Hey! Ini here to share the “Achievements & Failures” of our year on the land.
This year was a doozy. At times I felt aligned and deeply in my purpose and life path, grateful and jubilant. Other times I felt so frustrated upset and like everything sucked, I felt like giving up everything. But the truth I’ve realized through experience after an epic 2017 is that If I don’t commit myself fully and live life as voraciously as possible, I’m missing out on the most profound highs and successes and all the lessons and growth that come with upset and failure.
So what did 2017 bring? Short answer A LOT. It was a year full of severe changes, hard work ands struggle, satisfaction, rejuvenation, abundance… A really big year for us at Mountain Jewel. It is our 2nd year developing a raw piece of land into a thriving diverse ecosystem guided by the ethics and values of permaculture. PHEW! Here’s a brief list of major happening on our Homestead in 2017 :
We were featured on a Discovery Channel show, we build a solar shed, we set up our solar system to provide off grid electricity, we got a solar powered well pump, we set up a shower, we installed drip irrigation, we erected a high tunnel, we harvested an abundance of garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet potatoes we’re enjoying through the winter, we grew many medicinal herbs and set up a tincture business (Mountain Jewel Botanicals), we made an octagonal log cabin into our home, we raised our first chickens, we got goats, we planted hundreds of edible/useful trees and shrubs and vines (the fruit of which we will harvest for decades to come), we got two bee hives and caught a honeybee swarm, harvested our first haul of honey, we tattooed each other, put in a vineyard, plugged mushroom logs with shiitake, we danced to our friend’s music, we floated our local water ways and hunted and ate armadillos.
Where to begin? For starters our yurt (the only “inside” space on our 18 ac homestead ) was moldy at the beginning of the year. In a wake up coughing, not breathing well, tight chested, swollen face OH SHIT THIS SUCKS kinda way. We had left for several months in the last stretch of 2016 and came back to a yurt that was actively culturing mold in our incredibly humid climate. So the year began with a failure to secure a safe and restful home space. Not interested in leaving or pursuing other options offsite, we slept in our screened in gazebo. Luckily our winters aren’t too harsh, but a couple of nights dipped to 8 degrees and waking up shivering is no fun for anyone.
Not having a safe space to rest and rejuvenate after a busy and hard work-filled first year on our homestead, we deicide to do what we’ve always done, just keep moving forward. We didn’t have much choice in the matter as my partner and I have given ALL of our selves to this dream of establishing a thriving food forest, homestead and eventually opening Mountain Jewel to interns, visitors and workshop particpants as a center for earth connection & permaculture education. This is our life! It really sucked a bag of rocks to have no space to breathe easy out of the elements. Everyday seemed to drain me a little more, push my limits and dampen the spirits. Out of this push to get our needs met, in early January we began construction of a shed to house our future solar system, meet our storage needs and even offer a safe sleeping space.
We dug a foundation by hand in the rocky Ozark soil. Returning many of the rocks to create a rubble trench. We began to fill poly bags with gravel to create an earth bag stem wall. We used green locally milled oak 2x6s to frame the walls and raised them with help from our friends. We roofed the building and were cruising along when along came a message to would shift the year in a MAJOR way.
Our instagram account had a message from the casting director from Homestead Resuce. It’s a reality TV show on Discovery Channel that features the Raneys, a homesteading family from Alaska. They “save” homesteaders in a dramatic portrayal of the struggles of homesteading. They invest their skills and a generous network budget into making the lives of homesteaders easier/better/safer.
During the interviews I was quite nervous (pretty rare for me). I felt like I was in 3rd grade delivering a speech that I wasn’t ready for. I knew it didn’t matter, as this was just a silly interview, but I still felt unsure of myself. That said, once it was over I knew we were going to win and be selected to be on the show. And we were.
It all happened in a whirlwind of activity beginning with a site visit 3 weeks after the interview. Two crew members came and scoped things out, briefing us on what to expect. Then they were gone and we were told they would return with 20 people in a couple weeks. It all happened so fast! When the full crew arrived our life was turned upside down. It really felt like a mini invasion as our normally quiet, basically solitary life was abruptly filled with a flurry of hectic activity.
Being on TV was never something I wanted or dreamed of. But here it was, unfolding in front of me. The Raney family wanted to tear our yurt down without giving us a clue as to what would happen in it’s place. This whole process was deeply unsettling and uncomfortable in many ways. The whole thing was filmed, and being TV there is always a push to get the content to tell their intended story. This coupled with high standards and ethics made for an interesting compromise.
In the end we were stoked on what they set our to build, an octagonal cedar log cabin. WOW, I was shocked and happy.
Another big improvement that was made through Homestead Rescue was the installation of a solar powered well pump. Up until now we had been hand-pumping water for all the household and irrigation needs. They hooked us up and had a pump installed for us. They paid for solar panel and needed hardware, which gave us the great opportunity to practice wiring solar panels ourselves for the first time. They also installed a water tower with a cistern that channeled water through a cedar aqueduct to another raised cistern. We then installed drip irrigation to water our plants (of which Wren started from seed over 100+ varieties this year, many of them perennials we can enjoy for years to come!).
Just after the filming of the show, we finished the solar shed by siding it with waney/live edge cedar we felled from our land. The siding was all cut on site and therefore had no lumber miles! Not to mention, the live edge completely changes the face of a square building to create a beautifully organic feel. We installed our 8 PV panels on the roof of our solar shed. We learned about wiring and installed the charge controller, batteries and inverter than now provides us with ample AC electricity. What a life changer! We also learned how to wire sockets and set up a ceiling fan in the gazebo. After this, we soon purchased an energy efficient freezer (now happily full of food we put up). This was a HUGE step forward for us as we can now store food easily with renewable energy, build with power tools and have some creature comforts like lights and fans.
I am still so grateful for this progress!!! I give thanks everyday for the abundant energy harnessed from the sun. We were never interested in tying into the grid (still roughly 80% powered by coal in Missouri) and wanted to really walk our talk. Getting ourselves wired to produce our own electricity has been such a blessing.
Another success was growing and storing oodles of garlic, potatoes and sweet potatoes (we’ll write posts on this and how you can successfully grow your own!). This feels rewarding to be able to grow calorie dense foods to sustain and nourish these bodies that work so hard.
We also tried our hands at grazing goats to help mow down brushy areas. We traded labor for a friend’s wethers (castrated males) from her milking herd. We effectively turned our brushy landscape into high quality meat. The harvesting process was definitely impactful as we saw these goats come into this world and were responsible for ending their lives. This was an emotional trying process, but one which I am grateful for. We also harvested some of the chickens from our flock and made some delicious soups and stocks!
This fall, after erecting the main structure months earlier, we framed the walls of our high tunnel. After removing 28 five gallon buckets of rocks and a few boulders (I said we had rocky soil, and it’s only 200 square feet), we were set to plant the fall crops that keep us in fresh produce through the winter. Yay for winter salads! This was great success because it protects our food and greatly extends the season. It also gave us a good first step before embarking on a much larger high tunnel approaching 2000 square feet (which we got a grant for- we will also write a post on this!).
The most recent success was realizing the first phases of broad scale food forest plantings. We actually received a USDA grant to maintain forested land and plant edible trees and shrubs (we’ll do a post sharing the details). A fantastic reminder that we are doing the right thing and are being blessed. We planted over 100 trees and shrubs including hazelnuts, chestnuts, hican (hickory x pecan), new jersey tea, paw paw, pears, apples, apricots, almonds etc… This dream and vision for manifesting abundant and diverse productive ecosystems in line with natural cycles is so important. This dream is MUCH bigger than us and I truly believe we are held and supported in our endeavors. This dream is worthwhile…
This has been an abundant year, full of life and beauty. It feels like the struggles we overcame at the start of the year built and strengthened our resolve and determination. After so many confirmations and blessings, we’re ending the year in a restful space, with gratitude overflowing. Taking the winter slowly and remembering to laugh, read and play. Thanks to all those that came before, all the encouragement, and those who see our visions and support the good work of co-creating an abundant and beautiful life of Earth.
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I was inspired to do this post from: https://steemit.com/my2017/@anomadsoul/my-2017-contest-inviting-everyone-to-do-a-2017-recap-every-week-until-the-year-ends-100-sbd-weekly-reward