At the time of this writing, it is nine days until the first day of Autumn. I am already welcoming the season and enjoying many of its sights. Soon I will enjoy its colors. We had our first temperature change in the upper 50s last night, and today there is a crisp in the air. The only thing I am not looking forward is the soon to arrive in waves, clouds of ladybug-look-alike Asian beetles that will cover the area. It is one thing that I truly dislike about living here. The process should take about 1-2 weeks depending on the weather. In the meantime, I will enjoy the weather transition and all the blessings that a new season brings – the ongoing song of excited crows, oranges, reds, yellows, all kinds of crimson … unexpected critters, autumn candy, hearty meals, darker nights, and the magic of another season.
It seems that once the To-Do list goes down, another task comes along unexpectedly. We have one more tree to add to the trees that must be cut down. It happens to be my favorite pine. I loved to look at that tree during the seasons, and I even took some pictures of it and shared one or two on this blog. Unexpectedly, the tree became brown. It happened fast and in a matter of a couple days, not even a week. One day I looked at it and admired it, and the next time I looked it was brown. We don’t know for sure what happened, but we think that either my husband or the utility company killed it. My husband sprayed some Roundup near it while trying to get rid of some stubborn weed growing under the blue shed. Upon research, we found that Roundup is lethal to pine trees. By the same time, the utility company/city was spraying nearby to kill trees that might grow around or overtake electric lines. If the wind carried some of it and the needles absorbed it, the tree would become brown fast. Now the dead tree is a danger to the house, so it will need to be removed. In the meantime, the weeds under the shed never died.
Removing large trees is quite expensive, so we are tackling one tree at a time and budgeting for each one. I will certainly miss this tree, and for now, I will enjoy its reddish-brown hue and hope for a miracle.
You do what you can do, and more if you can. When we moved to the farmhouse we had to learn about wells. We never had a well system as our source for water. The well in the property was not operable, so we had to fix a few things, more than a few. We hired an experienced company to change the old parts and get it working. Later on, the pump burned, and we had to install a submersible pump, which we learned to do ourselves – $$$. A year after, the existing pipe broke and we had to install a new one, and again, we did the work ourselves saving money. We learned that the pressure has to be monitored from time to time to prevent burning of the pump in certain conditions. By now, my husband knows how to do the job and he monitors the pressure a few times during the year. We also learned that outdoor wells freeze during the winter at freezing temperatures, so we installed a device to keep the pipe warm. But most important, we learned that wells do not last forever, and can run dry at any moment. To dig another well is very expensive. We have become more aware of our water usage, and also, have a barrel system in place to collect rainwater. A mesh filters leaves and debris. We use this water for plants, cleaning things outdoors, and any other outdoor use that we might need. It helps us maximize the longevity of our well. In the event of a power outage, we can use this water for non-drinking or cooking applications, as long as it is not during a very cold winter. We learned to sanitize the water as well.
To give you an idea in case you want to save some water, here is a picture of our barrel system.
Fixing up this old farmhouse has taken energy, time, and a bit of money; however, it has been rewarding. One of the areas in which we worked early on was the porch garden. We had taken recycled bricks from the chimney we took out in the kitchen and reused it in the area. Later on, when we created a small garden around the house using existing plants, potted plants, and white marble chips, we realized that we needed to make the area blend with the rest. The garden around the house is completed now. We moved around and relocated some potted plants. We positioned the concrete bench that was on the porch to the left side of the garden, just to match the right side of the garden. It worked out well. One more project off the long list.
A bit of background for readers new to this blog. The old farmhouse was in very bad shape when we bought it. It had been abandoned for many years and weather/time/renters/squatters had been rough on it. The value was on the land. By just looking at the derelict home we knew that anything we were to do from that point on would be an improvement. That has been a goal, to improve and add value over time.
Continuing with the long list of things to do around here, it was time to repaint the porch (original to the 1910 farmhouse) and the floor, so that’s what we did. We were lucky to find a gallon of paint for $9.99 at the Home Depot on the “mishaps or Oops shelf” and it was exactly the color we needed, a haint blue or a sky blue. It is a custom in the South to paint the porch ceiling a light shade of blue. It is called haint blue and there are many variations of this blue. Long ago people used to paint their homes a haint blue to ward off evil spirits and that’s how the blue color got its name. According to legend, evil spirits could not cross water and the light color blue mimicked a water surface, thus discouraging evil spirits from visiting the home. Later on, people painted the porch a haint blue shade because it discouraged bugs from landing on the porch; it gives the illusion of open space or sky. Although these seemed two very good reasons for choosing this color, especially, reason number two during the summer, I just love the color. It seems light and airy, refreshing, and gives the impression of light during the evening. I just love it. Many homes in town display some variation of this blue on the porch ceiling.
Many years ago, we had painted the ceiling a dark blue. We wanted to keep the original ceiling, so we just scraped and painted it. We like the look of the small boards. We caulked some areas before repainting. Here’s the before.
The brick area will be our next project. We will be matching it to the rest of the garden by replacing it with white marble chips and changing the layout a bit. The bricks were recycled when we took out the small chimney in the kitchen. We will recycle and use the bricks on another area of the garden. The to-do list is getting a bit smaller.
I love this town. Over the past six years it has grown on me. It reminds me of the little towns in a Kinkade painting or an old-fashioned Christmas movie. I was able to enjoy the Independence Day celebration and will share some pictures on this post. The town dressed up in red, white, and blue and delighted people with different activities during the three days of celebration. The town’s parade and fireworks were held on a Saturday.
The town dressed up, and homeowners decorated their homes for a patriotic competition.
This is a historic town dating back to 1777 and is evident throughout; history is embraced. Its churches are beautiful and there are many buildings with lovely architectural features. One of the highlights was to be able to read about its history in strategically placed signs throughout Main Street.
Competition was the original name of this town, and in 1852 it was changed to Chatham . Competition Alley, one of its early streets remains and has been highlighted.
There are many other interesting buildings in town.
Chatham was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historical Places. It is approximately two square miles and has a small population of around 1,350, give or take. It is called “the prettiest little town in Southside Virginia.”
There is no “perfect life,” only life surrounded by circumstances and what one makes of it all. A simple life is as simple as one makes it, and as sweet as one wants it to be, despite the ups and downs that living on this imperfect world brings. One can do it alone or approach it simply with faith. It is then that it becomes sweet. As a person of faith, I understand that there is so much I can do on my own, and when my efforts are not enough, I give it all to the one that makes things sweeter and simpler, Jesus Christ.
Realizing my human limitations and weaknesses has made me understand my spiritual strength and power in Jesus. It truly changes perspective and expectations. We are about to enter a new phase for this country and the world. Depending on your stance in faith you will find it a blessing or not. Simple living isn’t devoid of challenges and troubles; it is not perfect, but it can be sweet. The difference is simply faith. The shifting of one’s focus to see the everyday blessings instead of the troubles, and the certainty and knowledge that God is always a prayer away, and that is next to you.
The pursuit of a simple life is what you make of it, and you don’t have to move to the country to find it. It is a knock-knock away, when you answer His call.
I hope you have enjoyed The Simple Life series of posts, and that somehow you have found simple inspiration. I wish for you a blessed life of sweet satisfaction.
One important aspect of living a simple life is realizing the blessings that one receives every single day. It leads to gratitude and gratitude leads to abundance. When one realizes how abundant life is (abundance doesn’t equal money) the natural response is the desire to give, to bless others. A blessing comes in many forms like helping someone in their hour of need, monetary or not, materially or not, or giving of yourself in whatever capacity you can do so. Whether you help someone cut their grass, share the fruits, veggies, or flowers of your garden with a neighbor, lend a hand or console someone, donate food, money, or a service … it is all giving.
These days are calling for people to bless others. Inflation in every area of daily life puts households in a very tight spot and many people are having to cut basics such as food, heating, cooling … One way in which anyone can benefit is with the gift of food or basic staples. If you don’t have much but want to bless someone, having a blessing box with basic supplies on hand is something you can do. You never know when you will meet or hear of someone who is in need. A blessing box is simple and not necessarily large or expensive. It is filled with a few items that a person can use. It can be any size. Here’s an example of a simple blessing box.
A can of milk
A box of crackers
A jar of peanut butter
A package of rice
A can of beans or veggies
A jar of jelly or cheese
A can of meat or tuna (spam, chicken …)
A can of soup
A box of pasta
A can of sauce
A package of flour
A package of sugar
Tea or coffee or powder drink
These are staples anyone can use, and last long in storage. Whether your blessing box contains four items or more, it will be appreciated by the person who needs it. Having one at hand facilitates a blessing for someone. This is just a simple example on how one can be a blessing to someone else. A blessing box can contain anything useable (school supplies, paper goods…) but food is important and always welcomed.
Sometimes, we hold back blessings because we think that we have to be rich, prosperous, or have it all together to be able to start blessing other people. An act as simple as putting a can of soup in your town or church’s food bin is a blessing to another. We are conditioned to think that bigger is better, instead of thinking that blessings come in all sizes and for all people. Living simply is understanding that you can be a blessing in many ways, in unlimited ways. When you give of yourself you are blessing someone, but also blessing yourself.
One practice that I did not think I would take on was keeping a journal for gardening. I did not think I needed to keep track of plants or make notations about it. The practice started out of necessity. The first year I started a veggie garden, many things did not take or survive. I was puzzled because I never had a problem growing flowers and had a healthy garden in Jersey near the beach, a challenging soil. I assumed growing veggies from seed was challenging, but also found out that the crazy changing on and off weather here in Southern Virginia had a lot to do with it. I decided to start a journal to track what I did, and the results. By doing this I identified many things I could do differently and others that did not work, but also, things I could improve on. The second year was much better. I was pleased and decided to keep the practice for a few more years.
This little garden journal has evolved quite a bit from where it started. Today it serves more than one purpose. It helps me plan the next year garden, holds sketches for garden projects, and other things garden related. I carry checklists that represent garden goals for the year, materials needed, and the goals that were not accomplished by the end of the gardening season will go on next year’s list. Something so simple ended up being an important resource for me. It has also become a very enjoyable pastime.
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
I wish I could say that living a simpler life is simply easy, but I’ve found that there was (and is) a lot of work involved, dedication as well. For us, it meant to tackle a huge list of things to do as well as learning the other things we needed to learn to do those things efficiently and economically in a limited amount of time. To read more on that you can visit Fixing an Old Farmhouse series of posts. It also meant leaving some things behind, some we didn’t want to leave, and some we did. We also had to deal with the pressures that come with all of that, but most important, we had to work as a team, be on the same page, and define what good work and accomplishment meant for us. We had to realize that each day brought new challenges, and every day was different. The cookie-cut routine was over, and there was no room for costly mistakes. We had to reach a new level of trust as a couple, and trust that “I got your back” was enough. Enough to get the job done and keep on going with the blessing of the Lord.
Hard days behind gave way to plans and possibilities, and a sense of balance, and with it, a feeling of good work and accomplishment, the sweet satisfaction of the challenge. There will always be good days and less than perfect days, and a list of to-dos; however, as long as “got your back” remains our motto, simple living becomes sweet living. Living the simple life entails realizing that each day brings challenges and blessings of its own along with sweet satisfaction.
New challenges are about to test people in this country and worldwide. Our faith, values, and belief systems will be tested in ways we are not accustomed to. As a people, as a nation, we might have to learn to “get each other’s backs” and come together as one.