When I was eight months pregnant with Annabelle and Stewart had to do more of the water hauling for dishes, filtering, and laundry; he put a solar-powered pump into the old cabin. It was a sort of stopgap between having to haul water for everything in those months surrounding a birth and our plan to someday use good-old gravity to feed water to the places we needed it most.


Two things I’ve found in living off-grid for nearly four years now is that domestic chores are possibly the most impacted by a move away from modern conveniences, and drainage is more important than running water. When we went cold turkey and moved to a nearly bare piece of land with no more than a camper and a water catchment system, we did that for many reasons and not one of them was because we were opposed to making life work in a practical way.


We didn’t necessarily set out to make things as hard as they could be but in some ways we certainly made decisions that made them harder than they had to be. There were always things higher on the priority list that needed to come first and so we lived in our temporary structure with our temporary infrastructure for much longer than was originally planned.


I probably don’t have to tell you that this is a huge step towards sustainability for us – both in utilizing a natural phenomenon to not rely on pumps or solar panels or electricity to bring water into our home, but also in making life livable and doable with a growing family, a dream of living off the land, and a reality of still very much living in an industrialized world.

So things have changed, certainly, and to a greater extent than I may even recognize myself, my day-to-day life has lost a great deal of struggle and frustration. But it doesn’t seem like the biggest thing right now.


Off topic, but not really… today marks our tenth anniversary. The boys ask every year “Are we going to do anything on our anniversary?” which of course fills our hearts for it is our anniversary. I look around after ten years with this man (who surely must have forgotten himself on that fateful day, or rather the day four months prior when he actually asked me to marry him), the four beautiful, healthy children who surround us, their baby brother or sister who is now on the way (cat, meet out of the bag), and can you blame me if somehow running water is not the biggest miracle in the room?

But it is here, nonetheless, saving time and trips to the tank and requests for yet another pot of water from my little men. And I am grateful for it.

It kind of crept up on me, though. Somehow, after years of thinking and talking and waiting and praying, gravity-fed water made it to the top of the list. I wasn’t really expecting it and didn’t see it coming when Stewart laid out his plans weeks ago. I think I stared blankly at him for a minute the morning he told me this would be the day they poured the concrete inside of the frame surrounded by dirt-filled tires. That giant hole in the ground we dug for the underground house we may never build is now working very well as a huge pond for the gardens. And the dirt piles left behind – specifically the one directly behind our completely unplanned but nevertheless quite welcome house – have made for a great site to plop a water tank on top of.


And so one morning when we were expecting highs in the upper 90s, Stewart and the boys set out quite early to mix and pour around 1200 pounds of concrete. The boys helped a great deal, as usual, and it was a sweet sight to work in the kitchen throughout the morning with these little ladies by my side while listening to Daddy and his boys working together just beyond the window.


Elijah was quite serious about keeping the concrete damp as needed.

IMG_7698With the sun beating down in this very exposed spot, Stewart and the boys hustled to finish up the job before the noonday sun took hold.


When I saw that they were nearly finished I was a bit dizzied; all of it came as a surprise to me. Of course, Stewart had mentioned it many times to me as he almost always runs ideas and projects of this nature by me and of course we had had it mind from the get-go, but I think somewhere along the way I learned to stop waiting. It is easy to always be in a state of waiting for the next thing on the list; the next job that precedes the next influx of cash that precedes the next infrastructure project that we’ve convinced ourselves that we need because somewhere at some point we decided there was a certain checklist of things that had to be done.

I find that state to be quite exhausting and am happy, instead, to be striving for a different state – one that completely opposes the state of waiting. It is the state of contentment that often eludes me, does not seem to coexist in my previous state of waiting, and therefore is a state I find myself in constant prayer of.


Apparently the fun part of states such as this is that fun surprises sneak up on you. For just as we declared lunch ready, Daddy and the boys were finishing up sweaty and exhausted, but done before the heat of the day could consume them. And now all we had to do was wait for the concrete to cure.


Later, after the concrete had cured, Stewart poured some sand in places to ensure a more level surface. He may have missed his calling as an abstract artist.


And then, at the end of a day filled with happy surprises, Ruthie Bear pushed the 1500 gallon water tank up the hill all by herself with just one hand. Not really, but that expedition will have to be a post in and of itself.


One of my favorite times of the day during these summer months is what I refer to as Dinner Pickin’ Time. It’s usually a bit past the hottest point in the day but I still don my sunhat. Sometimes I bring out a bowl and other times an apron is all you need for some salad fixings. Without fail I nearly always have a partner in picking.


We’ve been slowly moving into more harvesting and less planting and waiting. The garlic was pulled a couple of weeks ago and I’m realizing I will have to pace myself so that we have enough for seed this fall. Also, plant more garlic.


Salads have been plentiful which is just how we like it. A bit of greens, some onion or chives, and whatever bits and bobs I can find at Dinner Pickin’ Time usually make their way in.

IMG_7821These little radish pods have been a fun new garden item. The radish plant is grown for the pods instead of the roots. If you let them get big enough they have a very mild radish flavor and the fresh bite of a snap pea. I think we’ll be doing these again. But again, I must pace myself as Stewart wants to save seed.


Most days now we’re picking cowpeas and the most exciting of all – blackberries! We have a few bushes producing this year which equates to roughly a handful of berries per day which are carefully rationed to each member of the family. Of course, there has been lots of talk of needing to plant ten times as many blackberries next year. IMG_7883

This was one of our favorite suppers recently. A plate of homemade and gifted ferments, a pot of homegrown green beans with a gifted squash thrown in, a (completely store-bought, organic) roasted chicken, and salad made of homegrown lettuce and gifted tomatoes.


Those gifted squash and tomatoes have been accompanied by plenty of tomatoes and zucchini from generous neighbors. We eat so many vegetables when they are fresh and available like this that having more than we can handle seems nearly impossible.


The giant zucchinis, however, were more than I could contend with (read: shove down the family’s gullets). So, we had zucchini for breakfast in the form of these zucchini oat flour pancakes.


Besides the gallon of fermented cucumber and zucchini pickles, I also threw a bunch of the green beasts into the dehydrator for soups and stews. Fermentation and dehydration are certainly my favorite forms of food preservation… that is besides just eating up the harvest as it comes.

Stewart and I have often talked of planting and planning in a way that feeds us year round with a little to tuck away for later. This mitigates against the huge glut of produce that must be preserved all at once as well as the other problem we have more often faced which is a complete lack of fresh food.

It seems every year we get a little closer to that goal which is still quite far away. And every year we realize that there is no such thing as growing too much.