Her name was Castiel, she was 4 and a half years old, and we got her between having a miscarriage and be able to try to get pregnant again. She played fetch and would literally cuddle with you and take a nap under the blankets like a teddy bear. She would let the kiddo (or me) put weird stuff on her head, was super patient with said kiddo, and would literally play with her – shove duplos towards her, let the kiddo chase her, “boop snoots”, or just sit there, watch and “talk” while the kiddo played in her room.
She was absolutely fucking wonderful. She was also brain damaged. Seizures (she’d had small ones her whole life, but they were very infrequent), which became more and more regular. The seizure medication caused other issues, which stressed her out, causing more seizures. When she first got sick again in November, I told myself we could patch her up again – and we tried! We did all the things! But her little body was just done. When you’re on seizure medication 3x a day (and the third one that’s been tried) and on morphine, and you’re still having minute long seizures? Your brain is glitching pretty hard.
So on December 29th we put her to sleep. She died knowing she was loved, with people who’d loved her all of her tiny life, having her song sang to her. She was so very tired.
Grief is stupid, you guys. If you ever wanted proof that Creation is cursed, that something is fundamentally broken with how the world works right now, just experience Grief. Even the relatively small grief if losing a beloved pet (small compared to say, a child or parent) is awful. Every time I sat down or made coffee, my left hand was empty for days after Castiel died. Why? Because I didn’t realize how often I’d drop my hand to pet her, she was always there. The first nap I took after she died I woke up sobbing and reaching for her, and even now, a month later, remembering her hurts. The toddling still asks about her, still reminds us that Cas had to go away because she was sick. There have been serious conversations about if Toddling would need to go away if she got sick, and a very upsetting episode when said Toddling took off her pajamas, threw her blankets out of her bed, was shivering, and thought she had the “shakeys” like Cas did (she’d seen the cat have seizures, it was unavoidable) and would have to go away. Great.
Grief is stupid. The world is broken. We need Jesus, so that not everything will be broken for always. Daily the curse on creation eats up things we love, yet we deny any chance at redemption. We stubbornly sit here declaring “There is no God! I bow to no one! He’s not MY kind of good, therefore He isn’t!”, like ants in the sunshine refusing to acknowledge a storm is rolling in. You’re getting washed away regardless, kid.
In other news, Gardening is January is pretty mellow. We planted collards, carrots, garlic and onions back in September, so right now we just kind of hang out and wait for them to ripen. Collard Greens are great, because you can harvest some, wait for some to come back and keep harvesting. It’s really the only thing we’re getting from our garden right now, but it’s something. A tasty tasty something.
I noticed when said Collards started coming up that one of them was a little different. Assuming it was just another kind of green that could be thrown in a pot, I didn’t think much of it and let it grow. Then, curiosity got the better of me, and I pulled it.
That is a 1.6lb turnip. We have never purchased nor been given turnip seeds. Gardening is amusing in ways I never expected.
Hard in ways that I never could have fathomed before we got married. Not hard in the screaming yelling ways (though we’ve had our share of that) but in the “we just aren’t connecting” ways. It takes time to be good at it, and when you master one thing you find another that needs work, or you’ve been so busy on mastering this that you have to backtrack and fix things you hadn’t been focused on.
Parenting is also hard in unexpected ways. It requires much patience and you can’t be assured of a good outcome until much much later.
Making a French Press of coffee instead of using yee olde drip pot w/pre ground dirt, also difficult, sometimes finnicky, more time consuming, and requiring patience.
It would seem that many good things in life are this way. So of course my weird little heart is starting to fall in love with our garden and dreams of a homestead of our own, where nearly everything is much work, not assured outcomes, and oh, also, this is how you feed yourselves.
It was in one of these difficult seasons of marriage that my husband and I realized we had no hobbies in common. I like to sew, paint, write, read & cook. He likes to game, both tabletop & video, do gaming related things, and shoot. Our interests don’t overlap as much as we thought they did when we were dating.
So we found ourselves, five years in, with a tiny baby, having month leftover at the end of the money, overall pretty crazy about each other, and in agreement on The Big Things – religion, finances, parenting, politics (ish), and the overall quality of Vin Diesel films (Sci Fi yes, Cars no). But we didn’t have anything to *do* together. Gaming early on in our marriage was disastrous for many reasons I will not go into here. So we prayed.
And we thought. And we prayed. And we thought. And I stumbled upon these lovely people –
Brad & Christa of Big Family Homestead have been a huge encouragement to me, personally, and also kind of set us off onto the “eventually we want a homestead of our own” path. Husband has always wanted to be off grid, and I’ve always loved growing things, but we didn’t know/realize that there was a community for this, a cohesive term for the thing we both wanted but couldn’t name. We thought we were just weird. Maybe we are weird, but we’re not alone in the weirdness.
Big Family Homestead is very open about their homesteading journey and the realities of their life/finances/etc. Brad does short devotional type videos, and for someone who’s has issues with church, and is slowly dealing with that hurt and baggage, crawling her way back to the Body of Christ after being deeply hurt – it’s safe. He’s not telling me I’ll go to hell if I don’t do X Y and Z, but rather just saying “Oh hey fellow Believer, here’s a thought, perhaps you can think on this too”. Christa homeschools or has homeschooled their SEVEN children, which gives me hope that if she can handle seven (and not look like a hot mess all the time) I can probably, maybe, handle one, and not cripple her little mind. She also makes amazing breads, and I have taught myself to make Husband bread following their videos (Bread! Demystified. Woo!).
Following Big Family Homestead (and others in the homestead community) has also given my husband and I a shared dream again that isn’t being crippled by our current finances or his job frustration. It gives us something to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon when we can sit down and watch homesteading videos on projects we’re dreaming of or attempting the next seasons and work to do together when it’s sunny. We aren’t an active part of the community like some because we don’t have a youtube channel, and we don’t have a homestead yet – we have our little dreaming garden – but it’s something we share and enjoy, and I love it. I’m pretty sure he does too.
While there are many in the Homesteading side of youtube (I’ll link to some other channels at the bottom) what I love about Brad and Christa is that they explain things in such a way that you think “Oh hey, I could probably do that!”. They don’t put on airs. Their house looks like a house full of children and family instead of like a magazine, they speak frankly about the realities of caring for a special needs child (one of their children has a g tube among other health issues) and their content (with the exception of perhaps goat birthing) is very toddler friendly. To the point that my toddler gets excited to watch new “FAMY HOSTEAD”. It’s adorable.
Despite all the crap they’ve been through in life, Brad is happy and upbeat. Christa is pragmatic without being bitter. I guess it’s easy to seem that way online, if you really really want to put forth the effort to be fake, but I really don’t think that’s the case here. I think they’re just genuine people who love God and love their family and love homesteading. They’re moving to a new farm, from a one acre homestead to a 30 acre farm with barns, and they’re sharing the journey of moving and setting up the new place. I’m so excited to watch.
If you’re even vaguely interested in homesteading, homemaking, or just watching interesting things, I suggest you take a look at Big Family Homestead. Aside from the information in their videos, BFH means a lot to our little family.
So, Brad & Christa, should you ever read this, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You. We are so excited for what’s happening with you guys, and to watch/support you in the journey God has you on.
Oh hey, speaking of gardens, I have a little one. Stuff is happening. By “stuff” I mostly mean stifling heat, but none the less, not everything is dead, so here’s where we stand in mid July:
Tomatoes. We have fruit! But this fruit was already setting before the blight got bad.
This is still happening, even after treatment/fertilization. I am much frustrated. Yes we have fruit, but we don’t have abundant “LOOK I CAN MAKE SAUCE” fruit. We have “1-2 sliced tomatoes with dinner a week” fruit. We’re still buying tomatoes at the store. I don’t see any fruit that’s set (or any more flowers) since the blight got bad, so I don’t know if we’re “done” after this and should just yank the plants, or if we wait and see.
Our Bean Box! You could say we’ve let it get out of hand, but that would imply we ever hand it “in hand” and knew what we were doing. We’ve had four dinners with beans (five, maybe?) have have 2 big bags of frozen beans in the freezer. So that’s something! Does anyone know if you’re supposed to prune/trim pole beans? Asking for a friend.
That box is going to have all the bean plants pulled at the end of this month, get a month or so to bake in the glorious southern heat (maybe with a light layer of DE on top? We have beetles and snails) before having more dirt/peat moss added and amending the soil for our fall garden. Is it really a fall garden here though, when it’s horribly hot into October?
We’re hoping to try some broccoli in the fall (low expectations y’all) and are going to plant a lot of collards again this year b/c they did SO WELL last year, we were quite pleased. Husband really wants to attempt carrots even after last years dismal experience, so we’re gonna to try pots now. Pots of carrots on a patio in the South. Okay.
Speaking of planting, we got seed mail today. I was so freakin excited. Also, they will allow you to order stickers and a magnet for free. These (plus broccoli) are what we’re going to attempt for fall/winter. Any tomato container gardening in the south advice is welcome:
Big Family Homestead does a “seed swap” every spring, and we participated this year. We haven’t planted all the seeds we got, simply because we have to do everything above ground, and dirt/containers ain’t cheap y’all. I think this is a large part of my frustrations. Just planing something is a considerable time/energy/money investment, because we can put NOTHING in the ground here. Then it doesn’t bear fruit, and I feel like I’m wasting the limited resources we’ve been blessed with. But I’ve also learned that half-assing it doesn’t cut it. You HAVE to get good dirt, you HAVE to fertilize, you HAVE to water 2x a day on days it doesn’t rain, otherwise you’re just wasting money to enjoy cute seedlings that never produce food.
So of the seeds we got sent this year, here are three of the things that are actually doing quite well:
The Moonflower (seeds I sent in for seed exchange) is finally starting to cover the bit of fence by the door. This makes me stupidly happy.
Bonus garden friend
So there’s where we are with our little dreaming garden. There are some of the people who have helped us recognize our dream, and here are others who are just so willing and happy to put gardening/homesteading content out into the world, and absolutely worth looking into :
Guildbrook Farm – family homesteading in North Carolina. Good canning/gardening/prepper info. Thoughtful explanations of how they got where they are and why they do what they do.
An American Homestead – Completely off grid homestead in the Ozarks. They don’t have a washing machine or flushing toilet, so maybe too hardcore for me. But I admire and respect what they’re doing, and they’re full of good, practical info.
Deep South Homestead – Older couple homesteading in the south, full of practical wisdom & southern charm.
David The Good – This guy is really passionate about composting, permaculture, and being able to feed yourself via your garden should crap hit the fan. He makes white boy garden raps which are amusing. He and his family live somewhere in the tropics.