Friends with a Farm

Last weekend we went to visit our friends who have a small sheep farm. They live on the very tip of the Gaspé peninsula. The ocean is across the road from their home.

Want to know how we met this family? FIMBY. I love FIMBY for this very reason; I meet so many wonderful and amazing people. Anonymous people that become my friends.

Cat sent me a contact message this August after finding my blog by searching for Québec homeschoolers, or something like that.

We happened to be camping that very weekend with my parents at the National Park near Cat's home. (Their farm is bordered on one side by the ocean, on the other side, a National Park. Very beautiful.) On our way home from that camping trip we stopped in at their farm and learned the first thing about Cat's family - they are very hospitable. Our kind of people.

We formed a fast friendship and have schemed ways since then to bridge the four hour drive between our homes. They are the only homeschoolers we have met so far since moving here. You make the effort.

A weekend at their farm was one way to help the kids get to know each other better and for us adults to connect more also. In theory it sounded great. In reality, getting out the door on a Friday afternoon proved to be difficult.

Damien and I were doubtful. Perhaps we were just tired from the week and also a little stressed that our internet hadn't been working that morning (which always complicates our life) but we really wondered as we drove away from our home, in early afternoon, how this whole weekend was going to play out.

Fear of the unknown.

Well, you know how the story ends. Wonderfully. If it had been disastrous I probably wouldn't be writing about it since Cat reads my blog (hi Cat).

Hospitality has always been really important to us. For the last thirteen years, our children's whole lives, we haven't lived near extended family. We've had to create community with friends. In our year of moving and constant transition we lost touch a bit with that part of ourselves. We are happy to be re-discovering it. To feel connected to our community, once again.

We moved here one year ago this month. And what a moving weekend that was.

Brienne's birthday, two weeks after our arrival, was a small family affair, and so was mine. We had no friends to invite, even if we wanted. This year is a different story. This year there will be friends to celebrate with us. Food to share.

One of the things I've learned in this move is that the opportunity to make friends is available to all of us. If we just open our homes and our hearts.

Our friends with the farm don't have a big house. The dining room walls are unpainted, the counters unfinished. There are plans to renovate but these things take time. Life takes time. That doesn't stop Cat's family from inviting nearly-strangers to come crash on the floor of their playroom.

A small kitchen doesn't stop Cat from doing the work she loves - baking and cooking for family and friends.

Hospitality is not about what we have or don't have. It's about our hearts. Are we willing to share? Our floors, our food, our lives. Are we willing to be ok with the imperfection that is life?

The imperfection that is us.

Hospitality shows me time and again that humanity is beautiful. We are flawed, we are unkind, we make war. But we also love, give generously, and break bread together. And if we did a whole bunch more of that there would be less of the other.

It takes effort. Effort to go. Effort to give. But building relationship is worth the effort.

We are headed into a wonderful time of year for hospitality and friendship. And I don't just mean the holidays, but winter in general. The evenings are long and dark, our outdoor work winds down, and we're not busy with summer vacations and travel. (With the exception of my down under friends.)

Spend some time investing in friendship this winter. Don't let excuses stop you. And you may just enjoy the season a whole lot more.

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  • Nicole

    Nicole on Nov. 16, 2012, 2:27 p.m.

    Very timely, as we are having company tonight (a couple and their kids, we only know the man, not his wife or kids yet) and I came home from work yesterday stressed about getting the house ready, getting some groceries, etcetera since I work again today and they will come right after that.

    But we're not trying to impress anyone with a perfect home or gourmet food, just build relationships, so thank you for your reminder of this, so beautifully written and of course the photos that tell their own story of beauty. (Again, I'll buy prints from you if you are willing to sell them!)

    Also, I wondered if you'd met this farm family from your Blog - incredible isn't it? And that's how I hooked Damien up with my hubby at OR :) Your Blog is far-reaching and is the only one I check every day. Thanks for your beautiful photos and encouraging words!


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 16, 2012, 4:55 p.m.

      Nicole, meeting people in real life is one of my favorite parts of blogging. And you've got the wheels turning about selling cards, you may see that yet.   


  • Lana

    Lana on Nov. 16, 2012, 2:38 p.m.

    I found your little blog on SouleMama... actually I was looking for the soap recipes...but clicked on your home tab and found this post. So timely, as I don't think things happen for chance... My husband and I have been building a ranch house for the last three years. For the first time, our entire family is coming to Thanksgiving at the Ranch. There are 12 of us (including two new little grandbabies)and I have been very worried about where to put everyone and fretting about the upstairs bathroom not being finished...(we have an outdoor shower and one small closet bathroom downstairs) But the draw to have everyone there to enjoy the weather, deer, turkeys, ect... was just too much to pass up. But the nerves were still going...until I read this post. I plan to just enjoy the moment with my family and friends this coming weekend and know that it will be time well spent. Thank you for the gentle reminder of how important living this life with hospitality and love. I think I will become a regular visitor here too.


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 16, 2012, 4:54 p.m.

      Lana, welcome to FIMBY. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter also I've got some good stuff for newsletter readers also - recipes and discounts for my products that I don't offer on my blog. (see sidebar) You'd be amazed at the bathrooms we've used in friend's homes (not the farm from this weekend but other homes). Toilets right next to the kitchen separated only by a curtain come to mind and those were some of the most hospitable people we've ever met. The food they shared with us, strangers, was amazing. We make it too complicated and magazines and pinterest with perfect homes don't make it easier. That's not real life. Real life is relationships in all manners of homes and dwellings. Enjoy your thanksgiving!


      • Anonymous

        Anonymous on Nov. 19, 2012, 11:56 p.m.

        I love that- your comment "that's not real life" YES!!!!!!!!! I so agree!!! Why can't we all be more real I don't know.

        Once my main (as in, necessary to function) boxes are unpacked from moving- I'm starting to invite people over! You've inspired me.


  • jess

    jess on Nov. 16, 2012, 2:47 p.m.

    Such encouraging words as we enter the holiday season. I have such a heart to open my home up to others but often shy away because of my desire to please others, afraid that my home isn't good enough (we live in a very small home often being renovated). I don't judge others when I go into their home, why do I think that they will in mine? It's unfortunate that doubt in our self-worth can get in the way of building edifying and meaningful relationships with others. Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts!


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 16, 2012, 3:31 p.m.

      Isn't it true Jess. We don't judge others by the same standards we judge ourselves. I have to remind myself of this when I feel my insecure about sharing hospitality. 


  • sara

    sara on Nov. 16, 2012, 2:55 p.m.

    Thanks for the awesome thoughts and reminders that hospitality is about opening our homes and hearts and building relationships with one another. It is not about perfection.


  • Kika

    Kika on Nov. 16, 2012, 3:26 p.m.

    I regularly struggle with concern about hosting people in my home - especially when people come to stay over night...even family. We don't have a fancy home (although we live like kings compared to most the world!)or real guest bedroom (futon in sewing room). I do want things to be tidy and clean (enough) for people like I want for my own family but I always start to feel insecure about the thrifted covers/non-matchy dishes, etc. Fear of judgment, I guess. Recognition that many people do have pretty things and maybe choose to spend more $ on these things. Loved your fairly recent post on Outsideways about sharing meals with people/Quebec culture as it fits along these lines as well. I feel that as I learn to let go of these insecurities (little by little)and focus on enjoying the people, we enjoy the experience all the more, and I wonder if our guests do too b/c they sense that we are relaxed. I always pray that all who enter into our home would leave encouraged and refreshed. That, in addition to the pleasure of building relationships, would be my goal.


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 16, 2012, 4:48 p.m.

      Kika, I've been thinking about similar ideas in terms of thrifted house goods lately. All our linens are dying. threadbare towels, sheets getting holes etc. It's embarrassing and yet these things don't matter as much to me anymore. I have the woods and nature and beautiful, creative children and having beautiful linens just doesn't matter to me anymore. Celine was commenting to me yesterday while she folded laundry that you can't tell our towels from our rags - ouch!


    • Anonymous

      Anonymous on Nov. 19, 2012, 11:54 p.m.

      I think that you should just go for it anyways. Most people will take you where you are at. These days especially, people crave others to be real. This- where you are at with thrift store or older things, and whether that ever changes or not- its where you are at. There is beauty in that you can just be yourself and be real. I guess it does come with a balance but really most people just want you to be yourself.

      But I also get what you are saying because I too just have a futon and I too have older thrift store things and other priorities like my children and other things we'd like to do with our one income.


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Nov. 16, 2012, 4:14 p.m.

    I've always been the type to have a small group of friends. Maybe one or two really close friends. This homeschooling thing has made me see the beauty in really reaching out and forging relationships with many people. It's been an eye opener for me. It's made me come out of my shell. I'm quite shy (or insecure) really.

    I'm so glad we've become friends over the last few years. I'm hoping to get to know you more in the next few months!



  • kelsey

    kelsey on Nov. 16, 2012, 6 p.m.

    hi renee As often happens it feels like you were writing to me! I am very shy and insecure and have never invited many people to our home (our family of 4 lives in 650 sqft. Its not fancy and is in a state of constant fix ups so we can sell) now that my oldest is 3 she wants to invite friends over and ive had to extend invites more than ever. We dont have very much family at all close to us and im often sad about how few friends we have. This was a good wake up call, Friends wont appear unless we do the work of becoming friendly people!! thank you for the reminder, im sure ill be back to this to re-read!!!

    ps- im looking fwd to the teleconference saturday but unsure as to how I will "get in" Ive never done one before and havent any idea!!! I did receive an email to sign into your cafe but that was as far as i got!!!

    best wishes,




  • Jacinda

    Jacinda on Nov. 16, 2012, 6:21 p.m.

    Being one of your downunder readers I am looking forward to all the hospitality potential over Summer. We live in a tiny house and Summer helps when hosting people as children can play outside and we can eat outside. Being inside mean gatherings can become intense :) I agree whole heartedly with you about the importance of relationship far outweighing the discomfort over what kind of linen we have and where people will sleep. When I was a child very few people had spare rooms in their homes, when we stayed at friends my mum and 5 sisters all just slept in the hallway or on the floor somewhere. I remember that when I invite people to stay.


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 16, 2012, 6:27 p.m.

      You're totally right. Warm summer weather makes hosting people easier also, since you have the outdoors as extra living space.


  • Ruth

    Ruth on Nov. 17, 2012, 4:55 a.m.

    Renee, thanks for re-iterating the real meaning of hospitality! You're so right - the heart of it is what matters, not what we serve or the dishes we use...... thanks for the reminder~


  • Jess

    Jess on Nov. 17, 2012, 9:48 a.m.

    The pastor of the spiritual community we belonged to during our years in Chicago would often welcome guests with a quick note, "We hope you feel welcomed here by our hospitality but we not perfect. Please, feel free to extend hospitality yourselves."

    This has often been a benchmark for both Jake & I when we find ourselves in new environments, situations, communities. How can we, the guest, the new neighbor, extend hospitality to those who are familiar with the circumstance or people we are with.

    Are we simply waiting to be invited or are we being asked to put ourselves out there. To embrace the awkwardness of what may come with a little bit of trust and a whole lot of possibility.

    Thank you for this beautiful post. Both Jake & I so deeply enjoy reading both you and your husbands writings.


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 17, 2012, 12:49 p.m.

      Thank you Jess. You hit the nail on the head with  "Are we simply waiting to be invited or are we being asked to put ourselves out there. To embrace the awkwardness of what may come with a little bit of trust and a whole lot of possibility." Extending hospitality to people you don't know is risky, but full of possibility. I feel a bit nervous and anxious every time someone new comes over - how will it work?  Will we have enough to talk about? What if they don't like my foodd (I worry about this one lots). And now in our case, will the language "barrier" be too much of a barrier? But the more you do it, the easier it gets. It's just getting over those initial awkward "hows this all going to work" feelings. 


  • Michelle

    Michelle on Nov. 18, 2012, 5:31 a.m.

    Your post reminded me of the beauty of my blog reading - meeting a wonderful family which has turned into a beautiful friendship. I remember that first meeting and was very anxious about the whole day, but God orchestrated it perfectly. We had so much in common and the kids got along so peacefully. It's been such a joy building the friendship over the last year. Blessings, Michelle


  • Jenn

    Jenn on Nov. 19, 2012, 4:23 p.m.

    Yes! My family heritage is that of French Canadian (one set of great-grands from Quebec!!) There is a rich history of family, friends and great food in my family and I am so very grateful for that. I have grandparents who had nine children (bless them!). Therefore, they often did not have much money, space, or fancy things. However, if you needed comfort, friendship, a hot cup of coffee, a meal or wanted to have a good time, their door was open! They are both in their middle seventies now and still live on a fixed income. If you ask them, they are rich. Wealth of family, friends, simple meals shared with those they love and respect is the measure of their riches. I aspire to be just like that.


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Nov. 19, 2012, 11:49 p.m.

    This is downright inspiring and just what I needed, thank you.

    I am moving in a few weeks (I've got boxes piled next to me as I type)! I use too many excuses for hospitality, but whenever I do it, I am blessed beyond measure.

    I love the part about the small kitchen and large house and I love the part about making community with friends. I get those things. And I can get the part about no homeschoolers around and willing to drive so far. I hope there are some where I am moving that I can connect with.

    Thank you for such a great post.


  • Melissa R

    Melissa R on Nov. 26, 2012, 1:47 p.m.

    Perfect timing for me. 5 minutes ago my son said "why are you working so hard to make everything perfect for the visit".... then I read your post. It happened that quickly. Homeschool friends are traveling from California to Rhode Island to stay with us next week. Not just visit and stay in a hotel. Actually staying with us. This requires lots of details like extra pillows and blankets. And my biggest issue is cleaning. My house is always NEAT but never CLEAN. I am trying not to obsess and just do the basic levels of cleaning. I want them to feel at home, not like they are in a museum. But I want to be sure to welcome them to a comfortable environment. It's a fine line to walk. And it will be fine. And they will still like us no matter what.
    Thanks for the reminder.


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