One year ago Saturday, we arrived in Missouri, ready to begin our new adventures on our very own piece of land. Deciding to move to Missouri was an incredibly difficult process, but once we arrived, we dove right into the act of creating our new homestead: creating a garden, planting fruit trees, building a house.
As in any good adventure story, there have been roadblocks along the way. Last October, one week after we arrived in Missouri, Brian was diagnosed with cancer, which thankfully turned out to be one of the most treatable kinds, the tumor was removed with a fairly simple surgery, and he remains cancer-free. But still, we were floored. Emotionally and practically. I am a competent person, but Brian and I operate as a team. His strengths complement my weaknesses, and we each excel in particular areas. When one of us is down, and particularly when Brian is down, we feel the loss of our teammate acutely.
Saturday was a beautiful fall day, not unlike the ones we experienced last October. Windy, sunny, and just warm enough to be outdoors all day planting garlic, picking peppers, harvesting sweet potatoes, and working on the exterior siding. I had been looking forward to Saturday for days – almost like a birthday, or Christmas – with a sense of anticipation and excitement. Somehow it seemed very important to celebrate our first-year-in-Missouri anniversary, and truthfully, I had all sorts of ideas about how I would share the milestone here on the blog – photos of our homestead and what we had accomplished in a year – you know, that sort of thing. But life had other plans.
I was in town when I received the call: “Teri, I’ve had an accident. I fell off a ladder and dislocated my ankle.” I think my jaw might have hung down as my mind flashed through the impossibility of such a scenario. I mean, here we are, literally racing against the clock, housesitting until Wednesday in a warm, dry home, while watching the weather forecast shift to temperatures in the low 30’s and high 20’s, knowing that keeping two small children happy and comfortable in such temperatures is really not easy. How could we possibly work on the house when Brian could not even put weight on his foot?
(Rest assured, Brian will be fine. It does not look like a break, although his ankle is horribly swollen. He has a nice brace and some handy crutches. I’m thinking about getting him a little bell so he can summon me. Just kidding.)
Our neighbor Beth walked up our hill this morning and said, “I’ve been doing a bit of reconnaissance, and it looks like we have five people ready to work today, and possibly tomorrow.” And suddenly, people started to arrive. First Mike and Julia, our neighbors to the North, then Mary Beth, a new friend, then John. Beth put on her “forewoman hat” and began expertly guiding people towards appropriate tasks, while I moved boxes out of the way of the workers and began making snacks. Soon the house wiring was labelled, Mary Beth, John, and Julia had completed half of the prep work for blowing cellulose, and Mike and Beth were finishing the exterior siding. Brian cruised around on crutches answering questions, taking breaks to elevate and ice his foot.
I notice that when people talk about homesteading, there is a huge emphasis on “Self-Sufficiency.” Feed yourself, create your own power, collect your own water. And yes, these tasks are very important, particularly in this age of GMO crops and climate change. But in this year of homesteading in Missouri, I have come to recognize that the most important task I have as a homesteader is to create networks of interdependence in my community. Last week we helped raise Mike and Julia’s round pole timber frame home. This week they are helping us. John grows my pork and beef. I help educate his children. When someone needs help, we give, and when we need help, we receive.
Brian and I are challenged by asking for or receiving help. We are good at doing things for ourselves, and have fairly high standards. But our self-reliance is a strength and a weakness. Over the past year, we’ve been humbled several times, and have been given the gift of support and assistance from our community, without any expectation of reciprocation. This community’s commitment to interdependence is nothing short of amazing, and it has been so life-giving for us.
So that is what I want to celebrate today: community and interdependence. My neighbors here in Missouri, my dear friends in Oregon who call, write, email and hold me in their hearts, my family and friends across the country globe, and the many people I have met online, who have become yet another network of support and encouragement. Thank you all for sharing your gifts and yourself with me and with the world.