In my teens I often imagined that God had put me on the homestead as preparation for a call to a primitive mission field. I read missionary biographies and marveled at the similarities and how familiar their daily routines sounded to me. My life was like Missionary Boot Camp:
- Hauling water, gathering fuel for cooking fires, learning to cook and eat whatever the woods or garden produced felt like a semester in “Bush Life Basics”. (Jerusalem artichokes, squirrel meat, our common lunch of beans and rice always reminded me of missionary food.)
- Conserving electricity, learning to start a generator, hauling jugs of fuel by hand, and having to close my book after the sun set was all in the course “Living Off-Grid 101”.
- Using a latrine, wearing the same outfit for a week at a time to save laundry, and learning to bathe my entire body (including washing my hair) with 2 gallons of water (which I hauled from the spring and heated over a fire I started myself with wood I sawed by hand!) got me extra credit in “Wilderness Practicality”.
Little did I realize, all this was actually training for “My Life as a Trailer-Park Landlord’s Wife”. This became abundantly clear to me last week…
I was half-way through boiling noodles for dinner, and was trying to light a second burner to make the cheese-sauce when I realized I was out of gas.
It was 5:30 on a Saturday evening. We wouldn’t be able to get more fuel till Monday.
The first thing I did was to grab my pot of boiling noodles and transfer it outside to the side burner on our grill. I had to wait for the noodles to finish cooking before I could use the burner to make the cheese sauce, but we still ate dinner before 6. Meanwhile, Jeremy, who’d been tiling in the remodeled office all day, took the chance to shower before the hot water in the gas-heated hot water tank cooled off. I planned on getting my shower in later when the water would most likely still be tepid. I was so warm from running up and down out of the bus to add ingredients and stir my dinner, a cool shower actually sounded quite appealing. (and, due to Missionary Boot Camp, I’d had plenty of them already).
After dinner I confess I decided to ignore the problem temporarily. I piled the dishes in the sink and went out to enjoy the twilight on our front stoop with my husband and my inlaws, watching the kids ride their bikes in front of our lot. (simple, trailer-park pleasures, dontchaknow).
An hour later I realized the predicament I was in. The kids were tired, filthy, and it was Sunday tomorrow. How was I going to get us all clean enough for church (let alone their beds) and get the kitchen clean and make something for breakfast without hot water or a stove? I stood in front of my sink and confess to a few frustrated tears before Homestead Girl kicked in. I proclaimed, out loud, “I can do this!” and set to.
Claire got a chilly rinse off in the shower, but that whole tepid shower thing wasn’t going over well with the children, so I gathered towels and p.j.’s and went across the yard to my in-laws camper where my MIL kindly shared their scanty hot water supply so I could bathe the boys. I got the kids all put to bed by 8:30, then I filled my biggest pot with water and put it on the grill burner to heat for dishwater.
The bus grew quiet as everyone else went to bed and fell asleep. I tidied the bus, made a plan for a breakfast that could be baked in the toaster oven, checked my email on Jeremy’s phone, and finally my dishwater was ready. I washed the dishes, wiped down all surfaces to discourage a sugar ant invasion overnight, and headed to the bathroom with a dishpan of hot water to give myself a sponge bath (Not just for invalids anymore! Conserves water! Effective and refreshing!)
Finally I took advantage of the quiet and read a few pages in my book before turning out my 8-volt battery bedroom light and falling asleep to the hum of the air conditioner in my cozy little bedroom in the back of the bus, grateful for my training which made the evening’s challenge a familiar routine.
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