Monday, November 29, 2010

Poverty's Blessing (Hedgewyck)

I've never thought of poverty as a blessing before.  Our society's infatuation with the material has done it's work, and being considered poor always loomed as a dark shadow of affliction, to be avoided at all costs. Yet this experience is redefining my perception of what poverty really is. All the distractions and clutter of modern American life are cleared away, leaving only what is truly necessary.  It forces us to consider and reconsider what we are doing and why.  If we'd had the money, we'd have started building right away in our haste to reclaim the familiar.  Then we'd be faced with tearing down what we'd already done if we're really committed to doing what's best for Hedgewyck, or going on regardless of our convictions about this place and the way we have chosen to live.  Because we lack resources we must wait, even when we don't wish to.  Poverty has joined us on this adventure.  Yet is not here as an enemy, as one might think, but as as guide.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Gentle Nudge (Hedgewyck)

A frost encrusted leaf on the driveway
  This morning started out in a million diamond points of frost.  The wet ground was frozen firm and rippled ice lay on the rainwater tank.  The air was sharp and a covy of quail flew noisily out of the brush when I went to get Sugar in the bright morning sun.  My husband spent most of yesterday trying to keep the furnace and generator working.  The generator needs new brushes and we're not quite sure what is wrong with the furnace.  Of course all this happens on the coldest day we've had so far..............and a holiday no less.  Thank the Fates I married a man who is mechanically inclined!

Yesterday's cold anxiety threw harsh attention on just how fragile our machines are and how terribly dependant we are on them.  With such complexity comes huge potential for failure.  We need a more resiliant system, for without the generator, we have no heat or light.  The furnace, likewise, has no backup system should something fail.  What if we come to a point where we can't afford propane or gasoline for these machines?  How will we cook, see, or keep warm?  Obviously we need a simpler system.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Morning Ride (Hedgewyck)

My morning ride to take Sugar to the pond has become a bit like a meditation.  It gives me a chance to feel each change the seasons bring.  Some mornings are grey, others blood red, and some crisp blue.  The sun peeks golden through the trees, it's rays glowing in the mist, on clear days.  The air is moist on my face and smells alive, even while the trees stand naked in their winter slumber.

We've had several rains in the past week.  The mosses, which had lain pale against the earth during the dry spell, grow lush and green in wild contrast to the deep rust leaves that fall over it like confetti.  So far the winter here has been gentle with soft rains, cool nights, and warm days.  Leaves blanket the moist earth and the grasses still are green beneath the light buff of dead seed stalks.  I know it will grow colder, yet it is nearly midwinter, and the days flow quickly toward spring.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sharing Space (Hedgewyck)

My husband took this photo of an armadillo next to our trailer.
They are considered pests....
We saw a small bobcat at Hedgewyck yesterday.  He ran past, nearly silent, while we were standing outside talking to a visitor.  This sighting accounts for the grey tufts of rabbit fur I have seen along the road, swirling in the morning breeze .  Bobcats are skilled predators and it seems that humanity's rote way of dealing with such is to exterminate them.  After all, this bobcat might eat our chickens, baby goats, or cat.  There is something limiting about the arrogant expectation that we have such complete dominion over our little piece of forest that we can determine what species are allowed to exist upon it.  There is little support for those who want to share.
We believe it is our job to keep our domestic animals in such a way as to prevent temptation.  We will secure the chickens at night, keep the baby goats in the barn until they are big enough to be fairly safe, and keep the cat near us.  Of course this is only practical for small homesteads with just a few animals such as ours. After all, it is much easier for a large operation to kill the predator than protect so many animals.  Perhaps that is the root of our modern attitude.  As agriculture gets bigger, it demands a larger share of everything.  Huge monocultures and feedlots leave no room for untamed nature.
We are aware that our precautions may not always work.  We may lose an odd chicken or goat.  But we think that a small price for the thrill of seeing the white flash of a bobcat's tail moving ghostlike through the brush.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Price of Awareness (Hedgewyck)

One of the thousands of mushrooms that spring up in fall.
As I rode Sugar through the dripping mist for her morning drink it occurred to me that we have never been so responsible for a place as we are now.  We've always been places that have already been made by someone else.  We were able to alter, but never erase, their concept of the proper way to live.  While Hedgewyck is not untouched (it was logged about 10 years ago) it is still essentially a blank canvas.  What it becomes can only be a reflection of who we really are.

A fallen tree serves as food for these shelf fungi.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stripped Down (Hedgewyck)

A wise friend once told me that you have to live in a place all four seasons before you really feel at home.  This week, it finally feels like winter.  The trees have shed their bright crimson and bronze coats to leave cool grey branches reaching for the sky.  Pines and Cedars that were lost in the lush green velvet of the summer stand stalwart in their sedate mossy coats, sheltering the bare branches of their deciduous cousins.  A stark delicate beauty has been revealed without the multitude of distractions the other seasons provide.  I notice trees I've never seen before and get lost in the intricate twists and turns of branches as they push toward the pale sun.  Those who have fallen lay nestled in the leaves, crumbling at the feet of their sisters.

Our life has also been stripped to the bare minumum.  We are forced to think about the most basic things.  Every gallon of water, whether captured from a rainstorm or taken from the neighbor's well, seems precious now that we have to carry it.  Power and heat all must be carefully planned.  There is no simple flipping of a switch for the lights to come on.  The batteries must be charged or the generator has to have fuel.  Even the refrigerator takes careful watching, for if the propane runs out, our food will spoil.  Careful consideration makes each small aspect of our lives beautiful in it's own way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And So It Begins..............(Hedgewyck)

To say it wasn't hard to leave everything behind wouldn't be truthful.  It is never easy to leave what one knows for something completely new.  After all, we are starting over from scratch.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm too old for all this.  But I know the challenge will make me a stronger person.

Sugar in the area we have chosen for the livestock.
Despite my reservations, the beauty of this place is bewitching.  I love the trees and green.  The forest seems to hug me in a protective veil, hiding us from the critical eyes of the world.  I want to take care of this place, to do things right the first time.  With this in mind, we will attempt to build just what we need in a way that works with the land instead of changing it.  Can we balance the wild with the tamed?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Hedgewyck? (Hedgewyck)

I often get puzzled looks when I tell others we call our new place in the Missouri Ozarks Hedgewyck.  I suppose it does seem like an outlandish name.   But it fits.

Some of the beautiful woods at Hedgewyck
You see, I've had a fascination with living fences for the past few years.  The climate we are in here tends to quickly destroy deadwood fenceposts, unless they're treated with a host of toxic chemicals, but it nurtures trees and brush.  So I figured it would be wise to make a living fence.  I chose Osage Orange, otherwise known as Hedge, for the subject of said fence.  This thorny plant starts easily from seed, grows rapidly, and is not bothered by diseases or pests.  It takes a few years, but when it's done, the resulting fence is very effective for keeping animals and people where you want them, whether that is in or out. 

Anyway, back to the name.  Wyck is old english for "living".  Thus Hedgewyck means living Hedge, which I thought very appropriate given our plans.

There is a decent article about this very subject in the October/November 2010 Mother Earth News. 

To read it click here.