I've always been a bit of a romantic when it comes to imagining my ideal lifestyle. Softly edged images, like watercolour paintings, have floated through my imagination since I was a girl. These are not at all a new occurrence, but desires woven together from experience in my own home growing up, settings in favourite novels, and the lives and properties of friends and family. Some of the images that come to mind now but that have been a part of me for years include:
-a silver tabby cat (preferably with six toes on each foot) sitting on a windowsill surrounded by African violets in a warm, gently lit kitchen, looking out at the frosty winter evening
-the smell of homemade gingerbread baking in the oven while you sit in front of a fireplace under a handmade quilt reading a novel, or the Bible, or writing in a journal
-the adorably nasal sound of a red-breasted nuthatch foraging in the conifers off to the side of your property while you stroll through the trees
the bright red stain of strawberry juice on your fingers as you hull pound after pound of the delightful morsels in order to make strawberry jam, or pie, or shortcake
-the warm scent and peaceful, welcome sound of horses munching on hay in a quiet barn in the evening
-the burst of flavour and juice in your mouth from a cherry tomato freshly plucked from your own plants
I could list these forever. Now that I have children, I have even more images in my head and my heart, such as:
-the expression of wonder on James' face as he holds a fluffy, yellow, day-old chick in his own small hands
-Susannah's laughter as she watches the antics of young goats playing, or hens having a dust bath in our yard
-the glint of sunlight off their hair as they run through a sweetly smelling field of red clover under a blue sky
-the learning and valuable experience that would be theirs, knowing that they can grow their own food and help me prepare it in the kitchen.
Some of these images can easily come to life without actually actively seeking to establish a homestead. But how much more satisfying would that strawberry jam be, if we grew and picked the berries ourselves? Would the frosty winter scene outside the kitchen window be even more beautiful if the snow dusted a barn, and fence posts, and lovingly planted fruit trees as opposed to the parked cars of our suburban neighbours? For a romantic like me, who grew up in the country, the answer is yes.
Having grown up in the country, and having had big vegetable gardens and a Belgian gelding to look after and having done some preserving on my own already, I know that the experiences aren't always magical. They can be dirty, they can be exhausting, they can be frustrating. I didn't love weeding my parents' vegetable garden. Anything but, in fact. That handsome gelding created hefty quantities of manure that needed to be cleaned out of the barn (I didn't mind that chore at all though, although it was an awful lot of work!). Preserving can be hot, frustrating work when you're hulling pounds and pounds of berries in the heat of July while your entire family goes to the beach and leaves you with them by yourself (sorry about that day, Mamma!).
But as I've grown, I've experienced educational institutions, the simplistic but beautiful life I had in Costa Rica, the frustrations and satisfaction of various jobs, the on-going joy of motherhood, the pride and the disappointment in the way our society is governed, and the financial responsibility of owning a home and raising a family. I've come to crave that ability to sustain a family while bringing each member closer to the others, of growing food and growing hope and love and confidence and thankfulness, of caring for my loved ones and caring for the earth. A life of raising strong, loving, responsible children who respect the world around them and are aware of and thankful for their food sounds like the most rewarding life I could imagine. Sharing that with my husband and providing for all of them while doing what I love? Spending my spare time with plants, with animals, with fresh produce grown steps from my own kitchen? Seeking to better understand the natural world and our place in it? Teaching my children self-sufficiency and respect for others in a setting where they can practice those skills every day?
It seems impossible not to strive for this life.
This post is linked to Homestead Barn Hop #51