A New Chapter Ahead

As many of you who have followed our family for a while know, we have had a rough year, a year that has reminded us not why we preserver (one look into our children’s eyes answer that question), but rather the blunt fact that no matter what we come up against, we must find a way to preserver. This year our family’s focus word was Hone. We had plans to hone in on what exactly we wanted to cultivate in our world here at Luna Hill Farm, instead of offering so dang much, sometimes at the cost of our family. In 2019 we had at least 1 event here each week, but often it was more like 3-4 events every week, ranging from our 15 kid class size for the Wild School, a few women for the Yoga on The Lawn series, to the over one hundred people who came to both the Spring Celebration, where we gave a free demonstration on how to tap trees with a tasting, & the annual free Harvest Gathering, with live music & shared foraged foods we had gathered.

It.was.a.lot.
And, it was never profitable. Not even close. We’re a family of six with one income, running a school that operates as a non-profit(but we never could afford to get 501c3 status), with goats, pigs, chickens, ducks…you do the math, it was tight. So, we went into 2020 focused on putting all our energy into tying up loose ends here at the farm. To name a few things; fencing, new rainwater collection & gardens, adding a graywater system to the house, adding more plants to the Forest Garden, building a stage & cabin in the Forest Garden for live music shows & a place to rent out……while also focusing on making the Wild School classes a bit more specific on topic & ages. After all the immense amount of outreach I had done, word was starting to get out & we had a very interested audience. I put all my effort into streamlining the website for folks…..did I mention I made the website, did all the design work for promotional items, did all the outreach, photography, social media posting/educating, all the vision, all by my self? Now, to be clear, that’s not a knock to my husband. He worked very hard to help make our dreams come true out here, it is a little glimpse into all that our family has done to try our fullest to Cultivate Community, Celebrate Community, & Nurture Wonder, with Nature, for all in who were interested in our community.

We were humming along, finishing out the Winter season on the Wild School when we had to shut down the school(and John had to miss a ton of work) because our family all got Influenza A & then immediately Influenza B, lasting about a whole month. Just as we recovered from that, Covid hit & we immediately closed down again. Then, something happened that happens to our family just about every year since we have lived here, but this time it felt different. Ancilla Beef & Grain hires someone every year to spray pesticides on the field next to our home & we were no strangers to dealing with and complaining about drift(those chemicals blowing onto our property). This year it happened while the wind was blowing right towards our property, where our kids were out playing, just feet away. I’m not going to get into all that. It was a nightmare, right out our backdoor. And after all the years of having to deal with it, having it directly sprayed onto my children rocked my world. I felt violated. I felt responsible for not keeping them safe. I felt angry. I felt betrayed by our neighbors. I just didn’t feel safe at home anymore. You can read that and think I’m overreacting, but until your children are sprayed with Roundup in broad daylight, on the land that you have come to feel a part of your family, you just don’t know.

After that, we found out that we didn’t get the grant money we were counting on to advertise the planned expansion of the school. Just after that, our puppy Magill was hit and killed right out our front door. Then, we found out Johnny was highly allergic to the Honeybees, also right out our door. So, by the time Violet had her concussion, I was already feeling on edge. We were trying to make sense of all that was happening, looking to the future and wondering, ‘What exactly are we honing in on here’. For the last five years we have dug our roots in deep, as deep and as free as their curious dreams could ever want to meander. There are no regrets, no doubts in my mind on whether or not we gave our dreams here their fullest of our hearts.

See pictures from the Luna Hill Wild School here.

Something suddenly & very unexpectedly changed in me the day we took Violet to the hospital for her concussion. At one point, they were digging a needle into her arm, the nurse was not doing a good job, probably a little nervous and distressed about the news the doctor was very frankly telling me, and Violet just laid there, her body floppy and unresponsive. Our last baby, so full of light and joy…it all just flashed before me. Violet was at the hospital because of an accident that had happen while the kids were playing on our bed, they were just playing together one moment, laughing and hollering as they do, and the next she was laying limp in my arms, her eyes rolling back in her head….having her wake up the next day full of voice and joy, after worrying all night that some freak thing might happen and she might stay that limp & unresponsive body forever, was life-giving. It made totally clear what fulfills me, what drives me, what gives me the courage to wake up another day, what gives me the wisdom to reach for the hard-earned tools when I am struggling with life, what gives me the hope in humanity-it is my babies.

Iris Joy
Lilly Jane & Daddy
Henry John & Momma
Violet Marcella

John and I have made a commitment, to love one another, forever. And although I had no idea what the hell I was getting myself into 9 years ago when we decided to get married after a month of knowing each other, I know now that love is to truly see one another and, no matter what, not turn away. As it has been lately, no matter how hard we try, we are both working so stinking hard for our family life, running the Wild School and keep things going here on the farm, that we don’t have a chance to shine and show ourselves fully, we’re too busy just trying to keep our heads above water. And we can’t fully love our children like this, living in a state of survival. We are very proud of what we have created here, of the environment we have cultivated, of the community that families and children have experienced and we wouldn’t change it for the world, but it is time for us to move on.

I can’t tell you how many times I have run into folks at the store who say how much they love what we are doing, to ‘keep up the amazing work’, and how they ‘follow along online and love what we are providing for our community’, yet most of those folks have not liked a single of my posts or shared any one of my events to help this mom of four, having to do it all by herself, spread the word. I see you, hundreds of people that view each post and don’t acknowledge it with your simple ‘like’ and while it may sound petty on the surface, I think you all know how social media works and how your acknowledgment helps this Momma get out her message. And I’ve come to feel a bit cynical about the thing I literally hear every time I leave the darn house; ‘I don’t know how you do it all!’ In my head, I’ve started to answer them with ‘ALONE! That’s how I do it all!’

I’ve watched older folks in the community work their whole lives here, to find little to no acknowledgment for their unique contribution to our community. I’ve seen people who have gone against the grain here, who are even revered and respected around the country for their work, but not in their own hometown. For some reason, when I walked out of that hospital, with my partner for life and our four precious humans between us, I knew that I didn’t want to spend this one short lifetime I have, trying to convince Plymouth, Indiana that my work is valuable. Why is it, in a town where gossip & rumors spread like wildfire, a new outdoor school, where the prices are affordable, where the work that is being done has been recognized by National Geographic*, please tell me why that has that not been the talk of the town? Why is it that you don’t see us in the local paper? Why is it that a local coffee shop, in which we have sent many of our parents after they dropped off their kids, won’t let us advertise free community events in their window, simply because we cannot afford to get Nonprofit status? Why is it that when I reached out to a local city owned department, asking for possible item donations to help us teach our art classes, they were clear that they had donated to Churches before, for things like vacation bible study, but wouldn’t donate to us? Why is it that folks came all they way from Chicago, Valpo, Nappanee, Goshen, Culver, South Bend, New Carlisle, cities in Michigan, and gave us such positive feedback about their experience, but literally only a few kids from Plymouth came? I don’t know, but it all adds up, it hurts and there is no getting around it. I worked to not only provide amazing content that welcomed all, but to provide it at a price that was affordable and while I love that people from out of town found us (we genuinely loved every minute with you!), I just can’t help but feel a little betrayed that we did not receive more support locally. And if it sounds like I’m just taking this opportunity to toot my own horn here, for one, although it doesn’t come naturally, I’ve learned not to wait around for anyone to do it for you. Do work you love and our proud of, with passion, and toot away with humility and dignity! 🙂 And secondly, it’s not me saying ‘we’re so great, you’re gonna miss us’, it’s me saying ‘Yes, you are missing out on what we have to offer, but we are not alone. We are a part of a larger group of people who you are also missing out on, who are not supported, not lifted up and if you wanna know why people raise kids here, and the kids move out, it’s because of small town politics like this.’
*I became a National Geographic Certified Educator in 2019 through the work I was doing at the Luna Hill Wild School, see a video for Nat Geo here.

I realize I’m talking local stuff here, but I feel that it is important to share because I know that we are not the only one’s who feel unsupported and unable to thrive here and my message is simple. We are leaving for lots of reasons, but when it came down to it, I know darn well that there are many tables that I will not get a seat at in this community simply because we are doing something different. To the local folks who claim to want to support local businesses, who want to support diversity, who want to support women entrepreneurs, who want to encourage young people to stay in this small town, follow through. Not only if they are religious. Not only if they have the right last name. Not only if they can afford to be at your fancy tables, at your event that’s scheduled in the middle of the afternoon, on a workday.

I know that was a ramble, and may have seemed totally negative, but I also know that if I did not share that part of our story, I would regret not pushing through the discomfort to make myself vulnerable, to possibly help the next wild dreamer in my hometown find a bit more support from the community when she tries to do out of the box work, no matter what she looks like, no matter her background, and no matter what faith she does or doesn’t have.

So what’s next?

We’re fixing up a few things on the house
Putting it on the market asap
Buying a school bus
(Yes, we talked about this 5 years ago, we’ve given it our all here, we’re done.)
Tearing it all out
Turning it into our home on wheels
Traveling across the country, visiting friends & making new
Foraging/Fishing our way across America
And I am going to write a book along the way. I’m thinking it will be a photographic storytelling of sorts, about our experience traveling on the bus, living a present life, living in sync with nature, interspersing that with stories of the people we meet along the way.

We are looking forward to our time together, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, with just us, the bus, and the Wild. Sometimes, among small communities of people who live a similar lifestyle, who want to gather and learn from one another. Sometimes, meeting folks in small towns all across America, when we head into town to check out a local museum, live music show, or Farmer’s Market. And who knows where else! We have given our kids a strong foundation here at our farm, with consistency and an understanding of what it is like to live as a part of nature, but we want more diversity. We talk all the time with our children and the students we have had here how diversity in nature creates opportunities for individuals to work together, to learn from one another, compete with one another in ways that cultivates growth…..we want to give that diversity, that broader perspective to our children in a way that staying stationary can’t do for us. In the end, those babies are my life’s devotion. I know they are meant for wonderful things, each with their own gifts to offer this world, just as we all have, and we want to provide an environment that supports their growth best. Somehow, I know that all of us, with our dog, cat, and bunny, stuck on a bus together, exploring wherever our curiosities take us, is exactly what our family needs to continuing growing-a little adventure & change of scenery for our next chapter. And I want to know, that should I ever be faced with a moment where life flashes before my eyes again, that I have intentionally spent this gift of a life loving the humans I cherish fiercest, fully. So, cheers to calling it like it is, even though it’s hard, and moving on to more stimulating, challenging, & fulfilling environments! May the seeds of Wonder for Nature that John and I have work to sow here grow strong, find their own unique bloom, and spread their seeds of appreciation for Mother Nature wherever the wind takes them!

Two more little bits: There are a million beautiful moments out here I could share about and so many kind folks who have sent words of encouragement and support that gave us strength on our journey here. In this moment, the message above is weighing on my heart & I’m happy to relieve myself of it’s weight, but it doesn’t take away from the solid foundation our children & so many others have had here, with bright elders to illuminate us along the way-a sincere thank you.

And finally, to the future owners of Luna Hill Farm, fear not! They decided to turn the field next to our home Certified Organic! I’d like to think that the (painful)awareness I have raised on the issue had something to do with this, but what ever the reason, better late than never, I suppose!

2019 Harvest Gathering, featuring music by the very generous & kind
Lane & Jenny Lafoon, Mike Kenny, & Braxton Eikenberry.

2 thoughts on “A New Chapter Ahead

  1. I know we have never met but I have so much appreciated reading your posts. I totally understand your departure from this “place in the midwest.” Living in Michianna, and being from the east coast I too struggle as an outsider here. But I am sorry to see you go. All of us at Come and See Farm wish you travelling mercies on your next adventure and if you need a place to park the bus on your way through sometime you would be welcome here.

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  2. Wow, a hard read–I was so upset for you! Fury at getting your kids poisoned, agony at not being acknowledged by the community you are in, for what you do and who you are. I get it–I have often been the weird person that very few people “get”, and I am currently pulling out my medicinal herb garden where I live because it is not wanted or understood and I have been told to remove it.

    Kudos, huge kudos, for giving it the all-out effort that you did, and for knowing when to say “enough” and take the next step! At this point in my mid-60s my experience is that everything you have done will be of use to you in your life and may get woven into an amazing life tapestry that you won’t really understand until further along.

    Your children will have such a rich life and such wonderful experiences, both from the farm and from your travels!
    I hope you ave incredible travels and much joy along the way. I am on the North Shore of Boston, MA and if you guys come this way I hope to get to meet you!

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