Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Star Creek Country

On Friday morning I headed west into the hills outside of Austin, just on the edge of the large lake that curls around the outskirts of the city. The night before was bad. Bad. One of those conversations when realizations and epiphanies appear so fast and hard it's like a smack in the face. We talked about the house, and jobs, and what we want from Land (the third member of our relationship) late into the evening. The next steps were obvious to me around 11pm, but I wasn't ready yet to claim defeat. There's just something about investing a year of your life into planning that makes it hard to let go of the plan. I hate wasting time. Choosing to walk away from the house build after this whole year, felt like a waste of time. At least that's what I was still murmuring to myself when I finally fell asleep sometime after 2am.

I woke up groggy and confused Friday morning. Learning that your job is likely ending and your year was likely wasted, all in the matter of a few days - it requires a minute to process. But it was Friday morning and this particular Friday morning I was signed up to attend a cow and goat milking class with a homesteader out in Spicewood. Usually, I'm the first person to back out of an unimportant commitment if the commitment suddenly feels like a chore. For some reason I pushed through the feeling of annoyance, washed my face, pulled on my boots and headed out the door. The alternative was sitting alone at the kitchen table staring at work email. Despite my mood, I knew that a morning in a barn may prove more therapeutic than sitting in silence with tepid coffee and the internet.

The drive to Star Creek felt like an eternity. I pulled over once and battled the side of myself that wanted to find a small hole to crawl into. But the morning was clear, and I could see the edge of the lake sparkling beyond the hills. Surely, I'd come this far, it might be worth the gas I'd already spent. When I finally turned into the drive for Star Creek I was struck by the beauty of the place. A humble home was tucked into beds of flowers that bloomed profusely at its base. Through an arched trellis, a garden exploded, its neat rows carefully weeded and mulched. It looked like a Martha Stewart spread on a budget (and in Texas). Beyond the garden, a hand-made barn sprawled across the hill. Aside from the rusting metal roof, every inch of the thing was made of cedar cut from the property. Kimberly came out of the house just as I walked to the garden's edge, at which point a rooster emerged from beneath a bunch of okra. It puffed up and crowed at me angrily. "That's Mr. Cluck," she said, "and I'm Kimberly," while extending a firm handshake and putting her hands on her hips. "And this," with a sweep of the arm, "is Star Creek Country - glad you could make it!" And she turned back to me with eyes shining, a big proud grin on the face. Oh boy Kimberly, I thought, I'm so glad I made it, too.

I'll spare you the details that no one in my non-virtual life have been spared. Over the course of three hours I saw baby chicks hatch from eggs. I milked two goats and one cow. I haltered an eight week old calf, and I met the bull (Kooper!) who Matilda may be introduced to in the coming months. Kimberly runs a small scale Dexter cattle operation along with keeping a variety of milking goats. All animals are treated herbally and everyone at the ranch (all animals included) receives organic meals. She started milking due to a lactose intolerant toddler which launched a furious web search for alternatives. In one month she had her first milk goat, and four years later she steers a tight little ship that consists of homemade, herbal remedies for animals and family, hand-processed meat, home-grown meals, and a beautiful life. Kimberly told me that she always wanted a big house but now that she's able to live this life, the humble accommodations don't matter at all. I drove away feeling greedy and foolish. So much time wasted on a house when the thing of it all was in the quality of the life. As I turned back onto the highway, a half gallon of fresh Dexter milk sloshing in a mason jar beside me, the builder called to discuss the build. Without thinking, I told him that I needed the weekend to be sure, but that we probably weren't building this house.

In the end, it took a year to come all the way around this circle. For someone who hates inefficiencies, I sure managed to waste a lot of time trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We worked real hard this year searching for a loan to fit our minimal savings to pay for a massive project. I wanted a big city house on a big country lot. Having cake = eating it too? Somewhere down the road I let the thing get away from me and it stopped being about the land and the life. No, I can't attribute these sudden revelations to Star Creek. A series of events occurred recently in general life that made the build untenable. But it took that little milking class for me to let it go.

We spent the weekend cooking up a new plan that we both can live with. But I'm not going to share it here and hopefully, in time, we'll be able to execute the plan. And that will become a part of the story. Finally I understand that no time was wasted. This year was a leg of the journey out to our little patch of dirt which, I've realized, is already home - with or without a house.


Anonymous said...

I was so happy to read this post! Happy for you that this experience at Star Creek was the thing to cement the thoughts in your mind. Such experiences are a wonderful part of life's journey, don't you think?

And I wasn't surpised, either. I'd been thinking this for a while now, following along with your blog. You seemed torn between so desperately wanting to be on the land, and yet still having this suburban idea of what you need in terms of housing. I've known a few people who have bought their land and lived in yurts, old RV's, shacks, you-name-it just so they can have the lifestyle. And as I said in my last comment, we live in a super-ugly (but perfectly functional) old mobile home. It's tiny, did I mention ugly?, and has a few issues. It's nothing like the nice big suburban home we rented before we moved here. But I can tell you in all honesty that I wouldn't trade our little hovel for any suburban lot.

Looking forward to reading more about your journey to the land!!

Kimberly said...

How have I never read this post before now?
You know, I had no idea you were going through all that the day you came for that milking class. I'm so humbled that my little class and our sweet farm was able to help you make some pivotable choices in your on homestead. That class was the first one I had ever taught and some what of a whim. Sometimes I just shake my head at how destiny works around us, mostly totally unaware that we even play a role.

No Name Farm/Ranch said...

Your comment made me go back and read this post sitting at the kitchen table in our farmhouse, on our farm, watching your Maddie and Rodeo head butt out the kitchen window, a little less than two years later. Sure am trying not to cry right now. Things sure do work out for good reasons. That was honestly the best $25 I've ever spent.