Sometimes, the desire to live a simpler life leads to the pathway less traveled, and it may require stepping away from the herd a little bit or completely. Sometimes, it means a change in lifestyle, leaving things behind or relationships that might not understand your vision. Stepping away from it might not be the most popular or celebrated decision, but it might be the smart thing to do. It might seem like swimming against the current, and not only will you have to deal with your feelings, but the feelings of other people that are in your close circle. In the end, stepping away will mean doing what’s best for you/family.
Stepping away from a lifetime is never easy, no matter how strong a conviction or how eager for change one might be. Sometimes, the ties that bind you are the ones that must be loosen up, not necessarily broken. Whether the barn is too big or the stall too tight, it is not the right fit anymore.
When we bought the old farmhouse, we decided to coat the roof because it was the original tin roof, and it was not leaking or damaged underneath, but needed protection since it was 100 years old at that time, and by now, 112 years old. Tin was the metal used back then, sturdy and durable, less pliable as well. Modern metal roofs are easier to bend and work with, and they come in a variety of styles, colors, and grades. They are more expensive than regular asphalt shingles, and they last a bit longer. We decided that when it was time to replace the roof, we would select a metal roof because the house was originally built for a metal roof. Shingles weigh about four times more, and being that the house is 112 years old, it makes sense not to add more weight to the top. However, that would mean for us to save the money for a new roof because it is a cash project, as it has been the rest of the house renovation, hence why it has taken longer to do. In the meantime, we decided to paint the porch roof because it was showing signs of deterioration and rust. It has been 6 years since the coating.
This project presented an opportunity to play with a favorite color and see if that color would work when it is time to purchase a new roof. I discarded the color black although it is the one that will make more sense if we decide to change the siding color in the future. Black looks more traditional, elegant, and put together, but it also attracts a lot of heat, and the upstairs ceilings are very low, so that would make the upstairs unbearably hot in the summer and not energy efficient. I also like copper or light brown, much lighter than black, and also neutrals, which would go very well with my favorite blue accents and the white siding. In the end, we decided to paint the porch roof the color that we liked more but were not sure how it would look in the long run or if we would become tired of looking at it. It is a test. After all, you cannot change a pricey roof once it is installed. We chose Glidden Premium French Country Blue for exterior applications and metal. We are happy with the results, and the porch looks a lot cleaner now, until it is time for a new roof. We decided to paint the side entrance awning and the steps as well, for continuity and balance. Here are some pictures of the project.
We estimate the total cost of this project, including the entire roof of the house to be around $400.00. It presents a simple solution to protect the existing roof until it is replaced. After all, it is about simple living and simple solutions. It’s been a long way home.
The work continues in trying to bring back the garden. When we bought the old farmhouse, it was covered in weeds, grass, and a morass of trees growing intertwined altogether. The driveway was covered in tall grass up to our knees and bushes. The house had been abandoned for many years and in disrepair, hidden by the same overgrown trees and bushes. We knew it would be a ton of work, but we were up for it. One by one, we started to remove bushes, weeds, grass, garbage … and we cleaned up the garden. Next, we tried to save any plant we could and revive others. The next step was to create new garden areas. This is a process that will take longer, and some simple planning. We try to add a new area every year. Adding areas one at a time seems a bit more manageable for us. This year, we added two areas. One was created using recycled plants and materials. It is located at the front entrance to the property, close to the year-round lighted pine tree which we have ended up calling The Hope Tree.
The next area was my husband’s pet project. It is next to the small patio area and the faerie garden. This area has been covered by overgrown mixed bushes and tons of weeds. Last December, he took them all out and decided to do a small garden. Most of the area is in the shade with only a few hours of sun, so we had to select plants that required minimal sun exposure. He made the borders out of recycled pallets, and we still have to find and dig a few stones around the property to place them. This area needed a ground cover, after we took out all the weeds. These plants will grow and expand, so we had to leave enough space in between them. We planted bulbs inside the stone circle. Two garden sculptures and a potted plant were recycled from the garden and won’t be missed in the previous area. We added two new solar lights and red mulch. The small cedar tree in the back was already there and will be trimmed so it does not fully grow. This area resulted in a mix of new and recycled materials. It is a very low-cost improvement to this area.
The veggie garden was spruced up a bit, and we decided to use two recycled large containers cut in half for the new plantings instead of building a new box. Eventually, we will change these to a more permanent material like cinderblocks or metal boxes. We started the veggie garden a couple of years after we fixed the interior of the farmhouse. All the materials used on building and setting up the veggie garden are recycled, except for mulch, but sometimes, we use red pine needles from the property when these are available.
If you would like to read more on the process of fixing this old place, please visit a series of posts under Restoring an Old Farmhouse or Restoring an Old Garden. I hope you enjoyed this post.
The other day, my sister sent me a picture of the old barn on the farm. I loved the picture and decided to see if I could paint my version of it. I had some oil pastels and a piece of recycled wood that served the purpose. The climb of that hill to the barn is lovely, but the views on the other side are so beautiful. Almost as if this old barn was a silent keeper to the beauty beyond it.
“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen
I love the above quote. It is the opposite to “own nothing, be happier.” However, sometimes we flutter more around the pursuit of too many flowers and forget about the freedom we have to enjoy the sunshine.
In the pursuit of a simple life, I’ve realized that the accumulation of flowers is not the most important aspect for me anymore. There was a time it took center placement. Losing a lifetime’s lush garden all at once taught me that my focus was off centered and gave me the freedom to pursue a life full of sunshine. The sunshine after the storm is usually the most beautiful. With countless sunny days ahead, the heart can only rejoice about the simple abundance that surrounds me. I have learned to count my blessings, and there are oh so many. Prosperity takes the form of more than the material, those blessings that were missed when the “little flower” was ignored, in pursuit of an entire field. Like the caterpillar, I was transformed, and like the butterfly, I find delight in the offerings of every new day. Sometimes, sprouting wings is painful, but without them one cannot appreciate the beauty of that single flower up close.
Prosperity comes in many forms, an integral part of simple abundance. We tend to think of prosperity from the material/financial point of view only, but there is so much more to it than money or things. These two are important, but not most important. Simple living involves the realization that there is much more abundance around us that what we perceive in the material/monetary realms. These riches are unlimited, countless, and continuous. The true meaning of prosperity can be found in a single flower.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
Sometimes, living simply requires certain balance, and the simple acknowledgement that too much of something wrecks equilibrium. Dealing with the sense that what’s on the right does not equal what’s on the left, in whatever circumstance or area in our life, puts us off, and it reflects in everything we do. The past two years left me off balance, and I have been trying to find that golden nugget that will get the scale back in equilibrium, and it hasn’t been easy. It has reflected in my writing, especially on the current novel that I am still trying to write but have put aside. Faith has been my comfort blanket, and counting blessings always seem to put things into perspective. Simple living has been a source of joy and contentment. Gardening an escape that offers many delights, especially when everything around seems to be screaming silently – new beginnings. I have found refuge in such things, meaningless to many, therapeutic for others. Sometimes, balance can be pursued in the simplest of things, and found in the least expected places. For me, I have found it in God’s word, in the garden, and even in the mundane chores of daily living. Where there’s a constant, there’s peace of mind, and peace of mind is the closest thing to that golden nugget.
I have been working in the garden and setting up new areas, planning other areas, and just enjoying the good weather, but in the back of my mind there is always that untouched novel, like a ghostly thought that lingers in the crevices of the brain and the depths of the soul. When? Who knows? One day I will wake up with a little golden nugget on my hand.
In learning to live a simpler life, I had to become a bit more mindful about my health, physical, mental, and even spiritual. A switch in lifestyle required me to do more physical work than what I was accustomed to, and to realize what things I could not perform as well anymore due to age and a lifetime of 9-5 and beyond workdays, little time for physical development, along with my dislike of exercise routines and doctor appointments (dislike the term wellness visits). I realized that peaking 60 meant a need for creating a simpler health routine that I could keep. It is as simple as eating as healthy as I can, take vitamins and supplements, and keep on moving, along with my yearly checkup.
A far as what I do, I cook 95 percent of my meals but also, I don’t deprive myself of something I would like that does not fall under my regular nutrition. I don’t pay attention to brands, organic or not; I just cook balanced meals and don’t overeat. Exercise takes the form of chores, some heavier than others, walking, stretching every morning, and staring at a stationary bike when I don’t feel like using it. I am up early, at 5 am and that works well for me. Part of simplifying my way of thinking about exercise was to accept my dislike of it and stop blaming myself and feeling guilty for not liking it. How freeing. My most hated class as a kid in school was physical education; truly hated it. That mental switch made a difference because the battle was over. As a Christian, understanding that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit, also made a difference, hence respect it and treat it as well as you can, so I take care of myself as best as I can.
You can eat well and exercise till’ the cows come home but if you do not take care of your mental health the rest is wasted time and calories. Mentally, I try to keep myself healthy by being aware of what’s going on, reading, making art, taking on projects and learning new things. I don’t welcome negativity in my life, whether in the form of news, people, or propaganda … I don’t like gossip and will stop it at once. That doesn’t make for making many friends. I don’t watch trash on TV anymore; I rather do something else, but still enjoy some TV time (sad that most of it is trash these days). I don’t play the politically correct game and do not compromise my values. I also accept and admit when I am wrong. It keeps my peace of mind. I try to be true to myself and others, but mostly to operate from a place of love and understanding, even when that may seem very hard to do. Understanding to give it all to God when I can’t has made a big difference in my life. I live by Christian values, and in my case (I need to make the distinction) I had to learn to separate Christianity from religious indoctrination/history in order to understand the way – Jesus. In my opinion, if you want to know him better, go straight to the pages of the Bible and read in between the lines as well. It answers the question What would Jesus do? and the answer is always the right one.
It has not happened instantly, but slowly I have made better changes and adjustments in my life in order to live a simpler healthy life. Today, I try to balance those three aspects, but it wasn’t always that way, and it definitely took some time. Living in a healthier way is part of living a simple life, as long as there is a balance of what one likes, believes, cares for, as it honors one’s value system while being respectful of other people who might not think like you.
I love this time of the year. The beginning of Spring, when bugs are still half asleep, and the garden is awakening. The temperatures are a bit cool enough to enjoy preparing the garden for the rest of the year. That is what we have been working on, setting up the garden. Cleaning up winter’s memories and hoping for a good gardening year. Last year we had a drought, and everything looked sad and dry. I am hoping for plenty of rain.
We cleaned up the veggie garden. Had to discard one of the large boxes; it broke on the sides. A layer of fresh mulch was applied, and containers were moved around to make room for new planting boxes. My husband made veggie markers, and I am hoping to plant much more. Despite the ice and crazy weather, lettuce came back from last year. Two full containers, so I will not have to plant lettuce this year. It survived the frost.
I started two new areas in the garden this year. These are a work in progress right now. One is at the very front of the property, and the other area is next to the faerie garden. This area is covered by lush green moss in the spring, which I love, and the only thing I have been able to plant here are hostas; it is a shady area. We try to add to the garden something new every year. Little by little this garden has been transformed from the original mess of weeds and overgrown bushes to something more delightful. You can see the progress on the Restoring a Farmhouse series of posts.
I am very happy because a small garden center opened in our area, and now we will not have to drive that far to purchase plants or gardening material. After all that hard work, our reward was my delicious version of Fiesta Rice.
The past couple of posts under The Simple Life series have been about my experience in learning to live a much simpler life. Today, I want to write about learning and discovery. These posts are not in any particular order; it just relates to what I have experienced and the many changes I have made in my lifestyle, along with my husband.
Moving from the Jersey shore area to live in the country in Southern Virginia certainly feels very different. It is a different lifestyle but also a different culture and ways to approach and do things. People interact different with each other. There are degrees/rules of politeness in comparison to the open and fast friendly approach of the Jersey shore. Things around here move much relaxed, and also formal in certain circumstances. Overall, people are friendly, welcoming, and very polite. It is not uncommon for people to show up at your home to introduce themselves and know who you are, followed by friendly conversation. Learning to read people and customs has become part of our simple living.
In our effort to fix up the old farmhouse, we’ve had to learn many skills, although my husband has always been very handy with tools and fixing things. I have become his sidekick thus having to learn in order to assist. We fixed up 95% of the place ourselves. If you are interested in reading about it, those posts are under Restoring an Old Farmhouse. We have learned about gardening here, and plants respond very different to the weather and soil here than the sandy soil and cooler temperatures of the Jersey Shore. I had a lovely garden which did not require much upkeep, and I think that gardening is a bit more challenging in this area. There are quick temperature changes as well as weather changes. Spring is bouts of hot and cold with gusts of wind. In general, I have to be more weather alert here. Summer is very humid and hot or humid and wet, and it takes a toll on the garden. Frequent watering becomes a chore sometimes. Surprisingly, I find winters here wet and cold.
Learning about some of the wildlife was a necessity that I honestly did not think about until we had move here. Poisonous spiders, snakes, critters … all of that and more. Right now, I am having to deal with a moth caterpillar invasion; they are just everywhere as if they would fall from the sky, and although I found them cute, I don’t do well with cuteness in numbers. This week I learned that the hair in these caterpillars contain histamine which might give people a rash when in contact with the skin. The falling from the sky part is that they actually fall from trees and the wind carries them via their silk thread. Who knew? Down the shore I only had to worry about the occasional wasps and tons of mosquitoes. We had a mosquito man who drove a truck fumigating the area every year.
The first two years felt like I was in learning mode 24/7 – people, customs, places, wildlife, housework … a bit overwhelming at times but exciting too. The most important point about all this is disposition, our attitude for learning and working together at a different pace and environment. There is much to learn and discover yet but knowing where we stand and having survived the first year of change, gives way to balance, and that is always good.
Simple living is about balance but also, the openness and readiness to welcome life’s lessons, and discover simple, good, and lovely things.