Lessons from the Forest

It’s been three months since we packed up all our earthly belongings and moved out to the Tree House in the Forest.  Life is very different here.  The adjustment to anything new is challenging, but I feel like we have made the shift fairly well.  Arden is doing so well at her new school and Terry is settling into his new position at work.  I’m still on the search for my “thing” and our “people”, but three months in, life is taking on a flow.  There are things that I want to do differently and there are things that we are doing really well, but all in all the last three months have gone as well as I could have hoped.  That being said, I have definitely learned somethings that were unexpected. I’m sure there is a much more comprehensive list than below (for example, I learned this week that a propane tank can run out of propane and then you don’t have heat on the coldest night of the year, but the Tree House can be kept warm with 2 space heaters, strategically closed doors and warm blankets – don’t worry – the tank has been filled and all is warm again). However, I figured I would share a few of the more impactful things I have learned from my first 3 months living in the forest:

elmer1. The sound of gunfire is completely normal. Until this move, I have lived in or near cities. Even living in the woods at New Salem was close to what I would say is a “big town” comparatively. Hunting was not a thing that was allowed on the ground of New Salem, so with the exception of a couple times of year when the historic guns came out for demonstrations in the village, I don’t recall ever hearing the sound of gunfire from my old front porch.  The same cannot be said out here.  I have discovered that beginning in September and apparently extending well into the early spring, hunting is THE thing in these parts.  My husband is now the proud owner of multiple pieces of camouflage apparel and has been out with other hunters to see how it is done.  Arden has requested camo for Christmas.  What is the world?!?! The sounds of early morning bus stop visits include at least a few explosions of shotgun fire from duck hunters out by the river.  Deer hunting season commences in a couple weeks and I’ve been made aware that it probably won’t be necessary to hit the deck every time I hear gun fire ringing through the woods, because I would probably be dead from exhaustion more quickly than from a stray bullet.   I have also been assured that while the gun fire may SOUND like it is happening in my backyard, the hunters are actually a safe distance away.  We shall see how my nerves do.  Thoughts and prayers are appreciated.


  1. People in Iowa are really nice. IowaWe live about 20 miles from Burlington, IA. I do the bulk of my errand running in Burlington, and I’m here to tell you, with only one exception I can think of, every single person I have encountered in Iowa has been nice.  Like noticeably nice.  Comment-worthy nice. T and I have actually had numerous conversations about how nice. At first I thought maybe I was just hyper aware of niceness because I was looking for things to like.  I tend to default to negativity, and so when moving here I think I was really trying to be attuned to the positive. So when a cashier or server was kind, I took notice; but over the last 3 months, I really just think they grow ‘em nice in Iowa. The one exception to this rule was one dude that worked at a Walgreen’s and now I think he must actually live in Illinois, because NO ONE in Iowa is rude.  No one.  Not a soul!  That must be why they keep the first election caucus in Iowa. All politicians know that the campaign trail is full of meanness, and they don’t want to give up the opportunity to start out with the kindest people ever to grace the face of the planet!  (Side note:  we have met a lot of completely nice people on the IL side of the river.  I don’t want to insinuate that people over here are not nice, but I’ve lived in IL for a good portion of my life and feel like I have a good handle on folks in the Land of Lincoln.  Iowans are a whole different breed of nice!)


  1. I’m finding things that I want to try that I would have NEVER considered before. For example, I have in my possession a book on how to bake bread.  I don’t bake.  I cookbread ok, but I don’t bake.  But something in me is wanting to try to bake bread. I don’t know why.  But, hey, I’m going with it.  Thankfully my husband is a very receptive culinary experiment guinea pig. I can only think of one time when one of my kitchen attempts was so thoroughly inedible that he could not choke it down.  Thank God for him, because my picky eater child won’t try anything I make and often changes her opinions on offerings that she has eaten in the past.  Some of her refusals bring me to the point of frustrated tears.  But T is a trooper, and a grateful one at that.  So I’m hopeful that my bread making attempts will be met with the same gusto.  I made banana bread for the first time last week, and while that doesn’t really count as bread, it did turn out really well – so I think the future looks bright!!  I mean, I’m not trying to set my sites too high, but I could be really good at it!  Probably not, but like I said before – I’m determined to be more positive!  So, I’ll let you know!


  1. Great joy can be found in the most unexpected places. Groundhogs, sunsets, and trees have brought moments of pure bliss over the last three months.  I never would have thought I’d be in a space calm enough to take daily notice of these gifts, but the silence of my days over the last weeks has made me acutely aware of them and wow, has that been a blessing! 




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Mommy, Historian, Wannabe Writer.

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