Saturday, May 14, 2016

Homesteading Fears - Too Much To Do

Homesteading and tiny home living topics are trending. Many of us daydream while reading self-sufficient living articles during every moment of free time.  I am not implying that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, I am thankful that I can use the internet to research any topic I may need in preparation for living at The Shack.  I can read the writings of women much like me who are choosing to live as I would love to be living right now. Currently, homestead living seems popular and easy-peasy. This past weekend did not seem a bit glamorous on the mountain ridge. In fact, preparing for homesteading felt pretty overwhelming at times. 

the spring showers view from the back deck

Springtime at The Shack

Morel mushrooms are sprouting, the dogwoods are in full bloom, and the weather is warm enough that I light the fire in the wood stove only at night.  But I don't wake every hour or so, shivering, to add wood. I made my meals on the grill, including one huge mushroom feast. 

morel mushrooms grown on my land

Birds are singing. Deer are grazing. And flowers are blooming everywhere.  The views are breath-taking as I watch spring storms roll in and back out.

Spring showers also mean water in The Shack. Not the kind I carry in (I do not have a water source onsite yet).  Spring showers brings the kind of water that drips in from the leaking roof.  I catch some of it so that I can water my plants during drier times.  But I need a good, solid rain collection system.

To-Do List:

  • fix roof (nail down the flapping metal sheets at the least)
  • add gutters
  • plan and install rain barrel system
  • decide whether to insulate The Shack or tear it down

Intruders: Garlic Mustard and Tent Caterpillars

I read an article in the local newspaper (local to The Shack) detailing how horrifically damaging the garlic mustard weed is.  Deer won't eat it and in 5-7 years it can destroy a forest floor. And guess what I have growing a-plenty on my four acres? Yes. The dreaded garlic mustard weed is in full flower at my place. The best way to eradicate it is to pull it out by it's roots. I spent hours pulling flowers out of my woods. I only cleared a spot smaller than my teeny apartment.

invasive Garlic Mustard weed

Garlic mustard is not my only unwanted intruder. I wrote about my discovery of my tent caterpillar infestation after my last visit to The Shack.  I broke down and used a bit of chemical spray on my apple trees.  In the meantime, I studied more about those plentiful "worms" in my trees.  I want to control them naturally, if I can.  But when I returned during this visit, I noted that while my apple trees looked a bit healthier, many of my other trees were under siege.  One tree was completely covered and looked a bit like a prop from the Blair Witch movie.

ominous Tent Caterpillar tent 

My precious new "antique" rose was also covered in hungry caterpillars.  I sprayed the rose. Then went on to knock the web-like tents down from trees -- one highly recommended way of controlling these pests without chemicals.  

How did I knock down worm nests from trees, you ask?  With a looooong piece of skinny PVC pipe the previous owners had left behind.  It was a bit like using a pole-vaulting pole (made of a limp noodle) to poke a water balloon stuck in the top of a tree.  Focus, aim, poke, if successful run away to dodge the dropping worms, and repeat. I had thicker PVC pipes of the same length, but the light pipe was easier for me to lift for a longer period of time. As a side note: I did not work up the courage to get under that Blair Witch-like tree and knock the massive webs down.

To-Do List:

  • pull the flowering garlic mustard from the remaining 3.9 acres
  • learn to better identify the first year garlic mustard plants (they look different than the 2nd year flowering plants) so I can pull them also
  • pole-vault pole poke the remaining 500 worm-infested trees in my woods

Flower Beds and Rock Gardens

I planted two teeny dianthus plants and another small lavender plant.  Planting and weeding my miniature flowerbed with a pickax. I truly began to wonder about my sanity. Who would work a flowerbed with a pickax? Who would bother? Why am I bothering?  As I chopped the stone littered ground, and made puns about rock gardens, I noticed the gladiolas had broken through the rubble and the lilies had little buds. Later, I came out and picked some mint leaves for my water. Sitting on the deck, sipping my mint water, I decided that I'd stick with the flower bed... if for no other reason, for the fresh mint.

To-Do List

  • install that trellis!
  • transfer the climbing rose from my apartment balcony to the trellis - before it gets big enough to want to climb
  • find a way to plant the sunflowers - as something feasted on the sprouts that were present during the last visit

Miscellaneous Thoughts and Feelings

This weekend, it seemed like each thought I had, and each thing I did, added more to my to-do list.  

  • buy or cut a big "round" for a chopping block
  • install the amazing hand-wood splitter I have that is still in it's box - waiting to be useful
  • cut my downed trees for winter firewood
  • make a compost bin before my DIY version of a "luggable loo" gets full
  • save money for the septic installation
  • patch the air mattress (Willy's toenails are SHARP!)
  • save money so I can remodel or rebuild
  • decide if it would be better to remodel or rebuild
  • on and on and on
  • and on and on and on

Late Saturday afternoon, I sat on the deck and rested my sore muscles.  I felt overwhelmed. I began to wonder, what had I gotten myself into. Full of fear, I started texting a friend. I focused on how much I had to do and how little I had gotten finished. He texted back. Trying to be supportive he said things such as: it's okay to just sit there and relax. It's okay to have days to go up there and do nothing. Just enjoy.

He really made me a little bit mad.  It's not that easy to just sit and enjoy when weeds and worms are threatening my woods. There is just too much to do in general. I feel old and out of shape. I'm not physically strong. I'm not good with DIY. What can't he understand about all of that?! What if I can't do this?

But later, I understood his point and I relaxed. I am already doing it. Things will get done if they get done. And won't get done if they don't. In the meantime, I will enjoy the gorgeous views.

Lessons from Others

I wrote about my encounter with the turtle as I was leaving.  That turtle was a calming presence.  I also continue to read the homesteading adventures of others and most appreciate the articles that address some of the harder truths about the dream of homesteading. Homesteading Honey's article How We Afford to Homestead is a good example of some of the thought processes and decisions that lead to successful homesteading.

I'm feeling much better today. Those to do lists are far less overwhelming and I'm feeling good about my transition to the land... as slow as it may go.


  1. Well, I sure don't want to say it's okay to relax!!! Seriously, I think all of us understand overwhelming jobs. I honestly can't even imagine taking on "The Shack" and all of the work you've described. I realize just how soft I have become. I'm sure I have all kinds of "wisdom" stored in my head to share, but I would rather not be virtually slapped through my computer screen. Therefore, I will stick with: how cool that you will take on such a challenge and persevere! You are certainly a lot stronger than I am. One look at those webs and I would be back in the jeep on my way home.

    1. I would never virtually slap you. Ever. :) Those webs are pretty creepy. And we can decide how strong I am when I run across my first snake up there! haha.

  2. Thank you Dawn for that picture of the garlic mustard. I have that in my garden too and now know what it is. Time to dig it out! Great article...I bet your corner of the universe is going to be stunning, one rock, one weed and one spider nest at a time....

    1. Thank you for your vote of confidence. And yes... dig out that garlic mustard! The more I read about it the more I worry about our environment. Invasive species can do so much damage.

  3. You are so brave to face down and cope with one obstacle after another in your dream of homesteading at your mountain shack. The garlic mustard plant sounds as proliferate and as destructive as the southern Kudzu. The caterpillar webs would defeat me, I'm sure. I don't do bugs well...LOL. Good luck to you in your weeding, web eliminating, rock digging, etc. But I agree with your friend -- take time to enjoy the peacefulness of your place and the gorgeous views.

    1. I have read quite a bit about Kudzu... another very damaging plant. There's a reservoir I hike near the apartment that looks so unhealthy (the forest) due to some vines. I was trying to determine if those vines are Kudzu. It's sad to watch the trees being pulled down. Thank you for your visit and supportive words.

  4. I used to feel overwhelmed because I would have 30+ things on every to do list. One thing that helped was to limit my daily (or weekend) lists to 3-5 priorities. It is much more doable and far less discouraging. Just thinking out loud. Bravo for going after those invasive plants and tent caterpillars. Your land and your trees thank you for being their champion.

  5. We have two fairly under-control acres in a country subdivision near a nice-sized town and some days I feel overwhelmed - and it's my husband who does 95% of the work outside! I have learned that it's best to wait until evening when the tent caterpillars come back to their webs, then knock down what you can and (carefully) burn them up with a propane torch. Note that this advice is coming from someone who, just this week, carefully relocated a decent-sized spider from the bathroom sink to an open window so it could get out. In other words, burning bugs certainly isn't something I'd even do myself, but those caterpillars really are awful and get out of control quickly. I like Diana's suggestion of prioritizing then limiting the number of projects to undertake on your weekends at the shack. You certainly deserve some down time in order to appreciate the "almost Heaven" location that you're blessed with.