T and E Acres Grows

Time for a Fresh Start

Erin C      

It has easily been six months since I've written a blog. I can tell; my brain has about a thousand tabs open and I can tell that I haven't put any of it to paper lately. A big part of successful homesteading is keeping records on hand each year so when it's time to start Homestead Thing A again the next year, you know what worked and what didn't. Instead of keeping up with much of anything, I have been engaged in the "I will remember this and write it down in a couple of days" cycle in which nothing gets written down or remembered. This, in turn, clutters my brain even more.  So here I sit, on the fourth day of the new year trying to figure out what we need to work on this year to improve. And I'm trying to put to paper all of the thoughts I have had about our homestead, our progress and failures, resolutions that will help us shape up the plan for the coming months, and still try to remember what the plan for the rest of the day is as I try to get ready for a weekend at work. 

First and foremost, our resolutions; they are family resolutions because they revolve this year around ways to make our homestead work better and home improvement projects that we just can't put off anymore. From there, the plan for the year unfolds, as we chart monthly what we want to accomplish and find a place for it in the budget. This is not a new idea, this is something that many families do, if not all at once, in small bites over time. We will plan the garden and order seeds; we will plan additions to our livestock and make room in the farm budget for feed or bedding as needed. And one thing that is very important for us is to plan for the home improvement projects that are a must. 

This year, I resolve to learn everything I can get my hands on about plumbing. Installing pipes, toilets, and showers all the way down to slope for proper drainage and air vents that ensure working systems. How to insulate properly and what impact the distance from one side of the house to the other has on hot water but also water drainage. I want to learn about grey water systems, and draw up plans for installing an outdoor shower. This desire to learn about something that typically people call a professional to do stems from the lack of working plumbing we are experiencing in our home currently.  When we bought the house we are living in, we hired an inspector and followed him around for hours as he checked every aspect of the house. The plumbing passed with flying colors. The problem, as we are finding out, is that no one lived in the house for months leading up to our purchase, so of course everything flowed the way it should; it hadn't dealt with daily use in a very long time. Now, we have a shower that drains so slowly it could be the next day before it is empty.  We have a toilet that just doesn't work. The other toilet flushes sometimes, but sometimes you have to run a load of laundry to get the toilet water to go down. The kitchen sinks back up and the washing machine struggles. There are gurgles, bubbles, and all manner of bizarre noises coming from different parts of the pipes. The septic tank has been emptied multiple times and we don't think it's the problem. What may be the real issue is that when the house was built, the slope the pipes were plumbed to was not nearly enough to compensate for the distance some of them have to go.  At this point, we are ready to tear our hair out and build an outhouse. Instead, we are going to learn about plumbing, not only so that we can fix what we have the skill set to fix, but also so when a plumber does come out, we know what we are looking for when they try to fix something. And also, so we have a base of knowledge for the day when we build our own house. 

This year, I resolve to expand my creativity. Vague, I know, but bear with me. We have six massive pine trees right against the house, and they very badly need to come down this year. This will leave us with so much wood lying around. We will burn some of it in the fire pit, we will cut some of it into boards to use in farm projects that don't have to live forever (or for very long) and I want to learn how to use our power tools to make small, decorative hand crafted items from the wood we will have an overabundance of. Maybe I should change my resolution to learn how to use our power tools.  Either way, my Etsy shop is about to have some funky new things in it.

This year, I resolve to learn more about drainage, including berms, swales and gutters. Oh yes, gutters. Whoever built this house put rain handlers on the roof instead of gutters, so water just pools against the foundation, which is not good for any home. But while gutters is a large part of the equation, using the lay of the land to find ways to redirect water that is running downhill against the house is important too. And this year I think we should learn about gathering and storing water for later use. We need to investigate rain barrels, but also multi-tiered filter systems that the water can run through and then go on to water a garden or flower bed. 

Finally, the usual: grow more food, eat better, sleep more, lose weight, cut out sugar, be pleasant, be present, save more money, yada yada yada. These timeless but typically useless resolutions can be boiled down to one thing: pay more attention to what my body needs and stop being so mean to myself. Better self-care is on the list. Ironically, this also stems from a place of need. I injured myself this fall, and continued to ignore the injury until today, when I saw my NP. The original injury would have been so easy to fix if I had slowed down and taken care of myself the way I knew I should, but never made the time to do. Notice I didn't say find the time, I said make the time. There's enough time in every day to get things done, it is a matter of prioritizing tasks and understanding how to say no to things that do not serve your life. This is one I need to practice this year. In addition to an injury that now includes nerve compression, I have gained 28 pounds; in a four or five month period. Because I did not make my self-care a priority last year. So I am starting this new year from a health perspective of repair and catch up instead of grow and expand. And blogging more is included in this directive to perform better self-care since writing helps my brain health quite a bit. Maybe it won't be so long until we talk again. Meet me back here, on this blog, and let's share our homesteading triumphs and struggles. The coffee is always on.

Photo by Getty Images/Cn0ra

We Have a Bacon Emergency

 Erin C

The Good pig

My husband and I were just getting going for the day, him finishing up his breakfast, and I going in for my second (or third) cup of coffee. As I walked into the kitchen, I could hear the ducks loudly losing their minds, which, for our ducks is not unusual. They loudly panic over just about everything, including butterflies, hawks, crickets too near the food, the deaf and elderly neighbor dog that wants to eat their poop, and each other. So I didn’t necessarily think anything was wrong when I heard the duck alarm going off.  It’s when the chickens joined them that we knew something is actually going on.  As I reached for the coffee pot, the chickens also started to freak out, so I looked out the kitchen window into the backyard and that’s when I saw her:  the big, red pig trying to squeeze into a chicken door 10 sizes too small for her. 

“Babe, we have a pig emergency,” I told my husband as I tried to grab my outside slip on shoes.  I got to the back door and saw the other pig headed in to also try to find a way into the chicken coop.  In the pigs’ defense, they really do love eggs, it is their favorite treat. And they had discovered the source, so who wouldn’t want to try to get in there?  I put a pocket full of duck eggs in my apron and headed out, hoping I could lure these two escapees back into their pen with just a couple of eggs and some luck.  But they were not interested; why deal with a middle man when you can go straight to the source?  The white pig came over the find out what treats I had for her, and to also get her ears scratched. She had found a huge mud puddle and proceeded to shake off like a dog and rub the remainder of the mud on my jeans. 

 When luring them didn’t work and pushing them didn’t work, my husband tried something as a last-ditch effort; we found a nylon rope and put a loop around the white pig’s shoulders and then a loop behind her rump. While my husband half pushed, half cursed the white pig back into the pen, the red pig got the idea that amazing things were happening without her, so she hauled bacon across the backyard into the pen. All in all, with everything around our property, this was a lucky catch on our part. On two sides, our property is bordered by soybean fields. This discovery on the part of the pigs would have spelled doom for us. The house sits pretty close to the road, too, so if something had happened that they wandered out into the road and one of the neighbors hit them, I have a feeling that offering them pork chops and ham wouldn’t ease neighbor relations. 

Since this incident, the pigs have escaped two or three more times, the last of which turned into a huge ordeal. I ended up hitting my head and my husband took a tool to the face. We were bleeding, covered in mud, and mostly unable to lift our arms above our heads. But as exhausted as we were that particular day, we had to finally put into place fencing updates to keep the girls from escaping again. We use hog panels and simply went around the whole yard, reinforcing the fencing at each panel with a t-post in the middle of the panel. When we first got the pigs we were well aware that pigs exist for two purposes:  eat and escape.  But we were hoping that since we use a rotational fencing system, they would be on enough new ground every couple of weeks that they wouldn’t feel like they needed to escape. We almost made it to butcher day without any escapes.

We moved the fence again recently to give the hogs some new ground and they are very appreciative. We have also been taking them pears from the trees that are right by their yard. And they still get eggs, because that is their favorite thing. It won’t be long now until we are butchering and packaging these two hogs. My husband has been studying how to make perfect bacon and we are trying to figure out the freezer situation. Honestly, when the day comes that I can’t walk out the back door and immediately get barked at by the pigs wondering where their treats and ear scratches are, I will be a little sad. Bacon tastes good, and we eat a lot of pork chops, but I will miss these two, and their antics. Even though they are new escape artists.

New Arrivals 2

First Aid First Priority

Erin C 

After the cut

“You’re a nurse, why can’t you just pop a couple stitches in it?”

“Well, because usually I’m taking them out, not putting them in. I have never stitched anybody  in my life.”

This was the conversation my husband and I were having as he stood bleeding in the bathroom, me trying to clean up his cut.  We were butchering chickens that day and he plunged the end of a dull knife into the palm of his hand.  He needed stitches, that's not what I was doubting; I didn’t want to be the one to do them. We have a pretty impressive first aid kit, and it includes sutures, but I really didn’t want to have to stitch him up.  I did it anyway.  For one thing, I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop.  For another, it was gaping. So I put a butterfly closure on the bottom half, which stuck beautifully, and I put a single stitch in the top half because I couldn’t get a second butterfly closure to hold. That lasted most of the day until he decided to take out the stitch and see what happened.  It started to bleed again, but it had held together long enough so that the butterfly closure we slapped on it held. 

As I was digging through the first aid kit at the time, I realized that if we were more remote than we currently are, there are many times we would be in trouble. We are a five minute drive from the nearest emergency room at the moment, but when it comes time to purchase our forever property, we want to be far away from civilization. That week, we spent some money upgrading the first aid kit and added multiple suture kits, butterfly closures, steri-strips, and a lot of gauze. I already had multiple kinds of tape, Coban, Kerlix and other wound dressing items, but we needed the ability to do stitches quickly and correctly.  My husband makes knives, so he works with sharp blades, and some heavier tools.  Plus, he’s a little accident-prone. I also found a practice pad online for suturing different kinds of wounds.  I have been practicing my technique and can say the next time I have to stitch anybody, I’m ready. 

First aid is a priority on a homestead, with knowledge and supplies being equally important. And we not only have tools to work on the people who live here, we also have tools to work on the animals. If you can’t get to a doctor or a vet in a hurry, it’s imperative to have supplies on hand and some amount of know-how to respond to emergencies on your property.

I have an advantage, honestly, because I’m an registered nurse. I work in a hospital intensive care unit and have worked in the ER before.  I have helped work on gunshot wounds, all-terrain vehicle accidents, broken and dislocated bones, and cuts requiring multiple levels of stitches. But practice is important, and so is having a preparedness plan for emergencies. In my first aid kit, I have multiple sizes of gauze, numerous suture kits, different kinds of bandages, quick clot, and disinfectants such as alcohol, chlorhexidine, and iodine. I have Blue-Kote for the animals. I have saline to wash out wounds and Coban to hold bandages in place more securely. I also have different sizes of needles and syringes, either for giving medications or for puncturing an abscess. I have products such as iodoform for packing wounds and abscesses, and Xeroform for covering open areas.  We have Neosporin and Tylan and the vet told me where and how to give an injection to a chicken.

A couple of days after we added items for bleeding injuries to the kit, my husband was making dinner.  When I heard him start cursing and running water over his hand, all I could think was, “I don’t have anything for burns in my kit.”  Burn treatments are on the list.

Every home needs at least a rudimentary first aid kit, but if you live or work on a homestead, especially one that is fairly remote, that kit may need a boost. There are priorities for sure, and as such, we keep items to help control bleeding, splint a break or sprain, aspirin for chest pain, Tylenol for fever, and some way and form to get electrolytes into human or animal to stave off dehydration.  Personally, I would also suggest a CPR/first aid class. The Red Cross holds courses designed for non-first responders, etc., and most colleges or community colleges have CPR courses. Check the availability in your area. Being careful and aware are essential to preventing injuries and emergencies, but none of us live in a bubble, so the second best thing is keeping a well-stocked supply kit and knowing how to use the items. 

Tips for Butchering a Chicken

Erin C


A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how I had never cut up a whole chicken. When I was in college and I wanted to cook chicken, I bought boneless, skinless chicken breast. I couldn’t de-bone something to save my life. My husband took our whole chickens we had butchered — and that he had plucked and skinned and made into a pretty little package for me — to learn how to cut up a chicken himself.

So yesterday I went to "whole chicken cutting-up grad school;" I helped my hubby butcher. We had three roosters all just coming into their breeding, crowing, beating-up-hens-and-each-other phase, and some of the girls were starting to look a little ragged. Actually, a lot ragged. One of them even has a gash the size of a nickel on her back that is deep enough to see muscle and fat. So we decided it was time for two of the guys to go to freezer camp. Because we want it to be as humane as possible, my husband shoots them in the head with a shotgun. There’s no question that they are dead. Two of the roosters were the same age and about the same build. The third was a few weeks younger and was caught up in heft. All three are chicks we hatched from our hens.

I have been present when my husband butchered in the past, and I helped my parents years and years ago with plucking. But my homesteading confession is that I haven’t ever done all of the butchery on my own. So I told my husband yesterday that I wanted to learn how. It seems important to be as connected to the whole process as possible. And after my very first whole butchering experience, I have some tips and pointers for anyone trying to learn how.

Rule #1 of Butchering: Keep your mouth closed. This isn’t some rule about how the person showing you how is your teacher and you just silently do as they say. No, this is a rule aimed at your well-being. See, I didn’t know this rule when I started, so as I was plucking some abdominal feathers to get started and yammering away at my husband about something pretty inconsequential, the wind kicked up and I ended up with feathers in my mouth. That about derailed the whole thing for me. I’m not squeamish; my job makes being grossed-out impossible. So it wasn’t that I was about to vomit, I just couldn’t do anything about it. My hands had feathers and blood on them, so I was stuck with feathers in my mouth — at least for a couple of minutes while I rinsed my hands, trying the whole time to spit them out. So yeah, maybe save a story about work for another time and keep your mouth shut.

What else did I learn yesterday? Keep anything you are planning on saving out of reach of the other chickens. As disturbing as it may sound to someone who has never met the little dinosaurs in our backyard, there is nothing they like more than the leftovers from a former coopmate. I have personally witnessed the hen that is usually the most beat-up by the rooster lining up first to run away with his testicles to eat. We weren’t planning on keeping the testicles, but we did want the heart, liver, and kidneys. I was so focused on the butchery itself and not messing it up that it wasn’t until I saw one of our hens hauling-butt away with a kidney that I realized my organs were walking off. Thief!

In addition to your chickens volunteering to assist, your housecats will probably also be helpful. I had the carcass in a large pot of cold water to chill and loosen up, and was rinsing the organs the chickens had not managed to steal, when one of the housecats decided that waiting was for the birds. He jumped on the counter and grabbed a heart. That I managed to save, as he got lazy in his escape and decided to sit down instead of the obvious getaway. So I wrestled that away from him, washed it off, and proceeded with cleaning up the bird. I’m pretty sure if the animals had their way, the humans would live off of gruel and moldy bread crusts so they could have the finest vittles.

Today, the chicken stock is cooking down on the stove and the meat is being divided into meal size portions, vacuum sealed, and frozen. And while I sit here and write, I am reflective. I’m not the only one who is amazed at my growth on this little farm. My husband said that if two years ago I had told him I was going to do the butchery work, he wouldn’t have believed it. The first time we butchered a chicken for meat here, I cried. And I still get a little teary-eyed each time we do this. But I’m not ashamed of that; we raise these birds from hatching and they spend a significant amount of time in my lap. So I can feel sad. I’m also grateful that we can do this — that we can put food on our table knowing that the animal sustaining us lived a happy life. As they say: They have one bad day.


March Came Like a Lion

Erin C


This past week we had some pretty rough storms. Since we don’t have a storm shelter, my husband and I hunkered down in the innermost closet we have in the house and listened as Mother Nature hurled hail, rain, and tree branches at our little home. Through the roar of what sounded like a train overhead, all I could think was “my poor chickens.” At the same time that it sounded like the whole house might come down around us, I heard what had to be a bomb being dropped, there’s just no other explanation.

My parents texted after they emerged from their storm shelter — three relatively unhappy cats in carriers, mom covered in mud from a tumble down the hill to the shelter — “We’re safe and the house is fine. You guys OK?” Exhausted from a night of absolutely no sleep and the 5 A.M. adrenaline from the worst storm we have had in this house, we slept for a couple of hours.

When we went to let the chickens out of the coop and look around, we noticed limbs strewn all around the yard, siding missing from the chicken coop, and the source of the boom — we had a pine tree down across the yard. It had thankfully only landed on our garden, which is just a patch of grass and clover at the moment. There are a few shingles missing from the roof, and we are missing a couple of small pots that didn’t get wedged in tight enough, but we were extremely lucky.

As we took pictures and discussed what to do next, we realized two things: we are missing an essential homestead tool, a good chainsaw; and we don’t have a good emergency plan. We have prepared some for emergencies, but there are a few key things missing. It was different when it was just us and the housecats. We have a couple of gallons of water in our freezers and there are three freezers and multiple shelves full of frozen and canned goods. We have a grill, and we can turn scrap limbs into firewood if need be. We won’t starve. But now we have chickens and ducks, and in a few months we are getting pigs. How would we water them? We don’t have a good system for making sure that, if the power was out for a couple weeks and the water piped in wasn’t potable, we can water our livestock. That’s a problem. So on the list of things that we have to find creative ways to take care of quickly, that’s right up there at the top.

Last year, our HVAC went out. And we had to have it replaced, which for a number of reasons took us 3+ weeks. In those three or so weeks was the run of days with temperatures in the teens. So let’s just say I’m no stranger to wearing a sweater, coat, and hat to bed. We had space heaters that we left in rooms with pipes; we needed to not burst all our pipes worse than I needed to have a consistent 67 degrees in the bedroom. That experience spurred us both to buy good, heavy-duty wool socks, better boots, and other underclothes to keep warm when we need it. So if we were a little cold, we would be OK.

But the other problem is the lack of a chainsaw. I said earlier we didn’t have a good chainsaw, but I should amend that to no chainsaw. We had to cut down a large pine tree (we have way too many pine trees on our little property) a couple years ago because it was leaning on and killing my pear tree. Sorry pine, the pear gives me food I like. And I am allergic to you. So down it came. It is still sitting there in all its piney, slowly-rotting glory. And now we have another pine tree down due to the storm. We also have five more about 12-15 feet behind the house, and they are three times as tall as the house. If a storm knocked one of those over, our house would be a sad little pile of rubble. So, as soon as we can get someone out here that is good at cutting down trees, they have to go. But to save money we are planning to cut the pines up ourselves. Hence, we are right back to the chainsaw conundrum.

A good chef will tell you that there are essential tools for running a good kitchen — a sharp chef’s knife, good heavy-bottomed pots, and quality ingredients. As a nurse, I can honestly say that if I have a good stethoscope and a pair of bandage scissors, I am set for a shift. And any homesteader that is serious about what they do will tell you that an essential addition to a homestead is a good chainsaw. (And a quality emergency plan.) How and where will you get water? Food? Heat if you need it? These are all things that should be planned for. We have so far taken baby steps in our homesteading journey, but it’s time to make bigger and better plans and investments. Because anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do right.

New Year, New Us

Erin CAreYouMyMummy

Whether you loved it or hated it, 2016 is gone. Personally I didn’t love it; too many loved ones passed. As we move into the new year, as the days get longer, and as we get back into our routines, many of us are making resolutions. Some of us will resolve to be skinnier, some of us will resolve to be healthier, and some of us will resolve to be wealthier. Last year, my one and only resolution was to love more — basically to be more open to new things and embrace the good. It was vague, open-ended, and easy to achieve.

This year, I’m going for something a little more concrete. This year, the resolution will be more work and it will be more difficult, but I think I’m ready to try. OK that sounds wishy-washy; I know that I think that I might be ready to possibly, perhaps, try something new. There, that’s better.

I will go ahead and admit I am terrible at New Year’s resolutions, mostly keeping them. I strongly resemble Dory the fish with my resolutions: “Hey everybody, I’m on a diet, eating healthy, feeling good ... Oh look! Cake.” Typically, I don’t even make it to February — yes, I’m that person. There have been changes that I’ve made in my life that have stuck, so it’s not that I can’t do it. The beginning of a new year is just not the best motivation for me. Change can happen and take hold any time of year. And honestly, this year may be no different. I’m not going to lie to you or to myself. I might be exactly where I started this year when February rolls around. But I am going to try. That’s better than nothing.

To kick off the new year, I plan on sitting down and, using the millions (fine, dozens) of homestead printables I found, I am going to put some organization to this house and homestead. While it’s probably better emotionally to not know exactly how much my beautiful chickens cost me in feed, financially it is easier to plan when I keep track of feed costs, eggs laid, sick chickens, and anything that has to be replaced.

I also need to go back and do a freezer and pantry inventory. This time last year, my hubby and I got out a spreadsheet and inventoried the freezers, but at some point it got misplaced. So, every time we used something, we didn’t write it down. Now we find foods we forgot we had and go digging for foods that we used up long ago. I started buying bulk baking supplies this year and currently have a bunch of things we don’t use regularly. But, every time I go to make something with them I buy a new supply, because I forget that I shoved it to the very back of the cabinets. If I knew what I needed and what I really don’t need, it would be easier, more cost effective, and less stressful shopping for some food items. In a nutshell, Resolution #1 for 2017 is to make a homestead binder, keep up with it, and update it. And that means long-term, not just until February when I lose it.

OK, whew, that was a lot of work just thinking about all that. Can I be done? No? Alright, fine.

Resolution #2 for 2017 (drum roll please) is we are giving up sodas. This has been a resolution, plan, idea, whatever for me for as long as I can remember. Probably about as long as I have been binge-drinking sodas. I don’t have a soda every day, or even every week, but then I have a rough night at work and I drink three. Or we go out for dinner and instead of getting water or a coffee, I order a soda. We don’t keep soda in the house, which is not difficult for us; frankly, we don’t even really like soda. When we haven’t had any for a while, it tastes like overly-sweetened chemicals. But for whatever reason, I still drink them.

For the longest time I thought it was a willpower issue. I came to the realization this past month that it is an attitude issue instead. I personally believe that willpower is kind of a myth. We have to convince ourselves not to even think about Thing A, lest we crave it. Because we all know once we crave it, it’s all over. You know that’s true; that’s why diets fail, why diets have cheat food or cheat days, why people abandon resolutions. But instead of giving myself an out by saying, “Oh well, obviously I just don’t have any willpower,” I’m going to change my attitude. It is no longer a willpower problem for me, because I’m taking soda off the metaphorical table. It is not a comfort food, it is not a treat, and it is not an option. I have started using this tactic for anything toxic in my life, and it has worked really well so far.

There are more resolutions that I want to try to keep: put money in the savings account, raise more of our own meat, learn a new skill, and try out a Couch to 5K. I want to grow our homestead, I want to grow our health, I want to grow the love we tackle any new project with, and I want to try new things. I want to take more steps towards sustainability and towards being debt free. I want to eat good food, and I want to build my physical strength.

It’s kind of funny, looking over my New Year’s resolutions. I’m resolving to do the same thing that I did last year. Except this year I have a plan.


Looking Ahead

Erin CGreen tomatoes

2016, you're being mean. No seriously, enough is enough. I have tried to sit down and write for a month now, and I have found myself unable to even create a blog about my chickens. I lost my cousin recently. My husband’s grandmother went into hospice. We lost our first chicken to a predator. A massive wildfire destroyed Pigeon Forge and the forests of East Tennessee, which was devastating to that area and cost 14 people their lives. Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine caused quite a bit of damage. The Standing Rock pipeline and resulting protests have shown many of us that when it comes to water rights, big companies tend to get the upper hand.

And there were some real losses to the world via celebrity deaths this year: Abe Vigoda, who our rooster was named after; Alan Rickman, who was one of my favorite villains to ever set foot on a movie set; Harper Lee; Muhammad Ali; Gordie Howe; Elie Wiesel; the list goes on and on and on. We lose celebrities every year, people who we don’t really know, but who hold some strange place in our lives. But really, 2016 sucker-punched my childhood. 2016 went straight for my happy memories; Prince, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, and David Bowie all brought beauty to the world through their music. Robert Vaugh, who many people remember from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but who I remember watching for the first time with my dad in the Magnificent Seven (my favorite cowboy movie ever) as a flawed hero. Gene Wilder who was a favorite in so many movies that I loved as a child and into adulthood. Kenny Baker, who played R2D2, passed away this year; seriously 2016? You couldn’t leave the droid alone?

So when I say it has been one thing after another, we all know that, right? From small upsets, like a stranger who made movies passing away, to major catastrophes, this year has had a lot of bad news to spread. I have to admit that I was feeling a little overwhelmed and sad. Bad news is nothing new, and usually I bounce back, but 2016 was just not having any of that.

But positive things happen in our lives, too, and they have a way of balancing out the bad. Because life isn’t really all good or all bad, but a mix of the two. I was at work the other night when I was reminded of this by a coworker who, without even realizing it, lifted my spirits. I work in an ICU in a large hospital in downtown Memphis, TN. I work with nurses who travel from the northern part of Missouri, with nurses who travel 10 minutes down the road, with medical assistants that walk to work, and medical assistants that drive 45 minutes. I work with people from every kind of background, socioeconomic class, gender, race, and culture. I work with vegans and die-hard carnivores, people who can’t boil water, and gourmet chefs. And so many times that I’m at work, I’m also talking to these people about food. I love to talk about food, and I love to talk about how and why we raise our own food. I genuinely enjoy bringing a dish for the whole unit to try, talk about how the majority of the ingredients came from my backyard, and how it was prepared.

The medical assistant that we were working with that night doesn’t usually float to our floor, but she’s trying to come down more often. She was born and raised in apartments in Memphis. She is a city girl through and through. And this past weekend, she couldn’t wait to share her news with me: she just signed a lease on a house for the first time. She is going to have a yard and a large kitchen. And she told me that I had inspired her to make this change; she told me that she wanted to learn to grow her own vegetables. She was so excited for this change to happen that she had started planning the herb window box that she was going to plant as soon as she moved in.

This conversation lifted me right out of the funk I had been in. I inspired someone to try growing vegetables! Growing and raising food is something that I am truly passionate about, and I enjoy sharing this with others. We have gotten so far away from our food that it’s hard to believe that, just a couple of generations ago, it wasn’t trendy or strange for people to have a couple chickens in their backyard; it was normal. Canning and gardening were just a part of the routine. There has been a resurgence the last few decades of people “getting back to the land.” I think the popularity of homesteading waxes and wanes like the cycles of the moon, but some people live this lifestyle because living any other way is not an option. And I think we need to show people who don’t naturally embrace the farm life that they can grow some of their own vegetables, too. Taking an active role in their own food prep is not only exciting, but worth the work of planting and harvesting when you cut into your own ripe tomato.

I realized this weekend what my husband has been trying to tell me all year: That while we have some things to complain about, there isn’t much, and we certainly have much more to enjoy and be thankful for. And my friends and coworkers reminded me that I can’t control everything, but I can make a huge impact on some people. And that’s what counts.

Canned food

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