IMG_20190329_093415302-1

E’s new mandolin, hand-made by J.

IMG_20190408_111229429-1

J’s banjo-in-progress, inside the grain bin-come quonset-workshop.IMG_20190220_181944179

Half a grain bin, on its side, with tarps on the ends to serve as walls. “The shop.” Someday, we hope to insulate and enlarge it enough to be able to do reliable woodworking / climate control / insulation.

IMG_20190306_103959724

E playing her new instrument. Friends patient enough to use a mattress in the kitchen during their visit.

573168558IMG_0412

J and our friend enjoying a lathe & furniture-making workshop. Thankful for the gift of learning to J this spring!

IMG_20190220_181829140

Our little grain bins-come-castle in the woods. Thanks to all who helped make it possible!

Advertisements

Every week, we do housecleaning and food-prep to  get ready for Shabbat. While the kids are doing their lists of chores, they play music from youtube. This week they found a new one.

If your spring cleaning (or this April blizzard!) feels oppressive, smile. Freedom is around the corner!

Dear mishpachah v’chaverim,

We are warm and well. The blizzards are staying outdoors, and we are grateful for those who helped us to insulate that first year we built the initial grain bin structure. We’ve been blessed to have house guests twice now. The first are very good friends whose sanity I question, but they did survive with us in Minnesota winter for a few days before we were insulated, and helped us to insulate along with several others who pitched in financially.

The second group was a family visiting who came to see where we had landed. The kids enjoyed playing in the snow together and didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the depth of it. It only added to the play value.

My world is expanding a bit more, and I’m not in need of the chair as often. I’ve also begun using voice-to-text, which allows me to write a bit more. It’s a useful tool for learning to think before one speaks, but I’m not finding it useful as a creative friend yet. I may grow to love it more in future.

We are grateful for neighbors who have helped clear snow from my driveway on multiple occasions, the most recent of which would have taken us two days to dig out on our own.

This winter we also finally graduated to having the master bedroom *not* in the kitchen. Loving that.

A neighbor brought over a dining room table to celebrate the occasion, along with 4 dining chairs to match. It’s rare that we’ve had matching furniture, but it’s pleasant and feels a bit decadent.

The Chinese herbs continue to allow me to function more than I had been. I feel less in need of 24/7 care and more able to cope.

The children are growing amazingly, with unique skills and interests. They’re each blossoming into their own kind of beautiful. J is doing a lot with woodworking and building musical instruments. He plays a bit of recorder and guitar, and is making a mandolin for E. He just went on an adventure with a friend to a traditional skills school, and came home with the project he’d built over the weekend: a bar stool, with the tool marks still in it, quite lovely.

H is continuing with her art, practicing drawing with pastels and charcoals  and also learning a little guitar and the Scottish whistle flute. She is also making beautiful progress with our rescue dog, who had never been socialized to humans. She now comes and goes in and out the doors, which had been a fearsome spectre when she first arrived with us. She also is learning not to fear strangers, as we found in this most recent visit from our friends.

E is crocheting and knitting up a storm and also writing poetry, which she hopes to publish in a book. She is also working on a book co-authored with her siblings about our adventures in homesteading. Her mandolin got a test drive before the strings broke, and she can play a few songs already.

K took up the guitar about 2 months ago, and has already surpassed his father’s teaching capacity, so he is now learning a good deal by watching musicians on YouTube. He still loves to build and create, but the music has got his attention lately.

S is working on growing his business and we are grateful for many repeat customers. The trick is going to be finding indoor projects sufficient for the winter. The outdoor projects waiting for spring and summer are piled up as deeply as the snow. I’ve never experienced a March that felt so very much like January.

The clean air and absence of rent or house payment hanging over our head feels more than adequate compensation for the late Spring, though I wouldn’t mind if it were to arrive tomorrow. The next stage of construction is a roof and wall for the bath. A hot bath always had seemed to me a “basic necessity,” but i am learning how luxurious a thing it truly is.

Meanwhile, enjoy our little “Grown-up nook,” the height of luxury afforded by the bedsheet that a friend Out West had given us before we headed out here. There is one room of solace from the mylar in the little castle in the woods.

20190311_172819


After thousands of years of attempts to annihilate monotheism, we are still here, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says YHVH.” Zechariah 4:620181203_172238

Life has thrown us a few curves, but we are still here. RA has given me several months in a wheelchair, and made it difficult to write, AND we are still here. A Chinese herbal combination seems to be helping, and a wind-proof menorah stands on the driveway in Catholo-Lutherans’-ville. We are still here, proclaiming miracles.

 

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