The Homesteaders, Soirée-Leone & Dale
Growing Up in Maine
One of my earliest memories is standing behind my father as he cut down trees in Maine—"TIMBER!" Always holler timber so people know a tree is being felled!
I learned how to cut down trees and haul, split, and stack firewood. A good seasoned wood pile is crucial if you rely on wood heat during Maine’s forever winter. Food could only be from scratch. The home we built was lit with kerosene lamps and we hauled water from a spring.
Through the seasons, I learned the importance of shelter, water, and food. You should always have provisions on-hand in case of being snowed in or an emergency. Contingency plans are always required. And it's hard work.
Ye Must Have Skills
It was ingrained that ye must have skills. Many skills. Hone your skills. You must work hard. It must be functional and aesthetically pleasing. No excuses for crappy work. There were no boundaries to the skills I could or should acquire based on gender, formal education or training.
As it often happens in life, the journey takes bends and turns.
I spent some time in a small village in India after I graduated from high school. Slow food was the only way. Slow down, because getting there faster is overrated. The train will be late. The bus will be late. It will take longer than you think. Relax.
I love a challenge, so I moved to Iowa. My days were filled with weaving rugs and cracking black walnuts. I made soaps, candles, and magical healing potions. I studied holistic healing and wildcrafted plants to add to my concoctions. Vegetables in the root cellar guaranteed homegrown meals throughout the winter. Milking the goats, making cheese, grinding grain for bread, canning the harvest, and fermenting vegetables were about putting food on the table. Sadly, the floods of 1993 devastated farmers and farms. It was clear to me that conventional farming practices had (and still have) some significant shortcomings. Farming should be holistic and diverse. In fact, everything should be holistic and diverse.
I moved to California after the floods. City life was foreign, but I slowly adapted. I tossed aside the Birkenstocks that I had resoled with an old tire, utility knife, and barge cement. Then I headed down the corporate road. The road was lined with biotechs and pharmaceutical companies.
As the years passed, I didn't ask many life questions, although interviews brought many quizzical looks, when I responded to the question: "Tell me about yourself."
107 The Garden
A stack of life questions was dropped at my doorstep. It was time for some changes. One of the changes was to transform our barren backyard into an edible garden. We started small. How small? Only 4' x 8' or so at a time.
One day while the garden was growing we were eating and sharing the bounty, named our little homestead 107 Garden. Along the way, I left my corporate job and accepted the mission of homesteader: fixing, making, doing.
What about Permaculture Velocity? During the Permaculture Voices conference in March 2015, we hosted a popup community for conference attendees. Why? The year before so many folks complained about the cost of travel plus accommodations and food. San Diego ain't cheap. We lived so close to the conference site that several of us rode bicycles to and from the conference.
We had conversations about how to spread the good word of permaculture. We chatted about the challenges and strategies for success. We debated about ethics, specifically care of the people and how we should be guided in our actions. We questioned how to spread the transformational design-centric approach to systems faster and further. My answer was to buy the domain permaculturevelocity.com with no clue what I was going to do with it.
A couple of weeks later, friends, Raleigh and Stan, were visiting. Stan asked about my composting toilet. "Oh, Stan why did you ask that question?" I launched into an explanation about the differences between a composting toilet and a dry toilet or humanure toilet. Raleigh commented that I should record videos. The video idea became a podcast idea—something that I could easily and inexpensively record at my desk.
On all of the days I strive to inspire people to grab-a-hold of their lives and make changes that are meaningful and holistic. Start small and simple. Do it now. Stop talking about it and get off yer arse and do it. If it's important enough to yammer on and on about then maybe it's time to get to the doing part.
So, that’s why I'm here chatting with you. Hopefully inspiring you to do wonderful things on your homestead.
I can’t stress enough that I do not do all of this alone!
Husband Dale helps me realize my plans in 3D while thwarting my master plan to take him back to the dark ages. "Dale, explain to me why we can’t head for the hills and live off grid?" Dale must be vigilant to keep things in-check while I spend the nights researching and cooking up ideas. Daughter Nia peeks over my shoulder to correct my errors and keep me on course, when she's not traveling and doing awesome work. Plus, there's a tribe of friends who love, help, and support.
Sometimes we get caught up.
The years fly by and we wonder what happened to the things we wanted to do. The places that we wanted to go. The people we wanted to meet. The things you think about when you gaze off into the distance and think about what if. You know, the dreams included on bucket lists and jotted in journals. The dreams for after the children are grown up. The dreams for after some milestone in time that seems to always be off in the distance and just after.
Live the dream. Do the dream. Be the dream.
Our dream is why we call Birdsong Forest home. It is a place of hard work, connecting with Mother Earth, and respite.