mylife

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Morning Hay

 

People seem interested in the rural lifestyle we’ve chosen, so I thought I’d give a glimpse of what it’s like.

Like most people, we lived and worked in the city after we got married.  But we always longed for space, and had a deep desire to raise our (future) children in the country.

We took a gamble – actually, we leaped off the damned cliff – a couple of years into our marriage by moving out of the city into a shack (no exaggeration) on four acres in southwest Oregon. No jobs, you understand.  We just – moved. 

I went to graduate school and worked part-time.  My husband desperately tried to get a woodcraft business off the ground.  For the next ten years, through the arrival of our two daughters, we scratched for a living.  Our income was sporadic and unbelievably tight.

Despite coming close to failing any number of times, we stuck to the woodworking business because we recognized that a home business was the ticket to a rural life – and we wanted a rural life more than anything.

 

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Our “shack” in Oregon, built in 1874
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Dexter cow and calf

Meanwhile, we practiced homesteading on our four acres.  We got a cow and calf and I learned how to milk. 

 

 

We got chickens and I learned how to butcher them (still not my favorite thing to do, but I can do it). 

 

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Lucky the Rooster
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Baby chores

We planted a huge garden and I learned to can fruits and vegetables.  We line-dried our clothes. 

By this point our friends were beginning to move from amazement at our stupidity (for plunging into rural life with no income) to amazement at our resourcefulness (for stubbornly refusing to get a “real job”).  When we didn’t give up our home business, the amazement gradually turned to interest.

We loved our old house even though it was small (850 sq feet). It was built in 1874 and surrounded by vintage fruit trees, lilacs, and a lot of history. But as our business gradually stabilized, the day came when we felt we should start looking around for a larger place. We were bursting at the seams with kids, our business, and our school (we homeschool). We also wanted more acreage for our livestock.

We looked for property for two years in Oregon but were unable to find anything within our requirements and price range. Since we now had the freedom to live anywhere, we started looking all over the Pacific Northwest.

 

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Our home in Oregon after remodeling
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Our new home in Idaho
In 2003 we found forty acres in north Idaho that we could afford.

It’s nowhere near as picturesque as our place in Oregon, but it has pasture, some trees, a pond, a house, and a long outbuilding. There was some fencing, and that was about it. We are essentially starting from scratch again, but that’s okay.

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The lay of the land for our Idaho farm

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Our daughters greet the new heifers

We are not farmers. Farmers make their income from the land, which we don’t (our woodworking business supplies our income). Rather, we like to call ourselves “modern homesteaders,” with a long-term goal of growing or raising most of our own food.

We started our new herd of Dexters with two young heifers.

Slowly, as finances permit, we’ve started adding the things we want. We’ve done endless fencing (building and maintaining fences are never-ending chores; I always joke that if I ever win the lottery, I’m replacing every last foot of field fence with cattle panels). We’ve planted a young orchard, and had to replace every fruit tree at least once due to losses from cold, wind, rodents, and marauding livestock. 

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Planting fruit trees

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A blizzard

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Our bull and steer in a blizzard. They didn't want to come into the barn.

We’ve planted a berry patch and promptly engaged in an endless battle against weeds. In 2008 we finally got our first garden in, after a neighbor's dump truck solved the problem of how to move the tons of composted manure from there to here.

We live on the prairie, so we don’t have the lush vegetation found in lower elevations in north Idaho. Winds can be harsh – seventy miles an hour isn’t unusual – which can make certain farming practices a challenge. 

We now have 22 chickens and four roosters, a horse, six Dexter cows/calves, a Jersey cow, and a Dexter bull. Dexters are a small Irish breed suitable for milk and meat. I milk the Jersey cow twice a day, and we put our surplus Dexter steers in the freezer once a year. I make yogurt, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, butter, and ice cream.

Our girls are now eleven and fourteen years old. We’ve always homeschooled them. 

 

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Kids with chickens
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Time for school

Both my husband and I have master’s degrees in the sciences (geology and biology respectively), and a lively interest in history, art, music, and writing, so we’re doing our best to pass these interests on to our daughters.

We’re crazy over books and own nearly four thousand of them on subjects ranging from astronomy to zoology. There are books in every room of the house (including the bathrooms) with the possible exception of the kitchen, unless you count the cookbooks.

We don’t have television reception where we live, something we consider a huge blessing. We do have a DVD player so we can watch movies, but our girls have grown up without watching things of questionable value. 

Since my husband and I live and work together 24/7, we’ve found it’s essential to have private time. My husband is more of a night owl, so his private time is after everyone has gone to bed. I’m an early bird, so I get up before anyone else. Works beautifully.

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Oldest daughter playing in church

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Youngest daughter playing in a puddle

 

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Milking a Dexter on a chilly morning

My day usually starts around 4:30 a.m. I make my first cup of tea and turn on the computer. I read the news on the various internet news sites I have bookmarked. I check the weather, then my emails. I reply to those emails that need attention, and delete all the generous offers to increase the length of certain body parts or to submit my financial data to strangers in Africa. Then I write.

Depending on the time of year, I milk the cow anywhere from 5 a.m. (in June) to 7:30 a.m. (in December). Once our Jersey has her next calf, I'm hoping to only milk once a day. This will free me up so I won’t have to do an evening milking.

Our day consists of school work, shop work, farm work, chores, and play. Unless we are on a time crunch with our home business, or unless they’re sick, we don’t permit the girls to watch a movie until evening (if they bother watching anything at all).

We usually have dinner as a family. After dinner, while I do dishes, the girls do their household chores and my husband catches up on some computer work - unless we are on deadline for our business, in which case he heads back to the shop. We do barn chores and shoo the cows into the corral for the night.

As you can see, there is nothing really remarkable about our life. It’s pretty relaxed. We are homebodies. Much of my writing deals with rural themes. Country living continues to fascinate me, even when I’m crouched next to a cow milking in zero degree weather.

 

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Walking with a friend

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Evening bike ride

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Morning hay
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Visiting friends
   
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Spring day
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Winter sunset
   
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Foggy morning
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Chilly cows
   
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Everyday chores
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Chilly bluebirds
   
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View from the front porch
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Autumn fog
   
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Lunch time

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