Homesteading and farming are intense, year round endeavors. There is never a time that your to-do list is less than 2 pages, (ours usually stays at around 6), and there is always something that needs your care.
Spring, summer and fall are certainly the most time consuming months, especially here in Central Texas where we get two full garden seasons in each year. Jan and Feb are the only semi-down time we get. So, this year we decided to take advantage of that down time and take our family on a long, two week vacation.
I have gone into some of the history of my family, loosing my brother tragically, in earlier posts. My family is small, but extremely close-knit. We celebrate every family birthday with a meal and a cake, every holiday is spent together. We have always lived within 30 miles from each other and everyone tends to be in everyone elses business.
But last July my Sister moved away to Arizona. I was so happy for her, because the move held a lot of dreams and ambitions, but it was one of the hardest good-byes I’ve had to make. I grieved her leaving for weeks after and there was a huge hole left in our family. Every family get together was quieter, the kiddlings ask why she didn’t come, and there was an ache in all our hearts.
So, naturally, when Preston and I began talking of a potential vacation in Jan, Arizona was at the top of our list!
The hardest part of homesteading is that your home literally depends upon you day and night. Going out at night is no longer a flippant option, early morning appointments become a whole planning procedure. You can imagine how hard it is to leave for weeks at a time. Fortunately we are super blessed with great friends and a supportive family that stepped up to handle the farm.
Our goats were dry for the season, and we were able to leave the calves on our milking cows full time to handle all of their milk, (one of the most wonderful reasons to own a Dexter milk cow, because you could never do this with a traditional dairy cow!), so milking was not an issue. The garden was easy to maintain with minimum crops in right now, and nothing was due to have babies anytime soon. Basically, the work load was at its lowest point, we just needed someone to feed and look after the place for us. Still, it was a heck of a job, but far less than other times of the year.
After much planning, saving, packing, arranging, and loading we set off on a total 2800 mile, 2 week long trip up into the New Mexico Mountains for some skiing and then into Arizona for a long visit with my Sister. We had such a lovely time!
We toured the Grand Canyon, and had an enormously fun snow day sledding down hills, making a snowman and throwing snowballs at each other. Our nights were filled with cooking, laughing, playing games and catching up. The days flew bye, and, before we knew it, it was time to head home.
Saying good bye was extremely hard for all of us. It takes a lot for me to cry, as I’m just not a teary kind of person, but I cried like a baby when I hugged my sister goodbye. We both knew it would be awhile until we saw each other again, the kiddlings would be bigger, and more of life would go by separated by the many miles.
After a long teary hug, and more than a few miles of heart-wrenching sadness twisting at our insides, we were on the road home.
A trip of 16 hours divided into 8 hour drives.
If you have ever driven 16 hours with children, then you can relate to the fact that there were a few times I had visions of tying them in the back of the truck and loading the luggage in the cab!
We broke the drive into 2 days.
Yesterday went on forever and last night in the hotel room I woke every hour, looking to see if it was time to go yet. At 4 a.m. I just gave up sleeping and laid in bed thinking, planning all the things I wanted to do when I got home. All the things I wanted to do with more excellence.
Finally, FINALLY, 7 a.m. rolled around. We loaded up the kiddlings, made a stop for some good ol’ Starbucks coffee, and hit the road.
Every mile we came closure, my anticipation grew. About 11 we crossed the “Welcome to Texas!” sign. We literally talked about stopping the truck and all getting out and doing a little jig. My Shadow was totally up for it, but Preston’s Side Kick and The Techie rolled their eyes and said that we would embarrass them. So, we rolled on.
But secretly, I did a little jig in my head out there on that road under that sign!
After many, many, many Are-We-There-Yets we reached our final 30 mile stretch. The one that we know by heart. Each time we passed a landmark a kiddos would call out “Oh! I remember that!”
We all felt our muscles tense and our hearts anticipate every mile closer we got. 4 miles to go, 3 miles to go, 2 miles to go, 1 mile to go….and then our driveway came into view. A big cheer went up from the back seat. We pulled into our drive and my Shadow said “May I run up the driveway?!” Out she went, and out I went with her! Her little legs pumped up the driveway and she was greeted by three smiling dogs, covered in kisses and paws. I never got the chance to run, because my beautiful Dexter milking girls were right there at the front of the pasture waiting for me. They let out a loud moo and came running, heels flying in the air behind them. They came up to the fence and I scratched their ears and kissed their heads. Leah, my sweet 1st year milker, licked my hand with her scratchy tongue. Then the dogs came running up, and we all walked up the drive together, cows on one side of the fence, the dogs and I on the other. Everything seemed to be excited to see us, and our hearts swelled.
Preston parked and stretched and looked all around at the green grass that he planted just before we left. It had sprung it’s little shoots up in our absence and was reaching for the sky.
The kiddlings hugged all the dogs and ran in to see how their pets and rooms were. I headed straight for the barn. My favorite place on earth.
My goats came running and leaned into me for pets and scratches, the chickens came clucking and flapping from the fields, (more from the shear luck that they might get a treat out of this than actual love for me, I’m sure), and the cows all came up to the barn, the milking girls on their side and the pregos and Kooper, our bull, on the other. Everyone got scratches and pets and kisses. I stood and looked around at all we’ve done. Yes, the list of projects is still long and over-flowing, yes, it was wonderful to travel and see parts of the world I had never been to, but, dad-gum, if in all the 2800 miles we traveled, I didn’t see one thing that compares to this little piece of dirt in the Texas Hill Country. This place that holds our hearts.
After walking around, taking everything in, and greeting all our livestock and pets, I made my way inside. I was greeted by a huge mound of carrots, kohlrabi, and broccoli that Preston and the kiddlings had just picked from the garden and 22 dozen eggs that our hard working girls had made for us while we were gone.
I was reminded of this verse:
“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock.”
Blessed does not even adequately explain the feeling I felt at that moment.
The sweat, the shivers, the exhaustion, the elation, the successes, the failures, the hard times, the good times, the laughs, the tears, all of this adds up to a connection to this land.
A place where we belong.
A place where we can hold our heads up and say we have been given a great gift and we have done right by it.
Abundantly Blessed is what we are.