I haven't posted in a while. So much has happened in the last couple of months and I've been busy. We moved into our new house in early December. It's amazing how taking care of two young rambunctious children makes unpacking take eons longer than usual. I think the house is mostly in order now, though, except for a few spots here and there. We need some more bookshelves for the 14 boxes of books still in the dining room, we'll need a dining room table and chairs at some point, I want to paint the kitchen cabinets and replace the wallpaper in the dining room, and we want to build in an entertainment center in the living room, but the house is totally livable and wonderful. I think my stress level from feeling unsettled has diminished enough that I'm really enjoying it, and I've gotten some rooms the way I want them. I especially like the foyer. It's so nice to have an entryway with a bench that Bryan built for the kids to sit and take their boots off, a coat rack and mirror on the wall, and I hung up my eclectic gallery wall that makes me happy every time I walk by. In our bedroom I hung up the mirror my SIL Rebekah got me for Christmas and some favorite photos of Bryan and me, as well as an amazing, enormous gold-gilt-framed mirror I scored at the antique store. Best of all, we just have so much space! Both inside and out. We can have people over and not feel like we're on top of each other or worry about bothering the downstairs neighbor. The kids can play upstairs in the play loft or down in the living room or outside. We have an office for Bryan's computer and art supplies and for my sewing and crafting. The kitchen has a big island and lots of storage. And I have a laundry room! I actually totally love doing laundry now. I can just throw a load in the washer or dryer and I don't have to wheel the cart down three floors to the basement and stockpile enough quarters and make sure I get the clothes out immediately so other people can use the machines.
John roams freely throughout the house and has mastered the stairs after sliding down face first on Day 1. Sometimes I'll find him sitting in the chair in the loft with a book or playing, fully clothed, in my bathtub. He also loves to lock the bathroom doors and close them. Good thing for bobby pins. Amelia loves our house so much. One of the first times we left to go somewhere, she said, "I just want to go home to our new house!" Her favorite thing is to help Bryan outside when he gets home from work. She's been helping me more, too, especially with cooking and picking up toys. Bryan has adapted easily to country living. He loves being out in the shop or chopping wood. As for me, I feel as if I were born for this. I finally got to sit out on the front porch swing and read a book during nap time the other day. It was sunny and cold, and even bundled up with layers and ear warmers and gloves I was still cold, but it was worth it. The porch was what sold me on the house in the first place, and I'm looking forward to many hours spent out there, although probably when it's warmer.
We are loving our new hometown of Duvall, too. We've eaten at almost every restaurant, shop at the local market, stop by the hardware store weekly, frequent the antique stores and coffee shops, and generally bask in its small town charm. We decided on a church. After visiting two, we went back to the first one, and I'm so glad. The Sunday we came back after being gone a few weeks, one of the pastors' wives went out of her way to find me and she remembered my name, and I ran into the woman who runs the kids' consignment store in town, and she remembered me, too. I start a Tuesday morning women's Bible study next week! I'm so excited to meet some people in the community. I feel like a different person. I'm more aware of how I come across in public and how I interact with strangers. Everyone I meet is someone I will probably interact with again and again, so I want to start on the right foot. I think I might be nicer than I've ever been before.
We've been taking advantage of the nice weather the last few days and spending time outside. The kids and I play soccer in the back yard, ride bikes and scooters in the driveway, or walk down the road as far as John will go. I keep hoping our neighbors will be out in their yards or driving by and we'll meet some people, but that hasn't happened yet. I've taken to calling our property The Birch Path, which is the name Diana Berry gave to a similar place in Anne of Green Gables. And our back wood has been dubbed The One Acre Wood. It's thick with evergreens and cedar, thorny blackberry brambles and mushrooms. We love wandering the trails and listening for birds, admiring the silver spider webs glistening with dew, searching for deer prints. Even John has become adept at navigating the tree roots and thorns and loves tromping through the woods. He gets very upset when we turn around to go home. It's amazing how good it feels to be outside. The fresh air, the trees and robins, the light—it does my heart good. I love being home, but I go a little stir crazy if I stay inside too long. I've added Go Outside to my list of daily New Year resolutions, along with Drink Water, Write Something, Read Aloud, Wake Up Early, Pray All Day, and Engage Others. It's been helping a lot to remind myself of these simple things, and added up they make for a significant lifestyle change, from grumpy survival to cheerful thriving. I haven't mastered it yet, but it helps.
Yesterday, when we got home from church and a cousin's birthday party, I put the kids down for a rest and was planning to sit and read, but Bryan invited me outside to do some pruning. At first I said, "Not now," but we've been watching "Alaska: The Last Frontier" on Netflix, and the homesteaders don't have the luxury of reading a book when there's work to be done. So I put on my grey Hunter boots, my faux-fur-lined camo anorak, and my work gloves (because there's no reason you can't look cute while you're working), and I went outside. I'm so glad I made that choice! Bryan and I pruned some unruly apple trees together, me pulling on the cable to bring the branches safely down after Bryan sawed through them. Let's just say Bryan was impressed with my strength. I pruned one of the smaller trees all by myself and I haven't worked my arm muscles that hard in a looooong time. If I pruned a tree or two a day I would never need to work out. The trees look so much better. They had all thrown shoots straight up into the air and didn't even look like apple trees anymore. Now we've shaped them so they look more like umbrellas, and they'll put their energy into those branches. I'm looking forward to having fresh apples this year for apple sauce, apple butter, hard cider. The apple trees are next to the shop in a railroad-tie-bordered terraced garden bed area. I need to rototill the soil in there and get it ready to plant a vegetable garden in the spring. I don't want to get too carried away on my first go, but I figure I can't learn if I don't try, right? I desperately want tomatoes, so I think I'll plant tomatoes, onions, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, beets, green beans, pumpkins, cucumber, potatoes and strawberries, as well as an herb garden. That's not too ambitious, is it?
I'm excited to see what's already in the ground, too, what surprises will bloom and blossom in the spring. It looks like there are tulips planted along the back wall of the house, and we have purple heather, hydrangea, roses, a Japanese maple, two enormous regular maples, rhododendron, and of course, my favorite, a row of six white-paper-barked birch trees lining the driveway. I have lavender starts, cyclamen, hellebore, and more heather that a friend gave me to plant, too. I haven't even bought anything yet! I love this place in dormancy, I can't even imagine how beautiful it will be in bloom.
Saturday we drove to Eatonville to visit our puppy. We're getting a male black lab from a three-week-old litter of 11 puppies! We don't know which one is ours yet, but we visited with all of them and met the mama. We'll choose one when they're a little older, and we get to bring him home in March. I've never had a dog in my whole life, so I'm excited by the prospect. He'll be a family dog and also a bird dog for Bryan when he goes pheasant hunting. There's a small chance we'll be adopting a German wire-haired pointer as well. I want to name one of them Watson, the faithful companion of my beloved Sherlock Holmes, but Bryan says that's not a great name to shout when you're out hunting. On our way home from Eatonville we talked about getting chickens. We were originally going to buy eggs and hatch them, but I'm ready for full grown laying hens. I cleaned out our four kennels when we got home, and we're turning one of them into a chicken coop. It has an indoor area and a little opening to the outside, but both are caged. We're going to put the nesting boxes inside with a heat lamp and let them peck and socialize in the outdoor part. I think we'll start with five, and I want to name them Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, my Little Women! We're just going to get hens to start, but eventually I'd like to get a rooster so we can have chickens to eat as well as eggs. I probably won't name those ones. We've also been talking about what kind of larger animals we want. I wanted goats for goat cheese and so they could eat all of our brambles, but we've heard they're hard to control. Bryan wanted sheep to keep the grass clipped and also for wool, but I'm allergic to wool and I don't knit yet. But what we both really want, and what we buy most from the store, is milk and beef, so now the plan is to get a cow and calf. We're going to clear all of the mangled woods in the front yard and replace it with grass, then fence it for grazing. This probably won't happen right away, but we're moving in that direction. Then, if we have a cow, we'll have to get pigs and feed them all the extra milk. We bought a half a pig from friends who raised them on their farm in Bellingham, and the bacon is the best I've ever had! So we'll have home-raised milk, beef, pork, eggs, chicken, fruit, and vegetables. Oh, yeah. I want bees, too, so add honey to that list.
Talking about the garden and the animals we're going to raise is so exciting to me, especially when I think back to the months of waiting before we were able to buy this place and I was feeling less than patient. God gave me a promise from Isaiah 32: "My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood, in safe houses, in quiet gardens … you will enjoy a blessed life, planting well-watered fields and gardens with your farm animals grazing freely." Now it's happening! I am so thankful.
Last night, after an afternoon of physical labor, we sharpened apple wood branches into roasting sticks and cooked chicken apple sausages over the fire pit until they were charred and crackling. The stars shone brightly over the evergreens in the inky black sky, the smoke wafting upward, a pleasing aroma, and we were happy just being together. I went to bed smelling of smoke and sawdust, tired and satisfied. I dreamed sweet dreams and woke refreshed. I think I'm going to love it here.