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Naw, I ain’t trying to write potty talk.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing valuable in things unused.  What to do with all that unused stuff John and I have collected over 31 years of life?  Flush it out.  Get rid of it.  Send it to new homes.

I wrote briefly here about how I am developing a yoga practice for myself.  I’m not taking up yoga simply for physical exercise and health, but I’m looking at all the Eight Limbs of yoga.  It is challenging me to change, and giving me a blueprint for finding a spiritual peace.  To surrender to God – as the second limb Niyama calls for in terms of treating oneself in an ethical way.  I am already seeing the benefits of yoga in my mothering and the way I am approaching my priorities and goals.  It has helped me to see that I am living a cluttered life both inwardly and outwardly.  I need to flush out the junk in both the literal and figurative sense.

I’m also thinking of the needs of my girls in this decision.  Right now, Deladis tries sometimes to clean up after herself, but is rarely successful.  Both girls are overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in there room as I am.  Ivy is a very energetic child who needs activity and freedom to explore.  I’ve called her “wildcat’s kitten” here before and rowdy.  I stand corrected, however, having been told by another mother that she is “spirited”.  (Though I still prefer “wildcat’s kitten” and “rowdy” to describe her behavior.  Every child is “spirited” just gifted differently. 😉 )  The amount of clutter in the cabin makes it hard for her to safely explore and be active in family life, and it makes it hard for me to constantly watch her and keep her safe.  I’ve never been good at anticipating my girls’ needs and catering the home environment to meet them because I’m too focused on the behavior I want to nurture in them instead of the process of nurturing.

I have to find a way to accomplish my top priorities of day to day living, which are providing an environment in which my girls can learn respect and thrive in peace and beauty and creating a literal place of cleanliness, order and serenity in our home.  I want a home where the girls are actively a part of the keeping of it, and where they can take pride in responsibility and see their work as meaningful.  At this time, play and imitation are their most important jobs.  They need a place where they are free.  I need a place where I am free and my housework is meaningful in order to have more moments of true creativity.

I have made several attempts in the last year to purge us of junk.  The first being in the move to our cabin.  We threw away and donated oodles of stuff.  More recently, I’ve worked on the girls’ room, trying to organize it.  I’ve taken many boxes and bags to Goodwill.

John and I are both collectors and have been since childhood.  We collect books, music, movies, rocks, knick-knacks, wick-wacks, art, quilts, etc…  I have come to the realization that many of these things are not necessary and most wouldn’t even be missed if I got rid of them completely.  It is taking up space in our lives and stifling true growth.  Growth that goes beyond accumulated possessions.  I’m not here to pass junk onto my girls.  They will have plenty of meaningful things to keep as mementos of me when I pass on – my iron skillets, my Appalachian book collection, my quilts, my dishes and cookbooks.  Those are useful things.  Unlike CDs that are rarely listened too, shelves of movies that collect dust, and clothes that I’ve had for a coon’s age but never wear.  It is hard to rid myself of these things because I’ve been putting some sort of monetary value to them.  I keep old clothes that don’t fit thinking at some point I might need them again and won’t be able to buy more.  I keep movies we no longer watch thinking I might someday have time to list them on ebay.  It’s silly, and I am ready to stop.

When I toured the old homesteads of the Cherokee on my recent trip researching my novel, I was so inspired by the simplicity.  My goal is to bring that to my home.  Everything taking up space will be useful and/or truly meaningful.  It is going to take some time and it won’t be easy for me, but I’m going to get there.  It’s not just cleaning… it’s a spiritual exercise.

In working toward a life of self-reliance and sustainability, I’m quickly learning that material goods… the stuff of consumer culture can get in the way.  We have to lose the mindset of work and buy… work and buy.  John and I live without a lot that most people in our society would consider necessary because we don’t place a high emphasis on money and therefore we don’t buy much of anything, but that doesn’t mean that we have put aside the thoughts of needing “things”.  You have probably noticed that I haven’t posted pictures of the inside of the cabin very often, but I have plenty of the outside.  It is because I’ve been embarrassed and have found little beauty inside our dwelling.  That is about to change.  It’s my responsibility.  I’m not embarrassed anymore.  In the coming weeks, I’m going to write about how I approach this project both on a spiritual level and the physical.  I will also post before and after pictures.  I’m ready to free my family.

As those of you know who visit regularly, we have taken the plunge and gotten a small flock of chickens.  This has been nothing but a joyful experience so far, and with two little girls who love a “full breakfast” which includes lots of over-easy eggs, a cost saving one.  We approached getting our flock as frugally as possible.  The first step was retrieving the old chicken coop (from days of old) out of its resting place on the hillside.  We wanted to use it as a model for our own.

Not sure when this was last used.

Not sure when this was last used.

It was clear to us that it was not to be salvaged, so John sat out to use what he could from it to create a new coop.  We went to Lowes and bought about $60 worth of wood, chicken wire, nails, screws, hinges, and a hook and eye lock.  John spent all of one day and part of another building the coop without a pattern.  He used the old coop as an example.  He enjoyed every minute of it.  Deladis could not wait until it would be filled with birds.  “When it is all done, the chickens will fly out of the sky and into the new house,” she said.  We used two drawers from an old wardrobe for the nesting boxes and the project was ready for its inhabitants.

Complete

Complete

The next step was purchasing our feathered friends.  Our primary use for these birds will be eggs.  We’ll eat them if we have to for whatever reason, but we really value the eggs more than anything.  I had done some research and thought we’d look for some Rhode Island Reds or something similar.  They just sounded like they would be good layers.  We left the girls with John’s mother and went to the stock sale at Staffordsville (Paintsville) in Johnson County, Kentucky.  Now, that is a true hillbilly stock sale.  It was awesome to simply walk through, just like I did when I was a kid.  It hadn’t changed at all.  On one side there were animals, country wares, guns, and ammo.  On the other side they had some produce, bootleg media, and bootleg fashion, along with yard sale type items.

On the side with the animals, there were goats, pot belly pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, and hunting dogs.  Everything a good mountaineer needs for a little family farm.  I could have taken home one of everything, but chickens were our mission.  After some looking, and talking with vendors, we were directed by a lady to her brother that had brought some laying hens to sale for their dad.  On the way to visit his spot, John was recognized by some up and coming young old time musicians and their dad.  He played a coupleof tunes with them, then we talked to our man with the hens.

His hens were gorgeous.  He had some Rhode Island Reds, but I had my eye on some he called Golden Comets.  They were beautiful girls and he had a glorious looking rooster to go with them.  He had a good price on them at $12 a piece and $18 for the rooster.  John and I walked the sale to talk it over.  A man offered us a bunch of white hens and a rooster for $50 (6 in all), but they didn’t look nearly as healthy.  We decided we wanted the Comets and went in search for an ATM.  By the time we got back, the man had sold all his beautiful big laying/dual purpose hens.  No Golden Comets for us.  All he had left were a small brood of what looked to be game hens.  He called them small stock chickens.  He said they would lay for us and would be fine for that.  He asked $10 a piece for them.  We dove in head first as the fellow seemed to treat his animals well and looked trustworthy.  We picked out three hens.  Two brownish buff colored ones with a single red comb, and a buff, black, and brown mix.

The man reached in to give me the lightest of the three ladies.  I took her with two hands (mind you I’ve never in my life held a chicken) as I had seen in all the pictures of folks holding chickens.  She commenced to squawking and wiggling.  Soon, she was out of my arms (I still don’t know how that happened.  I know I had her good.) and taking to the woods.  John, the man’s son, and I chased the hen all over that stock sale and across the busy two lane road several times.  The man’s son finally caught her under a brush pile.  🙂  John took the other two ladies to the truck without my help.

The rooster the man had for $18 was too big for our little ladies, so we bought two roosters from the man with the white chickens for $10.  That included the cage.  I figured we could eat the weaker at some point, and keep the healthier for the hens.  They were smaller men and more suited to our hens.  They looked to be of a similar breed.

We got them home and chose the younger of the two roosters to put in with the girls.  The older has been spending the nights in the woods and coming down for food in the mornings.  He seems content enough.  We are trying to lure him into staying closer to home.  The hens and young rooster have settled into the coop nicely and have given us two eggs since Saturday.  I think that is pretty good considering they’ve only been with us two days.  Their eggs are small and white.  One of them had two green speckles.  The yolks are a deep orange.  Yummy!

We have named all five of them.  The one that made a break for it at the stock sale we call Lucille.  She is very vocal.  The darkest one, who’s a bit quieter, but looks so wise, we call Ida Lee.  The other lighter one thinks she’s pretty and holds her own.  We call her Bobby Lou.  They are named for our grandmothers.  The young rooster is Big Sexy.  He fits the name so well.  And our old man is Roy Roo.

John bought the lumber today to build them a chicken run.  I can’t wait to see them out and scratching.  Things are coming together with our little place.  I’m sure this coop is a coup de jour.  I have a feeling we will be expanding. 🙂

The Brood

The Brood

The last two days have been a much needed break from the rain and enclosure we’ve experienced so much this season.  The girls have played on our back porch, which they love to do.  John cut our grass that had shot up with all the rain.  I worked the garden, and I have to say I finally have some faith that it might produce something for us.  It has been helpful to be outside as my mind has become kind of sluggish with all the thinking I’ve been doing.  I exercised outside today.  I love the smell of cool moist mountains.  It still didn’t give my mind a jump start and make me come back and produce a ton of words on my novel, but it gave me a change of pace.

We’ve been thinking so much about food and the way we are living our lives lately, and I’ve been nervous about the future of our food situation.  Things are seeming to fall into place though.  A lady gave my mom (a rural postmaster who gets many gifts of food) a dozen fresh eggs from her hens, which my mother in turn gave to me.  It may be a possible source for cheap eggs in the future.  I may get by on only buying 3 cartons of eggs this month.  A neighbor has some doodles (baby chicks) they are raising until they are ready for a new home, and then they are ours.  We are going to have to prepare the coop soon.  Then, it will be fresh eggs and happy hens.

Today, my husband staked off the garden to get ready to hang the pie pans that will hopefully deter the little critters (That and our dog has decided that defecating around the garden is a great idea.  I stuck the hoe in it twice yesterday.  Maybe the smell will help keep animals away.).  John also built a scarecrow and let Deladis help.  She drew its face.  A scowling one.  Yesterday, I was able to plant two more rows of corn.  We have potatoes, onions, cabbage and corn sprouted and doing well.  I have 3 rows of carrots planted and I have no idea how to identify their sprouts from weeds. :%    I hope they have sprouted.  I’m going to wait a little while before I replant those rows.  We’re going to finish this week out with rain, so I’ll have to wait until after that.

My brother killed a wild turkey on the last day of Kentucky’s season for hunting them, and gave us the meat.  It was so delicious!  He came to eat some, and offered to give me his domestic rabbits to raise and breed as a food source.  I’m still trying to figure out how I’ll feel about that.  Will I be able to feed a creature, look after it’s wellbeing, watch it give birth and nurse young, then kill it and eat it?  How would I explain it to the girls?  I’ve never kept an animal for the purpose of slaughtering it.  At least with hunting the animal has a fighting chance.  If it out smarts you, it gets to live.  Until the minute it dies it has lived the life it was meant to live.  The domestic rabbits would be a good source of fresh healthy meat for the family.  It is something I’m really going to consider.

I’m going to be looking into composting as well.  I don’t think the ground will need much help this year to produce a good crop, but maybe in the future.  I’ll have to have containers for it because any of the food we throw out gets eaten by either our dog or wild animals.  Not much of a compost pile when there is nothing there to rot.

With a garden, laying hens, and rabbits, we won’t have too much more to worry about buying from the grocery stores, and we would cut back on waste as well.  It is so wonderful to have land to work.  It’s meaningful, joyful work.  I think we might be on our way to sustainability.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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