Gettting the Hang of Things and My New Normal

So I think after 12 years of marriage and a new life “back in the country,” I’m finally getting the hang of it.

That is a strange thing to say, but for a large part of our life together, especially the last few years, I’ve had a part-time marriage. I worked full time, and as Tim worked for various agencies, he had random days off. We rarely spent time together. Since we bought the farm, (literally folks,) it was even stranger as I lived here and he was at his duty station for days on end.

When Tim worked in the city the last few years, I really only worried about my own laundry — he handled his. The dogs were sometimes with one or the other of us; sometimes they were separated. We had only a few meals together each week; the rest of the time we each could enjoy whatever we wanted.

Now I’m getting the hang of it! These days things are a little different. We live 15 minutes or so from a gas station and place to pick up milk, but if we need more than that, it’s a trip “to town.” So planning is the backbone of our new life. I commute to the city to work once a week, which means planning ahead with our dog walker. That’s the night Tim always cooks dinner, too. It’s the little things that define my new normal.

Laundry is a little tougher.

sophie and hank

Sophie and Hank

There is a lot of it for just two people. We garden and I can foods, both of which lead to an inordinate amount of stains!  Tim generally takes it down to the basement for me. I usually run a load first thing each morning. If I have time, I hang it out to dry before telework starts at 8:00; otherwise, I spend part of lunch at the clothesline. After work, I take it down, fold it, and put it away.

Now, I am not saying Tim doesn’t do laundry anymore. It makes more sense for me to do it since I’m here, but sometimes I spend laundry time watering the garden, or I get caught up crocheting a dishcloth, or I’m napping :-) Tim still has plenty of laundry time!

We have four pets all of the time.

Everywhere you go, there’s a dog or cat underfoot. I often wish we had children, but when I have a hard time getting just from our bedroom to the kitchen, I’m glad there are only four little ones running around. Even the pets have a new rhythm, though. The dogs are upstairs when I work during the day. Sophie is still enough of a puppy that she makes a fair bit of racket during the day. With her upstairs and my office door closed, it’s easy for me to “go to work” by closing the door. The cats relax on the stairs (for some odd reason) while I work.

Meals aren’t spur of the moment.

homemade pizza

homemade pizza

One thing I miss…and don’t miss…about living in the city? Impromptu dinner plans. On days I worked there, too, Tim would call to ask how my day was going. Some days I would just get a bad filling in the pit of my stomach waiting for him to ask, “so what do you want to do for dinner?” We just didn’t plan ahead. Often Tim would grill, or we’d have salads, or I’d cook up some random piece of meat or pasta, but we didn’t take the time to plan and stick to a plan for eating. This also was often the first step towards picking up a pizza from Brixx, grabbing pulled chicken from Dixie Bones, or relying on burgers from Five Guys.

Nowadays we plan our meals for at least 7 days. We have a freezer full of chicken and beef (and some pork) from J&L Green Farm, a beyond-organic farm that is hyperlocal at about 8 minutes from my door. I have a stocked pantry and a well-stocked root cellar.

I even pulled out the pizza stone for homemade pizza — I forgot how much I loved cooking pizza! I don’t make perfect dough circles, but I figure if I do it about once a week for the rest of my life (and why the heck not?) then I’ll probably get better at it. I even (gasp) grilled a pizza!

Speaking of grilling, I’m teaching myself to smoke and grill! I still work 5 miles from Dixie Bones once a week, so I can turn to it when I need to, but today I smoked and pulled chicken breasts. They stayed moist and were ready within an hour. And why put home-smoked chicken on flimsy buns…so I made those great King Arthur homemade buns.

pulled smoked chicken homemade bun

pulled chicken on bun

I haven’t tackled the burger yet, but Tim is phenomenal with a bison burger, so I’m leaving that up to him. In fact, tomorrow night is bison night, and I bet those burgers are pretty good on homemade buns.

So after all these years, I’m getting the hang of marriage. We are finding a new rhythm together of taking care of house and home, and it’s fun getting to know each other again. We used to spend a few hours most evenings watching TV, often eating takeout pizza while listening to the dryer run and the dogs bark.

Now we eat at the table while talking about our day. The dryer isn’t hooked up, the pizza is homemade, and the dogs — well, they are still barking, but they are still finding their new normal, too :-)

*** This site is comprised solely of the opinions of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She works to promote gardening and tourism in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.***

6 comments to Gettting the Hang of Things and My New Normal

  • Penny

    It sounds like things are settling in nicely for y’all. We didn’t live in “the city” before we moved here, but we had a lot of conveniences living in the town in Front Royal that took a little getting used to being without when we moved here. It sounds like your adapting just fine, I bet your BBQ sandwich was better than anything from Dixie Bones :) Your pizza looks lovely and very tasty.

  • Kent

    Hi. I stumbled on your site when searching for Wetlands email address. Just guessing here, but I probably live about 10 miles from you. I’m on Supinlick Ridge south of Bryce. My wife has finally escaped the .gov world and is teaching high school near here, but I’m still a government contractor. I telecommute most of the week, but usually have to go to Woodbridge on Wednesdays. I see you mention J&L Green Farm. I believe I talked to the guy’s mother about a week ago at the Mt. J Farmer’s market where I bought some eggs. I’ve not been by the farm yet, but I want to check them out the next time I need to buy a beef quarter.
    From reading your site I gather we have a similar interest in non-industrial food. I assume you know Gail Rose, but if you don’t look up Deauville Fallow Deer Farm. She sold off her deer a couple of months ago, but I think she’s still doing the pick your own veggies. She lives not far from here, and is a good person to know in the local harvest community. I’m growing my own this year so really haven’t had a reason to go buy from here, but I did help her with her deer round up.
    Again, assuming you’re interested in real food, another person to know is Dr. Kim at the chiropractor office near Food Lion. She’s a radical when it comes to that sort of thing, and a very nice lady.
    I see you’re interested in grilling and smoking. I bought a book recently on smoking meat and I really want to learn how to do the cold smoke preservation methods. It will be fall before it’s OK to do, but I’ve another friend of a friend that can fix me up with a whole hog I think. I just need to build a smoke house, or find one I can use.
    I saw you did some berry canning. I didn’t, but I did have blackberries in the empty lot next door. I sort of lost interest in them when I saw the berry poo that had to come from one of the bears around here right out in the road. Ehh… Not interested in blackberries so much if I have to fight a bear for them.
    It’s fun finding someone local on line. You can find me at virginiawind, or on YouTube at therealvirginiawind (some jerk in the Philippines stole my username).

    • Hello, Kent!

      There are a lot of us NoVa escapees, telecommuting and enjoying the country life. Right now my city day floats, but eventually I’ll have it to a set day and later only to two trips per month. I’m not minding the drive, though — audiobooks help quite a bit! How long have you been here?

      I have met Gail, and she is very sharing, and I love her philosophies on growing food. If you helped with the roundup, you might know Robert and Jackie, her neighbors. They’ve been great friends to us as we adjusted to valley life.

      We did find bear scat in the drive, and our neighbor has bagged a few in the woods out back. So far, though, no problems. The big resident groundhog did his fair share last year in the garden, though.

      Hope to meet up with you sometime! It’s a relatively small community, so there’s a good chance of it :-) Take care and stay cool!

      – Stacey

  • john

    My wife posted a picture of your shelves for canning on pinterest and I have been skimming through your blogs. Read this and had a laugh, knowing were not the only ones. We are on year one of marriage and in april purchased a homestead 20 min. to the nearest town. We were downtown city people for the 6 years we dated and decided to move out to the country North Of Toronto. The house needs a tremendous amount of work but its very rewarding. I enjoyed reading about the similarities.

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