Restoring an Old Farmhouse Garden – New Areas

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.

I started this area a few weeks ago and completed it yesterday. I had to wait until some of the plants were ready to be divided in order to be planted. So far, they took well in the ground, and hopefully, will grow and become fuller. This area is a mix of shade and sun and should be easy to manage. Red mulch is my favorite.

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.

The veggie garden has been evolving over time.
And after all that work, it is always good to eat something hearty.

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.

Love and light.

The Simple Life – Simple Abundance and Prosperity

“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.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV
Photo by M.A.D.

The Simple Life – Balance

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.

Here’s a new area I started in the fairy garden.

This is a shade area, and it has been hard to plant anything, even hostas. It is part of the faerie garden and is covered in moss. Right now, moss is starting to change color to green; I love when it turns thick and green, like nature’s carpet. We have been invaded by moth caterpillars; they are everywhere. Can you spot three of them in the tree trunk at the left?

The Simple Life _ Healthy Living

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.

Simplicity comes in many shapes and form.

The Simple Life – Learning and Discovery

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.

Black Widow under the bird bath.

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.

Love and light.

The Simple Life – Back to Basics

Part of living a simple life is making room for the things that are truly important. By simplifying one’s surroundings, stuff, schedule … and focusing on the basics of living, one learns to appreciate what truly matters in everyday life. In general, life becomes simpler but more enjoyable. Energy as well as resources are freed to serve us and others better. By adapting my lifestyle to embrace only the basic needs and free myself of all the unnecessary, a sense of freedom and control emerged slowly. That change started reflecting on everything else – finances, material possessions, social commitments, health, fitness, nutrition, household management … (each a topic on its own).

In learning to live a simpler life, I have made changes in all these areas. I will give a few examples. I keep my finances as simple as I can. In two words, spending and saving. It works for me and my husband, and it eliminates the need to worry or keeping track of the “extras.” I operate from the belief that all we have has been given as a blessing by God, and he owns it all, so we just take care of it, enjoy it, and use it well. He is the provider of it all and we are the caretakers. If I was to give you an example of how I have simplified every aspect of my life this post would be too long, instead, I will give a few examples of how I simplified some areas. My point is that once you start simplifying in the more material and less important areas, it continues to areas of more significance.

Another example is how I have reduced my possessions considerably, to only what I love and use, and in the case of clothing, what fits well now, according to my lifestyle. I dress and live for the person I am now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any dreams, plans, or aspirations (not to be confused). Another area is nutrition. I keep it as simple as I can. I take vitamins, cook 95 percent of my meals, which are basic, and not premade or prepackaged. On the health and fitness area, I don’t like exercise (never have) so my exercise is limited to chores, walks, and a stationary bike that I should use more often. I go to the doctor once a year, even if they want to see me more often. I don’t have any major health issues that might require constant monitoring.

As far as keeping a home, my routines have been simplified to everyday 1/2-hour cleaning, early in the morning (around 6:30), which maintains the house always clean. I keep a household management system that I tailored to my needs (and husband), which covers all areas of home, personal, work, and includes sections for all the important areas – calendar, notes, to do lists, shopping lists and other lists, planning area, goal area, finances …. you get the idea. It is all in one place, I operate from it, and we can refer to it as needed. It is very easy to refer to each simplified area as I need to. As an example, a simple change I made in the area of cleaning was to realize that I don’t need all the products that are advertised to clean a home. I dumped that idea and only use white vinegar, baking soda, ivory soap (or Castille, pure soap) and laundry detergent. For wood polishing I use butcher block conditioner, made of food grade mineral oil and waxes, which I also use to preserve the wood countertops in the kitchen. I realized that a bar of Ivory soap washes dishes better than dish liquid detergent, so I only buy pure soap for many uses. I keep a mason jar with water next to the kitchen sink and every time a bar of soap is almost finished, I dump it in the jar; when it melts, it makes liquid soap. I don’t own a dishwasher and do not need one; I like doing dishes. My husband likes to use Simple Green for outdoor cleaning. My point to all this rambling is that you don’t need most of the things they sell you, unless you love them in your life. Most areas of our lives can be simplified to just the basics. I don’t miss any of the things or systems, services that I discarded. In the process, I found more time and money, and a sense of relief and peace, less things to manage buy or worry about. “Just the basics” work for me and my husband.

“My dishwashing system”

As a writer, I have simplified routines as well. Mostly, in the areas of freelancing, and the way I approach a new story. I still write the first draft on paper, and I don’t belong to social media platforms anymore. I have a simple green metal box for ideas, and an old rolodex. I don’t lose sleep over the latest best-sellers, or the latest software for organizing my work, tech gadgets …. I hate to use this overused phrase, but in my case, I keep it simple stupid.

It is a process that I am still working on. It doesn’t happen in a week or months. In a way, it is a journey of knowing and finding oneself better, and of knowing to compromise when more than one person lives under the same roof. Generations are conditioned to do things a certain way, to use certain products for certain things, and all this is passed along from generation to generation. There is nothing wrong with that, it keeps continuity and a sense of belonging, ancestry, culture … Breaking with some of those patterns and routines that we learned takes time, but most important, it is voluntary and meaningful to the person who wants the change. By keeping only those things and systems that are meaningful, important, make sense, and fit into one’s lifestyle, our existence becomes more productive, enjoyable, happier, simpler … and it feels good.

Hope you enjoyed this post.

The Simple Life – Joyful Faith

Photo by M.A.D.

When we moved, we took a leap of faith. We knew that we would have tons of work ahead of us, limited resources, and no permanent income, as we had left our jobs behind. Looking back, it was a stressful period; however, there was a degree of excitement, unpredictability and change, but mostly, we operated on faith. I think that part was the one that counted and kept us going until we finished the job. I will not pretend it was easy, totally the opposite, but our faith in the Lord Jesus kept us going day by day, from sun up till’ sun down, and the job was done. We would wake up before sunrise and head back at sundown, every single day. We had to make a dilapidated house a home in a short time with a very tiny budget (You can see our progress in Restoring an Old Farmhouse series of posts).

It is easy to forget challenging times when things flow to our contentment and life seems balanced. Living a simple life draws a great deal from living by faith. Learning to trust that all things work for the best to those who trust in the Lord is part of it.

Romans 8:28“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Knowing that when the future seems far away, and things are not as perfect as one would want, faith bridges the gap and brings what is needed to accomplish the task at hand, whether one has energy or not, resources or not. Somehow, it all falls in divine order, one step at a time, one miracle at a time. The simple life is full of small miracles day in and day out. Joyful faith keeps all the essential pieces of the puzzle together until one is able to see the whole picture. Living in joy and by faith, even when things are in disarray for a season and not as perfect as we wish, is done by keeping our eyes on a higher power and not solely on the circumstances that surround us.

In my journey, I had to learn many new things, leave many behind, and have the disposition to embrace new ones. When days seemed too long, energy and resources at their end, I took my eyes off these things and learned to trust that it would all work out for the best. It is not easy, but faith and prayer fill in the gap in those moments. Simple days are shaped by faith. As someone whose faith rests in Jesus Christ, I can tell you that I have seen the hand of God working alongside me, even when I thought I was holding on to the last string. Whatever was needed at the time materialized in a perfectly timed and orderly fashion. Today, I view faith as an intricate main part of my simple life. When in doubt, I remember, I pray, and I give thanks. Joyful Faith is another important part in living a simple life. Hope you enjoy this post.

Farmhouse Project – The Large Tree

In a previous post – Twelve Future Farmhouse Projects – I mentioned the need to tackle the very old and large tree that is dangerously close to the side entrance of the house. I loved this tree, but it was not looking good (sick), and with the strong winds and storms that sometimes make their way around here, it posed a risk, so we decided to eliminate the danger. I was sad to see most of it gone, and truly felt sorry for it; I guess I had developed an attachment to the tree, “feelings” for it. Due to the cost of cutting down a very large tree, we decided to go for a complete trim of the branches. It looks like at one-point, previous owners might have done the same. The company we hired (Southside Stump Grinding, with the crew of Cut It Rite), did a great job and left everything clean. We will be calling them back for the next tree project. It was nice to experience again good old customer service. They were punctual, fair in pricing, neat, careful, friendly, respectful of property, did what they promised, and had excellent communication throughout the process. Caleb Milam, owner, was on top of everything from the beginning. But going back to the old tree, I have to say that I miss it. One of the crew members said that it was a very old tree. The trunk is very thick, maybe like two and a half of me, and it remains, along with very thick branches, that eventually, we will cut down. For now, we have peace of mind, and that was the goal. I will enjoy what is left of this old giant, and who knows, maybe will cover it in pretty solar lights. It looks like a giant hand coming out of the ground.

The tree before. These branches did not look so thin once they were on the ground. The crew arrived at around 9 am. and worked straight through until around past 2 pm. It was a lot of work, especially because they had to be mindful of the house, the well, and the electricity cables on two sides.
You can actually peel off the bark, and there is moss growing in many areas.
Many branches starting to rot and break in some areas. Here you can see where the previous cuts were done on this tree.
This area at the bottom of the trunk (left) was what let me know it was now the time to do something. I have been watching that part of the tree separate more and more until it broke off. I guess it is part of a root.
And now it doesn’t pose any risk. I can see ivy fairy lights adorning it.

Another project crossed off the list. I hope you enjoyed this post.