Historically, homesteading was quite risky. It not only required steely determination, the most successful homesteader also held an arsenal of skills that were needed for his survival. One such man was William Campbell, the son of Scottish immigrants. He established his homestead in 1897 on the edge of the Salmon River in the mountains of Central Idaho.
A recent gold discovery at nearby Thunder Mountain brought an increase in travelers looking to strike it rich. Seeing the need to get men, supplies, and cattle across the river, he began a ferrying business which proved to be very lucrative. Successful homesteaders earned their living by various means and were not always farmers. Their prosperity was reliant on the needs and opportunities of the surroundings and the ability to recognize and respond to those conditions. William Campbell was able to provide a necessary service for his community while eking out a moderately comfortable lifestyle. Unfortunately, his dream was cut short, lasting only about five years. He disappeared in a
snowstorm and was never found. His name lives on in Campbell’s Ferry, a spot near the main fork of the Salmon River.
We may never be fully prepared for tragedy. It visits when we are least expecting it, appearing in any one of many forms, and catching us unawares. It also has the power to transform us and our circumstances, sometimes setting us in a new direction. Are we ready for life-altering conditions? Can we truly ever be fully ready for it? I don’t think so. But we can have systems in place to ease the transition.
In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, my husband was involved in a work-related incident that resulted in a broken hip, as the ball snapped off the femur bone. He was in severe pain for over 12 hours before surgery was able to replace the hip joint late Tuesday evening. He is expected to make a full recovery. We are very thankful that it wasn’t life-threatening or affected other parts of his body. We came home on Thursday evening with an arsenal of meds, a walking apparatus, and light exercises to aid his mending process, but he will not be participating in any work-related activities at home or on the job for about 8 weeks. One tragic moment will have on-going repercussions.
Character is revealed when hardship imputes pressure. As individuals, and as a team, we met that challenge by unwavering attendance to the others’ needs. Family, friends, and even acquaintances visited, called, sent gifts, and offered help. Their character and relationship being confirmed by their heartfelt actions. How comforting it is to have people in our lives that rally for us.
Healing is more than mere physical processes. Healing involves the whole person; their emotions, mental and spiritual strengths, and even extends to relationships. While medicine can address physical needs, atmosphere and environment can influence other needs. What can our environments (homes, farms, homesteads, you fill in the word) do to aide recovery?
Safe haven. This is a no brainer. For someone who is challenged with walking, remove all rugs, pet toys, cords, anything that could trip or impede their path. Put pillows and blankets nearby for easy access. These are items of comfort, reducing anxiety and motivating rest.
Safe behaviors. Verbally review physician instructions and medicinal schedules. This is not the time to get bossy, remember you are a team. Serve without resentment because your willingness to provide aide is a stress reliever.
Real food is also medicine for the soul as well as the physical body. A home that already practices “cooking from scratch” is better prepared for recovery from traumatic circumstances. Good nutrition is an arsenal against infections, deficiencies, and other imbalances. Organic or
homegrown vegetables and fruits are better than store bought or processed where nutritional benefits are lost or coated with pesticides. Grass-fed meats are better than the grain fed, hormone enhanced cuts you buy at the store. No matter what situation you are in, start implementing a small portion of real food that replaces processed stuff and continue until you can fix that dish, let’s say salad, without thought. Once you’ve mastered the buying and preparing of that dish, move to another area, let’s say eggs. If you can’t buy your own chickens to raise, look for those in your neighborhood that you can buy eggs from. Farmers Markets are one of the best places to shop!
Don’t forget the mind. “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” – William James. Waiting for a body to heal can lead to boredom, restlessness, and induce anxiety. Provide entertainment for their mind. Reading, watching movies, listening to audio recordings, puzzles, and puzzle books all offer distraction from stressful thoughts. Some also enhance learning as well. Introduce a hobby which will depend on the person’s preference, such as knitting, hooking rugs, painting model cars, carving wood, or many others.
Make allowances. Pain can cause irritability which may be directed at those nearest and dearest. Be patient and understanding but also take breaks. Working in my garden is soothing to my soul as well as making bread. Fortunately, we have not needed breaks from each other, and no one has been irritable, but these are good things to keep in mind. Other great breaks might include a bubble bath, sitting on the porch, going for a walk, or meeting a friend for coffee. Breaks are necessary for patients and caregivers alike.
Life is truly a journey and it is great to have someone to share it with. Life is also full of learning if we allow ourselves to listen instead of react. Is there anything you would add to this list that would be useful to me?
The Donation Land Act of 1850, set in place prior to the Homestead Act, focused on settling the Oregon Territory of modern-day Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and a small portion of Wyoming. The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed into existence by the Lincoln Administration. It provided up to 160 acres per person over the age of 21 if they could live and work the land for 5 consecutive years. Several additional Acts were passed that provided for different kinds of environmental constraints, such as the Desert Land Act of 1877.
These courageous people were the first settlers to work the land. Some came to mine for elusive gold, but many came for the opportunity to establish farms and create homes for their families. The land varied from climate to climate, from extreme winters to blistering summers to lengthy droughts. Often, they were unprepared for what they had to work with, such as rocky, sandy, or hard-clay soil. Only half of the initial homesteaders remained after five years, indicating the harshness of the conditions.
Today, there is momentum for a new breed of homesteader. Not unlike our ancestors who sought a better way of life away from the industrialized urban spaces that choked the air with smoke and fetid odors, today’s homesteader looks to escape their urban confinements and burdensome laws for sweet alfalfa fields and cock-a-doodle-doos. Homesteading can mean many things. One person’s passion for herbaceous gardens and frolicking pygmy goats can diverge from another’s love of everything bovine. Creating a homestead is not dissimilar to creating a home, which you can do no matter if you reside in an urban or rural context. Plainly there are urban constraints that may limit your grander goals but homesteading is completely possible on a smaller scale. Regardless of your location, no two homesteads will choose the same journey. Each is a reflection of the people who create it, and all are beautiful in their own unique way. Off-grid or on, animals or none, urban or rural, we are a community that grows and learns together. Tell me in the comments below, in what ways do you homestead?
“Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.” -John Burroughs
Winter’s arrival marks the end of a calendar year, but it does not mark the end of life.
In a way Winter is the real Spring – the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature. -Edna O’Brien
The tools get cleaned and put away, the beds are all tucked in. It feels like the end of something. In actuality, Winter is a pause, a time of recollection, and a time of action. Before Spring can blossom, Winter prepares the plans and goals for the next three seasons. Winter is not idle. Winter is full of courage and hope for the homestead. We research new projects, gather seed catalogs, and journal new plots. No, Winter is not a finality, it is a time of rebirth.
What are your winter imaginings?
…the color of winter is in the imagination. -Terri Guillemets
February is the month that tricks you into thinking spring has arrived when warmer temperatures and sunny days bewitch you. Do not do it. Severe frost is still inevitable here in Idaho. If you are not sure, check with your local extension office or online at http://www.almanac.com for a seed planting schedule. Just enter your zip code and it will let you know when to start seedlings indoors or outdoors and when to transplant outside.
Here are a few things that you can do:
~ Butterfly bushes and Hydrangeas, pretty much anything that blooms on new wood, can be cut down to six inches.
~ Fruit trees can be pruned.
~ This is a great time to move any trees or roses as they are dormant, thereby eliminating transplant shock.
~ Any perennials you left standing through the winter for food and cover for birds, can be cut back now.
Start these seeds indoors the last week of February: Broccoli, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, leeks, peppers, and certain onions.
What seeds will you be starting this month?
Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius. -Pietro Aretino