Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dreams Realized, Blessed Beyond Words

So many times I have thought to post an update. So much has happened, and at a furious pace. I'm just now coming up for air, these two years later. But not without God's sustaining hand ever present on our shoulder, guiding, assuring us, every step, of His goodness and care, and desire to remind us of His love through even earthly blessings. Yet, we doubt Him listening, hearing our prayers. I feel so foolish when I forget to look back at the ways He has carried us, even lavished His goodness on us.
My short blog has few entries, but it doesn't take long to see my longings for a country life. I transformed our builder grade suburban home on a half acre into the farmhouse of my magazine pages, with beadboard wainscot on the walls of every hall, bathroom, laundry room, kitchen backsplash, complete with plate rail in the dining room. Checkered black and white floors replaced all the carpet in our living room, dining room, family room, laundry, and mainflor half bath. My country kitchen was to die for, with enough room for all my girls to help me bake, can, and dehydrate foods. I rendered lard on the back deck, spun wool by my freestanding Vermont Castings gas fireplace. I birthed 9 babies in our bedroom there, put in a garden, planted fruit trees. When allowed to opportunity, I kept milking goats on a dear friend's property, driving there twice a day to milk, bottle feeding kid goats, sneaking them home to keep in my bathroom when they neede extra care. We tried keeping chickens for a time, until a neighbor complained, concerned for the neighborhood well. Chicken were given away, and children cried. But the house was perfectly located for my husband's ferry commute to downtown Seattle, for soccer and baseball practices, for my parents to drop in for hugs. As the children grew, left home and came for family dinners with cars of their own, and the grands started to arrive, our culdesac filled for family dinners, rehearsal dinners, and engagement parties. We were outgrowing and overflowing, hogging the public space of our small neighborhood. It was all my children knew. Home. But I longed for more. I was tired of the fishbowl I felt I lived in for 21 years, careful not to step on toes, hiding in my "farmhouse" in the suburbs. I longed for space, and freedom to breathe, be myself, and be a good neighbor...from a distance. I wanted opportunities for our children to pursue small business, work with their hands, run and play with abandon. I longed for a fiber flock, eggs from our chickens, milk from our goats, a big garden, and an orchard. Getting that on Bainbridge Island would take a miracle. We drove to every possible new listing that might be able, with some creativity, to suit us. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize we could buy more "off island", as we call it. But that meant sacrifices, mostly to Louie's commute, already an hour door to door. He resisted for a long time, but then humored me with drives through off island communities, looking at land, foreclosures, looking for a deal so we could afford more land. Buying with cash was becoming more of a possibility with our shrinking mortgage, our time invested. But houses were small, run down, manufactured, or just raw land, with so much infrastructure required, making development costs just a risky guess. And then there was internal strife and resistance from our children still home, that no other place could be "home". Change is hard. Memories and community had been made.
Another big piece of land came on the market and off we drove to take a look. Wet, like lots of open land in our area, which makes property cheap and unusable, it was a shame that beavers have more property rights than we do. But the real estate agent on the sign was someone my husband knew, so we called. No, this wasn't what we wanted, but he had a few others we might like, and another coming on the market. Could he send us the information? It was Spring 2013. Our son had just gotten engaged for a September wedding, we had a summer road trip to Ohio planned for my niece's wedding, and I had bought tickets to go to England with a friend for my 50th birthday, in September too. Not the year to sell our house, with all that it needed to make it market ready.  But, then he told us about the property not yet on the market. Literally, we had drove past this farm every Sunday for 16 years a few doors up from our church in a sweet agricultural valley, known for it's pumpkin patches, and vegetable stand. Church family we knew had grown up in that house some 50 years before. It was more land than I thought we could afford, 9 acres with an old farmhouse, barely big enough to suit our children at home, but solid, quaint, and two barns, an old orchard, and a salmon stream. It had been owned for 45 years by the last family who raised their own large family there. It was tired, neglected, and yet the infrastructure was all there. And it came with an old John Deere, also waiting to be brought back to life. I couldn't get it out of my head. Fortunately the family was slow to part with all their parent's earthly possessions so we had time, and it wasn't yet on the market. But it would be in our price range with the cash we could get out of our house. A road trip to Oregon to the Black Sheep Gathering and a long talk with my friend encouraged me to bring it up with my husband again. He agreed to go look at it even after looking at photos of the house interior that were discouraging at best, compared with our shiny, brightly painted and updated roomy house. It would be a downsize of over 1000 square feet of house, but an upsize to 9 overgrown acres.
The rest of the summer was a blur of painting, purging, packing, scrubbing, and hauling junk to to dump. We managed with the help of many friends and family to repaint the entire interior, wash every surface, and repair every item on a long list in time to catch the last sale of the summer, and accepted an offer 9 days after listing. We signed electronically as we drove across country, returning in time to make inspection repairs, and put me on an airplane for England. All the while, we waited to put an offer in on the farm, in faith that it would be ours. Talk about nerve wracking. My husband was a basketcase without me, and I was trying to enjoy my birthday trip, knowing he was in agony for my dream. Ouch. I returned with only a week before our son's big day, a week before our house closed, and a month before we were to move out of our home of 21 years into the smaller, dirty, tired 110 year old farmhouse of my dreams.
Little did we know how God would continue to provide and make this place home. By some kind of miracle we have been blessed with the skills and time of our elder Keith, who loves a project almost as much as he loves Jesus and has poured himself into making this homestead into a working breathing farm, shoring up structures, replacing fences, building structures, digging trenches, burying pipe and conduit, putting in barn stairs, making old farm equipment work again. The list goes on. He answered long ago prayers for someone to teach my children skills that their father couldn't, no offense to my sporty, numbers guy of a husband. And Keith and my husband couldn't be happier about it. I pinch myself almost everyday.
Two years.