Sunday, June 24, 2018

Making Homesteading Dreams Come True - Claim It

I claimed it with this rock in my pocket.
I am not yet living on my "homestead". But each day I am getting closer to making that dream come true. Frequently, I witness others saying they have a homestead dream but they think they can never make that dream come true. I want to say to them that if I can do it, anybody who wants it can do it too. I am no expert on buying land. And I am not yet living on my land. I may never live on my land. But I am one step closer to making my dream come true. And meanwhile, camping on my land brings me much joy. 

I want to share the steps I'm taking so that maybe someone can feel more hopeful about making their dreams come true. If I've found a way to get this far, you can too.

It's Your Dream - Claim it. 

My first piece of advice is to claim your dream. Physically do something that symbolizes claiming your dream. I didn't realize it then but that was exactly what I was doing the day I put a rock in my pocket.

Looking back, I claimed my homesteading dreams in many ways. But the most significant (and physical) "claiming" was that silly little rock.

The rock in my pocket happened in 2015. The portion of time that has to do with physically claiming my land happened from approximately August to October.  I wrote a post about that year, the extreme ups and downs of the second half of that year. It's still all pretty surreal and you can read about that hereWith the circumstances during that time period, it seemed that there was no time like the present to invest in some land for a retirement plan.

In August, I began working with a realtor in West Virginia to find land. I drove to look at many small parcels. Off-grid was fine. A low price tag, a roomy feel (i.e. no immediate neighbors), and the ability to own chickens was my "must" list. Everything else was negotiable.

I fell in love with 5 acres. But it went under contract almost by the time I drove back to Baltimore and thought it over for a day or two.

I looked at more land. Then I mentioned to the realtor that I thought I'd really like that little "red" house on the hill... but the HOA doesn't allow chickens. Or so I thought. My realtor let me know that the "restrictions" on that land did not exclude chickens and small livestock. We agreed to go look at that little hunting cabin on the hill, and some other pieces of land.

As soon as I parked on the edge of the road in front of that little hunting cabin, I knew this was the place. Thank goodness I hadn't be able to buy that five acres! I couldn't believe I had actually cried over losing the other place. I finished the day and went to look at the other parcels of land we had lined up to see. Just to be sure. 

Then I asked my realtor if I could just go sit on the top of the hill at the little "red" house (it looked red in photos but it is really a dingy brown).

I went alone and sat there. I felt it was already mine. It felt familiar and like it was where I belonged. I picked up a rock and put it in my pocket. And intended to carry "my" rock in my pocket until the land was mine.

taken during a subsequent visit - the rock was already in my pocket

As I drove back down the switchback road to get to the highway, a bear slowly galloped across the road in front of me. I took that as a good sign (although, I'm not completely sure why it felt like a really good omen)

The realtor said she told the owners about my bear sighting. And they reported to her that they'd never seen a bear. I was afraid they thought I was lying. But it didn't much matter and I felt like that bear intentionally crossed in front of me.

I made the offer and waited. Then I worked at finalizing with the bank and getting through the closing process. It took nearly 2 months of waiting. And I carried that rock in my pocket every day.

I had to work to not be anxious while waiting. Because of my "blemished" credit and a history of being turned down by some banks through my lifetime there was a chance I'd have problems. I half expected to be sabotaged in some way but I carried my rock in my pocket. 

On October 29, 2015, I signed for my land. And I put the rock back where it belonged. Well sort of. The rock is on the window sill at The Shack.

I am convinced that doing something physical to claim my dream helped my dream begin to come true. I am convinced that if you physically claim your dream in some small symbolic way (not outlandish ways.. I'm not advising you to lock yourself in the bank vault in order to have your dream of riches come true!) you will move closer to making your dreams come true.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

P.S. Is it coincidence that I'm a farm girl from Indiana and I found these rocks during subsequent visits to The Shack?  I think it's no coincidence at all. 

I think they are more signs that I am on the right track.

P.S.S. My game cam has since caught photos of a bear on my land. You can see those photos and more from my game cam here

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Travel: Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

The view from the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center. 
This past week I hiked the Seneca Rocks trail. I didn't give up and I made it to the top! It was a glorious feeling of accomplishment and a wonderful adventure in a beautiful setting. It was beautiful and you can be sure I'll go back. 

Due to the time of day (nearly noon), getting wet, and the haze from the heat of the day, my photos don't do justice to the beauty of the area. 

What the Seneca Rocks Trail IS:

  • Seneca Rocks is an unincorporated community in Pendleton County, West Virginia (at the intersection of route 33 and route 55)
  • Seneca Rocks is a rock formation located within the Monongahela National Forest. 
  • The hiking trail can be accessed from the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center or the Homestead Site and Picnic area.
  • The hiking trail is 1.3 miles and climbs over 700 feet
  • The trail is a wide, maintained, path of uphill and switchbacks.
  • There are occasional benches and two sets of stairs in one particularly steep location
  • The observation deck is near the top of the rock formation and is cantilevered over the land below. The views of the area below are beautiful.

What the Seneca Rocks Trail and Observation Deck Is Not:

  • The observation deck is not at the top of the rocks, as I had hoped.
  • The view is not of the rocks, as I had hoped. I had hoped for a glimpse of rock climbers. The "view" is the same view you would have from the rocks of the valley and ridges below. 
  • If you are a serious hiker and prefer difficult trails, this is not what you are looking for. The difficulty on this trail is the climb. Otherwise, it is like a stroll on a wide, civilized gravel path. 

My Experience at Seneca Rocks

I felt a little rushed as I had left the dogs alone at The Shack and I was concerned they'd get too hot with only the windows open (instead of the doors hanging wide open like they do when I'm there).  I hadn't really planned on taking this hike during this trip to The Shack. But there's no time like the present, right? So off I went. I'm glad I did. But next time I'll be better prepared with my backpack, binoculars, and a picnic lunch.

My GPS didn't pull up "Seneca Rocks" but it did pull up the nearby town of Macksville. The winding two lane highway offered beautiful views for the 1 1/2 hours I drove from The Shack.

When I arrived, I found there were two parking areas, and initially I was confused. There was the Discovery Center parking area and the Picnic area at the Sites Homestead. However, both areas are connected by a bridge and a path. 

The Discovery Center provided a bench and a wonderful view of the rocks. Were it not for feeling rushed, I would have sat for awhile. The Discovery Center offered a continuously running movie, excellent bathrooms, a gift shop, and some information about the rocks and about invasive plant species in the area. 

The Sites Homestead and picnic area provided a parking lot, covered picnic area, a rustic park bathroom, and the old homestead house and garden area. 

The Sites Homestead and gardens

The hiking path started up and over a bridge. Initially, the path was flatish, and I thought to myself, "at this amount of rise, it's going to take all day to get to the top". Well... I spoke to myself too soon. The climb began. I had to take frequent breaks. And there seemed to be far more switchbacks than shown on the map. 

During one of my breaks, on a bench in a switchback trying to catch a breeze, hikers coming down the hill encouraged me. "It's not very far now", "you've got this", and "only two more switchbacks".  They were right, two more turns and I was at the observation tower.

Note: if you make the hike, know that if I can do it, you can too. Just go slow and steady, drink water, and take frequent breaks if you need to.  If you get to the bench in the switchback you are getting close. When you get to the stone "wall" in the switchback, you have completed your last turn. The deck is just ahead. 

As soon as I arrived, the breezy day turned to a brief but torrential rain. I welcomed the cooling and powerful rain. 

I hate selfies - but was so proud to be at the top

Which reminds me, in the West Virginia ridges I have learned that you can't see the weather coming. Brief rain showers can pop up very quickly. If there is any chance of rain in the forecast, it would be good to pack a rain poncho when hiking. 

Would I recommend this hike to anyone who likes the great outdoors. YES! The river at the bottom, the view at the top, and the wooded area in between is a peaceful and beautiful place. Bird watchers would have plenty to see (I could hear the variety of birds chirping but can't identify birds by song). 

Location of the observation deck

Related Links:

I took many photos. I have posted those photos here if you would like to see them. 

Monongahela National Forest and Seneca Rocks website; including the hiking trail map  (I still feel like there were far more than three switchbacks. Whew!)

Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and the Sites Homestead. I was pleased to learn that tours of the Sites Homestead are available through the Discovery Center. I hope to include a tour as a part of my next trip to Seneca Rocks.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Travel: My Seneca Rocks Hike in Photos

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia is a small community in West Virginia and a rock formation with both a rich history and a current popular tourist attraction. I have wanted to hike the Seneca Rocks trail since first driving past the site a few years ago. 

I am very happy to share that I made the hike this past week. You can find the written version on my post here.  But in this post I am going to do the "show" portion of my Seneca Rocks show-n-tell.

Note: The introduction photo/historical marker is provided courtesy of wikimedia commons via CC-BY-SA-4.0 Famartin. All other photos are my own. 

Seneca Rocks Discovery Center Area

There are two separate parking areas. One is at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and the other is the Sites Homestead and picnic area. Both are connected by a short trail and a bridge. These photos are from the Discovery Center area.

Sites Homestead and Picnic Area at Seneca Rocks

The Sites Homestead and Picnic area is the parking area closest to the trail head. A bridge crosses a river and the trail to the top begins. 

The picnic area includes a small covered pavilion, a rustic restroom, and the historic Sites Homestead and gardens. From this vantage point, the observation deck at the top of the trail can be seen. 

Seneca Rocks Trail

The trail heading up. At first it began almost flat. A deceiving portion of very easy trail. To experienced hikers, the entire trail would be considered easy as it is a wide and well-maintained trail. But it was challenging to me.

When I arrived at these stairs, I nearly gave up. I was hot and the trees had stifled any breeze. I pushed myself and made it to the top of the MANY stairs. And I sat on that rock for a good bit of time to rest. 

This is the top of the trail. There is a large sign just beyond this point that warns of the dangers to hikers who continue past this point. Deaths have occurred by the casual hikers not heeding the warnings. As tempting as it was to start climbing the rocks, I opted to remain on solid ground. I did not want to become famous for being the Gramma that fell off Seneca Rocks.

Yes, it rained as soon as I got to the top. But the rain was cooling and brief.

The walk down was faster than the climb up. But by then I was so relieved to arrive at the river... which meant I was only a few more steps away from the bathroom and then the cushioned seat of my Jeep. 

As I exited the area, I took one more look back. What a wonderful adventure this was. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Tales: Flat Broke with Two Goats

Tales: Flat Broke with Two Goats
I finished reading Flat Broke with Two Goats several weeks ago. I wanted to review the book immediately as it brought up strong feelings but I wasn't sure how to put my thoughts into words. I think I'm ready now. 

Despite mixed feelings about this memoir, both good and bad, the book kept me engrossed. In fact, I'll likely read it again.

I borrowed Flat Broke with Two Goats from the library and was very excited to find it. I hadn't seen it advertised previously and at first glance I thought it was a memoir about transitioning to a homestead while flat broke - a similar story to mine. However, it turns out that it was not quite a story like mine. In fact, parts of her story are very different than mine.

Flat Broke with Two Goats is a memoir written by Jennifer McGaha. It is not a "how-to" transition to a homestead when you want to. It is a life story about not planning, taking money for granted, and ending up in a run down cabin. And I came to think of it as a "how-not-to".

McGaha and her husband were living the American dream; buying a house in suburbia, raising kids, and apparently over-spending. A kid in college and kids in private schools. She's very honest that during her childhood, money was available and she can to think of money as always there. The Great Recession hits in the same time range they caught owing years of back taxes. Her accountant husband had less work due to the economy and while he wasn't really keeping them afloat financially to begin with (e.g. not able to pay taxes) they really began to flounder with the electricity being shut off and cars being repossessed. Finally, the home was in foreclosure. 

Throughout the book, McGaha is unhappy. Unhappy that her husband didn't tell her about the back taxes, unhappy that they ended up moving to a rickety old cabin infested with snakes, and unhappy that so many things happened to her. At one point, she moves out to take an adjunct teaching job. Then she moves back to the rickety cabin, her dogs, and her husband. 

And they begin to buy chickens and goats.

At first I was irritated that the story wasn't more about chickens, goats, and homesteading. I felt the advertising that it was about the traditions of Appalachia was false advertising. I was irritated that they got goats when they didn't seem prepared for goats. I was worried about the dogs. I was annoyed that the author was committing to lives that she couldn't afford to commit to. 

But the story grew on me. And McGaha has an interesting writing style. 

While I've never, ever been able to take money for granted, I have tried to run from problems I've helped create. There have been times I haven't faced my responsibilities. And there have been MANY occasions that the grass looked greener on the other side. I have jumped in to situations I wasn't prepared for.  I have lived in denial. Haven't we all? That's life. And in that way, she writes an unflinching story about life and what it is to be human.

Flat Broke with Two Goats is an interesting how-not-to. How-not-to take a six figure household income for granted. How-not-to keep spending when times get tough and bury your head in the sand when the repo man becomes a familiar person. 

It is also a story of a mom who wanted the good life for her human kids and who was wondrous at the birth of the goat kids. McGaha learns to make soap and cheese, and shares relevant recipes at the end of the chapters. In her quiet moments, she thinks of her connection with relatives long ago who worked hard in Appalachia. 

You may like her or you may hate her, but McGaha knows how to write and how to tell an entertaining story.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.