A Wooded Journey

We recently took a three-day trip to a forest (not Mirkwood) in East Texas. We stayed in a log cabin which was part of a bed and breakfast.

It was great getting closer to our dream of finding our Shire (future home). The air was fresh, there was peace in the air, and the scenery was gorgeous.

One problem was a lot of mosquitoes and bugs! It was a bit humid, and the air was moist (probably not a good environment for raising livestock and certain plants because diseases and bad bugs are more likely in a hot, humid environment). However, several miles away from the water, it was much less humid and a better environment for farming and more comfortable living.

We went strawberry picking (no cream though as the Hobbits like it). This was an amazing adventure.

I must emphasize to those who are searching for their Shire but don’t know what to do:

YOU MUST TRAVEL!

If you don’t actually look around, it’s going to be hard. Climate, environment, weather, culture, lifestyle, scenery, air quality, beauty, and so much more of an area are largely experiences by your five senses. Research places that seem like they may be a good fit for you and then go there. They may not turn out to be exactly what you wanted, but you may gain insights into what you do want (and also don’t want).

We’ve started on our Journey to the Shire. Why haven’t you? (Or have you?)

Passion vs Ability

I have been thinking a lot lately on how or why it is we become passionate about doing something and comparing that to how good we are at that same thing. Let me explain. Do we become passionate about something because we are good at it or do we become passionate about something first and then become good at it later? Let’s explore the former first.

Can you imagine something you were not super crazy about at first? Yet, you did it over and over again either through obligation or necessity. Eventually you discovered you became pretty good at it. You enjoyed the results that came from it. You liked the feeling of success. You enjoyed being good at what you are doing, and eventually you liked what you are doing. Has this happened to you before? Maybe, maybe not.

Now the latter. Can you imagine something you were crazy about at first? Yet, you were bad at it. It was still attractive to you nonetheless. You liked it and enjoyed it so much you didn’t care how bad you were at first. Eventually from doing it over and over again, you became better at it, and not only did you enjoy doing it, but you also enjoyed the success that came from it.

I tend to think both are possible. What do you think?

Seeds Sprouting

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This is our English Daisies one week after planting. They came up in just five days after planting even though the package says it takes 7-14 days. I’m all for delegating tasks to others. However, being self-sufficient and just the sheer pleasure of growing something from seed is amazing. I can’t wait to see them blossom. The more they grow, I feel closer and closer to the Shire.

In addition, we recently watched The Lord of the Rings films, which are totally epic. I consider it a good use of my time, because, it is helping me gain insights and ideas about our future farm. Doesn’t a Middle-earth themed farm sound cool? That’s what we’re all about here at Journey to the Shire, country living and Middle-earth.

I’m learning more and more about country living every day. The next step might be to learn to speak Elvish.

The farm has started…

…in our apartment! We were so happy to finally get planting we bought three of these.

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In the first we planted English Daisies, in the second Forget-Me-Not, and in the third cilantro. The reason for the perennial flowers is that we are really thinking every day about our future home, and we want these flowers to be there! Flowers not only look nice, but are great for bringing in insects to help pollinate fruit and vegetable plants. We went with cilantro because it is small enough to fit on the edge.

In another pot we started some carrots. The seeds only cost fifty cents, and we used less than half. We’re also trying to sprout avocado plants from seed and are also saving seeds of veggies we are getting from farmer’s markets.

Where is your Shire? How are you going to get there? Just start doing something like we did. We have not found our dream home, but this process is helping us move in the right direction. Now, who knows a thing or two about farming?

Farmer Maggot!

Journey in California

I recently had training for my new job. Since the HQ is in California, my company flew me out there, and my family tagged along (we’re more inseparable than Gollum and the Ring). I was hesitant to believe that the trip would give us any insights into our dream of living on our own farm.

I should have remembered that California is a fine producer of many fruits and vegetables and works towards protecting the environment. The first surprise, however, was our hotel.

These images are the backyard of our room. There were loads of various kinds of plants, and the air was extra fresh in the morning. A stream ran through the property (I saw two ducks in it one time). A walk around also led to more trees, flowers, scents, smells, and beauty.

The town we were in kept a similar theme, preserving much of the plants that were there and also planting beautiful gardens. We were not far though from one of the greatest pieces of nature in California.

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We visited a redwood forest with hiking trails. This place was absolutely breathtaking. We felt like we were in the Fangorn Forest and an ent was going to pop out. The air was the best I have ever breathed in my entire life. Even ten minutes after we left, as I was diving, I could still feel the cool, energizing sensation in my lungs from the air produced by the trees. Pure, untouched, untamed nature does have its benefits.

Finally, we made our way to the Pacific Ocean. What better way to end our trip that with a sunset.

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This amazing trip gave us great insights into some of what we want on our future farm property. A stream or creek would be absolutely incredible. Flowing water is so peaceful and brings life with it. Also, a portion of our land will be untouched nature. It has its benefits for sure. The sunset and ocean are probably not going to be on our property, but a pond or even a lake would do just fine, as long as there is no ring at the bottom of it.

Farmers’ Market!

I’m not talking about those fake farmers’ markets where you go inside a building and nearly every fruit has a sticker on it with a barcode; the bananas are from Costa Rica and the blueberries are from Chile. I’m talking about a real farmers’ market where farmers come with the things they produced with their very hands. A few days ago we went to one in McKinney, Texas which is going to be continuing regularly every Saturday morning for the next few months. There were more than twenty vendors there, and each sold a variety of products: fresh veggies, strawberries (only fruit there), honey, eggs, raw milk, chicken, beef, pork, jarred and canned foods, kombucha, bread, soap, and more. Here’s a picture of what we picked up.

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Overall, I liked the variety of things to select from. However, the prices were quite expensive. Here is what we picked up along with the prices:

1 bunch of buttercrunch lettuce: $3

1 bag of kale: $4

5 cucumbers: $5

1 loaf of sourdough bread: $5

1 bag of microgreens: $5

1 whole chicken: $4.50 per pound

1 bad of chicken gizzards: $4 per pound

1 pound of strawberries: $6

So far we have actually tried the strawberries, bread, and microgreens. The strawberries were slightly on the sour side but some were decent. The bread was not bad but doesn’t taste so amazing that we would want to buy it again. The microgreens I personally like a lot, and I could see us growing them in the future.

Other products I was thinking of getting but ultimately decided not to because of the price are as follows:

1 dozen of eggs: $6

5 large tomatoes: $8

1 bag of spinach: $5

I am really disappointed in the price of eggs in Texas considering we could get them for $3 a dozen from local farmers in New Jersey. I understand the idea behind supporting local farmers; we’ve done that a lot since we’ve arrived. Nonetheless, prices need to be reasonable or we’re not going to feel comfortable going back. On other farms and farmstands in Texas, we have found milk for $5 a gallon instead of $8-10, eggs for $4-4.50 instead of $6, and fresh veggies for a better price.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this farmers’ market. I’m eager to see if new vendors pop up in the future and if prices become more competitive. We’ll return in a few weeks and see what becomes available. If it remains the same, we’ll have to raid Bilbo’s pantry instead.

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Our Adventure: NJ to TX

I realized we never shared the details of our journey from New Jersey to Texas. Bilbo and Frodo shared their journeys. How else would we have gotten The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings?

  1. U-Pack — We stuffed as much of our belongings as possible into a ReloCube. It was quite affordable. I read a lot of horror stories about people driving across the country renting a truck or using moving companies that charge all kinds of extra random fees. U-Pack worked out great and they brought the cube intact to our new apartment in Texas.
  2. 4-Day Drive — This was actually a lot of fun. Our 2006 Hyundai didn’t let us down. Our journey took us through the following states: NJ>PA>MD>VA>WV>TN>MS>TN>AK>TX. It ultimately took us four days of driving to reach our hotel in our new city in Texas. No one got sick and nothing got lost. Amazing!
  3. Apartment Search — We looked at only two places and made our decision. Why so fast? There was really only one place that was within walking distance of my new company’s office. The apartment was decent, so we took it. We considered walking to work to be a huge advantage.

Looking back, I’m stunned by how smoothly everything went. Nonetheless, the journey isn’t over yet. We haven’t found the Shire. We need to meet more people and gain more insights about how to make the transition. Before we meet them, reading more just might be the first step.