This is where I am tonight; this is what is in my heart & mind:
When I was 19, my new husband & I moved to 33 acres of gorgeous land in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. I loved the mountains so much, and wanted to learn about “homesteading.”
We got a goat for milk, and I learned how to take care of her, help her have her kids, milked her, and learned to make yogurt & cottage cheese. I baked all our bread.
We bought a 3 day old calf and bottle raised it, then pastured it until it was ready to take to the butcher, to become the best beef I’d ever eaten.
I learned all about raised bed gardening, and produced bumper crops of tomatoes, green beans, squashes, peas, lettuce… pretty much everything. I learned to can the excess, and stocked the cabinet with quart mason jars full of organically grown goodness. I used our plum & pear trees to make delicious jams & pear butter (like apple butter, only better).
I bought horses, because I loved them, had loved them from childhood. I would ride for hours, learned how to barrel race, and entered bareback elimination classes at shows.
I had a child, and continued to do my many outdoors pursuits, often with my daughter riding on my back in a backpack.
Then I developed a love affair with sheep, and tracked down different heritage breeds: sheep for wool for spinning: white sheep & black sheep & spotted sheep & one golden brown sheep (who butted my hand on arrival and cracked a finger from joint to joint). I learned through much trial and error how to shear a sheep, card the wool, spin it & weave or knit it into beautiful creations.
I got divorced, and my 3 year old daughter and I and the sheep, goats, and horses, all moved to the middle of nowhere, West Virginia. 22 acres, a house, a barn.
It was tough, living by myself. I learned how to haul 50# bags of horse, goat, & sheep feed, slung over my shoulder. And the hay… hay bales can weigh 40-50#, and you get a truckload at a time. Hauling them to the barn was a challenge, but I did it.
I dug the post holes for the fence, learned how to run fence myself.
I spent many, many cold nights in the barn, watching a pregnant ewe, waiting for lambs to be born. They need a lot of help if they are born when it’s cold – teaching them to stand, to nurse, drying them off, coaxing a first time mother sheep into letting her lambs nurse. Sheep are often clueless.
I learned about herbs, not just for cooking, but healing herbs, and grew a huge herb garden as well as veggies.
I discovered I was not alone in my spiritual beliefs, and attending festivals, sometimes with hundreds of others, became an integral part of every summer.
I fell in love again, and learned from my ski photographer husband how not just to ski, but to ski well. I’d never been good at sports, but skiing, it clicked with me, and I was good.
I blew my knee out skiing, healed, skiied the next year until on one spring skiing day, showing off, I really, really blew my knee out.
Money, or lack there-of, became a problem. I had to sell the farm, and we moved to a temporary location with just the favorites: a couple horses, my most treasured sheep, the dog & our first wolf-dog.
I fell in love with wolf-dogs, and bred ours to a nearly pure wolf. She had an exceptional number of cubs, but we found homes for most of them, and took in our first rescue, a nearly pure wolf of 4 months old.
We had to move, and after a long & difficult search, found 22 acres in south east Ohio, in the foothills of the Alleghenies. A shabbily built log cabin, no running water, soon accompanied by extensive wolf-fencing, and even a sun deck for the wolves, and a shelter for the horses. The sheep I was forced to sell, but I was content with the wolf pack & the horses.
After my second divorce, I found myself responsible for my half of the wolf pack, and my beloved horses. More wolf-dogs came in as rescues, as I learned that it takes a very special person to provide a lifetime of care to a wolf-dog.
The wolves became my center, my heart & soul. With them, I was at peace.
It was tough. Often, I had to carry 40# bags of wolf-chow & 50# bags of horse chow, one by one, across a log that served as the bridge over our creek, and up a crazy steep hill to the house. Occasionally, I could get in through a neighbor’s land.
Wood was the only source of heat, and I learned the fine art of chainsaw use, and split the wood with the maul. In the winter, it was so cold, we hung a blanket over the entrance to the kitchen, and the dishpan would have ice in it in the morning.
Water for drinking had to be hauled in as well. Rain barrels provided water for washing.
I went to college to learn to work in the park service, as a ranger, or a naturalist. I learned to identify every tree in the forest by twig, leaf or bark sample; learned how to design & build trails; how to teach environmental education to children, and much more.
It was about this time I started having the good days/bad days of CFS, and was diagnosed with it.
I had a headache for six months.
I tore up my knee again roofing a house, and had surgery, the first of four.
I entered a disastrous marriage, we bought 209 acres, and I again tracked down the heritage breeds of sheep, cattle, and horses. We hatched out hundreds of ducks, chicks, & a few ill tempered geese.
I sheared sheep, collected eggs, pulled lambs, plucked endless chickens…
At 31, I had my second child, and shortly thereafter, escaped the marriage. I was forced to move into town, and put some of my wolf-dogs into other rescues. I planted a veggie garden, and a huge herb garden.
I started herb plants indoors, and sold then & herbal concoctions at the farmer’s market.
My last wolf-dog was sent into rescue for his own safety. It tore my heart out.
Needing to support my girls, I jumped onto the internet in 1997, taught myself how to do everything, and built a thriving business.
I took a trip to England & Wales, propelled by the sudden, urgent need to go, and camped all around the Isle with a British friend.
Four months later, I was struck down, hard, by CFS/FMS, in 1999, forcing me to move back to my mother’s house, and began the odyssey of trip after trip to doctor after doctor.
Still, I struggled through it to keep my business going, and it did well beyond my expectations.
In 2001, we moved to The Mountain.
It was the first time in my entire life that we were financially comfortable.
In 2006, I tested positive for Lyme disease, and started a controversial treatment of IV antibiotics for a year.
I failed the treatment, and became bedridden. I very nearly died.
My business folded as I lay in bed; it was unceremoniously closed.
I have been essentially bedridden or housebound ever since.
Now, today, I type this one handed. My shoulder has pretty much disintegrated, possibly as a side effect of some of the dozens of medications I’ve taken in my attempt to get my life back. My knee is trash, and needs to be replaced. My back is raging with pain & inflamation. The exhaustion beyond words continues.The headaches & migraines continue to rule my life.
How do I get my sense of self, and of self-worth, back, when so much of my self has been expressed through actions and activities, which are now out of reach as my body continues down it’s path of self-destruction?
Please post your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions below rather than sending them to me privately.
This way, there will be a record I can keep for always.