Renovations: The Kitchen/Laundry Pt.1

I have so much that I would like to share, but so little time. I think that will result in lots of short posts for a while.  This one will be the first in a series on the renovations we’ve been doing. And of course, starting with the best room: the kitchen (and laundry, since it’s in the same room.)

Ever since I was tiny, the kitchen has been my favorite room in any home I’ve lived in. From cooking traditional Polish dishes with my mom, aunts, and grandmothers, experimenting by putting anything I could get my hands on into one bowl to test out a new “recipe,” or just standing around the kitchen island enjoying snacks during family gatherings.  It is a very communal space. One that is truly a marker of identity in any culture.

For this reason, the kitchen at Birdsong Homestead was the only room I really had a vision for before moving in.  It has come a long way in the last month, but is still not complete. Here is a photo dump of the current progress for your perusal:

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The Naming of a Farm

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When you’ve woken up at 5am to the call of a rooster- legs covered in scrapes and cuts, toes to knee, from running around barefoot among raspberries and brambles for an hour, trying to catch said rooster at dusk when the grass is dew covered and slippery, when chickens should be roosting safely in their coop, you somehow know you’re doing life right. When you wake up, and the undersides of your nails are still caked in dirt despite having bathed the night before, you somehow know you’re doing life right. When you can wake up, brew yourself a pot of coffee, sit on the patio, notebook and pen in hand, watching the sunrise over acres of dew glistening pasture while listening to the trees come to life with birdsong and the rustling of a gentle breeze, watching a fresh flock of chickens explore their new home, you do not just somehow know, you KNOW, unequivocally. You can feel it down to the nucleus of every cell in your body, that you are doing life right.

Years ago, when Lilliana was a baby, we visited a sweet little petting farm. There were goats, cows, fowl of all sorts, alpaca, pigs, pastures, woods, ponds- the whole 9, really. At some point during that visit, we breathed in the beauty of our surroundings and proclaimed our dream of living a life that provided us with everything we saw there. However, it never seemed like that dream coming to fruition would be possible. We tried, and hard, to make some semblance of the dream manifest. We spent several years building relationships and community, a business, urban farm, and living communally with some of the most extraordinary and inspirational people that we know. Ultimately, that venture did not work out as planned and our families parted ways. They moved on from there in an incredibly positive way, built their beautiful home on 6 acres in the woods of Ypsilanti, and established Polliwog Farm. You should definitely check out Grace’s blog and see what they’ve got going on.

Meanwhile, our little family worked on finding our new rhythm, our new normal. We settled back into “urban” life and Ann Arbor apartment living. We were sure our fate was destined to be in a more conventional direction. Lets be honest though, can you really force people who are inherently unconventional into being conventional? No. The answer is just no. We bounced around Ann Arbor, each move saying, “This is our last rental. Next time we are buying a house.” Unfortunately, mortgage policies and market conditions and school of choice policies never seemed to exist in our favor. That was until January of this year. Our landlords approached us to inform us that they were selling their properties. We couldn’t be upset with them, they played their cards perfectly and had the opportunity to cash in on their investments at an incredibly advantageous time. Unfortunately for us, it was the second time in nine months that an apartment we were living in was being sold from under us. The news felt scary, I was sick of standing on unstable ground— I felt like I was in a life-sized version of that game from the 80s, “Thin Ice”…add marbles to the wet paper towel until everything comes crashing down. We needed solutions, miraculously just as everything began to feel hopeless, the clouds parted and the universe delivered.

The home on Cassidy came on the market in early March. I was enamored with it just from the photographs, but did not bother pursuing a visit because it was out of the school district, and generally just far away. After being rejected from our second house offer, and seeing many others, my intuition told me to look into school of choice policies again, and write to our kids’ principal just to quadruple check that there was not some sort of loophole. She wrote me back within an hour to tell me that, for years, the district has been interpreting the policies wrong and we could, in fact, live out of district! That piece of news was life changing. We decided on the spot that we were going to see the house on Cassidy. It was too beautiful, and affordable to pass up.

I knew from the drive out alone, that the property was the one. When we arrived, I did not need to walk into the house to know it was home. Stepping out of the car, my senses were inundated with smells and sights and sounds. There were dozes of different bird calls, many that I had never heard before. Something about the experience felt like they were signing just for our arrival. Serenading us into our new home. There was one call in particular I had not heard before which was incredibly prominent. It was very loud and somewhat spooky sounding. We lovingly named these creatures the wild Marsh Zebra. Brett did his best David Attenborough impression, narrating the story of the Zebras’ lives and habitats.

I could have spent the entire morning soaking in the abundance that the land offered, but we did go inside the house. Of course I fell in love with the house too. Being the nerd I am about historical architecture, that was just another box that could be checked off on the “dream home” checklist. Needless to say we were enamored and decided on the spot that we were going to put our offer in on the property. However, by noon, before we could do so, the seller had already accepted another offer. I was devastated.

Have you ever known in your heart something was just meant to be? So sure of something in the same way that you are sure the sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day? I was sure that the property on Cassidy was supposed to be mine, that the universe was testing me, trying to teach me a lesson. We did not even bother going to look at other homes. What was the point? No property could hold a flame to the quality, beauty, and potential that the home on Cassidy offered. I held my breath and asked the universe to guide me.

A week later the property came back on the market. We wrote an offer that afternoon. The next day we received our letter of acceptance. I was at work when I got the news, unable to contain my emotions. The happy tears streamed down my face- because I knew.

We closed on the house on April 27. It was an emotional day all around. So much happiness and some sadness as the Beeman family handed over the keys to the place their family called home for the last 75+ years. Linda, the daughter of the family wrote us a beautiful letter explaining how grateful she was for our family to have chosen the house to call home. She wrote that we were exactly what she wanted for the property and how excited she is for us to breathe new life into the house and the land, for our family to create our legacy. I have taken what she said to heart, but also knew before she wrote it that my intentions were to do exactly what she had hoped. This house, this property, MY HOME, is destined for great things and those things will manifest over time.

I had hoped to think of a name for the farm to be able to start this blog right away. It was my intention to document the progress on the house as it was happening. However, choosing a name that felt meaningful and right took a bit more time than anticipated, and for some reason, I needed to have a name in place before I could make everything public.

On inspection day we were standing outside of the house, chatting and soaking it all in, when a bird with an enormous wingspan could be spotted int he distance flying our way. As she came closer she started singing her song! …by song I mean strange, guttural, quack-coo type noise…alas, it was the elusive Marsh Zebra! …But really, it was a gorgeous Sandhill Crane. The presence of this bird would become more significant as time went on. They began to show themselves more and more when we took trips out to the property. I decided to look up the spiritual significance of these cranes both in Native and Pagan cultures- two cultures that I feel strongly linked to, one by blood, the other by my own spiritual identity.

IMG_1864The Sandhill Crane represents so many things that resonate with me and the intentions I wish to instill upon my homestead. In Native culture they represent wisdom, leadership and strength, in Pagan culture they represent balance, grace, longevity, faithfulness, patience and healing. They are the bird of the moon, magic, shamanic travel, secrets and mystery.

We moved in on Mother’s Day, May 13. Every moment I have spent here since, I have deliberately listened to what this slice of earth has to say, and without fail, the birds’ song, the harmony, dissonance, metre, rhythm, all unique, create a beautiful chorus that penetrates straight into the soul. That chorus, plus prolific presence of the Sandhill Crane, the significance of magic, wisdom, and music in general, helped to inform the name I finally chose (is the suspense killing you yet?)

Birdsong Homestead

Welcome! This blog will be a glimpse into my world. You can expect many farm updates, as well as posts on home improvement/restoration projects, food and recipes, and general life musings. Through my blog I hope to inspire, educate, be educated, and connect with others.