How it all Began

I’m sure that if nobody has wondered why we started homesteading yet, someone will in the future. Plus it will serve as a reminder to myself why we started this journey.

First and Foremost, the name “Straight Arrow” might seem strange or at least pique some interest. The property where we have established our homestead is the home where my husband’s parents settled before he was born, and the home and land that his father worked himself. We have a lot of history there, so it seems appropriate. They bought their home back in 1978, when my Father in Law was working for the City Police Department. He had given up a better paying job with another City Department in favor of living where they could be more self sufficient. They bought the house and land, moved, and a little over a year later my husband was born. The city we live in is really more of a small town, the population usually hovers right around 2,000. We live on what used to be the edge of town, and as such have animal rights for our property as long as we continue to keep animals there. My Father in Law made the backyard, which was essentially 1/2 acre, into the family garden. Raising 7 kids took a lot of food, and he believed in growing as much of himself as he could. He then worked for the County Sheriff, retired and went back as a court bailiff. He was a hard worker, and held two jobs at many times. But always had a garden. I learned most of what I know about homesteading from him. He was a very strong man in his faith, unwavering even in the toughest of times, and the only person on the departments he worked for that didn’t drink coffee or alcohol. Ever. He never smoked, never did anything of questionable morality. Thus earning himself the nick name of “Straight Arrow”. He passed away in 2011, finally losing a long battle with cancer, and it seemed like the best way for us to honor his legacy in our journey.

 

Now, on to the desire to be self sufficient. We moved back to my husband’s childhood home after his father passed away because his mother was living there with our nephew that is disabled (he was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, and has a lack of development in his frontal lobe. This causes all kinds of issues related to anger management, and he has outbursts that are particularly violent which was not a safe situation for a 70 year old woman to live in). After we moved back my Mother in Law had to have several surgeries, including reconstruction of the bones in both feet, having the tendon in her hip reattached, and a spinal fusion among others. It really was a good thing we were able to be there to help her, and I am always trying to think of ways I could do more for her. She is an amazing character, and has filled the void that my mother never tried to.
When we first moved back we didn’t think anything of the house and the land, we just worked and took care of it. We have young kids, who were even younger then and unable to do a lot of the work. We did grow a garden, but it was rather small, and only used to supplement the fresh veggies that are lacking in the winter. It seems silly to me now, and I would love to grab myself at that point and just shake me asking why I wasn’t doing more to care for my family. We have just under an acre of land, and it was just sitting, wasting.

A little over a year ago I had a health scare. I had my gallbladder out, which was freaky, but manageable. About 6 weeks later I started having issues with extreme dizziness, blurred vision, disorientation, and so on. I thought it might be medication related, as I have been on many medications throughout my life trying to manage Bipolar Disorder. I went to my doctor, and he checked everything out and said that it seemed a little strange, then suggested I see an eye doctor to be sure it wasn’t vision related.
When I met with the ophthalmologist he said that he wanted to do an ultrasound of my eye. What?! How in the world do they do that?! I didn’t want anything near my eyeball! Turns out that it’s just a simple dye drop in your eye, dilation, and looking into what looks like a really large set of binoculars. As you look into the device, it scans your eyeball and the dye reacts with the imaging machine to show what the vessels and tendons in the back of your eyeball look like. It was pretty awesome (if you’re into that).
After reviewing the images, the Doctor said that I likely had some kind of tumor.

Wait……What?
Um, okay. So I LIKELY had a tumor. Not sure how to process that information. So I cried. A lot. I was really scared, just the thought of it freaked me out.
The Doctor Scheduled me for an MRI, which I had never done before. Because we are in a small town, we don’t have an MRI Machine in our local hospital, but we do have a mobile MRI that comes every other Saturday. So I scheduled for a week later, and waited. I can tell you – that was the LONGEST 7 days of my life. My husband is the type that generally doesn’t get too worked up about things until he knows for sure what it is and how to handle it, which is great cause I was an absolute mess.
After the MRI I had to wait 3 or 4 days for my regular doctor to review the images. I was impatiently waiting for the results. And praying incredibly hard.

All that crazy, scary, stressful stuff… and it was a Pseudotumor Cerebri (More info here if you are interested). Seriously. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but my doctor explained it as my brain “makes too much fluid, and basically my body can’t reabsorb it fast enough” building up pressure in my head and causing a myriad of weird symptoms like headaches, dizziness, disorientation, blurred vision, and so on. It explained my symptoms completely. The options they gave me at that point were: 1) deal with the occasional symptom until I can’t anymore; 2) get glasses to lessen the stress on my eyes during the times I have symptoms; or 3) have a Lumbar Puncture to drain the excess fluid and have it tested for all kinds of things. Seriously, why would I have someone jab a needle into my spine? Okay, I did have an epidural. Twice. But that was childbirth, this is just to drain fluid. It seemed really scary and weird. So I opted for glasses. I didn’t realize how much it would help. I have had minimal symptoms since, and usually the glasses take care of the issue.

So, after that scary period I started really reevaluating my life. What was I doing, and what could I be doing to make it better, that sort of thing. Homesteading and self sufficiency seemed like the way to go. And here we are. I started with research, because I’m a giant nerd and I love researching things. I also wanted to be sure that I was doing the best thing for my family to the best of my abilities.

Now we have a hoop house, with veggies growing. Dairy animals, pigs, chickens, and more. It was a scary way to get here, and I wish I had started sooner, but I’m on it now and working on getting better. Nothing like thinking you may be sick enough to die to make you think about improving your life.

Garden Progress & More

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I checked inside the hoop house this afternoon abs our peas are waist high! I was worried about them for a bit because they haven’t bloomed yet, and I planted them way back in March, but upon some research it’s not unheard of in zone 5. So I have been patiently waiting. Today we have the starts of some tiny blossoms! I can’t wait for those delicious little pods, we love peas at our house.

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Our vertical bucket planter my husband made for our strawberries is working quite well! We kinda made it as a “trial” to see if we could get them to bounce back. We had them along the west side of the house, where they did okay, but the birds ate more than we did. So we plopped them into this bucket planter. They are thriving! The leaves are almost the size of my palm! I won’t be surprised if we don’t get any berries this year, because we moved them, but it may have been early enough. Time will tell I suppose.

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This is perhaps the most exciting development, we have tiny blossoms forming on the tomatoes! I will tell you that my mother in law Ave I are the only two people at our house that way them, unless it’s in salsa or spaghetti sauce, but seeing these always gets everyone excited.
These little tomatoes, let me tell ya, it’s been a heck of a journey. I started then from seeds back in February, in my little jiffy pods. When I bought them Scott rolled his eyes and said “great, now that thing is going to take over the kitchen table” to which I simply grinned and continued selecting seeds. When I started them in February he also laughed Ave said “don’t you think you’re jumping the gun a little bit?” I think he was right with that one, they grew so slowly! I thought they would never sprout. When they finally did, they wilted a few days later. It was disheartening to say the least. I finally got them into 3″ pots, then got topsoil put into the greenhouse. It was at least 2 months at that point, and more than one time I had been sure they are dead. After putting them into the greenhouse they wilted again. I wanted to cry, just buy new plants from the nursery and cut our losses. But a couple days later they perked back up. Now they are his, and ready to give us some produce. I won’t say anything else, I don’t want to jinx myself!

I didn’t have my phone or camera when we checked the bees today, but I was absolutely thrilled to see our fat little queen happily working away. She looked amazing, and we have 2 full frames with capped brood. We should have some new workers and drones emerging any day now. I’m looking into a pollen collector, if anyone has any experience I would love to hear about it.

Today I started my day job back at full time hours. It was brutal, and though I’m unbelievably grateful to have steady paychecks again, it means I don’t get to work the second job I have genuinely loved for the couple months I’ve been there. One day I’d like to have that he my full-time job. It was a crazy long day, I’m so tired, and I have to deal with my boss tomorrow. It’s kind of a down note, and my anxiety is pretty high (if you guys don’t know, I have dealt with bipolar disorder for most of my life). I will check in with you guys later, thanks for popping in!