In one of my favorite movies – A Beautiful Mind – Alicia Nash is tending the kitchen while her medicated husband sits at a table staring blankly at nothing. “Whatcha thinkin’ about?” she asks. “What do people do?” he replies. “Life, John,” she answers. “Activities available.”
That quote resonates regularly in my brain, as I wonder about people, life, and activity. Her answer is honest, but mine tends to be a little more hopeful. Around here, we surely find ourselves sometimes in the midst of some activity that seems either undesirable, or perhaps simply not loaded with the weighty significance to which one might aspire. Yet in between the mundane times are the exciting ones; both are things we do – both are valuable. Here are some of them…
Uniting one’s passion with one’s financially productive activities is a great ideal – even an attainable one – but sometimes God brings us tasks whose purpose is income. Perhaps our dreams are birthed out of those tasks; perhaps the task becomes the dream; perhaps we leave the task after a number of months or years to pursue our dream. As it is, we work. Adrienne works at Target – running a register, organizing the clothes, manning the jewelry case, aspiring for the Human Resources department. Taylor and I paint. We generally have enough work to stay busy about half of the month, bringing in enough income on which to live. Sometimes it’s fun; sometimes it is the true Platonic form of misery. But we’re glad to be working for ourselves, anyways. Kate doesn’t work outside the home, but she certainly does work inside of it! She does things like bake bread, make homemade cheese and buttermilk and sour cream and yogurt and salad dressing, and lots of other stuff to help keep the kitchen going smoothly and to help us save a bit of money on buying those things at the store.
Every day, one of us has to go let out the chickens. They get a little bit of “chicken scratch” – a mix of corn, milo, and oats – and maybe a few table scraps, and we feed them crushed-up egg shells for calcium. Then they peck around all day and help control the crazy cicada infestation we are experiencing.
Up until Tuesday, we would feed/check the meat birds – we had 10 cornish cross chickens in a “chicken tractor.” We would fill up their water containers every day, and their feeder every other day. But now they’re in the freezer (and we’ve been grilling one…). Take THAT Mark Zuckerberg!
The kitty cat must be fed. He’s cool – and brings us gifts of live chipmunks and dead moles.
Then we check the piggies. They get whatever is in the slop bucket (sour milk, expired leftovers, etc.), and then some cracked corn. And water. And then they root around all day, finding bugs and roots and grass and whatever else they feel like chomping on.
Then we check Gerty – usually every other day. She gets a small corn ration (maybe a pound every other day), and we check her water, and pull ticks off her neck. Otherwise, she’s good!
In the evenings, we collect the eggs (usually a dozen a day), and close the door to the chicken coop once they’ve all roosted, so local foxes don’t get a free meal. We are selling eggs like…hotcakes! Of course, they’re priced right for our customers – $1.50 a dozen – but we occasionally have to cover our “FARM FRESH EGGS” sign, because we simply run out. It’s great, though, because it pays for the feed for our pigs and chickens, so in that sense, we’re kind of self-sustaining. Also, people often end up paying us $2 for the eggs, since that’s still less than they’d pay at the store. One guy paid us $20 for a dozen. That was kind.
Occasionally, we move the pigs to a new spot in the pasture, which means rolling up the electric fence wire, relocating the stakes, and then putting the wire back up. The pigs are reluctant to cross the old boundary as we try to push them to the new pen, for fear they might get shocked (even though the wire is no longer there). It takes patience and cleverness to get them across (basically just distract them with a bucket of food).
Soon we intend to bring Gerty home, but first we have to finish fencing the pasture. It’s slow progress, especially with the blazing heat these days.
The garden is a beautiful headache these days. We have planted everything except the cucumbers, and most everything is doing pretty well. A few of the pea plants have died, I think because we didn’t stake them well. But the others are beginning to produce. The spinach has bolted, so no more spinach for a while. 😦 But the lettuce bed is going strong, so those salads will continue to be plentiful and tasty! The tomatoes are beginning to bloom, and the peppers are getting close. We’re wondering when the heads of our cauliflower and broccoli are going to emerge – afraid they might get too hot and just bolt past the head development. The herbs are growing, and the kale is looking nice. The okra has just come up, and the collard greens are ready for pickin’. Onions and potatoes are thriving. However, the garden is INUNDATED with weeds. Grass everywhere. So I spent this morning (and others have spent many other hours) breaking my back, bending over row after row to rid them of those dirty life-sucking weeds. I packed two 5-gallon buckets with weeds a couple of mornings ago, and that was just scratching the surface.
And we were for a time absolutely drenched with rain…the ground was soggy, and the sun rarely came out for long. Now, we’ve been a week or so without it, and we’ll be going at least another week that way. The sun is out, which is great, but soon we’ll actually have to water our garden! Boooo….. (I know, I’m getting no sympathy from my Texas friends/family) We collected rainwater and snowmelt in some 55-gallon drums, but we’ve yet to figure out how to get the drums to the top of the hill where the garden is, and then how to get the water out of the drums into the garden (other than just dumping them over…).
We eat pretty healthy around here, generally. Occasionally we eat out. And occasionally we crave a soda or other special beverage. But on the whole, we eat well, and we eat cheaply. Thursday night, Taylor and I grilled venison backstrap steaks (delectable) and portabella mushrooms, and I had a homegrown salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Yums. Kate makes lots of bread, and we eat lots of our farm eggs, and most of our meat consumption is venison or fish (some of which Taylor caught). All that is a recipe for happy healthfulness in our book, even if it does mean a little more effort. And soon, the garden will give us culinary delights that have yet to be imagined…
AND SO ON…
Other than that, we enjoy our leisure time at home often enough. We play the Wii, watch a movie, read the news. We play backgammon and bocce ball and washers. We go on walks and hikes through the woods. We read the scriptures and pray together, particularly on Tuesday nights, which are still our “Liturgy” time. In general, we love life at The Ozark House, and are presently dreaming of how we can develop it even further…dreams of farming, of house-church, of self-subsistence…..
Thanks for reading.