The Journey

I made it through the rabbit hole…

Happy New Year!!!

For me, it truly is a very happy NEW year! Everything is new right now: new house, new address, new outlook, new opportunities, new lifestyle, new landscape – a whole new WORLD! And I can’t even begin tell you how delighted and excited I am….

January 1st started out by getting up early, packing the very last of my belongings into the U-Haul and hitting the road. I made it 350 miles before things turned south. I hit a snowstorm around Billings, Montana that lasted about 450 miles… I finally came out the other side just west of Mitchell, South Dakota. It was crazy! And I drove through most of it after sundown. But despite whiteouts, wind and white knuckles, I made it out the other side with increased confidence and a can’t-be-stopped attitude. I arrived at my new home just after 5pm on the 2nd and began the process of unpacking.

I’m at a stopping point until my friend returns from Chicago. There are a few things I can’t bring up from the garage on my own. But I’ve made quite a bit of headway over the past four days, with not much work left to do.  Next up is doing a whole lot of brainstorming and planning and getting myself situated to start working on some creative projects. I’m also doing a little bit of contract work for the organization I just left. Nothing major, but it’ll bring in a little money over the next few months.

I know the blog is still wonky for those who aren’t subscribed. The gal that’s been working on it is doing some research into why such a simple project turned into a three-week long ordeal. Not super happy about it, but it is what it is. I’ll keep posting, and eventually it’ll get fixed. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

I’ll start taking some pictures of the new place and the land to share with you all soon. It’s really a fantastic chunk of ground­ – definitely not the flat-land you often think of when envisioning the Midwest. On the property there are caves, rock bluffs, rolling hills, steep hills, and little canyons. The house is situated nearly at the top of the hill, which means plenty of early morning and late afternoon sun. There’s also a ton of wildlife here – including mountain lions! There were a bunch of lion tracks that came up the road and really quite close to the house. Within 50 feet, I would say. Now, I lived with lions in Montana, but I don’t think I ever had one that I knew of within 50 feet of the house. Things to think about when chickens and goats make their way to the farm this spring.

Looking forward to sharing so much with everyone as this little experiment gets moving. But for now, I think I’m going to go downstairs and see if I can locate the box with my business and creativity books in it. I’m craving some written word that will inspire me.

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Categories: Property Hunt, The Journey | 2 Comments

An interlude to the Silent December…

So I want to be a farmer, huh?

DSCF1685

It’s funny the way people respond to your dreams. “Funny” in both senses of the word: humorous and often rather peculiar. Since my resignation as the Director of my organization was announced, I’ve received so many responses of support, appreciation and friendship. It’s been overwhelming and humbling.

But along with those accolades come the inevitable questions: “So what are you going to do?” “Where will you be working?” People just assume that I’m taking a similar role at another organization – but then I lay it on the line and tell them what I’m doing and where I’m going.

I recently had such a conversation with a long-time member of OWAA, and in his tone of voice I could hear the “Are you out of your cotton-pickin’ mind?” that was ripping through his thoughts.  He mentioned that this was probably the first time he’d ever heard of anyone leaving a good professional career to head back to the farm. While I understand that I’m running away from what, in comparison, might be considered an easy life, and running toward a much more difficult one, I can’t help but know that I’m making the right decision. Our conversation ended with his well wishes, and hopes that I would keep in touch. He said that if this was what was in my heart, then he could hope for nothing more than for me to achieve my dreams. But I could also tell that he didn’t quite understand…

Sure, I’m in the minority these days. Most people strive to get to the top of the ladder. They reach for that bigger paycheck. They want for the respect that being the top dog brings. And I did too. Once upon a time; not so long ago. But I know for a fact that I’m also not the only person who’s made the decision, once getting to the top and surveying the view, to simplify my world and return to a way of life that boasts cracked hands, dirty fingernails, long days, sunburned arms and sore muscles. Sometimes what you think you want turns out to be the exact opposite of what your heart longs for. As the old adage goes: Be careful of what you wish for… At one time I wanted nothing more than to be the executive director of a nonprofit. Little did I know that it was a dream that stood in stark contrast to what was really in my heart.

My parents taught my sister and me well. They taught us that we can do anything in this world that we want. But they also taught us that it would have to be worked for.

They left the comfort of the city and suburbs to reach for this same exact goal when they weren’t much younger than I am now. In fact, I believe my Dad was about 40 when they made the move. They left behind good jobs, a more stable economy, and a comfortable house to trek out into the unknown. To break the earth, grow their food and learn to live life by their own rules. Is it any wonder I have the wanderlust and rural longings I have? It’s no wonder to me… I know exactly where it came from. And it’s truly the best gift I could ever have been given. The gift of knowing I can follow my dreams – whether those dreams take me to the temples of India, to the bustling neighborhoods of Chicago, to the mountains of Montana, or to the pastures and hills of a farm in central Wisconsin.

I don’t expect that many people will understand why I’m taking this leap of faith. Some will. Some do. And some just don’t get it at all. But that’s fine with me. People live according to the song that sings in their own hearts. In the words of Rasa Devi “Life is right in any case.”

This is my dance. And this song is for me.

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And so it begins….

Lots of new beginnings today. For the past couple of years I’ve done a silent December where, instead of regular written posts, I’ve opted to post a picture a day. Today being December 1, I will begin this annual tradition again. Next time you hear from me by the written word, I should be in a moving truck somewhere between here and my new life.

Another beginning is the start of the systematic disassembly of my home. Whenever I move, I tend to take a good 3-4 weeks to pack so that it’s not an overwhelming job. I picked up boxes today and began to fill them…

So I begin this Silent December with a picture of my staging area where my moving boxes will live until they’re packed on a truck on New Year’s Eve:

image

Talk to you again in January. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this Silent December, and embrace your own form of silence this season.

Categories: Silent December, The Journey | 2 Comments

There’s no going back now.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I shed my final two anchors: Suby Snowflake and my job.

Last Sunday the most adorable couple came to look at my car – they were the epitome of the “Missoulian”: hippie, outdoorsy, young, and friendly as can be. Good kids. We chatted for a while, played with my dog, and then took the Subaru for a test drive. I knew they fell in love with it immediately. I really liked that car; I just didn’t like the payment plan attached to it. And I honestly won’t need it in Wisconsin. I did my best to take good care of it, and apparently it showed. They said they’d go home and talk about it, and later that evening I had a written offer in my inbox. Unfortunately they couldn’t offer me what I was asking, but did offer me something of significant value to add to the pot: the loan of their car until I leave on January 1. That, coupled with the next two payments that I won’t have to make between now and my transition, and the cash they gave me, it actually came out to about $100 more than I was asking to begin with. Score! So on Wednesday we met at the bank, made the transition, and traded cars.

I’m Free!

Yesterday I called the President of our Board of Directors. He was sitting in a tree stand hunting deer on the day after Thanksgiving. Yet, he answered his phone. We had a candid conversation about why I thought my time with the organization was done, and shared that I would be working toward my long term goals and something I truly believe in. I also discussed an individual on our Executive Committee who has been a thorn in my side for some unknown reason. I hate to say it, but I honestly think he’s sexist. But being a lawyer, he would never admit to it. Clearly he doesn’t respect anything I do or have to say, and makes everything I do about 1000% more difficult than it needs to be. Watching his interactions with most other women, sexism is the only logical conclusion I can come to. Either way, in 37 days I’ll never have to deal with him again. After talking to the Board Prez, I emailed him my letter of resignation. The light at the end of the tunnel is brighter now than it ever has been.

I’m Free!

I try to be consistently conscious of the things in my life that I’m grateful for. This past year I’ve had some problem with that as I let myself get bogged down with stress. But with this early Christmas gift of freedom, I’m beginning to once again let my mind come out of the clouds and appreciate so much around me. It feels good to be back on track.

Yes. I’m Free!

Categories: Debt, The Journey | Leave a comment

Paring down…

In preparation for the future, I’ve begun the paring down process of culling possessions. In the past month I’ve taken a couple trips to Goodwill, and have another stack in the living room to go tomorrow. Before the Wisco opportunity presented itself, I was already in cull-mode, spurred by Tammy Strobel’s book “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)”. My original plan was to move back into town, into a smaller dwelling, meaning that I needed to get rid of a bunch of stuff so I’d fit in a more modest abode. But now, as I’ve divulged, the plan has become a bit more involved. Instead of having to fit into a small house, I need to fit into an even smaller U-Haul!

It’s funny how, no matter the size of your dwelling, you manage to fill it up. The more you have, the more you use – and that goes for more than just space.

Before I moved to my current house, I rented an enormous place just north of town. Three bedrooms and a living room big enough to do six cartwheels across. I lived there alone – with the exception of my furry, four-footed family.  In other words, it was a gratuitous-sized space for a woman, a cat and a dog. So I downsized to the ranch where I live now. And now I’m looking to downsize again…

In Strobel’s book she shares the story of how she and her husband progressed from a typical American lifestyle of big dwellings, tons of possessions and debt, to a tiny house with few possessions and the freedom to live life as they want. I highly recommend her blog www.rowdykittens.com.  Another favorite blogger, Kimberly Wilson, recently hosted Strobel on her podcast Tranquility du Jour. Strobel offers baby steps at the end of each chapter to help inspire readers toward achieving that lifestyle. She’s careful to say that you don’t have to live in a 128 square foot tiny house, as she and her husband do, in order to reach simplicity and freedom. It’s a different concept to everyone.

Personally, I’m not looking to live in 128 square feet. I currently live in a house that I estimate to be around 900 square feet. It’s two bedrooms, two baths, a modest sized living room with a dining nook attached, and a generous sized kitchen (which, admittedly, I love). However, I’m definitely moving toward the ideal of a much smaller dwelling – for a few reasons:

Cost – in theory, the smaller the house, the less it costs. Of course, that’s not a given, but in theory that’s generally the way it works. I’d rather have more land and less house than the other way around. And I’d rather spend less money on a smaller dwelling than spend my life doing something I don’t like in order to pay for a house I don’t spend any time in.

Freedom – the smaller the house, the less time you have to spend maintaining it. I’d rather spend that time working the land and enjoying my life than mopping the floor and dusting knick-knacks.

Feeling – small spaces hug ya! In my humble opinion, it’s just not possible for me to feel nurtured and safe in a gigantic space. Little spaces hold me tight.

Simplicity – small spaces require good organization and few possessions. Less is more. Do you really need 12 coffee mugs when you live alone?

There are a lot of resources on the web that offer inspiration for downsizing – just go ahead and Google tiny houses or downsizing and see what I mean. A decade ago the standard was to live bigger and better. But with the downturn in economy, and the understanding of what our “footprint” really means, environmentally, both globally and locally, I’m pleased to see a new migration toward smaller, simpler living.

In my mind’s eye I see my future home, when I get to the point where I can afford a place of my own. If it’s in the upper Midwest, we’ll call it a cottage. If it’s in the west, we’ll call it a cabin. But either way it’s definitely smaller than where I live now, by a third at least. And has lots and lots of land for gardens, orchards, chickens and room to breathe…

Until I get to that point in my life I’ll carry on with culling possessions, minimizing my purchases, continuing to live debt-free and keeping a clear vision of the future.

Categories: The Journey | 1 Comment

The universe provides…

So I have an opportunity that I’m thinking I might be absolutely stupid if I pass up…

It would throw my plans from a previous post up in the air – retaining some of the goals while totally changing others. The parts to be retained would include getting rid of Suby Snowflake, quitting my job, minimizing my expenses, downsizing my life and experimenting with alternative income streams.  The part that, in theory, would be completely changed would be the moving into town part.

I might be moving, though. But not into town in Missoula.

This is all still very tentative as I continue discussions with my “funder” – but the conversations are getting more and more interesting, and would offer me the exact opportunity I need to start my dream life of homesteading, domesticity and truly ditching the grid.

It’s funny how, when I need it most, the universe offers me the opporutnities I desire. It happens every time that I find myself in a place where I desperately need a change – an opportunity presents itself that helps guide me past the obstacles.  And this time it’s an opportunity that is beyond my wildest expectations.

I don’t want to devulge the exact details of the plan until it’s more set in stone, but changes may be on the way for me and for this blog. BIG changes. Good changes. Educating changes. Hands-on changes…

I’m hoping to have a final decision made within the next week or two. Stay tuned!

(OH! I’m bursting at the seams!!!!)

 

 

Okay, I can’t help myself…  Here’s a hint:

Categories: Property Hunt, The Journey | 3 Comments

Formulating a plan…

Wow. Where on earth did the last five months go? Yikes. My apologies, dear readers, for my extended absence.

When last I saw you I was leaving northern Wisconsin after a visit with my Dad. Something happened when I got home that apparently sent me into oblivion for months on end.

It’s been a really good summer for me – I hope it has been for you, too. I took up with a new beau (post-lovely logger man, who continues to contact me every once in a while. Damn that man! But this isn’t a blog about relationships…) The new beau took me outside of my comfort level and put me on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I’d never been on a motorcycle before. Once I stopped being terrified, I started really enjoying it! So most weekends will find me, hair whipping in the wind, holding on tight, and flying along the roads of western Montana. I even went to Sturgis!  😮

Unfortunately my garden suffered as a result of this new found freedom a-la motorcycle. I managed to salvage a few potatoes, a bunch of peppermint and some peppers. All else was lost.

C’est la vie.  There are bigger things to worry about in life right now… which brings me to the point of this post:

Formulating a plan. A plan for the future.

I spent three weeks back up in Alaska, starting on Labor Day weekend through much of September. I lived out of an RV. I hiked in the snow. I contemplated applying for a job running a sled dog yard. I longingly looked out at the fall colors that had swept through the land and wished for a simpler life. I bought a two-volume set of Dick Proenneke’s writings, boarded a ferry and spent five days traveling by ship between Whittier, Alaska and Bellingham, Washington, reading, contemplating and wondering what I could *honestly* do different to begin the processes of making a life, not just accumulating a living.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. And a lot of thinking. And a lot of math. And a lot of writing (although, just in notebooks and not on this blog!).

It’s no secret that I’m extremely dissatisfied with my job. I often say that I never have regrets, only lessons learned. And boy, have I learned a lot of lessons since becoming director of this organization. So I’ve made up my mind to leave. I’ve been trolling the help wanted ads nearly daily and submitting resumes when something of interest shows itself. Missoula, unfortunately, doesn’t have a plethora of high paying jobs, so what that means is that I need to minimize my expenses and fit into the circumstances that are available to me right here. I like Missoula, and I’m not really looking to leave right now.

As much as I adore my little homestead on the ranch, it’s time to shore up my possessions, get rid of the clutter, and move back into town. I’m considering really shaking things up with the ultimate goal of no longer having to work for a company or an organization.

This is what I’m considering:

  • Moving back into town, into the smallest, least expensive place I can find for me and Bella-Boo. This means I need to cull all of my possessions. I currently live in a 900+ square foot house on endless acres. But I’m considering finding a place half that size and starting to live my life on a more human level. Well, human and dog level. As it is, my lovely pastoral life puts me nearly 20 miles out of Missoula… It’s hard to simplify when you have to drive nearly 40 miles round trip to do or get anything in town.
  • Selling Suby Snowflake. Between car payments, insurance, and the ever-increasing price of gas, I spend over $600 per month for the joy of having a car. The Subaru has got to go. Plus, it’s Debt. I’ve written in the past about my views on debt. I don’t like debt. It makes me very uncomfortable knowing that I owe anyone anything. I will get another vehicle (my dream truck: a old 1970s Ford pick-up, if God’s willing!) for when the need arises. But my thought process is to get back on the bike and use that as my main mode of transportation around town.
  • Minimizing all expenses. Cutting my expenses down to the quick. As I mentioned, I’ve been doing a lot of math, among other things, lately. I don’t spend a lot on extraneous things. I don’t have a TV, so cable is a non-issue. I use minimal electric, so my bill is pretty darn low. But there are definitely things I can hone down. Including my phone/internet charges. Right now they’re $60/month. That’s $60 I probably don’t need to be spending. In town I can find alternative and cheaper ways to get online…  I may also be eating my way through my food storage in the coming year. Partly to roll it over, partly to save room, partly to minimize my outlay of cash.
  • Quitting my job. It’s become a source of great unhappiness for me. Stress. Bad attitude. Anger. It’s not worth the paycheck to feel this way. It’s funny how the more money I make, the more complicated my life becomes. I can’t live without a paycheck, but I’m hoping some of these other steps will help minimize my need for a big one. So for the time being I’m hoping to find a job a little lower on the totem pole. I’ve often said that my current position makes me be more professional, responsible and grown-up than I care to be. It’s quickly boring holes through my soul. Time to grab the bull by the horns and start taking control of my life again.
  • Experimenting with alternative income streams. It’s my ultimate dream to not have to rely on anyone else for a paycheck. Never before have I considered trying to work for myself, but now I’m starting to wonder about it more and more. I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming (along with my reading, contemplating, math and writing), and I’m beginning to come up with some ideas about how to start doing this. The more I can do for myself, the less I have to rely on the traditional job market.

I had considered starting a new blog because I was concentrating less and less on formally ditching the grid. Not that I had lost that desire, I guess I just lost focus. But when the blocks started falling away recently, I realize more and more that all this contributes to that ultimate dream of living outside the normal “grid” of society. So rather than start over, I’ll be continuing the writing on this blog, and sharing my steps along the way.

Stay Tuned!

Categories: Debt, The Journey | 6 Comments

Things to work on…

I try really hard not to be outwardly frustrated at people. But, like most everyone else, there are those days when everything breaks down. I just can’t help it.

How do you deal with situations that get the best of you? I’d love to hear your advice and input.

So far I’ve held it together toward the individual that’s causing my brain to turn inside out.  But tomorrow morning I’m going to have to go above this person’s head to try to get an issue resolved. An issue we’ve been trying to get remedied for six and a half months.  Yes, seriously.

This has absolutely nothing to do with off grid living, gardening, preps, simple living (although, maybe it does), or anything else even remotely related to this blog. Unfortunately it has everything to do with my day-to-day life at the 9 to 5. Part of me would love to explain the entire situation, but I’m so tired of dealing with it that I just can’t bring myself to tell the tale. All I can say is that, in all reality, it began as the simplest request, and has turned into a virtual Armageddon.

I guess, in a way, this does have to do with the simple living aspect of my life. And it also has much to do with self-realization and recognizing when life has strayed too far from what you wanted to begin with.  Each time a trying and difficult situation manifests itself through my job, it actually does help me consider more and more what I want to accomplish in my life.

Frustration is the great equalizer. And it goes a long way to helping a body determine what’s important in life.

Categories: The Journey | 5 Comments

Going Home…

I’m going home in a couple of weeks. Three and a half weeks, to be exact.

I’m going home…

I’m

  Going

Home

And I can’t tell you how good that’s going to feel!

🙂

It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been through Eagle River, Wisconsin. My family left the northwoods in 1985 when my DSS and I were teenagers. I think we were both heart broken when we realized that the suburbs of Chicago would really never feel like “home”. I know it was that way for me… I still never feel like anyplace is “home”… no matter how long I live there.

I think the term “home” is used a little too loosely. For me, home is where your earliest memories live. Home is where you can hear the sounds and smell the smells of growing up. Some people spend their youth moving around, following parents in the military, or those who take jobs all over the country or world. Moving every year or two. Never putting down roots. I’ve always felt sorry for them because they can’t think back to one place and equate it with those feelings… of Home.

Eagle River is my Home. All of my memories of youth live there. Climbing trees. Playing in the snow. Watching deer. Walking across the field in the fog. Riding bikes into town in the summer. Friday Fish Fry at the Charlou Supper Club. Fishing in the river. Our cousins Kenny, Kelly and Wayne watching DSS and me while our parents went out to dinner. Going to St. Peter the Fisherman School. Girl Scouts. Camp. Forts. Swimming at Eagle Lake and Silver Lake Beaches. Gardens. Stacking wood for the heat every fall. Watching my Mom can the veggies from the garden. Duke, our old German shepherd, chasing squirrels through the woods. Bond Falls. Picking apples in the upper peninsula. The snowmobile derby. Men in church every Sunday in the fall wearing their camo, with their hunting license numbers displayed on their backs…

After too many years gone, I’m going home.

My Dad moved back to Eagle River this past fall. Believe it or not, he said he got sick of the perfect sunny weather and walking on the beach every day in Florida. So he decided to head home, too. I think given the chance, DSS and I would go back if we could.

DSS and my nephew just got back last night from visiting him. We talked for nearly an hour at lunch today. She was telling me about all the changes, yet how so many things seem exactly the same. I wish we could have been up there at the same time, but my calendar didn’t work out that way. So I’m heading over there in late April for a week. I promise to share pictures and memories from the trip here on the blog. I’m almost afraid to go because I know my heart is going to break when it’s time to leave again. I wish I could make a living there, because I would move back in a heartbeat.

I’m not saying western Montana is a bad place to live.  Trust me, I love waking up and looking out the window to some variation of this every morning:

But Montana’s not Home.

It never will be.

But it’s where I lay my head at night. And since my Dad moved back in November, my nightly dreams are filled with memories of growing up in the place I call Home…

Good old Eagle River, Wisconsin.

Categories: Misc Musings, The Journey | 10 Comments

Always a good reminder

As I undertake cleaning the junk out of my physical body, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of “junk” I have in my home (and barn, and office…) This morning I thought I would re-watch the PBS documentary Affluenza to help set the mood for this weekend. I know a lot of this “junk” can go, so I’ll be undertaking a serious clean-out/spring cleaning session over the next two days. It’s a challenge to see how light I can live.  If I hope to live in a small home some day, much of this stuff’s gonna have to go anyway.

So I thought I would share the influence of Affluenza with you this morning:


 

Categories: The Journey | 1 Comment

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