2019 is a year that we will remember the rest of our lives. It has been a time of accomplishing same major goals at the Nan Awaya Farmstead, and also a time of getting plenty of practice in the art of laughing under challenging circumstances. We are grateful to everyone who helped us along the way.
Unlike past years, we can’t report on the completion of miles of new cross fence, or share a fun winter camping experience on the land with you. What we can say is that this is the first post written from our new home on the range. Most of our off work hours this year have gone into doing things like screwing studs together and laying PEX line. These activities are not traditional arts, neither are they land management activities, but the reality is that if you want to live out on the land and still be able to interact with mainstream society, you have to have a modern(-ish) home. Building and maintaining a rural home on a limited budget means learning to do as many things as possible yourself. Through most of 2019, our friends Jim and Ryan and several others built our home for us. Ian was grateful to be able to assist them in the construction, learning important skills every step of the way.
Our family helped us paint, install some basic plumbing, and move in. For some good reasons, we moved into our new home when it was still a long way from being finished inside. The day after move in, it was just the two of us in a new house with no heat, no air, no window screens, no hot water, no stove, no kitchen sink, no refrigerator, no clothes washer, no clothesline, no closet, no accessible furniture, no street address, and no mailbox. Such a humble beginning was a recipe for making lasting memories, to put it one way. At first, we slept on a futon mattress laid on the concrete floor of our hallway, with our cat running back and forth over us all night. We washed our dishes in a container of cold water poured from the bathtub spigot. Our main water line had several punctures, so to do anything that required water, one of us had to walk 240 paces out to the road and communicate with the other person by cellphone to shut the main water valve on and off on demand. This kind of thing can be fun when you’re camping out. It has given us a lasting appreciation for the conveniences we have too often taken for granted However, when you have to be presentable for work by 7 every morning, it can also be a challenge. The most difficult point came right after the main move, when Ian strained his back yanking our old 300-lb clothesline posts (concrete and all) out of the ground.
Over the past 3 months, the two of us have been able to tackle all of the issues mentioned above. Often, we've succeeded through sheer force of determination more than any particular merit of our own. In getting things set up, a scenario repeated itself so regularly it became funny. With limited hours at home, and a delay in getting our mailing address, we had to make special arrangements to get basic things transported to our home, like a sink or a door. When we began to install the appliance, we’d discover that it was unusable due to some manufacturer’s defect. This meant more arrangements to transport the defective thing back to the store, a fight to get them to take it back, and finally still more special arrangements to get the replacement back out to our house. After installation, our tankless electric water heater worked, exactly one time. Our in-person repair person advised us that if we would deal with pure cold showers for about a year that the water heater might fix itself (!!!!!). Instead, after only 6 weeks of cold showers, Ian was finally about to get it working himself, with over-the phone assistance from the company and Uncle Anthony. Our first 18 phone calls to our insurance company didn’t see our new home get insurance coverage - but our 19th call did…
We’ll remember these few months forever, both for the joy of building something and the satisfaction of working together to overcome an array of challenges. Through the process, we’ve even picked up some useful hands-on skills. This picture is the interior of our living room. Ian completed it last week, using what he learned from our friends Evan and Tom. The wooden planks covering the wall are local, sustainably harvested, and quite reasonable on cost. Our friend Wayne got us connected with the source.
We have been extremely blessed in 2019. Moving into our home on the range was only one of several dreams that became reality. For the past 5 years, we've been working towards the goal of offering healthy food to the community in a way that can help us pay off our loans on the land. 2019 kicked off with the sale of our first order of bison meat from the Farmstead. For the past several years, we’ve felt a growing responsibility to take our home solar in order to become better stewards of the planet. Thanks to Uncle Steve, the sunlight hitting a small patch of panels on the roof powers all of our home’s energy needs. Earlier this year, the Choctaw Food book, ten years in the making, was completed and is now in the hands of the community. It was largely photographed on the Farmstead. We don’t share details about our day jobs at Choctaw Nation on this blog, but two years of Ian’s work efforts are coming to fruition as the Choctaw Nation Cultural Center and its exhibits rapidly head towards completion and opening. Most of these things could not have been accomplished without friends, family, and community helping us somewhere along the way. We're grateful to everyone who taught us and lent us a helping hand in 2019.
With goals completed or nearly completed this year, it’s time to begin working towards the next ones. The goal that we are most excited about is setting Nan Awaya Heritage Farmstead up for guests to regularly come enjoy some special experiences. Stay tuned.
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Into Thin Air
October 16, 2019
Choctaw Food: Remembering the Land, Rekindling Ancient Knowledge