Prepare for the worst; hope for the best.

Prepare for the worst; hope for the best.

That’s basically my life motto, well, one of them. Bad things happen. All you can do is try to be prepared for them when they do happen. There are those out there who make fun of people who prepare. We are called crazy, paranoid, pessimistic, and a host of other unfavorable adjectives. I actually used to be one of the people who made fun of preparedness minded individuals. I remember the first time I heard of “Bug Out Bags” I thought it was ridiculous. In my defense, the individual (who shall remain unnamed) selling them is/was crazy. Their presentation of the bags as something everyone should have in case the “sh*t hit the fan” (SHTF)and the world as we know it ended seemed silly to me. At age 20(ish) I couldn’t fathom the world as I knew it ending.

Fast-forward 10 years and now I am a “prepper”. Not the kind that lives in a bunker with 30 years of food stored, but the kind that recognizes “life as we know it” is fragile and can be disrupted in the blink of an eye. The end of the world as *I* know it could end without anyone but me noticing. The end of the world as *I* know it wouldn’t take much. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. So, we do what we are able to ensure we can carry on through any scenario that may befall us.

For us, preparedness is and forever will be, a work in progress. No one is ever 100% prepared. There are people who will tell you they are, but there is ALWAYS room for improvement. For us, improvement does not mean just buying more and more supplies. Although we do buy some supplies, a huge part of being prepared (that a lot of people, even preppers, forget) is knowledge. Having a generator will do you no good if you don’t know how to use it. Having a cache of weapons will do you no good if you don’t know how to use them and don’t have awareness of your surroundings. Living in the woods will do you no good if you don’t know how to take care of yourself in the wilderness. Learning how to forage and live without electricity is a prep that cannot be lost or taken away from you. Knowledge is power; never forget that.

So how did I go from laughing at preppers to being one? The first step was understanding that “prepping” is not like it’s presented on TV, where people prepare for the “apocalypse”. For us, part of being prepared meant moving to a new area and changing our lifestyle from one where we were always completely dependent on other people and the systems of our society, to one where we are pursuing self-reliance and get closer and closer to independence every day. YOU don’t have to move to the woods to prepare though, you can work toward preparedness anywhere. Your preparation may just look different than ours. Preparedness isn’t an all or nothing thing. You aren’t “prepared” or “unprepared”, it’s about degree of preparedness. You can prepare to a level you are comfortable with.

Contrary to popular belief, most of prepping is being prepared for smaller, more local, events. The place to start is with yourself and your family. What can happen to you and your household that would significantly disrupt your life? Major illness, loss of job, house fire, etc. Many people prepare for those things by getting insurance and saving a little money. But you can do a little more than that and be significantly more prepared. Gardening and having food storage is helpful if you lose your job and need to save money on groceries for a while, not just if the SHTF. I keep a Get Home Bag (GHB) in my car that contains what I’d need to get home from wherever I am. It also contains things I might need if an emergency arises. This is a simple thing to do, but will leave you infinitely more prepared. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used something from that bag since I put it in my car a couple years ago. Just be sure to replace any items you use right away so you don’t get caught without something you need.

Let’s zoom out in scope a little. What could affect your community? This could be things like an active shooter situation, flood, or wildfire. Seeing people on the news flee their homes with a raging fire bearing down on them encouraged me to re-think Bug Out Bags (BOB). If you have only minutes to get out of your home, this bag is something you could grab, throw in your car, and go- it should have things like important documents/identification, change of clothes, food, and first aid supplies. You can Google and find great, comprehensive lists of BOB (and GHB) supply ideas.

 

Zoom out a little further. What could affect your state or region? This may be things like hurricanes, earthquakes, larger scale wildfires, and things like that. When a hurricane approaches the unprepared masses run to the store and buy water, bread, canned food, batteries, and anything else they decide they don’t want to be without, and they buy ALL of it. With our “just-in-time” delivery of goods to stores there is no back stock to deal with these panic buys. This is why before a hurricane the selves end up bare and people end up desperate. If you’re already prepared with several weeks (minimum) of food and the other basic supplies you need long before the hurricane even starts to form, you don’t need to contribute to the scarcity that the impending disaster creates when unprepared people descend on the stores like locust. So, being prepared helps your community, in addition to yourself.

Now, let’s zoom out even further. What could affect your country? This is where you start seeing more of the apocalypse scenarios like economic collapse, terror attack, and things like that. This is the level where people start to feel like preparation is unreasonable or crazy. But, people who lost everything in the “Great Recession”, or lived through the 9-11 terror attacks, or the people who are living in Venezuela right now, will tell you preparation for these scenarios is still important. While the likelihood of these things happening in your lifetime is less than the likelihood of the lower-level, more personal, emergencies we talked about, the effects could be even more devastating if one is unprepared. If you start with the small stuff and work your way up, by the time you get to the big stuff it won’t seem so overwhelming. A lot of the “preps” you made for the personal disasters will be the same things you need for big disasters.

The Survival Podcast is a great place to start exploring the idea of preparedness. Their motto is “Helping you live a better life, if times get tough, or even if they don’t” which really speaks to what we’re trying to do. We’re designing a life we love that is better for us physically and emotionally now. That life also puts us in a better position to deal with disaster. Here’s a podcast from TSP that discusses the various preparation levels in more detail. It’s a great one to listen to if you’re relatively new to prepping.

FEMA says you should have 72 hours of supplies to prepare for a hurricane. But, after hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast people waited significantly longer than 72 hours for help (I won’t even go into what Puerto Rico dealt with after they were hit by Maria last year). People lost EVERYTHING. Many even lost their lives, not just from the storm but from what came after… A lot of people think they will just go to a shelter. But, even the shelters ran out of supplies and the shelters were NOT safe. After hearing what happened in them I knew I would never go to one, I’d rather sleep in the woods. So, I am prepared to do just that, if necessary. I looked back at what others went through and realized I had to be prepared to take care of myself. The government was not going to save me.

Around the time I had these revelations, I started getting into apocalypse novels. I don’t know what made me read the first one but once I did, I couldn’t stop. Sure it’s fiction, but the books provide a mental exercise of “If this thing happened, then what?” which allowed me to think of possibilities that hadn’t occurred to me before. I started to apply those lessons to real life. If there was a terror attack resulting in a widespread grid-down situation (like in the famous book “One Second After”, the premise of which has been acknowledged by members if our government as possible) what would I do?….. Well…. Prior to my preparedness awakening my answer was simply “hope that doesn’t happen” or “go to a shelter”. Now, my answer involves a number of actions we’ve already taken (like moving to the mountains, growing a food-forest, educating ourselves on off-grid living, foraging, and other skills we would need), and a number of actions we would take at the time (ramp up food production, initiate security protocols, and so on).

Photo from The Weather Channel

Our area experiences relatively few natural disasters but we are currently preparing for hurricane Florence. The preparation for a hurricane here in WNC is a bit different than it was in Florida. Here in the mountains we don’t have to worry about hurricane force winds (they’re expecting winds of about 15 mph near us for Florence), our roof isn’t going to be ripped off, there’s no need to board the windows or anything like that. There will likely be some flooding in the area. It’s been a wet summer; the creeks and rivers are already high and the ground is already saturated. When looking at homes, we immediately ruled out anything in, or close to, a flood zone, so WE won’t flood. Our only real worry is losing grid power or something preventing us from being able to leave our property (by vehicle) for a while (like a mudslide or flooded roads). Neither of these things concerns us much, because we’re prepared for both scenarios. We’d actually enjoy being trapped on our property for a few days. Lol  We’re not expecting Florence to get here until Sunday but we may see some bands of rain before that. Assuming we have internet/cell signal we will keep you all updated throughout the storm. If we don’t have signal, we’ll update you when we can. In the meantime, we’re prepared for the worst but hoping for the best for ourselves and everyone else in the path of this storm.

I’ll leave you with this thought, a quote I heard years ago that I’ll never forget:

“The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.”

Terence McKenna

Useful Plants On The Homestead

As promised, we are going to talk about some of the plants we learned about from Becky Beyer, of bloodandspicebush.com . I first met Becky at an edible plant walk she led at my work that I got to do as “professional development” (how neat is that!). After that one hour walk I knew we had to have her come to the homestead to help us learn to identify useful plants growing here. Becky is an ethnobotanist, that means she studies the historical uses of plants, specifically for Southern Appalachia; she is a wealth of knowledge. You can read a bit she wrote about ethnobotany here. While you’re there, take the time to poke around the site (I’m guessing it’s for her masters thesis). There’s a TON of great info in there! My book list got way longer after going through her resources. I am so grateful to Becky for putting the website together and sharing it with the world! Even more so for providing the badly needed service of educating people (us) about the plants around them (us).

My original intention was to write a post that went over all the plants that we discussed with her, how to identify them, what their uses are, recipes, etc. It’s just not possible to cover that much information in a single blog post, especially in a level of detail that will be helpful to you. For perspective, the packet of information she sent me about some of the plants we found is 25 pages long.

In this post I will list the plants that Becky helped us identify with some very basic info so that you can begin researching on your own if you wish. I included a little more info about a few that I’ve already begun researching. As I increase my knowledge about these and the other plants on the homestead I will do more in-depth posts about each individual plant. That way I can really take the time to go into detail about each of them and do the plants justice. Since we are just beginning to learn about plants and their uses, a lot of the information I present here was found through research online. Over time, we will begin to understand this knowledge first-hand and will continue to share our findings.

Unfortunately, before I go any further, it’s necessary for me to say: I am not an expert, doctor, or trained herbalist. This information is for educational purposes only. I am not responsible for what you do with the information or the plants themselves. While I do my best to verify everything I share from more than one source, the internet is a mysterious place filled with misinformation. It is good practice to do your own research before acting on any personally unverified information, from things you share on Facebook to strange plants you plan to ingest, especially when it could affect your health or life. Always be 100% sure you have the correct identification before eating anything you find in the wild. Also, be aware that while a plant may be edible or useful for most people, there’s always the chance that you have an allergy, or drug interaction, that will make the plant unsafe for YOU personally.

Without further delay, mostly in the order we encountered them on our walk, some of the *useful* plants we learned about from Becky, all of which grow wild on our homestead. *Notice I said useful, not necessarily edible.


Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)- The pretty purple flowers of this vine are edible. We have quite a lot of it growing behind the house. It’s somewhat invasive and smothering some of the trees. But, the plant is prized by some bonsai enthusiasts so we may be able to dig up some stumps and bonsai them in order to curb its takeover.

 

 

Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)- Daylily has edible flowers, shoots, buds, and tubers. Make sure you have the right species though, some lilies are poisonous!


Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)- This very common plant, often seen as a “weed”, has edible flowers, buds, and leaves. It has also been used medicinally.

 

Carolina Sweet Shrub/ Sweet Bubbies (Calycanthus floridus)- This is one that we hadn’t ever heard of before. It’s leaves and twigs are used in tea and mead.

St. John’s Wort (Hypernicum sp.)- Having heard of St. John’s Wort and it’s medicinal uses, we were thrilled to learn that we have quite a lot of it growing on the homestead. You may have heard it’s useful to combat depression and anxiety. But it’s also said to be useful to reduce inflammation, help heal wounds, and ease the pain of sore joints and muscles. I have already started making a tincture and infused oil from this plant. I will share more on that process with you soon.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)- This is another one we have quite a lot of. People use the twigs, leaves, and buds in teas. Its bark can be dried and powdered and is said to be an acceptable cinnamon substitute. Its ripe berries can be used to make what is often called “Appalachian Allspice”. Here’s a good article about it and its uses.

Smilax (Smilax sp.)- Smilax is a semi-invasive vine, also called Cat Briar or Blaspheme Vine. It’s soft tips are a delicious edible that Becky described as “lemony-asparagus” and she was so right! I learned about this one from my first walk with Becky at my work. I was super excited to find it growing around the property when I got home. It’s a fun little trail snack, but can also be lightly steamed or sauteed. We tried it sautéed and it was good, despite being late in the season and them being a bit woody. They are best earlier in spring before the plant gets too big and tough.

There is a lot of variation in leaf shape throughout the genus but all members have both thorns and tendrils, which is one way to differentiate it from other vines. The thorns up on the edible part the are still rubbery, not sharp, and not a problem for humans to munch on raw (in small quantities). To harvest just snap off the top few inches (up to a foot) of soft growth. If you run your hand up the vine starting where the spines get rubbery harvest the part that snaps off easily. Here’s a great post about identifying smilax.

Violet (Viola sp.)- The Violet is a great plant to know. It’s quite common and is available most of the year. It’s leaves and flowers are edible.  Here’s a particularly great article about Violets. 

It’s important to note that this plant has a poisonous look-a-like, the Golden Ragwort, Packera aurea. The leaves can be confused and they grow in similar locations. So be careful when harvesting; check each individual leaf and verify it is a violet leaf before putting it in your basket. To tell the difference look at the serration on the leaves. The Violet, all the serration points down and the leaf ends in a point. As Becky said, “Violet gets to the point”. Golden Ragwort, on the other hand, has serrations that point in all directions and is more rounded.

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)- This flower we found growing in the bottom of the woods. It’s flowers, stems, leaves, and immature seeds are edible.

Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)- This plant is said to be medicinal but its cut flowers are more often used as decoration.

 


Pennsylvania smartweed (
Polygonum persicaria and other sp.)- Is one also said to be medicinal. The butterflies really like it.

Ground-Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)- Also called catsfoot, creeping-charlie, and a number of other names, this herb is the bane of lawn-growers everywhere. When you search the name most the articles you will find are about how to kill it. But, it’s edible and said to be medicinal.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)- Red clover flowers are edible. They can be added to salads or dipped in pancake batter and fried. The most common use seems to be for tea. They are also said to be medicinal though modern research has not confirmed any of the claims yet. 

Hosta (Hosta sp.)- Hosta’s are a relatively common decorative plant. But, it does more than provide curb appeal. It’s young shoots, flowers, and buds are edible

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus and sp.)- Mullein has been used medicinally for generations, primarily for respiratory conditions. It was often used to treat tuberculosis. It’s leaves can be smoked, chewed, or made into tea. It’s roots are said to be effective as a treatment for urinary tract infections. I’ve heard of the flowers being infused into oils. The flower stalk can also be dipped in beeswax to make candles. It’s fuzzy leaves have also been called cowboy toilet paper, just make sure to wipe with the grain of the fuzz, not against it. I also hear the leaves make a great bandaid for cuts and scrapes.

Maiden Hair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)- This beautiful fern is often grown as a coveted house plant for it’s delicate and interesting look. But, it has also been used medicinally for a number of conditions.

Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)- Goldenrod’s cheery yellow flowers are seen all over the area in the late summer (right now). All it’s above ground parts are edible. It has also been used medicinally, most commonly as a tea to fight allergies.

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)- Jewelweed is a plant that I’ve heard can “cure poison ivy” and is “always found growing near poison ivy”, but this isn’t entirely true. This is a good example of why you don’t just swallow any random “medicinal plant” recommendations on the internet. While Jewelweed has been shown to be effective in neutralizing the oil from poison ivy that gives you a rash, it is slightly less effective than soap… It is also only effective when fresh, so all the salves and soaps you see claiming the poison-ivy-curing-powers of Jewelweed are likely untrue. From what I’ve been told, once you have actually broken out in a poison ivy rash Jewelweed probably cannot help you. (Although, other herbs like Plantain can.) That said, if you’re out in the woods and come in contact with poison ivy, but don’t have access to soap, crushing the leaves and stems and rubbing the juice on the affected area is more effective at neutralizing the oils than doing nothing!

Plantago major, Broad-Leaf Plantain

Plantain (Plantago major and lanceolata)- This is an herb that nearly everyone in North America who doesn’t spray their yard with weed killer has in their yard. In fact, it grows in most of the world. You’ve probably stepped on it thousands of times. The even more exciting part is that many of the claims about its usefulness seem to be backed up by actual scientific studies. One such study found it to be more effective than cortisone on various skin conditions like rashes and bug bites, not to mention the fact that it’s been used with much success for thousands of years. This makes it one of the most important herbs to know and a great one to start with if you’re just starting to explore your interest in medicinal herbs, or wild edibles. It is also edible and a great substitute for spinach.

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)- Black Locust flowers are edible. The wood is a good hard wood that is often used for fence posts due to its rot resistance. Be careful though, it’s covered in sharp spikes that can do some real damage and are known to lead to Staph infections.

 

 


Black Walnut (
Juglans nigra)- Black walnut produces edible nuts. Its hulls have been used as a stain/dye. The hulls are also used as a vermifuge (de-wormer). Its wood is prized for furniture and other wood crafts. As a matter of fact, we had a big one fall in a storm and my dad took home some huge logs he will be making some beautiful wood-crafts with. The catch is that it produces a growth inhibitor called juglone which it uses to cut down on competition by hindering the growth of most nearby plants. It has even been used to create a “natural” herbicide. So, the one growing next to the garden might need to go…

Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)- Unfortunately, the one huge chestnut tree we have is not an edible one. But it’s wood is a good hardwood used for smoking food, fire wood, and wood crafts.

 

The underside of Hemlock needles.

Hemlock Pine (Tsuga sp.)- A lot of people immediately think of poison hemlock when they hear the name Hemlock Pine, but poison hemlock is a totally different herbaceous plant, not a tree. The hemlock pine is edible! The soft tips of the branches can be eaten. Its needles are also a good tea. They are rich in Vitamin C and said to be helpful for kidney ailments, colds, and a number of other conditions. The bark is said to be medicinal as well.

Pine, White and Virginia(Pinus strobus and virginiana)- We have some White Pine and Virginia Pine too. Like the Hemlock Pine (but note not the same Genus) it is high in vitamin C and has been used medicinally. It’s needles are often made into a tea. It’s pollen, bark, and sap are all medicinally useful as well. I have a longer, more detailed (half-written) post I am working on about pines I will share soon.

Sourwood bark

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)- You may have heard of sourwood honey before. Well, it’s made from the flowers of the sourwood tree. The leaves and bark of the tree have been used medicinally. Becky told us the leaves are good chopped in salads or to wrap around fish for steaming. She also said she likes to carve spoons from the wood.

 

 

 

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)- Sassafrass is the tree that the original “root beer” was made from. It exhibits a relatively rare phenomenon called heterophylly. That means the plant has multiple leaf shapes on the same plant. You can use this as an identification tool. This plant has also been used to make medicines, but some modern research shows it contains a chemical called safrole that can be dangerous.

Wild Cherry: (Prunus serotina)- Wild cherry produces edible cherries but is also medicinal. It’s used to make a number of remedies including cough syrup.

Ironwood/ American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)- While I’ve read that this tree has edible seeds, Becky told us this one is great wood for tool handles and things like that. 

 

This list contains just over 25 plants; we encountered all of these useful plants (and more) in one, two hour, walk around our property. I am currently working on a massive, super exciting (if you’re a spreadsheet nerd, like me) spreadsheet of all the plant (and mushroom) species we find on the property. So far, that list has 60 useful (mostly edible and/or medicinal) plants on it, and we haven’t even been here a year yet! Once you begin to open your eyes, mind, and heart to all of the life around you it’s amazing what you’ll find. To be able to just walk out into the yard and harvest food and medicine is an incredible feeling. I hope I was able to pique your interest enough that you’ll continue exploring on your own. I look forward to continuing to share what we’re learning with you!

Bailey’s Farm Dog Apprenticeship Program

Bailey’s Farm Dog Apprenticeship Program has enrolled its first young student. Jaxson was rescued from a not-so-great situation by some caring people who couldn’t keep him, but wanted him to have a better life. Luckily for everyone involved, they happened to ask me if I wanted a puppy. Well, of course I wanted a puppy! I had been wanting a puppy for a while. We were finally on our homestead but still renovating the house and really not quite ready to get a puppy. So, we were holding off, despite my urges to go to the local shelter and bring all the doggies home with me…

 

Me and Emberbeast on the day of her interview with her new family (2014).Bailey, Ember, and another former foster (2014).

I had specifically been wanting a “Pit Bull” puppy. Never mind the fact that that’s not a real breed… I have known a number of pitties and they were all wonderful dogs. We fostered a pitty-pup back in Florida who I totally fell in love with… but, we had goals. We had to get to the mountains. Finding a pet-friendly rental house while we found land was going to be challenging enough with a dog and two cats… it might be impossible with two dogs and two cats, especially a “pit bull”. Not to mention the logistics of moving, selling a house, buying a homestead and moving again, with the additional living-being to care for. So, when Ember (our former foster) finally got adopted, I cried and cried, but I let her go. And kicked myself ever since… Of the over a dozen dogs we fostered, she’s the only one that broke my heart to let go.

 

I was going to need a pitty-pup of my own once we got settled. I had been looking forward to that day with excitement. But, despite my eagerness I knew it would be best to wait, at least until the renovations were done.  

The stuff in *asterisks* is my internal monologue. Lol

At work a few weeks ago, one of my students saw the photos of Bailey and some of our former foster dogs in my office. He’s about to leave and turns to me and says something to the effect of “You don’t want a puppy, by chance, do you?”

“Um…..” *Sarah, you cannot just take every puppy someone offers you.* “What do you mean?”

He explains that their neighbor’s dogs keep having puppies (insert eye-roll here) and one of the pups from the newest 9 week old litter was getting beat up. *Oh! Gosh! Sarah! You have to save him!* They took the puppy home to get him out of that situation. But, their dog was not thrilled with the new addition and they didn’t have the time or experience with those kinds of issues to deal with that. So, they were looking for a new home for him but couldn’t wait much longer. If they didn’t find a home for him soon, they would have no choice but to take him to the shelter. But, he said he could tell from the photos in my office that my dogs are happy and well-loved. So, he gave it a shot.

I asked “What kind of puppy is he?”

“He’s a Pit”

*Don’t do it….*  “Do you have any photos?”

He pulls out his phone and proceeds to show me photos of an adorable little black and white *AHH!!! Moo-cow spots like Mr. Bailey!* (I might have actually said that out-loud… at work…) puppy with scabs from sibling-attacks on his head. At that point, I nearly told him I’d take the dog, but I restrained myself because I am one half of a partnership and we don’t make those kinds of decisions without the other partner. I told the student that I would have to talk to Michael and asked if he could send me some photos for me to show Michael. He obliged.

On the drive home  with Michael (since we work at the same place we usually ride together) that evening I broached the subject. Mostly thinking it’d get shot-down; this isn’t the first time I mentioned my desire for a puppy. *He didn’t say no…*

When we got home I showed Michael the puppy pictures the student emailed to me. We “aww’d” at the cute puppy photos and went about our evening activities. *He still didn’t say no.* About an hour later, I couldn’t take it anymore. “So, what should I tell him about the puppy.” Very casual… you know.

I don’t remember Michael’s exact words but it was something like: “Oh, I thought it was already decided…. We’re going to need puppy food.”

*AHHH!!! PUPPY!!! …Act casual*

“Are you sure? I can tell him we need some more time to think about it.”

“We can’t let him go to the shelter.”

“You’re so right.”

*AHHHHH!!! PUPPYYYYY!!!!*

So, I emailed the student back and told him we’d take the puppy. The student said he’d bring the pup to the office the next day.

On our way to work the next morning, I brought up the subject of puppy names. It often takes me weeks to name a pet, but 2 names I’d thought of since agreeing to take the puppy were sticking in my head. I suggested Jaxson. Michael just said “Wow”.

I was like, “Well, I was thinking since we’re in Jackson county and he kinda looks like a Jackson, but more a Jax. But I have another name I was thinking too, wanna hear it?”

“You don’t even know why I said ‘wow’”
“Um… Why?”

“Because that’s the exact name I thought of when I saw his photos last night.”

*Woah!*

Of all the names out there, for us to both independently pick the same one for different reasons, told us something. We had a name, as long as it fit him when we met him.

After what seemed like the longest workday ever, that evening we met the student in the parking lot and this little pupper was snoring in the passenger seat of his pick-up. We chatted a bit while watching the pup stumble around the grass and chew on mulch. His wife is an herbalist (how neat is that!?) and they are interested in a lot of the same stuff Michael and I are. So, we made plans for them to visit the pup in a few weeks and go on a plant walk. He gave Jax a hug, and we took our new pup home. 

The introductions at home went well. Jaxson was a bit intimidated by Bailey. Which makes sense considering his history. But, this plays to Bailey’s insecurities nicely. Bailey is boss, but is a (mostly)   patient, benevolent leader.  Bailey and Jax are two peas in a pod; Jax wants to do everything Bailey does, just like big-little brother relationships should be. Jax and Trigger can wrestle and play for hours since they both still have their puppy exuberance. Jax wants to play with the cats, they do not agree. He’s just scared enough of them to stop him from getting too rambunctious and that’s about as much as you can ask for with a pup. He’s got to learn not to chase the chickens but, again, he just wants to play. He doesn’t understand why they don’t want to play with him, he’s a fun guy. He’s a fast learner. He learned his name in a matter of days and already knows a bunch of words like NO, sit, lay down, go potty, outside, and some others. He knows what he’s supposed to do but sometimes lacks the self-control to do it. He’s super sweet, snuggly, loving, goofy, awkward, handsome, smart, and an all-around good guy. We look forward to seeing him grow into his giant paws and mature into the fantastic ambassador for his breed we know he will be.

 

So, Everyone, Meet Jaxson. Apprentice to the great Mr. Bailey, of Bailey’s Farm Dog Apprenticeship Program.

Getting To Know The More-Than-Human World

A couple of generations ago useful plant and mushroom knowledge was something that nearly everyone had. These days it’s rare. I read recently that people now can identify more company logos than they can plant and/or animal species. More specifically, the assertion was that children could identify thousands of company logos but fewer than a handful of local plants and animals (although I can’t access the original study from which these findings are cited). I find that incredibly sad, even though I only recently began to see what I was missing. We are so disconnected from the earth that we live on, and the nature that we are a part of, that we don’t have any idea what’s really going on around us. I’ll try not to get too philosophical here but if you’re interested in that I can recommend some good books (I’m putting together a list I will link here)!

Nathan (Sarah’s brother), Sarah, Becky (the foraging teacher), and Bailey on our foray.

Having been fortunate enough to grow up before the age of social media and tiny portable computers, Michael and I both spent a lot of time outside as children, playing with bugs, building forts, and getting dirty. My family had a garden, Michael’s had some farm animals; we both knew where our food came from, for the most part. Even so, neither of us were raised with the knowledge of the names and uses of wild plants (and mushrooms) around us, nor the framework for how to identify these things. Being new to Southern Appalachia made the limited knowledge we did have less applicable. Feeling it was important to remedy this lack of knowledge and connection we’ve been slowly learning about the world around us. We found an expert in foraging and Southern Appalachia and hired her to come to the property and show us the bounty in our woods and meadow. I will share some of the specifics of what she taught us soon.

An important part of permaculture and being a good steward of land is observation. Through this observation comes understanding. So, as we take our hikes around the property we observe all we can about it. Where is the water flowing and how does that change over time; what’s growing, blooming, or fruiting where and when; what kinds of soils are where; what different micro-climates do we have? The more we observe and learn the more we hunger for knowledge and understanding.

Overlooking a section of the creek that has drastically changed numerous times in our <year of visiting it. A storm knocked the tree down and that changed the flow. Then another storm pushed the tree and scraped away some of the creek-bed changing the flow again.
Some of the groups I am in on Facebook.

We are finding that knowledge anywhere we can. There are some great books out there, but sometimes they can be a difficult starting point. Surprisingly, a great place to start is Facebook. I joined a bunch of plant and mushroom identification groups on FB and started watching what people were posting and what answers they were getting. You do have to be VERY careful because there are a LOT of people who confidently comment incorrect identifications (it’s really quite frightening!)– always verify the identification via at least 3 sources (preferably at least one knowledgeable human you trust), especially if you’re planning to eat it! Even so, FB groups are still a great way to see a wide variety of species in a wide variety of settings and developmental phases. Incorrect identifications can be a learning experience too, you can look for similarities between the confused plants, and differences. Thinking through this allows you to learn from someone else’s mistake. Over time, I started to recognize the plants and mushrooms as they came across my feed and started to treat the ID groups as flashcards and quiz myself. If I don’t know, or want to confirm my guess, I can open the comments and see what other people think it is. I can google the binomials for more information, pictures, and identification tips.

Be careful with common names! Common names vary from location to location and person to person. I have seen at least 4 completely different species called “pigweed”, for example. Always identify a plant by its Latin binomial to ensure accuracy of the identification.

Some Cantharellus cinnabarinus, or Chanterelles, we found on the property after seeing the coveted mushroom online and in books.

It’s really exciting to meet a plant or mushroom in person the first time after seeing it online and in books for years. It’s probably my version of meeting a celebrity! The coolest part is when I meet these plants and mushrooms on our property I can get to know them in ways that most of us will never get to know any celebrity. I can establish an intimate relationship with each plant and mushroom. I get to know what they look, smell, (and if it’s safe*) taste, feel, even sound like.

Daucus carota displaying it’s double-umbel flower with a single purple flower at the center and “birds nest”. D. carota has a deadly look-alike in Conium maculatum, also called Poison Helmock.

I heard an analogy once that went something like this: There’s no such thing as a look-alike; it’s all about how well you know them; this applies to people and plants. People who don’t know me well may mistake me for other people with long red(ish) hair. People who do know me well wouldn’t make the same mistake. If you only ever saw one photo of a person (or plant, or mushroom) online and then were asked to pick them out of a lineup (or field, or woods) of similar looking individuals you would probably have a hard time. But if you saw 100 photos of them, it’d be easier. If you met them in person, in their typical habitat, even easier. Once you looked at them closely in person, making note of all their features, held them, smelled them, tasted* them… then you would probably recognize them anywhere. It’s crazy what happens when your eyes are opened to the more-than-human world. Everywhere you go you will start to see your new plant and mushroom friends. Going to work, school, and the store you’ll start to recognize them in parking lots and roadsides.

 

One of the Amanitas we found on the property. We’re not sure of the exact species but the warty cap, remaining partial veil, and bulbous base are the clues that lead to Amanita.

*It should be noted that (again, kinda like people) some plants are NOT safe to put in your mouth. Some plants are not safe to even touch (I’m lookin’ at you, poison ivy). You should not move on to that that level of getting to know a plant until you know who it is and that it’s safe. No one wants to break out in blisters (or die), ya know? Unidentified mushrooms on the other hand, are safe to touch (allergies aside), even the deadly ones. We have about 3 different species of deadly Amanita mushrooms (some are also called Death Angel or Destroying Angel) growing all over the woods. I have touched them multiple times, broken some apart with my hands looking at all it’s pieces. I am told mushrooms are all safe to put in your mouth and chew, as long as you don’t swallow (I, personally, am not that brave and can’t recommend it– DO NOT put Aminita’s in your mouth). The chew and spit test is a part of telling certain species apart. I won’t lie, I licked a mushroom to confirm it’s edibility, once. But at the time I had a professional forager standing next to me telling me how to confirm the species of Lactarius, and that required licking the milky excretions of the cap. 

Impatiens capensis, also called Jewelweed.
Suspected Tylopilus rubrobrunneus, also called Reddish-Brown Bitter Bolete.

I challenge you to learn something new about the wild life around you this week. Go out into your yard. Find a plant you don’t know what it is and try to identify it. Join a couple ID groups. While not specifically an ID group, the Mountain Bound Community group is a place where we can discuss plants and mushrooms, too. To get a good ID it’s important to take clear photos. Take photos in the specimen’s natural surroundings whenever possible and always note where you found the mushroom setting wise as well as map/geographical location. For plants, get a clear close-up photo of each part, leaves (top and bottom), bark, branches, flowers, and fruit.– these are all the parts that are important to look at when identifying a plant. For mushrooms, take a photo of the top of the cap, under the cap (to see the pores, gills, or other structure), the stipe (stem), and the base of the mushroom. You may also need to get a spore-print, cut the mushroom in half, poke it to see if it bruises, and/or lick* it. Take the time to learn the names of different parts of plants and mushrooms too. This is part of the foundational knowledge you will need to begin your relationships with plants and mushrooms.

Infograph I downloaded. I did not make this.

Trigger

In the last post I discussed our predator issues. I mentioned that we had some issues with stray dogs and that we “dealt with it”. Well, here’s that story.

One morning we were hiking the property and 2 dogs showed up, followed us back to the house, and started chasing our chickens. Michael shot at the ground with his pistol to scare them and one took off but the other was unphased. As you can see in the photo to the left he was also not stopped by the hose. He just kept going after the chickens. We eventually caught him and locked him up in fenced area of our yard. I posted his photos on lost and found pet pages and didn’t hear anything all day. So, we put some blankets in a dog house that was in the fenced yard and fed him (he was SO skinny). The next day I started searching through old posts on the lost/found pet page and saw that same dog we had in our yard posted 3 different times (within 2 weeks) by different people who had found the dog and returned it to his “owner”.

I contacted the “owner” and returned the dog and had a chat with him about his dog going after our chickens. The “owner” told me “he won’t stay home”. I asked how he was escaping. I volunteered with a dog rescue for several years and have some experience containing dogs in fenced yards they want to escape from; I thought I could help the “owner” secure the dog… Well, he wasn’t technically escaping, they simply never secure him in any way. Ever. And had no intention to. Anyway, I gave the dog back to him and went home, feeling uneasy. Less than 24 hours later the dog was back! Chasing chickens again… grrr… Again, we caught him and locked him up. I wasn’t going to be bringing this dog back to his “owner” every day or worry about it showing up when the chickens were out and killing one… The local shelter has very few spots and is always full, so bringing a dog there is often a death sentence for someone. The common homesteader wisdom is “The 3 S’s – shoot, shovel, shut up”. But I’m not really down with shooting a puppy who hasn’t ever been taught better. We did the only thing we could think of and locked him up in our fenced yard again until the chickens went to roost then we let him out and hoping he’d go “home”.

NOPE. He wouldn’t leave. The next morning he was in that little dog house we have in our yard. Where we still find him every morning (don’t worry we ran heat to it for the winter).

 

This was in October…. The dog is still at our house and despite having every opportunity to leave, he won’t. Which I find strange considering I was told he “wouldn’t stay home” (not that strange, actually).  In the meantime, we’ve been training him not to chase the chickens… It mostly works until he has a relapse. Now that he’s got some training, he’s a really great dog. He is very high energy but is eager to please. He just needed some direction on how to do that. He loves to chase… obviously. He gets along great with Bailey and is terrified enough of the cats that he doesn’t bother them. He wants nothing more than to be at our heels while we take on whatever task there is to be done (and chase things). He saw a pack he wanted to be a part of and made his little doggy-dreams come true.

 

So, everyone, meet Trigger, also known as Little Pup or L.P.

Long Overdue Update

It’s been a LONG time since I posted anything on the blog, too long. The last post was when we closed on the homestead– over 6 months ago. I kept meaning to post, I truly did, but I couldn’t. You see, after we finally got our homestead we hit a rough patch. A series of unfortunate events ensued and I didn’t know how to talk about it without sounding like a complainer. I mean, let’s be honest, to many people we’re living the dream– and it’s true! We ARE living our dreams, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. And while I know that our challenges are so small compared to all the craziness going on in the world, they are a part of our journey and so I feel it’s important to share them accurately represent this life. We made it through this particular set of challenges, learned some things, and are moving on… it’s time the blog moved on too. So, I am going to do my best to give y’all an update.

The first thing that went wrong was with the car that I just purchased this summer (because my previous vehicle ceased to function properly). LONG painful story short– it needed a new engine. Over $4500, a couple weeks of stress, and a few life lessons later, I have the new (used) engine. While this is going on someone came on our property and stole several of our hens, our rooster, and a feeder and waterer. That really violated our sense of security on our new property. We have since installed some cameras to be sure if anyone else comes uninvited on our property we know. Around the same time, I got poison ivy. BAD. I had to go and get steroids because my body had a secondary autoimmune response and the poison ivy was spreading fast. It took over a month to heal and I still have scars where the worst spots were. A couple weeks later Michael and I got the flu, at the same time. We were so sick and couldn’t really take care of ourselves or each other. We got through it but were both out of commission for over a week. Then, in the process of moving the last of our things out of the rental house we learned the mold there was worse than we thought. Some of our things needed to be thrown away. Some family heirloom furniture pieces had mold on them. I couldn’t bear to get rid of them so I am doing my best to clean them and replace parts that were too moldy to clean. On top of that, the pipes froze at the rental house during a particularly cold spell (while we had the flu). So, we had to have the water shut off to protect the house from potentially burst pipes. Luckily the pipes were ok. We were so relieved when we finally turned in the keys to that awful place and got our whole security deposit back. I never want to see that house again, ever. Then, the radiator in my car broke (yes the same car that got a new engine a few months prior). Luckily it was something that Michael was able to fix so we didn’t have to spend too much money to get it back in working order. More recently, we lost a bunch of our chickens to some predators. My little lap chicken was injured in the attack and we had to do chicken surgery to save him. I will likely discuss this in more detail in a separate post because it is turning out to be elemental in shaping our vision of the homestead. There were a few other things too but that covers the majority of the bad stuff.

There have been lots of great things happening too though! My parents have visited us twice (and we’re looking forward to them and my brother coming for a visit in a couple weeks). They got to see our new place and we got to spend some time with them. While they were here, they were a huge help on progressing our renovations forward. We are so grateful they spent their vacation helping us work toward our dreams and make our home beautiful. We did a good bit of the demolition work of taking down walls (thanks, Dad!) and all the existing kitchen fixtures. We refinished the kitchen walls, installed new floors, and got our new appliances in place. Coming soon will be new cabinets (which Michael is building), counter tops, and pantry. I am SO excited for my new kitchen to be done!! Don’t worry, I’ll post before and after photos soon. Then, after the kitchen and dining area are done, we’ll finish the master bedroom and bath. Since we now have all our furniture at the homestead we are sleeping on a real mattress, instead of the air mattress we were sleeping on for months.

Michael and Bailey got to experience their first snow. We got around 10 inches of snow over 2 days, so it was a good one! And then several more smaller snows in the weeks after. We got quite a few snow days over the winter and took full advantage of them! They are much more enjoyable than hurricane days, in our opinions.

In February we got baby chicks and Michael built a beautiful brooder box for them. Then he made a nice outdoor run for them to get some sun and fresh air. They are so much fun to watch, even now that they’re almost mature and have been integrated with the older flock we “inherited” with the land.  We took down the goat fence and put up the new garden fence. I started an asparagus bed and planted some peas and green beans. But, the rest of the garden didn’t get finished in time for this season. There’s just too much to do, unfortunately. Such is the homestead life! It’ll be ready for next season though! Luckily, there is lots growing that we didn’t have to plant but can still eat. The amount of stuff growing out there that is edible is mind-blowing! We have been getting to know our land, which is so much fun! We take walks around the acreage as often as possible. We’re observing and thinking and planning. Deciding where to put the new chicken coop, garden, greenhouse, etc. We’re also doing a whole bunch of information gathering on mushroom and plant species that we share the land with and what we want to introduce on our property. I will write a post about all the edible and medicinal stuff we’ve found so far soon!

We have officially been living in the mountains for over a year and been on our homestead for over 6 months. At the end of every weekend for the last few months, after working hard all weekend, I keep telling Michael “I don’t think I have ever been this sore in my life. Every muscle in my body hurts.” and then I tell him about which specific muscles hurt the worst and which task caused the pain. The funny part is that I’m not really complaining. I find the pain gratifying. I tells me I was productive and that makes me feel good. Soon I’ll have built up my homesteader muscles and I won’t feel the pain so much. It’s getting easier and easier to climb up and down the mountain, which is exciting.

So, there it is. Some of the bad parts and good parts of our last few months. Hard times are a part of life; everyone experiences them. There will always be things we can’t control or can’t keep from going wrong (no matter how much I hate it). But we can control how we respond to those situations and our response is the important part. To not let life’s difficulties drag us down we need to do our best to respond to the troubles with determination and gratefulness. There were some tears shed, sleep lost, and hard lessons learned but we came out stronger and smarter!

If you’re not already following us on Facebook and Instagram, you’re missing out! We make regular posts of pictures and updates on there that sometimes don’t make it to the blog.

We got our HOMESTEAD!!!

For those of you following closely this is not new information… I simply haven’t had time to write a blog post until now.

     We closed on our property last Wednesday and it is been a wild ride. There were a number of bumps in the road (isn’t there always when dealing with real estate?) but I won’t bore you with the details of all that…. The important part is that we got our place! It does need a ton of work but it’s ours!

The property is a little over 12 acres with a double-wide on it. The property has a nice creek running through it, at least one spring, and a well. We had the well water tested during the inspection process and the water is better than bottled water. No, I’m not exaggerating or biased, it is literally cleaner and more alkaline than even the best bottled water– and that’s with NO filtration; it comes straight out of the well that way! How neat is that! There is some land that is cleared already, maybe a couple acres. The rest of it is wooded. We will likely leave most of it wooded for privacy and wood for burning in the woodstove we plan to install. But, some of the forest will be converted to a food forest!

Since this is the mountains, some of the property isn’t “usable” in the traditional sense. As a matter of fact, I’d guess only an acre of it could be considered “tillable” due to the slope. But that’s ok since we don’t plant to till! The cleared area right in front of the house is southern facing so it will get great light and be the perfect spot for the giant kitchen/herb garden I am planning. We will likely do some terracing to get some more plantable space.

In the last post I told you I was reading all of Bill Mollison’s books on permaculture and was thinking about doing a PDC. Well, I took the leap (as if I needed something else to do) I am currently in a Permaculture Design Course. I am getting and refining all sorts of ideas on how to set up our homestead to be as efficient as possible. You know how I hate wasted time and energy! That’s why I felt like I needed to do the course now. If you haven’t learned about permaculture yet, I highly recommend it! It is truly an eye-opening, amazing, epiphany-inducing concept. It’s about more than just gardening or raising animals, it is about whole-system design. To me it seems like the science of everything; it’s part biology, chemistry, botany, geology, psychology, philosophy, etc. Permaculture touches it ALL. My mind is constantly processing and planning with the new information I am learning. 

The former owner of the property left his chickens behind. There were about 50 of them and when he left they opened the coop door and let them all out. When I went to do the final walk-through on purchase day, there were chickens all over! I ended up talking to a neighbor who was able to take a bunch of them since we aren’t there to properly care of them yet and we want to be somewhat selective about the chickens we will have going forward. There are about 15 chickens left on the property and I think that’s a good place to start. I made sure they had access to plenty of water and am told they will get enough to eat free-ranging on the property (their crops looked pretty full at the end of each day). We left the coop open so they can still roost in relative safety at night. When we were there this past weekend I spent so much time just watching them scratch and peck and wander around the property. I couldn’t help it; they are such funny little creatures. We even got fresh eggs for breakfast one morning! The yolks were SO dark! I have bought eggs from farmers markets plenty of times but these were definitely the darkest yolks I’ve ever seen. It might be because they are solely foraging right now. Most people, even if they free-range their chickens, feed them store-bought chicken food. We also were awakened by a rooster crowing each morning; perhaps preferable to an alarm clock… except they can’t be turned off on the weekend. Even so, I can’t wait to be there full time to be able to better care for and enjoy them.

I have already begun to attempt to identify the existing plant species on the property. I noticed a number of medicinal herbs like plantain (so much plantain), jewelweed, mullein, goldenrod… There are also a number of black walnut trees and at least one giant hickory nut tree. We haven’t found any fruit trees yet, but there are some raspberries and blackberries. I am hoping I can find a local plant expert to help me identify the infinite other plants I don’t know what they are yet.    

I will do a more detailed post (probably several) soon about the renovation projects we are doing to the house. For now, suffice it to say it needs a LOT of work. It’s got good bones (for a trailer), as they say. The structure itself has a good layout and is in great condition, solid even floors, solid walls, new metal roof, great big back porch, large windows letting in plenty of natural light… That’s where the positives end though… The double-wide was constructed and placed on the property in the 90’s and absolutely no updating has been done since then, it also seems like it may not have been cleaned since then… It’s got popcorn ceilings, horrible blue carpet (that is literally covered in crap), and the walls are VOG paneling that has a wallpaper type look to it that is not attractive (IMO). We plan to rectify all those issues ASAP. We can’t quite “move” there yet because some of these projects are messy and we’re going to tear out the carpet. So, we can’t move our stuff into the house until we at least scrape the ceilings and get the crap-covered carpet out. We “camped” in a tent in the living room last weekend though so we could get as much work done as possible and not waste time traveling between the new place and the rental we are living in…. The plan was to continue this camping there on the weekends until the home renovation was (at least mostly) done…. but I am thinking that plan is going to need to change.

For the last few months I hadn’t been feeling well (on and off). I eventually came to the conclusion it was allergies and started taking allergy medicine and felt mostly better. I have had allergies for as long as I can remember but have never needed to take allergy medicine until now. I was a little concerned that after our years of planning and dreaming I was allergic to North Carolina! Wouldn’t that have been a tragedy? Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the problem…. As it turns out, our rental has a SERIOUS mold problem! As we were packing some things to move to the new house we were finding mold on more and more things! It’s disgusting. And apparently, it’s making me sick! The whole weekend at the new house, I didn’t take my allergy medicine and I felt great, despite how filthy the new house is…. As soon as we got back to the rental Sunday night, my allergies went crazy again. So, YAY! I’m not allergic to my dreams… BOO! I am allergic to the house we’re living in. I am still debating it in my head but I am thinking I will just take my clothes and go to the new house semi-permanently to get out of the place that’s making me sick. Plus, then I will be able to get more work done on the new place!

Brace yourself, folks! Mountain Bound is about to be a lot more active and exciting! Make sure to follow the Facebook page as I will be posting photos and progress updates there too, probably faster than I am able to get updates to the blog.  

Reunited And It Feels SO Good!

Michael and all our fur-kids are here! (and have been for a few days… I just could NOT get around to writing and posting)


After 3 months in the mountains missing him (and my Bailey) he is here and we are officially completely moved! Michael was able to find a temporary job at the college I work at (Yay for lunch together again!)  which we’re hoping will lead to a more permanent position.    Mountain life is great. Every time I leave the house (or even just look outside) I am awed at the luscious green everywhere I look. It’s nice to not see pavement and civilization everywhere. Large chunks of land are dense natural forest. It’s amazing! Part of the reason it’s so green is that it rains A LOT… I thought I was moving here from the tropics, it rains every day in Florida in certain seasons. This is totally different. It rains for weeks straight. In the last few weeks we’ve only had a couple days that it didn’t rain all day. Turns out, Southern Appalachia is a temperate rain forest! I knew that before I moved here but I don’t think I knew exactly how rainy that was. Not that I am complaining at all, the abundant water is one of the reasons we chose to homestead in this area. I’m sure I’ll be especially grateful once I have a big garden I don’t have to water.

On Michael’s second day here, we put together one of the 80 gallon compost tumblers I got on a sweet deal a while ago. I’m really glad to have that up and running because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could handle the guilt of putting compostable things in the trash… All the seedlings I started died due to an unfortunate accident involving strong winds… I have a few things I am growing in pots on the porch (and in the kitchen) but I think I have given up the idea of having a real garden in this rental house. Honestly, I’m hoping that we will find our homestead property soon so we can move out of the tiny, old rental we’re in. If that hope were to come to fruition, all the work I’d put into starting that garden would be wasted. Besides, with my expanded work hours and longer commute (compared to my previous job), the property search, on top of the usual household and life sustaining chores, I don’t have much time to be putting into a garden. That being said, in the little spare time I do have, I assigned myself some homework. I am reading a bunch of Bill Mollison’s Permaculture textbooks (Permaculture One, Permaculture Two, and Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual). I am toying with the idea of getting a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) but this would only be worthwhile as a knowledge-proving credential if I wanted to make a living doing permaculture design… which I’m not opposed to but I’m not sure if that’s what I really want to do. I think I’ll have a better idea after I finish the books.

A few weeks ago I went to the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville. I meant to post about it separately but never got around to it, so I’ll just cram it in this post! It was amazing! I got a weekend pass and went both days, although I left early the second day because I was exhausted and suffering from information (and people) overload. We are definitely going to go the next time it’s in town, which I think is annually. Hopefully next time, we will have our land and that will make some of the concepts being taught more tangible. If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of these conferences, I enthusiastically recommend it!

We are scheduled to close on the sale of our house in Florida on June 16th and have already begun searching for a property up here in NC to purchase. I’ve seen about 15 properties in person (Michael has been here to see 4 of them) and I spend way too much of my time scouring the internet looking for other potential places. Finding the right place for us has been, and will continue to be, challenging. From what I gather, buying a home/land is always difficult, time consuming, and a lot of work. Of course, I knew that going into this. But, there are some added concerns that I didn’t really have to deal with when I bought my house in Florida. One is that over half of the places we’ve seen have water problems, from leaky roofs to wet basements… apparently people don’t consider the fact that this is a legit RAIN FOREST when they build houses here and so a lot of people have issues with water damage, mold, and rot. It’s pretty discouraging when some otherwise fantastic houses have an issue like that. Also, a lot of the properties up here are mobile homes/trailers. Securing financing for these is an added layer of complication, and since they won’t hold resale value like a “site built” house it means any mobile homes we consider have to have some other features that will help the land build and hold value.

Because we are buying land that is to be our future homestead, we have a reasonably long list of “needs” and “wants” that we are hoping to find in whatever we purchase. We’d like there to be several “usable” acres, at least two water sources, good sun exposure, good neighbors, less than an hour from where we work, and the list goes on. Some of these things are somewhat negotiable, for example, our definition of “usable” land is probably different from most people. This is the mountains, you can buy 10 acres but there’s a good chance (at least in our price range) that only an acre of it is usable at all. And by usable I mean less than a 30% slope. A lot of people think you mean cleared and flat pasture when you say you want “usable” land; we’re not that picky. If there isn’t a secondary water source on the property, we’d still consider it if we can get it cheap enough that we can afford to have a well drilled later. We will not consider any property that is in an HOA or any sort of restrictions. We’re not going to deal with someone telling us we can’t build a shed, or that our chickens are “illegal” or any of that nonsense. So, that rules out a lot of potential places too. I won’t go into any more explanation right now or this post will end up a mile long (it’s already way longer than I intended it to be) but suffice it to say we have our work cut out for us! We’re scheduled to see two more properties this coming weekend. One of them I looked at before Michael got here and I want him to see it because it meets much of our criteria. Hopefully we find some promising places soon because I am chomping at the bit to start building and living our homestead dream!

It’s Official!

It’s official! I am a North Carolinian!
Well, according to the state of North Carolina anyway (I have a feeling some of the locals would have a different opinion). I spent a morning last week getting my North Carolina Driver’s License and License Plate. While the DMV was predictably unfun, the people working there were nice and I got everything done; so hopefully I don’t have to go back for a LONG time. Woo-hoo!!

I have been in NC for a little over 2 weeks now. All our belongings arrived about a week ago. Aside from Michael (and Bailey… and Mango) not being here yet (I am missing them terribly), it’s starting to feel like “home”. It has set in that this is not a vacation. I have had almost two weeks on my own (plus a few days the previous week with my predecessor) at my new job. I think once I settle in and learn the new software, and new policy/structure, I will feel right at home there also. Everyone I work with seems really nice and not at all annoyed with all my frequent interruptions to ask them questions. All that, AND my drive to work has some amazing scenery.

The weekend before last, Michael and his brother (and Bailey) came up to help unload the trailer with all our stuff in it. We used a moving company called U-Pack. I think we definitely made the right decision on that front. This company dropped off a giant 28’ trailer thing in the driveway in Florida. We put all our stuff in. They picked it up and drove it to the new house in North Carolina. Doing it this way really made the logistics of getting our stuff moved so much easier! We paid by the foot and since we only used the first 12’ of the trailer it saved us some money. This was great because deciding how big of a truck you need is darn near impossible. Also, it was cheaper than renting a U-haul truck and just a little bit more than a Penkse truck, for our move. Plus, neither of us had to drive and maneuver a big ol’ truck 12 hours and into the mountains! Additionally, there was a possibility that I would have needed to move up here before we found a place to live, if that happened they could have stored everything for me until I found a place. Going this route saved me so much stress! And the drivers from the company seem highly skilled because they fit the trailer some tight locations. My new NC neighbors were impressed lol. I don’t plan on making any more long-distance moves in my life but if I did, I would use them again. It definitely took a lot of stress off of my shoulders.

I think I can comfortably say that I am mostly unpacked. I do have some boxes stacked around the house… Ok, a lot of boxes. But in my defense, most of them are not going to be unpacked in this house; they will stay boxed until we get our forever land and home. I am hoping the Florida house can be ready to put up for sale the week after next. Michael is working hard trying to get the last few projects completed before it’s listed.  The sooner it sells the sooner Michael can come up here… AND, the sooner we can get our land.

It snowed this past weekend. So, while I was inside keeping warm, I started some of the garden projects I’ve been itching to start. I upgraded my worm bin. I had a worm bin in Florida but for some reason they all disappeared a couple months before the move. So, I planned to start over once I got to NC. A wonderful and generous (former) co-worker in Florida gave me some of her worms to bring to NC with me. I got them some bigger accommodations and set that all up. They live in the kitchen for now but once it warms up I’ll move them outside.  

I also started some seeds in a seed tray for transplanting into our first NC garden when it warms up. In the past I hadn’t bothered with starting seeds inside but it’s necessary now that I live somewhere that freezes. I started seeds for asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, peas, spinach, and tomatoes. At least 2 varieties of each type are in this round. There are some things I will direct sow into the garden bed and I may start another tray or two of seeds inside when my next seed order arrives…

I ordered a bunch of seeds from SeedsNow this weekend. I usually order from SeedsNow because they have a great selection, good prices (plus they email me discounts), all their seeds are non-GMO and many are organic, heirloom varieties. They have an awesome search tool that makes it super easy to find the right seeds for your climate and planting location. When I was shopping on the website this weekend I signed up as a SeedsNow affiliate. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, it means that if you use my link, it doesn’t cost you any extra but I will get 20% of whatever you spend! Basically, I am collecting a marketing fee from SeedsNow to encourage others to buy from them. It is pretty amazing actually! I have been recommending them to people for years, even before I was an affiliate, but now I get paid to do it! So, if you’re going to buy seeds anyway, consider buying them through my affiliate link and help support our homestead dream. It would be greatly appreciated!
This weekend I will be assembling one of the compost tumblers we got on a sweet deal. I’m pretty excited to see how they’ll work. I’ll keep you posted, of course. 

Hope you are all chasing your dreams too! Thanks for following along 🙂

Packing and Moving

T minus 5 days to departure!

That’s right. In just 5 short days I will be packing up (almost) all our belongings and driving north. Not for a vacation, but to live!

THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!

We have been planning for this move for a few years and preparing for over a year. This means when I got the call saying I got the job in Asheville, the house was already more than half packed. I already had a (mental) list of all the furniture that would be coming with and the stuff that would be getting trashed/donated. Of course this list did require modification based on what kind of rental I could get up near Asheville.

When I was in NC for the interview, I looked at 1 rental house. It was the only one I could find that met our needs and the only one was able to schedule to see in person on a Sunday (the only day I was in town and available). I wasn’t thrilled with the house, but it was satisfactory. It is small, old, and in town. It has no A/C and no central heat, just an oil heat monitor (don’t really know anything about that but I’m sure I’ll learn fast). But, it is cost effective, less than 30 minutes from my new job, and it has a big garden plot we get to use (YAY!). All that was almost completely irrelevant. The biggest, most important factor was one that I knew would be a challenge during our housing search, but I had no idea how challenging….. This little house was THE ONLY place that would allow my pets; I have a dog, Bailey, a Catahoula mix who is around 50 lbs, and 2 cats, Kona and Mango. Every. Single. Place. within 45 minutes of my work either had 2 pet limits, or 15lb weight limits for dogs. Or, in one instance, was about $400/month more expensive than everything else. The most commonly suggested solution to my dilemma was that I have a secret cat. While I came to terms with the fact that I would do that before I got rid of any of my animals, I REALLY didn’t want to be dishonest. After scouring the internet and calling a whole bunch of apartment complexes to see if there was any exceptions to their official pet policies. We went ahead and applied for the little house I saw while I was up there for the interview and we got it (I just heard back this morning)! I’ll be honest, I was a little panicked about the possibility of moving up there without a place to live. Hotel living is expensive and uncomfortable and creates a number of other complications, like what do we do with all our stuff during the period of hotel living.

At this point, we have finished packing almost everything except for things we are still using. Most of the garage has been cleared out and we have begun staging the items to be moved in the garage. Until today, I thought we were going to use U-Pack ReloCubes but when I told U-Pack the address we would be moving to they said they can’t deliver ReloCubes to that location, so I would have to go with the trailer. Luckily, I found this out before it was too late or it could have been a disaster! Both the trailer and the cubes function the same way, they deliver the cubes or trailer to your house, you have 3 days to fill it, they pick it up, a week’ish later they deliver to your new location, and you have 3 days to unload. If I had gone up there without a place to live yet, they offered storage but that of course costs money and you don’t have access to your stuff for that whole time. We went this route, as opposed to just renting a truck and driving it up, for a bunch of reasons. First, we don’t have to drive a big truck for 12 hours and into the mountains. With the trailer being picked up and delivered in roughly a week, I can help load, go up and start my new job and then Michael can come up later to help me unload. Also, it is about $200 more (for our move) than renting a Penske truck. To me, all the benefits are worth the $200.

As prepared as we were for the move, it has still been a pretty chaotic week since I got the job offer. But, we are arriving at the point now that almost all the plans have been made and it is just a matter of going through the motions. I think now that I have a place to go, I will feel less mentally stressed. But, this means the physical stress is going to get kicked up a notch. My bed time has already been pushed back an hour or so and there is no more sleeping in on the weekends to get as much done as possible each day. I am already feeling the pain of the heaving lifting and sleep deprivation and that is going to continue for another couple weeks until everything is unloaded in NC. But, it will all be worth it when we get our land and get to start building our homestead.
The homestead life is certainly not one that is chosen for its easy living and excessive leisure. It is a life of sore muscles and lost sleep, at least that’s what I hear. I will be able to personally vouch for this statement in the next few years. But it is also a life of passion, love, freedom, ingenuity, delicious and healthy food, appreciation for the natural world around you, and a million other positives that more than make up for the difficulty. For now, I will remember that growth is often painful and I will chose to look at the hardships of the moment as training and growth for the future life we are building.