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Modern Day Pioneers. No really.
By American standards, our simple, rustic, debt-free way of life is likely a bit peculiar to most. But after four years of being duly sifted through the economic threshing machine, we’ve learned how to survive and even thrive in the pioneer lifestyle God has carved out for us in the wild woods of the Pacific Northwest.
It was our family’s relocation saga. We endured massive lay-offs, two new jobs, long-term family separations, real estate woes, and multiple moves. So one year ago, when we purchased some acreage and a roughed-in home, we counted chief among our blessings the fact that we were together under the same roof.
Well, actually at first we weren’t under the same roof, because for a couple of months, my husband slept in the tool shed and our young son and I slept in the overhang of the horse trailer.
Even so, we were together. Finally.
God really worked over our hearts. He changed our idea of what a person needs in order to be happy. As for all the other stuff—interior doors, trim, indoor bathtubs, thermostat-controlled heating, a kitchen with a dishwasher, lengthy countertops, microwave, and electric range—we count it secondary at best.
Our main “appliance” for nine months of the year is a wood cookstove. It is our sole heat source; I use it for all of our cooking needs, including percolating our coffee. While we do have a front-loading washing machine, we don’t have a functioning dryer, which means we stand our clothing racks beside and behind the cookstove to dry wintertime laundry.
We don’t yet have a permanent kitchen either, but we do have a set-up that works well enough to feed my family.
Cookstoves thrive on a strict wood-eating diet. Consequently, we spend many a day felling trees, sawing logs, splitting rounds, stacking firewood, and chopping kindling to fill its black belly. (One positive side effect is that we sure as shootin’ don’t need gym memberships.)
Since we live well beyond the county’s official road maintenance zone, we are responsible for snow removal, not only for our driveway, but also for our share of the county road. After a nighttime storm, my husband gets up at 4:00 a.m. to plow before he leaves for work. If things get ugly during the day, I plow out a trail so he can return home that evening.
And bath time? If we want to soak in a tub, we do it in the summer. Outside. When we bought this place, it was pre-plumbed for a shower (in the garage, of all places), but not really set up for a tub, so we do our splashing and soaking in a 100-gallon horse trough. We fill it by morning’s early light, and by sundown it’s warm enough for a bath. Not hot, mind you, but warm enough.
I suppose we’ve got one of the only tubs with equine onlookers, forest reflections in the water, and yellow jacket traps hanging nearby.
We also trade labor for goods. My husband exchanges his farrier skills for smoked salmon and pork chops. For fresh produce, my son and I work at a farm one day a week and help at the farmer’s market another day. The work is hot, hard, and dirty, but the payoff sure tastes good. I freeze and dehydrate everything from tomatoes to peaches to green beans to kale to celery. These fruits and veggies feed my family all winter and spring.
Next year we hope to build an outdoor kitchen around a propane double-burner stove. That way, I can use our waterbath canner and prepare summertime fare with something other than a crock-pot and toaster.
For us, and likely the majority of pioneers before us, a simple life has nothing at all to do with a cushy, sedentary life; no sir, no ma’am, quite the contrary. But it does have to do with leading the life God has set before us:
“Yet we urge you…to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12).
We’ve been threshed through the relocation machine. As a result, my family has gleaned an appreciation for one another, and for how God continues to provide for our most basic needs (and then some).
Hard work and simple ways ain’t so bad after all.
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