Dear Mishpacha v’Chaverim,

Spring is coming!!! Yes, I know it’s probably “here” for most of you, but for us, it’s “coming.” The nighttime temperatures are now reliably above zero, but still not reliably above freezing, even during the day. We made it through winter, with all of us healthy and learning and growing well. Internet is the latest “big exciting thing” here. The corrugated steel grain bin shell of our house is great at deflecting signals, as is the mylar vapor barrier (and infrared heat reflector). The combination meant that our cell phones got very little reception and wireless internet didn’t work at all. The tax return came in, and we re-stocked the pantry, bought a water filter (so we can purify our own water, rather than buying & hauling it from town– YES!!!), and got internet. We are well-blessed.

Our bedroom is also the living / dining / kitchen room (apx. 200 sq. ft.). The kids have a divided bedroom (the first grain bin’s ground floor, another 200 sq. ft., in which we all lived for a month before the second grain  bin’s ground floor was insulated so that we could move into it while insulating the first grain bin’s ground floor) within view of it. At 600 square feet of live-able space so far, it feels pretty big after the 150 square foot yurt, and then living in either half of this space before we got both sides insulated. Each space has felt successively larger and more pleasant. I’m beginning to feel more normalized… nothing like “normal,” you understand  😉  but functional.

“The Grandfather Clock” (a Schoolhouse Regulator, re-named because Gramps built it, not because it’s actually a grandfather clock) made it out of storage last week, and is now on the wall, chiming the quarter-hour. A few other things are filtering their way from storage into our home, and we are beginning to settle in a bit. It’s not quite enough space to bring everything out of storage yet, but enough to bring a few books and odds & ends to make it homey.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed and supported us through these crucial parts of this first-stage build, and helped us to realize our dreams of clean air and affordable, healthy housing! You are all angels (messengers), and we’ve heard your voices loud and clear: “You are loved. You are cared for. You are believed in. You’ll make it.”

Love to all of you!

B’Shalom,

Yochanna.

Shalom Mishpacha v’Chaverim,

L’Chaim! Life is good. It has been a long journey from our home Out West, here to The Frozen North, back Out West to see you all again for a few months, and back here again to continue building our homestead. We are warm and well, and there are pumpkins from a local gm-free farm in the house and wood from dead tree removal by the stove. The children are in bed, asleep. The cats are patrolling. (Yes, we have victory over that allergy!!! All honor to He Who Causes to Exist!!!) We are in a house (solid walls!!!) that we built from the ground up of 3 small grain bins this year. Our family has unity like I’ve rarely seen. Each personality has a unique and vital contribution. What more could we want?

We miss you. We miss alternatives and a culture with a more broadly educated “mainstream,” especially in the medical and religious communities. We miss Hebrew lessons and Hebrew school and services and holidays with community and helping to set up for events. I miss local grocery stores that carry more OG food and natural medicines than I keep stocked in my house for the week. I miss kitchen counters attached to kitchen sinks, and my very own bathtub with a door that locks. Sigh. OG food and other Jews are an hour away. The naturopathic RN is 45 minutes East. The showers are at the Y in the town 15 miles South.

The high today was -5°, and tonight it is supposed to get down to -15°. (Edit: it wound up at -18°). Internet is a luxury item here. Cell service and internet are both blocked by the corrugated steel of the grain bins and the mylar which serves as both a vapor barrier and to reflect infrared heat back into the house.

The local YMCA has been indispensable for showers and a place to be when the weather has been inclement, as well as a more reliable WiFi spot.  Tornadoes, ticks and mosquitoes in the summer compete with blizzards in the winter for our time,energy and prep work.

At around 600 square feet of heated living space, we’re far from palatial, but the mylar, accented with poplar battons (harvested from the land), does reflect the menorah lights quite regally. We brought the Chanukah box from storage and decorated the house with snowflakes, doves, and menorot. There are those who would argue that the real miracle of Chanukah is in the survival of the Jewish people (allowing, historically, the development of both Christianity and Islam from the Roots that were not destroyed before their birth) and rededication of the temple. For us, the menorah is a beautiful way to remember this miracle, whether the miracle of the oil ever occurred or not. (There is much debate over this, but we don’t see it as the more consequential question. The question of the survival of Judaism was answered with a resounding and miraculous “YES!”) We bless with “natanlanu” in place of “v’tzivanu,” and thank the One who makes all miracles happen, whether we can prove them from the earliest historical accounts or not. Officially, it’s over now, but we’re relishing the after-glow. The kids made several crocheted gifts and we found some “just right” things in thrift shops.

Proverbs recommends planting the fields before building the house. I don’t know whether that bit of wisdom is truly applicable in this climate, but we are hopeful that planting after getting the temporary house built will bring blessings as well. We’ve walked a beautiful, trying journey to appreciate the value in the Instruction in Tanach. Planting and letting the land rest and the years of release have been major landmarks for us. They are “written in stone” in our hearts and gut-instincts.

I’m not sure on the official timing of when to put the mezuzot on the door posts, but we’re thinking it will be sometime near when the wood siding is nailed up around the slider. A friend Out West went to Israel and brought one back for us with a real, Kosher scroll for it. It will be the first Kosher one for any home we’ve ever had. Up to this point, we’ve made do with paper print-outs from the internet. Please send good thoughts and prayers for our home to honor the Torah it holds, as well as the Torah it brings to mind, and the One Who gave it. Note: there are different opinions on how to fulfill this mitzvah. Some put the little box on the doorpost. Some put an open-faced mezuzah, allowing people to see the words. Some believe that it’s similar to the phylactories, and is a figurative instruction to have it always on our minds and in our hearts and to “build our homes” with “posts” (foundations / structural elements) of Torah Instruction. Our view is that these things are all good. Unity is not uniformity, but the capacity to converse and argue and struggle for truth in a social world that allows others to do the same.

May you all be blessed with concrete experiences,  “stones to put in the Jordan,” to mark the places where you have found the life in Torah for your homes as well.

B’Shalom,

Yochanna

Dear Mishpacha v’Chaverim (Family & Friends),

We’ve been learning and watching more miracles rain down. I admit, I am tired, and don’t need to ever go camping again in order to feel fulfilled in life. Dishes and laundry outdoors in the woods are romantic when there are no bugs, flash floods or high winds. If it weren’t for the up-close-and-personal intensity of this experience, though, I wouldn’t understand how very planned and designed our lives are. We are orchestrated into the amazing position of being able to see the miracles of provision. This property is uniquely situated in a clump of hills that break up the wind and some storms as well. We have repeatedly watched storms coming straight for us, breaking in half so that all we get is the rain, or a much-reduced mph of wind. That’s not to say that 40-60mph winds are fun when camping, but we are also blessed with forested land, which seems to “scrub out” about 10-20 mph for us.

We don’t necessarily see the miracles or purposes behind the Instructions when we are in the “reliable” 9-5 job… until it becomes somehow unreliable, and we are forced to rely on the miracles that were always there,  but overshadowed by imagining of security.

Out here, we NEED the parting of the red storms headed our way on the weather radar. We NEED to “differentiate between the clean and the unclean”, and “bury the excrement outside the camp” to keep ourselves healthy. We NEED the Shabbat to rest and recover and come up for air, and remember who we are individually, and why we are here, and to remember who we are as a team. We NEED a candle-lit dinner, and a day of no cooking or “normal” work. It’s real enough when you’re self-employed, but when you add in camping and building a house and an extreme budget, these needs become all the more clear and profound. 

The first and second grain bins are in process, with the first one having begun assembly yesterday, and the second one half- dismantled and transported here today.

While the guys worked on the farm 2 hours from here, taking down the second grain bin, the rest of us ran errands in town, 15 miles from the property in the opposite direction.

Today, we got the propane tank filled, the water tanks filled, (so we could do laundry again–YES!!) and stocked a few supplies that are available in the “close-by” town. We do a trip to the Big City about once every 7-10 days for health food & supplements, which is an hour each way. We’d like to reduce that to once a month, but it will take some investment capital, which is currently being spent on house parts as quickly as Hubby earns it. We’ve also found a local farm that grows non-gmo, biodynamc food, and sells it off the truck in the close-by town through October.

Oh! Latest miracle: the second grain bin was FREE, and in better shape than the first one (which wasn’t bad to start with)! The farmer has a few more he’d like removed, and we can have them as long as it’s done before they’re frozen. Hubby & Big Guy will head out there in between jobs until we have all we can use here, YHWH willing. He Causes To Exist is our Nursing Mother.

A few pix of the first bin, and Canoeing with our friends one Sunday when we took an extra day off a few weeks ago. Blessings, All!

–Yochanna

tmp_27853-0710160941-694000688Everything was washed and nearly dry from the last storm,  and then we were hit with another. The tents may be salvageable with the some gorilla tape.

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Everyone is staying in the Yurt until we get the Hogan (storm shelter / kids’rooms) built. We are breaking down pallets (Big Guy invented an upgrade to a tool that Papa had found on YouTube and upgraded the first design while we were still Out West before the first adventure in The Great North.) Big Guy is getting pretty good at breaking them down quickly into lumber.  Big Girl takes them to Papa to have the nails ground off.  We’re getting quite a pile started.

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Today, we’re taking a break from pallet wood, though. Some trees came down in the storm last night, and Papa & Big Guy are getting them untangled with the chain saw & come-along.

The rest of us are  hanging out wet things to drip dry until we can get them through the dryer. Two more storms tonight and tomorrow night. We’re thinking fond thoughts of grain bins as a less expensive alternative to shipping containers.  Our little nest egg went pretty fast, with a few weeks off of paying work to drive here and repair & clean the yurt, so we’re saving up to buy them now. Thankfully, Hubby has work here already, which he can do as soon as weather permits.

Meanwhile, we are all healthy and doing well. Keep praying. We know that we are all dependent on the next miracle. It just feels more “real” when we are so close to the elements, and removed from the monthly paycheck. The miracle of not being laid off is probably just as poignant for a lot of folk. Maybe it’s all about perspective. We work and pray, and watch for where our next step is directed.

 

We so appreciate all of your prayers and support! “Living the dream” has its ups & downs, and it’s so good to feel all of you cheering us on.

We arrived in plenty of time on Friday to get the Yurt ready for Erev Shabbat… We had been looking forward all winter to our very own home. At 150 sq ft, with 6 occupants last summer, it was a bit tight, but at least it’s ours. We don’t owe the bank for it, and it works quite well for several months. This year, we thought we’d spend the first night in it, and then add an extra tent for more sleeping space (the kids didn’t shrink over winter) until we get the Hogan ( storm shelter /bedrooms for kids, made of pallet wood & sign tarps) built. Hence, that tent was at the bottom of the packing when we discovered that our “very own” Yurt had been borrowed for the winter in our absence.

Mice are opportunistic critters. Everything that wasn’t sealed (including our mattress)  was a dump fee in place of an amenity.

That first night, we were doubly thankful for friends who had thought to send tent gifts with us from Out West. We were also very aware that there are reasons why people our age don’t often voluntarily sleep on the ground.

A week and a half later, the insulation has been removed, the floor & walls cleaned, resurfaced and sealed, and the sites of invasion repaired. Hubby is amazing! The trailer is unloaded and its contents are in a makeshift garage made of shelving and sign tarps. The kids have really been incredible.

We had beautiful weather for it, and for cleaning the boys’ tent, when we found a straggler. There’s been a drought here, which is frightening for farmers here, but also means working weather for us: no rain and fewer mosquitoes and ticks this year. (Lovin’ that!)

So we were all tucked in tonigot when it finally started to rain… Two inches in just an hour. Both tents leaked badly, and the Yurt had a small leak as well. All six of us in 150 sq ft again… As the kids say, “Slumber party with Mom & Da!”

Life really is good. Warm & relatively dry, and fed healthy food.We have children who are in touch with what is truly valuable. I have a family who believe in our team and in our Provider, because we’ve seen the miracles repeatedly as we walk the Ancient Paths. They are optimistic that YHWH will provide agin. It’s a different kind of wealth.

I planted heirloom zucchini and cold-hardy lavender ( tick repellent). A few seeds went in for a veggie garden of Egyptian Walking Onions and Collards (Real Food!) yesterday. Just before the storm. Maybe the next miracles are beginning to form.

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The mind of man plans his way, but YHWH directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

As stated in our post from this winter,  our plans didn’t pan out as expected. AND there were reasons why.

Two friends began chemotherapy this Spring. The tools I have to offer are not always conveniently packaged into a standard office visit. It requires intimate understanding of the total picture of the patients’  lives.

I am honored to know these friends so intimately,  and further honored to have been included among their resources. It would have been impossible to have served as intensively from such a distance as The Great North. We were kept there longer so that we could serve, and so that we could be blessed immeasurably.

When we initially arrived,  we were in shock. The house we were promised was unliveable, with mold, sewer gas, and deteriorating carpet in every breath. Once, it truly had been a “great house,” but it wasn’t the reality we experienced at 2 AM when we pulled in. Two months ( and seven moves) later, we were blessed with a home for the  Spring that worked beautifully.  It came complete with a lovely housemate, and we were grateful for several opportunities to serve her as well. The timing was exactly right for all concerned.

If we had been able to keep the original arrangement,  we’d have been headed back to The Great North a few months sooner, which wouldn’t have allowed us to be there for so many friends who needed us in so many ways. It also wouldn’t have allowed for time to receive the depth and expanse of generosity from so many friends who gave time, practical goods, health tools, and other gifts for our family.

Timing is everything. It’s good to know One Who stands outside of time and space, directing our steps, no matter what we have so “responsibly” planned.

Shalom, All, from a tent back in The Great North! (explanation of what happened to the Yurt in the next blog)

Blessings,

Yochanna

 

When we arrived here two months ago, we’d put everything we had (and then some) into working on the homestead all summer. We had… *still have* a vision for being self-sustaining and independent, with a healthy level of interdependence and greater capacity for tzedakah (giving / justice) and tikkun ha olam (healing the world). We came back here to rest, to recover, and to build a nest egg to be able to go back and complete that task. The trip back wasn’t easy, but we were blessed with multiple miracles along the way, and we finally made it. When we arrived, we found that the promised “great house for the winter” could not offer us breathable air.

“Pachad,” or fear, is not knowing where you’ll put your children to bed at night, or what you’ll feed them, or if you’ll survive to continue to care for them long enough for them to learn how to take care of themselves. I’ve felt that kind of fear. It can readily give rise to anger at the very real and very rigged game that has been played to oppress those who weren’t born into a lineage of people who have worked closely with politicians and CEO’s for generations to secure their continued privilege and dominion. It is not by accident that wages have not really risen since the 1970’s, or that the price of food and housing and sick care have more than tripled.

Basic needs are three times as expensive, while income has remained stagnant. Those who own stocks in banks do not want the vacant housing to be put back on the market. That would cause housing prices to plummet back down to where people could actually afford a home, rather than scraping and scratching for money they can barely sustain for a few years, only to have that money lost to the bank when the home is repossessed, where it sits and rots, becoming an unhealthy environment until the bank deems the market to have “recovered” sufficiently to put it back up for sale again. The next buyer (or renter) who lives there is then oppressed not only by the high price of housing, but also by the health ramifications of sick housing. The diseases caused by mold, formalin gas released from moisture-compromised particleboard, or whatever other issues the structure may have, send the tenants or “homeowners” to the doctor. The doctor, being “the only choice for an educated person” for health care will then write them a prescription to medicate the symptoms of the “incurable” disease. Those prescriptions translate directly into money for big pharma, the majority of whose stocks are owned by the same trillionaires who own the majority of the bank stocks.  While all of these concerns are real, it’s also depressing and debilitating to focus on that reality for too long. That kind of fear can kill from the inside just as quickly as from the outside. In Hebrew, “Pachad,” or dread. The letters spelling the word are as follows:

Pey: The open mouth, signifying break, eat, open

Chet: The tent wall: separation, division

Dalet: The tent door: moving in & out

The next miracle arrived the next morning, being offered a room in our Hebrew teacher’s home, just as her son was moving the last of his things out, was a door out of Pachad and into Yare. I will not say that I am forever and perfectly changed to recognize Pachad (the lower-level fear) as only a door to see the awe in the other side of the miracle from behind the veil. I’m just not that highly-developed yet. I still get angry at “the system” that makes money off of demoralizing human beings here and abroad. I still have all of the lower-level instincts of survival to contend with. Some of that its functional, in that it drives us to continue to work to provide for our families, and to fight against oppression and evil in high places by making what buying choices we do have wisely. Oppressing the Chinese children by purchasing slave-labor-built toys for ours serves neither their physical good nor our personal development, but it’s also abhorrent on the level where we do not want to support the same trillionaires who own the petroleum / plastics / toys corporations. Allowing our children to make their own toys out of recycled materials serves their personal development and teaches them honor for the earth we’ve been given, as well as for the children in China, in whom they now feel invested. Our lower-level pachad is soothed by knowing that, in some small way, we’ve refused to contribute that mite to their power to oppress.

“Yare” is a different kind of “fear.” It’s better-translated “Awe.”

Yud: The arm: strength, administrative authority

Resh: The head: Leadership, top

Aleph: The ox’s head: strong, first, authority

This form of “fear” or “Awe” is all about doing something good in the world, leading with the head and putting our strength into functional administration of the empowerment we feel, knowing that we are provided for by the Almighty. We stand in AWE of the Source of our strength, so we implement it for function and for tikkun ha olam, out of respect for the One who gave it.

May our Yare be stronger than the Pachad, and may the Pachad we do experience only serve to open that “tent door” toward the Yare beyond it.

L’Shalom,

–Yochanna.