Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Last Weeks Progress

I'm behind in my posting of progress.  The days seem as though they have grown shorter, rather than longer, even though it stays lighter later now.  And with sharing one computer my posting time is sporadic.  I'm still in a little of a funk.  I feel pulled in too many directions, and that leaves me not sure where to even start.  It will pass, and I'm sure it's part of the process, but I sure wish it would pass quicker. 

My Man and the kids worked on clearing land last week.  The patch they are working on is in the area that we want to put a chicken coop, and it's full of small tree's, so it requires a chainsaw to clear - I don't know how to use a chainsaw, so My Man was in charge of this project. 

 The weather was nice enough last weekend, and so as planned, My Man, Columbus, and Einstein worked on building the office.  Today is Tuesday, and they are out there working on it now.  It's like choosing between the lesser of two evils again - keep struggling to work in the mobile to pay the bills, or take the time and get the office done so that we can work more efficiently.  I can't wait to be over this hump in our lives. 
 I tried washing cloth diapers by hand.  The laundry mat washers are not getting them clean right, which means that Baby Man gets really bad diaper rash if I use them on him.  I used collected rain water, which we finally got some of last week, and it was ice cold.  I can't say that my attempt was a success, and I don't think I will be trying it again, at least not until the weather warms up and we have plenty of water to use.  I will say this; I was surprised at what a washboard can do.  I've always looked at them and wondered what good some ribbed metal did for washing clothes, and now I know - it makes all the difference in the world, they really do work!
 The little kids thought it was interesting and helped.  The Rose chatted away with me while we worked.  She told me that when she grows up she wants to be a farm girl.  She also told me that she was never going to get divorced, because it would be too hard to raise the kids by herself.  Where she comes up with the things she says, I have no idea, other than she must be an old soul in a young body.  I asked how many children she was going to have, to which she replied; let me count how many jobs there will be on my farm, cause that's how many kids I'm going to have, and then she started counting off feeding chickens and pigs, sheering sheep, and so on, with her little five year old fingers.  I listened, and marveled, at how simple life can be for a child.
 JoJo decided he wanted to be an angel.  He found himself two chicken feathers out in the yard.  He then shimmed up between the wall and the dryer to gain the leverage needed to get on top of the dryer to reach the box with duct tape.  He then used the duct tape to attach his newly acquired angel wings.....

We are getting some new neighbors up here on the mountaintop.  Our little subdivision was once privately owned as one large piece of land, and then the company that we bought from came in, bought it, divided it, and then sells off the lots with 100% owner financing.  There are two other families up here already, neither of them have power, or water.  I honestly don't know how they do it, and I often think of them without power while I whine about dragging water home.  Both of them are out of our view, our lot is on the very end, but one of the new neighbors will be just a couple of lots down.  They are getting power and water put in, and have small landscaping flags marking what looks to be just the right size for a mobile home. The other neighbor is also putting in a mobile home, with water and power, but he is way off on the other side, we will never see him.   It will be interesting to meet them, but we've secretly wished that none of the other lots up here would ever sell.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Waiting Is No Good

As I drove down the mountaintop yesterday to do laundry, the kids filled the van with their normal chatter.  Halfway down the mountain, I, uncharacteristically turned up the volume to the CD player.  Sarah McLaughlin came on from the last time I was in the van alone, months ago.  I don't listen to music around the kids, or rather, the kids don't listen to music around me.  They compete with the noise, interrupting my attempts to hear and feel an artist at work.  They messy the air space until I get frustrated and give up, and so now; I just don't even bother to try most of the time. 

But yesterday, my mind was busy with trying to unravel emotions, and it wasn't getting very far in the mix of them and the life that they bring.  I needed lyrics to bring my soul back to a structurally sound place.  I needed a few moments to find a sanctuary of inner self so that I could sort out all of the negativity.  It was as though they knew.  They knew what I needed, and collectively they decided to give it to me......silence.  They listened too.  I waited for the song I needed to hear to be played, not wanting to tip my hat and be obvious by pushing the next button over and over until I came to it.  In their silence I felt exposed, and while lack of privacy is nothing new, it's still uncomfortable, at times.

While we waited for my song to come on, and in their silence, I thought about my last blog post.  I wondered what changed?  Why was I suddenly feeling so unhappy?  Was it really unhappiness, or something else?  Yes, I felt unhappy, there was no other word to describe it, no other more pretty emotion to pin on it.  I could wrap that post in the best wrapping paper I had, put the best bow on it, and in the end I'd just be left with a box of unhappy.  Since there was no use in trying to fool myself, I wondered why I felt unhappy?  Nothing had changed.  Life wasn't going exactly as expected, but it wasn't exactly going as unexpected, either.  So why?

I feel stagnate.  And that makes me feel powerless.  I wait for better weather.  I wait for more money.  I wait for more living space.  I wait for my man to finish his office and move his business out of the mobile.  I wait for paperwork to do the taxes.  I wait for water.  I wait for warm, sunny days.  I wait, and I wait, and I wait.  And in all of that waiting I grow frustrated.  I see everything as negative, because waiting is no good for a person.  We are not meant to sit and wait.  We are meant to keep moving forward, even when we don't know why.  Even when it seems useless, moving forward, in even the tinniest of steps, is what keeps us going. 

Elsewhere, the song I waited to hear, finally came on.  With just the start of the rhythm, I could feel my soul begin to settle.  And then the lyrics started, and I felt the connection to my inner self that brings my heart home.  My mind cleared as I listened to, and felt, the words.  Our mountaintop road twisted and turned, the kids stayed silent, and I realized...all of this waiting is no good for me.  Life is now, live it, and you will be happy - even in all of it's imperfection.  My Man tried to convince me years ago that beauty lay in imperfection.  In my youthful lust for all things to be right; I fought the very idea.  It took a decade, or so, but I now get what he was saying.  All of this imperfection adds character. 

While we were in town I bought some potato starts and strawberry plants.  I can start on those now....no waiting required.

Elsewhere

The lyrics, to save a person, or two, from googling them.....:)
 
I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a
Distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out holding in

I believe
This is heaven to no one else but me
And I'll defend it as long as I can be
Left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
Would you try to understand

I know this love is passing time
Passing through like liquid
I am drunk in my desire...
But I love the way you smile at me
I love the way your hands reach out and hold me near...
I believe...

I believe
This is heaven to no one else but me
And I'll defend it as long as
I can be left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
Would you try to understand

Oh the quiet child awaits the day when she can break free
The mold that clings like desperation
Mother can't you see I've got
To live my life the way I feel is right for me
Might not be right for you but it's right for me...
I believe...

I believe
This is heaven to no one else but me
And I'll defend it as long as
I can be left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
Would you try to understand it

I would like to linger here in silence
If I choose to
Would you understand it
Would you try to understand... Share 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hmmm.....a little frustrated

Back when we first started thinking about moving to raw land, some of the best words of wisdom I got about homesteading were from an online friend who lives the life.  She told me that people romanticize homesteading, but that there is nothing romantic about it.

She wasn't being negative.  She was being honest.

People imagine, or at least I think they imagine (I did, and still do to some degree), a quaint little cabin in the woods, with a cozy fireplace in the background, while a beautiful home baked pie cools on a rustic table in the dinning area, and children listen to their father read, while mom happily knits in a rocking chair with a peaceful smile creeping onto her face.

The reality is that it's a demanding life, inconvenient, full of frustrations, and a lot of hard work. 

We still wanted to live it.  And, in a lot of ways, even most ways, I don't even feel like we've started living it yet.  We're still spending so much time just trying to get our basic needs met out here, that we haven't even really got to any of the homesteading part.

What I write now, I do not write for sympathy, or advice.  I write it because this is our journey and I want to remember all of it.  I never dreamed that our story would have as many followers as it does, and I know I don't have a huge blog, but it's still bigger than I expected.  I don't want some poor soul out there thinking; we should do that, if they can, why can't we? and I hadn't been honest about it all.

I'm frustrated.  My man is frustrated.  It's been a long week.  Actually, it hasn't even been a week since I wrote about my acceptance of our new life, and I'm wondering where the person who wrote that went off to?

The mobile seems to have shrunk.  I don't know why, other than we just hit our three month anniversary of moving out here, and the plan was that we would have a house by now.  Now, I've been married long enough, and I'm old enough, to know that temporary always turns into longer than expected, so even if I didn't really believe that we would have a house by now - I wanted to believe it, and so I'm disappointed that we don't.  I'm even more disappointed that we haven't even started on a house, because if I knew deep down in my heart that we wouldn't really be done building one by now, I did honestly believe that we would have started on one by now.

This working and living in 600 sq ft is for the birds.  I love my man, but I want him and his work junk out of my little tin can, and he wants to be out, the kids even want him out.  I won't even go into detail of the mess that has been made in our one little tiny bedroom filled with two sets of bunk beds, and that is now over filled with his work stuff.  I'd just close the bedroom door, but whoops, the room is so small that there is not even a door to it to close.

This week I am tired of hauling water.  I am so, so, extremely tired of the flipping mud.  I am beyond words frustrated with spending fifty dollars a week to drive and do laundry, only to come home and hang 25 loads, weather permitting, or spend days running it all through a single dryer.  It seems where ever I turn there is a body that I must excuse my way past - to get to the bathroom, or the crying baby, or from the stove to the refrigerator, which are right next to each other, so you'd think there would be no place for a body to block my way...but still, there is, they find a way to squeeze in.

One of the four year olds complains; I don't like the tiny house!  I want to go back to my big house!  Which makes the five year old ask; why do we have to live in a tiny house, anyway?  Because, we wanted a roof over our heads, I answer.

Here's my reality check; living without running water sucks.  I've got what I call man-fur growing on my legs due to no shaving, and scales from dry skin that needs water to exfoliate.  I now have a kid with severe dandruff due to lack of...what, I'm not even sure...washing?  proper rinsing with fresh water?  And that humanure toilet?  I was fine with #1 and #2, but for a woman's once a month cycle.....not so great.  TMI?  Maybe, but it's the truth.  And it was warm today, 78 degrees, so the thing stunk, which as far as I know means we're not doing something right, but what!?  How hard is it to cover your #2 with man-litter?  When I go to town I actually get excited that I will be able to wash my hands with hot running water in a public restroom, and while I stand there and let that hot water run over my hands I wonder if the sink is big enough to put my whole head in to wash my hair - not joke!  Baby mans cloth diapers now give him diaper rash from being washed at the laundry mat, I've given up and gone to disposables, now that just irks me to no end. 

I got a generous donation this week (thank you:)), which lead us all to daydreaming and throwing out ideas of how the money would best be used for our little homestead.  At one point, faster than I even knew I had thought it, I said we could go to a hotel and take a real shower!!  Not exactly a homestead project, but my mind was wild with ideas.  My man immediately said no, and asked if I would really spend sixty dollars for a shower when I had worked so hard for it?  All I could say to him was that it had been almost two months (49 days, but whose counting!?) since any of us had a real shower, and between the man-fur, dandruff, and unlimited hot water being a treat for twelve people, sixty dollars seemed a pretty good value to me. 

I could go on, but I'll stop now.  Even I am running out of steam.  When the kids start complaining too much I matter-of-factly tell them that the complaint department just closed.....and it's late enough now that the complaint department should be closed for me, too.  I'm just saying that we are on a little uphill walk this week. 

And for the record, we didn't end up going to a hotel for showers.  The next day I dutifully heated water on the stove for baths and sponge baths.  We did decide that my man needs to get his office finished so that the business can be moved out of the mobile.  Not only would he make more money in his office, we would all be happier.  This weekend the weather is sunny and cool, so he and the boys will spend two days working on the office. 

All that being said; I'm still glad that we moved out here.  I knew that there would be hard times, frustrating times, and that we would have to find a way to work through them.  It's just not so much fun when it actually comes time to do that work.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Win a Free (and huge) Bee Package

I shouldn't share this, because you all are going to go over an enter the contest, reducing my chances of winning, but I just have to share it, because I'm that kind of person, and I spend hours out of each and every week instructing my children to share......so......

There is a really great Bee giveaway over at Grit magazine, a "Rural American Know-How" magazine.  Here's what you stand to win, and it's valued at more than $1,500!

Prize List:
  • Package Bees - Includes three packages of bees, each with three pounds of worker bees (approximately 10,000), three BeeWeaver queens and three bee hives.
  • The Expanding Apiary Hive
  • The Cypress Garden Hive with Copper Top
  • The Kentucky Special Bee Hive
  •  Drawstring Veil with Attached Hat
  •  Goat Skin Vented Leather Gloves
  •  Coveralls – Features a cotton/polyester blend.
  •  2-Frame Plastic Hand Crank Extractor – Perfect for the hobby beekeeper who only has one or two hives, will extract three deep frames.
  • Smoker with Removable Can
  • Smoker Fuel

Read more: http://www.grit.com/official-rules-grit-bee.aspx#ixzz1n3ktjy5I


AWESOME, huh!?  I entered, and you can too - Enter Here  - the entry deadline is March 15th, so you have some time, but why put off doing what you can right now for later?  Go enter already, and check out their magazine, too:)  Good Luck!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Q & A - New Page

I made a new Q & A page (see, it's right up at the top of my blog:)) for the questions that I am getting asked more than once.  New readers keep joining us, and I'm starting to get asked some of the same questions several times, so hopefully, this new page will help our story make a little more sense and answer some of those questions.

Thank you all for you questions and comments:)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This Weeks Progress

Not much got done on the mountaintop this week, unless you count my man putting up these blue shelves I found in our storage unit, which only took him about three minutes.  He also insulated the kitchen pipes, in hopes that they will not freeze anymore.  It's enough of a pain to not have running water, frozen pipes on top of it just sends me over the edge.  My man has been busy working, and seems to have found a workable groove of being in the mobile, and still being productive, with the kids and I inside, too.

 The kids and I made our weekly trip to town to do laundry.  After I told my little people to get ready, Jojo presented himself with his clown bow tie and homemade birthday crown.  It's not Jojo's birthday, or anywhere near his birthday, but when you're four any day is a good day to pretend it is your birthday.  My man asked if I was really going to let Jojo go out in public with his crown and bow tie.....sure, why not, I asked? 
 The kids made Valentines - it was a day long crafting event.  We visited with some neighbors, the kids had made them Valentine cards, and we took them a loaf of homemade french bread and carrot cake, then we came home and had a nice dinner together.



It is snowing this morning.  The forecasts say anywhere from 2 to 4", to 3 to 5", either way, we went to town yesterday to make sure we had everything we would need for a few days.  Last week was rainy, not enough to catch much water, but it did make the ground wet and muddy.  I've been going to town for water about every four days.  My man did find a large spring on the neighboring property.  Someone, long ago, took a lot of time and effort to direct the water with large chain link boxes filled with rocks.  I would explain the setup further, but I wouldn't do it justice.  I will take pictures to share once I can get back down to it, but it is a hike, and weather isn't permitting right now.

We had our neighbors over for dinner on Friday night - they were our first dinner guests since moving to the mountaintop.  They were impressed with how we had managed to squeeze all of us into the mobile and still have some room to move around, and they were impressed with the homemade pizza.

I think the strides made this week were more of an emotional nature, which is just as important as clearing brush.  In the two and a half months since we moved to the mountaintop there have been the good days and the bad, and it seems that we've come to a point of feeling at home.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Wood Stove

I've had a couple of questions about our wood stove - so here goes.....





Our wood stove is an Englander and it's designed to heat a 3100 sq ft house, but I see similar wood stoves at Tractor Supply during the fall.  I bought ours online through Home Depot about three years ago.  We've had no problems with it.  This is an indoor stove that is designed to be hooked up to duct work to heat the whole house.  Our last house, that we originally had the stove in, was over 3100 sq ft, but it did a fine job of keeping the downstairs comfortably warm.  We did not have the stove hooked up to our upstairs system though, so it wasn't heating the entire house. 

You can see in the pictures that my man used cinder blocks to set the stove on, and then instead of running the vent with warm air into duct work he ran it through a hole in a piece of wood in a window.  The window had an air conditioner unit in it that we took out and replaced with wood, so it wasn't a big deal to just cut a hole in the wood.  The heat is basically piped into the mobile through the one vent/hole, but the mobile is small enough that this works well for us.

Other than that I think the pictures explain our set-up.  My man put up a roofed area to protect the stove from weather, and he used spray foam to seal around the pipes to keep water from entering into the stove and ash drawer when it rained - we learned that one the hard way.....the rain water mixed with heat made our little mobile a steam room!!

The stove works well, the only thing we don't like about our current set up is that the fan to blow the warm air inside is outside, so if we are gone from the house for a long time, or if it is a cold night, and the fire goes low/out, it starts to blow cold air into the mobile.  Temperature control can be tricky, too.  Half  of the time we wake up sweating and cursing that we are in Mexico, and the other half of the time we wake up shivering and complaining that we are in Alaska, so it's not a perfect system set-up like this, but it sure beats paying for heat, and we never had this problem at our old house when the stove was installed inside like it was meant to be.

If I haven't answered your questions, please feel free to ask it in the comments section.

Acceptance

It's super late.  I should be in bed sleeping, but something has changed today and I can't let it go.  I don't want to lose this moment, or these thoughts.

We've come through so much these last few months.  The move from our nice cozy house was monumental.  Imagine moving a 3500 sq ft house and a 2000 sq ft shop into 600 sq ft and a couple of storage units with 10 kids in tow - not to mention one of those kids being a 4 month old, and animals.....it was mind boggling, even to me - a person who is used to this life of chaos. 

We had so many expectations for the mountaintop.  We had decided we needed power.  We needed running water.  The small mobile was only temporary.  We had to have an office for my man to work from.  We needed, and we wanted, and we needed.....and so on went the list.

And now, here we are - with so little of what we thought we had to have to survive. 

I watch my children - grow and laugh, explore and learn, and they do it without so much of what we adults thought we had to have. 

I watch them with dirty feet dangling from jeans that are too short - the only saving grace being that they wear boots and so the "flood" pants don't show, or the dirty little toes.

We dog pile into beds at night - happy for a comfortable, warm place to sleep, and each other.  I actually think that they like living like this.  Unaware of what the rest of the world expects - one child to a bed, maybe even their own room.  They jockey to sleep with me - even the ones that I would think are too old for it.  A coveted place in mommy's bed - they're never too old, or too big, to be my baby.  I relish in it.  We step back in time, and they are my baby again.

Water still does not run from any faucets, nor from the well.  I grow tired of trips to town for more water.  I do the math on the gas.  I think of the travel time wasted.  We contemplate a hand dug spring - something we turned our noses up at a few short months ago, or even weeks ago.

A real house, so much further into the future than expected.  We talk of adding onto the mobile - even just one room.  It would be heaven to have a little more space, some privacy.  My father suggested this from the beginning, and we wrote him off as un-understanding of the situation.  And now we contemplate it, wish for it, make it a goal.

Things we thought impossible to live with are becoming a normal way of life.  Lines drawn are being crossed without much thought, and devoid of regret.  How did we end up here, I wonder? 

We laugh, my man and I, at all of it, at the absurdity of the idea of it all, at the knowledge that we live it and still find happiness in it.  We remember back over the years and all of the events that we lived through that caused us to stop and say who knewWho knew we'd have seven kids, and then nine, and finally ten?  Who knew we'd have a second set of twins?  Who knew that we'd make it through this, or that, or some of the in between parts?  And now we again say who knew?

If seventeen years ago, when we were first married, someone would have told us what our lives would be like, what all would transpire - we would have told them that they were wrong.....dead wrong, and yet, here we are, living what we never could have imagined, and accepting it, even embracing it.

Progress on the property has been slow this week, if any has even taken place at all, and yet there has been this huge shift in our lives of realizing our situation, coming to terms with it, and accepting it.  Maybe it's from making it through our first real month on the mountaintop of my man working, and feeling like we are finally settling into a groove, but there has been this transformation of acceptance. 

My man and I walked the property today plotting out where to build a chicken coop, and where to plan the garden, and I realized - I don't want a big huge garden this year.  I don't want dairy goats right now, or even in the next few months.  I want to plan to start those projects, but overall - I want to spend some time with my kids, and I don't want all of that time, or even most of it, to be about working together.  I want to do some of their projects, I want to spend long hot summer afternoons at the swimming hole cooling off, I want our lives to be about something other than.....getting by.....making do.....picking the lesser of two evils....working through another day doing damage control.

I want.....for myself, my man, and our children, to find that sense of being that allows for a slow, wide, and easy smile to spread across our faces.  I want grace, and I want this feeling of acceptance to grow and spread through all of us.

That all too often quiet, intuitive voice in my heart spoke to me today, and it said.....stop, slow down, you don't have to do it all right now, take a breath, and enjoy being here.....accept now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tagged

John, from The Simple Life tagged me with eleven questions.


1.  What is your favorite place in the world?  The beach - there's just something very spiritual to me about being where such a large body of land meets such a large body of water and looking out over the horizon to the endlessness of it all.  Feeling the warm sun, tasting the salt in the air, a slight breeze, listening to the sounds of my children playing mixing with crashing waves......it just doesn't get any better than that.  Just thinking of the beach makes me feel at peace, which is why it has been my focal point during childbirth for all of the babies I've had.

2.  Who is your favorite person?  My husband.  He is my best friend - he understands me, makes me laugh, and balances me out.

3.  I'm happiest when.....  I get to spend a day with my family and not worry about day-to-day problems.

4.  Most admired public figure from the past 100 years....Jeez....I'm terrible at history, and my brain power is taxed - I'm writing this now with one four year old on my lap, another by my side talking to the one on my lap, and a competitive game of Monopoly going on about three feet behind me - don't ask me to think so hard....lol.

5.  My first job was.....  Babysitting.  From there I moved to fast food, to grocery stores, to a warehouse department manager, to receptionist.  I also worked as a real estate assistant, taught swimming lessons to kids, and as a valet at a fancy restaurant.  I was a janitor for awhile, too.  Being a mom and wife is my favorite job so far:)

6.  I am most at peace when.....  Besides when I'm on the beach?  This is a tough one, it's been so long since I've felt like I was at peace.  I've had more of a sense of peace on the mountaintop than I have in a long, long time.  I can tell you that what I want out of life at this point is to feel settled, have enough money to pay the bills, and the time to enjoy my family - all of that would bring me more peace than anything.

7.  Who has inspired you the most between 6 and 18 years of age?  Honestly?  My mom taught me everything I needed to know about how NOT to live my life, so I have to say her.

8.  I wanted to grow up to be.....  Attorney.  My man dislikes this aspect of my personality when we argue.

9.  Favorite movie....  Cheaper by the Dozen with Steve Martin.  The first time I saw it I laughed so hard because I could relate to so much of it, and it still makes me laugh 50 times later:)

10.  Favorite type of music....  I'm still stuck in the 80's, so pretty much anything from then.

11.  Best life changing decision made.....  To grow-up and let go of the past. 

Now I'm supposed to come up with new questions and tag people...so, my questions are:

1.  If you could pick a Superpower, what would it be?

2.  If you could spend a day with someone (famous or not, still alive or not), who would it be?

3.  Have you ever won a contest, award or prize?

4.  Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.

5.  I dare you, no.....I double-dog-dare-you to take a picture of your desk, or where ever you keep your computer, but you can't clean it up first!

And I tag.......

Standing Outside Looking In

Framboise Manor

Russ-Stick Acres

Bacon and Eggs

DeanO

I'm going with five tonight - five questions, and five tags - because eleven just sounds daunting to me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Icicles on the Mountaintop


It has been cold up here on the mountaintop.  It snowed on Friday and Saturday, and there is more snow in the forecast for tonight.  I'm not a big fan of freezing temperatures, but if it must be cold, at least there is some natural beauty to come of it. 


Sunday, February 12, 2012

This Weeks Progress

This weeks progress was slower.  It's been much colder outside, and I've been nursing my arm.  My forearm still hurts, and at times threatens to spread back to my shoulder and back.  The kids have enjoyed having some free time, which they've spent playing and exploring, except for Columbus - he still worked.  He fixed the hallway floor in the mobile.  This soft spot is right by the back door that we use all of the time, but it's not like it matters in 600 sq ft - we use all of the available floor space, all of the time.
 Here is the new floor that Columbus put in for us.  It feels so nice to walk on it and not fear falling through to the under pits of the mobile.
 We headed to town for our weekly laundry and water trip. 
 I would invite you to come along, but there isn't an availble seat in the van.
 Little people playing while bigger people fill water containers.
 70 gallons of water.  We got this on Wednesday, I'm typing this on Sunday and we are down to 10 gallons, and that doesn't include any bathing, except for my man who took a sponge bath.  The new gutter that my man hooked up to our rain barrel hasn't caught much water.  It's rained twice, but not enough to bring any real volume of water, just lots of mud.
Columbus tackles the job of loading the water in with the clean laundry.

 He got it all in.
 It wouldn't be a trip to town if we don't stop at Wal-Mart for provisions.
 Home, and unloaded from our trip to town.  It took four days to dry all of the laundry.  I tried using the laundry lines, but at a high of 38 degrees it didn't do much good.
 These pictures don't show as much progress as I'd like (not that not enough got done, but the pictures don't show very well just how much was done), but Columbus took on the task of clearing this area.  He got a lot of blackberry vines and small tree starts looped down.  The ridding lawn mower is at the repair shop.  We can't wait to get it back and mow down all of the endless small vines and trees, but it already feels pretty cool to be able to simply walk around outside without tripping.

 My man rounded up a group of kids and started burning brush and cutting fallen trees.
 JoJo - all bundled up for hanging out with the guys by the fire:)
 My biggest boy, and my littlest boy, hanging out together.  Baby Man has a thing for Columbus, and I think the feeling is mutual.  Columbus always stops to play with Baby Man.  Baby Man is cutting his first tooth and has started on solid foods this week.  I look at this picture and remember just how fast they grow-up.

I guess the slower pace of the week was nice.  We can see progress, and that feels good, but it was also good to take some time an enjoy it too.  The mobile felt small this week, and I've found myself wanting our house more.  I had to move G-Mans and JoJo clothes to were they can't freely get to them because they keep putting on clothes to go outside and play, come inside and strip naked, and then go get clean clothes when they are ready to go back outside again.  This is normal, all the kids did it, but I always had a washer and a dryer with the other kids.  I want water.  I want a hot shower.  I want convenience.  More than once this week, I've stood back in awe that we are doing this.  Most days, I don't know how we are doing it, because it surprises even me, but we are, and at times it feels surreal.

I need to say a special thank you to Columbus this week.  You took the opportunity to prove, again, what a fine young man you are growing into by voluntarily taking on the tasks of cutting wood and clearing brush.  I am proud of you.  I watched you work while your brothers and sisters played, and it was as though you went from being a child to a man right before my eyes.  Though, you are not yet a man, you are well on your way to being one - a good one, and I am proud to be your mother. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

The kids and I were at the laundry mat on Wednesday.  When we pulled up I was surprised at how busy the place was.  I expect it to be busy on the weekend, but a Wednesday?  But all of the big industrial loaders were available, thankfully. 

We pulled up to a group of young men standing outside smoking.  They turned their attention the our big red 15 passenger van, and then began to stare and chuckle as kids started pouring out of the side doors like a dam that had finally broken free.  Big kids, little kids, and all the sizes in between.  We're a spectacle, and I know it.  People have sat in restaurants and ordered an extra cup of coffee after their meal was obviously over and they were ready to leave - until we showed up.  I've seen them load their groceries in store parking lots and then sit in their car and watch as we load up, or unload, whichever. 

I ignore it.  I busy myself with counting heads.   I tell myself it doesn't matter what they think - good or bad, but inside, I cringe just a little. 

Once, a man yelled across a parking lot that my man and I needed to "get a new hobby" and that was five kids ago, so I can only imagine what he would yell at us today.  Even though most of the time people who say anything at all say good things, it makes me aware that they are aware, they are watching, they are thinking about us.  And it gets a little unnerving to feel like you are always being watched, and judged, to some degree, or another. 

The boys began the tedious process of taking out all of the empty water containers to get to the dirty clothes.  Cleo took charge of Baby Man.  I carried detergent, stain removers, and bleach, and headed in to take ownership of those big industrial washers.  And then began the parade of heavy and overfull laundry baskets of muddy clothes.  I opened all five doors to the large loaders and started sorting right into them.  Three darks, two lights, and one red.  I checked each piece of clothing before I decided to toss it in, or throw it on top of the machine it goes into, waiting for Spray and Wash. 

Once all of the laundry is carried in, the kids start helping.  I assign Einstein to start stain treatment on the piles of extra dirty clothes building on top of the washers.  Sassafras is given the job of digging out whites and reds.  Columbus helps sort.  Other kids ride herd on G-Man and JoJo who are over fascinated with gumball machines.  We do our thing, we get the laundry going, and then we all go sit and wait.  This trip is like any of the other many trips we've made in the last few months.

A man shows up and starts talking to other people already there.  He laughs in our direction.  I hear the words how many? and I know what's being discussed.  I ignore it, again. 

It doesn't take long to simply wash the clothes.  It's the drying and folding that is a black hole of time, so we're in and out in a little over an hour.  The boys have hauled out all the wet heavy baskets, removed the empty water containers, again, and loaded the laundry.  We're loaded and ready to go when a woman who had left the laundry mat a little while earlier pulls up next to me.  She waves, so I sit and wait. 

While we waited for our clothes to wash, this woman was folding hers.  She hung jeans of a child on coat hangers.  I noticed how clean the sheet she was folding looked, and I wondered what her secret was.  She paid us no mind, so I thought.

As she approached, I rolled down my window, and then she told me that she was one of 13 children.  She told me how impressed she was with how the kids all helped, how good they were, and that she went and bought us dinner at McDonald's.  She didn't want me to have to go home and cook dinner, she wanted me to go home and just rest, and she wanted the kids to know how good they were. 

I was, of course, touched and shocked, but the part that got me was that this kind stranger did not drive a fancy car, in fact, it was old, with worn paint.  And she wore clothes like we wear - well worn.  She is raising a grandchild on a limited income.  She didn't have it to give, this huge meal of burgers and pies, but she did. 

It made me look at our situation, again, and see that even when we think we have nothing, nothing to give, we do, if we choose to. 

To our kind stranger ~  Thank you.  Thank you for your offering.  Thank you for teaching us, with your actions, not your words, what it means to be a kind and giving person.  Thank you for showing us what true wealth is.  I wish you many blessings, and hope that one day when you need something, some kind person is there to repay you.  And know that I am inspired to pay it forward, and to teach my children the same.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

At Last, A Hot Pond Bath

My Man bought this pond liner at a yard sale a couple of months before we moved to the mountaintop.  I thought he was being foolish for buying something so big and awkward right before we moved.  He thought he was a stud because he talked the seller down from $25.00 to $5.00. 
 Since living on the mountaintop without running water I've been eyeing his pond liner.  I've spent many a moonlit night laying in bed pondering ways to get hot water to it.  I've dreamed of his pond liner filled to the brim with steamy hot water, me in it, relaxing with an ice cold beer.  Dreaming is about all I did though.  With no running water it seemed an impossible task, or at least more work than I wanted to take on, to fill this bad boy up.  And then, to heat all of that water?  Forget it, as bad as I wanted a bath, I wasn't that energetic.
I don't know why exactly, other than I wrote that really sweet post to my man the other day, and that he really does love me a lot, but he took it upon himself to heat water and fill his pond up for me.  It took a few hours, but he held steadfast to the task. 

It's funny how circumstance changes our standards.  I'm pretty sure that six months ago I would have been repulsed by the very idea of climbing into this filthy old pond that had been kicking around our property and that had green slime growing in, and now, after two and a half months with no running water - I would easily call it a mountaintop highlight!

Thank you, my man, you just made another one of my dreams come true:)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Awards Thank You

Squeal......I got two of the Liebster awards that are going around.  Thank you both so much for giving our little mountaintop story an award! 

One from Gravy and Biscuits ,and the other from A Hog, a Log, and a Frog. 

Please, go check out their blogs!

Now, the rules are that I pass on the award to five more blogs, or in this case ten more blogs?  But, I'm not going to do that right now (spoilsport, I know).  I will tell you this, if you're looking for some great blogs - check out my blog role - it is full of them:)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Greater Good

It's late, and I'm tired.  I have comments and emails to answer, a blog award to say thank you for, and then pass on.  These things would take me hours, and then I would never get to writing, just pass out from exhaustion.

If I have learned one thing from having a couple handfuls of kids, it is to determine what the greater good is, and then that is the need that is meet.  Just the words Greater Good makes it sound like a positive thing, but more often than not it leaves me feeling like I'm choosing between the lesser of two evils. 

I've been in pain for a week.  The first day we started working in the yard clearing brush my left forearm started to hurt.  I figured it was a sign of age, and my body rebelling against me doing something other than my normal baby holding/cooking/cleaning routine.  I worked through the pain.  Then I had a pinch in my spine, which lead to a knot in my shoulder.  Columbus recommend a day of rest, to which I gave my standard answer of; there will be plenty of time for rest when I'm dead

By Sunday, the pain was excruciating, which is saying something since I've given birth to eight of my ten children without pain medication.  I told my man I was actually to the point of being tempted to go to a doctor and take whatever evil drugs he or she was willing to chicken scratch onto their little prescription pad.  I hate drugs.  I'd rather suffer in pain than be brain dead and useless.  But it hurt that bad.

By this morning my man pretty much insisted that I go to a chiropractor - my pain management of choice.  I resisted, and it was all about the money.  I couldn't stop myself from thinking about all the other things we could do with the money.  Things that we needed, or even things that we wanted.  My man worked so hard for the last week.  I spent so much time keeping children out of the house so that he could work, and now *I* was going to go spend it on me. 

I knew I needed to go.  I knew that the family needed me and that I was becoming more and more useless, but still.  After many phone calls I finally found a chiropractor that was reasonably priced, and that did not require x-rays for a first visit.  They had an opening at 4:00.

Since it was so late in the day, my man and I decided to make a date out of it.  That's right; just my man and I, and baby man.  It's been a rough couple of months - this moving to the mountaintop, and no privacy.  And it was a rough weekend.  We needed to reconnect.  We needed to find that thread that holds us together and reminds us of our deep love for one another.  Sometimes, that thread gets lost in the chaos of life, and we don't even realize it's gone from our sight until there is a split second of silence and we hear it begin to start unraveling.  Such a fragile thing, a single thread, and yet, our little world relies on it. 

We drove to my appointment and talked along the way - uninterrupted.  I saw the chiropractor, we got something to eat, and didn't rush through the meal.  We marveled at baby man - over and over, our little babe that we had doubts would ever enter our lives.  He is six months old now, and I still wake up in the middle of the night to watch him sleep.  We wandered Goodwill.  And we ended at Walmart for food, as always. 

In the trivial details of today I was able to look back and see the man that courted me some 21 years ago.  Our awkward shyness has turned to familiarity and routine.  Middle of the night skinny dipping adventures to natural hot springs has turned to late night feedings and diaper changes.  Love notes to to-do lists.  Spontaneous gifts to a strict budget of necessities.  Quiet dinners out to fighting for a seat, any seat, at the dinning room table.  Endless and leisurely conversation to constant refereeing over the most trivial of problems.  On and on goes the list of changes of how we grew up, and grew our love.  We let it spread, like wildfire, and now....well, here we are.

Babe, I wrote this to you some 18 months ago....

The in between parts of you and I grow smaller and smaller as our years together roll forward. Through trials and tribulation, joys and prosperity, we’ve come into our own. The line between you and I blurs to form us.

I have every faith in the world that you love me, and that I love you. Our love transcends the here and now, the present and the past, to just exist, in such a complete way that I know our love is eternal. This sacred bond can not be broken, we can not be broken. We’ve proven our commitment time and again, and now here we stand, complete and whole, united in each others arms.

When I am weak, you carry me home, to your heart, and hold me there until I can go on. Now is when I need you most, undo what another has done, hold me tight and make me whole.

There is a place here on earth, untouched and unstained by today, and that is where I want to go to be with you. That is where I want to finish my time, without distraction or tribulation from the outside world. When I said the rest of the world could fall down around me, but that as long as you and the kids were standing by my side I would be okay, I meant it. Let it fall, and we will stand together.

I still need you.  I still want you.  Not for the greater good, but because I do.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

This Weeks Progress

The back of the mobile when we first moved in.

The back of the mobile now.

A work in progress.  There are leaf piles all over the place.

The front of the mobile at the beginning of the week.

The front of the mobile now.
Homemade culvert.  It still needs some small rock added, but this is already a huge improvement!

My man added some pipe to the kitchen sink drain so that we wouldn't have mud so close to the mobile.

Stepping stone to the mobile door to help keep down the mud coming in the mobile.

Chairs at the fire ring.

It's starting to look like home around here.

A gutter has been added to the wood stove roof to help catch rain water.  A special thank you to people who have donated - the gutter was paid for with donation money.
I like that you can see the half that has been cleared verses the half that hasn't been cleared in this picture.

What we see when we drive up to Home Sweet Home:)

The work crew stopping for a picture.

The kids have started a pile of wood for the fire ring and s'more making.

Cleo's project - she is looking for a natural spring on our property and thinks she may have found one.

G-Man, enjoying some brownie batter.

Baby Man, growing and getting cuter by the day.  He's starting to show signs of crawling - where he is going to go in our little tin can...I don't know.

It was a good week, and we got a lot done.  But, there were some highs and lows.  Clearing the property is mundane work, and after the first few days we all started moving a little slower.  I found myself walking outside to another day of work and just standing and staring at a seemingly vast and endless amount of leaves, sticks, and brush, and thinking about the whole four acres of work that lay undone.  I know I shouldn't think of the whole job at once, but it's hard not to when that's what is laying all around you.  I would have to tell myself, and the kids, that really, this is easy work, it's just boring work, and all we really need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, just keep raking, just keep loading the wheelbarrow and dumping it.....over and over and over and over. 

But, it is rewarding work, too.  At the end of the day we could all stand together in awe of the change that we had made.  We could clearly see that we had worked years worth of overgrown woods into something that resembled a yard, and created places to live and work, and I think we felt somewhat like artists who had worked a worthless piece of clay into something beautiful.

While we work I think of the skills they are learning, and that I relearn.  It does not take any special skill to use a rake, or push a wheelbarrow, but it does take drive and determination to keep doing it when you don't want to.  It takes discipline to keep working when you don't feel like it, and learning to push through mundane tasks, and ultimately finding peace and pleasure in the job is an important life long skill.  Knowing that in the end it will be worth it, so you just keep going, no matter what, will see them far in life - it has me. 

It rained here on Wednesday, so I took my crew to town so that my man could work.  We didn't really have much to do in town, we stopped and got an estimate on getting the lawn mower fixed, checked our mail, and spent an unnatural amount of time at Goodwill.  We wandered around forever, and then we took a break in the furniture section, looking at books, trying on shoes, breastfeeding the baby, changed a diaper, we talked, and I held up clothes to the backs of kids to see if they might fit. 

There was also an older man sitting around in the furniture section, I guess he was looking to kill some time, too.  He sat there reading a book until we showed up, and then he alternated between appearing to look at his book and watching us, we provide a full service people watching experience, it's hard not to watch, I imagine.  He seemed to find some joy and amusement in our chatter and chaos.  The messy hair and dirty boots didn't distracted from the exchanges, and the relationships, he just sat and smiled while he took it all in.  After all of these years I can tell when someone watches like they are waiting for a train wreck to happen, and when someone watches out of curiosity, or to relive some other time from their past, or maybe even a dream that they had.  I've never had one single person tell me that they regretted having kids, but I've had many tell me they regretted not having more.  Mostly, it's older folks, who when they were young didn't think they had the money or the time for more kids, but later in life they realized they could have had more and that life would have worked out anyway, because it always does. 

Anyway, that was off-topic, random and unplanned, but I kind of like it, so I'll leave it.  Most of the clan will be heading over to a neighbors house tomorrow to watch the Super Bowl.  They are an older couple, and most of their grandchildren are gown and live far away, and they are the kind of people who love kids.  They're the kind of people you meet once and then feel like you've known them for most of your whole life.  They appear to be smitten with our tribe of children, as are our children with them.  They live in a fifth wheel, so it's a tight fit, but they don't seem to mind at all.  Packing our kids in their tin can like sardines seems to make them happy.  I was reluctant at first to even let the kids in their place, but they insisted, and we've been over a few times now, and to my surprise they don't get wacky or tense from the over stimulation, so to their place we go for the Super Bowl.

So far, the weather next week looks like we should be able to work outside, and maybe my man will be able to work on his shop - we will see, but we are all eager to get it done.  This shared living and working space is a major pain.