Running for the Hills: Homestead Halal




















In May of 2011, Sister Jann McClary and her husband Tariq moved from the Washington DC metropolitan area to establish a new home in the mountains of Colorado, building it from the ground up as part of their plan to become free of the spiritual and physical stress of modern urban life. Sister Jann is documenting her experiences for the Muslim Link. See her earlier installments at by searching for “Running for the Hills”. Make sure you select “Exact Phrase” in the search options. – TML

So, you wonder, how in the world do we enjoy anything out here in this “wilderness”? You have no piped-in water (yet), you say, no tie-in to the electric grid. No tv, central A/C or heat, nor microwave popcorn! How do you stand it, sister?! What do you do for fun, watch the corn grow? Count cows?

Well, we can stand it because we made a conscious choice to live without tv and central air. Popcorn popped fresh over an open fire is way tastier and healthier than when it's nuked into submission. Watching corn grow is not a sane way to spend time. I have on occasion, however, tallied Black Angus and Herefords. It's kinda like the bovine version of “red car blue car” you've probably played with your little brother on summer vacation family car trips. We have plenty of other little amusements and homemade luxuries, but we don't get too carried away. In Suraat ul An-'Am, Muhammad, and Ankabut Allah subhanah wa t'ala warns that the life of this world is just amusement, play and pastime, so don't focus on that because the home in the akhirah is where we need to be looking and working toward. But in the meantime, Allah has created some really cool recreation.


Now, I'm not a big fan of bird watching because it seems to me that most birds do the same things: peck at things to eat on trees, peck at things to eat on the ground, hop a little here, hop a little over there, then fly away. But hummingbirds? They are the best two-winged entertainment in nature. And their aerial acrobatics put every other bird to shame. Think Maserati vs. Saturn. Once you put up a hummingbird feeder, it's on. Every other hummer within miles will beat a path to it and then guard it jealously and aggressively against any and all competition. These feisty little bits of fluff will kamakazi-dive, swoop, hover, fly sideways, backwards and upside down to defend a quart jar of sugar water. They've been clocked at 60 mph in a dive and even the U.S. Army Research Laboratory has studied them in the development of new types of drones. And they can whiz that fast, and with such precision, between you and another close object that you can actually feel the vibration of air they leave behind. If you stand stock still under our hummingbird feeder (first photo), after a while they become used to you and will continue to buzz and whir and dart and zoom around your head in a veritable vortex of wind and wings that will leave you breathless and giddy with sensory overload.

A more sedate pastime is spotting and stalking deer. Great fun if you fancy games of steadfast patience, intense concentration and the ability to imitate whole-body paralysis. You see, deer have a weird way of seeing that allows them great detection of movement, but they're severely lacking when it comes to fine detail. You move, they see you. You stand still and they're not so sure you're still there. They can hear you fine, so you gotta be reeeal quiet. You spot a deer grazing peacefully at the edge of a meadow. You start the stalk, carefully and slowly inching toward her in silence. She does not look up. Stealthily you close the distance, then clumsily you step on a twig. Her head jerks up and she locks her big, brown peepers on yours. It's “onetwothree... red light!” Just like grade school recess, you freeze in place. She finally resumes grazing. You take two steps. Then one more. Your shirt snags on a branch. Her head pops up again, but before you can extricate yourself, she's outta there. Noisy human. Game over.



After a rousing game of sneaking up on deer, a steamy cup of cappuccino would go down fine. You may take it for granted, what with a Starbucks every 20 yards in the city, but for us it's a luxury best indulged in winter, homestead-style. You got your coffee, your sugar and your goat milk. No, really, goat milk makes cow milk taste like white water. Rather than drag out a fancy cappuccino machine, I sit a cup of goat milk outside overnight when the temperature dips below freezing. Next morning I've got a cup of ice-crystalline milk. I brew some sugar, then add a little hot coffee. I like it that way. I put a lid on the cup of milk, shake it vigorously for about 15 seconds, and voila, creamy, fluffy froth. A nice head on a hot cup of joe.

Then there's ice cream. Surely one of the mercies of Allah 'azza wa jal. When times are good,  it's Haagen Dazs. When I'm broke as a joke, it's poor man's ice cream, better known as snow-cream (second photo). The concept is simple: scoop up some snow, add milk, sugar, and the flavoring of your choice. Mix together in a cold bowl and enjoy the brain freeze. (City dwellers beware of odd-colored snow.)

Though we may not have the conveniences and entertainment of conventional modern living, Allah  subhanah wa t'ala has granted us many different ones unique to where and how we live. Some folks live in the city or suburbia. Some have homes with amenities galore. Allah ar-Razzaq  has provided us with a little 15' x 15' cabin on a hill. But boy, you should see our front yard (third photo).