Disconnected?

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Peace and Quiet and Good Tilled Earth…

“Wait… you can’t even stream Netflix out there?! That’s crazy!”

It was just a typical conversation with one of my co-workers. This time we were discussing internet speeds. I honestly thought he was going to blow a gasket. I didn’t know it was physically possible for a person to raise their eyebrows so high!

“Well, I’m not really sure about Netflix,” I told him. “We’ve never really tried…. But most of the time, it struggles to load even a 10 second YouTube video, so I’m pretty sure Netflix is out of the picture.”

My co-worker ended the conversation shortly thereafter (irreconcilable differences, I think). He just couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to live such a “disconnected” life.

(“Seriously, no video streaming?!”)

But even after the conversation was over, I kept thinking about it.

Sure, it would be really nice to have a faster internet connection. Even right now (at 4:47am) the connection is so bad that I can’t auto-save this blog post. But at least we aren’t paying an arm and a leg for it! 😉

We’ve talked about switching to a different ISP, but I think we’ll stick with the one we’ve got — because it’s cheap!

And y’know what would be even better than a faster internet connection?

A reliable cell phone connection!

It seems like we drop the call at least once during every conversation — due to poor cell service.

Man, it’s annoying!

But even with those little daily frustrations, I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

For years, as Lindsey and I moved from one apartment to another, we dreamed about someday owning our own bit of earth. A peaceful place where we could settle down and put down some roots. A place with less noise and more green. A place where our kids could run around barefoot, catching frogs and chasing butterflies. In fact, we always joked about how we really wanted to find “our own little piece of the Shire”…

And I have to say — I think we’ve finally found it!

There might be too many puncture weeds around here for the kids to run barefoot, but we’ve definitely got the frogs and butterflies! (And “second breakfast” certainly isn’t unheard of at our house. 😉 )

Disconnected?

I beg to differ!

Internet and cell phones aside, I’ve never felt so connected in my entire life!

I remember when I was a kid, I would always get so excited about each new season — mostly because my grade school teachers would give us little crafts to do to celebrate it.

In the spring, we’d make little flowers and umbrellas and kites; there were always lions and lambs in March; we’d make construction paper leaves in the fall, with bats and ghosts in October — and turkeys in November; and let’s not forget about all those little paper snowflakes all throughout the winter!

As a kid, it was all so fresh and relevant.

But the older I got, the less people seemed to care about the seasons. A lot of folks I associated with saw the seasons as more of an irritation than anything else: Spring was too rainy, Summer was too hot, Fall meant winter was coming, and Winter… well, winter was just about the most miserable thing around!

Living where we do, however, I feel deeply connected to the seasons — the rhythms of nature.

I’m beginning to love and appreciate each season for what it is.

SPRING

Spring is all about new life! After the long dark of winter, seedlings start emerging (and our window sills always seem to fill up with yogurt-cup planters), trees start budding, bees are humming all over the place, and the meadowlarks start singing their songs.

Our neighbor’s peacocks and turkeys begin to get a bit more vocal and showy, and the pheasants up on the hillside start to make themselves known.

Everything is green and lush and bursting with potential — it’s like life just can’t wait to get started!

This year in particular, we’ve been busy taking care of quite a few baby animals: a half dozen kittens, a bunch of fuzzy little chicks (19 of them, to be precise), and one goofy little bull calf steer — and all of them are so excited just to be alive.

Let me tell ya, that enthusiasm for life is contagious! I love taking care of those little critters!

Then there’s the soft, gentle rains that come in and linger peacefully. The flowers dance their way through their scripted performance; first the daffodils, followed shortly by the tulips, then come the lilacs — with the poppies, peonies, and irises bringing up the rear…

And it wouldn’t be the “Lott” homestead if I didn’t mention springtime food!

The chickens really get ramping up on their egg production, and every year we seem to get swamped with spinach and radishes, with a little asparagus thrown into the mix (fortunately, I really like salad). There’s nothing quite like a fresh green salad with hardboiled eggs, homemade croutons, and ranch dressing!

If you need something a little more solid, however, you can always sauté the radishes in a little bit of butter, throw in a dash of soy sauce, and enjoy the whole thing next to a cheesy spinach omelet…

One of my personal favorites involves browning up a package of elk burger, seasoning it with with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder, adding some homegrown black beans and a couple handfuls of tortilla chips, and then tossing it together with your spinach and radishes. BAM! — You’ve got yourself a rockstar taco salad!

Summer

Summer is the busy time of year. The garden is in full swing, and it’s in constant need of harvesting, mulching, hoeing, and weeding (stupid morning glory/bindweed!). The lawn always needs mowing — and the plants, the animals, EVERYTHING needs water. Even with our nifty old drip system, dragging hoses around the yard seems to become a full time job… Then you throw in a couple bigger construction projects (i.e. building a chicken coop, refurbishing the pump house, etc.) and some family picnics and reunions, county fairs, rodeos, and all sorts of small town celebrations…

There just isn’t enough time to get it all done!

Some days it seems like I don’t even have time to blow my nose! (And with allergy season in full swing, that’s sayin’ something!)

I guess it’s a good thing we’ve got 16+ hours of sunlight during the summer.

Don’t get me wrong though — I’m definitely not trying to complain! I love all the busy-ness of summer. I love all the work and all the fun. It may feel like I’m drowning sometimes, but at least I’m drowning in good things! 😉

However, even in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, we still try to carve out some time for fun stuff, like fishing or camping or hiking.

I mean, the weather is absolutely gorgeous — you have to get out there and enjoy it!

There’s something about those sweltering summer afternoons — with the hot yellow sun, the dry blue skies, the lazy white clouds, dusty gravel roads, and the humming of flies. I don’t know what it is, but it just makes you want to don some swimming trunks and hop into a cool mountain lake… or a river… heck, I’ll even spend a couple hours splashing in an irrigation canal! (Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!)

Y’know, even those stinkin’ mosquitoes play a part!

As much as I cuss them, it wouldn’t be summer without sitting on the back porch with a rootbeer float, swatting mosquitoes and watching the sunset — or maybe lying on a nighttime trampoline, looking for constellations and counting the shooting stars, all while being serenaded by a chorus of frogs and crickets.

And the food… well… in addition to all the backyard barbecues, it’s dang near impossible to keep up with the “zukes and cukes”; fresh garden tomatoes are a regular garnish to just about every meal; and once the sunflowers start showing up all over the place, you know the watermelons, honeydew, cantaloupe, and sweet corn will be soon to follow!

Fall

Fall is the culmination. The zenith. The peak.

All the potential of spring and the work of summer finally bears fruit — literally!

The apples, grapes, plums, pumpkins, and winter squash are all ready for picking. The potatoes, onions, and carrots are ready for digging. The black beans and surplus sweet corn are ready for drying. The cabbages are just waiting for a good frost to sweeten them up.

At the beginning of the season, it seems like Lindsey and I are busy every Saturday, canning the fruits of our labors (and washing the mountains of resulting dishes); and toward the end of the season, every Saturday is spent hunting something or another.

It starts with grouse, then moves on to deer, elk, waterfowl, pheasants… We take advantage of nearly every excuse we can to get out and enjoy those beautiful autumn leaves!

The cooler days, longer shadows, frosty mornings, fog on the river, bright red maples, dark green pines, silver and gold quakies  — that’s what dreams are made of! And those cold Autumn rains… the ones that dust the higher elevations with fresh snow… I just love it!

You want a taste of pure autumn? Grab a sticky mug of home-pressed apple cider!

With all the bounteous harvest going on, it’s impossible to enumerate all the delicious foods that get thrown around this time of year — but in my opinion, the king of them all is “Pheasant Dinner.”

After each successful pheasant hunt, the whole Lott clan gathers together and feasts on breaded bite-size pheasant nuggets, seasoned to perfection, served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms and stovetop stuffing — usually paired with some mashed potatoes or maybe some baked banana squash. Mmm! Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!

Winter

Winter is the much needed rest.

After all the running and all the work from spring, summer, and fall, the long dark nights of winter finally give us a little time to settle down and catch our breath.

When the snow is piled high and the mercury dips below zero, there’s nothing I like better than to just hunker down, put on a thick old pair of wool socks, and spend the evening with a good book in front of a cozy wood burning stove. There’s just something comforting about that dry radiating heat and the soft crackling…

For me, winter is a time for quiet reflection and goal setting. It’s my time to dream about the opportunities of the coming year.

But I don’t want you to get the crazy idea that we spend all winter cooped up in our house!

I still make the 20 minute trek to and from the bus stop (that bus ride sure saves on gas!). I really enjoy the beautiful foggy mornings and the freshly fallen snow.

There are still chores to be done (animals that need feeding and ice that needs breaking) — and I love bundling up each night and taking Ryu for walks under the icy stars!

It can be downright magical, crunching your way step by step through a frozen wasteland — when the air is crystal clear, and your breath freezes in little frosty clouds, and it just seems to hang in the air forever. The whole mountain valley is illuminated by the light of a blazingly bright full moon, outshining all but the very brightest stars in the fathomless midnight blue sky. The snow sparkles and shimmers like crazy, and it looks like the whole countryside is covered with silver glitter.

And just when you think it can’t get any better, a wise old owl starts hooting somewhere in the distance, or maybe a pack of coyotes opens up with one of their hauntingly beautiful operas.

I live for nights like that!

Those are also the best times to go pond-skating!

But when you come back in, and you take off your frosty, frozen clothes, nothing warms you up quite as thoroughly as a big old bowl of pheasant and sausage gumbo! (or chicken soup… lamb stew… or pumpkin chili… something hearty!) Winter is the time to enjoy all that work you put into preserving food from the summer and fall!

And just when you feel like you’re all rested up, and you’re ready for a change — here comes spring again!

Disconnected?

Not a chance!

The more I think about our life out here — on our little piece of the Shire — the more I realize how truly connected we are.

This lifestyle connects us with the seasons. It connects us with our animals. It connects us more closely as a family. And most importantly, I feel it connects us more closely with our God.

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