Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Path of Most Resistance

Some people may think that living on a small farm near a small town in a small state might give one the feeling like they're in some kind of rut.  I prefer to think of it as a well worn track with ample opportunities to go crashing off into the woods to find  your own path, knowing that you can return to the main trail whenever you want to.  We moved back to WV to live the "simple" life.  Little did we know.   Our little 7-sided home nestled into our 67 acre valley was located miles from the mailbox down at the "hard road" and we had visions of daily strolls to pick up our mail and observe nature along the way.  Did I mention that nature has pretty steep hills and lots of creek crossings around here?

The cold, wet March weather that almost got  the best of us during our move from Kentucky, soon erupted into a hot, dry April.  There was so much to do on our little homestead this first summer!  We added more raised beds to our  hillside vegetable garden, built a little shed to put things in, documented wild flowers growing in the steep ravines, cut firewood for the winter and bought another farm.  What?  We just moved to this house!  So much for strolling to the mail box.

Our new farm, a couple of miles from our house in the woods, was more open, had a bit of useable land, a wonderful old barn and a waterfall.  It also had mountains of trash and junk on that useable land and a dilapidated house that we sort of "failed to consider".   Mostly what I remember about the house was the snake slithering down the stairway.   But it has a waterfall!  Getting to the point we could actually move to our new farm turned out to be one of those side trails that consumed our daily life for 5 years.  We tore much of the old house down and slowly rebuilt it.  We cleaned up junk piles.  Most evenings were spent with "how to" books trying to figure out  "now exactly what pitch does that drain pipe need to be?" or "how does that 3-way light switch work again?"  Some skills required a bit of personal instruction such as "who knew you could remove an entire wall with a circular saw?"

Just as we had one foot back on the main trail and were living in our "new" house (note: having a kitchen isn't REALLY necessary) I ventured into the wonderful wacky world of rental real estate.  Small houses in town at the time were very inexpensive and I had a theory.  Spend cash on a house, finance the tractor I want, use the rent to pay for the tractor and voila! you have a house AND a tractor.  If one house is good,  two must be better.  Why waste all those great renovation skills that we just spent time learning?  Let me just say that crawling around in the mud under a house to repair leaking pipes is an excellent reason to consider putting those skills to other uses.

Over the next year things finally settled into a fairly calm routine. The house was mostly finished and I was to the point of saying "who needs trim anyway?"   At least we had a great kitchen.  By now Don had his woodworking shop where he spent his idle hours carving spoons and exploring rustic furniture construction.  And I was fortunate enough to get a Spinone, a wonderful pointing breed from Italy.  "I want to show my dog" were the six most dreaded words I could have uttered to my poor hubby.  Don however, now used to my diversions, happily went along.  Due to technical difficulties with my first Spinone, I just had to get another one to show.  I enjoyed it so much that a third Spinone just "came along" .  We dabbled successfully in conformation, hunt testing and obedience.  Then gas prices went sky high and we basically stopped showing.  We all returned to the farm to live the "simple life" - again.  Wrong.

Now that we were home more, Don and I began spending more time in the shop (mostly in winter) making  rustic furniture.  As our skill and inventory grew we explored retail sales outlets, craft fairs and a did few gallery shows.  I managed to set up a website.  It became a business.  Not simple.  We were also in the "locavore" and self-sufficieny modes.  I decided that a good addition to our homestead would be a home dairy.  I could hear the muffled cries: "you can buy milk at the store!!!" as I went crashing off into the woods again.  However,  I did pause long enough to confer with all involved parties as to the committment involved in home milk production.  Soon we bought two Nubian goat kids.  We had second thoughts so we sold them a year later.  I got depressed.  Don found me in our little barn sniffing hay.  I had fallen in love with goats and wanted more.  Fast forward a couple of years and we now have a milking machine, another website, and a herd of 11 dairy goats, soon to increase exponentially by the looks of the pregnant girls.

On occasion, the woods would reach out and yank us off of the well worn path.   These were  mainly land ownership, mineral rights and gas-well drilling issues.  Although we are both geologists by profession, the prospect of having wells drilled on your property where you own mineral rights, as well as property where you don't own your mineral rights, was not something we anticipated.  As a result, much time was spent getting up to speed on this aspect of land ownership in WV.  

As we discovered over the past 15 years, living the simple life isn't all that simple.  So, anyone care to come along for a hike?


  1. Thanks, but no thanks, for the hike offer. I'll just experience them vicariously through your tales. Or more simply put, Ward thinks you're crazy.

  2. Ward has a way of cutting right to the chase :-) Pretty accurate too, but I couldn't stand it any other way.