Planting Plans

I really, really hate bugs that destroy my plants. Even though this is not a novel statement, as bugs have been plaguing farmers since there was farming, it was reconfirmed with renewed vigor and passion after my experiences last summer. My bountiful tomatoes and peppers were ruined by stink bugs. Thus in the end of the season I was stuck with too many plants full of rotting fruit, which scattered unwanted seeds all over the place. Almost everything I had planted was taken over by the pests… except for the watermelons. That started me thinking about what I really needed to plant this year and what would be the best choices for My Zen Acres.

Though we will be using fencing this year because the deer have caught on to my game, I wanted something a bit more hardy and not as vulnerable to pests. I also want to bring people to our little farm to enjoy our place of zen and spend some time outdoors. Finally I need certain crops planted to further my bath product business. For these reasons, I chose the following seeds to order: luffa gourds, seeded and seedless watermelons, pumpkins, sunflowers- 2 varieties. Very excited to use luffas in soaps and for many other household purposes, and I love to grow vines! We built a structure on which they can grow and it will be like luffa tunnel walking through the vines. We like driving through “tree tunnels,” the country roads that have trees growing on either side of the road which arch over the pavement to mingle their branches together. Now we will have our own version in the garden. Watermelons are a summer time favorite, and boy do we have long, hot summers for enjoying them. I hope that over summer break there will be visitors a plenty to share a glass of lemonade or tea and buy a melon to take home for their family. While the visitors are here, they may as well take some Insta worthy pics with the gorgeous sunflowers at My Zen Acres. I’ve chosen a giant variety for roasted seeds and a mix of multicolored, smaller blooms to create a layered background of sunflower beauty. After the blooms and melons of summer wane, the pumpkins will be the star attraction. Fall visits to the farm are just as fun and can be super sweet with some pumpkin bread to take home with your own big, perfectly carvable pumpkin. I can’t tell you how excited I am about these selections.

This is admittedly year two on this property, so I know that not all things will go as planned. Heck, there are a million reminders of that in every facet of our lives right now, so we have to remember that some things are out of our control, but we do our best with what we have- just like the life of a gardener. The deer may figure a way around the fence, the bugs may find something they think is yummy, or people may not come to buy a watermelon and sit a spell, but one thing is certain- I will learn a lot. I will learn about soap making, growing luffas, and farmer’s markets. I will learn about a new bug, a new fertilizer, and a better fence. Most importantly I will learn about myself. Will I be able to get all of this done with kids and pets making demands every moment? Will I be able to sell enough to actually help my family? Will I make new friends at the farmers market that will give me great advice? I sure hope so. But if not, there’s always next year…or the year after that. I don’t plan on going anywhere.

The Beginning

The last few months have been a whirlwind of productivity. I had the opportunity to go to Zurich with my sweet husband for work, however, I felt like spending the money on my plane ticket was not the right decision at this point in our lives. I had not yet made any real progress in my burgeoning business, mainly due to lack of start up funds. So the money we had set aside for Zurich, thanks to my dad’s luck in a reverse raffle prize generously shared with us, became the money I needed to buy the supplies to get this train out of the station. Zurich will always be there.

The big opportunity came in the form of Wendell Wonderland, the annual holiday event in downtown Wendell. It was only $25 to secure a table in the vendor area on Main Street. I decided to try my hand at homemade bath products, as well as my favorite baked goodies. The cookies and Muddy Buddies were a no brainer, as I had made them all so many times before. The time and effort involved were significant, but it is what I love to do and what my family and friends love to enjoy. The bath products were a new endeavor, but with some recipes and creativity the options and outcome were fantastic. Bath bombs were certainly a trial and error process with some turning out better than others; in the end they were lots of fun and my kids enjoyed being the testers. The sugar scrubs were very simple, yet the variety of scents and colors I created provided something to make everyone smile as they took a whiff of the intoxicating aromas. The last product I offered were cold relief shower melts: a combination of eucalyptus and peppermint which are so helpful when you’re congested. It was so much fun preparing these products for the big night!

When the night of the event arrived, I was filled with nervous anticipation. I was hopeful that friends and family would visit, in addition to looking forward to meeting new people and fellow vendors. As luck would have it, I chose a spot between a sweet lady selling candles and a spicy mama selling delicious salsas. I set up in front of the wine and beer store that hosts my weekly yoga class; it was a familiar location so I felt at home. I hurriedly set up with the help of some local football players getting in some community service hours. The young man who helped me lug all of my heavy totes to my site happily got paid in cookies. My hubby was en route from Zurich and my parents were taking care of my kids, so I was flying solo for this event. Fortunately visitors came and supported my efforts, including the kids and parents who were a happy sight for this mama. I truly appreciated the encouragement of the friends who stopped by and stocked up on sugar scrubs. It was a chilly evening full of excitement and friendly banter set to the holiday tunes sung by a local church choir. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience at my first vendor event.

There were many lessons learned during this experience. The biggest lesson came when I discovered that the church a block away was having a “cookie walk” at the same time as the town event. People were walking by my table with boxes full of cookies, which made selling my cookies a little more challenging. There were a few sweet grandmas who bought some for their grandchildren in tow, rave reviews from all, but at the end of the evening I was left with a lot of cookies. Lucky for me, the salsa lady took some in trade for a jar of her spicy tomatillo salsa. Other lessons came in the form of questions from potential customers, as well as my restrictions to cash and PayPal payment options. My favorite question of the night was, “Where do you source your ingredients?” To which I replied, “Walmart and Amazon.” Not sure what answer she was looking for, but I was truthful.

I left at the end of the evening exhausted and satisfied. Even with a pile of cookies left over, I had sold a good number of bath products, got my name out there, and met some lovely locals. Since that night I have continued to learn and grow in my production of sugar scrubs, as well as adding face scrubs and body butters to the mix. This is only the beginning. I have so very much to learn about making skin care products, starting a business, and balancing this new endeavor along with caring for my family and household. I pride myself on being a lifelong learner, yet I didn’t realize that this new path would teach me more about myself than the new subjects I am exploring. Challenge accepted.

The First Fall

This is the first fall that I haven’t spent two hours a day commuting in over a decade. No more days spent driving home, trying not to doze off in the warmth of the afternoon sun while the kids stare sleepily out their windows. This is the first fall I haven’t been able to dress up for spirit week and dance in a homecoming rally. I miss the kids and my people at school. This is the first fall in a long time that I haven’t had to pay daycare or tuition costs, though it is also the first time in twenty years that I no longer have a regular paycheck. This is the first fall I don’t have research papers to grade. That right there just makes me giddy. I didn’t have to memorize names, agonize over college essays, or get used to a new schedule. I didn’t get to fall in love with 110 new kids, a new lunch crew, and a new department member. This is the first fall I don’t have a work phone number to fill out on forms, while I figure out what my new job title really is.

This is the first fall I get to walk with my daughter to the bus stop every morning and give her a hug just before the bus turns the corner and comes into view. Occasionally little brother comes along but that requires him to be dressed and put on socks and shoes. It also results in a pathetic walk back home with his head hanging low and mumbles of how much he will miss his RyRy. This is the first fall that I have had the opportunity to coach cheer in many years, and coaching my daughter was surprisingly a joy. I only say that because our stubborn, willful natures aren’t generally conducive to teaching/coaching situations. She…*gasp*…trusted my previous experience in cheer. This is the first fall that I get to take Justin to the park, decide what task I want to accomplish that day, and plan for the future. I am determining what my days look like, not the bells and the whims of teenagers. When someone is sick, I am there for them at home without worries of a sub and meaningful plans. This is the first fall I have time to make festive treats for my kids and their friends, however, both of their schools have the rule against homemade treats. Their teachers, bus drivers, and directors are going to reap the benefits of that rule, as I can’t not bake yummy fall treats. I am in so many ways experiencing fall with very new eyes.

This is the first fall that I will be ripping out 16 overgrown, rotting, stinky tomato plants…as soon as it is cold enough for the evil bugs to die off. This is the first year that I am wondering if growing tomatoes will even be worth it next year unless I keep a couple plants in my greenhouse (on the list of winter projects). My family doesn’t eat them anyway, so they’re essentially only for salsa. This is the first fall that I am in need of jeans, overalls, boots, hats, and gloves for my daily toils. The dress clothes are being sold off here and there, making room in my closet for different types of garments and gear. This is the first fall on our property so I am wondering when the last big mow will be before winter sets in. Big mow means the pasture, as mowing our actual grass in front of the house takes less than five minutes. I love my time mowing, so I am actually sad that I won’t get to for many months. I don’t use earphones when I mow so I can hear the kids if they holler from the house, and also I enjoy the hum of the engine; it is very meditative and peaceful to ride back and forth across my land just thinkin’… or not thinkin’. This is the first fall that I am planning for spring. I have so many things to build and so many things I want to grow and make. It is a strange feeling to be planning the best, quickest ways to make some money so that I can continue to grow my business. It is a scary feeling, but exciting and inspiring as well.

This is the first fall that I am a mom and wife first and foremost. Business plans and endeavors are wonderful, but nothing beats this feeling right now in my life of being here for them, all the time. Except for 7-9 on Tuesday nights, that’s Mama’s yoga and wine time.

I am loving this fall of firsts.

Money Saving Tips

My summer reading this year is called Homesteading for Dummies. It’s a huge version of the classic Dummies books that combines five books in one to be a comprehensive guide to homesteading. To my surprise, much of the information was not new to me; so maybe I’m not such a novice after all! On the other hand there were many totally new concepts to me, like planting according to moon phases and the fact that asparagus plants are perennials. It’s been interesting reading for sure, and I will definitely need more in depth books on some topics.

One especially important topic as we enter the first month minus my paycheck is how to get creative and use my resources to save money. Two of my biggest money savers are in the laundry department. In short, I make my own detergent and use dryer balls. My detergent costs about $20-25 to make and lasts me about five months. The dryer balls I bought from Norwex years ago after I learned how toxic dryer sheets are. Let me tell you a little about my detergent.

My whole family has sensitive skin so I have to be careful with laundry soap. With sensitive skin and baby/ kid stains, this detergent has proven itself to be gentle enough yet effective on the yuckiest stains. All of the ingredients are found in one aisle of my local Walmart.

In a big bucket I combine

  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (yellow box, about 4lbs.)
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (orange box, about 4 lbs.)
  • Tub of OxiClean
  • Box of Borax
  • Zote Laundry Flakes (this is new, I used to grate Zote or FelsNaptha bars with a cheese grater)
  • Bottle of scented crystals (optional)
  • After mixing I pour it into a glass jar from Walmart, $10. Each load only requires 2 Tbsp. I repeat- only use 2 Tbsp per load. That’s why it last so long, and I promise it works.
  • My dryer balls are plastic and knobby, but there are great wool ones as well. They even come as a group of penguins! So cute! Regardless, I spent money on dryer balls once, never have to spend money on dryer sheets, and avoid the chemicals they contain- win, win in my book!
  • So now I’m looking to you, my friends. What’s the one thing you do that is a no brainer when it comes to saving money- big or small? My friend knows the days that different grocery stores have specials, so he shops strategically to save money. These are the kind of tricks this mom needs right now. Please share a comment if you have a gem for me! I promise to share more great tricks and tips with you all in the future!
  • Thanks for reading!
  • My Zen Acres

    Coming up with a name for our farm was a daunting task. I wanted to be inspired, so I didn’t pressure myself. There was no way we could get away with using Perry, way too common around here and it had to be original to get approved for the LLC. And then it came to me during a morning commute, generally the time during which I came up with the best lesson ideas. My Zen Acres. I loved it immediately for so many reasons, but insisted on mulling and discussing before deciding for sure. My daughter was the most critical, but she’s seven and wanted it to have something to do with horses. After much consideration, it still seemed perfect to me: here’s why.

    My. Although this word is a first person possessive adjective, my perspective of the word is more inclusive. Yes, this place is my zen; I am fortunate enough to sweat and toil to improve our piece of earth. That may sound contradictory to some, I know, but I will explain more later. The peace and joy that I feel here is my zen, however, my goal is to share with others. So when a customer needs a new bar of their favorite soap, they will say, “I need more of My Zen Acres soap.” That delicately scented soap gives that customer a breath of fresh air in the shower to start their day with zen. When someone plans a visit or party, they will exclaim how excited they are to come to My Zen Acres. That visitor will escape from their hectic life to relax with a meditation session, strengthen with some yoga, commune with animals, or explore poetry writing- all ways to find zen in life.

    Zen. Long backstory here, but I will try to be concise. I grew up with very little experience with religion, that is until I went to Catholic high school. My six years of Catholic school, from 9th grade through two years of university, gave me an amazingly rich experience and education in world religions- one of my most treasured gifts from Catholic education as a non- Catholic. I have always been most interested in Eastern philosophies, particularly Taoism and Buddhism, so being able to teach these and other philosophies and religions as background in my World Literature class was a true joy. In teaching the novel Siddhartha I had the opportunity to explore and learn about different aspects of Buddhism with my students, including Zen Buddhism as I would show pictures of Zen gardens and Bonsai trees. In explanation, Zen Buddhism is all about finding insight and tranquility through rigorous mental and physical discipline. So the time, patience, and effort involved in making a precisely manicured garden or trimming a tree to perfection is a worthwhile effort as it can lead to inner peace. Ergo, my zen comes from sweating my a$$ off out in the North Carolina summer to make a really cool place to visit and grow some yummy produce. For real friends, the sweat has been plentiful, but dang it there is no better feeling to me right now. The satisfaction I get from working hard and seeing a project completed, no matter how nasty I get in the process, far surpasses the satisfaction I got from grading a stack of papers. In true Zen fashion I am finding tranquility through mental and physical discipline; thus fulfilling its definition in My Zen Acres. I love it here, and I hope everyone else does too.

    Acres. This one is really obvious, yet part of an attempt at a pun. My Zen Acres sounds like my TEN acres, even though we only have 7… (yawn…). SO! Anyway…we have seven acres of zen. There ya have it, folks.

    So now we have a name- officially an LLC. Not really sure what that means in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a step in the right direction. Also not sure what to do to be considered a small farm officially either, but that’s next on my list. And watering and weeding and mowing and pickling and… maybe some meditation to help find some balance.

    I leave you with the words of my favorite classroom door sign: “Meditation in progress. Please return in zen minutes.” Namaste.

    Things I Have Learned

    This is all new to me. Well, genetically I have a background in farming and I did grow up in the valley that feeds most of the world, however, a backyard garden is the sum total of my farming experience. I started this adventure knowing there would be pitfalls and mistakes. Totally learning as I go here, friends. But the coolest part is…I am still learning! Nothing to do with curriculum and methods, but cool new things that are broadening my horizons. Another exciting bonus will be the talented and knowledgeable people I will meet in pursuit of my own knowledge. It is liberating to be driving this ship, determining what I want to learn and explore and experiment with as time passes. I will pick my classes and the time slots, to use a metaphor from my previous life. In just four months there have been many lessons learned, of which I will share a few.

    Water. I got in trouble because of water. A little background: when we built our house it is close enough to the county water access at the road that we were required to use it. We had planned on getting a well, but when told we had to get county water it seemed silly to pay for a well at that time. It has always been in the long term plan due to crop and livestock needs. So when I planted my vegetable garden and the berry bushes I invested in and we had a couple weeks of temperatures in the 90s with no rain…I watered those kiddos everyday with the longest hose you can buy hooked up to our house. Well wouldn’t ya know, Johnston County started calling my sweet husband every other day to tell him I was watering illegally. Then he went for a building permit and the illegal watering was noted for our address. At that point he was given a refrigerator magnet with the county watering schedule clearly detailed on it. Ohhhhhh…oops. Didn’t even think about that. The guy at the county said, “Well if you had an irrigation well…” Right, a well. Sigh.

    Popsicles…at least three times a day. This huge bench is perfect for shady breaks.

    My kids have to be trained to spend all day outside. I thought it would come naturally, the need to run in the sunshine until you dropped. I had grand notions of picnics outside because they wouldn’t want to come inside. Not yet. I said “yet” on purpose. I’m not saying I expect them to be outside every minute of every day, but a little more stamina would help. For example, this morning I went out early after breakfast to work in the garden and encouraged the kids to come outside with me to play with the huge bucket of new sand toys and shovels we got yesterday. (Thank you to Roses for the great discounts!) It’s overcast and muggy, definitely not hot. They lasted 30 minutes- with new toys and nice weather! I have done countless hours of work outside while they lounge on the couch watching TV in their underwear. Hopefully as they get older their tolerance for outdoor work will increase. I’m in trouble if not. In the mean time I will run up to the house to open popsicles and enjoy the evening hours when they like to play outside with Daddy.

    Baby watermelons!!!!!
    My cantaloupes 🙂

    This is a very experimental growing season. I have learned about tomato/ tobacco worms that are enormous and destructive, including the drowning technique suggested to kill the evil vermin. My daughter has become essential in my fight against this first enemy as she has great eyes and can spot the buggers very well. I have learned that my first attempt at pickles was too salty. They were really fun and easy to make though; the combined smell of the vinegar, garlic, and dill in my kitchen made me so happy. Just gathered enough to make a second batch this weekend, and fortunately the plants are doing wonderfully so we should have a good number of batches this summer. I have also learned that I am in love with the produce I am growing in unexpected ways. The sight of a squat, fat pickle in my hand is very reaffirming. I am not sure what it is reaffirming, maybe that I am capable of growing my own freakin’ pickles, but nonetheless, I feel satisfied. And quite possibly one of the cutest things I have ever seen is a baby melon. Tiny watermelons and cantaloupes are just so adorable! The known potential of yumminess is underlying as well, but again it is just so satisfying knowing there will eventually be a big ole melon to cut up in my kitchen. (Just as a sidenote, the hilarity is not lost on me that I am going on about how much I love fat pickles and cute little melons. LOL!) The one experiment that I am most looking forward to, however, is the salsa making. For that I just need my tomatoes to get big and red. I’ll be waiting over here……

    Pickles- First Try

    These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned as a new Farmer Mama. By the way, it cracks me up when I tell someone that is my new career and they ask what that is. A farmer. And a mama, I say. Seems self explanatory to me, but I guess that’s counter-intuitive to most. These lessons have made me have faith that this growing process is a healthy one and one that will make me, and my family, happy. Certainly the lessons to come involving farm animals will be educational and entertaining. Stay tuned, my friends.

    Spring Break!

    Today is the last day of my spring break. It has certainly been fun, but not sure if my days off would qualify as a break. I, with the dedicated help of my husband and occasional help from my sweet daughter, prepared an area for a vegetable garden and planted six rows of what I hope will be a plentiful first crop for our family. It was at most times idyllic and serene…that is until the side door opens and one of the kids hollers that something has happened. Please note: thus far my children’s tolerance for the outdoors is not fulfilling my expectations. Inevitably they get hot or don’t want to wear shoes/ pants/ underwear/ sunscreen or just need a snack and drink break, so they end up inside while I continue to toil in the field. Also note: we’re a couple weeks into potty training with little man so both indoor and outdoor accidents have punctuated work on my planting and to do list this week. Back to the idyllic and serene part. The weather during this process has been picture perfect. Not only have I enjoyed sunny skies and cool breezes, but the couple times there were light passing sprinkles it was downright refreshing. It has been hard work, but it has been the most exhilarating and gratifying work I have done in a long time (okay, maybe minus parenting). That dirt holds the secrets to my future.

    Rows ready for planting.

    The process started with Paul on the tractor. Full confession- I have not taken the time or initiative to gain more experience on the tractor. It will happen; give me time. Anyway, he scraped the ground and we cleared the land for the vegetable garden. Then we dug the six trenches for the rows, added some 70/30, and mixed thoroughly. It’s great, rich soil after having so many crops grow here over the years. I have realized that sweet potatoes turn into rocks if left in the ground unharvested- great collection of those now! Other than a few neat rocks, nothing else exciting was unearthed. Using four packs that I purchased at the NC State Farmer’s Market, I planted four kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, pickling cukes, lettuce, watermelon, cantaloupe, yellow squash, and zucchini. Lesson learned after the fact- I should have planned better in regards to the water sources. Not ideal, but I can make it work with my spiffy tri-pod sprinkler. I feel like I have accomplished something great. Gone are the little city girl raised beds of the past. I am farmer, hear me ROAR! (Like a little cub still learning to roar, but you get it.)

    All planted! Can’t wait to see how big this all gets!

    Of course you know my love for all things culinary, so I would be remiss if I neglected an herb garden, right? Never fear, my front porch steps are the perfect spot for my herbs planted in terracotta pots. I needed them to be close at hand for when I am hit with inspiration in the kitchen. Having to put shoes on and traipse out to the field would be a deterrent for using those delectable fresh herbs. This year I have planted basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary, lemon thyme, parsley, onion chives, and – an all time fave- Cuban oregano. Soft leaves with the smoky aroma of spicy oregano, it is one to look for people, I am tellin’ ya! I have already used the chives and basil, so delicious.

    That’s the Cuban oregano second from the bottom. I wish you could rub the leaves and smell this stuff- for real.

    Next up is some grass and a garage, darn it! It’s been a process, which I won’t get into right now because this is a happy space. Other than the berry plants that are supposed to ship tomorrow and will soon be planted, I need some flowers! We saw so many butterflies and other flying friends that would love some juicy juice. Hopefully I can surround my veggies and berries with some colorful flowers to attract the buzzers and flutterbyes, a win win scenario for all. Though with spring break coming to an end, the next big bunch of work will have to wait until school is out. We’ll see what we can get done on the busy weekends, but I am so looking forward to being a full time farmer and mama. 10 days of teaching, 20 days left of work. Inhale. Exhale. I can do this. I can do all of this.

    Baby Steps and Baby Trees

    I have no idea what I was envisioning when I signed up for ten native flowering trees from the Arbor Day Foundation after simply making a modest donation for a membership. Perhaps it was the thought of the full grown trees lining my driveway or possibly the fact that it was a cost effective investment, regardless all signs pointed to ordering these trees. I then proceeded to forget about it until a plastic bag about 18 inches long arrived on my doorstep. And when I say I forgot about it, I’m not being completely honest- I knew I ordered them but did effectively nothing to prepare for their arrival. But there they were and the pressure was on- they had to be planted ASAP.

    My poor husband. He returns home after a rough week working in Zurich to a wife with an agenda- a tree planting agenda. He used the tractor to clear some areas for the trees and Rylan and I went to town with the shovels. We dug the holes, cleared the dirt around them, planted the trees, and laid mulch down for protection, making sure the mulch wasn’t touching the baby trees. Rylan watered them as well; she was an indispensable help as usual. During this time Justin was playing in the house as he refused to get dressed to come outside and was being particularly defiant all weekend. His not being witness to this laborious process could have something to do with his wild abandon and disregard for “Mommy’s sticks” when he later yanked them out of the ground curiously. Granted, they are literally just small sticks with roots and tiny sprouts of green, but they are so much more to me. These soon to be beautiful trees are the beginning of this process of planting and nurturing and caring for the gifts of the earth for me on this journey. So although they may be just sticks to Justin, they are baby steps to a new life on our farm.

    Next up- fruits and vegetables to plant! I just finished up my order of blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry bushes. Got some great deals on those at Gurney’s website, but the veggie plants I will likely get from the farmer’s market again this year. They have so many varieties in six packs that are perfect for my current needs in the garden. I think a seed catalog order for a package of 1,000 tomato seeds is a little more than I need this year. Baby steps.

    We’re in!

    February 22, 2019: a day we will always remember. The day we finally got to move out of my parents’ house and back into a home of our own. Not just any home- our dream home, our forever home, our farm house. Living with one’s parents is a challenging experience, especially with two kids and two cats involved. I knew that Paul and I as adults would be happy to have our own space again, however, I underestimated the peace and happiness this would bring our children. The morning after our first night in the house, both kids awoke and played happily in their rooms. They did not venture to our side of the house to wake us up. We woke up at our own leisure. For real! It happened! What kind of craziness is that? Needless to say we all settled in nicely despite the week of straight rain and the minor appliance issues we had. Any little issues or needs that popped up paled in comparison the the fact that we could all now run like wild banshees down a really long straight away through the middle of the house.

    So now that we’re in the house, what comes next? Great question. Wish I had a solid answer. Currently I have a to do list with no firm details on time, cost, or necessary materials. I know that I need to take advantage of spring for planting. I know that I need to practice maneuvering the tractor and its implements (I was corrected when I referred to them as attachments). I know that we need fences for animals. I know that we need a composting area. I know that I need to build a chicken coop. However, I also know that I have a full time job with 111 students to care for, two little ones that need my help on a daily basis, and a husband who will be travelling most of the spring. My grand ambitions will be in super slow motion until the end of May, but I am ok with that. After all, we’re not going anywhere. Until then it’s lists and research whenever possible. At least I have the inspiration around me and the view from my front porch to keep my eyes fixed on the future. So many plans, so many plans.

    Let Me Explain

      My name is Julie Perry, and I have been an English teacher for 20 years. For the last 7 years I have been a teacher/ mama. The time has come for a change in my life; I am not satisfied with the status quo. Here’s the short version of how this change came about.
      Our dear friends sold their house and bought some farm land. My husband, Paul, locked himself out of the house one evening and subsequently had a moment of deep contemplation while staring at their for sale sign …and then clarity- we were country people and should embrace it. Thoughts of true country life and career change possibilities for me tumbled through our minds and conversations for months. We sold our house, bought some of the property from our friends, and started planning our home and farm on Covered Bridge Road (que romantic daydreams of pastoral life).
      There are many reasons for this shift in my life:

    • I am tired of rushing and running. As a working mom, life never gets easier. There’s so much self inflicted pressure to be on top of things at work and at home. We’re running late for school again, I need to remember those treats for Friday, and dang it, I forgot to bring a change of clothes for Justin’s cubby again. I feel like this lifestyle is robbing me and my family from enough quality time just being.
    • My students and colleagues make me happy, but being an educator today makes me sad. I don’t have the passion for teaching anymore to persevere through curriculum changes and new ideas- nor do I have the patience for apathetic young people who have more interest in being cool than being educated (not that this is a new phenomena). I miss the days of shop class and home economics. It saddens me to see kids so stressed out about a million college applications with their inane essays. I want the best for the kids, but I am afraid that education today isn’t even close to doing what’s best for them.
    • I need to rediscover my passions through my gift of creativity and my love of food. Cooking, growing, writing, crafting- these are the things I love to do. I need to be challenged. I need to grow. I need to work hard, get dirty, and sweat…a lot. Dreams, big dreams await. If I don’t do it now, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. 
    • My children need this life. They need to grow up outside, not in front of a screen. They need me to be present- emotionally and physically. They need to learn how to be responsible, value what they have, and know where it comes from. They need to have a place where they can learn from experience, be proud of what we’ve built, and grow in love of nature and each other. 

      So here’s my plan: I will mold and shape our land into a farm which will produce products for me to sell, as well as host events for people to learn, grow, and celebrate life.   It’s a tall order for sure, but one that I am beyond excited about pursuing. Obviously we have to start with the house, because my family has been living with my parents while that part is completed. We’re at about a month left until we can start moving in! Next will be the basic things that need to be completed such as a garage, composting area, fencing, and a chicken coop. Oh…and the tree house for the kids- my dad has that covered from watching the Treehouse Masters on TV. I’ll start planting in the spring, thanks to the new Burpee seed catalog I just got in the mail- *SQUEAL*!!! Then once school is out I can devote all my time to the farm; the only thing slowing me down will be cash. Hopefully I can start applying for some small farm grants and loans to help me get some things going.    Picture it- rows of blueberry bushes bursting with fruit while honey bees buzz happily around. Manicured pathways lead to a pavilion overlooking the green pastures with horses, goats, and a donkey grazing in the afternoon sun. Children shouting and laughing as they chase chickens around in circles for the fun of it. Nighttime bonfires surrounded by friends and family complete with s’mores, country music, and twinkling stars.   This is my dream. This is our dream. This is the American Dream. 
      To close this first post, I would like to ask you all to be part of this journey with me by reading my blog posts. I love to share what I learn with others, and I love to write- so I need you to share the good times and hard times with me as I embark on this new adventure in my life. Thank you truly from the bottom of my heart.
    Peace, love, and happiness,Julie