When I started this blog, there were perhaps seven people who read it; the numbers have grown over time, and now over 300 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 has 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 myself. We heated with wood (and still do), 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.
The past few years I’ve been finding my way back. I’ve started canning more, raising more garden, and this year we had turkeys, bees and hogs again. 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 will provide free gas for our home as soon as we run a half-mile of pipe and replace our appliances. Yet one more step to self-sufficiency.
I am remembering the many things I learned when I was on the farm full-time and finding ways to incorporate those skills into my days as I continue to work full-time. Life is more satisfying, and I am once again finding the peace that comes from knowing we can provide for ourselves.
In September I resigned my full-time job because of changes that made it unacceptable to me to continue in the place I have worked for 17 years. It was not a happy time. However, long conversations with management and the downturn of the economy both made me reconsider. It's not a good time to start a new venture, and leaving would hurt a place I have loved and grown with. So I am staying at least for the near future, and the dream of being a full-time storyteller and writer will have to wait a while longer. It increases the challenge of balancing rural life and all the things I love to do at home with the 100-mile daily commute and increasing responsibilities at my job.
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.