Act Two: Chapter 17- My Life

There are many blogs out there that stay on point.  They do not veer into private matters or personal life.  This, my dear friends, is not one of them!  Geez, I even freely give out my address so folks will send me a Christmas card.  Now, I try to stay on subject, I really do; decorating, recipes, gardening, chickens, gatherings, et cetera.  But, this blog also acts a bit as my journal and sound board.  This is my network of international friends and loved ones.  I respect your notes, your thoughts, your own writings and lives.  I credit the success of this blog to the realism that comes from it.  You know me as well as anybody, even if we have never met.  This blog is about the real life of our family.  So, come on in and sit and spell and let me know your thoughts.

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Ah,  it was a beautiful day yesterday as Doug and I traversed three or so miles of rugged landscape through sweet smelling spruces and pine.  Across ledges looking out into the vast expanse of valleys and the city nestled below.  Crows veered ahead and the scent and feel of autumn was present on the warm day.  Last time I was there it was so dry you could hear the oak crying for the contents of our water bottles.  Since monsoon season, things have perked up and new growth was eminent and joyful.  And that, my friends, is where we are in our life at the moment.

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“You always panic when things are going really good,” my straight-forward cousin, Julie noted.  The beautiful ebb and flow of life freaks me out.

It didn’t used to.  Why, I used to taut go out on a limb, fly baby, fly!  Now, that we have lost everything a few times over and are settling into a rhythm, I tend to panic when not in survival mode.  Decisions become much bigger than they should be.  I plead to the universe for a clear and precise answer, preferably with details of the future, so that I can make a good decision that won’t land us destitute.

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The answer floats back from beyond…”what do YOU want?”  Do that, Sister.

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My incredibly hard working, intelligent husband got a huge promotion/job offer at work this week.  HUGE.

Our next act begins.  The next chapter.  Now, I have the amazing opportunity to be a homemaker.  I excel at this work.  We save a lot of money when I am home taking care of everything.  I am happy here.  Content.  Except that I desperately want to go back to school.  And I am all set to do so in January.  English and Anthropology to finish a degree from a long time ago.  I want to teach college…maybe high school.  I have always wanted to teach school.  Okay, so go back to school then, yes?

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To the tune of forty plus grand, y’all.  Now, last time I had a full scholarship.  I am a diligent and good student and can very possibly again get scholarships.  Will I like teaching?  What if I spend that much money and then don’t like it?  What if’s sound through the air like mischief in the making.

…what do YOU want?….

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I will be fifty when I get a job as a teacher.

I tell this story often, but when I was working as a caregiver a long time ago I took care of a lovely older woman who told me while I was trying to figure out if I should go to school or not (because I would be the ripe old age of 38 coming out), that time flies and I will be that age soon enough so why not be doing what I want to then?  Well, here we are again, just a different age when I get done.  I hate to add so much debt to us.  I hate the unknown.  (will I even be able to get a job?!)

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Our monsoon season has come and new growth is all around us.  I have the great gift of a being a woman in a free country, with a beautiful family, and a husband who wants me to be happy and follow what my heart says.  Of course, shutting off the chatter is half the battle.  Can’t hear a damn thing.

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…what do you want to do?…Let’s do that.

 

Two Easy, Delicious Dinners for Autumn

Green tomatoes are piled up in a basket, each turning red one by one.  There are spices in the cupboard.  We have piles of retrieved peppers before frost.

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Autumn Curry

Curries are so versatile and very easy.  For this one, I chopped up a head of cauliflower and rinsed a can of chickpeas.  I spread them out on a cookie sheet and drizzled generously with olive oil, and sprinkled on salt and pepper.  That went into a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes.

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If I had been thinking straight, I would have added one of the three dozen peppers waiting to be eaten.

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Now for the sauce.  In a good blender combine 5 red tomatoes, 1 Tb of your favorite curry powder, 2 Tb of cashews, 1 Tb tomato powder, 1 ts salt, 1 ts agave.  Blend well then taste and perfect.  Pour into a saucepan and warm slowly while vegetables are roasting.  Add 1 Tb butter or coconut oil and let that melt in.

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Get a big pot of rice made because you can use it all week!

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Alright, you are done!  Top rice with veggies and sauce and enjoy with a cold pumpkin beer!

Fried Eggs Over Greens and Potatoes with Hot Sauce

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I got out of the car after a long day of visiting relatives in Denver.  On my way to the porch I gathered the collard greens and picked some chives still in the garden.

I had read that morning in a magazine to smash parboiled potatoes and roast them, then top them with eggs and hot sauce.  It sounded so good to me.  But I always like to add a bit more.

Doug had boiled the potatoes before I got home just past parboiled.  This was a triumph because they came out of the oven creamy and crisp.  He transferred them to a cookie sheet smashed them with a saucer.  They had been in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes when I got home.  He then added a dollop of butter and salt and pepper to each one and I went straight to work on the greens.

Wash and chiffonade a good handful of greens.  Heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add greens.  I sprinkled on Cajun seasoning and garlic powder, along with salt and pepper and cooked them just past wilted.  Transfer to a plate.

Sprinkle bread crumbs on potatoes and keep baking.

No need to wipe out the skillet.  Add a touch more olive oil and cook four fresh eggs to over medium.

Split greens and potatoes on two plates and top with eggs and chives.  Serve with hot sauce.  Oh my, people, I cannot tell you how incredible this flavor combination is.  We grew all of the vegetables and our chickens laid the eggs.  A true farm meal.  And delicious.  And fast.  Also good with pumpkin beer.

 

Becoming an Herbalist

I remember the excitement I felt as I turned the pages of herb book after herb book, taking to memory the properties of each flower, the appearance of each wild herb.  Perusing the aisles of the local plant nursery, loading up my cart with herb starts; nettles, motherwort, lavender, rose bushes, lemon balm, valerian.  The feeling of placing the fragrant, cut herbs into clear jars topped with vodka and watching them change in the window.  The sunlight and the moonlight turning flowers into medicine.

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Since those early days, my family and I have literally helped thousands of people heal from ailments ranging from colds to cancer.  We have helped thousands of animals heal from upper respiratory infections, renal failure, to broken bones.  These herbs never fail to surprise me with their swiftness and their powerful healing.  Herbs are about all we use around here on this homestead.

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I opened my school in 2011.  I wrote a text book for the occasion and over the years, with each semester, it changes, gets edited, gets added to, gets taken from, morphs.  It is a tome of information on systems of the body, the herbs that are specific, common ailments, and treatments with herbs.  It is filled with ways to make medicine, how to wild craft, recipes, and wisdom from two retail shops, two websites, hundreds of farmer’s markets, and one family whose only desire was to help the world.

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I closed my school this year and the reins to our apothecary were handed to my daughter, Shyanne.  I still grow most of her herbs and I will always make medicine and trust my beloved plants.  But the chapters before are coming to an end as a new act opens.

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My book, The Herbalist Will See You Now; Your Complete Training Guide to Becoming and Working as an Herbalist has been revised and edited and is now available for you at home to enjoy and utilize on your herbalist journey.  It is a comprehensive training program with worksheets, sample intake forms, even a test at the end that you can walk yourself through to get a thorough and solid foundation to become and work as an herbalist.

My books are all available at AuthorKatieSanders.com.

Or purchase directly from here!

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May you go on to meet and understand the beautiful plants that are our medicine, may you help thousands, may you heal yourself, and may this book bring you as much passion as it gave me writing it!

A “Falling in Love” Baby Shower

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Autumn is such a lovely time to host events.  It becomes its own decorating theme!  I think in this day and age all of us are ready to host simpler parties, to have easier get-togethers, to really celebrate without enormous expense.

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I was inspired by our city park.  Every weekend, if it is warm, one will find entire families in the park.  Portable tents popped up, folding tables and chairs, a BBQ smoking, and children running about while the elders talk.

We chose the old, indoor pavilion at the park in the woods in Elizabeth to have the baby shower.  It was a half way point for most people.  It snowed so only half the people came, but the ones that did had a great time and it was warm and cozy within the red walls of the building.  My friend, Vanessa, and I strewed leaf garlands and mini pumpkins on the tables.  A simple sign, “We are falling in love with Ayla Mae” graced the gift table.

Being somewhat introverted, Emily and I dread those silly games thrown at baby showers.  Reed is excited to be a dad and he wanted to be at the shower as well, so co-ed it was.  We did a contest where each person wrote down their guesses of what day the baby will arrive, hair color, weight, height, and day or night arrival.  The winner will get a gift card in the mail.  A simple journal was laid out for family and friends to write a note to Ayla so she could read in the years to come how excited we all were that she was joining our family.

We had the party at 2:00 so there was no pressure to put on a big spread.  I would have, but I had the furthest to drive and it would have been hectic, so mid-afternoon leaves room for easy snacks like chips and salsa, pita chips and hummus, and ranch dip and carrots.  A big pot of coffee and a crock pot of hot cider warmed the guests that ventured out into the snowy afternoon.

The highlight was my daughter’s cupcakes. (http://facebook.com/wickedlydeliciousdesserts)  Shyanne made the most delicious cupcakes filled with caramel apples or ganache and hand made, perfectly sweet frostings with hand made and and hand painted decorations.  Amazing.

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The twinkly lights in the wood building, the smells of hot coffee and cider, the colorful leaves, the laughter, the sweet gifts, the glowing parents, it all was so lovely and simple.  I took the opportunity, having all of the kids there at the same time, to have my dear friend, Alvin, get some family pictures.  It is always a perfect day when families can be together.  And a fall themed party is an easy way to do it!

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The Yarn Weasel

We walked by the mounds of junk looking for treasure.  Cups of coffee in our hands, my husband and I looked among the stacks of items in the tents.  Broken tools, old dishes, and VHS tapes crowded overpriced lanterns and cast iron.  Then I saw it.  I have never seen one before but I knew it instantly.  I looked sheepishly at the price then let my jaw fall slack.  I picked it up in case anyone else recognized it.  Of course,  it was twenty dollars because no one knew what it was!  A Yarn Weasel.  From the 1700’s.

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One could take their freshly spun yarn and spin it directly onto the yarn weasel from the spinning wheel then pull it off the side, twist, and make a perfectly lovely skein of yarn.  Or spin it onto the weasel and knit from it.

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I tied the end of the skein of yarn to one dowel and spun the contraption to unravel the yarn.  It was easier and much faster than carefully winding a skein into a ball for crocheting.  Once it was on the wheel, I began crocheting a blanket for my granddaughter who is expected to be born next month.  Without stopping to untangle or rewind balls of yarn that have toppled off of my lap, I whipped through the skein quickly and was onto the next.

The wood is very dry so now that I am done with the afghan for Miss Ayla Mae, I will oil the wooden relic with walnut oil to seal the wood so that it won’t crack and will give it a beautiful color.

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Yarn weasels can be found for well over a hundred dollars on Ebay, but look for a good deal online or at flea markets.  A lot of folks don’t know what to do with them, or wouldn’t use them anyway and you may be able to get one for a song.  This yarn weasel does look ever lovely next to the wood stove in our little, old fashioned home on our little, old fashioned homestead.

The Humble Housewife

My mother was a housewife.  It was easier and more affordable for her to stay home with all of us kids.  We started caring for foster babies when I was young so there were no less than five of us at any given time.  The home was her domain and everything was tidy and clean and healthy supper was on the table nearly every night.  In the evenings she and my dad would often escape together to go get a Coke and take a drive with the portable cassette player singing tunes sans children.  I always assumed she would get a job when we all moved out.  But she didn’t.  It took awhile for me to realize, she has a job.  And even though my dad is retired, she still has the job. She is a full-time homemaker.

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Women are brilliant nurturers, mothers, and just asking one’s husband to get something that is clearly right in front of him in the cupboard but he can’t find it is proof that the home is our domain.  Men are our warriors, our providers, our heavy lifters.  There are exceptions, of course, but homesteading on a prairie practically off-grid taught me that our roles are not to “put us in our place” or “keep us in the kitchen,” they were (are) practical ways for survival.  Yes, we can all switch roles, but it took Doug a quarter of the time to chop wood, move hay, or fix something.  And if he goes to clean something, put something away, or heaven forbid, sew something, odds are I am going to have to do it again so we just stuck to our roles!  Men innately take pride in providing for the family.  Women in the past always took care of the children, took care of the home, took pride in their work, and would often make a little extra money for the household by selling hand crafted items.

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We have noticed over the years of raising children, and even as empty nesters, that when I have a job we spend more money.  At that point, I don’t have time to clean the house so we hire a house cleaner.  I don’t have the energy to cook so we go out.  I need a break so we go do something.  We spend a lot of money and eat terribly.

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I always stayed home or had my own business that I could take my kids to when they were growing up, but what about now?  I think about the judgment I passed on my mother in my late teens for staying home and making dad “do all the work.”  Is that how society will view me?  Now that my businesses have closed we have been talking about me being a homemaker.  We are modern homesteaders in the city.  We preserve as much food as possible.  We have chickens.  I crochet and quilt and sew.  We use a wood stove in the evenings.  I write books and this blog and I do get some small royalties.  I teach a few classes in my home and I am an herbalist.  Can I give myself permission to be a homemaker too?

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We purposely chose a city where our mortgage payment can easily be covered by one person.  We don’t have fancy cell phone plans or cable.  We have designed a life where I can be a housewife, which is where I am happiest.  I love nurturing, folding warm clothes, having a hot meal ready when my husband gets home from work, having the errands done so we can relax together on the weekends, hand making Christmas presents, caring for my animals, and being there when my grown children and grandbabies need me.  It is the hardest job I can think of but it suits my busy, independent nature just fine.  Yes, I think I will thrive here.

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If we give ourselves the option to be anything and to do anything, let us also give ourselves the right to be homemakers.  May we all give more respect and honor to the housewives, the homemakers, the stay-at-home Mamas, and the stay-at-home Grammies in our society for they keep the heart of the family and home beating strong.

 

 

The End of Summer

The end of summer.

‘Twas yesterday eve that I felt the shift.  The night temperatures would fall much too cold for summer crops.  I gathered my long shawl- orange and reds to match the changing leaves- across my hair and over my shoulders to keep the encroaching dusk chill away and gathered my baskets.

Out into the gardens with falling light I felt for vegetables and fruits in the dirt, on vines, hidden in lush leaves, swiftly clipping and twisting them into my hands.  Watermelons, butternut squash, yellow squash, poblanos, chilies, jalapenos, green peppers, and dozens upon dozens of green tomatoes came tumbling in.

Into the warm house where the fire was lit and the candles dazzled the rainy night.  For rain it poured and torrents of it came, while lightening bid farewell to the summer night games.  An autumn chill has descended here and the nights will stay cool as the sun tends to fall asleep early and the gardening days of fall are almost done.

The oil lamps lit, and candles brighten pages of good books.  And the darkness descends us into a warming rest.  I took a sip of tea and watched him put another log on the fire.

The Good Life Map

Isn’t life interesting?  How it changes and ebbs and flows from one experience to another?  Always opening doors to dreams and lessons and then moving us through to the next bend.  It all can be breathtakingly beautiful in its innate simplicity and flow.

I went for a job interview yesterday.  I got it, but realized that I really do not want to go back to working the same old things I have done off and on since I was sixteen.  I gave my apothecary to my daughter, Shyanne.  Yes, I am tired of expensive printers, and labels, and sales taxes, and such but I gave it to her because I can think of no better gift to give her than a career and a set business.

“I don’t know what I can do.  I need to do something!” I mentioned to a friend over coffee about jobs.  “You can always teach,” was her reply.

I had said (oh, how many times have I said things and then changed my mind?!) that I didn’t want to teach anymore.  Why?  Because my classes are three months long!  It then occurred to me that I made that up, I can change it!  Ha!  We forget our own power of decision.  I will be teaching a six week Certified Herbalist Course.  I’ll start each week with tea, a bit of ceremony and camaraderie.  They will learn all the important things they need.  Ditch the text book.  Teach them real herbalism.  Make it less expensive so it can help more people.  And it helps me.

We often forget the power of decisions.  We can manifest anything we wish, but we are also at the mercy of fate.  So, make simple changes to make your life better, and breathe.  Your gifts are your map to your good life.

Chilies and Adobe; Pueblo’s Fall Festival

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The streets were blocked off and thousands of people descended upon our small city for the Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival.  The bright colors of chile ristras create a festive glow and the annual event corresponds with harvest and the autumn.  I brought home a wreath of colorful chilies.

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At the El Pueblo Museum the mercado took place.  The smells of roasting chilies and the sound of Spanish music filled the air.  Dancers that were traveling through for a Folklorico Mexican dance competition stopped and entertained us throughout the day with beautiful dancing and breathtaking attire.

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Inside the adobe house where the market once stood many, many years ago, time stands still.  I memorize pieces and admire the simplicity and homestead life.  I gather ideas and breathe in the history beneath my feet.

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