I’m wrapped up snug and warm under the heavy patchwork quilt I made out of all our old jeans with only my face sticking out. Every muscle in my body aches delightfully with the memory of yesterday’s work, and my nose is chilly. I breathe deep, taking in the cool fresh pine air and gaze up out of the skylight at the morning sun shining through the boughs of towering pines. We put skylights in every bedroom and keep the windows in the lofts open day and night, save for the winter months, so that our bodies are apt to rise and set with the sun. The little house sways ever so slightly with the trees it’s built in as the breeze moves through them. It is JOY to wake up! I roll over and gather my robe from the wood plank floor and slip into my house shoes, breathing deeply again. I run my hand over the bark of the thick strong pine that runs up through the center of our little house as I descend the spiral stairs we built around it.
“Good Morning Gia. I love you.” I whisper to her. Yes, I name my trees, and I do love them!
Santini has already started the fire in the woodstove and set the French press on it to warm. I pour myself a cup with a little goats milk and honey, pack a tiny little bowl of fresh herb from the cute little glazed clay pot we picked up at the festival last year. It’s a stoner frog. I open the French doors onto the deck and breathe again. The Stellar Jays are shrieking at each other, the Cheeseburger birds calling to one another, the rooster crows, the hens cluck, the goats bay, the ducks quack, the stream gurgles, the house sways and I am happy. Happier than I have ever been in my life! I know the animals are hungry, but I take my time in the morning. I sit at the little table on the deck 30 feet off the forest floor, looking out at the clearing we’ve made. The hen house and run, the goat barn, the high fenced garden with the hoop houses still covering ten raised beds, the wild native plants with edible, defensive and medicinal uses we purposely encourage to grow around our property, at the two workshops and the storage shed, the cute little outhouse (we also have a composting toilet in the treehouse,) but mostly, I gaze up at the trees and the sky and the little creek. I greet them as I sip my coffee and smoke my bowl.
When I am done, feeling awake, aware and irie, I drop my mat and do a few quick yoga poses and stretches, telling God how much I love Him/Her for allowing me to be here. I go inside, open the trap door to the storage area under the floor, scoop out a bucket full of chicken feed and the smaller bucket of last night’s table scraps off the counter, and slip on my mud boots. Sant already lowered the upper stairs, by the pully we’ve rigged, down onto the landing of the lower stairs. We didn’t want bears climbing into our windows stealing food, or raccoons, or even unwelcome animals of the two legged variety, so every night after chores, we pull up the stairs, Lock the doors, and close the lower level shutters, keeping the loft windows open to the air.
The short walk down to the coop and goathouse is pleasant, no, it’s utterly joyous! The brown of the dirt path, the grey of the rocks sticking up through it, the lighter grey brown of the gnarly roots crossing the path. I love the crunch under my feet, the irregularity of it, the beauty of it, seeing the progress of the green things surrounding it, hearing the trees whisper to each other, to me.
“Good morning Ladies!” I sing! “Who’s ready for BREAKFAST???” they all come to the gate, clucking excitedly. I greet them all by name as I fill their feeders. Give them water, decide if their house needs a cleaning and check the boxes for eggs, which I put carefully in the empty feed bucket. On to the goats! We have four. Two mommas and two babies! Up the ladder to the hay loft and push down a few flakes. Their house doesn’t need cleaning till tomorrow either. Fill the water and watch to see how the babies are getting along. All is well on the little treehouse farmstead! Santini is in the workshop changing oil and checking levels in all the vehicles. I hear him tinkering and I hear his radio. Zave is up, always the morning person!
“Mom! Mom! MOM! Can I milk the momma goat?”
“Yes Boy, but do you remember what you were told about washing your hands and all the things you need to check for and do before and while you’re milking?” He lists them off and I remind him of one he forgot. We went to a friend’s farm a few months ago to learn how to take care of our momma milk goats. The boy pays attention and takes this life seriously, but has incredible amounts of fun doing it. Jazz is coming down the stairs all bleary eyed and asks how the babies are and if I got eggs.
“They seem good, you are better at knowing than me. Why don’t you go visit? Zave is milking Ganja, why don’t you milk Mary while I go get some green stuff from the garden to make omelets out of these eggs? I’ll call you when breakfast is ready. DON’T SPILL THE MILK!”
She is ridiculously happy out here. I am SO happy. I think as I duck into the first hoop house. She thought she’d hate it, that she’d be afraid, and she is from time to time, but not about bears and scary things at night in our house. She knows she’s safe there, but she fears for our critters. She’s definitely an animal whisperer. She adores them. We are going to have to kill some chickens soon. We can’t afford to keep buying our meat. I’m scared she’ll hate me then. I’ve warned her, and I told her we won’t name those ones. I hope she can handle that. I hope I can handle that!!!
Back upstairs, I kick off my boots by our tiny halltree, set the eggs, a zucchini, a couple tomatoes, an onion and a generous handful of spinach down on the counter, wash my hands, pour myself another cup of coffee, take another hit and get to work on two big ol’ omelets! I’m learning how to make cheese from our goat milk, and we don’t have pigs yet. Dreaming of the days when we can have homemade cheese in our omelets and serve them with bacon! Pre-packaged cheese for now and we can do without bacon for a while. We are really doing this! We are learning and working HARD and having more fun doing it than anyone knew we would. Well, I knew we would. No, I knew I would, I HOPED everyone else would.
I hear the whirr of the stationary bike upstairs.
“If you are on that bike you better have a load of laundry in the tub, or milk in the butter churn!!!” I yell up to Jahmila, who is still the last to rise even out here. Still, 7am is WAY better than 2 in the afternoon!
“Uuugh. It takes so LONG to fill it up!”
“I’m gonna take that phone away!”
The stationary bike is the best thing we’ve rigged out here. It can do a small load of laundry, or churn a vat of butter depending on which one you hook the gear to, and it powers electronic devices, which is why Jahmila is always trying to ride it empty. I’m proud of myself for being on her butt pretty consistent though. She’s been doing a LOT of laundry, and we are never without butter! LOL!
I hear her patter around up in the lofts gathering a load, and then turning on the hose we’ve rigged upstairs to fill the washtub. It’s harder to pedal the bike when the tub is full of water. We’ve all gotten so incredibly STRONG since we got here! It feels good, and the girls are looking like a couple of brick houses! I hear Michael Jackson after a few minutes of her pedaling. Cool to have music out here in the middle of nowhere off grid!
“Breakfast is close Padjums, you should drain and rinse now!” I yell up to her.
“OK.” And I hear her stop and connect the other hose we have rigged to empty out into the garden drip system, then hook up the water one to fill the tub with fresh water, a couple more minutes ride and she drains again, fills, rides and drains one more time. We make our own laundry, dish and body soap out of stuff that won’t hurt our vegies. All our grey water goes to the garden.
“I’ll help you ring after we eat. Go get everyone for breakfast K?”
“K Euma! I love you!! She runs downstairs, also touching Gia’s bark all the way down. She hugs me super tight, uuugh she’s so stinky! LOL! She eats fresh onions and garlic raw from the garden and it makes her ripe! But I love her to pieces! I’ll send them all down to the creek with soap later. She stands on the deck and yells.
“Breeeeeakfaaast!!!!” and I hear Jazz and Zave tell her to help them pull up their buckets of milk. I can see them in my mind struggling up the path with their buckets. They hook them to one of the pully hooks and Jahj pulls them up one at a time. I can hear the littles (who aren’t so little anymore) tromping up the stairs in their mud boots.
“Is Daddy coming?” I ask, and add, “BOOTS OFF!”
“He’s in the shop still.”
“Well did he hear that breakfast is ready?”
“I don’t know, his radio is on.”
“Well GO down there and GET him.” I tell them.
Jahj rolls her eyes, “Ugh, Jazz you go get him.” Jazz glares at her.
“I WILL!” Zave offers and runs out and down the stairs, down the path and into the shop. I make the girls help me set the table.
Yea, we are actually setting our table together! We aren’t all yelling at each other irritated and rushed to get out the door to go places we don’t want to go and do things we don’t want to do. OK, so I don’t really WANT to ring out the clothes, but I gotta tell ya, I DO love seeing them all hung up on the metal railings of the loft. It feels like freedom to me. It’ll take like five minutes and then I’ll do a load and charge MY phone. Then I’ll have Zave and Jazz do some butter and another load. We keep the clothing to a minimum, but dang, laundry never ends! I still have to take some of the milk and start yogurt, make bread for the week, take down the hoop houses, clean out the leaves and crap from between the garden beds and put it all in the newest compost heap, set up the moveable chicken run between the rows, clean the pantry and take stock of what we have left, check the beehives, decide what’s for lunch and dinner, make sure the kids are doing their school work… It really never ends, but we are together at home, sustaining ourselves as much as possible and getting better at it with each passing day.
Sant and Zave are coming up the stairs as I dish out the omelets, toast, tall mugs of fresh milk, yogurt, and applesauce from the pantry. Zave is excitedly telling him about how he milked the goat and got a HUGE bucket full and how cute the little goats are.
“Good job Dude. Keep it up! WOW! Look at Mommy killin’ it!” he says looking at the table.
“How are things?” I say, “Cars good? Thanks for starting the fire and coffee.”
“Yup. Their ok. Truck’s gonna need an air filter and we should change the timing belt in the Subaru soon. Quad’s good.”
“Oh good, cuz I gotta take the hoop houses down today. We need to make sure the fence around the property is still good. I don’t want those damn deer and elk in my garden!”
“They can’t get past the fence around the garden can they?”
“I want multiple defenses! Plus it’s time to make sure the brush is cleared by the road. Defensible space time.”
We ride around the property about once a month from early spring to late fall to make sure the fences are good and the dry brush is cleared. Fire is a real danger here, as are bears. That’s why we chose the tallest barbed wire fences we could build all the way around the property and corrugated aluminum for all our siding and roofs. I had ulterior motives for that though. Have you ever seen the perfect spacing of ice cycles formed from corrugated roofs? They are perfect and beautiful! Plus, we all love the sound of the rain on the metal roof. Anyway, we ride around with a little trailer full of fencing tools and materials, fix whatever needs to be fixed, and fill it up with dead brush and junk that we either burn or throw in the compost heap.
“K. I gotta finish up changing the tranny fluid in the truck and then I’ll take Zave around with me. Did you see the fish I caught this morning? One’s huge and the other one is ok.”
“No! Dang! You were up early!!!”
“5:30ish. I saw you smoking my weed when I got back before I started on the cars.”
“Phishaw! YOUR weed!”
“MOM!” Jazz and Zave are mad at me.
“Whatever,” Jahj says, “You guys know she smokes and it’s better than being drunk all the time. I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
“Your brain has to be developed before you guys ever try it.” I say. “It makes me calm and motivated and happy. I feel comfortable smoking out here. I never could feel right about it when I had to go to work, even on the weekends. I just feel so much better here.”
“I’m NEVER doing that!” Jazz sneers.
“I don’t think I will either. It’s REALLY illegal in South Korea.” Jahmila says for the like hundred millionth time.
“Yes Jahj, we know.” Says Daddy.
“I was gonna go ask Dillan if he could come fishing with me! I don’t wanna go fix the stupid fence!” Zave complains.
“Dude! The fish don’t bite during the day! You gotta wait till it’s almost dark, That’s when you catch ‘em..” I tell him.
“I’ll take you guys out this evening, but you gotta help me with that fence and get your school work done first.” His Dad tells him.
“Maaan! That’s stupid.”
“You talkin’ back to me kid?” Sant asks, “Fine. I won’t take you fishing tonight, or tomorrow, and that phone is mine tonight.”
“Fine. I go with you to fix the stupid fence.” Sulks the kid.
I look at Zave hard. “Check the attitude, or the phone is mine for a week. Jahj, It’s your day for dishes.” She rolls her eyes. I ignore it. We have one bowl, plate, knife, fork, spoon and cup for each of us, and we all wash our own after every meal, but we take turns washing the pots and pans and such. Jahmila loathes dishes more than any of us, but not so much as she did before we came out here and minimalized.