State of The Homestead – There Are Days…

It’s not all sunshine and pretty flowers. There are definitely days when I wonder what the hell I’m doing out here. If I’m going to succeed before the bugs rip me to shreds. If I’m going to have enough water to drink. If I’m going to be able to find nourishment, start my garden, or really get anything rolling other than a tiny 96 square foot cabin in the middle of nowhere. I have my doubts just like anyone else.

As I’m writing this (hopefully it will be posted the next time I get to town for Internet stuff) there’s a small oil lamp hanging over my head, turned down to the point where I can barely see. More light means more heat, and I’m not exactly having cool nights. My body is riddled with scars and bug bites. There’s a roach in here crawling along the wall, somewhere. Ticks are searching my body for a spot to take hold where I won’t be able to brush them free.

My tiny space is about ¼ storage shelving, ¼ wood stove which is not in use at the moment, and ¼ plywood slab with a ½ inch covering of foam to sleep on. There’s no space to walk, just a common area where I can stand up and hang my lamp. My bed doubles as a nightstand, and it’s loaded with the contents of my pockets, and a drink, as well as some other day-to-day necessities. Outside, rats and armadillos who know I’m in for the night are rummaging around my stuff.

The wildlife has more or less acclimated to my presence. They know my hours and daily habits, and they’ve learned where they can creep around and when. Spiders are building webs in my walking paths tonight, which I’ll meet in the morning. Everywhere outside, there are tree stumps to trip over and tall grass just starting on the dew collection for the night, so I can have a wet morning. The night-birds will start singing just outside my door any minute, like alerts to let the other animals know that it’s time to come out and play. Add a little poison ivy, and that pretty well completes the picture.

But there’s something else out there in the darkness. Something I would never encounter in a summer in Louisiana: a clear sky filled with a million stars. If you’ve been following for a while, you might know that I’m a bit of a space nut-pause to slap a mosquito.

Where was I? Oh yes, the heavens. There are tiny clusters of stars that I know well, but only through a telescope. Faint fuzzies can be spotted with the naked eye, and a shooting star streaked to the south from Jupiter earlier, nearly as bright as the distant planet. When I look up, time stops. The bug bites cease to itch, the ticks can crawl over me freely, and there’s nothing else in the world except me and that sky.

The darkness rating for this location is near black, rivaled only by certain places out west, or on the open ocean. Dusk every night is a bit of a game, watching each one begin to shine as it grows darker. Jupiter is the first to show itself, then Arcturus (hope I spelled that right), then Spica, and the handle of the big dipper. Then the North Star. And when it gets darker, lights shine from the heavens nearly bright enough to cast shadows.

When I look up, and I see that nearly unadulterated sky, I know why I’m here. I remember why I put up with the biting insects, the lack of refrigeration (at least for the moment), and the absence of artificial light. I remember why I sleep on this hard board every night. I know instantly. It’s a reconnection with my humanity. Not in some hands-across-America sense, but rather a connection with my primal ancestors, who looked up at that same sky, and knew there was something out there bigger than themselves. People who had no choice but to put up with the mites and bugs, and had to forage and hunt daily for something to eat, who could get sick and die simply by drinking from the wrong river at the wrong time.

Not everyone can experience that sky, and I’m doing this for those who can’t. It’s truly a gift, only for those brave enough to venture into the darkest parts of the wild. I’m doing this to prove to myself that humans can be part of the landscape, and that shaping it a certain way doesn’t have to mean raping the natural world of all it’s bounties. Earlier today the itching got so bad that I sought relieve, not from a bottle of lotion from some unnamed lab, but from a wad of plantain leaves, partially chewed and moistened, and a special little mint that is disappearing in the summer heat. (Now I have to find another miracle plant for the hot summer)

Anytime the chainsaw throws a chain, or the water system isn’t working the way I want, or a locust tree branch falls the wrong way and slaps me in the face, ouch, I just need to remember that sky. I swear I could sit here and stare into the heavens until the first rays of sunlight. They’re absolutely captivating. There’s even a silver lining of part of the Milky way that I never see. In Louisiana, star-gazing in the summertime is pretty much out of the question. Here, it’s a nightly blessing, unless it’s raining, which is a blessing of its own. Doesn’t matter what happens during the day. I see that sky every night, in all its glory, and I know why I’m here, instantly refreshed by the light of the heavens and the glow of embers from my nightly campfire.

It’s primal, it’s uncomfortable, it’s filthy, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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Author: spottedgeckgo

Writer. Making my living on my pen, and working to turn a raw chunk of land into a future homestead.

8 thoughts

    1. Think I wrote a little monster story about them one day. Creepy. It wasn’t very good, but an interesting piece of flash. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  1. Watching the stars, it’s mesmerizing. I could do it all night. Unfortunately for me, I won’t be seeing any stars for a few months… Alaskan summers are light all around, pretty much…

    1. I can imagine, living that close to the pole, and you can probably never explore Sagittarius, even in the wintertime. It’s hard to describe to non-star people, but last night I made a note to myself about how it looks like other dark sky sites, except there’s an extra sprinkling of fainter objects that seems to cover the whole sky. I might see about starting some local up-light awareness to make sure we can keep them dark out here. Once I get another building up, I’m probably going to fetch my Scopes from storage and keep them out here. Looking forward to some stargazing this year.

      1. We got my son a starter telescope last year… I think I have used it he most but he loves to look at the planets mostly so far. We get to see Mars and Jupiter pretty often and we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the moon. Though s past winter, the stars that “twinkle” blue, grand red

        1. The moon and planets are always nice. If/when you look to upgrade, I would focus on aperture for collecting more light. You don’t need an 8 or 12 inch light bucket, but generally the bigger the diameter of the scope the bigger, and reflectors are on the cheap end for spying dimmer objects. They also take a little practice to see.

          Orion and Meade both make some really nice scopes under $200 for basic stuff. My Dob was around $500, back when I had disposable income. Low magnification helps too, and a lot of scopes come with a decent eyepiece that will get down to 30x or less, and the extra aperture will let you push the magnification up on clear nights without things getting dark and fuzzy.

          You also might try your lowest mag eyepiece on the starter scope with the double cluster near Cassiopeia. It’s bright enough to spot as a fuzz-ball with the naked eye under dark skies, and always pretty to look at, even for low-aperture scopes and binos. Plus, finding it is a good exercise in basic star-hopping. Stellarium can help you find more “fuzzies” under your sky, but just because it shows up on the program, doesn’t mean it will look so good through a small scope. Most of the images they use are based on false-color photos. The Orion nebula should be a bright target too, but it’s close to the ecliptic so it might be too low on your horizon.

          1. Lots of things to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing. We’ll see what my son gets into… The older he gets the more involved in this kind of stuff he gets.

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