When I started this blog, there were perhaps seven people who read it; the numbers have grown over time, and now over 500 people a day are visiting. Since there are so many of you who were not here in the beginning, perhaps a re-introduction of who I am is in order, along with an update or two.
I was born and raised in northern Virginia, one of thirteen children. My mother was an English war bride and my father was raised in New Orleans. In 1971 my first husband and I took a little dirt road out of Radford, Virginia and ended up in West Virginia. I knew right away I’d found home. It took us three years to move with our four young sons. Almost thirty-five years later, I am still living on the same land we bought and built on when we moved here. My first husband returned to Virginia in 1984, and I stayed here and married a West Virginian.
When we moved here we wanted to be self-sufficient on our land. Our 80 acres of ridge land had few spots level enough even to grow a garden, but we tried to farm. I remarried and my fifth son was born in 1986. Until 1989 my house had no electricity and we learned to do a lot of things the old way, taught by neighbors, friends and books.
For a few short years in the early 1980's, we actually did earn our living on this land, and I can tell you it was hard, hard work. We grew tobacco, made molasses, put up hay, raised cattle, hogs, chickens, and turkeys. We sold tomatoes and had a small greenhouse that produced enough extra plants to pay for anything I planted for myself. We heated with wood, had bees and milk cows. It was a rich life in many ways, money not being one of them. I would not trade those experiences for any amount of money.
As our sons grew up and moved off to lives of their own, we cut back on farming. I went to college, got my Masters degree and started working away from the farm. Eventually we were down to a few chickens, three dogs and a garden. Gone were the greenhouse, the herb gardens, the livestock. I continued to can and keep chickens and we usually had venison in the freezer, but we bought most of our food at the store. Life was easier, but at the same time more complicated. Storytelling and my full-time job kept me on the go most of the time, with little energy left over for gardens. We had more money, but less satisfaction.
We lost one of our sons in 2010, a horrific blow that I will never recover from--as anyone who has lost a dearly loved one will tell you, the grief never goes away although with time we learn the coping skills to manage it. And we can still find happiness, and still laugh, but beneath there is a deep sadness that is just there, like a river running under a mountain.
The past few years I’ve been finding my way back to the simpler life I used to know. I can a lot, we are raising more gardens and trying to be smarter about what we raise by extending the season with very early and late plantings. We have bees again and most years raise turkeys for the freezer. The cellar is filled with jars of jelly, jam, pickles, beans and other good things from our gardens, and the potato bin and freezer are full. We have a gas well now that provides free gas for our home, yet one more step toward self-sufficiency.
I have been able to expand my storytelling activities since I am now free during the days and I am writing more, although still not as much as I would like. This past year we ventured into the world of selling by starting two booths in antique malls and selling on eBay. It's been fun and provides a little more monthly income and a lot of interesting visits to junk shops and auctions as I look for wares for my booths.
When I retired in 2011, I thought I'd have all the time in the world to do the things I wanted to do. The days filled quickly and I have learned once again how to relax, to enjoy a quiet morning on the porch, and even to sit still long enough to watch a movie or work a puzzle. I am remembering the many things I learned when I was on the farm full-time before, and finding ways to incorporate those skills into my days once again, picking and choosing what fits the way we live now. Life is more satisfying, and I am once again finding the peace that comes from knowing we can provide for ourselves.
I know there are many other people doing the same things we’re doing—rediscovering old skills and the pleasure that comes with doing things for ourselves, whether we are working off the farm or are full-time homesteaders. On this blog I share some of what I’ve learned, as well as family memories, places I’ve been and pieces of the Appalachian culture that I love.
I hope you enjoy the journey with me. I've made several friends in blogland already, and I hope to add many more in the days and years ahead.