Reflections on a Crazy Year

This time last year, I wrote about braised collard greens. So, nothing new on that front.

However, husband and I were also gearing up for a big trip to New York City in a few days. I was “winding down” from the start of my brand-new baking business, from which I only had one order under my belt. I worried about braving our second winter here on the homestead, about the new things we would implement for self-sufficiency, about making this business work while making ends meet. I worried about starting a family, and the difficulties that process already posed by the end of the year.

I was worried and excited about lots of new things, along with teaching y’all how to properly braise and cook your New Year meal.

Bordering on the edge of cliche here, I never worried about what actually happened in the year to come. While we do prep for disaster here, to me at this time last year, disaster was always a “thing that could happen,” without any real conviction in my brain. Wishful thinking for a lady living in the developed world.

But, of course, shit did, indeed, hit the fan. Or at least a few smelly bits flew around with onset and continuation of COVID, and its impact on our family, community, and the world. I’m not here to harp too much on the global pandemic here for NYE, but in a reflection post for the year, I can’t ignore it, nor will I.

So, in lieu of a new recipe or an individual homestead update (although both will be forthcoming in the new year), I choose to reflect on and share much of what’s been happening with us these long months. Some of it I’ve already shared here in the blog or on social media, and some items have been more private trials and triumphs.

In the grand tradition of this year of our lord 2020, let’s start with the trials.

  • The baking business got off to a rough start, both because business is hard (especially a food business really getting going after the holidays. 0/10, would not recommend), and because COVID shut social life down less than three months into the year. I assumed that I would simply have to wait out the pandemic before I could actually sell anything that people would eat, since we didn’t know much about the spread at the time. Stress.
  • COVID-19. My last day out in public, in a closed venue with strangers, was my last trivia hosting night. Both husband and I lost trivia hosting gigs and a pretty decent, easy weekly income flow, but more importantly, we lost access to a big chunk of our social network through hosting and playing bar trivia. Things are opening up a bit now (or were, when the weather was nice and we could play outside), but I haven’t hosted since March, and I miss it, and all of the people I used to see regularly.
  • This has been a year of loss for both my immediate and extended family, although none of it was directly connected with COVID. In the same week in early April, we suffered a miscarriage, and I lost my paternal grandfather. Spring and summer were indescribably difficult. Later in the year, we lost a family friend, an uncle, and my maternal grandfather, as well. Grief is difficult and ongoing, especially in dealing with it mostly in isolation, but professional therapy has been my godsend, especially this year. (And if you’ve been considering therapy, this is your sign: do it. Call someone. Set it up. You’ll wonder why you waited so long to help yourself.) I am also here to talk about anything similar you’re experiencing if you need it. I won’t grieve in silence, and you don’t have to, either.
  • My goodness, the rains and weather were awful for most of our summer plants this year. I’ve already harped on our super-late May frost, as well as the incessant daily rains that made our rain barrels essentially unnecessary and our squash crops nonexistent. In other words, we had a much smaller harvest for preserving this year, which meant more supplementing with crops from farmers who fared more successfully. It’s like they know how to weather (HAH) disaster or something.
Some bright spots in a dark year.

And in breaking with 2020 tradition, the year wasn’t all bad, as no year is all wonderful or terrible. We have also had our share of triumphs:

  • Despite putting the business on indefinite hold in March, I was asked to do the Weaverville market in late May (actually in early May, but I didn’t have access to gargantuan amounts of flour at the time). I’ve been their bread person ever since, as well as a vendor for the East Asheville market, and have started more special orders. Yay! From crying (no, literally) about the difficulty of business in February to taking a breath of a break from business craziness for January 2021, I’ll call it a definite win.
  • I have talked to more people on the phone, over video chat, via snail mail, and Internet messaging (either for business or personal chats) than I have in the past several years. I’ve loved not having to have a reason to reach out to someone, even if I haven’t talked to them in a month or a year or more, just to say hi and check in. I call home every week instead of sporadically. We’ve also found more ways (other than, y’know, keeping up with a homestead) to stay entertained without going out and spending money, like going through our collection of board games, and playing stupid online Zoom and Switch games with friends. And at the risk of sounding cliche, I cherish the short and rarer times that I actually get to spend in-person quality time with friends and family.
  • Despite grieving our family losses, the funerals and memorials did bring us together, whether in just opening up conversations, or actually being (outside, masked, distanced) together in person, enjoying a meal, at times when I otherwise wouldn’t see my family for months.
  • We got chickens! And seriously, there is nothing to take me out of the 2020 mindset like watching a flock of chickens do their stupid chicken thing on a daily basis. This is especially true on cold, wet mornings, when, despite our own human discomfort in the weather, our ladies are squawking at the coop door, just waiting to be let out to scratch and find bugs in the cold mud. Also, the constant supply of delicious eggs is pretty great for both meals and business.
  • Not all of our crops did poorly, and we enjoyed some new items this year – corn, a melon or two, cherry tomatoes, lots of hot peppers, and a plethora of herbs. Plus, our asparagus actually came up for its first year, which is massively exciting! After Year 2, we have a better idea of what crops we want to focus on in years to come, and which crops we’ll leave to the professional local farmers (or other homesteading friends with better luck).
  • I’m more creative with my income flow (hello, online tutoring, teaching, and content writing!), and I feel even stronger in my conviction to change the way I think about my worth, wealth, and profit in the grand scheme of this crazy world, as well as my family. (Hint: it’s not found in having extra money to buy a bunch of shiny products I don’t need.) I’m still navigating my own core beliefs, as well as those of many around me, about worth, and not tying it to a specific career or amount of money I’m making. I still have to remind myself that not all wealth is money, and not all worth stems from how much money I make at the end of the day.
  • I’ll be going into more detail about our homestead plans for 2021, but our biggest change and “implementation” is extending our human family by one! We are so excited to bring forth a new life, and to teach them how to care for others and the planet, so that they’ll do it bigger and better than we can ever dream.

As for my actual NYE celebrations this evening, husband, cat, and I will be here at home, making ourselves a smorgasbord of local cheeses, sausage, and our own pickles and jams and baked goods, playing some dumb games online with friends. (The cat will take minimal part in this, eating scraps and making Zoom cameos, as per usual.)

I hope you all have a fantastic end of your year, and I hope you take time to reflect on the good, as well as the difficult, in jumping into 2021.

Here’s to a new year – cheers, y’all!

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