On August 29, 2005, we changed. A similar observation has often been made by those who have experienced some singularly dramatic event. For instance, they may write: "On May 1, 2014, our lives changed forever." Though I can sympathize with such an observation, I have a slightly different experience. We changed in a fundamental way on that fateful day, but it took quite some time and a lot of concerted effort for our circumstances -- our lives -- to change.
On August 28th, you would have found us to be a pretty normal suburban family -- discounting the ritual of weekend preparation during hurricane season on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. My husband went to work in town every morning. I kept the lawn mowed in our postage-stamp sized yard. Our school-aged children attended the local private school. I handled the grocery shopping. We took our dogs to the groomer. We attended church on Sundays and helped out with local fundraisers and events. We drove children to soccer practice and music lessons. We ate a lot of junk food. We were entertained by the television. We managed to pay the bills and keep the house in good repair, but nothing more.
The next day, Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast. We watched from an upstairs hallway as the Gulf of Mexico filled the bottom-half of our home. From upstairs windows we watched it swallow our neighbors' homes. A few hours later, the aftermath began.
We had lost everything except the soggy shell of our house. People in all directions for over one hundred square miles had lost much more -- we were lucky.
Did we survive... or not?
Recovery was painfully slow. I started and maintained a blog for five years to chronicle our progress and setbacks and insights. It is still out there on the internet, though I deleted my Blogger account and no longer have editorial access to it. (It can be found here, if you are interested in a long read. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.)
Those years of aftermath and recovery fundamentally changed us. Some of the lessons we learned were the harshest possible -- particularly during the first several weeks following the storm. We were forced to accept the reality that we were completely dependent on complicated (and often bureaucratic) systems over which we had zero control for our actual survival. What happens when the power goes out? What happens when water does not come out of the tap anymore? What happens when the grocery stores are not open? What happens when freight cannot move into your area for days or weeks at a time?
When you live through a catastrophic disaster of monumental proportions, your priorities tend to shift. Or they should. Or, at least, I know ours did. It was a much more gradual affair than I think anyone would expect it to be. Our first few years were spent trying to piece our home back together without the financial resources to do so and restore some sense of normalcy in our household and community. Ultimately, however, we moved on.
After eight years of stubbornly trying to put things back to the way they once had been, we realized that we no longer wanted to go back. And that finally brought us here to Oklahoma.
Since December of 2013, we have lived here on a beautiful, secluded hill just two miles outside the tiny little town of Salina, Oklahoma. Surrounded by just over seventeen acres of oak-hickory forest and a lot of fossil-filled rocks, we love the life we have made here. We raise our dual-purpose breed chickens so that we will never again wonder where food will come from if the grocery stores are closed. We know where our water comes from - and rest easy knowing that there is a spring-fed creek near enough for emergency situations. We make our own compost and grow many of our own herbs and vegetables. We no longer have cable television. We do not have time to watch TV - and we like it that way. Our children are home-schooled and caring for animals and our forest is an integral part of their education here. We read books and tell stories and sing silly songs. We build fires and catch fireflies. We are all constantly learning and constantly growing. We are striving to live in the most natural conditions possible - with freedom of movement. We are striving to be free-range humans.
Why a blog? And why not?
All those years ago when I started our post-Katrina Blogger blog, I only had two goals in mind. First, I was looking for a way to organize our losses, projects, thoughts, and goals as well as document our progress for our own sanity while living in chaos. I also needed a way to reach out to those outside the devastation and inform them of the ongoing setbacks and triumphs in our house and local communities - something which was clearly NOT being done in the national news media.
Perhaps it was a more innocent time, but the idea of starting a blog simply to monetize it and make your fortune was something still relegated to the shady parts of the internet and hosted on foreign servers. In other words, I had no intention of making a business out of sharing our lives.
And I begin a new one today with no such intention.
Five years of experience and adventures has brought us to this point in the journey when we feel that we have something to offer the local community - by way of our hand-raised poultry or livestock, as well as our help, humor, and friendship.
Perhaps we have something to offer the larger community beyond the foothills of the Ozarks as well -- and we plan to do that right here on the internet. Hopefully, this blog will be a place where we can share some of our adventures, tell some stories, provide a few hints and tips, and post the inevitable pictures of cute, baby animals without the growing restrictions of social media sites.
Okay. New plan.
We were working through some business plan templates just for the fun of it the other night. (We are a lot of fun at parties.) One of the template questions included a field for 'business motto'. Hmm... What phrase best encapsulates what we do here? What's the one phrase you would hear from my lips at least twice per day every day were you a fly on the barn wall? What words motivate us to overcome challenges and keep going despite difficulties?
"Okay. New plan."
Build a beautiful rabbit tractor that is absolutely 100% predator proof, only to find that it would take a strip-mining excavator to move it? Okay. New plan.
Spend an entire weekend putting together a beautiful As Seen on Internet™ hoop house shelter for your goat herd, only to watch the 250 lb buck destroy it with glee within the first five minutes of use? Okay. New plan.
Find a giant oak tree uprooted in exactly the spot you were about to run a fence for a new paddock? Okay. New plan.
"Mom? Are there supposed to be pigs in the front yard?" Okay. New plan.
It really is a powerful phrase. And it's much more positive and optimistic than the runner up: "Well. That didn't work."
I am thinking it isn't inspiring enough for a formal business motto, but it works well enough for the blog title. And it is amusing. It does not lack depth though. Because if there is one thing that I want to share with people of all ages (besides how to trim a goat's hooves or the easiest way to powder fresh eggs for storage) it is that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CONTINUE DOING THINGS THAT DO NOT WORK. It doesn't matter what the conventional wisdom is or what the As Seen on Internet™ folks say. It doesn't matter how much time and energy you have already invested. It doesn't matter if you are tired or broke or alone. This applies to relationships, living arrangements, employment, education, your eating habits -- to everything -- and not just farming or homesteading. Just take a deep breath and say it: Okay. New plan. And then get to planning.
Posted by Anita
Wrangler of chickens. Tamer of donkeys. Drinker of coffee.