Homesteading Blurb: UPS, Trees, and the Importance of Community

Written on Wednesday the 5th

Today I walked down to the mail to wait for UPS to come. They will leave packages by the land company sign if I ask them to, but they won’t cross the bridge to get to my house. Obviously there becomes the problem of the package possibly walking off with someone else or being damaged by weather. So my solution to this problem is to schedule the delivery for a day when the weather is reasonably nice, and then walk up to the mailboxes by the main road and wait for delivery, and carry the items back. Of course it’s a bit of a hassle, but that’s what happens when you live this far out in the country without a car. The idea of a “small” errand like this taking so long is likely inconceivable to modern folk, but its more on par with the way our ancestors experienced life. Besides, I only order things this way once a month, and only for necessary items that I can’t get on the shuttle ride into town.

It is just over a half-mile walk to to the mailboxes, making it over a mile round-trip. I admit that some days I resent not having a car to do this, and when I set off on the start I’m angry. Angry at the world and pissed off that I don’t have a car and ended up in this situation. But that rarely lasts. Something about walking on the private gravel roads winding though the plots of woods and fields is very calming. Sometimes the neighbor’s dogs run up to greet me. I see horses and goats in the feilds along the way. Sometimes one of the neighbors is in his or her yard or on the road and they stop to chat. Since my brother rarely comes on these walks with me, its also one of the only times I get to meditate on Nature and the Gods uninterrupted, especially when I go just after sunrise.

I’m writing this draft by hand up by the mailbox right now. I can hear wild turkeys gobbling in the distance. Two Great Pyrenees, livestock guardian dogs, are laying down snoozing in the sun 15 feet away from me. They live in the field next to the mailboxes, guarding the goats and horses. I carry treats for them every time I come up here, as I know several other neighbors do. Sometimes when they are hungry they come all the way to my house because they know I will feed them. These dogs are as much a part of my community out here as the humans are, and I am just as happy to know them.

My favorite neighbor, Tom*, and his family moved back to the hill, much to my delight. Apparently they didn’t sell their land, but were just going somewhere else while letting someone they knew stay there. One of the worst problem neighbors (who was a big part of why Tom* moved) was arrested recently on serious enough charges that he’s not getting out anytime soon. And, no, I’m not going to explain further. Suffice it to say everyone is better off with him gone.

Marina* and her husband have been giving us eggs because they have way more than they can ever eat, and I’ve been giving them egg cartons I’ve saved. It sure seems like I’m getting the better end of this deal, but they were extremely happy about it. Barter system rocks!

I recently met and talked to a new neighbor, who I have seen around for months but had not had the opportunity to meet yet. He showed me the orchard he was working on planting, including some fruit trees he grafted himself, which seemed to be thriving. I hope to get to know him better, and learn how to do this from him. Its awesome when everybody around you has different skill sets and you can learn from them.

Speaking of trees, another neighbor gave us 5 one-year old trees. He ordered 200 of them from the local nursery, but ran out of space in which to plant them. So he gave some trees to each of the neighbors. We got 3 wild plum trees and 2 black walnuts. Now as young as they are, they are far from producing, being only a foot tall. Still, its amazing. Adding those to the three fruit trees we already have, that make 8 trees: 6 fruit trees, 2 nut tress. We have the beginning of our food forest. We cut both ends out of a 2-liter soda bottle, and put it over the tree seedling to protect it from mice and hail. There are small wooden skewers driven into the ground inside the bottle. This is so that when it gets really windy (and it will here in the Ozarks) all the weight is on the wooden steaks and not on the delicate seedlings.

The trees we bought at Walmart last year are doing fantastic. The plum is twice as tall as it was (it was already about three years old last year) and leafed out beautifully. The peach is tall and bushy, and the thunk is extremely thick, the leaves a beautiful vibrant green. The pear is green and looks good, but has not grown as fast. It is a slower growing variety, being a standard-sized fruit tree, and the other 2 are semi-dwarf. We might peaches or plums this year. There won’t be a lot because the trees are still kind of small but we could get some. The pear is way too small to support fruit. Even if it does flower, we are going to pinch them off so all its energy goes into developing a strong root system and getting big, strong, and healthy.

We are getting PLENTY of rain right now. There was a crazy storm last night. I opened the door and watched the downpour of Zeus’s fury upon the world for a few minutes. It was very humbling. And it was perfect timing, too, for the health of the new trees. Okay I’m gonna sign off for now.

Happy homesteading!

 

*All the names of my neighbors and friends have been changed for their privacy.

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