A Letter To our Homestead

a look back on 2018

Dear Homestead,

Reflecting on 2018 is an arduous task. Our word of the year was coined early on as Mornicopia. It’s that weird place between mourning and coping — you can read more about that here. In fact, I contemplated not writing our year end post, but it’s only our second year in and, out of principle, I can’t give up this early.

 

The year started with the loss of our sweet farm dog, Roscoe. We let him outside one evening, as we always have, unknowing it would be our last time.  We found him on the side of the road 11 days later. During that disheartening week and a half, I posted on Facebook, made signs, dug other people’s dead dogs out of snow banks, and even had an interview lined up with a news station. Then, I got the call from Rich. He found him. I helped lay him to rest in a spot leading towards the woods on our trail, under a small tree.

The grief of losing him crippled me. Not to mention his disappearance was followed by broken fingers, car breakdowns, hospital visits and other smaller mishaps. In fact, most of January you could find me in bed, broken.

Homestead, why did you have to start off so heavy?

I told Rich I was more than ready to wave 2018 goodbye and he simply stated “wait, what about all that we achieved?” Focusing on the bad, I blurted “Like, what?” Doing that thing he does, he smiled and said, “Pigs. Apples. Blueberries. Garden. CSA. The Tractor. Chickens. Solar Dehydrator. And your grape jelly.

Ok, Homestead. So, like all things, you had your ups and downs this year. You worked us to the bone. We took on a lot of new things this year, too many new things in fact. And while we can’t say we regret it, we definitely learned from our mistakes. Our mantra for 2019 is already “No new things!”

Speaking of new, we gained a new farmhand shortly after Roscoe’s loss, named Coot. He assumed the role of my office, road trip, and pup cuppin’ companion, and, most importantly, protector of our farm.

Soon to follow was a new slew of chickens! I admittedly went nuts this year. If you thought my seed ordering was questionable…You. Have. No. Idea.

We thought we had you, Homestead. We were trimming our newly leased apple orchard, brooding chickens and our new four-legged fuzzball was enjoying the ride. That’s when you put us back in our place, with the sweet reminder that sap season was upon us. Mother Nature was so good to us this year. We had two 55-gallon drums and buckets overflowing with sap as we scrambled to fabricate two boilers, to help keep up with the supply. We did it right this year, bottling, labeling and sharing our wealth.

That’s the sweet side to you, Homestead.

Anticipating Spring, we were planting seedlings, monitoring the orchard and planning our first CSA. This “big idea” was mine and, while we weren’t ready for it, we made it happen. Homestead, you have a way of slowing us down. Great things come to those who wait, and I need to practice my patience. We realized we need to focus more on our growing practices before continuing in that direction but so appreciate all of those who participated in our CSA, bought from our roadside stand or caught us in South Haven.

And then came the pigs. Homestead, you have this funny way of making us want more. Not just from you but from ourselves. We had no idea what we were getting into when three little piggies came squealing in. You better believe we recapped the experience in a hog wild post, here. I’m so proud of our accomplishments. While some people raise their own food, others also set out to process it. We made it halfway. We decided to butcher our pigs during prime apple picking season. Bad timing on our part, but we didn’t know any better. While we didn’t have the right set-up to butcher them ourselves, we did cull them ourselves. A true flood of emotions you can’t understand until you do the deed yourself. And, lucky for us, we have a great butcher who lives just down the road. Now knowing what to expect, we’re hoping to process the pigs ourselves this coming year.

Before we get too far in the year, let’s rewind to the orchard, a true labor of lost love. We have a lot of great posts that cover our experience as we learned so much along the way. If you need a refresher, the orchard had been abandoned for about 5 years. We took on the task of reviving it, knowing full well we wouldn’t be getting gorgeous store ready apples our first year. We did, however, get great cider apples and pressed about 120 gallons! Homestead, you give us some of the hardest tasks and in return force us to be inventive. Not having the money to invest in full apple picking gear, a quick trip to the hardware store and a night of sewing we whipped up two bags. The victory seemed to be short lived as we filled our crates and headed to the press. Less than a mile from drop off, we lost a crate at an intersection. If you think all of our photos and stories make us look as though we’re living our best life, this incident will prove we’re not. In fact, that’s why you only see the good, because anything less and we’re scrambling to pick up the pieces not thinking to take pictures along the way. People started stopping, jumping from their cars to help us not only lift the crate back into the truck but salvage 18 bushels worth of apples lost in the roadway.

Homestead, if anything, you continually bring people together and have brought out some of the most genuine, kind-hearted people we’ve ever met. You prove to us time and time again: good people are still out there.

While we decided to part ways from the orchard, it didn’t stop our apple endeavor. We ended up purchasing 18 apple trees to start our own orchard. They’re safely tucked into the ground until we can clear land and plot them in a more permanent home.

We’ve continued to preserve more and more, in larger quantities. Stocking up on jellies, tomato sauce, corn, beans and so much more. Homestead, you’ve given us a purpose and the ability to share both our bounty and our growing knowledge with our community, and far, far beyond.

Mournicopia has humbled us, encouraged our resourcefulness and in return has gifted us food, lessons, knowledge and the power to persist.

Homestead, it’s growing to be a love/hate relationship. Hold on to your seats, who knows what 2019 will have in store. We did, however, finish out the year with a second addition, Willy.

Now remember, “No new things 2019!” Any bets on how long that’ll last?

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