The Ozark Homesteader – Issue 11

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The Ozark Homesteader – Issue 10

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The Ozark Homesteader – Issue 9

Click here to download The Ozark Homesteader Issue 9.

The Ozark Homesteader – Issue 8

Click here to download The Ozark Homesteader Issue 8

2014: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

slaton black and white on bed 10660153_10203447765213843_6462675026137501480_nWe’ve been really busy this past year!

Let me catch you up to speed in case you have forgotten. Or if you never knew.

About a year ago we were living an idyllic life on the homestead. The temperature sucked, and so did the snow, but life was great. Our less than cozy cabin provided us with all of the luxuries of home. We had our dogs and our cats – and goats, and chickens, and ducks. It was a chore to feed them every day. The toughest part was providing them with water. Ice was easy enough to come by, but water was a different story.

We had decided to have a baby, so we were also working on that. And we had been working on that for the better part of a year. That was pretty frustrating. We didn’t have as much money as we could have used, but we were getting by.

Then we received good and bad news at the same time. We found out that Jen was pregnant at just about the same time that she was fired for not complying with her employer’s demand for her to submit to a flu shot.

I started looking for work. I found it in the little town of Clinton, AR. I don’t have any ill will toward those with whom I worked, but there were some shenanigans going on there. Not to mention the hours and the pay weren’t all that great. But I knew that going into it, so I couldn’t and didn’t complain. I had to get out of that one.

I applied for some positions, and ultimately accepted one in Springfield, MO. Springfield is close enough to family to be practical, and the position fits my skill set quite nicely. So we made the move from Arkansas to Missouri.

The move itself was interesting. We had an apartment lined up. On the day of our move, as we were headed to Springfield, we found out that the leasing agent who we had been working with had let our apartment go to someone else. Jennifer made many calls during that trip (it was a 3 hour trip, after all) to line up some places for us to look at.

Only one place that sounded reasonable had an apartment available for us to move into that day (thanks Joceyln!). We liked it, and it was just a couple of minutes from where I would be working. This was a good thing since I had to start work the next morning at 7 am.

We made it through the spring, and the summer. Baby boy was born without a hitch in September, a little later than expected.  He was born about as naturally as we could manage without having all sorts of questions to answer.  We don’t regret that at all.  We do regret that it wasn’t even more natural.  Maybe things will be different if Slaton has a little brother or sister.

Now we’re into winter. Same temps as last year. Not as much snow. No real hills or ice to speak of. We have electricity, which makes things much warmer, even if less cozy.  We have smartphones, cable, internet, central heat and air, microwave, and water that doesn’t start in the form of ice.  No wood cutting is required to ensure survival. I’m working, and Jennifer’s working. In fact, Jennifer has two jobs in addition to being Slaton’s Super Mommy.

To sum it up, we are laden with the all of the trappings of modern convenience once again.

We also have our 3 dogs, which is pretty inconvenient seeing as how we live on the third floor. We lost our oldest cat after the move. That was pretty sad. We also have 3 more at my mom’s house in Arkansas. That’s pretty sad as well. But the apartment is crowded enough as it is, so the cats won’t be coming anytime soon.

In addition to those things that often define a modern lifestyle, Jennifer has found a nice little motherhood support network. I found a volunteer gig in addition to my full time job. We found a Vegetarian/Vegan group.  We don’t have many friends here yet, but come on; we have a 4 month old!

While we don’t have many friends, I have met many of Springfield’s least wanted, and many of Springfield’s finest. There is a lovely bunch of wannabe gangsters that live here.  417 yall!  But the police employees aren’t half bad.  Maybe better than anywhere we’ve lived so far.  The guys who write the laws are a different story.

091013_2122_DefectiveBu1.jpgWe also discovered a few things about Springfield that would have been nice to know before moving here.  First up, Boomer is illegal here.  They actually put people in jail for violating an ordinance against pit bull dogs and those dogs that look like pit bulls.  Some of our friends have donated money to help us get him legal.  We are almost to a point where we can do it.  I’m not sure how our apartment manager is going to like the big “Warning:  Pit Bull Dog” sign on our door.  Nobody here has a problem with Boomer.  I hope nobody has a problem with the sign.  If you are a fan of pits and not a fan of breed specific legislation, there is an ad on this page where you can donate money to help legalize Boomer. Once he is legal, he and I are going to do some protesting.  Be sure to check back for updates.

Secondly, it is legal to openly carry a firearm or other legal weapon within the city of Springfield.  Who knew?  The fact that Arkansas had just passed a law decriminalizing the carrying of weapons made me a little hesitant to leave, as Arkansas is one of the few states to recognize a person’s right to carry a firearm without a permit or license.  I didn’t know that Missouri had a similar law, only it varies from city to city.  Luckily, Springfield is a city in which it is legal to openly carry a weapon on one’s person.  Why is that lucky?  Let’s just say that I’m not a very popular guy with a certain subset of the populace here in Springfield.

We made a trip back to the homestead a week or so ago. It was the first one in a long time. I’m planning to make those trips much more frequently in the near future. I have a plan to get some things taken care of down there. And we plan to start on a real house in the coming years.

slaton and sock monkey christmas croppedWe can’t wait to move back to the homestead.  We’ve learned some lessons.  We’ve done a little growing.  We know what we will do differently the next time around.  We hope you stay around to see how this turns out.

2014 was really a busy year for us. It brought us all sorts of ups and downs. But here we are!


Do Bears Poop In The Woods?

(Here’s another that I don’t think has been posted. It’s from last year, I think.)

I don’t know for sure if they do or not since I haven’t seen one yet, but I assume they do. What I do know is that – at least on The Gray Homestead – bears do walk on the road.

While walking one of our gravel roads (if they can be called roads), I ran across the track pictured to the right. That’s a quarter in the track for scale. Hey, it’s what I had in my pocket.

I took Jen to show her the tracks. We followed the tracks over a hundred yards down the road, where we found what looks like a slightly smaller track. Same quarter in this picture on the left as well.

Our thought is that it is a bear track. We haven’t lived in the woods that long, so this is an exciting find for us! Arkansas Outdoors ( estimates that approximately 3,000 bears live in Arkansas. With that many bears running around,
I guess one could live here.

Since moving onto our homestead we have seen deer, turkey, squirrels, rabbits, snakes (including rattlesnakes), fish, crawfish, lizards, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, a Bald Eagle, and various other birds of all feathers. Ok, so the Bald Eagle was a little ways down Hwy 254, not actually on our homestead. We have seen a horse that wanders the valley on his own accord, like he owns the place. We have even seen some wild pig tracks, and we hear coyotes almost every night. One night we even had to go to red alert do to a couple of drunken redneck spotlighters. I heard what could only have been described as a mountain lion in heat one night (I had to do lots of research to find that particular sound, but I found it!) But we haven’t seen any bears. I was told that one neighbor captured images of at least one bear on a trail cam, but I haven’t seen the pictures. One neighbor told me his cabin was broken into by a bear in search of dog food. This track is the first evidence that I have personally seen indicating that we have at least one bear around here.

With a little research, I found that only Black bears live in Arkansas. Black bears are mostly herbivores, meaning they mostly eat plant material, especially berries and acorns. Even though they have large canine teeth, their consumption of animal protein is usually limited to insects. Our bears do not truly hibernate as do some other species. They do den up in the winter, but they do not go into a deep hibernation, allowing them to wake up and get out of the den to forage during milder winter days. A female Black bear gives birth every two years and will not leave her den for 4 months while pregnant. Bears have a keen sense of smell and for that reason are usually able to avoid human contact. It also makes them hard to observe in the wild.

Human population growth and hunting almost reduced Arkansas’ wild bear population to 0. An ambitious effort to reintroduce bears into the wild combined with strict hunting guidelines has brought the bear population of Arkansas back from the brink of extinction. Hunters in The Natural State kill approximately 350-400 Black bears annually. According to state officials, that number seems sustainable.

We like to think that maybe a bear lives here with us, but we realize that maybe she was just passing through. Either way, we love living in an area that is still wild enough to support such a diversity of wildlife, including bears that walk on roads and do their thing in the woods.

A Big Softy

City life is making me soft.

Carmel mochas; Homewreckers; craft beer; air conditioning; unlimited water; no compost pile; no bugs; no snakes; refrigeration; no roads with 45 degree slopes; no wood cutting; no need for 4 wheel drive; unlimited high speed internet; cable TV; TV in general; repair men; 88 cent 44oz sodas – all of these have conspired to make soft.

Of course, it isn’t those things that have compelled me to be sedentary. I have let myself go soft. It’s just easier that way. Like the majority of people in this country, I have resigned myself to get up, go to work, come home, and wait for it all to start again tomorrow. Maybe have a beer or a glass of wine. Maybe watch a movie. Take the dog out. Feed the cat.

However, this week is the start of a new beginning. I started running again. Today I tried running with Apollo for a bit after my warm up run. That was interesting. He’s been sleeping ever since.

I’ll try to drink more water and less soda. I’ll eat healthier meals. I’m going to spend more time outside. When money allows, – hey, we have a kid coming – I’ll try container gardening on the balcony.

So that’s where I am.

Seriously, if anyone reading this is interested in homesteading, we could work something out. We have plenty of room on our homestead, and it’s a shame not to use it.