We are back!

As you can imagine things have been moving quickly here now that Iona has joined us. We have been very fortunate to have such a calm, easy to please baby girl.   I have been nursing constantly and as I write this post I feel like I am in a hostage situation hoping the baby will  continue to sleep so I can type.  As we are currently on maternity leave from life I have a very relaxed schedule, however, I am struggling to get into a rhythm with my routine. How about you, have you changed your routine at all this year? How’s your temporary, possibly permanent schedule working out? What are you looking forward to this spring?

Does your Schedule seem off?

As I look at my routine, I like to use bullet journaling to keep track of to-do lists and routines, I have been asking which is the most productive method. The night before the baby was born I  was drawing this page which had a routine for the future, after the baby is born, after we build our yome, after we move out of the cabin….sort of a hypothetical perfect world daily routine. Hygiene, breakfast, home school, animals, dinner.  That seems a little unrealistic since  we are not there yet.  We collecting tools and materials to build a deck for our yome,  but we have been harvesting our own cedar timber due to lumber costs, with the current market maintaining unprecedented high prices, our trees were  growing in our ponds, so they had to go.

The second example is an 8 day spread that easily fits on paper, which is not as pretty but should help me focus on the now rather than the hypothetical. However, this post isn’t a tutorial on bullet journaling;  it is more of a confession of years and years of making these schedules, not keeping track of them, trying again, and  not keeping up with writing in  the schedule. Another strange thing about this post is that it offers no solution, it isn’t a “how to be more effective with your planner” post. I am simply looking at this planner behavioral pattern and asking…why? I guess the only problem I see with this cycle is the guilt I impose on myself when I don’t write in or fill out the schedule.  Why does this have to be so difficult? Leave it to the new mom to write a blog about giving ourselves grace when we look at our accomplishments vs schedules. Why do we feel the need to do the same thing every day, check the boxes and multitask perfectly according to our scheduled itinerary. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you live by the seat of your pants and love it. Let me know in the comments what do you do to schedule or unschedule your routine? How has your routine changed this year?


So, what’s the plan?

We have made some decisions about where to put our Yome, how we plan to live, and our next steps this February.  Now that He has given us Iona, we can really focus on what we need to do together to make our homestead a reality.  With the final frost coming soon we are ready to purchase supplies to build the deck our yome will sit on, nestled next to a row of cedar trees down in  the center 1/3 of our hillside, as you approach the spring.  This space will be less windy and offer a more stable temperature as weather falls on our farm. We have decided to take advantage of the space and privacy we have available on this property, there will be a price, it is further down the hill.  

Future Blog Promises…

Now that Iona is 3 weeks old I am going to commit to creating  2 new posts  each  week, and continuing to improve our website, and update you on our homestead progress. I will also post information about the animals we are raising, random opinions about life as a  mom, recipes, and continue to journal our family’s experience  here in ARKANSAS!


Separate Places for Separate Purposes

During our time rebuilding the spring and setting up our base camp we have been able to study the grade of the land and have a better idea of what we plan  to do with our Yome. The Yome will be a tiny home(19 feet actoss) with a stove and living space for us near the woods, close to the natural water source.  We have a “dig site” which is the same size as the yome dug into the side of the hill higher elevation closer to the road. Our root cellar and kitchen may be an open concept kitchen, with a walk out covered awning to serve dinner at a picnic area with natural stone tile.  We have to build a deck for the Yome first, and raise the Yome this month.  Our new home is currently in boxes in our green house.   I love the cabins we have been staying in at Silver Run Cabin’s in Yellville, AR. We have been collecting all the inspirational details we love from Silver Run, Tyler’s Bend and everywhere along the way in Arkansas to piece together our decisions on moving closer to the woods, using natural stone features, harvesting our cedar from our “holler” and using our spring the most effective  way by locating our shower house close to our natural water source. At this point we are still on target to maintain our home with solar power and natural spring water, we may be able to combine solar and wind  to harvest energy to run the pumps that will move water from our spring to 3 tanks we will place on each of the 3 separate pastures for livestock.  We will test the water for purity before we feed it to our family or animals. With our deck standing around five feet off the ground on one side of the hill we will have space under the deck to build 5 foot tall a crawl space for our composting toilet. By building farther into the property we will really be in the hills but also very secluded from the road.


Josie and Bruce

These two are clearly entering the strange stage that is “being 7,  I recognized it as a grade-schooler, there is an awkward phase 7 year old;s face that includes feeling insecure and awkward which makes me sad for my sweet babies but I have no choice but to watch them grow and continue to face this world we live in together.  With all the changes  we have faced as americans, humans, as a family moving to our new habitat, we have been surprised at how positive, upbeat, and truly motivational these two have been. 

     When we are feeling defeated and doubting ourselves they will loudly proclaim their love for our new life here in Arkansas and remind us of why we came here, and the future we are creating for our family. Who would have thought our 5 and 7 year old’s would be our walking examples of bravery, selflessness, and open-minded easy going little adventurers. They are constantly reminding us of how blessed we are.




Meanwhile, Iona has plans to be a dairy expert when she grows  up, she believes dairy should be everyone’s priority, all the time.


As a teacher, I am excited to learn new material and to share this experience with my family. This farm gives us plenty of new material to learn about animal husbandry, nutrition, behavior. Arkansas also gives us a new set of information to learn about the environment with different plants, soil, weather and culture. I look forward to sharing our story with you and reading your feedback, remember, your feedback is very informative, helping me to understand other peoples perspectives, so don’t hold back!

Donna Ervin, Ervin highland farms

Spring Box Rebuild

 By William Thomas Ervin

Natural Spring

Water from the earth.


little by little



What’s been happening on the farm?

“The journey of 10,000 miles starts with the first step, even if it’s in the wrong direction!”



   Quite a lot actually, we are finding that starting a farm, basically from scratch, is a real challenge. The ability to multi-task, problem-solve, and simply use what the land and day give you, are the keys to slow and steady progress towards our goals. I find this to be the most basic formula for any goal one might have in life.

   Sometimes, we over complicate things to make them seem unachievable and give ourselves a perfectly reasonable excuse not to try.  Although I am a big fan of reasonable and practical thinking, this type of reasoning will not take you from ordinary to the extraordinary places in your life.  The journey of 10,000 miles starts with the first step,  even if it’s in the wrong direction!

   But hey, what has been happening on the farm?

   December has been a great month to finally get started on some projects that are vitally important to the life of a farm, water sources, and fencing.  Let me tell you, this has been a reinvigorating month for me, after spending the last couple months decompressing from the move, establishing a base camp for our family, and adjusting to our new environment with it’s daily living conditions, I was ready to see some real progress.

   After spending a few days cutting trees and brush to access the spring somewhat comfortably, and cleaning up the rats nest of downed barbed wire fence mixed with trash from previous unsuccessful attempts to harvest water from the area, with out digging out the old box; it was finally time to get to work on the spring box, which had completely silted in.  Upon further investigation of the remnants of broken pipe and trash, as well as a conversation with the elderly gentleman who built the spring box in 1977 and did a very good job I might add,  I discovered that the main reason the spring box was silting in, was that a couple of bored country kids had taken the concrete cap off and busted it up, 

   Despite the wreckage,  I was excited to start digging out the old spring box and start  really working on it because it will be the life blood of our reemerging farm.  The days that followed were filled with observation, discovery, problem solving, and hard work!  Oh yeah, and numerous trips down and up the nearly 45 degree angle hill, because contrary to the laws of gravity, here….what goes down must come up. 

   When you are working down in a holler (or valley) at the end of the day you have to muster up enough strength and energy to get back to the top!  What a great metaphor for life.   I have to admit that each trip up was exhausting, but with every trip, it became a little easier to pull my tired body back up.  I know the peace that I find down there working on the spring and hanging out with our kids is worth every step!

    So, you may be asking yourself, ‘what is a spring box?’ 

   A spring box is simply a dam built at the head of a spring to collect water and get it into a pipe which feeds into a  larger tank, to be re-distributed where the water is needed.  As far as rebuilding the damaged box, my first task was unearthing  the box inside  and out.  This was the most tedious part of the process, digging through clay packed rocks with a Maddox, shovel, and eventually my bare hands. 

   Once the water started collecting inside the box, the excitement started to build.  A friend compared the feeling of working on a live spring to having “gold fever,” and let me tell you, that is  100% accurate.  Even with freezing cold fingertips, rubbed raw from clearing the sediment and sand, you just want to keep digging!  Once the box was cleaned up, it was time to start to assess the damage and observe where it was leaking.  One of the main problems, besides it being silted in,  was that the old galvanized pipe was plugged.  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I would need  to cut the pipe, drive it out, and replace it with a new PVC pipe.  After several more cleanings, it was  time to build some forms and pour concrete in them to replace the broken and missing pieces of block.  At that time, I took the opportunity to add an overflow pipe, which is recommended,  in case rain increases the flow of incoming water, to reduce water pressure on the box.  

   With the structure of the box restored, after I removed the concrete forms, I was able to apply hydraulic cement to the inside corners to create a rounded cove.  I also applied the hydraulic cement to the vertical surface, which helps create a waterproof seal inside the box.  With the weather changing, I decided to let the cement cure for a  couple days before I finished  the PVC intake pipe and added washed gravel to collect any sediment that might collect inside.  This step may be unnecessary on this particular spring, because it comes straight out of a fold of solid rock, but the gravel will also support the new concrete cap. 

   Even though this project is not quite finished yet, I am feeling much more confident about the spring production, (about 30 gallons of water per hour) and it’s ability to meet our needs on the farm.  I know 30 gallons per hour may not sound like much, but hey, we have at least two more springs to develop and a couple of ponds that need reworked!  That being said, I need to set this new found writing career on the back burner and get back to work.