A Homestead Morning

Monday, December 7, 2009

Personal Journal – November 7, 2009

Rarely do I write about my personal experiences or life on my suburban homestead. That’s not what I wanted this blog to be. But, sometimes in life things happen that you just want to share. Not because they are overwhelmingly important or informative, but because they bring a certain insight into the life many of us are trying to live.

I woke suddenly this morning, unaware of the reason. When I got my bearings I rolled over to look at the clock. It was a little after four. I lay there for a while staring at the red numbers in the darkness, then took a deep breath and rolled over again trying to fall back to sleep. As I settled in my toasty, warm bed I listened to the rain. It’s been raining since yesterday – a slow and steady soft kind of rain. The kind that is quickly absorbed by the soil…the kind that nourishes the garden rather than drowning it. I lay their snuggled under layers of homemade quilts and down comforters listening to the pattern of the drops rolling off the eves. Plink…plink…plink, plink…plunk. It came down softly hitting something below.

As I laid there in my warm bed, I tried to figure out what the rain was hitting. I always try to move potential noisemakers before the rainy season starts, but I must have missed something. A splashing noise drew my attention to window on the other side of the room. It was a steady sound, like a brook bubbling and stumbling over rocks in a stream. It was my rain barrel filled to overflowing.

I had always wanted to collect rainwater, to use in the garden when the time between winter storms was long and spring and summer months provide almost nothing. I’m trying to offset using municipal water. It’s a crude set-up though, several large plastic trash cans connected with PVC pipe so the full barrels can flow into the empty ones. Any hardcore homesteader might laugh at the simplicity of it, but it works.

The rain still falls steadily.

It’s dark and quiet, the comforting time of the morning. Off in the distance I could hear the faint sounds of roosters crowing. It’s amazing how far off they sound at that time of the morning considering the barn is only 80-feet away. The sound was deep and throaty from a bird well seasoned at these early morning rituals. But, below him came a barely noticeable strange sound, ur…ur…ur. It was the sound of a roo just learning to crow.

Actually, it was cockerel, young male roster. But I never really bother with using correct terms. They sound so stuffy and unfriendly.

The chicks we hatched back in April would be old enough. But, my amusement gave way to disappointed as well. I have too many roos already, so any new ones will be put into the freezer. Life on a homestead, even a suburban one, isn’t always fair or kind, but it is necessary. The young roos always sound so funny, like they’re being interrupted in mid-crow or someone has nudged them to be quiet. In any event, it was much too early for them to be sounding off. When it’s daylight, I’ll have to figure out who our new crower is.

The pattern of the rain falling from the eves quickens and then slows the sound of an intermittent rain.

Still unable to fall asleep I decided to get up for awhile. Standing there in the darkness I noticed a few lights on throughout the neighborhood, a rare sight considering the time of the morning, or at least rare to me. I’m hardly ever up this early. I made my way into the kitchen to fix a cup of tea, hoping that would help me sleep. As I stood in the dark kitchen, looking out over the yard, watching the rain, a few more lights came on. They looked golden, almost like candle light glowing in the darkness. When my tea was ready I poured it into a cup and wandered around the house. I think everyone should experience their house this early in the morning.

The sounds and smells, the feel of it is different than during any other part of the day. It’s strange and calm, almost eerie and unfamiliar.

The rain was heavier now, but not a true downpour. Still the kind that the ground could soak up easily. I watched out the front window as the low spots in the yard filled up with water. Didn’t matter though, they would dissipate as soon as the rain stopped. Night was being pushed aside now as the pre-morning dawn was trying to take over. It was almost 5:00 am. The horizon was a faint silver grey, not the usual color pallet of a fall morning – orange and yellow, streaked with shades of rose. As the darkness receded, columns of smoke rose from a few of the neighboring houses. Like signals from fellow homesteaders announcing their belief in living a simpler way. There weren’t many though, just enough to make me feel like I wasn’t alone in this venture. Some of the houses I knew and others I was surprised to see such activity this early in the morning. We tend to be a solitary lot we homesteaders. Whether it be fear of discovery or a reluctance to explain ourselves and the way we are trying to live to others we tend to keep our life pretty close to the vest. It was nice, though, to see a few more followers. I’ll have to visit with them and find a way to casually bring up gardening or canning or backyard chickens, just to let them know I am here and one of them.

I love my fireplace. I don’t think I could ever live in a house that didn’t have one. They bring so much ambience and comfort to a home. Not to mention warmth. I’m glad I brought in a load of firewood last week. When the storm breaks I’ll go out for more. A local rancher has been kind enough to keep me in good supply of well-seasoned, pre-cut firewood, as long as I pick it up and stack it myself.

Staring out that window, watching the rain fall from the sky and chimney smoke ascending to the clouds I thought who was more strange, the homesteader who gets up early in the morning to tend the animals and gardens, hearth and home that sustain his family; or the employee who gets up early only to sit in traffic for hours before reaching his office. I leaned my head against the window pane pondering. It was cold and damp from built up condensation. I stood there watching the rain splash on the driveway and the overflowing bird bath spill out onto the garden path. I followed the raindrops streaking down the window with my finger and thought…so what if people think I’m strange, if homesteading in the suburbs is strange. It’s no stranger than working a 50 or 60 hour week trying to prove yourself to an employer who doesn’t appreciate you or to fill your life with material things that can’t make you happy. So what, that I’m not climbing the corporate ladder to ever greater riches, aren’t I rich enough with my contentment and my simple pleasures? I stopped myself. Why continue.

With that, I set my tea on the kitchen counter and went back to my comfy warm bed filled with quilts and down, laid my head on a soft pillow and listened to the sounds of the rain and of the morning until it was time to get up again.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Indy Kethdy

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