Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
We’ve learned so much in such a short time on our new land. Pretty quickly I caught on that knotty pine is not as fashionable as it was 50 years ago—and that it requires numerous coats of paint to cover. Whoever created wallpaper deserves a good flogging. And a fox’s “vixen scream” may be the most haunting sound to scare a 16-year-old girl since The Conjuring was released in the movies. I’ve also learned that families sometimes pass down love in the form of a home. If you listen carefully, a house has a story. Some people will argue that a space holds memory and time, but I say home is where the heart is.
Somewhere around one week after moving in, I began to pull everything out of my new kitchen. Wallpaper removal was involved and, folks, things got ugly. Cover-your-ears ugly, with lots of bad words tossed about. But the kitchen was what mattered to me. In my 16 years as a mom, cooking has been one of the best and most personal ways I’ve shown my kids that I love them. Every night they have a home-cooked meal from locally grown ingredients—sometimes from our own yard. If nothing else, it’s warm, it smells good, and it makes them happy. And that makes me happy.
Kitchen Secrets From a New Homestead
Back to the kitchen demo: I took off all of the cabinet doors and pulled out all of the drawers in preparation for painting the knotty pine a bright white. When I pulled open the last drawer, it was full of boxes. The house had been meticulously emptied and cleaned, so this drawer surprised me. I opened the aged containers to find recipes inside. Some were clippings; others bore the pretty handwritten scroll of the house’s previous owner, Marion. I felt like I was spying on someone, looking into the past and seeing her preparing this food out of love for her husband and kids. It was a striking reminder of what I was in danger of forgetting while cussing at wallpaper and schlepping boxes: Even covered in construction dust, I am creating a legacy.
As the days go by, I often find myself revisiting that box of recipes or opening the pantry door where all of the heights of the house's former child residents are marked, along with their corresponding dates. I stroll through the garden and silently thank Marion for leaving me a yard that offers up more beauty every day, including gorgeous peonies. I think she must have known that I have never ever been able to raise those, even though they’re my favorite flower! All of these signs of a family’s love remind me that I am a matriarch, the glue holding the family together and an important part of a loving legacy. Although I am a worker bee in the corporate world, my true calling is creating a home and a life full of as many joys as possible for myself and my loved ones.
A Home's History
This home we were so lucky to find came with a legacy of its own attached—a history of family and warmth that I first encountered long before I found the drawer full of recipes.
We closed on our home on April 15. Our Realtor had asked me for a date, and I pondered for a brief moment before deciding on Tax Day. I chose this day out of the air, but it just felt right. In between signing papers, we chatted with the sellers (the owners’ son served as power of attorney) about the number of deer taken the season before and who, among the house’s five children, had used each room. I confirmed that the plant on the porch is a Clematis, the previous owner’s pride and joy. An outbuilding on the property that had once been a hen house would be returned to its former glory within weeks as a coop for our girls. I learned that the former owners had raised quail and Irish Setters. Clearly, an agricultural theme had been set. They also told me it was a home full of memories and life, but after Marion passed, it had became a sad place. Now her children were uplifted, knowing life and happiness would be restored to their well-loved home.
We said we would take care of this house, of their home, and we meant it. Once they knew this, the sellers slid something across the table and asked me to inspect it. My eyes scanned the old, yellowed paper, finally resting on the date.
“Nineteen fifty-nine,” I said, recognizing the year the house had been constructed. I wasn’t sure where they were going with this, assuming they just wanted us to have the original deed of sale. They smiled and told me to look at the date more closely. Once I did, it was like being struck by lightning. The original deed had been signed on April 15, 1959. Exactly 55 years prior to the day of our settlement. I’ll take that as a sign!
Although she’s something of a newbie homesteader herself, Michelle comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a home on the grounds of a Pennsylvania CSA farm. You can read her monthly posts on beginner homesteading with kids and more here in HOMEGROWN Life, and sometimes you can find her popping up in The Stew, HOMEGROWN’s member blog.
Photos by Michelle Wire
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