It’s our family’s fifth winter at Tiny Town Farm on the westside of Petaluma. There’s no more room for another garden bed, or another chicken, and certainly not for the goat my daughter covets. The rooms of our house are filled up with the creative detritus of childhood and family. We sometimes wish we had just one more wall for a bookshelf, or a hallway, or the ultimate luxury: a mudroom. In winter when we are mostly inside, we can really sense the edges of our little domain and feel how full to the brim and running over it is.
The gardens in winter are showing me something about time unfolding—even in this dormant season, I can sense the plant growth, their rootedness, the way they really live here. The roots of plants that have lived in place for a few years are strong, spreading and making connections with the other plants nearby. The humans who live here feel the same way. If there isn’t room for more plants, or people at Tiny Town Farm, there certainly seems to be more room for every little thing to root and to come more deeply into relationship. So I’m thinking about that alot-what does it mean to be in relationship to every little thing in our place.
What I like about where I live is that we are connected to so many different things here—our neighbors next door and across the way; the water rushing down the road after a rain and meandering along the side of the street; our dog greeting other dogs when we take a morning stride. I like the way the nectarine tree nestles underneath the black acacia, and the way the black acacia wood we trimmed this summer provides our winter heat. I like the way the artichoke plants are spreading to meet the catnip, and the way the gopher wire keeps the gophers in the ground, rather than in my garden. I like the way the beehives sit under the oak tree outside the small building that houses my partner’s work space next to the falling down garage that holds our bee supplies and canned goods and garden tools and boxes of papers reminding us of our past.
I like the way our small house holds a lot of life, the way the rainwater barrels rest up its side, providing water for the raspberries all summer long. I like the way the bunnies poop in the worm bin and the worms turn everything into amazing soil; the way the bamboo plants have sprouted up and formed a true, living fence between our neighbors and ourselves, transparent enough to let the light in, and thin enough to say hi when we’re outside at the same time. I like knowing the people who live on my street, and trading plants and apricots and childcare with them. I like how we know, even when we aren’t making anywhere near enough money, that we have more than we need, and then some, and can find ways to share it.
This year a dear friend of ours had a bit of a rough time and really needed a place to stay. By American standards, we live in a small house (1100 square feet), but let’s face it: we live like lords. We offered her (and her 2 dogs) a place to stay til she could get herself back together. It was inconvenient and sometimes annoying, but an amazing reminder of how much we have even when we share more than we think we can, and how that gesture–that mi casa su casa gesture–brings us deeper into our place, and our relationships. I can’t wait for her to find her own place to live and to be back on her own feet, but if I had to do it again, I would.
For me, the homesteading way is a reminder of this: how important it is in this time to be thinking about what we have to share and to offer to our neighbors and one another. About how even the accidents of our lives can turn into profound daily choices that make a difference about how we live in relationship to the beautiful world. How do we care for all that we have, and all that we love in the place where we live? What’s the resilient structure in your life that can bend enough to touch someone else? Where can you make room for something or someone, even when it seems like you are full up?
I went to my favorite local nursery last week (Harmony Farm Supply) to buy some trees and found a goumi. What is a goumi? The tag said it had “cherry-like fruit and was an attractive shrub. Full sun preferred.” When I got home, I found just the spot for it, and planted it right in. Who knew I even had the room? It’s just an experiment, but you know, I just might get attached.