It’s a warm day today, it actually feels like August. I’ll be getting the kids outside and working on a few things out in the barn, and the prospect of actually taking a quick nap with the littles later is really exciting (in a pathetic middle-aged sort of way.) I feel all introspective and stuff; might as well make use of that and hack out an intro of my own.
I was born in a suburb of Denver, CO. I lived in the very same house for my entire childhood, with my parents and three sisters. Some of my earliest memories are climbing trees, building elaborate forts under the bushes and gathering leaves and twigs to make into ‘soup.’ I loved camping, hiking, and anything outdoors; simple living and the natural world held a magnetism from the earliest time I can remember. My mom adored animals, and our house was always full of two and four-legged noise. We bottle-raised a runty kitten and an abandoned baby squirrel named Sully who later went to a wildlife rehab center. Our gerbils and guinea pigs had litters that we rehomed with painstaking care.
I’ve never been the sharpest crayon in the box. At 15, I got pregnant. My boyfriend and I were blessed to have supportive parents who vowed to help us raise our child. My mother was a former RN and had always been passionate about natural childbirth and breastfeeding, values that she helped instill in all of her girls. I gave birth to a beautiful daughter just after my 16th birthday, a drug-free delivery despite being induced for rapidly-progressing preeclampsia.
With both grandmas guiding me, I figured out how to be a mother. My boyfriend “parented” in small pieces here and there when it suited him, which was infrequent; I was largely on my own. We never lived together. His narcissism and childish impulsivity ruled him and I couldn’t rely on him for much besides hurt. I ended the relationship and raised our daughter in my parents’ home with a tribe of adoring people from both sides of her DNA standing in for her usually-absent father. She really was a child raised by a village and thrived because of it.
In 2002 I was working two jobs in childcare and preparing to start the nighttime Certified Nursing Assistant program at the local community college. My big sister got married and I had the blessing of being her maid of honor. I also met a groomsman, an Army buddy of my brother-in-law’s from time spent in Korea. We became close friends, running up galling phone bills with nightly 3-5 hour long distance conversations after I got home from school and he got back to the barracks in Ft. Sill, OK. We started dating. While on leave after returning from Iraq in 2003, all three of us flew to Michigan to visit his family. That was where he proposed. I worked as a CNA at a private hospice facility while he finished his term with the Army, my parents and sisters cared for my daughter while I was at work. We were married on August 8th, 2004.
Our first child together arrived 11 months after our wedding, a wonderful little girl. Our third daughter arrived 18 months later. Both were born after drug-free natural deliveries and both were exclusively breastfed. I was no longer working outside the home, and we moved from our suburban apartment to a house in a rural subdivision about 40 miles southeast of Denver. We raised laying hens, attempted to grow a garden and welcomed two awesome sons to the family. Both of their births were inductions due to early dilation and living 2hrs from the hospital, but both were very fast labors and uncomplicated births. I nursed each child until I was about halfway through my next pregnancy. We co-slept with all of our children, partially because a crib would just waste space and mostly because it just felt right to us. We settled into the patterns of a police family and tried to live as close to our ideal as our surroundings would allow.
My childhood attraction to primitive skills never lessened. My sister-in-law taught me how to can and we started buying bulk produce from the local farm markets, adding to our food storage. The decision to uproot and pursue homesteading came after years of thinking about it, talking about it and becoming increasingly fed up with ‘suburbia.’ The process itself was an absolute nightmare of stress, setbacks, heartache and exhaustion; but in the end, it worked out perfectly. In 2012 we moved onto our 11-acre homestead.
On July 4th, 2013 we welcomed our sixth child and third son. Unfortunately, his birth was not as simple as his brothers’ and sisters’ had been. 3 weeks before his due date I went into labor, and remained in labor for over 33 hours while he literally flipped in circles in my belly. Too many babies in a short amount of time along with his HUGE head spelled trouble, and he was finally delivered by c-section. Luckily we both came out of the ordeal just fine, but getting back into the swing of chores on our homestead was hard. I’d thought milking goats while 9 months pregnant was rough; trying to do so with a fresh surgical incision was an entirely different evil. I healed and we all kept on learning. Our little homestead baby is now 13 months old and still nursing on demand, has a playpen in the barn for chore time and is often riding in the sling or Babyhawk carrier while we work around the property. If all else fails, the little prince is chauffeured around the barnyard in his stroller by a sibling while Mama tends to the animals.
We’re very passionate about teaching our children how to be more self-sufficient and to ingrain certain skills from as early in their lives as possible. They’ve grown up watching their baby siblings nurse; this is now their norm, with formula the foreign influence instead of the other way around. They run wild through the hayfields, they catch frogs and identify plants, they help in the garden and to preserve its harvests. They muck out stalls, turn compost, pick harmful bugs off the plants and get so excited about every earthworm they return safely to the soil. They gather eggs and can milk our sweet Alpine cross doe by themselves. Our younger daughters are learning how to knit and crochet, and our sons want to learn too. They watch me sew and bring their torn jeans for me to mend, remarking on what a waste of money it would be to throw them out. They assist our mama goats during their labors and births, they know how to resuscitate newborns with fluid-filled lungs and how to help a breech baby to be born safely. They know how to support a grieving doe who lost her kids, and are free enough in their souls to grieve right along with her. They thirst for knowledge right alongside us and are always suggesting new projects.
We didn’t decide to live this way because we’re obsessed with some imagined impending doom. We want the security of being able to produce enough of our own necessities that something as simple as a further economic crash or a natural disaster wouldn’t cause us to fear for our lives. We want the freedom of being ourselves, to live outside the confines of HOA’s and neighbors being
able to see right into our windows. We want our children to have a childhood closer to what we had, with more experiences and less LED screens. We want them to see life in a tiny seed in the palm of their hand, life in the flowering plant it produces and life in the brown vine as it returns to the soil in the fall. We want them to grow up with respect and reverence for the animals that become our sustenance. We want them to rely more on their own knowledge and strength and less on a broken, impermanent system that has a good chance of failing them. We want to give them the tools to provide for their basic needs themselves and, should they ever need to, save their own lives.
We still have a lot of work to do, and never enough time to do it. But we’re finally where we need to be to learn and do what we want to do, and that alone is worth every ounce of effort it took to get here.