I used to sneak blog posts into nap times. Ha! Nap times? What are those? It feels like it's been ages since I was able to sit down and process my thoughts for more than a nanosecond. And being able to type those thoughts? It's pure bliss (at least for a writer-poser, like me).
A lot has changed in the eight years since I started this blog. Four frog-catching children, for starters. But go back even further than that to the past decade, and I think it'd surprise you where we've come from.
A decade ago, I was almost twenty-two. Twenty-two was a joyous year in my life, as I became “Mrs. Elliott” and began my life as a wife and a homemaker. That's not to say I was good at it, but I certainly was learning quickly. I was twenty-three when I learned to make bread from scratch. At the time, I used vegetable oil and white sugar to make it. I was just beginning to buy a few items in bulk and thought my fifty pounds of white sugar, purchased at a local bulk supply store, was really something special. Thinking about it now, that was probably the last white sugar I've purchased because it wasn't long after this that I began to learn of it's effects on the human body…
I didn't know how to homestead or garden or write or cook nourishing foods.
A few months later, thanks to this book, I began to purchase all organic ingredients. For our budget, it was a large shift, but I began to understand that if I bought basic organic foods – like cabbages, carrots, rice, lentils – I could afford a lot more than if I purchased pre-made organic foods – like cereals, breads, canned soups, etc. So I started eating a few new vegetables – like fresh garlic and sweet potatoes. I also began to understand something called “toxic-load” and the effect it can have on our body. I began to use castile soap for all my soap needs and with our firstborn, began making homemade baby products.
It was an intense process in those years learning how to use cloth diapers, cook from scratch, and scrub a toilet proper without Comet.
A few years later, I made chicken stock for the first time. Prior to that, I'd never used it and never saw a point in keeping it around. Now, it's the backbone of almost everything we eat and I make over three gallons a week. I thought it was a particularly clever way to use up a chicken carcass, which was another new ingredient I acquired after I learned to roast a chicken whole. I'll never forget the first time I served my new husband a whole roasted chicken – it felt as if I'd done something particularly magical.
Mind you, there were plenty of disasters too. Like the toasted buckwheat salad I made that promptly ended up in the compost pile after only two bites. Ya. That was disgusting.
… and you can safely assume that for every three awesome meals I made in the last decade, there was at least one inedible disaster.
But over the past decade, we've gone from (frankly) unhealthy and ambitious young adults to where we are. Where is that exactly?
We now own a small farm in Washington State. On the farm, we grow all of our own meat – lamb, pork, poultry, and occasionally beef. We also keep our dairy cow, Cece, who provides us with raw milk nine months of the year. Her milk is also used for yogurt, butter, and soft cheeses. We grow almost a half acre of organic vegetables and though I will forever be my garden's student, after almost a decade of learning, I'm starting to understand more of its needs. Six fruit trees dot the property and in the next few years will begin to provide us with even more organic produce (for now, most of our extra produce needs are sourced from a local organic farmer).
Chicken stock, whole food recipes, and milking a cow are all part of life now. We pour nourishment into our bodies and see value in sharing that with our community by opening up our table as much as possible.
We've worked our tails off for a decade and God has been gracious to us as we've floundered our way to this point. It certainly wasn't overnight that all of these things changed. Rather, it was the series of many small choices that resulted in a lifestyle change I could have only ever imagined. In reflection, it's easy to see how those small choices add up.
But here's where it gets really exciting…
Where will we be in another ten years?
Here's where I'd like to be. I'd like to be a much better cook. Cooking for a mass of children is awesome, but I'm excited to be in a stage of life where the baby doesn't have to nurse in the middle of roasting vegetables – know what I mean? The refinement of flavors and textures in my cooking is high-priority simply because I enjoy eating!
I also look forward to another decade of work on the farm as we continue to transform it from a blank canvas to something magical. Gardens, barns, and trees are high on the list.
I suppose, overall, this makes me the type of person who doesn't like to sit still. Our passion is learning and growing and that has catapulted us quite a way from our starting point ten years ago.
Ten years ago I was still drinking Diet Coke.
Now I'm drinking kombucha.
What will I be drinking in another ten years? Kombucha spiked with angel tears and magnesium flakes?
Take heart. Overhauling your life doesn't happen in a day. Set a trajectory, put one foot in front of the other, and you'll be just fine. Even if it takes you a decade to get there.
Trust me on this one.