I’ve always loved the quote, “Wealth is not his who has it, but his who enjoys it.” We are blessed with a variety of wealth in our lives right now.  May those who have helped to build it be blessed richly with the enjoyment of what they have, and with greater abundance!

By the time we winterized the property in November, we had hot and cold running water, (Huge thanks to my brother, who helped us out when Hubby’s knee injury would have prevented our being able to afford the water tanks and a few other necessities!!!)  a functional driveway (with drainage system) up the cliff to the building site, electricity, a hot water heater, washer / dryer, and an insulated, 150 square foot yurt with in-floor, twig-powered heating in which we all slept. Yes, we were still living in a “tent,” but we were warm (even down to 22 degrees at night!) and dry and well-fed, breathing cleaner air than we’d experienced in 13 years living in “normal” housing.

The water was still outdoors, so yes, we accepted the job landscaping a home to improve the sale value in the spring in trade for winter housing in the area where clients were still calling Hubby to come back & do projects. The homeowner / client assured us over the phone that the house was “very nice” and “mold free.” This is very important to us, as we had lived in a house with mold once, and had some pretty major health issues as a result.  It seemed like the most sensible thing to do.

We’d had a miracle car wreck a few days before Rosh Hashana in the Shmitta Year, in which no one was hurt, and the insurance company owed us nearly the entire price we’d paid in work-trade for the minivan. We owned it free & clear the month before the big move to the Frozen North. We’re so thankful for a dent in the back end, which we refrained from fixing in order to pay for other car repairs that couldn’t be put off, as well as gas & KOA cabins to get back across country for the winter job. The timing of it was beautiful: deliverance in the Year of Release!

The day before we left town, we met a family who offered help in the groundwork for the garage / shop / “first house.” They’d moved to the area about 8 years before, and remembered the challenges they’d faced. We’re thankful for their memory and friendship, and are looking forward to their help in the spring. They also sent us off with parting gifts to make the journey easier. Praise YHWH for kindness from so many amazing people this summer & fall!!!

On the way across country, we had the ONLY bad experience we’ve ever had at a KOA, where the cabins are located right next door to a feed lot. We all were getting sick within 20 minutes of our arrival there at 1 AM, so we packed up and went to a hotel for the night. It “just happened” that there was a guy staying the same night in the same hotel from the little town in the Frozen North about 15 miles from the land. He had “just happened” to see Hubby’s van, and recognized it in the parking lot. We chatted with him for a while, and he asked us to give him a call when we get back, as he’d like to help us with the build!!!

The next day, after visiting with Hubby’s uncle, we were gifted an extra night in a hotel so that we could thoroughly rest on the Shabbat. We are so grateful to the kind folk who own the hotel!

In spite of having had both the service van and trailer brakes checked professionally before we left, they both had issues going down the passes, so we stopped again and were held over an extra day: two more nights in a hotel at the next town (where most of my family live), and more of Hubby’s time fixing them with a friend (thank you for all your help!). It “just happened” that some of my relatives had been out of town, and we would have missed them entirely if we’d not been delayed the extra days. A gift from my grandparents covered the extra expense of the hotel (thank you again!).

Traveling across the next two states was relatively uneventful, but then the alternator went out on the service van. Apparently, that’s something that’s likely to happen around this point in the mileage on that vehicle. We were in the mountains in the middle of nowhere when it went out, but we “just happened” to not have been able to sell one of the batteries from when we were still on generator at the homestead. We’d packed it, and it fit the service van. A kind gas station owner allowed us to plug in the charger & charge the other battery so that we’d have a back-up to get us to the next town, in which we found the right part in stock, and got it installed. We were delayed a while that day, but we hoped not to have to pay for another hotel or KOA that night, as we’d spent most of what we had from the miracle car wreck on the pre-trip repairs, gas, KOA’s & hotels, brakes & alternator already. We drove until 2 AM, and finally pulled into the “very nice” house we’d been promised over the phone.

Well… it was probably “very nice” at some point in the not-too-distant past. It was about 3,000 square feet… but NOT home. So we packed the kids back into the vans, and found a hotel room with very nearly the last of our money.

The next morning, I called up our synagogue administrator, Hebrew teacher, and friend to ask if she would put an ad in the weekly newsletter to let folks know we’re looking for housing. I never got to that question. She told us to come right over, as her son had just moved out, and she was not looking forward to the “empty nest.” So we checked out of the hotel, and landed in her son’s old bedroom as he was moving the last of his things out. If we hadn’t been delayed by so many car repairs, we’d have been here too early for the room to have been available. We wound up renting the room from her for a month. Praise YHWH for unexpected hiccups in our plans, and for her kindness!

More miracles since then… but I need to stop for now. Love to you all, and thank you for your prayers and blessings and support! We are truly wealthy people!

L’Shalom,

–Yochanna.

It seems like the blessings are coming in as minor miracles lately.

Another Jewish family in the “Land Of No Jews.”

A tallit (Jewish Prayer Shawl) in the thrift shop for 50% off, and the lady at the register had been waiting for us to come in & tell her what it was– in the town of only 2 Jewish families.

A dead generator traded for a working washing machine from a guy who “just happens” to have a new engine so that the generator will run for him!

TWO large water tanks! (Running water, here we come!!!)

A loan sufficient to buy the second water tank and take care of bills that piled up when the truck needed repairs and S. hurt his knee. (May He Who Causes to Exist bless!)

A tripple stainless steel sink (something I’d been drooling over for a few years, as it’s more efficient for us than a dishwasher!) , a few hallogen lamps, an outdoor heater, lumber,a coffee table, electrical cable, and too many more gifts to mention from friends of friends and strangers from Craigslist.

The kitchen is moved over next door to the yurt site, and across the driveway from the refrigerator & freezer. A much shorter hike between the two.

Yurt (gifted to us by a kind neighbor who used to build them!) was set up last night! Looking forward to moving in this week.

So many “little things” just fall exactly into place– just enough of a particular size of pallet wood to be ripped into flooring. Just enough of a dozen other provisions at just the right time!

Venison and grass-fed beef gifts just when groceries were getting tight.

So thankful!

Miracles raining down on us.

Learning not to have a pre-conceived notion of what provision “should” look like.

S. applied for a job. The phone quit ringing the first week of school here (it always does). Frightening in a new area, though, and with winter coming, and a house to build fast. Phone started ringing again, though. Work lined up for next week.

Neighbor took S, J, H, & E fishing while K & I did laundry.  At least 2 or 3 good meals of fish in the fridge from that one catch in an afternoon.

Good experiences for kiddos.

Gotta go feed the natives. They’re working hard.

Will fill in pix when I can get a minute in town with good internet.

Love to all of you.

–Yochanna.

Yesterday, we spent a “severe thunderstorm” (did NOT turn into a tornado warning: just a “watch 🙂 in our tent, watching The Little Engine That Could. “I think I can, I think I can…”
The wind is blowing at 37 mph right now. There are no tornado warnings, and it isn’t raining. It’s chilly. The locals are in short sleeves and jeans. I’m wearing a winter coat / parka. It’s August, and in the 50’s today. I’m told it’s “unseasonably cold.” Hmmm…
We bought a hot water heater, a freezer, and a toaster oven, all very inexpensively, second-hand. We had power installed here to run everything. It “just happened” to be *just in time, days and hours after the generator and the inverters both died, respectively.
The people who installed the power were very kind, and dislodged some “large-ish pebbles” that were blocking the driveway from being wide enough to get a container up the hill. They’re neatly deposited on the downhill side, now supporting the structure of the driveway, and making a lovely entry.
A neighbor used to build yurts, and has one from a few years back, which needs some major cleaning, but should keep us housed for a few months longer than the tents. He’s donating it to the cause.
A client has gifted a refrigerator, hotplate, and toaster oven, as they’re clearing out “schtuff” from their recent move.
Some people S bumped into have offered volunteer labor to help with the construction.
We’ve been given some windows and a glass door, and the local Habitat for Humanity has offered more materials, once we can bring pix of a building site in progress.
A gentleman in town has gifted some lumber to us. Some of it will be useful for walls, and some would make great beams.
Another neighbor has offered more pallets (aka wood / building materials).
Some people we met last night at the neighbor’s outdoor concert offered tarps from their sign-making business. They’re large, thick tarps, which will make beautiful roofing. We had just bought some tarps from a sign company a few miles north of here. Free is so much easier on the budget, which is already strapped.
Some friends from back “home” sent some natural mosquito bite ointment as well as netting. We’re missing all of our friends / “family” out there. We have a beautiful community here, and we’re feeling welcomed and loved already. It’s good to find friends and support so far from the people we love so much.
Thank you to all of you who have kept in contact with letters and photos! We’re finding that it’s a full-time job for all hands to keep us functioning in tent life, but our hearts are with you, and we’re grateful for the encouraging words and support you’re all sending. May Yah bless you all richly!
We’re so thankful for so many people who have donated and offered so much!
We thought we’d found a spring, and started digging today, but it turned out to be a damp spot on the surface. We’ll need to go deeper to get to good water, which will take renting machinery. That’s a bummer.
We’ve been spending ‘way too much on quarters for the laundromat. Running water is a priority right now. We’ve hit a few hiccups along the way, a few highlights are a molded tent, Stephen’s knee injury, a major vehicle repair that we weren’t expecting, and a lost day of work waiting for it to be fixed. The major budget buster, though, is the lack of running water. We’re spending too much at the laundromat and on gas to get back & forth to town to do it.
Today S gets paid from a job he’s been working on through the knee injury. Praise Yah, it’s getting better with Arnica, Aconitum, and Great Mender.
Yesterday, we rested, letting the richness and abundance of the Shabbat sink in. It’s good to find space to be thankful and celebrate what does exist. There’s sanity and grounding in the rhythm that the Shabbat gives us. I don’t remember who to credit with the quote, but, “More than the Jewish people have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jewish people.”
Shalom, ‘yall, from the Frozen North.
–Yochanna.

This Erev Shabbat (Friday Night), we had a Visitor. Our Visitor is always with us, but we feel the Nursing Mother more fully on the Shabbat. Friday was nuts. Every Friday is, with getting everything ready to eat for Friday evening through Saturday evening so that we can sit back and enjoy, and not have any “shoulds” or “musts” for a day. Camping and hauling water up the hill and no electricity (coming this week!!!) and showering & doing laundry 15 miles away, and grocerying 45 minutes away further complicates things.

This Friday was just a bit more exciting, with a weather forecast calling for a severe thunderstorm. As we raced to get everything cooked & cleaned & set for dinner, we kept checking in with the satellite on S’s “smart” phone that he got to make the business transition run more smoothly. In the midst of all of this, the generator died. Kaput. No immediate method of charging the batteries which run everything electronic (including this computer, which only got its charge today, at the Y while the kids were showering while I was studying for a driver’s exam, which I passed fine,but the “guilty-till-proven-innocent” thing since 9-11 means I have to wait another month ’till more documentation that I’m who I say I am, and not a unibomber, can be unearthed from yet another State agency.)

With the generator dead, but Stephen’s cell battery still operational, we watched as we worked. the purple spot in the middle of the red, yellow, and green rings of the storm was headed straight for us. We “battened down the hatches” and willed the dinner to cook faster (it did not). We watched the storm get closer and closer, and… that purple spot went away… then the red spot got smaller… and disappeared. The light drizzle we experienced didn’t even blow in under the shelter of the Shabbat Tent. We dined in peace. Our Defender had reduced the storm to a benign bit of atmosphere.

After dinner, the camp fire we’d built prior to sunset hadn’t even faded. We all sat around it and sang One Day (Matisyahu’s Aikon version), and Hinei Mah Tov (How good it is for brethren to dwell together in unity), and a few others. We sat, looking across the camp fire at the Shabbat Tent, with the candles still lit & burning beautifully on the table. Stephen took several pictures of it on that phone with the battery which had not yet died. We honor those who choose not to “create” anything on the Shabbat, and so do not take photos. We also do take photos on the Shabbat ourselves, as a means of celebrating what already does exist. One picture came out differently from the rest. There was a beam of light (a stray moonbeam that made it through the clouds, maybe?) directly on the Shabbat Tent.

The masculine side of the Almighty we celebrate and emulate all week long, working to cause to exist all that we need in the first six days. On the Shabbat, we celebrate the feminine side of the Almighty. She reminds us to be thankful and enjoy what already does exist, remembering the day when She said, “It is very good.” Shechinah, the word for the “Glory” of God, is a feminine word. It’s the word used to describe the “Divine Presence” that came into the Tent of Meeting. The first letter in that Name is the Shin, which is a picture of the two front teeth, a picture of biting, tearing, and defending.We are thankful for that defense this Erev Shabbat, and on innumerable other occasions as well.

Our love goes out to the friends and family we left in a smoke-filled valley out West. We thank you so much for all of your support and work and love that helped to bring us out here in time to escape the smoke. May the One who Causes to Exist, Who Defends that which already exists deal kindly with you!

I’m wondering whether the One who gives the moon its reflective beauty may have given us that bit of light to remind us of the Divine Presence that is especially with us on the Shabbat.

May our Tents continue to shine… more on that in a previous blog: Tents of Aloe

Blessings, All!

–Yochanna.

Dear Mishpacha v’ Chaverim (Family & Friends),

The generator is running, charging batteries, running the bug zappers and my computer right now. (Thank you, Grandma & Gramps for the second bug zapper!)  Bugs dying in your rinse water when you’ve hauled that water up the hill and boiled it on the stove is really a bummer. Loving the bug zappers! Also loving the intensive training our children are receiving in conservation and taking care of what we have! My body is recovering well here. I was able (not smart to do it, but able) to carry two of the 40-lb water jugs at once up the hill to re-stock our water supply on Sunday. My skin feels better than it has since I was 21, and my digestion is back online dependably for a solid month now: a first in over 14 years.

The freezer is now at a neighbor’s house, only 1/2 mile away! (A huge improvement from the hour it was from us a week ago!) I’m loving having our food and ice supply so much closer to us!

The same neighbor helped get our driveway a bit farther along as well! The driveway is a bit of an adventure on which everything else depends right now. There is a 40′ drop to the road from the building site, so getting containers and trusses and water tanks up the hill all hinges on a driveway sufficient to handle the weight. S and the kids worked a day at it while I was 45 minutes away getting groceries that meet our dietary needs. They made some impressive headway, even thought it was nowhere nearly finished. It was my birthday present., and I was duly impressed.  🙂  Since then, we’ve had two different neighbors come by with a tractor and a grader. Even more progress, and still more to be done. After the grader (the second machine with the second neighbor) was through, S & the two big kids worked on getting the root balls out of the way. There are so many saplings here that the trees are choking each other out. A lot of our job here initially has been forestry, building the health of the trees that stay by removing those that hamper their growth. When the grader comes back, he should be able to finish it readily now. The culvert came today, which is the last piece we needed. The power company (which is a small, locally-owned cooperative, investing in solar panels!) will be able to put in the meter once the driveway is completed. At that point, S can install the box, and have the county inspector come out before we hook up. Once we’re hooked up (likely another week or two), we’ll be able to move the freezer here. SO looking forward to that! Another neighbor recommended that we check at the local grocery store for  buckets. This has proven to be invaluable advice. We had a mouse invasion, and I spent all day boiling water and washing dishes we hadn’t used. Everything is now in  white, plastic food-grade buckets, each labeled with its contents. They even had some “short” buckets that are perfect for making ice blocks in the freezer. Water jugs weren’t stout enough to take many freezings and thawings before they’d spring a leak, which lead to mildew in the coolers rather quickly.  Now the coolers are sprayed and wiped carefully every 3 days, and the ice blocks keep them cooler without the added moisture of leaky jugs. I love that they have lids! I’m envisioning using them for schooling tools and toy storage and sorting once we don’t need them for refrigeration anymore.

This area seems given to mold and mildew, similarly to the area we left a month ago. We figured out that the ash from the fire does help, but it’s nowhere nearly enough to cover all the trails (growing mold all over the acidic topsoil!) We have sand on the property, though, and the mold doesn’t grow on it. So we’re wheel-barrowing (A new friend out here gifted us a wheelbarrow! We hadn’t brought one, as ours was broken and sold to someone who wanted to repair it before we left.) sand to cover the pathways.We’ll be using the sand in the construction of the house as well to ensure that we have an alkaline structure that will repel mold.

J is coming into his own with so many avenues for exercising his “big-guy” energy. K is loving all the space to run around & try to keep up with brother. H is loving so many new animals to investigate and make friends with. E is loving the opportunities to “mother” a bit with our friends about an hour from here, as well as littles she meets at the park. We made it to Shabbat services the week before last in the town 45 minutes from here. The kids have been invited to the religious school there, and we’re hoping to make that work. The congregation we met seems to be pleased to see children, and are in awe of their enthusiasm about the prospect of “Hebrew School.”

S’s business is taking off, and he’s working full time now already. We’re still working on getting the signs changed and the permanent cards printed up. He’s making due with the temporary cards right now, which actually look quite nice. The Chamber of Commerce out here seems to have taken a liking to us, and we’re pleased to have their help. We’re optimistic that our finances may look up, which would be a beautiful blessing on top of all the others.

Neighbors have been coming out of the woodwork to offer a hand here & there. We’re so grateful for all their interest in our venture. It seems we’ve been the topic of conversation around here a bit. The gist of it seems to be that we’re the hard-working folk they want to see succeed at our plan. It’s encouraging to see so many people from this area believing in us, as well as so many friends from “back home” who know we’re going to succeed.

Praise YHWH (He Causes to Exist) for good family & friends, good neighbors, sand, buckets, a wheelbarrow, and mousetraps!

Praise ElShaddai (The Powerful Breast) for Good health, and for Her nursing care for our family!

B’Shalom,

–Yochanna.

I’m feeling like Sukkot is here early this year. Our annual reminder of our wandering in the desert, entirely dependent on God for everything, and not knowing how long we’d be in any given place, looking for mana every morning… it’s pretty “real” right now. Our “sukkot” (booths) are 9 tents at the moment. They’re not kosher sukkot (sukkahs). The tree branches are live trees overhead, rather than pieces of the temporary structures. We’re feeling the energy of Fall coming, though. The frailty of life and our complete dependence on our Designer are vivid right now. When the wind was howling outside, and the tornado warning kept being extended every so often, we said “shechechiyanu” (blessing God for a new experience). We also sang the Modah / Modeh Ani prayer, blessing God for the Breath of Life that has been given to us. It’s ordinarily a morning prayer, thanking God for another day to house the Breath of Life we’re given. That Breath of Life is from the same Source as the wind in the tornado, so we blessed God for the good Breath of Life; the same God who designed nature to turn the tornado our direction, and away from us while we sang, as well. The Modah Ani ends with the astounded declaration, “Great is Your Faith in me!” The Almighty has given us this Breath of Life for another day. We’ve been blessed with land, tents, a generator, a power line coming in in a few weeks, a freezer, an oven, two stove tops, 5-gallon jugs for purified water… a laundromat… a tornado, rain, a few wet  clothes that molded before they made it through the laundromat, a driveway half-way built, a home site nearly cleared of brush, gravel on the property, nay-sayers and supportive voices… Praise God for all of the above. They’re all blessings, whether we understand them or not. There is something designed to strengthen us in our learning path in each of these pleasant and bitter blessings. We may not understand every aspect of the blessings we’re given, but sometimes we need to receive the blessing without understanding the breadth of the ramifications. It’s OK to not understand how the tornado is a blessing. It’s OK to not understand how everything will work out regarding our homestead. It’s OK to not understand the entirety of our mission here. We’re designed for the learning path; not for omniscience. When we don’t understand, there’s power in thankfulness for the blessings we don’t understand. Only the Author of all Powers knows the power vested in thankfulness. Maybe the  butterfly’s wings caused the tornado… and maybe thankfulness for the Ruach (wind / spirit) turned it away.

Dear Mishpacha v’ Chaverim,
It’s been forever since I wrote a blog, but I’ve been asked to take it up again. We’ll see how often I manage to post. Thank you to those who offer encouragement!
Last night, H, E, K, and I spent some extra time at the laundromat. S and J spent some extra time in the basement at S’s job-site (our friends’ home). We got to experience our first real tornado warning, and got to watch the storm go by, without touching us. It’s an intense experience. We got to say some more “shechechiyanus,” blessing God for new experiences. We returned to camp to fine all but one of our tents unharmed. We were astounded. The town only a few miles from our campsite was hit pretty hard. Even the quail were happy and dry under their “rain gutter.” The girls make sure those birds are well-loved, and it pays off! One even laid an egg in spite of the storm!
No one ever promised a convenient, clean, neatly-packaged learning process over the long-term. We may conveniently bump into canned curriculum and computer- or book-based knowledge now and then, but gut-level wisdom is born of experience. We weathered a tornado last night, and we’ve been blessed with the instinctive, primal wisdom that you can see on the faces of the youtube / TV tornado victims and survivors.
Before we left the NW, we designed a home that would most likely endure a tornado. We’ve been designing our own personal green, alternative, sustainable, low-cost, low-time-budget, energy-efficient home for over a decade, in preparation for this opportunity. Now we’re here, and we’ve been swayed by the lure of inexpensive housing (apx. 1/10 the cost of homes in the area we just left) and low-interest-rate loans. There are plenty of homes, built around the turn of the century, which proudly stand 2 or 3 stories tall. They stick up out of the ground with their wooden sides that have somehow been missed by every tornado since their construction.
The home that we would build is an experiment, as no one has ever built one quite like it. Our design is humble: an expandable 720 square feet, which would be buried underground, except for the south-facing side: a light-drenched hobbit hole. None of the existing housing here could possibly provide the level of enviro-friendly health benefits, nor the stability and durability in a tornado, let alone the long-term financial independence that our design would. The only thing it *would offer is the fact that it is already built, and looks the part of a “normal” house. Alternatively, in a month, we could have our very modest design built, and be significantly less dependent on “the grid” for our basic necessities, at an even lower over-all cost. For the price of the down-payment on an inexpensive, pre-built home, we could have the basic structure of modest, clean durability in place.
We’re praying for the business phone number to sell (we still have one more buyer thinking it over), or for an investor to see the vision of the home that we’ll build, so that we can buy shipping containers, and put in a sturdy home that should, (YHWH willing) withstand the next tornado. We can’t afford the homes already built in the hill country (where the tornadoes usually break up and don’t do damage), but we CAN build the modest design on the land we have, which is already in the perfect location.
We’re clearing more brush, and hoping to get the driveway put in this week. We’re showering at the Y, and smelling the forest wash off of us as we do so. Our water is still being hauled in from town, and up the hill by foot. We have two batteries that alternate in operating minimal bug-zapping and mattress-inflating tools. We are healthy and well and strong. We’re looking at a power hook-up to get our freezer closer to us. It doesn’t make sense to have the freezer plugged in an hour away when the grocery store is only 45 minutes the opposite direction. Obviously, we’re still working a few things out. Maybe, by hooking up to “the grid” temporarily, we’ll make more long-term progress toward the independence, health and stability we need.
A little anecdote for you:
We were enjoying our 2nd Shabbat on the land (each Shabbat becoming progressively easier and more restful than the one before it), when the kids began to discover frogs here & there. We now have an entire puddle and “crop” of baby frogs in the “play tent” (refuge for children from mosquitoes). On that second Shabbat, K and E shouted that one particular frog, lying on the top of one of the tens, was Jewish! I thought it cute, and asked, “So, how is the frog Jewish?” “It’s resting, Ima!” (Mama in Hebrew)
Love to all of you, and thank you to those who were praying for us last night! We were all in sound, brick structures that evening, in towns that had more warning, as YHWH had provided. May “He Cause To Exist” (YHWH) what He has planned for us. May the Nursing Mother, Elohim Shaddai (another Name for the same God), help us to care for that which already exists: for us, and for all of you as well!
B’Shalom,
–Yochanna.