Why in the world would we leave our HOA neighborhood in a suburb of Ft Worth, move on to 20 acres of Blackland Prairie in north central Texas, only to attend an HOA meeting, 4 years later??
Well, HOA, for us, no longer stands for Home Owners Association. HOA now stands for Homesteaders of America. I had the joy and privilege of attending a business conference, put on by this HOA, in Columbia, Tennessee over MLK, Jr. weekend. The conference consisted of 2 days packed with information from Joel Salatin with Polyface Farms in Virginia, Justin Rhodes with Abundant Permaculture, Jill Winger with the Prairie Homestead in Wyoming, and Shawn and Beth Dougherty with The Sow's Ear Farm in Ohio. Prior to this conference, I'd never heard of the Doughertys, and frankly, their session topics didn't sound too applicable to me. But let me tell you, both of their sessions had me scribbling notes as quickly as I could, and filled me with so many ideas and inspiration.
The whole weekend was restorative, regenerative, and rejuvenating. I knew nobody in that room. Yet, I was right at home. You know you're with the right crowd when you speak freely about how to invite/host/bring people to your homestead (farm/ranch/whatever you call it) with actually having to interact or have them on your property for too long, haha!! #introvertproblems amIright? While there are certainly extroverted homesteaders out there--they are the ones who thrive on inviting people to their property--many farmers/ranchers/homesteaders are quite introverted, which is part of the reason this self-sufficient lifestyle appeals to us. And yet, we have a desire to connect, educate, and share what we do and why. We're very passionate about it, and are eager to talk to anyone who dares to ask the simplest of questions. In true introvert form, we may not like idle chit-chat, but ask us a question about homesteading, and we'll talk your ear off!
Now, I was super excited about the limited number of seats for this conference, and the possibility of being able to pick the brains of a few esteemed experts in the area of regenerative agriculture. So when I also had a chance to grab a few selfies, I totally took it! Some people fan-girl over athletes or musicians. But regenerative farmers/homesteaders who stand against the status quo, question everything, and are willing to share their successes and failures with the rest of us are my inspiration.
At one point, there was a break between sessions. I ran to the bathroom so I wouldn't miss a minute of information. As I walked in, Jill Winger was walking out. So I did what any sane person would do. I turned around, followed her right back out, apologized for being weird, and asked for a photo! I also snagged photos with Joel Salatin (left), and Justin Rhodes and his beautiful wife, Rebecca (right). Somehow, I thought Rebecca was shorter, but standing side by side with her makes me realize that I'm shorter in real life than I am in my mind....
All in all, the weekend was more needed than I initially realized.
Afterwards, I took some time on my way home to visit the Battle of Shiloh Civil War site, and walked through the national cemetery there. I sobbed, walking among those gravestones. It's crazy to me that people went to watch battles as a source of entertainment--and we've done things like that throughout all of history. So many headstones were marked with just a number. Some were marked "unknown" or "unknown soldier". Units were buried together--such-and-such regiment with a particular battalion from each Union state were buried together. I was heartbroken and proud, simultaneously. Heartbroken, because of the lives lost. Proud, because the bravery and sacrifice of so many, in the name of freedom, was a huge step in affirming the Declaration of Independence's original intent, encapsuled in the statement that ALL men were created equal. Slavery is abhorrent. I get people fighting to continue a way of life. But enslaving other human beings and otherwise denying them the right to determine their own future, regardless of historical precedent, should never have been defended. I just can't understand the thought process of how that would ever be ok.... But that's a whole other discussion for another day...
Anyway, the big HOA conference is in October in Virginia. We will all be there this time, even the kidlets! I am looking forward to my sweet husband and kiddos getting to join in on activities and workshops that they are interested in as well. We have a whole CSA season between now and then! It's gonna be a great year!!!