I Choose Joy July 2017

Yowza!! This past month has been a hot, simmering, summer slice of change and movement. Many days when I’m sweating it out under the fan after coming in from farm chores, I remember and reflect just how basic our thankfulness should be.

We all like to joke about our “first world problems,” but if you ever take a spin through third world life for even a short season, it gives you a little perspective on what not to complain about, as well as simple things to smile about.

So first, things we’ve survived without (albeit temporarily) that I’d like to acknowledge and appreciate:

  • opening up the faucet and feeling hot, clean water
  • flicking on a switch and enjoying warm, stained glass light
  • sitting in front of a whirling electric fan on a sweltering day
  • feeling a fresh breeze through screened windows, leaving most of the bugs outside
  • opening up the fridge and being able to throw something together for dinner . . . even if it’s just things like rice, chicken, beans, tortillas, cheese, milk, eggs – what a feast!

Farm fresh eggs

Life is abundant. Life is also scarce and grasping many times. But we can acknowledge life’s myriad facets and strive to trust God during both feast and famine, and all the better.

More July joys for the Big Country/Liberty clan:

  • Celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. Our beautiful former host family of 12 watched the kids, and we enjoyed a restful break with sushi, Beren and Luthien, a time to reflect and dream, and a kayak adventure across the gorgeous evening lake.
  • Big Country beating out 100 other candidates for a spot in this fall’s Fire Academy. So proud! We are moving onward and upward.
  • Mamaw’s visit. Yummy food, visiting friends, meeting her fun AirBnB host, and taking the kids to the splash pool and lazy river for Firebell’s third birthday.
  • Big’s co-workers stopping by and taking time to build a little tiny house made out of Legos for the kids.

Lego Tiny House

  • Baby Hazelnut beginning to crawl! And I am suddenly aware of how non-babyproof this tiny house still is. Well, at least the loft railing is up!
  • Spending some one-on-one time with Rig, reading several books to him at his request, as the little girls napped.
  • Playing in mud puddles after summer rains.
  • Mamaw’s homemade pillows and curtains. What would a tiny home be without those sweet touches?

Homemade pillows in the tiny house

  • Big massaging a chicken with a bent neck, comically trying to restore its mobility as he has with his human clients.
  • Being invited, so many times now, to the family gatherings here on the farm. Hope they’re not asking us to join in just because our house is blocking the picnic table and the fire pit!
  • Rig beside himself with anticipation about chicken processing day! Participating and learning so much about this age-old community event.

Old-fashioned chicken processing

  • The kids doing each other’s hair, putting clips in baby Hazelnut’s wispy topknot.
  • Seeing the kids’ faces light up with joy as they wade into a swimming pool.
  • Picking chokecherries in the rain, out of the bed of the pickup truck.

Picking chokecherries

  • Late at night, making delicious, rich chokecherry juice.

Fresh chokecherry juice

  • Library and park time. Enjoying the three kids playing together quietly and busily in the train room.
  • Cloudy, drizzling cool afternoons, often accompanied by full rainbows. So refreshing to sit out in lawn chairs and watch the majestic thunderheads rolling in.
  • Cherry pie at a local hole-in-the-wall and a drive to the dairy with a good friend.
  • The gentlemanly, yet ornery raw milk dairy manager.
  • A mysterious card from an anonymous friend wishing us “Home Sweet Home” and including two generous gift cards. Whoever you are, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Home Sweet Home

I Choose Joy April 2017

This month in the tiny house on the farm was one of ups and downs, sickness and blooming flowers, setbacks and promise of joy to come. Here are some highlights and simple joys of April . . .

  • Spotting a raccoon hurrying along the fence in the moonlight.
  • Mud puddle play in our farm boots.

Playing in mud puddles

  • Hearing neighbors’ peacocks and horses bray in the distance.
  • Pancake breakfast at the local firehouse.
  • Kids riding bikes, jumping on the trampoline, and picking dandelions together.

Picking dandelions outside the tiny house

  • Quiet afternoons reading with a napping baby in my lap.
  • Wildly chasing chickens into their greenhouse in the evening.
  • Running into friends with three little kids our kids’ ages. Life for both of us is unrecognizable from five years ago!
  • Easter egg hunt here at the farm with good friends and their toddler joining ours.
  • Rig’s imaginative stories about T-Rex whales, everwhite apple trees, tsunamis, avalanches, and riding on the backs of sharks.

May you live all the days of your life

  • Giving a massage to a long-time client and friend. It feels good to do something so valuable for someone else!
  • Picnic with Big Country at the coffee house with the kids playing together nearby.
  • Discovery museum with friends . . . stuffed bison, megaladon teeth, unique musical instruments, and of course rubber ducks and trains for the toddlers:)
  • Hot spicy stew and delicious homemade kombucha with friends on a rainy day.

  • Mamaw and Papaw coming into town!
  • A beautiful, colorful, joyful quilt of little houses, made with love by Mamaw.

I Choose Joy March 2017

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Spring is in full swing! Here are my moments of thankfulness this past month. Think back . . . what are yours?

Plum blossoms on the farm

  • White plum blossoms emerging on the farm.
  • String lights hung under our loft, a festive glow for the evening to eat, relax, visit with friends, and read.
  • Clean windows! For the first time post-construction, we found time to thoroughly clean the windows, and it makes such a difference.
  • Firebell enjoying a daddy-daughter date and squealing as a calf at the dairy licked her!

Calf at the dairy

  • Teaching Rig about the north slope of mountains by showing him the snowy side of the wood chip piles.
  • Rig to Firebell, pointing to hydrangeas: “those flowers look just like you!”
  • Kids finding blue jay feathers and decorating our table with them.

Blue jay feathers and lemons

  • Cuddling up in the loft at night, our faces pressed together. “You’re my special Firebell.” “And you’re my special Mommy.”
  • Rig explaining that his icecle seed will grow into an icecle the size of a tall pine tree.
  • Baby’s first tractor ride! And the two kids riding in the trailer behind us over the bumpy pasture.
  • The kids so thrilled when we unpacked their books! And us, too. So glad to see the favorites we’ve saved all this time, including the little free library find of the century, a leather bound, author-illustrated The Hobbit!

Firebell reading books in tiny house library

  • Horses we can now see running and frolicking in the neighbor’s pasture.
  • Hearing the kids practice saying the chicken breeds here at the farm: Black Austrolorps, Buff Orpingtons, Araukanas, and Rhode Island Reds.
  • And one hen we’ve named Henny Penny, wandering into our house!
  • Rig telling me about inventing an airplane that plants wildflowers.
  • Dinner visit from our friends who live out in the country in a converted, solar Tuff Shed. A beautiful evening, and good to share it with others who understand the life of a hand-built homestead, an interim home with quirks and challenges.

Tiny house family

  • Our friends, the Italy host family couple, pulling up in their car one rainy night during dinner to come see us and the house … “Hope you don’t mind, we brought three homeless people with us!” All ten of us, seven adults and three kids, standing in the middle of the house talking and pointing around the house at the progress we’ve made, or lack thereof! “This is really nice,” the elderly man in the group softly said.

Tiny house quilt

I Choose Joy February 2017

At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to not only endure but move toward thriving through gratitude.

So now every day I try to write down the simple joys, the unexpected blessings. Through a fog of stress and exhaustion, these joyful times shine through as pinpoints of light.

I choose joy. And this month’s joys are . . .

  • The kids chattering happily together during one of their long, lingering lunches at home.
  • Coffee with a new realtor friend, discussing future possibilities for us, our tiny house, and a new future home.
  • During a particularly difficult morning, Rig encouraging me, “Mommy, it’s going to be a great day . . . tomorrow.”
  • Witnessing a newborn calf nursing and wobbling around at the dairy.
  • Visiting the saw mill with the kids and watching a log loader up close.
  • Our new washerdryer! Thank you Mamaw and Papaw!
Loading the washerdryer combo
Firebell hard at work unloading the washerdryer
  • The freedom to have the kids play safely outside on the farm without me right there.
  • Wearing sandals much of the month! And still burning the wood stove at night.
  • Snuggly, chubby baby asleep against me in the wrap.
  • Sitting in the sun with a good friend watching the kids play at the park.
  • Pizza lunches, laughs, and playtime for the kids with two different sets of friends who let us invite ourselves over after church.
  • A special Valentine’s day dinner put on by our Italy host family of 12, complete with dollar store table decorations, a homemade card, and a timely book about God’s sovereignty and goodness. What better way to spend Valentine’s than with a dozen kids? We love you, too!

Homemade Valentine's day card

  • Watching pink sunrises out the loft window as we wake up.
  • The kids laughing gleefully at our Mr. R using the wood chipper.

Rig and Firebell on the farm watching the wood chipper

  • The grass arriving!
  • Running outside to take down diapers and clothes from the clothesline just in time before the evening rains.
  • Hunting for hard-to-find eggs in the nests the chickens have been secretly making in the bushes . . . our very own Easter egg hunt!
  • Seeing myriad clumps of pristine snow on the evergreen boughs on the way through Lyons to Estes Park.
  • Big Country building our sleeping loft and surprising me with flowers in my favorite colors.
  • Feeling more at home here in the tiny house.

Onward to March, and on to Spring!

I Choose Joy January 2017

My New Year’s resolution this year, what I’m resolved to do because it’s difficult but vital, is Joy. This year, I’m on the hunt for joy in the simple things.

I could easily drown in the worries of today . . . and they are very real . . . but instead I want to be grateful for what is good and pure and true.

This is partly because it’s the right thing to do, to give us a real perspective on how blessed we are and plant gratitude deep in the heart. But partly, it’s simply so that I can continue to endure this season and not just survive but thrive.

Thrive . . . bloom, blossom, boom . . .

. . . flourish, grow, prosper . . .

. . . shine, radiate, rise, wax . . .

And so, some simple joys this month . . .

  • The farm’s new roosters! Hearing them cock-a-doodle-do, watching them strut, the shiny black feathers flashing green in the sun. Listening to the kids talk about, imitate, and name them (Ponytail and Orange).
  • The kids eating up their rice and beans and asking for seconds and thirds. I guess they’re not feeling deprived!
  • Dinner with friends here at the tiny house, pleasantly discussing wood stoves, frozen hoses, truckloads of squash, and medicinal tea sales at the nearest bargain grocery.
  • Not having TV during an election season!
  • The grocery store’s florist offering us a free sample bouquet of fresh flowers.
  • Becoming more versatile with simple, hearty meals. Favorites: 1) oatmeal with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, butter, and cream; 2) rice and beans cooked in homemade broth with onions and herbs; 3) harvest stew with beef, pumpkin, apples, and beets.
  • Gathering eggs, sometimes surprised by six or eight under one hen.
  • Catching up at a friend’s while doing laundry and enjoying some breathing space in a big house.
  • Watching a sleek coyote stalk geese across the frosty pasture one early morning.
  • Watching big hay bales being delivered on a semi truck next door at the feed store.
  • Being trusted and needed by the farmer and his wife on whose land we live. Falling into the rhythm of life on a farm in winter.
  • Making the long, scenic drive to church and drinking a thermos of hot chocolate while catching up with Big.
  • Warm, sun-filled days walking across the pasture, watching the kids play in the creek bed, play king of the mountain on the wood chip piles, bulldoze through leaves in the garden, and fly down the porch ramp on their scooter.
  • Visiting our Italy-traveling host family of 12 for the day, the kids running around and playing for hours.
  • Attending a jewelry party with lots of fun gals, baked brie, and my sweet sleeping baby. No need to buy anything for me; the camaraderie and the break itself were well worth it.
  • Gaining confidence in problem-solving issues that have arisen with the house: planing the door so it doesn’t stick; cleaning out creosote from the chimney.
  • A cheery, fiercely burning fire in the wood stove at night.
  • A spark of hope, energy, and optimism about a future career and even long-term housing prospects. We are moving forward in the adventure!

What are your simple joys of this month? Share in our newly opened comments below!

Glamping with Baby

“Is it everything you ever dreamed of?!” asked a breathless ten-year-old neighbor the week after moving into our tiny-house-under-construction with our nine-day-old baby. I burst out laughing. Where to begin?

Liberty glamping with baby

Eleven months after jettisoning our stuff and moving out to begin our adventure of tiny house designing and building, we are now living in our very own cozy little home! It is exciting. It is so much of what we dreamed of. The first night lying in bed, we looked over our heads out the curtainless window and watched the stars for a brief minute before we fell instantly asleep.

tiny house unfinished interior

For the past month during these immense changes, our blog has malfunctioned and gone down, and with its absence, I’ve felt like I’ve lost my sense of clarity about what is happening. We’ve crossed the threshold of living with others to living in a home of our own on a friend’s family farm. We’ve gone from a family of four to a family of five with new dynamics, stresses, and joys. The tiny house is not at all finished, and life isn’t easy. Sometimes I laugh at the irony of a first-world couple willingly choosing to do the things we’ve been doing this past first month of our new life, and, as Big Country says, we have to laugh to keep from crying.

Hand washing laundry in a hand crank barrel and wringing out the sopping clothes in the chilly November air to line dry. Squatting down to hand wash dishes in the tub and drying them on a rack perched on the water tank. Pulling back the shower curtain that serves as a bathroom wall to use the sawdust bucket toilet. Lugging the heavy five-gallon water bucket from the outspout of the trailer to the weeds several times a day. Rearranging dishes and baskets of food on our plywood counter in order to prepare a meal. Hurrying out in the wind to chop fallen branches and cedar siding scraps to feed the little wood stove at night. Tripping over the tornado path of tarps, wood, wires, tools, and boxed possessions strewn all through the build site.

As well as installing the kitchen sink, tung oiling the bathroom, and stuffing alpaca wool into the ceiling in a race against the winter weather. And of course all the feeding, clothing, diapering, refereeing sandbox fights, and kissing skinned knees of the three little ones.

tiny house glamping with baby

Many of these deficits in comfort will end, as we eventually purchase a washing machine, run a greywater line out to the pasture, build a bathroom wall, install counters, and finish task after task on the house. But some of these aspects will simply stay the same or change a little, as we grow into our new life here.

Why would anyone do this? The truth is, we have to keep reminding ourselves the reasons to keep going despite the immense mental and physical stamina this path has demanded. And while the toll has been great, the reasons are still compelling.

This year has been an unprecedented, serendipitous opportunity. With the generous help of friends, we have built a home that is warm, comfortable, sun-filled, and aesthetically personal; a place of visiting, relaxing, playing, cooking, eating, resting, and raising a family. And helping out with the farm’s chickens and gardens, in exchange we have a beautiful place to live with no rent.

farm tractor chores

Although we continue to spend money on building supplies and house necessities, these purchases will eventually diminish to a normal home’s level (or hopefully tinier!). And after student loans and other debts are paid (what a glorious day), what we’re left with are living expenses consisting mostly of groceries, gas for the truck, a post office box, and paying our small share of the utilities.

This was the plan: to take a temporary, voluntary step away from first-world conveniences and have a little gumption, take a little risk, embrace a little extra work (ok, a lot) in order that the deficits in comfort now pay dividends of freedom and funds in the future.

I can’t say we’re camping exactly, because our insulation, hot running water, and electricity certainly catapult us out of the category of those roughing it in tents. But even as an experiment in glamping, it has had its challenges as we find our groove doing new chores and work on getting the essentials, like water and warmth and clean clothes, covered before falling into bed at night.

So what is glamping with a baby, on a farm, in a tiny house, in the late autumn, really like?

At its noisiest, it is nursing the baby, comforting the crying toddler, and encouraging the frustrated child learning his letters, while stirring the stew, glancing at the tank’s water level, looking out at the chickens who need their eggs gathered, and reaching for a log to feed the wood stove.

tiny house wood stove

At its quietest, it is feeling the afternoon sun’s warm slanting rays as the children nap. Bundling the sleeping baby in my wrap and holding hands with the two little ones for a walk through the pasture. Stirring cranberries, jalapeƱos, and honey in a pot late at night while the embers glow and warm the house.

sunbathing baby tiny home

At its happiest, it is sunbathing the wide-eyed baby through the big window; hearing Big Country’s truck clank up the drive after a long day; sharing a hearty meal of sausage, eggs, potatoes, and peppers, with a side of sauerkraut and pickled beets, washed down with a friend’s homemade apple cider.

I would say it’s a fair mix of new and exhausting experiences. Many times it is overwhelming and depressing and chilly and dirty. But sometimes there are moments of magic when Big Country and I catch each other’s eye and smile in a way that I imagine many people through the years have shared a glow when they are walking together through some adventure of great risk. When Marian, forsaking and gaining so much at once, first walks hand in hand with Robin through his clandestine camp, laundry hanging from the trees in the starlight.

shelter from the snow