On the Verge of Spring at Pumpkin Hollow Farm (an enchanted life)

Petunia is still rather plump, even after having babies last autumn.  She is very fluffy and so cute I wish she would come in the house to live, but of course squirrels don’t typically enjoy living in the house.  She sits next to me on the porch as I eat my lunch on warm days.  I just watched her from the picture window jump from limb to limb.  I need to put more bird seed and peanuts out.  The Blue Jays are making such a racket.  They do despise when I am late.

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Hundreds of lovely, chirping sparrows reside here.  As do many doves and starlings.  Crows fly over.  Owls can be heard in the night.  Hawks stop to rest.  Sea gulls and geese fly over towards the lake.  A third of an acre in the city sure can be a wild life haven.  I love it here.

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The chickens from the factory farm that we rescued are plump and quite loud.  They run towards me bow legged and squat, hollering like miniature geese.  They love to eat and are firmly against being on a diet.  “We are not broilers here, Dears,” I remind them, “You do not need to get so fat!”  Dixie is still tiny.  My granddaughter renamed the infant rooster, Bob.

I am fervently manifesting and saving for a greenhouse.  The ducks come April 20th.

My classes are chosen for the autumn session of college.

I am quite sore from teaching dance last night.  I am teaching two herbalist classes.  Just keeping busy until I can be in my gardens full time!

I leave in three weeks for ten days in Arizona and New Mexico for my birthday.  Such wonderful blog posts I will write!

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The seedlings are doing well.  The ground is softening.  I am teaching a gardening class Sunday to plant potatoes that have taken over the cupboard.

My friends are here visiting for the weekend.  I have so many dear friends.  I am so lucky.

Such a slow, lovely, blessed, ordinary, extraordinary life I lead.  And that, my friends, is what is going on at Pumpkin Hollow Farm on the verge of Ostara and the equinox.  Spring is next week!  Here it is quietly arriving.

What is happening on your homestead this week?  I am honestly interested!

Divine Purpose Calling (and listening to yours)

There are ideas that come to mind that sound exciting and fun.  Things to try, to become, to do.  Most ideas are fleeting (like my wanting to become a chef), but sometimes an idea comes and puts down its coffee, puts up its feet, and stays.  It may have always been there.  It just doesn’t go away.  That is divine purpose.

I came across a project I did when I was about six or seven years old.  I wrote that I was going to be a teacher.  I stayed in for recess in first grade to tutor reading.  I lined my dolls up for school and took class pictures of them as I got older with my first camera with the 110 film.  I shifted between wanting to be a nurse or a teacher all through high school.  I accepted a modeling contract and started a family instead.  Then a dance company.  Then I became an herbalist, which richly satisfied my love of things holistically medical and healing.  And here I am.

I went to school when I was thirty.  I was going to be a teacher (after I got the crazy idea of being a music pastor out of my head).  Then I had to leave school to get a job and continue raising my kids.  I signed up again a few years later and dropped it before I could start.  Again a few years later.  Again a few months ago.  I get into my head the “what if’s.”  You know these?  What if I can’t even keep a job?  What if I won’t like it?  What if I will be too old?  What if I am not smart enough?  What if I don’t get as much time with my granddaughters?  What if it bankrupts me?  The what if’s get more preposterous as they go.  (“But you do teach,” people remind me.  I want to teach in a college setting though.)

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We all have a divine purpose.  In the book, Awaken the Spirit Within by Rebecca Rosen, the author describes our divine purpose as being an extension of God.  To show that infinite, beautiful love and care upon everyone placed in our path and to master the lessons we came here to learn.  Some paths or careers will place us in a way that we can do that better.  For me, I have a great love of late teen, early twenties aged young people.  I love their spirits, their ideas, their newness.  At my granddaughter’s birthday party, there were probably twenty or more of this age group and I always (and am often called Mama) feel like a mother hen to them.  I love them.

I recall well the teachers I have had over my life who for one reason or another did not like me.  They were horrible and did everything they could to sabotage me.  I also remember each person that took time out of their life to help mentor me or to encourage me.  That is the person I want to be in other’s lives.  That is what I can really excel at.  That is my divine purpose.  To be able to see the best in students (especially those brave enough to go to college to pursue a dream), to be able to help instill confidence and encourage them sets them up to succeed and therefore fulfill their divine purpose better.

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Last year and the beginning of this year were tough emotionally because I have been holding onto the past.  I had become very angry that so many out of state and city people had moved into my beautiful small town- the only place I have ever felt like was home- and drove up the prices so high that many locals were forced to leave.  I go visit my daughter and- I kid you not- get about run off the road by an Audi or BMW every dang time.  I miss the slow trucks of ranchers.  I miss the scenic vistas pre mini-mansion.  I miss my town.  I have been bitter that I don’t have a business with my daughter anymore.  I loved being with her.  I loved having a shop with her.  I loved being a full time herbalist.  But, things change.

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Just as my front yard was rearranged yesterday with sixty plus mile an hour winds, my life is being rearranged.  And that is okay!  I asked myself, “Well, do you want to move back to Elizabeth?”  If that is really what I want to do, I can.  I answered myself sheepishly, “Well, no.  I love the climate here, and the people, and my house and my low mortgage payment.”  (Sometimes you have give yourself a talkin’ to.)  Do I want to start up an apothecary with Shyanne again?  I am exhausted thinking about it.  I see her every few weeks or so.  It’s not like I lost my child.  And this big beautiful future looms ahead, nudging me towards the next divine step.  I can be an herbalist, I can be a mother, I can be anything.  So, I signed up for school to be a teacher.  Now, y’all keep me accountable and don’t let me chicken out again!  I just know (hope) that I will be teaching college (in New Mexico) one day.

What ideas never leave you?  What is Spirit nudging you towards?  What do you need to release in order to move forward?  What is your dream?

 

 

Tales of a Medical Intuitive

This one was hard.  The four friends had travelled several hours to meet with me.  They sat in my living room enjoying their tea, laughing and talking to one another.  I watched my cats.  They always alert me when I need to pay special attention to someone.  Booboo, my sweet, chubby, old black cat was sitting next to one of the men and was gently pawing him in the face.  Booboo never comes out for these things-it is usually Linus at work- but he wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something.  I didn’t.  When the appointment was made over text, I was told that one of them had cancer but I wasn’t told who.  I knew the second he walked in.

I went from person to person, drawing what I saw physically, explaining what was spiritual and what was physical.  Light heartedness filled the room.  Eyes gently filled with tears and nods told me I was connected to Creator and giving information correctly.

Every reading is different.  I hear things from the spirit world.  Sometimes I am a medium.  I feel things intensely; the client’s anxiety, heartbreak, headaches, knee pain.  I am shown things, I see things.  Anything that helps me to understand the message.  Most of the time the person sitting in front of me suspects an illness, or is very open to guidance for their life right now, and knows and understands each thing I say.  Some come in completely closed.

When I got to him, I sensed his wall.  His protection.  His doubt.  His fear.  He had already gone through four rounds of chemotherapy and radiation to no avail.  He still had hope.  I listened.  I drew.  I was shown cancer cells shattering, exploding like a bomb all through his body.  I heard that it was one hundred percent spiritual.  His body looked like a night sky filled with millions of stars.  The cancer was everywhere.  I then heard the words, military, veteran, war, bomb, HSP, empath. 

“Were you in the military?” I asked him.  He shook his head no.

“Are you a highly sensitive person? Do you feel other people’s pain?”  Again, he shook his head no.

What are you guys trying to tell me? I whispered to the spirits.  I immediately felt anger.  I saw him as a little boy being beaten by his father.

“It’s your dad!” I practically yelled.  “Was he in the military?”

“In Korea,” he answered.

I suddenly saw everything clearly.  His father was a highly sensitive person, an empath, forced to be a “man.”  In the war he witnessed and took part in such atrocities that afterwards he became an alcoholic and was very abusive.  These wounds were passed down to the man before me.

I heard that if he did not forgive his father and heal these wounds that he would have no more than two years to live.

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I am not a doctor, of course, so I cannot diagnose.  The majority of people that come to me already know or suspect what is going on.  They can go a holistic healing route with me but I also always recommend that they should see a doctor if they feel that is the right step.

A woman used to come into my shop often to buy medicine for her dog.  She was very religious.  For some reason, many Christians do not believe that God can work this way.  Anything a bit woohoo is probably of the Devil.  So when I saw her heart, I couldn’t just come right out and say something.  I would say every time she came in, “You should try our heart medicine!  It is great!  It’s on sale!  Here I will just give you a bottle to try!”  She would always decline.  I’d ask nonchalantly if she had seen a doctor lately.  She had.  Then she had a massive stroke and a heart attack.

Just because we are sent to be healers in this world does not mean we can heal everyone.  Sometimes it is hard to see but not be able to help.

Sometimes it is easy.  I placed my hand on her foot.  It had been hurting for a long time.  She didn’t show me where it was hurting but my hand instantly went to the hairline fracture.  She was a friend of mine so I told her what I saw and felt and sent her with my bone heal liniment.  She went to the doctor and it was confirmed that she had a hairline fracture in that very place.

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If you have read my memoir, The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman, you know that I ran from these gifts for a long time!  But I love being able to offer divine assistance, advice, clarity, reunite loved ones, help people heal physically, mentally, spiritually, and to be a speaker for Creator and the spirit is world is a profound honor.

I have another blog that I usually write these types of things on but I have decided to combine them.  Because they are not separate. I can be a chicken raising, gardening guru, entertainer and chef, crafting farmgirl and also be psychic.  It is what it is.

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So friends, I want to let you know that this is what I do.  I am a medical intuitive and guide.  I do readings over the phone or in person.  My medical intuitive readings include three custom medicines.  I don’t set a timer but readings usually last an hour.  If you feel a nudge from Spirit, feel free to set up a meeting with me.  Katie@PumpkinHollowFarm.net

And click here to order my memoir!

An Epic Mermaid and Pirate Birthday Party (tips for a great party!)

My granddaughter, Maryjane, turned six years old.  Her Pa turned forty-nine.  Our daughters set out to create an amazing sea experience to celebrate both of their birthdays.  This year they put on a Mermaid and Pirate party!

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The coffee shop in Elizabeth is near and dear to us and we were so pleased that the owner gave Shyanne the key and let us have our party there.  It is the mid-way point for everyone in our families.  We live far enough away that we got a hotel room for the weekend and spent time with Emily and Reed and our beautiful little girls.  They stayed in the room with us and it was so much fun.

Every birthday is a gift.  Every year that the kids are small and let us snuggle them is a gift.  Every moment with family and friends is a gift.

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Maryjane’s cake was made with a mouthwatering homemade strawberry filling with creamy vanilla cake.
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Pa’s cake was made with homemade peppermint patties layered into mint and chocolate.  All decorations are homemade and edible!

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Shyanne is the most amazing baker.  She always has been.  She was eight years old in the kitchen (cussing up a storm) making the most amazing confections.  Her craft only gets better and she created from scratch some amazing cupcakes and cakes this year.

She bought simple cardboard cake trays and had me hot glue them to inexpensive water cups.  These created beautiful cake stands.

The key to a great kid’s party is to limit the number of kids.  Have far more adults than children.  Sound ridiculous?  Think about it, thirty kids and six adults?  Or six kids and thirty adults?  The adults all mingle and catch up (these little girls have HUGE families) and the children are easily kept focused and have a great time together.

We served various teas and coffee.  A spread of gold fish, spray painted Oreos, fruit, veggies, dips and chips made great snacks.  Having the party just after lunch (say, 1 or 2:00) allows the host to serve simpler fare.

A great time was had by all.  Five generations of family, lots of great friends, kiddos, and a granddog celebrated these two beautiful people that I am so grateful to have in my life.

(To contact Shyanne about making an amazing cake, cupcakes, or cookies for your next event, check out her facebook page at http://facebook.com/WickedlyDeliciousDesserts or email her at Shyanne@WhiteWolfHerbscom)

 

 

 

Become a Certified Herbalist with my Online Course

Do you have the same love for herbs as I do?  Do you imagine an apothecary within your home filled with jars of beautiful dried herbs that you grew yourself and vats of brewing medicines to heal anything and everything?  Do you wish to know how to heal?  Do you imagine your own apothecary on the main street?  Greeting customers with a cup of tea and a smile and a ready cure for their dog’s arthritis or maybe their own lingering cough?  If you are tired of doling out money to others for things that you can heal yourself, maybe it is time to consider becoming a certified herbalist!

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I have been an herbalist for a long time.  I have seen nearly every ailment you can think of.  I have successfully helped heal thousands of people and animals.  I grow dozens and dozens of medicinal herbs and can identify many more.  I know Native American herbs like the back of my hand.  It is a part of my very heart.

I remember the fear of holding my newborn son, his fever raging, his lungs tired from screaming.  I remember not knowing what to do.  I remember.

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I don’t want any mother (or father) or farmgirl to not know what to do when your chicken sneezes, or your horse colics, or your baby has a fever.  Knowing how to work with herbs takes away so much fear in life.  So much worry is dispelled with knowledge.  I am not talking about essential oils here, I am talking about the whole herbs and what to do with them.  The plants are our medicine.  Let me teach you.

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My online certified herbalism study course is back and better than ever.  I have purposely set my price considerably lower than any other school because this is knowledge that is so very important.  $250 includes your text book, my recipe book, and ongoing study with me.  Take all the time you need.  We will keep in touch through email.  You can call or text me if you have questions.  Even after you complete the course.  Now is the time.  Spring is a great time to embark on a new hobby, career, lifestyle.

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Email me to register.  Katie@Pumpkinhollowfarm.net

Over Ten Things You Should Never Throw Away (clever tips to reuse ordinary items)

I am cleaning out the junk drawer today.  It is a little packed in there.  I am trying to get my home organized and cleaned out before the fervor of gardening season begins.  Because then I’m not gonna want to come in the house!

I am probably not going to throw away much in the junk drawer, just organize it.  There are some things that a lot of folks would throw out that can be brilliantly reused on a homestead.  Here are my top ten things you should never throw away!

#1 Twist ties– They come on bread, produce, and in every package of toys and small appliances, and you will want every last one of them this summer!  Not only do twist ties make the very best cat toys, they have another use, training and holding plants up.  Tie one loosely around a branch of a tomato plant and secure to the cage to help give it stability and to help it branch out more.  Use for anything that trellises; tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and roses to name a few.

#2 Rubber bands– Also a desired cat toy, though they shouldn’t be swallowing them.  When you have a nice fresh bundle of beets or collard greens in your hand, it is quite handy to reach in your apron pocket and grab a rubber band to hold the stems together.

#3 Clothes Pins– Well, this is a no-brainer, obviously we need it for our clothes line!  But these gems also keep tops of flour bags closed.  They can be used to label plants by pinning the marked paper to the side of a pot.  (I have exciting news y’all might appreciate.  I had to stop using a clothes line last year (after fifteen years) because a very large and rambunctious puppy moved in and used the hanging clothes as toys you could shred.  I am having new areas of my yard fenced off this month and can start reusing the clothes line!  That dryer just shrinks everything anyway.)

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#4 Jars– Glass jars are always in use around here.  Large glass juice jars get washed and refilled with water and placed downstairs in case of an emergency.  Smaller glass jars and every sort of canning jar are used to hold odds and ends and dried herbs and teas and spices and coffee and seeds and more!  The canning jars are obviously also used for canning.  Nothing like opening fresh produce in February.

#5 Chop sticks– use these to stir oils and infused honeys.  Use to label plants.  Stake a small house plant.  Use to eat Chinese food.

#6 Plastic baggies and produce bags– Every bag around here gets washed and reused a zillion times.  We go months and months without buying sandwich bags or freezer bags.  A produce bag can hold a half an onion in the fridge or three sandwiches for a picnic.  Ziplock style bags can be reused many, many times.

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#7 Wine corks– Use these for crafts (glue them together in a metal ring to make a trivet or build a birdhouse).  My favorite use is to pile them into the bottoms of large pots for drainage when repotting plants.

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#8 Salad containers– Plastic salad or deli containers with lids make perfect mini greenhouses to start seeds in.

#9 Nursery pots– You never know when you might want to pot up some of your aloes or need to move seedlings into larger containers.

#10 Twine and bits of rope and ribbon– Fix a fence, tie a plant to the cage, tie around cheesecloth to secure to mouth of jar, tie up your hair, or wrap a presen

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In a canning jar, add a few inches of sand then a votive. When the votive melts just pop it out and add another candle in! You can melt down candles and remake them as well.

Other things we have done over the years:

Paint wine bottles with chalkboard paint and make cute little blackboards.

Use paper grocery bags, newspaper, and cardboard in the garden to suppress weeds.  Cover with straw to hide.

Repaint old furniture to make new pieces!

Use old dinner plates to catch water under houseplants.

Use egg cartons as paint palettes.  Or to start seeds.

Half of a pop or water bottle becomes a funnel.  Or a cloche.

There are lots of ways to reuse and repurpose ordinary items!

The Joyful, Simple Life of a Frugal Housewife

I have a little book that was written by Mrs. Child in 1832.  The American Frugal Housewife is surely just as useful today in many senses.  The author almost lost me when she noted that coffee was not economical and could be avoided.  Oh, she’s a strict one, that Mrs. Child.  Her prose is clear and concise and the book is ever fun to read.  Going on two hundred years old, it is a bit of history rolled into a gentle reminder that not that much has changed.

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If you make a dollar, only spend eighty cents.  If you make fifty cents, only spend forty.  The original Dave Ramsey.  Why do all the girls these days need the new bonnets from France when clean, proper dresses and a ribbon will do?  Girls have no home education these days!  In this book she covers everything from cuts of meat (she would wonder about me and my vegetarianism), to how to make custard, and Indian pudding.  She discusses herbs for cooking and all their medicinal values as well.  A new onion will take the pain out of a wasp sting.  Every housekeeping gem that we housewives- even in the twenty-first century- could ever need are in this book.  She would tisk-tisk me for sure.  But in this time and age, I am not too bad.  But there is always room for improvement.  A simple, frugal life is a life of peace.

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The gents installing the meters for the solar panels on our homestead were surprised at how little electricity we use.  Now it can all be generated from the sun.  When you walk through our gate, past the Pumpkin Hollow Farm sign, you will find yourself in a large yard.  Under snow, it looks ordinary, but this spring you will find dozens, upon dozens, and dozens of medicinal and culinary herbs.  This year, enough produce growing to last us eight+ months.

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When you come in there is a wood stove and nice wood floors that are easy to clean.  Plants and aloes and seed starts fill my home.  We read by candlelight and oil lamps.  Twinkly lights are the electric lights.  Piles of books to read, board games, and a tuned piano supply entertainment. We rarely watch television.  In the warmer months we will sit on the porch or go for a walk, all free things.  And blessed time together.

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In the kitchen, home cooked meals are made.  I am finally getting used to not cooking for  all the children.  Just me and Pa and some left for the puppy.  Our root cellar is dwindling but there are still over a hundred jars of produce put up.  There are fresh eggs from the coop.  Cups of herb tea steaming on the counter.

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You will almost always find me in an apron.  They are so practical and keep my long skirts clean.  I make all of our own medicine, prepare our meals, create much of what we need.  I can sew a quilt, make our own soap, brew some meade, put up green beans, bake sourdough bread, make antibiotics, save seeds, use the library, ride my bike, and if I make fifty cents then I shall save ten!  More likely five cents, but we’ll get there.

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Such a good life indeed.

Farmgirl Inspiration

Hello March, it’s nice to see you.  January and February can be the very hardest time of the year for farmgirls.  We have our gardens, our farms, our animals, our preserving, our home making, our crafting in the fall in anticipation for the holidays, we have our cooking, and our entertaining, and our pleasant fatigue.  Then there is January and February…hello March, it’s nice to see you!  Thank the Lord you’re back!

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Even though it is still cold and there is ice on the car and tomorrow it is going to snow, it is March and all things can come anew now, in my mind and in nature.  I have plans!  Oh glorious plans, and guess what?  I figured out a way to make them manifest.  My son texted me yesterday and said he would come help with the fencing.  I found an affordable way to get the outbuildings I wanted.  Yes, my gardens are about to take on some marvelous expansion and changes.

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Field fencing is a farmgirl’s friend because it is easy to put up and can be taken down if needed.  I am expanding the chicken yard.  I am fencing off another part of the backyard for a greenhouse, raised beds, and space for a rooster.  Doug isn’t thrilled we have a rooster.  But I think one in seven wasn’t bad!  I also have ducklings on order to pick up in April.  They are honest-to-god worthless (few eggs, eat ten times more than the chickens, are noisy, splash water everywhere), but dang, they are so cute!  The greenhouse will double as night quarters for the trouble makers and Captain the Rooster.  None of them can jump or fly up on things, so plants will be safe and the added humidity from the ducks’ water antics will create a nice space.  (Did I mention my husband doesn’t like ducks either?  I just look at him like I don’t speak English.)

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A shed is going up to fit all the yard tools in, which will make room for some outdoor furniture and hanging plants around the back porch.  Listen, y’all, I will do before and after pictures when all this is said and done, but right now it looks like a hundred and fifty pound puppy dug holes to China, ate all the outdoor pillows, destroyed a huge dog bed, and threw some trash around.  (Actually, that is what happened.)

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In the front yard, a large archway will have pumpkins and other climbers growing up it.  Add in a few twinkly lights and I will have an enchanted garden for sure.  I have added a couple hundred feet of gardens.  The stalks of the roses are all turning green.

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There is a loom downstairs.  I have friends that can show me how to use it.  I have always wanted to learn how to weave.  I painted a box with a lid for my son’s long time girlfriend for Christmas.  It has a dear clasp and longs to be filled with secret treasures.  I painted a scene from a vacation they took on the lid.  I would like to do more of those.  Maybe set up my sewing machine.  Craft ideas come to mind.

Inspiration to farmgirls is like medicine.  Maybe even breath, if I am not being too dramatic here.  What are you inspired to achieve this spring?

Making Your Own Chili Powder and Cornmeal (from seed to plant to pantry)

Drying staples is a way to preserve the harvest and has been done, presumably, since the beginning of time.  Come autumn, at just about the moment that I think I cannot possibly water one more plant or can one more thing, frost is at the doorstep.  I gather in baskets the remaining produce and carry it to the still-warm kitchen.  There will be peppers.  And there will be corn that I purposely left too long on the stalk.

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The corn came in a humble seed package at the farmer’s market.  Aztec blue corn.  I love crowing Indian corn and usually it is for popcorn, but this one is specifically for, essentially, growing blue corn meal.  I pulled the husks over their heads, removed most of the silk, and hung them up to dry on a hook in the kitchen.

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If you have been following me for any number of years y’all know that my heart belongs to New Mexico.  The terroir is so familiar to me that I can identify a New Mexican wine or chile in a blind taste test.  My friend brought me back two large ristras from Taos, New Mexico to adorn our front porch when we first moved in.

I learned that the winds out here are fierce in the spring and Mother Nature likes to trim trees and clear out debris (like lawn chairs and stuff).  She got a hold of my ristras and shook ’em like nobody’s business.  Now, I have had a notoriously difficult time of growing peppers over the years.  But there in my paths, window boxes, and in rogue spots of the garden amongst herbs and zucchini were thriving pepper plants that she had planted from seed.  “Show off,” I muttered under my breath.  I sit there tending to each seed with exact care, squinting to read the backs of seed packets, and still failing and there goes Mother Earth, flinging seeds into the barren soil seven weeks before the last frost and coming out with amazing results.  I could learn a thing or two from her.

But then happy day, I am growing New Mexican chilies!  It turns out that this very spot of land that I reside on is nearly exactly like the land in New Mexico.  The same altitude, the same soil, the same elements of the places there I love.  Not like the farmlands just east of me, nor like the dusty plains west of me.  Right here, I have a little New Mexico-in-Colorado oasis.

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I am getting better at growing peppers and last year I brought in quite a few.  Last year was not a good growing year though.  In the spring the temperatures rose to a hundred degrees and hovered there straight through till frost.  The inconsistent watering didn’t help, and I got some kind of rot on the bottom of the peppers.  But I still managed to save some.  They sat on my cutting board on the kitchen counter up until yesterday.  They had all turned a lovely, passionate red and were dry.  Once chilies are dried, they lose that volatile oil that burns the heck out of your skin when you touch them, but still take care not to get the chili powder in your face or under your nails.

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Chop off the very top stem and using a sharp paring knife pull out the seeds.  Keep these because we are planting them in a few months!

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Throw the chilies in a food processor, coffee grinder, or other grinding mechanism.  I used the grain pitcher with my Vitamix.  I like my chili powder nice and fine.

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Normally I keep the New Mexican chile separate from the others but some of them had rotted so I didn’t have a lot.  I blended the Pueblo chilies with poblanos and the red chilies from New Mexico.  The taste is spectacular.  Hints of tomato and earth, smoky, not too hot, and better because it was from my own garden.  I sprinkle it on potatoes and everything else under the sun.

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As for the corn, use your fingernail to easily dislodge each kernel, taking care not to pull too much chaff in with it.  I put the seeds in a strainer with bigger holes.  As you shake, blow gently on the kernels and the chaff will blow out.  Place corn in blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder.  That earthy, corn flavor is great.  I used it in my pizza crust last night blended with regular flour.  Save one ear for planting this year!

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Growing, harvesting, drying, grinding, cooking with, saving seeds, planting- all these beautiful, ancient practices connect us with our ancestors and help us feel connected to the earth and our food.  Soon we will be in the garden again!

The First Warm Day in the Garden (onions, garlic, rhubarb, and the elusive robin)

It was over sixty degrees for a pocket of time yesterday without its normal accompanying arctic wind to ruin all of the fun.  I sat in a lawn chair, my face to the sun intermittently reading and sipping a glass of wine until my face felt warm from those glorious rays.

“There are no robins,” I told my husband.  Perhaps I was getting ahead of myself.  If the robins were not even here yet, then spring is not arriving early.

Little flitters of tiny, iridescent wings wafted past me.  I hope they are beneficial as opposed to a nemesis in my gardens.  They landed here and there.  I stood up and stretched and walked around my garden paths.  In the beds were rogue, forgotten splays of green- dark and alive.  Onions and garlic.  A tiny bit of spinach appeared in the pathway.  Funny place to grow.

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I let me plants go to seed in the fall because I am more interested in permaculture and sustained food than I am in neat rows.  (Which I seem to be rather bad at anyway!  The rows look like when I write on unlined paper.)  So the spinach decided to grow there, huh?  Well, so be it.  Bits of Swiss chard grow under a tree.

I am still getting used to the climate where we have moved.  It is warmer here but it is certainly not temperate.  But the growing season is quite different from our old town.  Here, I usually would plant onions and garlic (if I forgot to do so last fall…which I did) when I do the potatoes, right around St. Patrick’s Day.  One doesn’t want the beds to be waterlogged with snow for the next few months because the bulbs will decompose but a nice, damp, rich, fragrant, earthy, heady, malleable bed does call for something to be planted, don’t you think?  So, I took a cue from the garlic and onions that were already growing and planted my bulbs.  It was therapeutic in a way that only gardeners can understand.

I loosened the first four inches of soil.  Along somewhat crooked rows, three inches apart in all directions, I carefully placed their bottoms down and the papery points up, gently pressing them into the ground.  Eighty bulbs of red onions.  Three large heads of garlic separated into cloves.

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And four roots of rhubarb.  Every spring my Great Aunt Donna would call me and say, “Time to get the rhubarb!”  We would drive to Denver and head into her large back yard with her.  She taught me to place my thumb at the base of a stalk and lightly pull just so.  The foot and a half long stalk would easily come loose.  We both had a paring knife and would quickly remove the large leaf at the top and place it in a pile of ever growing foliage.  She would predict what her old apple tree was going to do this year.  Her beds were clean.  The compost was moving along nicely.  She would have me throw the leaves in the bin.  Into plastic newspaper sacks, the rhubarb stalks would go.  She would save a few for herself and send us home with pounds of them.  This will be the first season without Aunt Donna.  What will happen to her rhubarb?  I hope mine gets as full and healthy as hers.

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“Guess who’s here?” I shrieked into the phone.

“Who?” my husband answered, nearly alarmed.  The shrill chirping voice was almost a shock.  I recognized it before I saw them.  A pair of them hopping through the garden beds.  “The robins are back!”