I didn’t grow up close to nature. Sure, we would go camping as kids, and those times are some of my fondest memories, but I wouldn’t say we were a “nature family” by any stretch of the imagination. We were more of an after-school activity, church, sports, Saturday-morning cartoon family. We had a couple cats when I was little, but they either ran away or we had to give them away when we moved…I can’t remember. And I had a few guinea pigs over the years. Fun fact: my first guinea pig’s name was Hudson Taylor. I was a weird kid, but I knew where my life was headed, I guess. What I’m getting at, is the extent of my childhood knowledge of farm life was limited to my heavy consumption of Little House on the Prairie (the TV series, not the books, thankyouverymuch).
When we lived in the US, before we were aware of Ukraine at all, Jed and I talked and dreamed about having some land, homesteading a bit. It wasn’t anything we were ever ready to seriously look into, but we dreamed of it someday in the future. I’m not even sure what sparked that dream. I guess we liked the idea of planting and growing things, of having space for our kids to run, of getting our hands dirty and caring for animals. Jed had a bit more experience with all that than I did, but not much. For whatever reason, it just sounded cool and it sounded very “us”. I liked to cook from scratch. We were always kicking our kids outdoors. We had backyard chickens. Baby steps toward the dream…
Then came that fateful night in the summer of 2010 when our eyes were opened to the horrors of institutional life in Ukraine for people with disabilities and all other dreams flew out the window. There was the agonizing time of not knowing how to respond to the new information we had discovered. Then the decision to adopt. Then when that fell through, the first visit to Ukraine. Then the founding of Wide Awake and the selling of almost all our worldly possessions. Gone was our beautiful craftsman on a quarter acre (huge to us), our backyard chickens, our bunnies, our cook-from-scratch, grain mill-using, kefir-making kitchen. The homestead dream took a backseat to the urgent need to get to Ukraine and DO SOMETHING to relieve the suffering of those languishing in institutions.
Now we’ve been in Ukraine for almost ten years (pinch me) and this past week a thought hit me like a ton of bricks. Our homestead dream is coming, has come true. Say what???? Our land here in the village has slowly become the thing of our dreams. And it has happened so slowly, in the midst of so many more important things that I somehow seemed to have missed it, or forgotten that we had once, long ago dreamed of it.
When we decided it was time to buy land here, that it was time to start getting people out of institutions we debated about what was better- to be in the city or in the village. We didn’t want to hide our friends with disabilities away, out of sight, like they always had been, but at the same time, we wanted them to be able to touch nature, to walk freely outdoors, to have space to breathe. We eventually decided the village would be better suited for deinstitutionalization, so we bought a little bit of property and the Homestead took its first breath.
I always thought that we were in the village because it was better for the boys. And I do believe it is. I can’t imagine trying to do what we do in the middle of the city. But now I am starting to notice a sneaky truth, that God placed us in the village not just for the boys, but for me and Jed too. I truly believe that God remembered that long laid down spark of a dream and in his kindness he has made it a reality.
Living on the Homestead, working in our massive garden, caring for our chickens, goats, and dogs- it brings me so much life. It’s like therapy for me. For reals. Sure, with Jed gone it can feel a bit overwhelming, but I still love it so much and I know Jed does too. Many of our Facetime convos, while he’s in the US, consist of me showing him the garden and the animals. 😆 I like learning new things, trying new things, planting, growing, harvesting, and preserving our own food. I love watching baby chicks grow and change. Our one little chick that recently hatched has two mama hens and the three of them are just the cutest little trio there ever was. Now we have another mama hen brooding on 4 eggs and I can’t wait to see what will happen with her. She’s an aggressive one. Ain’t nobody gonna mess with her babies! One of our hens, Kelly Cluckson, broke her leg and I thought we were going to have to put her out of her misery, but after a few weeks of making sure she could be left alone with food and water, I’m happy to report that now she can walk and jump and kinda/sorta limp-run. It’s so great! I’m so proud of her! 😆. Soon we will have horses and that will take everything up a notch. I have no idea what to do with horses, but I’m eager to learn. Dajana and I have a plan to take the horses to the forest after she teaches me to ride. Can you imagine? So cool.
One of my favorite moments of the day is late at night when I go out to the barn to lock up the goats and chickens for the night. It’s suuuuuuuuper dark. Our village doesn’t have street lights so the only light is from the moon. On clear nights there are so many stars. It’s incredible. I love to stand out there, look at all the stars, listen to the bazillion barking dogs. It’s like my soul can take a deep breath in that moment. In the midst of dealing with the trauma our boys carry, hard parenting moments, and living in a country at war, our little Homestead brings me life and joy. It steadies me a bit. I’m thankful that God placed that kernel of a dream in our hearts all those years ago and that he brought it to fruition in a way we could never have imagined. He is so good and kind to us.