The Wishy-Washy Writer (and kindness to all)

This is the story of a wishy-washy writer (therefore all her business is out there confusing the world) and her battles with what is right, and what makes us well, and what serves the most people and animals, yet finding what is beneficial to us (because if we aren’t happy then we can’t inspire others).

This is the story of a wishy-washy writer who was vegetarian for twenty-seven years, vegan for two, then on-and-off again meat eater-then-vegan since. It is about this time each year that I become fiercely ill. My body absolutely rebels against its half a year of animal products. One year it felt like I had a hole in my stomach. One year the gout was terrible. Then there was the chronic swelling of my lymph nodes for over a year. Then the intense stomach issues. This year I am on my third week of hives and stomach issues. Every year in my journal I write, “Next time I want to start eating meat again…read this!” But alas, we inevitably go on vacation, go to a friend’s house, read a book about being a locavore or the poisons of processed food and we are back to a freezer full of meat, pretending to be pioneers until I get sick again and neither of us are feeling so hot.

Every year, I frantically erase all of the posts from the six months before. When I am vegan, I erase the posts about raising animals for meat and recipes. When I am a meat eater, I erase all the animal sanctuary posts. Vegans (even the word, vegan) can sound annoying and frantic and extreme. I have inspired a lot of people to become vegan over the years and those folks are adamant and heartfelt in their work. I feel the same but then I think it may be so hypocritical. We simply cannot go through this life without causing death to other species. From petroleum use to clearing farm fields, every time you pop an Advil, or buy plastic, we aide in the death of others.

It is easier to just consume animal products. Then you don’t have to be the annoying one at the holiday dinner or the irritated one at a restaurant. You don’t have to get creative trying to make goat cheese out of almonds. I want goats. I don’t necessarily look forward to milking. And in my heart I know that taking the baby away and then sending it to slaughter if it is a boy, and drinking the milk after my own mother’s breast milk has many decades past dried up, is probably weird, if not wrong, and probably not that healthy. I don’t know y’all. Does anyone else have these dilemmas constantly bantering in their heads and hearts?

After I get sick each year, after I take on a plant based diet again, I always get better. Every ailment that ails me heals itself on a plant-based diet. Every time I have meat on my plate, I have less room for antioxidant-rich grains, vegetables, proteins, and fruit. Can you be a locavore and eat a plant-based diet? (And if we are honest, are any of us really eating that local?)

Here is the thing, I don’t even like the feeling of eating gooey, greasy cheese and I don’t even like meat! But it is so easy in our society. On this farm, am I really going to look in the eyes of an infant or old farm animal and decide they are going to die? I don’t think it is right to kill elephants or horses or cats for food….in other places it is acceptable….why do I think some animals are just destined for the plate? I could never look in the eyes of a moose or or deer and pull the trigger to end its beautiful life. I don’t know. These are real battles in my heart and mind and the way a writer delves into those recesses of questioning is to write.

I wonder how many people have chronic illnesses that can be blamed on their food choices, but because it is so hard to change them in our society, they will never make that change or get well.

And wouldn’t I rather be an example of kindness to all?

(If you leave a comment, please make sure it is respectful. There are probably no right or wrong answers here!)

Your Only Job During the Holidays

The number one reason that folks feel depressed during the holidays is because they do not feel welcome, a part of a village, or loved as they are. There are habits that have been acceptable for a long time that we as parents and friends must change. If this is the season for kindness, than we must go beyond random acts of kindness to strangers and really be kind and absolutely loving to those around us.

From top left: my husband, Doug, my oldest granddaughter’s dad (and Emily’s ex), Bret, my son-in-law, Reed (Emily’s husband), my son, Andy, his girlfriend, Bree, my granddaugher, Maryjane, my daughter, Emily with Ayla, Bret’s brother, Bailey, me, Shyanne’s boyfriend, Jake, and in front is Shyanne. They are all apart of my family.

Now, this is important- Number One- no nagging. For god’s sake, we don’t really think that nagging will endear our children to us, do we? Your grown children make decisions every day- hard ones- and are becoming the people they are meant to be (whether they are eighteen or fifty-five!) and they need support, not “advice.” Once they head out that front door as a young person setting out into the world, their business is no longer yours. They are more likely to come to you for advice and friendship if you are not already badgering them. The way they raise their children is not your business either. They can homeschool, travel the world, be strict, have no rules, or send them to private school. Our only job is to show by example unconditional love. Unconditional love. That is what this world needs more of, especially around the holiday table.

Perhaps your daughter brings home a young man with a mohawk or her new girlfriend. Or your son brings home a woman your age, or someone of a different religion. Maybe your child quit college to your dismay and your daughter moved in with her best friend who has less-than-admirable habits. (None of that is your business.) Our job now is to be undeniably loving, welcoming, supporting, hugging, happy and accepting examples of love. That is what people need. Unconditional love.

I adore all of my kids’ friends. Many of them call me mama. Everyone knows that we can squeeze in more chairs. I will have plenty of food. Everyone is welcome at my table- mohawk or not. They also know they can call me to talk or if they need advice.

My mother used to say (following the advice of many parenting gurus) that she is not our friend, she is our mother. That is too bad, because she is still not my friend, sadly. Be friends with your kids, their friends, the neighbors down the street, the woman who just lost her husband, the coworker without family here, the people that Creator sends into your life. They are not being sent to you to be saved, they are being sent to you to be loved.

stock photo

Let’s make this holiday season a bright one for others by accepting them as they are, opening your home and table to them, offering respite from expectations, and offering unconditional love. See how that doesn’t just change your world and the world around you.

A Book Themed Birthday Party

When the children were growing up, we started our morning with two things, coffee and Martha Stewart. We loved her show when it took place in her house (and how I would love a set of DVD’s if they were ever made!), and then we watched the newer Martha Stewart Show. Me, Andy, Shyanne, and Emily piled up on the couch with our cups of coffee, absorbing everything the maven of domesticity had to teach us. Perhaps that is why my kids are such clever party planners, or perhaps it just comes natural to them. Yesterday, Emily threw a book themed birthday party for her daughter, Ayla’s, first birthday.

I made the girls matching dresses with books on the fabric. They were adorable at the party!

I cannot believe my granddaughter is already turning one! Oh, she is a darling little thing- spunky and all smiles. She was quite a hit at her own party as family and dear friends gathered around the local coffee shop (closed on Sundays) to celebrate. Here is a look at Emily’s brilliant birthday party plan. Kids get tons of plastic toys that will not be played with long, but books…now books are a great gift.

The menu was made to look like a library check out card.
Emily is a great cook and she spent the day before making miniature quiches and muffins. She also set out a parfait bar with yogurt, chia seed pudding, fruit, and granola. Doug and I picked up Einstein’s bagels and shmear on the way.
A drink station and food buffet makes it easy for everyone at the party to help themselves and let’s mama play with her children and visit with guests.

My daughter, Shyanne, is an amazing baker. I have shared with you her work before. I must say, she outdid herself this time. These cakes were not only gorgeous, but absolutely delicious. The double tiered cake was orange and vanilla and the other was a vegan chocolate that was so rich and so amazing. https://www.facebook.com/WickedlyDeliciousDesserts/

The baby loved all of her books and entertained everyone as she stood up and walked around and danced. It is always lovely to get together with friends and family. Emily took a simple kid’s birthday party and made it affordable, creative, and fun.

Creating a Life to Help You Really Live

There is a peacefulness here in the mornings. The sun shines hopeful light over the mountain sides and the breezes are light. The changes in season are obvious and there is a certain beauty to the washed out pallor of late autumn. During this season, I feel very thankful for everything in my life. Truly, honestly, thankful. For my husband, my children, grandchildren, friends, animals, nature, health, comfort, and this lovely piece of land where the hearth fires burn. We purposely build a life that feeds us, inspires us, and fuels us. A homesteading life.

A homesteading life looks different in different situations with correlating bonds. We have chosen that I be a housewife. I make a little off of book royalties, and herbs, and this and that, but my place is in creating a home. We used to think that homesteading required two people at home. But we learned the hard way that to homestead in the state we were born in, one of us had to get a full time job. Many farmers and homesteaders do. In many cases, both parties work outside the homestead.

Having and pursuing a trade is a wonderful way to work towards self sufficiency. (A note on self sufficiency: it truly takes a community to sustain, but we will use the phrase to denote taking care of ourselves and others to our full ability.) If you can do something well, and it is a needed skill, then you can often support, or help support, your family with it. It is important that we begin to encourage as many folks to go to trade schools as college. The next generation will be stronger for it.

How does one get started homesteading? There are a few gals at my husband’s work that want to come down to our farm and learn to make cheese. I will be happy to teach them. It won’t be long before they begin to bake bread. Or make their own candles. Pretty soon, they have goats and a small dairy. Homesteading grows. You see something you would like to do yourself; sewing, crocheting, gardening, baking, cheese making, soap making, candle making, wood working, raising farm animals, wine making, herbalism, and decide to learn how to do it. You incorporate that into your life. Look at your grocery list, what can you learn to make? Do you need to buy all of the packaged boxes of junk or can you learn to make granola bars, cookies, and bread? Can you make cream of celery soup? Can you make gravy? Spaghetti sauce? Can you grow the tomatoes for it? Oh, then you are really going. Pretty soon you have a full out farmstead.

My granddaughters, Ayla and Maryjane, wearing the dresses I made them.

The peace of mind and pride is profound in this lifestyle. Do it yourself. Even if it isn’t perfect, you did it! The peace of mind of knowing you can heat your house if the power goes out. Feed your family for awhile if there is a natural disaster. Take care of yourself if an economical collapse occurs. There is peace of mind in knowing what you eat and what you drink were grown by you, prepared by you, and there are no crazy chemicals in your cupboard. Your cleaning products are truly clean, your muscles toned from doing everything by hand, your heart light at watching the fruit of your labors expand. This lifestyle is filled with planning, hard work, and life and death, but it is truly living. Being in the midst of it all. Purposely creating a good life filled with sustenance. A good life that feeds you, inspires you, and fuels you. A homesteading life. Start today. What would you like to learn?

What Samhain is all About

The sun hasn’t risen over the horizon yet and the cedars and houses are but silhouettes. It is a lovely time of day. A time of contemplation and memory. And today is Samhain; an entire day of contemplation and memory. So many have lost touch of what this holiday is really about. Candy and ghouls didn’t come until much later.

Samhain is the last harvest festival in the agricultural calendar. Also known as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and by many other names by the thousands of spiritual paths around the world throughout time, Samhain is the name of the Celtic festival. It is a day of remembrance.

Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals. In August, we celebrated the harvest of grains and herbs. In September, we celebrated the harvesting of autumn crops and the joy of filling our larder. In October, the animals that would be used as sustenance to get through the cold months are harvested.

Now, the days are shorter and colder and the farm work is done. Days went by in a whirl and it is already October. The deaths of loved ones the previous year stay heavy on our hearts at this time with less to do. Their memories with us and grief present.

I find it rather difficult not to believe in spirits and ghosts doing the work I do, but many people shut it out. Perhaps Hollywood movies have scared us too much. But our loved ones are within earshot and all around us, in a slightly different realm, but sometimes still visible. They come to us in dreams and sometimes you can hear them. As I was moving, I was so overwhelmed with packing and stress. Twice right before we moved, as I walked through my garden, a strange white mist filled an area near my Hawthorn tree. All we have to do is pay attention.

Well Dears, today the veil is thinnest. One might note that a lot of folks seem to pass away this time of year. One also might note cupboard doors open, strange songs playing, and lots of “coincidences.” It is Samhain and our loved ones are very, very close.

Grandma Nancy and Aunt Donna

Today we remember those that we have lost this year. Last Halloween morn, Doug and I heard and saw two small owls screeching and making quite a racket outside our window. The owls only come to me when there is a big event. Great-Aunt Donna had died. Grandma waited until after Ayla was born on her and Grandpa’s 70th anniversary, then went and joined her sister. For them and the countless other loved ones we have lost in our lifetime, we will light candles and place an extra plate at the table. A candle will go into the west window so that the wandering spirits out visiting will be able to find their way home. A fire in the wood stove with chairs around to greet those that come. That is what Samhain is about.

May your loved ones visit and your heart heal from grief. May your pantries be filled with food and your homes filled with laughter and family!

The Wintry Farm and Kittens

I opened the front door to great heaps of snow. For southern Colorado, this is quite a storm. It is still blustery and the snow is falling thickly with glints of sunlight shining through. It is a chattering 1 degree with the wind. Our farm dog, Gandalf, is sleeping indoors this morning despite his woolly exterior.

The chickens are snug in their coop with the help of a heat lamp. I will need to put on my galoshes and check on their water. One more cup of coffee!

The wood stove has been puttering along beautifully over the past frigid few days and I am afraid that the wood is about run out and another two cords will not be arriving for another few weeks. We do have a furnace, but there is nothing quite like the warmth from a wood stove to really warm the bones.

We have two new additions to the farm that have warmed our hearts. Their names are Taos and Socorro, after two of our favorite places to holiday in New Mexico.

Fourteen, or so odd, years ago, we adopted several kittens over a two year period full knowing that one day we would lose several cats within a few years. We lost four of them this year, my sweet Frankie just a week ago. We have one old kitty left, our beloved Booboo, whom the children taught to come to Andrew’s room if he blasted Bob Marley. We have two five-year old kitties as well. Well, it’s a bit quiet around here when you are used to many more. The silence of winter approaches and we felt we needed a little life and a little fun around here. So off to the shelter we went on the first blustery day and adopted two adorable little girls.

Our farm is humming along with dreams of spring and planting and future farm animals, as the fire in the wood stove warms the brightens house, the snow-light bouncing through the windows and adding a chill to the senses. ‘Twill be a cold night for tricks and treats tomorrow indeed, but in our little farmhouse we are warm, our hearts filled with joy.

A Wedding in the Woods

On July 27th, a hundred-year-old lodge was decorated with pastel roses and succulents, lights, and pink table runners to celebrate a special union. There were photographs of the bride and groom as children and a few of the parents of the couple in their wedding splendor, in frames glued together to make centerpieces. The place was coming alive that early morning as the groom finished getting ready, the music was being tested, and the photographer came to capture our two big families coming together.

A village put on this wedding. Our long-time friend volunteered to DJ the music and another officiated the wedding. A dear friend donated all the dishware, my other daughter baked and decorated the cake, a friend made the carefully scripted signs for the wedding. Love from all corners of the world came together to bestow wishes of happiness and love to my daughter, Emily and her groom, Reed.

The warm sun was showering through the vanilla-scented Ponderosa pines. Family near and dear gathered along the wooden benches. The couple was quiet and sweet as they muttered their own vows to each other.

The celebration continued with dancing and visiting between families and friends.

The cake was beautiful and the spirit of love was present. A young deer curled up near the lodge to rest. The children danced and ran around the near forest.

On this cold, frosty day, it is lovely to go back to that warm Sunday afternoon. It seems my child was five, then eight, then suddenly twenty-two! Her daughter looks so much like her at this age. We are most grateful in our life for our family, for our children, for our grandchildren, for the partners our children have chosen. Emily and Reed had a lovely day and a beautiful wedding. Wishing them every happiness and so many decades of love and laughter!

Mr. and Mrs. Reed and Emily Thompson

Cloth Napkins (an easy, eco-friendly sewing project)

I have always loved cloth napkins. Beautiful china set with shiny silverware, wine glasses, and a stark paper napkin just doesn’t work! I also do not love throwing away bleached paper napkins day after day. What a waste. And who knows where those trees used to live. Best to use cloth. If we are only dabbing our lips after a lip smacking meal, I just fold them back up and we use them again (if it’s just me and Doug, obviously one would want to use fresh, clean napkins for company!). Aesthetically they are nicer, less wasteful, and a great addition to your farmhouse table.

Cloth napkins in beautiful fabrics range from $6-$12. You can get some cheaply made China ones from Walmart for $3. I can get a whole yard of fabric and make my own for a buck a piece or less and still have leftover fabric for quilt blocks. This is a great beginning sewing project.

1) First, set up your iron! Grandma taught me this; let the iron do the work for you. I typically detest ironing, but for sewing it is a must!

2) Measure out how big you want your blocks to be. I didn’t want to waste too much fabric, so I folded the cloth in thirds and cut at the creases. Grandma also taught me that if you cut down a few inches, you can finish the cut by tearing the fabric. It will tear straight and true and save you time and crooked pieces. I did it the other way as well. I ended up with nine blocks.

3) Fold and iron a 1/4 inch hem. The hot iron holds the fold. Then fold once more 1/4 inch for a finished seam. Iron and pin. You don’t want frayed edges or unraveling strings; that is why we fold the fabric over twice.

4) Sew a straight line 1/8 of an inch from edge of hem. You could also do a second run doing a zigzag stitch on the edge of the fold to ensure sturdiness.

5) Iron and fold.

I chose this plaid fabric because with so many colors it is bound to match anything I put on the table! I think I will go get some cute ranch/farm scene fabric and make another set so that I can alternate them on the table.

These make great homemade gifts as well!

Halloween Through the Years (and tons of easy costume ideas!)

Going through photos can be bittersweet. My babies have grown up! We sure had fun over the years and there is more fun to have.

My son, Andrew, is now 26 years old. Shyanne is turning 24 in December. The baby is Emily, 22 years old, a new bride and the mother of my two beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane, who is six, and Ayla, who is turning one in three weeks. They are all creative, fun, holiday loving kiddos. Add me and my husband, Doug, in, and we have had some fun costumes!

We used to traipse all over town to visit grandparents with the children in costume. Doug’s grandparents, my grandparents, and Doug’s folks all knew to be ready with the candy and the camera.

In front of Grandma’s lake.

At home, the house was set with fun-scary decorations and orange lights. Spooky sounds wafted from the CD player and “Halloween Hamburgers” thrilled the young goblins before trick-or-treating. Around our suburban neighborhood we would go, laughing and begging for candy; the kids all hoping for a big candy bar. The neighbor across the street gave quarters. (Not cool.)

We had a large bin of clothes in the playroom. The kids might get a new costume one year but then it would be replayed year to year as something else. We had a lot of fun with costumes and never spent very much.

Then Maryjane Rose was born and the fun began all over!

And then her sister came last November! They are going to be Joker and Harley Quinn. So cute!

And the fun continues! Happy Halloween!

Seeking the Simple Life and Penpals

The sun is rising, splaying pink and metallic colors across the mountains and along sides of structures. I am so thankful to be in the country. I watch the horse across the street from my office window run and jump, darting through trees, and landing in a swirl of dust near his food bowl as his owner comes out with hay.

Maryjane (my six year old granddaughter) had her first riding lesson. She at first did not want to go because she found that her cowgirl boots were too small. She perked up the minute she saw the horses and she fell in love with the bubbly, blond instructor, Miss Britney. These were great horses; Maryjane clutched one large horse in a hug and he did not budge. Maryjane easily learned how to guide the horse, as her little sister, Ayla, blew kisses to all of the horses. These are country girls.

At Grandpa’s house Saturday, we celebrated his 92nd birthday. He had to take off work to do so. He is forever at his drawing board, on the phone, or meeting with clients. He sipped his coffee as he told us stories of working on a dairy farm, milking eighty head, or helping the vets bring down the draft horses for treatment. He once rode round-up moving horses from Sterling to Estes Park, 146 miles. His stories about being a cowboy, the rodeo circuit, World War Two, working on the sugar beet farm for his uncle during the Depression, and working at a dairy come with a final relief that he moved to the city.

We are lucky to be modern farmers and homesteaders. I am able to romanticize it a bit. It doesn’t hold the same urgency of survival as it did in Grandpa’s time.

Doug and I chat in the car on the way home about our ideas and goals. We have done this before so we know what to expect and how to do things better this time. We want to live simply. So simply (and prepared enough) that if the power were to go out or a storm were to rage, we would be snug in our home with plenty of light, warmth, water, and food.

Simple enough that our electric bill stays lower than if we purchased solar. The clothes being cleaned with a washer plunger in the summer and dry flapping in the wind on the clothes line. Food chosen from rows of dirt or rows of canned goods. Meat from our own chickens or from our friends’ cows and pigs. We seek out and associate with other homesteaders/ranchers/farmers. We travel long distances to each others’ homes for dinner. Keep up on social media. Cheer each other on. Support each other.

One of my favorite old activities is to write and receive letters in the post. A moment to sit with a cup of tea and an old friend in prose and see what is going on in their world. Then with pretty stationary and pen, share our private life, thoughts, and ideas. Now that we are settled into our home and winter is upon us, if you would like to be pen-pals, please write me! I would love to correspond.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 790 9th Street, Penrose, CO, 81240.