Sleepless in Kentucky: An Introduction to Wild Wood Wanderings
It’s past midnight and I’m sleepless again.
I was tired long before now and went to bed at a reasonable hour, but I laid there and my mind continued to race with all the thoughts unthought today.
Should I be looking for a job? How will I make money? Do I really need money? What’s better, an earth-bermed or earth-bagged house? I wonder if they’ve processed my uncles SSI application yet? Wonder how long they’ll let the house payment go unpaid until foreclosure? Is my cousin gonna find happiness? I should get a massage. Saga comic book is, surprisingly, really good. Wonder if the kids will have school tomorrow…
“JOURNAL!” my psychiatrist said, when I told her how I sit up and my mind races and all this thoughtful garbage comes streaming out of my otherwise sleepy head. When I say they, I mean my psychiatrist and yes, I tried that. I really did. It was good for a while until I went back and read my punchdrunk musings and realized I was just putting my thoughts on paper and STILL staying up half the night. Blah blah catharsis blah blah.
So, I thought I’m gonna blog. Yea. Blogging is the hip, new-age, zen thing to do when you have insomnia.
We all have it in some form, whether it’s intermittent from stress or severe because of a sleep disorder. Mine stems from anxiety, depression and PTSD, the trifecta! These three diagnoses are slowly becoming the litmus test of our generation; drugs of some form are our rite of passage. Welcome to adulthood, here’s your meds. We don’t sleep. We sleep too much. We’re too paralyzed with fear to move. We move too quickly and spontaneously. We need too much. We ask for too little. We accept less than we deserve. We give more than we have.
I’m a social worker by education, not by trade. I say that a lot to help compensate for the fact that I am $90K in debt to find out I have a wildly ambitious heart, but I digress. I’m a social worker because I believe in ideas like equality and diversity and beauty and the pursuit of happiness. Obtaining my degree was worth every penny (remind me I said that when I make my loan payment) because I learned a lot about not only myself but the world around me. Living in the real world is hard. Not just hard because people die, and the news is depressing and I’m not independently wealthy; hard because dreams die unrealized, greed is rampant, soft souls get crushed under the hard sole of conformity, apathy is alive and well, good intentions go unrecognized and good works go undone. My depression hasn’t taken away from me the fact that I know I have a purpose and that purpose is being realized every day. Still, it’s tough some days to try and use that propaganda on the bill collectors.
I’ll be 10 years clean on October 31st of this year. I say clean because I’ve dabbled in some recreational and medicinal drinking in the past, the latter of which I’m not real proud of but, hey, somehow it’s still socially acceptable to drink yourself to sleep after a lousy day. There are some hardcore NA’s losing their shit over my use of “clean” thus far and some AA’s are finding me a meeting in their area. Regardless, my nearly 3,650 days without drugs is something to be proud of and I celebrate it every day. It’s the bargaining chip I use with myself when I say I can’t bear any more strain. “Remember those days when you’d get out of bed aching all over, dehydrated and half dead just for the promise of a decent hustle to chase the elusive high? Yea, if you can get your dead ass up for that, you can show up for (insert important person’s name here).” It’s a pretty good mantra. Feel free to use it for yourself. It’s gotten me here and I’ve got a lot to show for it most days.
Where was I going with all this? Oh yeah! I can’t sleep. I reckon part of it is excitement over the newest chapter in my life: unemployment or as Elliot Hulse refers to it, the non-job. Want to hear about it?
Good because I’m gonna tell it to you with the zealous enthusiasm of a TV preacher soliciting donations for their super church. I’m going to be a HOMESTEADER when I grow up! (To be fair, I warned you) A little back story: I’ve worked a lot of jobs, had career paths that led to nowhere, engaged in many a side hustle and all that jazz. Call centers, personal training, soap maker, peer coaching, fast food, deputy jailer, you get the picture. My last job was less than tolerable but I was sticking it out. I had a plan, of course, before I left because I had been contemplating it for months. Plan A, B, and C, all leading to plan D because I’m nothing if not thorough in my irresponsibility. I had already taken steps to move in with my parents for a brief time to save money to build a home. I mapped out a space on the property that my mother was so graciously gifting to me. I researched alternative building methods such as straw bale, cob, and earthbag, researched Dept. of Agriculture loans and farming grants, met with FAHE to begin credit counseling and loan referrals in hopes that I may find an agency that would be willing to finance my dream homestead, started squaring away my debt and squirrelling away money every paycheck. I would stay the course at my current job and, in a year’s time, I’d be ready to build.
After many, MANY obstacles, doors that led to brick walls and staircases to nowhere….
I am now unemployed living in my Mom’s sunroom with no savings, barely able to pay my few bills. Not how you imagined Plan D? Me either, and it has its scary moments given that I am still not out from under my debt and I have a family to sustain. The beautiful thing though is that it made me hyper aware of what I actually need to survive (and even thrive) and although I have had to scale down my dream, I am much happier with most of the changes that this necessary scaling down has afforded me. I had already paired down a lifetime of acquired stuff to a storage building, a small space in the barn and of course, the sunroom. I’ve also become accustomed to living in a small space, as being a grown woman with three kids AND living with my parents, I like the solace. So, minimalist existence, check, small space, check, add a composting toilet and chickens…PLAN D: TINY HOUSE HOMESTEAD!
Now, while you may be checking for available beds in the asylum on my behalf, hear me out. I’m not altogether uneducated when it comes to the homestead lifestyle. I have always leaned on my hobbies and skills as creative outlets or even the extra buck when times have gotten tough. I have a fondness for the arts of crochet, canning, woodworking, raising small livestock and soap making, among others but the true merit of skills like these have been lost on my generation. It seems, at times, they have become nothing more than crafts on a Pinterest board for many without honoring the craft for the era and necessity it was born out of. Both my grandmothers, their mothers and generations before them put up their harvests every year in glass canning jars to feed them through the winter. Sure, there was a store to go to but it was a few miles ride on a horse and the exorbitant prices of the store bought goods were more than the wages of a railroad worker could support. I can remember my Granny telling me how she “thought they’d hit the jackpot when Mom brought home a box of cereal for the first time”. Not only did they can and preserve goods, they made their own soap with wood ash, sewed their own clothes from feed sacks or cheaply acquired cloth and raised livestock to sustain them. While times weren’t easy, they were simple and simple is something I yearn for.
I long to go to bed after a hard day’s work, hands aching from using them to sustain my family, back sore from doing the work of a machine and mind satisfied that I have once again been a good steward to Mother Earth, reaped what I have sown and given back what I have taken.
Ladies and gents, the time is now. Insert profound Eckhart Tolle quote. Operation Tiny Homestead is in full swing!
Allow me to set the scene: off a small one lane road in the hills of Eastern KY, sits the remnants of my great-grandfather’s old farm. The farm was 250 acres, initially, and over the years was divvied out, acre by acre to his 12 surviving children. My Papaw eventually split his claim between his three girls and I was given the small piece of my mom’s portion of land lovingly named The Chicken Ranch. The Chicken Ranch isn’t much to look at now but during my Papaw’s heyday, it was the drinking hole, the horseshoe pit, the gathering place. Totaling just over 2 acres, my Papaw raised chickens, rabbits and, more than likely, a lotta hell in the little valley it resides in.
To the naked eye, left behind now are only old buildings and some fruit trees yearning for a care giver but I see a valley full of promise; where there is disrepair, I see renewal. There is a small cabin Papaw once used as a crashing pad on the property, around 150 square feet, which I intend to remodel and turn into a tiny house. My Papaw built the cabin with his bare hands and it still stands tall to this day with only minor repairs and residential amenities like insulation, linoleum and plumbing for year-round use. Further back, beyond the cabin and into the woods, sits a large chicken coop and run that I plan to restore to all it’s chicken housing glory. In addition to these two buildings, the land itself is a prime spot for gardening, hunting, foraging and homesteading in general.
It needs work and some of that will take money, time or both, but it’s something I can really sink my purposeful talons into. I feel alive just writing about it. Like jet fuel is coursing through my veins. Every time I take the short trek down the hill to what will one day be my homestead, I feel all the worries melt away. I spend my days trying to catch up on all my real-world responsibilities, use my free time to tackle small homestead projects and my nights are spent researching, pouring over Pinterest, other blogs, looking for direction and advice from other people who have had the same dream and made it a reality.
I still can’t sleep but I can dream with my eyes open.
Like that cute little tag line? That’s supposed to rap up this post in a neat little bow and this is where I tell you to follow my journey or something of that nature. Follow me. Gratuitous hashtags. Peace and Love. And cheesecake. God, I really want some cheesecake.
P.S. If you’re just tuning in, check out the progress we’ve made, since this post, here!