First off, the last post was well received and we got some great feedback. Thanks to all of you who are appreciating, encouraging and supporting. For those who missed Part 1 of this story, the previous post will get you up to speed.
So there we were.
We had just arrived at the property in rural NC full of hopes, dreams and inspiration. Arriving at the top of the hill, we parked and were intrigued by an old barn, built with wormy chestnut before the blight hit and decimated chestnut populations. Just ahead was a gorgeous spring fed creek; crystalline flowing water framed the property.
Across a small bridge the forest opened up into a clearing, and a cozy little home that suited the landscape came into view.
We met with the steward, a radiant and kind eyed woman named Pat. She greeted us warmly and showed us around. She told us she had lived there for 27 years, much of it alone after her husband left. She entrusted the land to a conservation group to ensure it never was developed or logged. She had a deep reverence for the place she called home. Pat tended some 30 apple treess, 300 blueberries and an assortment of other plants. She spoke with humble pride as she gave us a tour.
(Pat mowing the steep mountainside by herself)
We had a fantastic first day with Pat and learned that she was interested in exploring the potential of sharing the land with others. There was a tiny shack that would house any folks who may fit the bill. She was looking for a person, couple or family that would be interested in living simply and had common values and interests. She wanted the land to be stewarded and cared for. After speaking with her about spiritually, ethics, culture, politics and agricultural we knew there was something special about this woman.
The day came to a close and we said our goodbyes, buzzing with high vibing conversation and many ideas floating around. We drove back to Asheville, headed back to our campground and took that night to integrate the experiences of the day.
After some discussion, consideration and meditation we decided to take Pat up on the offer the share the land, unsure of what that would look like but eager to try.
We arranged the details and set an arrival date. Could this really be it? Have we found home this easily? So much was up in the air, but we were sure this was the right decision.
We moved into the little shack, unloaded our car and borrowed Pat's truck to shuttle our things. I can recall feeling excited, nervous, happy and anxious all at once. We so fully needed to find a way to live out our dreams and jumping in like this was a great first step.
We soon got into a rhythm of hauling water up the hill from the creek.
For those who have done this, you'll know 40 pounds of water feels like much more after a few trips uphill. Pat told us we could use some of the hilly land to plant crops. First off was finding a home for the beloved tulsi plants.
Planting the tulsi felt like a big step in the right direction.
We also put in potatoes and later sweet potatoes, made hills for squashes and seeded micro greens, carrots and sundry other crops. We helped Pat when she needed it, set our own goals and intentions and enjoyed the quiet life in the woods with the freshest cleanest water imaginable.
We shared time, space, conversation and meals with Pat.
We also went and meditated in the jail with her, which was something she did every week.
We traded stories, skills and culture.
One memorable experience was making tortillas from blue corn she grew. We showed her processing skills I picked up in Mexico from the women who have been in relation with corn for generations.The process involved nixtamalization (boiling corn with lime to render it more digestible and nutritionally balanced), grinding the corn into masa and finally making tortillas over a wood stove.
We were a living a quiet simple life; in awe at the display of fireflies, the rich biodiversity and the beauty of the land with this very wise, humble and unique woman. It was truly a very rich blessing.
We were impressed with Pat at the way she held down the homestead all alone. Did I mention she tended 300 blueberries and 30 full size Apple trees and didn't have grey hair at 74?! Perhaps it was the spring water or isolation from industrial culture, but something in the way she was living was special. She is very special.
We pondered what the long term potential was for us here. We had to face a severe case of poison ivy (I've had it many time but this was by far the worst), a mouse riddled cabin (we'd hear the snap of traps almost nightly) and steep and rugged terrain, but were still interested in what the future might hold.
A major highlight of our time there was a benefit concert for a local health food store. We had sold a few herbs to the store and purchased much of our food there. Rising Appalachia played a beautiful and intimate show there, made extra special because this was their turf, the sisters grew up nearby. If you're not familiar with their music, do yourself and the world a favor and check their soulful and conscious music out!
Pat held to her ethics and beliefs, one thing we both really admire about her.
(Group of friends helping finish a bridge. Truck approved!)
Over time we realized how much we were stepping into this woman's life. Her entire experience and everything that she was used to was being shifted and altered by our presence. We were in a completely different phase of life, and realized there was inherit difficulty in sharing such an intimate process of land management. After all we were fresh arrivals and she had been doing things her way for 27 years!
Also, based on the land trust agreements, we weren't able to build new structures. Where would we live? What would happen after she eventually passed? There was no guarantee the managers of the trust would let us stay living there. I think what it boiled down to was there was no guarantee and we wanted to put down roots, not face the possibility of getting nudged off in 10 years!
We had small hints of feeling like our freedom may not be allowed to fully express itself, not by any one factor but due to subtle differences. This understanding was more of a general intuitive knowing.
After a while we knew it was time to move on. We parted on amiable terms, but ultimately this situation was not the right fit. As we made the decision to leave, my mother's words echoed in my ear:
When God closes a door she opens a window.
We left the property with a mix of emotions, knowing we made the right choice, but still feeling conflicted. What now???
Onwards we went, as often is the case on a journey that charts unknown territory.
Our next steps led us on further adventures and each got us one step closer to finding the place we call home today.
We are happy to say that we still correspond with Pat, receiving her letters written in cursive that remind us of a different time. Writing her handwritten letters maintains the connection to Pat and the land she stewards. It is a unique and joyful act we delight in. Who says letters are a thing of the past?
Much love! @mountainjewel