previous life, with heated, running water that came without any thought. I wanted to take shorter showers, wash dishes with more mindfulness, water the lawn less or not at have grass at all, and plant gardens that were native and hardy that did not depend on anything but mother earth’s rain showers. I wanted to do all of those things but did them with half measures. I was inconsistent and sloppy in my thoughts and actions around conservation of water and other resources.
So, after two years of learning about the importance of clean and accessible water, we put in our 240 feet well. We are now able to connect directly to our water source during the non freezing months, and enjoy water without much worry, but not without thought. During the winter months, we have to disconnect our direct connection, and “fill-up”. Our line freezes if we remain connected, so we have to go back to the familiar noises of a water pump.
Chris built an insulated house for our well. (Can you believe our well got a house before we did?) Usually, all of the well’s pressure systems would be routed indoors, where it is toasty warm, but ours was exposed to all of the elements.
Shortly after our well was completed, we had a water celebration with family and friends… The first time that the hose worked, and water came gushing out, it was truly magical. How could it be that I was so in awe of such a regular thing? It is hard for me to look at a lot of things in the same way that I used to. There seem to be gifts in going without. It shines a new and wonderful light on something that once seemed so ordinary.
I do not advocate for misfortune or disaster, yet I would not change anything about the progression of our journey here on this piece of land. To be able to look deeper into what the self-reliant life is really about, is a gift that I hope to never return. The simplest of actions have become some of my favorite moments here. To slow down enough to see the meaning in watching our chickens roam the forest, collecting, washing, eating or selling eggs, noticing and identifying the changing flowers in the woods, creating a bountiful, organic garden and spending almost all of our leisure time in her graces, digging potatoes with my dad, cooking entire meals with only food we have grown, feeling connected to a community who really care about the health of it‘s people, marveling in my joy as I walk with the goats in the woods, walking down to my neighbor Auntie Joni’s little cabin, using the fallen wood in our forest as our main source of heat in the winter, supporting our local grocery co-op through patronage and volunteering, hanging our clothes on the line, feeding the birds, sweeping instead of vacuuming, hand writing a letter instead of using my computer, taking a walk instead of taking a drive, bartering for services so that my family doesn‘t need to make so much money to exist, bringing my own bag to the store, and taking the time to seek out a vocation instead of a career even if the path there is more complicated. The list truly goes on and on …
I need to feel like what I can do, does matter. I can’t afford to buy a Prius, exclusively use solar power, or put up a wind turbine, but I can be mindful. All of these simple actions not only have an effect on our planet, but on me. They are the most grounding things that I have ever had in my life. I truly believe that all of those simple yet meaningful actions have a profound impact on the universe.
I was once asked why we have hung on so hard to living our life here in the woods when our path was so altered from its original plan. I answer by saying there have been many difficult days along our path, yet one thing that has stayed constant. It is our growing love for this piece of land. We can see the importance of conserving her resources, and making her a classroom for ourselves, family and friends. Not having the financial resources we had once become accustom to have created a new awareness of nature’s resources that are so abundant around us.
This is where we continue taking action, and let the resources we do have, mold our new future. We hope that our new future does have the house we once dreamed of, but it will be very different from its original design. We have learned too much to not utilize our new vision and like a dear friend once wrote, “This is when I see the journey is the goal and let the goal find its own way”. The important part is the integrity of the journey. This beautiful, rugged, and untamed piece of earth has permanently changed who we are and how we will forever see the world.