Two Years in the Northwoods

Today is a mini-monumental day. Two years ago, to the date, marks our two-year anniversary living in the great Northwoods. Can you believe it’s been two years already? Two years since we packed up our family of four and moved from the Twin Cities to small town, Cumberland, WI.

 

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Nick working on the farm this summer.

It’s the stuff dreams are made of. But let me assure you, fulfilling dreams, going after what you want, your heart’s calling, is not all rainbows and butterflies and glitter and sunshine, though according to my sweet hubby, that’s the world I live in, and what a wonderful one.

Finding purpose, fulfilling dreams, chasing your heart’s calling is not a one-and-done, but a continual decision, continually facing fear, conquering it, and then preparing yourself to face it again. It’s accepting failure as a given and renaming it learning. It’s reminding yourself that you’re not perfect (and rationalizing with yourself that you don’t want to be perfect anyway). It’s feeling lost and overwhelmed and being unsure if you’re capable of really making it happen. It’s allowing yourself to be your most vulnerable, and putting it out there for people to speculate your shortcomings and share your successes. It’s living a life without regrets, because at the end of this life, it’s the things you don’t do that take up the most space of regrets.

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The farm after the worst thunderstorm of the summer. One that leveled farms in nearby towns.

As you may recall from one of my first posts ever, nearly two years ago now, there were many things that brought us out here. So, how has this life transition stacked up against our expectations?

A glimpse into the last two years living in the Northwoods…

Community & Connection – Check & Check!

One thing we were desiring prior to moving is becoming part of and building a community. We hadn’t heard of Cumberland before moving here, so weren’t sure what to expect. Well, this small town of less than three thousand people has exceeded our expectations. They have not only welcomed us, but embraced and supported us. They have made this place feel like and become our home, so much in fact, most days it feels like we’ve always been here.

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Near the end of our growing season this fall harvesting the last bit of our herbs to dry.

We have also had the opportunity, through our Farmers Market in Spooner (a slightly larger town about 25 minutes North of us), to build a second community that we could have only ever dreamed of with the vendors and our customers. We have found a group of people who have chosen a life similar to us, who share our values of community, connection, and purpose, who are redefining the norm and following their passions and dreams, giving up big corporate gigs in the city to settle into a slower, more meaningful life. It’s. So. Cool.

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Celebrating our 17-year wedding anniversary at Spooner Farmers Market this summer, where we sold out of our lettuces nearly every week by 10:30 A.M. (Pictured here is our curly kale)

Adventure, Courage, & Purpose – Yup, Yes, & Work In-progress!

Living this life, small, regenerative farming, homesteading, building a small business, is an adventure and takes courage every day. We’re out here doing stuff we’ve never done, building a business we don’t know how to build, and trusting God and the Universe in a way we’ve never tried.

As for purpose, that’s a bit tougher right? Finding and fulfilling purpose is something that never feels complete, and perhaps never is. And if my purpose is people, which I believe with every cell in my body it is, then everything I do needs to align with that. But then there’s also creative passion that’s constantly ablaze in those cells and needs a productive, and God-willing, a financially lucrative outlet. So the ongoing question is this, how do I merge and manage my purpose, innate talents, and creative passions in a meaningful way? Like I said, work in progress.

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Relaxing on the farm after a busy Saturday farmers market in Spooner, WI this summer.

Joy, Freedom, & Family – Getting there, Pretty much, & More so Than Ever!

Joy’s a tough concept, I think, to define, but I think when you experience it, you just know. I used to think Joy was knowing everything will be all right. And perhaps that’s it, and perhaps it’s much more and simpler than that. What I can say is that I’ve had moments over these last two years, usually when I’m in mental, emotional, and spiritual turmoil, where sudden awareness hits me and I become overwhelmed with a gratitude that fills my entire existence with sunlight – warm and pure, full of hope – knowing that I’m exactly where I need to be and exactly who I need to be. It’s momentarily removal of all doubt and a connection to God and the Universe that’s beyond explanation – that builds and swells and reaches through all the spaces and says I know you. It’s pure love and acceptance. My goal: to live in a constant state of joy. Until then, I’ll take the few-and-far-between experiences and cherish them exceedingly.

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Yesterday.

Freedom, now that’s an interesting and evolving ideal for me. We’ve experienced freedom from our past 9-5 jobs, freedom from the city, freedom from the expectations of others, mostly.  And the freedom that comes with spending time in nature. But then there’s freedom from self-doubt, freedom from judging yourself against societal norms, and freedom from those societal norms that is so much harder to achieve. Not sure we’ll ever get there, but feel we’re heading in the right direction.

Family, now that’s a BIG important one. Our family of four is closer than ever – and possibly leaning towards co-dependent – maybe – don’t worry, we’ll pivot if need be. Since Nick and I both work from home, we’re practically omni-present with our kids, though not always engaged – working on it. We spent our Saturdays at the farmers market this summer together, read chapter books nearly every night together, travel together, work together, and play together, and I like it. My husband and boys are my FAVORITE people to be around, even when they quite frankly suck (#truthbomb).

 

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Hanging at our Spooner Farmers Market this summer with the boys.

In summary, in the last two years since moving to the Northwoods, we’ve started a farm and small business, quit and changed jobs (because we still gotta work off the farm too), established a community and customers, made friends, chased dreams, fulfilled dreams, made new dreams, pulled ourselves out of despair, conquered fears, found joy and gratitude, and fulfilled and exceeded many of our expectations. But this is only the beginning…

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My beautiful family on the farm late this summer. (Nick, Me, Townes on left and Ryker by me on right)

 

 

 

A Year in Review – the good, the bad, & the scary

It only seems fitting that on the first day of the new year I look back and review the previous year and share it with you. Because, although I share a lot, I haven’t shared it all. And 2018 was a year that emotionally and mentally brought me to my knees in despair, elevated my joy in earnest, and all but eliminated my pride.
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Taking a walk in our greenhouse

Joy. Courage. Faith.

Never one for New Year’s resolutions, a few years ago I adopted a bit of a new tradition, inspired I believe, by Brene Brown (check her out; she’s amazeballs). Instead of overwhelming myself with all the ways and things I should do to become a better person, I instead adopted a word to guide and direct my actions and decisions for that year.

My word for 2017 was “joy,” and consequently the year Nick and I decided to make a major change based solely on what brought us joy. Not what was financially the smartest or most secure, otherwise we would have stayed put in our home and in our jobs, which you know by now, we didn’t do.

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Townes and Ryker exuding sheer joy at the Mall of America this Christmas season visiting Santa

Then in 2018, my word became “courage.” Courage in all things big and small. Courage to start over in a new state. Courage to leave the city and all we had ever known for a life in the country. Courage to build a business. Courage to trust ourselves. Courage to live daily in the unknown. Courage to ask for help. And courage to leave my job and forgo the security and stability it offered.

 

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Our woods

Now, in 2019, my word is “faith.” Faith in myself, in my abilities and my dreams. Faith in the unknown, believing that it’ll all be okay. Faith in our farm and our business, that we’ll be able to make a living. Faith in God, and, in the words of the Alchemist, “the universe [that] will conspire to help us.” Faith in my family and children. Faith in my decisions, values, gifts, talents, and purpose. Faith in humanity. Faith, that no matter what, I can claim the sky.

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Hanging in the rain by our pond

 

The “Good”

All-in-all, 2018 was a good year. I met amazing people here in Cumberland, made new friends, and started to immerse myself in this wonderful community.

I exerted courage doing many new things.

  • I took country line dancing lessons.
  • I raised ducklings successfully into adulthood.
  • I got a part-time (two Saturdays/month) job at a local boutique outfitters, Idlewild Outfitters, to meet people and learn sales.
  • I chased a lifelong dream of being a Cub Scout and became the den leader of my boys’ Tiger den.
  • I volunteered for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Barron County.
  • I commissioned my first independent consulting gig.
  • I started this blog.
  • I helped build a yurt!

And many wonderful things happened on the farm.

  • Though we didn’t get as far as we would have liked, we made loads of progress on the farm.
  • An adorable stray kitty, now named Turnip, showed up out of the blue this summer and has chosen to let us adopt him.
  • We ate so much wonderful fruit we discovered growing on our property: plums, apples, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and black raspberries. Plus deliciously huge asparagus.
  • We witnessed the most beautiful sunsets.
  • Our home was almost always filled with loved ones.
  • We adopted chickens, and they lay the most beautiful eggs and are hilarious to have around.

Then there were the moments of quiet joy that would break through my angst and depression with realization of the life I’m so lucky to live. Surrounded by beauty and nature. Taking care of animals. Working from home. Being part of a community. Loved by my family.

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Walking in our field of Goldenrod

The “Bad” and the “Scary”

I’m a bit hesitant to call what I’m about to say, “bad” simply because it’s what brought me to my most courageous moments.

For the last couple of years I had been dealing with an intense lack of purpose. My values were evolving and my life and career were beginning to feel out of alignment with them.

I was loathing a job I once loved and felt trapped in what was beginning to feel like purposeless work. Then I began to fear I’d lose the job I once loved, and fear I’d keep the job I now loathed. I felt useless, purposeless, and stuck.

Then, last summer, it all came to a head and I found myself for the first time experiencing self-loathing and crippling anxiety. I sought help and started seeing a therapist and was put on Zoloft.

As I started feeling better I began having productive conversations with my boss. Nearly nine years I had been on his team, and I was attached, but it was time for me to move on. And so, I did the scariest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. November 2, 2018, I left a job with fantastic benefits, a 401K, a pension, flexible hours, and amazing people for the unknown. I honestly don’t know what’s in store for me next and it scares the crap out of me. But for the first time in a couple of years, I’m positively excited about all the possibility that exists ahead of me. I’m still afraid, but this fear feels right and good.

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Christmas time with my handsome hubs

So, onto 2019 with new and wonderful possibility.

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A walk in the butterfly garden last summer

 

Our weekend building a yurt

A couple of weekends ago we were invited by our friends, Kayla and Eric from Turtle Hare Farm, to build an 18′ yurt at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais. Considering that I’m hoping to put a yurt or two on our own property, I was jumping up and down waving both arms at the chance. It also just happened to fall on the weekend prior to my birthday. So happy birthday to me – eek!
It was a four-day build, but we could only stay for the first two days. You know – kids, ducks, chickens, dog, and cat stuff.
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The North House Folk School

First things first, what’s a yurt?

I wasn’t sure of what this was myself until about a year or two ago. It’s basically a semi-permanent, year-round, circular tent. But there’s more history to it than that. Apparently felt-walled yurts were often used by a horse-riding nomadic people in Asia many, many, many, MANY moons ago. You can read more about it here if you’d like.

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The sample yurt the school had up for us to see. It also had a small heating stove in it.

Now, onto the yurt building with Turtle Hare Farm

We met our friends at Turtle Hare Farm when we lived in the Afton, MN area. They were our neighbors and they happened to move in, and consequently out, at the same time we did. They largely inspired us when they turned their entire front yard into a market garden (see my previous post for what a market garden is). Then, six months after we moved to 16 acres in Cumberland, WI, they moved to 16 acres in Two Harbors, MN. It does all feel a bit serendipitous doesn’t it? Like, we were totally supposed to meet when we did.

 

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A selfie of us with our instructor Ian (back left) and Eric and Kayla (foreground), taken by Eric

Day 1 – Saturday, December 1, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Nick and I left our house at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning to make it to class in Grand Marais by 8:30 a.m. for check in. When we got there we met Ian from Creaking Tree Farm, our instructor and fellow market gardener. FYI, Ian and his wife lived in a yurt for nearly five years up North. Super cool, right?

Once introductions were made, we, along with Garrett (Kayla’s brother) and Hannah (Garrett’s girlfriend), and Eric, got to work (Kayla would be joining us later that day).

The first thing we did was drill/press holes into the wood that would become the lattice walls. We did that many, many times over.

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This is Eric using the drill press to measure and drill holes evenly through for the lattice. We would later tie rope through these holes.

From there we put the wood into a nice hot bath so that we could later bend it into a slight curve for the walls. The wood soaked for the day while we worked on the roof and skylight. Then we wove the wood in a frame to the get that slight round curve.

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Soaking the wood in a nice warm bath.

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The hot tub – so to speak.

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Bending the wood felt like a giant weaving. It was beautiful and really cool to do.                    Photo credit: Eric Elefson

Once we wove the wood lattice then we got to work preparing the wood that would be used to frame in the ceiling, AKA the rafters. This consisted of planing the four edges of the wood so they wouldn’t rub the fabric walls, cutting out notches in one end that would set into a cable, rounding the other end of the wood that would fit into the skylight, and sanding everything down.

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Here Eric and Kayla are planing/sanding all four edges of the wood.

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Garrett is cutting out the notches that will fit against the cable and Hannah is sanding them.

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Kayla using this thing-a-majig to create a rounded post of sorts.

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Time to sand all the rough edges down.

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What the rafter posts looked like when all was said and done. Ain’t they a beaut!

Now onto the skylight! This consisted of a lot of tracing patterns onto wood, cutting them out, gluing the pieces together, and team work. We even gathered in a circle for the chorus of kumbaya (haha, JK, but doesn’t it look like it?).

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Here we’re actually lining up, gluing, and clamping the cut wood together for the skylight.

Once the pieces for the skylight were glued together, we clamped them and left them for the night to dry.

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Now we leave it overnight to dry.

Day 2 – Sunday, December 2, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Day 2 started out with tying the lattice boards together to create the slightly curved walls. This consisted of tying, burning, and waxing approximately 700 knots. We had numb, worn fingers by the end. It was oddly satisfying and took most of the day.

We were coupled off and assigned a section of the wall. It felt a bit like couples’ therapy. I liked it.

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Nick tying the lattice wall together. Each knot probably took about 1-2 minutes to complete. Although we did get faster with each passing hour.

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Once all the knots were tied we went through with a blow torch and wax block to secure the knots. I also liked this part; you know…fire and stuff.

While we were tying 700 knots, Ian was busy finishing up the skylight by cutting off the points and rounding the outer edge. He also drilled large holes to fit the rafters we cut and sanded the previous day.

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The one in the foreground is after the edges were cut and rounded. The one in the background is what it looked like before.

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Ian is drilling the holes we’ll put the rafter posts into.

While finishing touches were being made to the skylight and lattice walls, Kayla and I started to cut the Velcro and fabric that would be used for the walls.

Then we got to assemble the frame!

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The lattice walls are up!

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Now to string the cable.

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Eric and Kayla fitting the rafter posts onto the cable. The notched end slid over the cable and the post end fit into the skylight.

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They skylight and rafters once assembled.

Once the frame was assembled the work day was over and it was time for us to jet and start the nearly 4-hour trek home. The whole way home we talked about what an amazing experience the weekend had been with some really cool people and how we’d be back soon to hopefully build our own yurt.

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Enjoying all the day’s efforts inside the yurt.

Kayla and Eric would stay another two days to finish the yurt, then they’d disassemble it, load it in their truck, and bring it home to reassemble in the spring in time to open their farm stay. To see the final product, follow along with Eric and Kayla on Instagram at @ericeire and @turtleharefarm

Peace!