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We have been a very busy family lately. It turns out there are a lot of people in our area who are interested in back-to-the-land and intentional communities. Hooray! We have been meeting and emailing like crazy, and this has left me very little time to post anything. Add in celebrating Christmas early with the grandparents before they head south for the winter, communicating back and forth with the company that I want to work for in Lansing, and taking care of the boys… oy! I have so much that I want to write about, but I only have the short time that the boys are napping, so I guess I’ll have to condense.

The biggest news is that one of the couples with whom we are meeting and communicating has offered us a place in their farmhouse on 5 acres. They are a travelling duo who spend very little time at home, and would like someone to help them fix it up as a working homestead for their eventual retirement. (We met through Thanks, IC!) The house is plenty big enough for all of us and in great condition. There are multiple outbuildings that serve many different purposes and have potential to change if necessary. There is a small site for a pond that needs to be cleared, and almost all of the 5 acres is arable. We are so excited!

As far as plans go for the fixing-up of the property, we are still in discussion with the owners, but we do know a few things that will happen. First of all, we will have about 3 acres of tilled soil with which to play with. One acre or so will probably go to a large vegetable/market garden. 1/2 acre will be devoted to berry crops. The other 1 1/2 acres will probably be grains and cover crops/green manure crops. We will also have a small flock of chickens to start. There is already a nice big coop, and it sounds like we’ll probably be getting the chicks this spring. The pond site that needs to be cleared will probably be a summer home for a couple of big hogs, who will be slaughtered in the fall for profit. Just south of the pond site the ground slopes up into a little hill with a pretty flat top that would be perfect for starting a small fruit orchard in. The owners have a great idea to put in an herb labyrinth near the road. I think that sounds really fun. I also like their idea of erecting a greenhouse and some hotbeds. They also have a couple bee hives that we can get up and running to help the crops along and provide some yummy golden sweetness for all of us.

It’s going to be a busy year, but so much fun! I can already taste the garden-fresh peas and tomatoes, smell the musky scent of fresh-tilled earth, and hear the buzzing of the insects as they pollinate all of the little flowers.

It looks like we will probably be moving in sometime after the new year. We have to figure out what’s going on with our apartment lease, and how much it will cost to break. We also have to do a little work on the rooms that we will occupy in the farmhouse. There are two HUGE bedrooms with a big walk-in closet connecting them. We’d like to turn the closet into a bathroom by installing a sawdust toilet, a sink, and a shower. In the next couple weeks we’ll start getting measurements of the rooms and sketching up some plans. We’ll probably also start clearing out our storage. If you live near us, keep an eye on Craig’s List. We’ll be getting rid of a lot of stuff, including furniture and appliances.

And to close this happy little note out, I’d like to address something that has really been bugging me lately. Every year it seems the fundies slip into Grinch clothes and take a page out of Ebenezer’s book. What is up with all of the “keep Christ in Christmas” talk? Why the big fuss over saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Happy Christmas”? Is fighting over something so insignificant really the way that these people want to spend the HOLIDAYS? You know, I wish people a Merry Christmas. I’m atheist. Just because I use the word Christmas does not mean that I worship some dude that may or may not have lived ~2000 years ago, nor does it mean that I attribute any deity as the reason for the season. Granted, it is traditionally called Christmas because Christians took over this time of year to celebrate the (actually unknown) date of the birth of their “savior.” For a Christian, Christmas is generally a time of heightened church attendance, plays about biblical stories, and spending time with congregation members. But some other things have been adopted for Christmas from pagan rituals and other religions. Before Christians coined the day as “Christmas” many cultures celebrated Winter Solstice and the coming of the New Year around this time. Rituals like family meals, decorating a tree, decorating a house, making special foods, special processions/parades down through the town, dressing up a certain way, giving gifts, lighting candles, giving thanks, telling tales of superstitious nature (think Santa), helping the needy, and community celebrations… those all come from outside of the Christian culture. People were doing these things long before the holiday season was given the specific name of Christmas.

Alas, the fundies think it is their job to educate the rest of the population about the “real meaning” of Christmas. They put up signs and speak arrogantly and rudely to their friends, neighbors, and strangers. Instead of letting this be a happy time of the year for giving and celebrating, they treat it as the best time of the year to harrass everyone else with their personal beliefs. I’m usually pretty laid back about religious issues. I’ve learned to really think about what fights I want to pick. This is one that I will pick gladly. It’s just ridiculous. The reason for the season is the impending winter, the shortness of the days, the death of most edible crops, and the needs of people to survive. The reason humans have come together to help each other, eat great food, be merry, dance, sing, decorate, and brighten their environment with candles and lights is not because some 2000 year old mythological figure decrees this time of year as holy, but because as humans we seek comfort. When it’s cold, dark, lonely, and instead of green fields filled with food crops all you can see is barren white plains… it’s just human nature to want to come together and push out the darkness, the cold, and the loneliness.

For me, the reason for the season is to celebrate life. My life. The lives of each of my family members. The life of the plants and animals that were raised and harvested to feed us. The lives of people in need. The reason for the season is compassion, love, altruism, and friendship. It’s about coming together with other people to create or renew bonds, to help or receive help.

It’s not about trying to push your personal beliefs on other people. It’s not about buying the best gifts. It’s not about having the best decorated house on the block. It’s not about forcing other people to think the way you do. Yes, I might wish you a Merry Christmas. I might also say Happy Holidays. But it’s all the same thing. It’s all people wanting to come together to get through a naturally rough time of the year. We shouldn’t forget that. We shouldn’t forget that it’s about being happy, and sharing your happiness with others.

Joyeux Noel!

December 2009

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