Amber Johnson is our 2024 Homesteader in Residence.
This is the first installment of her monthly column, sharing her family's homesteading journey in Maine.
As I walk into the crisp Winters evening with the moon light dancing over the snow and barns. I think back to how far we've come. On February 28, 2024 we will celebrate our 10th year of Simpler Thyme Homestead. My husband had found this tiny mobile home and 7 acre land, with a creek, online and took me for a drive on a remote road that was undeveloped. No houses, no electric poles for a mile in any direction, no reception on our phones, and he pulled into the driveway with a smile. The snow was deep, the door was unlocked. I thought "He's GOT to be kidding!!" As I looked over at him quizzically, he assured me we were Home. As we began to fill the abandoned home with our belongings, I started nesting. A dream came to life as we worked together to build a life that feels authentic and sacred, a life well loved, and a life off grid.
In the 10 years, we've added an artesian well, solar panels and batteries, a heat source, and a hot water tank, and a few babies. In the first few Winters here we went to the creek and hauled bottles of water for washing dishes, flushing the toilet and essential cleaning. I used pots and boiled water for showers with a cup. Babies got to splash in the shallow pots of water with bubbles.
The snow melted, and exposed beautiful flowers once hidden under the frozen earth. Apple trees bent over with time and neglect. Stone walls that spoke of people long before us. Their lives echoed through the land as the snow slowly melted away and exposed more beauty and love. We have found bottles, rubber shoes, and many rusty metal tools, all telling bits of a story written in the land.
We slowly added animals as we could find the time, energy and strength. First came chickens. Each hen had a name. Each egg was rejoiced over. Babies grew, and the Homestead grew. More flowers were planted. More herbs were added. Two years ago Sheep were added, and lambs were born. I did attempt a garden last year, but we had a sneaky little lamb, named Lilly, that found the smallest holes and would enjoy more than her fair share of fresh greens, strawberries and anything that flowered. We had quite polar opposite emotions on this- she pleased with her find and belly full of delicious foods. While I was quite cross. Nothing could keep her out, and in time, after the last beautiful green leaf was eaten, I gave up. Sometimes the battles are not going to be won, and this was that sometime.
As I walk in the Winters evening tonight, with snow crunching under each step, I see the glow of the Homestead. I enter the goats barn with some feed and they run excitedly behind me, circling and making their noises as they await me dumping their treat in their dish. Soon we will have babies, and fresh milk. I smile to myself as I close their barn door. Fresh milk will be a wonderful addition to our home made cooking.
As I leave the goats barn, I see a dim glow of a lamp in the sheep's barn across the way. My daughter is feeding the sheep and getting them closed for the night. We have seen babies born, and unfortunately ewes pass away, on this land. Soon we will have babies again. The wool has been sheered, washed, carded and roven, awaiting some time on the spinning wheel. Someday I'll learn to knit or crochet. More dreams, more projects, more learning, growing and glowing.
I close in the chickens and collect 6 fresh eggs. So many hens have circled the cycle of life here, each one loved. Each egg as precious a gift as I bake our breakfast, or a celebrational dessert.
I walk towards the front door of our Homestead. The cold air swirling in my lungs and returning to the still night sky. Each step I've taken has taken me years of planning and hard work, many tears and far more laughter, but each step takes me home to my sweet Homestead that is filled with those I love, the lessons and the skills I've gathered along the way, the hopes and dreams of the next season- baby animals, garden greens, flowers blooming with bees buzzing from flower to flower with pollen on their legs and bellies, birds singing their songs, and the hum of human hard labor. In this moment, I close my eyes and I smile. All this work, all the steps along the way, every teardrop, every note of the song of laughter hangs in the sky like a star, leading me home, leading to a Simpler Thyme. ❤️