Dream life?

So often after telling somebody where we live, we get: "Wow, you are living the dream life." Or, "You are so lucky." And, depending on the time of year, I say, "Yep, I know," or I politely nod, hoping they will move on quickly. I apologize if you have said something like this to me and I seemed aloof; I probably didn't feel that way about you, just people I don't know.

It's tough, though. We knew when we made our decision to live here that we would be going against the grain: of "normal" family life, of parental expectations, of career considerations, of the 21st century generally. We were also taking on three huge new responsibilities all at the same time: new business, new home, and new kid on the way. Sometimes I feel like we have always lived like this, even though it has only been three and a half years. We have always lived like this as the four-person family we currently are, so imagining anything that came before now seems like a hazy memory.

This place is so loaded. First of all, there is history dripping off of every rusty barb of old wire, old door knob, worn-out apple tree and falling-down fence post. Families, long before my family, turned this place into the spectacular, intimate marvel that it is. And now we live here, on borrowed land. I feel like I could never do it justice, because this is not mine, and they (the homesteaders) didn't know me. I imagine they expected their own descendants to be living on their carefully-tended land a century after they laid claim to it. But instead, an unrelated caretaker picked by committee is now creating her own memories on this hardscrabble parcel that already has so much memory stored up in it. My little blip of time spent here doesn't amount to anything in homestead years. But the impact the homestead has had on my life will be forever.

Also, we know we won't live here forever, so putting down roots any deeper feels dangerous. I've fallen deep, and the break-up, when it happens, is going to be hard. I try to keep a measured distance, appreciate the here and now, and try not to hang on too tightly. Axel was born here: How much deeper an attachment could I have? I won't even know until we leave. And then I fear I will pine away for my lost love, with overly romanticized memories of the good-old-days. See what I mean? Loaded.

Also, there is the pressure of being in the public eye. Expectations of every history buff, environmental studies person, non-profit group, parks and rec worker, random visitor, head honcho of said non-profit, all placed on one shoulder or another as we shuffle along trying to keep up with the gardening, chickens, kids, gates, fences, foxes, sheep, cooking, cleaning, grant writing, other jobs, water, life.

The fear of going feral, or rather of giving the appearance that we've gone feral without realizing it, is always on my mind as well. Do other families bathe as infrequently as we do? Are their cars as dirty? Do they have this many spiders crawling around their ceiling? Do we seem strange now that we have accepted our unconventional life as normal for us? Do we smell bad? Do I look older? Does this prairie dress make my butt look big?

The hardest part about being the caretaker on this 1890s homestead for me is that I can't fully experience it the way I would like to: uninterruptedly. Homesteading is not my job; I have to go into town for that, several days a week. So, I'm a part-time homesteader with so many plans and ideas and wishes and dreams, feeling like there isn't enough time to see them through. So it goes.

My dream life is rich, if not completely as I want it. I bend and twist my thoughts around this from every angle, and what I come to realize is that I wouldn't have it any other way.

Some things of beauty…

We have been up to our ears in stuff to do lately, and right as this crazy season has come to its peak, the boys and I left town!  We left Andy to tend to the Homestead on his own.  He dehydrated, pickled, canned, steam-juiced, and brewed lots of tasty morsels and beverages.

Before we left we helped him pick a bunch of apples from a neglected tree in town.  He's using these apples in particular for hard cider.  He's made it before, and it is the perfect combo of dry, slightly sweet, apple-y effervescence.  Hopefully this batch turns out just as good.

Axel is so homestead.  He was born here on the floor of our living room.  He has eaten homestead dirt, played in the galvanized steel tub under the water pump, consumed plenty of fruit that has fallen off trees here in the orchard, chased chickens, hiked trails, played in the Moon Cabin, explored the root cellar, dug in the garden.  He has played here almost every day of his life.  This is what he knows, and I think that is so cool.  And, so homestead.

Asa appreciates the Homestead with a wider perspective than his brother's.  He remembers living in a neighborhood, with neighbors close by.  He remembers having his own room, probably, even though he didn't sleep in it.  He understands that most places have modern plumbing, with flushable toilets, and a seemingly endless supply of water to do fun things with, like bathe everyday, or run in the sprinklers.  But he doesn't complain about not having these things.  He has decided to embrace this for the adventure that it is, I think.  Because he is always up for an adventure.  I think the Homestead has definitely become home for him.  He loves it for its complexity, and freedom.  And so do I.


The goats and sheep are heading back to their winter home soon.  We are going to miss them.  The Homestead is going to be a less poopy, furry, noisy place, slightly less demanding, until next spring, when they will all come back to do it all over again.  At least we will still have the chickens, and the cat.

Asa and Axel found another skull.  I think this may be a sheep skull from last year.  They are fascinated with bones, skulls, and creepy stuff in general.  I used to tend to avoid bones and cadavers while walking around.  I didn't feel the need to pick them up and examine them,  probably because I was taught that they were gross. But having boys has opened to me up a whole world of things I didn't used to do.  It's awesome.

Apples are on the trees in late summer, just like they have been every late summer for 120 years.

Another familiar image in late summer here in Montana.  A smoke-covered fuchsia sun.  Beautiful.