Many of you have reached out. Thank you for that, truly. That I didn’t respond, I ask you please not to take personality. I’ve been deep in my own head for far too much of the past year, and just needed a cocoon of quiet.
I will admit that this latest cocoon of quiet may have taken things to a bit of an extreme.
It turns out I wrote about this same, need-to-hide-away-from-it-all feeling years and years ago, in a post called The Personality of Perennials. I had completely forgotten about this post until a reader (former reader?) sent it to me with a lovely, thoughtful note.
What this reader did, without realizing it, was give me the gift of an out. She gave me the ability to say: “Here’s how I’ve been. Follow this link. It explains everything.”
This is a gift because now, somehow, I don’t feel like I have to break the silence with something momentous. I don’t have to spin the last year into a poem of lessons learned, adventures had, hardship overcome. Because honestly, there’s no great story to tell, no gossip to share.
I just needed to think through a lot of stuff, and those thoughts were too sticky and viscous to put into tidy sentences and paragraphs. And they were too far off-topic for this blog, even once my brain began, slowly, to organize them.
Of course, I never intended to go radio-silent for a year. It just sort of happened, one “not today” at a time, until the whole thing felt very awkward.
A couple weeks ago my friend Paul Wheaton called me and said, “Just make a post and say, blah, blah, blah. Just ‘blah,’ over and over again.” And I laughed and said, “Dude, I’m not going to do that.” Paul compromised: “Okay, then, take some time, figure your shit out, but then get back to doing what you do.”
I don’t think my shit is figured out quite yet. Figuring out your shit is a process, right? Not a singular event? I sure hope so. But it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the day after Paul’s phone call, I picked up my garden fork and began the long walk of gardener shame out to my hideously weed-filled beds.
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Here’s the past year, outside of my own head.
Until about two weeks ago, I ignored my yard. I didn’t garden at all. Didn’t grow a single tomato last summer. Gave the garden the stink eye when it insisted on cheerfully producing a ton of perennial food despite my neglect. I picked about a zillion pounds of plums and turned them into wine, but that was it. The apples and pears and raspberries fell to the ground and rotted in place. I far preferred curling up on the couch to claiming dominion over my patch of earth last year.
I started homeschooling the kids. Homeschooling is parenting on steroids. If you mostly enjoy parenting, I think you’d mostly love homeschooling. If you mostly get irritated with parenting, I think you’d mostly hate homeschooling. It’s absolutely the right choice for our family.
Many of my stickier thoughts revolved around society, global geopolitics and resource allocation issues. I responded to the emotional difficulty inherent in some of these thoughts by doing what any self-respecting suburbanite does: going to Costco. In this case, for a few extra bags of beans and rice. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I don’t think the next few years are going to see a big increase in global stability. You might want a backup bag of rice in your pantry, too.
The whole family went to Kauai. (The featured image for this post is a shot overlooking part of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please do! It’s truly amazing.) It was Oliver’s first time on a plane. We have plans to travel more. I like to pretend this is because travel can be an amazing component of homeschooling (and it can!), but really it’s just me deciding life is really short, and it’s time I use those airline miles I’ve been saving up for 15 years. Maybe more on family travel later.
I learned that I am way, way happier as a person keeping my social media presence to a bare minimum. I don’t know when shares, clicks, and follows became confused with human worth, and echo chambers became confused with conversations, but that’s just not a ride I want back on. Blogging has a lot of upsides – but the business of blogging makes me die a tiny bit on the inside. Let someone else deal with phrases like, “effective brand monetization via key social media influencers.” That’s just not my thing. I don’t want it.
This spring I obsessively looked for a 40 acre parcel of raw land within 2 hours of my home to start a dream rural permaculture homestead retreat. (This was at the same I felt completely overwhelmed by the actual work required to manage my puny 1/3rd of an acre in suburbia. Irony!) Wouldn’t it be so cool if this post was all about how I bought a piece of rural property and I’m building swales on contour and selecting trees to cut down for our homebuilt cabin? Alas, no. But I am feeling a lot more positive about the 1/3rd of an acre I do have.
I continued my role as periodic guest-answerer-person over on The Survival Podcast. You can listen to my answers on selected podcasts tagged “Expert Council.” If you don’t follow TSP, it’s a great podcast – and far broader in focus than just beans, bullets and bandaids. I especially value the practical, homestead-focused advice.
I’ve dealt with some health stuff this past year. Nothing big, nothing too scary, but enough that there have been little disruptions in my life. Here’s an example. I stabbed my pinkie breaking down some duct tape and PVC construction masterpiece my son created. The scissors slipped and I sliced through a nerve. Now my pinkie finger won’t bend all the way and I have pain up my forearm when I grip things in certain ways. Just little shit, you know? I feel older. But maybe I’m a little wiser, too? Wise enough to just throw the duct-tape masterpiece in the trash in it’s entirety next time.
We totally re-tooled the chicken coop! Oh my gosh, guys, this really excites me. Our coop is functioning so well these days. Unfortunately, the story starts off really gross – with rats. Rats (endemic in our neighborhood, apparently) found a rusted-out section of hardware cloth under the coop that allowed them access, and tunneled straight up to the promised land of chicken feed and eggs. Long story short, this resulted in: (1) Rat City under the coop, (2) me completely freaking out, and (3) a coop remodel. The coop now boasts a sweet, rat-proof, concrete floor, a gorgeous red metal roof, a fresh paint job and the best PVC-feeders this side of Pinterest. Oh, and we’ve learned that wood stove pellets make fantastic coop liter.
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Those are the highlights. Life is ok. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be back to a place where I can think less and dig more. The past year has been weird, and I don’t think it’s just me, and I’m not just talking about US politics. There’s just been a real “disturbance in the force” kinda vibe. Have you felt it too?
As for this blog, I don’t how often I’ll be back. I kinda miss doing Five Thing Fridays, to be honest. And I’d like to show you the neat stand-up PVC pipe feeder in the coop. Hell, maybe I’ll even find that plot of land one day.
But for now, I know I can’t promise McDonalds-like consistency. The requirements of business blogging just aren’t where I am right now. That way lies madness for me and broken promises to you.
But until next time, thank you. I’ll try not to be such a stranger.
Love you guys.