And yet, the cold hard truth is that most of us aren't going to be moving to our dream homestead anytime soon. (Unless I can get four couples who are willing to move to the St. Louis area and sign some dotted lines. Let's find a developer and some land and do this thing!)
I often need to reign myself in before I become dissatisfied, because really - what I have right now is wonderful. While hopes and goals are good, it's not healthy to always be wishing for something better. I need to practice contentment.
"Be it little or much, be content with what you have,
and pay no heed to him who would disparage your home."
I need to look at the upsides of our present home. So yes, while we have some strict HOA rules, we also have some really great neighbors. While I really dislike the front facade of our house, I love pretty much everything about the inside, down to the bright paint colors that we may not have been brave enough to try ourselves. And it's not like this is a starter house that we'll outgrow in a few kids - we could easily live here the rest of our lives. So fostering contentment should definitely take precedence over indulging in daydreams.
One way to do that is to start putting some aspects of my daydream into practice, even if it's not exactly how I envisioned it. After all, if I wait for everything to be perfect, it might never happen! Plus if that perfect situation ever does arise, I'll have some good practice under my belt and won't be overwhelmed trying to do everything for the first time all at once. Here's how we've started:
A little garden and several fruit trees. We planted the trees soon after moving in, since we knew it would take a few years to bear. (We had a single lonely cherry on our one tree this year and are currently watching
|My husband has informed me that these two beauties completely vanished.|
I'm suddenly craving venison...
My husband pulled out some shrubs to expand last year's garden of tomatoes and basil to also include lots of lettuce, some beans, and a small variety of other vegetables. About half of our raspberries drowned in our incredibly wet spring, but we enjoyed the ones that survived, and have learned more about the conditions in our particular yard (which we didn't know from the previous summer's drought). We're hoping to build two raised beds this fall to prep for next year, and next spring we'd like to rework the front bed from boring bushes to edibles and native flowers.
|Guess who could care less that our garden is small? This girl.|
She's just happy to be picking carrots with her daddy!
Hanging laundry on the back porch. Our indentures forbid clotheslines, but it's amazing how much you can fit onto a folding rack. I've just finally started getting into the habit - but I figure if Kathleen can line-dry her clothes in Canada in the winter, then the least I can do is take advantage of sunny summer days. Having to actually remember to put it out and bring it back in helps brush away some of the romanticism, as does remembering how stiff it leaves clothes! I tell myself that's more good practice.
|But look how cute my helper is!|
Poultry is also banned in our neighborhood, so no backyard chickens for us. Luckily there's a great farm nearby where we buy our meat and eggs, so our children can at least see chickens running around freely there.
And while I like to complain about our subdivision's regulations, I sometimes think animals being illegal might be good for us right now. After all, when I have a newborn I am resentful of having to take out the dog even once a day, so maybe I'm not ready to commit to the daily work of livestock during my childbearing years.
|Actually I think I'd do better with outside animals than inside animals.|
Although I must admit I laughed when I saw this.
Learning to can. I am finally stepping into the world of food preservation! I can't tell you how excited I am. We did green beans a few weeks ago and are attempting diced tomatoes tomorrow. And by "we" I mean my girls and I cheered while my mom did most of the work. Because it turns out that this is also something that is a bit difficult to do when you have a baby.
|Yes, I was so excited I put together a montage.|
My parents went on to do many, many more cans without our "help."
Composting. Finally something I can do easily with a newborn! After worms escaped into my pantry last year, I was less than keen on the idea of vermicomposting. But I was nonetheless able to persist in filling up two rubbermaid containers with kitchen scraps and newspaper shreds (outside this time), and promptly forgetting about them. My husband was skeptical - until he saw the compost several months later and was wishing we had more! We scored a tumbler at a neighbor's yard sale several weeks ago, so now we feel like we're really on our way with composting!
|Miriam is very good at reminding me to take the compost out.|
Eying the future. My husband was seriously considering putting solar panels on our roof, until he heard from some owners how little electricity they were generating. If prices continue to fall over the next couple years, though, I could see us getting them.
In the meantime, we're looking at two more fruit trees for the front and considering rain barrels. I've also told my husband we're getting a manual lawn mower when the hand-me-down we have now dies, and I imagine if we follow through on that he'll be even more enthusiastic about less lawn and more garden.
I didn't think we had much going on, but now that I've written it all out it seems like we're really starting to make this little patch of suburbia our own! Here are three things that have inspired me to make the most of what we've got:
- Keeping Your Home - When You'd Rather Have a Different One. Nine kids and one bathroom? If this mother can be content, certainly I can!
- Your Custom Homestead. I am working through this ebook and really enjoying it. She encourages you to develop your own homestead no matter what your living situation.
- Radical Homemaking. I checked this out from the library last year and loved it. It's actually on my wishlist of books to buy.
Oh, and one last thing: I don't read homesteading blogs. They tend to make me focus on what we don't have. Someday if/when our situation changes, I'm sure I'll be all about them, but for now I only read about things I can actually implement. Just another way to keep myself both challenged to grow and yet content with what we have.
What have you all done in spite of less than ideal circumstances? (Please feel free to include a link - I'd love to read all about it!) How do you foster contentment?