Holiday News From The Bastos Household

By: Elizabeth Bastos

I meant to write this in time for it to get to you in December for the holidays, friends, but there has been so much going on since we turned urban homesteaders. We do a lot of our own canning now and it took us the whole month of December to lay down the late fall kale crop so, sorry. Also, it’s taken longer than expected for the kids to train our Golden Retriever to deliver the mail, so please don’t fear him or take a broom to him; he’s just waiting by your door for a tip. Simply say, “A Bientot, Emil,” and send him on his way, reattaching his little rucksack. You could put a rawhide in it, if you have one.

I’ll come right out and say it: at first our decision to homestead was about the economy. I was laid off from writing my novel. But there is opportunity at every crossroads, and I discovered what people are calling “the farm to table pipeline.” I followed the egg man from the Giant, all the way back to a warehouse in New Jersey after I picked up the kids from school like I usually do on my retrofitted cold-weather bike with panniers. The kids wondered what we were doing, but this is the other part of my journey: home schooling.

Like a hand in a glove; home schooling and homesteading go together, though the kids don’t see it yet, how important it is for them to learn to milk Madame Milch. Yes, of course we have a cow! And an apple orchard! Madame Milch lives in our bathroom that we converted to a stall. We go out back, where we’ve a rough-hewn outhouse, just like in olden times. The kids’ friends say that it’s only at our house that they follow a staked line of twine back to bed and they love it.

We’ve learned — as we could not have in a “traditional classroom” — that chickens come from eggs. My kids were like, wow. Can you strap us back into our panniers for the bike home now? Mom? We’re hungry. I produced from my rucksack home-smoked venison jerky, from the 10 point buck their daddy shot in Patterson Park before we knew what we know now about permits, public parks, and hunting seasons. This is the chaw of your forbears, I told them. Appreciate the taste and the calories because I don’t know if daddy shot any rabbits at the suburban office park for dinner.

There was silence and peace for twenty minutes. Do you all have these moments of peace? I doubt it. You all are still in the rat race, drinking from CapriSun pouches, your kids in the back seat of your car fighting for the attention that you don’t have to give. Not me, though. I bartered like, 200 pounds of kale for the lambs that gambol on my lawn. I have bundles of foraged, hand-tied lavender and other herbs hanging from the exposed beams in my kitchen. This is the life.

I get up early to feed the wild hogs that bed down in what was formerly my daughter’s bedroom. She sleeps with us now. So does my son. All of us in the same bed, the way it’s meant to be. The kids are so much better behaved and I believe co-sleeping is the reason. Why, anything but the family bed is unnatural and cold! And by huddling together under a handmade afghan made of celery stalks and watching no more television, we’re saving energy. What are you doing for Tierra Madre, friends? Think about at least composting your cashmere sweaters and gourmet food and shelter magazines.

All the best from our household to you and yours during this season of spring abundance and until after the hog slaughtering season!

The Bastoses

P.S. If you have a hatchet and some elbow grease to lend, come on over — don’t call first. Our hogs ate our phone and that’s just the way we like it.


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