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.
· · ·
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.
· · ·
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.
Steve in Eugene says
Beth J says
Welcome back, though I confess, I feel a little bit like that episode of “Seinfeld” where Elaine won’t let the others meet her new boyfriend because, “It’s like he’s this adorable squirrel that I’m trying to get to come eat out of my hand and I don’t need you people making any big sudden movements and scaring him AWAY!!”
I’m sure many others are as relieved as I am for the update. I kind of figured that it was something like what you’ve described. I’ve had the same experience as a Guest Writer on thesurvivalmom.com. I got so spun up in my own head that I stopped writing for a year and not sure how to come back; or if I’d even be wanted. I actually did finish 2 articles and partials of about 6 more and I had an idea about how to restart…
I was actually about to try again to contact you for permission to find a way to carry on the fantastic tradition of Eat From The Larder Challenge. Perhaps in the interests of getting back on the blogging horse (and feeling out how much works for you), you could *embrace* the past year’s non-gardenin/non- canning and this year’s Challenge could be a modified one?
~ “Eat From The Larder (For Just 1 Crummy Week) Challenge” or…
~”From Scratch Only Challenge” or maybe…
~”RESTORE the Larder Challenge”; which could focus on planning upcoming garden/preserving with an eye toward the referenced “Restoring” both literally for you (and others) and figuratively in American life.
The beauty of the modified Challenge is that it could be as few or as many posts as you want because you could pull a Coffee Talk (from SNL, remember?) : ” The Larder: it’s not full of lard. Unless it’s full of donuts. Discuss amongst yourselves…”
You’ve been missed, but I’m glad you took the time you needed. (I checked at least once/month to make sure I hadn’t missed you’re reappearance!) Thought often of you as I referenced your book and blog this past year. Glad to hear you are well and look forward to reading you as often as you feel up to posting.
Erica! I’m so glad you enabled comments because I have been wanting to thank you.
What started as a garden blog hunt led me to binge on your site. After repeatedly ignoring references to whatever MMM was, I clicked and a whole world opened.
I am now on my way to financial freedom, and the origin is you. Thank you.
Also thank you for all the beautiful writing.
Erica! You are back!
I feel like I am part of an audience that has been applauding a sensational performer long after she has left the stage hoping she would return for one more encore. And now you are back and we are applauding with more gusto than before.
Looking on the brighter side of your absence, I have had a chance to re-read all your blog posts and reflect on the insights within.
As we say in Australia, keep on truckin’!
So so so glad to hear from you. Keep it real, keep it you and remember that we don’t care whether it’s blah blah blah. We just love whatever you have to tell us. Stay sane you crazy homeschooling momma! I couldn’t imagine with our three boys! You’re a superstar.
John McLellan says
You’re not alone in your need to “disappear for awhile,” many can relate. Your effort to help educate people and make the world better by empowering people with your knowledge and experience (successes and failures, all of it!) is sincerely appreciated by many people, as is evidenced by these incredible comments. That appreciation also comes from strangers to your site like me (who found you through the TSP).
Your efforts are greatly appreciated, and your honesty about how human you are only adds to the awesomeness you’ve built.
Thanks for all you do. No worries, Erika. You wear a lot of hats, only one of which is “educator/entertainer.” Post here when you feel it’s time, and not a moment before. We’ve got you. Cheers indeed! -John M in Montana (husband, dad, musician, gardener, sleep deprived entrepreneur, raging libertarian, and hopeless romantic in all things regarding the human experience)
I look forward to hearing from you again when you are able.
I feel you. I just walked away from our five-acre mini farm on the Olympic Peninsula which is now rented out to some lovely tenants that can do all the tending for a while. I am so done with all of it (for now at least). We moved out of state and now live in a lovely townhouse where I don’t even have to mow the lawn. We are traveling more. I am calling it my ‘year of jubilee’.
Everybody needs a rest now and then.
OMG – I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to read an update post. I, for one, am completely okay with ‘non-committal’ in regards to future posts – just SO glad to hear you’re alright.
I’d logged onto the site to look up the classic pantry stock-up lists to try to get my head around long-term food storage and bulk purchasing (again). http://nwedible.com/food-storage-for-people-who-dont-hate-food/ I did something this past weekend that I’ve been toying with for a while. Joined Costco. After a couple missed Sunday newspaper deliveries (probably a new delivery person) I came to the realization that I only used the Sunday papers in the last few months for the coupons. Everything else about the front page news was a bit unnerving. So, forget the coupons. What a delivered Sunday paper would cost I can get a Costco membership paid for fee & clear. Bulk-purchased rice and beans are definitely in my future!
And, you DO sound alright. Homeschooling, traveling with the fam, reinventing the coop, saying no to what brings you down, taking the garden at your own pace, musing 40 acres big… You go, girl! And, keep us posted… or not. We’re with you in spirit.
All the best!
p.s. My boss said I could head home early today – so I’m going to plant peas. Everything else can wait. Peas cannot. 🙂
So happy you are back! Missed your posts and glad things sound SNAFU vs. devastatingly bad. Never worry about random postings and blowing off social media, I think we’re all just happy to hear from you every now & again.
Agree completely with your disturbance in the force comment – I have been feeling this so strongly too. Silver lining, I think with this election things are more out in the open now. In a way – it’s good we know where we stand and how we are going to have to fight for what we believe in.
Funny – I let my garden die over the summer too btw. I just glared at it and let things die on the vine. This year I think we’re just going to throw in some pollinator seed mix and let the flowers take over.
Always enjoy your posts. Hope you’re getting what you need.
Missed you so much and all of your wonderful gardening advice. Glad you’re ok.
I came across your website by pure coincidence. I was looking for a recipe to do a few jars of jam.. which I unfortunately never did. But I ended up reading most of your posts 🙂
I actually don’t have a garden, no kids and I live in a small apartment in Quebec and not much to ‘manage’ on a daily basis so I can just admire from a anonymous distance.
But I sincerely wanted to Thank You for your blog. It gives me hope for humanity to read from people like yourself. Something written from the heart and genuinely sincere – about life, earth, family, principles and values – which our culture and society seems to neglect more and more each day..
I sincerely admire your lifestyle and there is nothing wrong with disconnecting in life when we need to.
I wish you and your family all the best in your new journey.
Thank you for coming back!!! Oh, and rats in the coop — I hear you. We had them too.
kaisha Hamilton says
I am so glad to hear that you are okay. I wondered, pondered, and agonized over intruding or giving space. I am not the presence you are, but last year i threw my hands up, and this year i finally feel like the fog is lifting and I can garden successfully again. I have missed your blogging, but taking a break is such a wonderful space to give yoruself.
Congrats on the homeschooling journey. I do not know what led you here, but it really is the best adventure! Somedays you might hate it, but most days, its wonderful to watch their passions grow into a life skill.
Jan Kyle says
Good to hear from you! I’ve missed your practical, sage advice. Your projects are durable, well thought out and explained, budget friendly – and meet the need! You’re not afraid to admit when a redo is in order. Can’t wait to see the chicken house remodel and PVC feeders.
I’m just glad you are ok! The top three google searches with your name for a long time were, “What happened to Erica Strauss?”; “Erica Strauss Died”; and “Erica Strauss Obituary.” ???
Wow, I was on the Root Simple blog and saw the Urban Homestead trademarks had been canceled, which led me to look up the Dervaes Institute, since I hadn’t checked in on them in a really long time. One of the links it brought up was a post of yours, so I decided to check in and see if you had started posting again. So glad to see you have. I hope you’ll continue as reading about your adventures was always a highlight.