Farmgirl Herbal Remedies (my new Apothecary)

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I know I always tell y’all to take a risk and jump off high cliffs to catch dreams and I do live that.  Why exactly I thought it wise to give up my main source of income and life calling, I know not, but we all have those moments of burn out or boredom and I had both.  My herbal medicine business didn’t look like I wanted it to and it was too late to change much about it.  You may think I am crazy, but it was going too well.  I became an herbalist in order to use my medical intuitive abilities, play with plants, and help educate and offer other folk alternative ways to effectively care for their family armed with the knowledge of thousands of years of practical Native medicine.  I don’t play doctor or diagnose, but I know my stuff when it comes to herbal medicine.  But, I ended up just shipping products all over the world and it lost its personal touch.  If I could pinpoint a place where I got off track, trying to put herbalism behind farming was my wrong path.  Herbalism is my calling.  We detoured back onto the main road now and are heading somewhere.

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Our investors/friends/clients really want us to reopen an apothecary.  I want to as well.  This time I am designing it differently.  Margie will have the Garden Fairy products in there and I’ll get commission.  My part will be seventy glowing single extracts where I can pour what people need at the moment or they could build their own tincture.  I will have over seventy herbs for teas, many that I have harvested.  I think we need some green teas and chai blends as well.  We will sell my books and art as well as a wide variety of herbal medicines in a small, airy shop attached to the house.  Can you picture it?

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I have been thinking about how to create my new extracts.  I have always done straight alcohol because it pulls the most medicine out of the herbs.  However, the taste is repulsive and sharp.

I would love to make honey tinctures but then I leave out any client under the age of one and how many bees would be killed in order to get that much honey?

So, I tried to imagine the perfect medicine.  If I wanted to give someone a gift of medicine what would it look like.  It would be slightly sweet, filled with antioxidants and health, and thoroughly infused medicine.  I think one part maple syrup (nutrient rich and anti-tumor), one part vodka (to infuse the herbs properly), one part live medicinal herbs, and one part homemade red wine vinegar (antioxidant and good for digestive system) would be wonderful.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  I will try a batch and see how it is.

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It is fun dreaming up my new Apothecary.  Farmgirl Herbal Remedies will hopefully be open this autumn.

Early Autumn

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The school bus rambles down the main road as the sun hovers low while slowly making its ascent.  Sounds from the football field yonder bring to mind glorious fall days; of young men running, yelling, crowds in the small town bandstands cheering.  The leaves are turning brilliant shades of gold in the highest cottonwoods.  Autumn has snuck in early whispering cool breaths in the early morning hours and in the evening too.

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My mother’s 61st birthday is today.  I hope she has a wonderful day!  We always considered her birthday to be in summer.  We didn’t start school until September and the days were still hot.  Summer arrived late this year and it seems she was only visiting on her way to Tahiti for the next season has arrived in her place.

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Autumn is my favorite time of year but I am not ready for the impending cold that accompanies.  I long for a few more months of warm summer days.  The air is crisp and bright full of birdsong and daytime warmth.

I sigh.  “Alright Fall, you can come in.  I’ll get my sweater.”

When Homesteading is Life

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When one is faced with starting over there is an underlying gift involved.  One that creates space.  Yes, it is sad to lose everything one owns and it is odd to have to reinvent one’s occupation and lifestyle but what this creates is a place to only bring back in what one loves.  What one needs.  What improves life and doesn’t clutter or overwhelm it.

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I am living in a beautiful home with friends.  Electricity is used as needed and sometimes when not.  I have relearned to use a dishwasher and a dryer.  We flip on lamps to read.  I walk around their house in the evening squinting for the overhead lights are so bright.  I do not like overhead or artificial lights.  My forever farm will have oil lamps again.  I miss them, love them, feel better by them, and will not miss turning on the switch.

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I rinse and lightly scrub dishes and put them in the dishwasher.  One more good rub and these dishes could be put away.  I do not feel I need one.  The dryer has been fun and makes laundry day a snap with these beautiful machines but I miss hearing the flick of the clothes as I snap them in the air before placing them on the line while listening to birds and taking a few breaths to myself as I enjoy the outdoors.  My clothes, wrinkle free and not shrunk coming off the line in piles of aroma that could not be matched with dryer sheets.  “Perhaps I will love city life again or at least modern conveniences,” I thought.  Wrong.

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Right now we don’t miss milking twice a day but we really miss our chickens.  I haven’t eaten more than four servings of fresh food all summer.  My gardens filled with bounty in my memory and planning.  No eggs, no produce, and no milk on hand is sobering.  Maybe we will get a milking goat again, I know not as of yet, but the chickens and gardens will be taking over available space on the forever farm.

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Our neighbors hope we get the place.  They miss us and our goats.  We have only been farmless for a month and a half so perhaps more things I miss will come up.  But we will start house with as little as if we have just left home.  Mementos and little else.  No clutter, only build what we love and treasure in our new home.

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We are having trouble securing work that pays over minimum wage despite our experience and education.  Another interesting dilemma.  But, we are following open doors and not trying to force our way through bolted ones.  Let’s see where this meandering path leads us.

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“It’s a good thing you know how to homestead!,” my friend exclaimed.  She said that most people faced with our situation moving to the country with little wages would think they wouldn’t survive!

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I know how to build a fire, how to can, how to preserve, I know friends who raise their own livestock for meat, I know how to make bread from scratch, and how to make a corn field come up in a driveway.  I am not worried.  I got this.

Being Present, Manifesting a Home, and the Pumpkin Lady

I am reading a fabulous, fabulous book.  “What I Know For Sure” by Oprah Winfrey is both compassionate, real, and thought provoking.  It is allowing me to read it while nodding, for those things I know for sure too, and then consider whether I really put those things in motion.

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I finished the first section last night about Joy.  The secret to a joyous life is to be present.  So true when one thinks about laughing hysterically in a moment with friends over something nonsensical, drying one’s eyes, and then embracing in the moment.  That is joy.  I ought to laugh more.  In the mornings as I enjoy my cup(s) of hot, dark coffee and write to you at sunrise, I look out the window and thank God for this little “vacation” I am on.  No deadlines, no to-do list, no….then I get antsy and want to-do list back!  I have been sitting and thinking for two months.  There is a real possibility of losing it!  Shh, be present…

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I love watching everything that Maryjane does.  Listening to her little words.  Spending so much time with Doug.  Taking walks and holding hands.  Tending to the greenhouse.  Watching the leaves turn.  Visiting friends.  Resting my body.  Resting my mind.  Ok, well, trying to rest my mind.

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But, there must be balance.  I cannot be present all the time or I would get nothing done.  I am presently manifesting with help (Divine and friends!) and dreaming (because that is what I do).  We have always known what house we want.  Out of the twenty-five places I have lived in my life there is only one that really felt like home.  It was our house in Kiowa.  The one we moved out of last year because they couldn’t keep up the mortgage payments and needed to sell it.  We thought Calhan was our forever farm.  It was a mere stepping stone.  What we really wanted was to own a home.  I guess the only way that we could own a home was by losing everything.  Our friends want to buy us a house and hold the note until we can get our finances in order.  A gift beyond measure.  We know which house we want.  It has been empty since we left it.  People around town wonder where the Pumpkin Lady went.  Not a bad nickname.  There are lots of hoops to go through.  But Friends, we are ready to go home.

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Late Summer Spa

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I like how I look this time of year, brown.  I generally resemble a vampire of some sort come February so that lovely layer of color makes me look a bit more alive.  The vitamin D and restorative powers of the sun help my spirit but after a summer of chlorine, hot sun, and a fair amount of crisp wine, my skin appreciates a little restoration itself!.

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After you pull your hair back, place a layer of honey all over your face, neck, and décolletage.  Honey is miraculous in its properties to heal the skin.

Over the honey add a layer of coconut oil.  It might seem unwise to slather oil on one’s face but fear not!  This will not cause you to break out or make your skin greasy.  Coconut oil is a natural sun block in itself.  It also contains saponin which is essentially nature’s soap.  Coconut oil is also restorative to the skin and replenishes giving the skin a youthful, healthy glow.

Let this sit on the skin for a few minutes before hopping in the shower to rinse off.  I used a sandalwood liquid body soap to remove the masque and for added spa effect.

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While you are at it, you may as well pluck your eye brows and curl your hair!  I used hot rollers and my hairspray recipe.  I pinned my hair up with bobby pins so that the curls cascaded down and looked old fashioned.  The next day the curls were loose but still there so I got two hairstyles for the time of one.

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I am always amazed how makeup, even a small amount, can transform one’s face.  I often go without but I noticed in a picture that my son took while I was recording a song for his new album that a smidge of mascara might have made me look more awake!

Make up can be added easily with a few simple steps.

  1. Cover eye and crease with a lighter shade of eye shadow.
  2. Fill in outer half of eye lid and crease with darker shadow.  Apply soft eyeliner to upper lid adding a little flair at the end.  The eyes really pop if you apply eyeliner inside the lower rim or at least close to it.
  3. Mascara to bring it all together.
  4. Tinted lip balm or lipstick streaked up cheek bone then rubbed in cheats as blush.
  5. Lipstick or tinted lip balm finishes the look.

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I still want a day at a spa.  A nice massage, facial, make over, hairstyle with maybe a few lavender streaks, my nails done, and a new outfit but a honey/coconut oil masque, shower, hot curlers, make up, and a new apron works just fine.

Grammie School

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It used to be referred to as “Mommy School”.  That is what Andy used to call it.  He loved workbooks and extra reading.  We loved to visit museums, art galleries, and book stores.  This was when he was five or six.  He would tell his teacher all about Mommy School.

But time found us getting busier and I with three little ones and Mommy School was limited.  When after a year of high school and Andy struggling out of lack of interest I decided to homeschool all three of them.  We visited the teacher supply store and went crazy buying workbooks and educational toys and various items like stickers. (Gosh, who doesn’t like stickers?)

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Andy was fifteen, Shyanne was twelve, and Emily was eleven so their interests and levels were different so as we made our way through we became more of “unschoolers”.  Unschooling is when each kid devours every topic they love, whether it be cooking or pirates.  In each topic they learn valuable skills such as reading, writing, spelling, history, science, and math.  They also have time to indulge in arts and music.  Because they were home with us they also learned what we deemed important, not the slanted school system’s ideas.  They learned about herbalism, animals, agriculture, our ideas on spirituality and they were left to fill in the blanks for themselves.  They were able to make their own paths with a well rounded base.

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Andy went off to college and the girls felt amiss.  They wanted to try the small high school in town.  Shyanne, my socialite, loved it, thrived in it, and graduated.  Emily went back briefly but found herself unhappy in the school system and then learned she was with child so she reverted back to homeschooling pretty quickly.  I enjoyed homeschooling my children and I believe they are intelligent adults that were more realistic about the world out there then children just graduating from traditional high school.

Now, I have my first grandchild here four days a week while mom and dad work.  It is my greatest honor and profound joy.  In many cultures the grandmother is put in charge of the children’s well being, growth, and education.  These grandmothers hold the wisdom of half a life or more and tend to have more patience.  Maryjane is a special child.  When she was six months old we attended the funeral of Shyanne’s best friend who had committed suicide and the depth of sorrow was intense.  As I would approach people Maryjane would put her hand on their face as if she were trying to comfort.

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She is a bit of a wild child, the child that usually comes last, the one that has so much life bubbling forth that her parents want a nap!  She is also highly intuitive.  She has the same healing gifts that run through my family.  It is obvious even though she is only two years old.  She eats wild herbs and helps me make medicine.  She comforts those that are upset.  But she “knows” things too.  We were to meet Emily and Maryjane at the coffee shop the other day.  Maryjane started to yell, “Pa! Pa!”

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“Grammie and Pa aren’t here yet,” Emily replied.  About a minute later we pulled into the turning lane to get into the parking lot.  Emily was a little shocked.

“If you send her to school they will squash this little girl’s spirit,”  I lamented.

“I wasn’t planning on sending her to school.”

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Oh, happy day.  Emily and I will be homeschooling that amazing child.  Four days a week (depending on the kids’ schedules) we will be having the raucous event called “Grammie School”.

Daydreams of workbooks and drawing pads and finely sharpened pencils danced in my head then I realized that I am already homeschooling.  Learning doesn’t begin at age four and end at eighteen or twenty-two.  We have already begun.

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Here are five ways to teach a little one:

  1. Count- everything I hand the baby I count.  Here are some mullein flowers to put in the pot.  One, two, three, four, five…She now tells people she is five.  She can’t put them in order, but she can randomly sing, “one, five, nine, three, six…”
  2. Spell- Dad, d-a-d, is on his way!  I don’t spell everything we say, I would annoy myself, but she is really in tune to simple words.  Pa, p-a, Mom, m-o-m.  She has no idea what we are talking about yet but the letters stick in her little head.  She sure surprised her mom by writing D-A-D on her arm!
  3. Point out everything.  Birds, trees, flowers, dogs, coffee, books, people, cars, rain, everything.  These babies are sponges and they will remember all of these things in detail.  It is terribly sad to me that so many parents I see just set their kids in a corner and ignore them.  They just “get through” until the next stage.  Babies being lugged around in car seats instead of being held.  Perhaps it is a grandmother’s perspective to see that children grow quickly and time is so precious.  These little ones cannot be all they aspire to without nearly constant attention and guidance.
  4. Teach them about animals.  Teach them not to be afraid of animals.  The kids used to have friends come over to the house that were terrified of our cats!  A child that knows animals, speaks to animals, is gentle with animals, and who is well versed in the various kinds of animals naturally grows to be a more compassionate and gentle child and adult.
  5. Read- read, read, read!  Read labels, books, magazines, signs, and fill the child’s head full of adventures and stories.  Give them a love for reading early.  Visit the library, read to them on your lap, just read.  This is special time for the child and for you and the libraries will forever hold a place in that child’s heart.

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There are many more things, manners, cooking, chores, things that we have Maryjane do as well, but the above five are easy and effective ways to homeschool whether one chooses to send their child to school or not.  There is always the opportunity to reach out to a child and make a difference in their self-esteem and in their learning.

The Homestead Pinafore (Mennonite treasures)

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Over two years ago a fellow blogger, Eileen, and I sewed aprons for one another and sent them across the country to each other.  I made her a half apron with beautiful fabric with a chicken towel sewed on as pockets.  She sent me a Mennonite style apron since she lives near a large community.  She wanted to make me something that I wouldn’t have and indeed this apron was a great gift to me and one that I have never seen replicated.

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It reminds me of the pinafore on the front of Raggedy Ann’s dress and pinafores were always a pretty accessory to the occasional dress I had growing up.  I wondered what the difference was between a pinafore and an apron.  A pinafore comes from “pin a fore” or pin the apron to the front of the dress such as the Amish do.  Then it came to be understood as an apron that had two arm holes and covered a large part of the dress.  It turns out a pinafore is another form of an apron.  So, I naturally love it.

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I’ve touted it before, aprons are an important accessory for any farmgirl.  They can make an ordinary outfit look different every time one wears it.  They keep one’s dress clean so one doesn’t have to do laundry as often (yea!).  There are pockets so that one can find their keys, pocket knife, tissue, phone, gardening trowel, small toys, clothes pins, and eggs from the coop.  (Just remember to take the eggs out when you get in to the house!)

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I probably strike folks as a bit different with my long skirts and aprons but fashion should hint at one’s personality and passions, not on what companies want to sell that season.  I get many compliments about my aprons from adults and I overhear young people whispering to their friends that they love the way I dress.  Yesterday at the farmer’s market a vendor said that she had seen more people with aprons on.  Fabulous!

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My beautiful apron that Eileen had given me had seen child’s tears, gardening dirt, held a dying chicken, was stained with goat placenta, had been covered in flour, had been worn around our homestead, then to our new temporary one, to now.  I asked Eileen if she would sew me a few more.  Apparently Eileen hates to sew.  She had a solution though!  I sent an extremely fair price to her to give her Mennonite neighbor who had loaned her the pattern in the first place and her daughters made me five of the most beautiful aprons/pinafores I have ever seen.

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A gift beyond measure.  I cannot wait to wear them on my next homestead! (and today….I’ll wear one today!)

Lazy Days of Summer (a new experience for these farmers)

We’ll be getting a homestead soon.  Farmgirl school isn’t done.  In fact, it may be just getting revved up.  We have really been enjoying our summer.  We can’t remember the last time we had weekends and so much time in the summer sun to play and restore.  We’ll be soaking up every last bit of this season and saving it to memory.  Hope all of you reading this are having a relaxing, inspiring, and sunny summer.  Keep the good times rolling!

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Mountains and Ditches

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I read an excerpt that asked the reader, “What would the title of your life be.”  I thought about it for a moment.  My life has been up and down.  My circumstances have dictated that I am either in the depths of despair face down in a ditch or atop most beautiful and inspiring mountain.  “That’s it!” I thought, Mountains and Ditches; the Story of an Eclectic Life! 

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This recent ditch was a doozy, as we pulled ourselves out of the muck and pulled our faces over the edge we could see the most beautiful mountain we have climbed yet.  My, the awe inspiring view was spectacular.  Here we are making our ascent through thick woods that impede our view but that are keeping us safe and comforted with sounds of bird song and a meandering path dotted with pieces of wisdom.  Around each bend are people that we know, oh so many of them, all with outstretched hands.  Coffee cups and meals are gifted and shelter and encouragement put in our pack.  Pieces of the path lining up here and there as we focus on our journey through the pines, the occasional barb grabbing at us but then the fresh air and life leading us forward.

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We turn a bend and someone helps my husband try to get a job, puts in a word, makes a recommendation, or simply utters a prayer for us.  We come across a stream and the crystal clear waters glisten and refresh.  We celebrate when I get offered a job at the library that works around my hours with the baby.  We walk on and enter a meadow.  A vast field of warmth and sunflowers and there are our friends willing to build us a shelter, one we can keep, and we are so overwhelmed and blessed that tears of joy water our view as we sit to rest on this mountain.

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A letter in the mail brings ever more tears to our eyes with generosity that we did not expect but sorely needed.  The stars twinkle overhead and occasionally the wind howls with threats from the ditch below but we turn our faces to the stars and keep walking up our new mountain.  The mourning dove still sounds her song but glimpses of the eagle soaring overhead bring us peace and smiles.  It’s been so sweet to see so many of you around bends and trees.  Thanks for journeying with us.  May your mountain be filled with sweet birdsong and fresh air today.

The J Bar CC Ranch (ghost stories and close stars)

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The JCC camp south of Elbert, Colorado is a scenic respite and memory making paradise for adults and children alike.  Doug was happy to show me around this lovely place.  Since the beginning of our relationship he has retold stories of campfires and close as your hand stars hanging from our large Colorado sky.

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There was a benefit run at the J Bar CC ranch camp at the end of the season and we took the opportunity to go out and walk the course so that Doug could show me in person the higher campgrounds and the breathtaking scenery.

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The Jewish Community Center in Denver owns the land and created a place for youth to enjoy the great mountainous high plains.  City children come from all around to partake in a few weeks of horseback riding, games, culture, field trips, activities, and good old fashioned camp.  My mind goes to one of my favorite movies with Haley Mills, “The Parent Trap” and their time at camp.

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The historic lodge and old buildings still stand.  Ghost stories, both real and imagined, fill this old camp.  The lodge was an old hiding place and respite for local outlaws along with the requisite brothel.  Several famous criminals had crossed the path of this place.  There were elaborate tunnels underneath the buildings that the unsavory characters would hide in when the posse came.  One day many of the outlaws were hidden when a thundering number of posse and horses came with a surprise sting.  The weight caused the tunnels to collapse.  When the great prairie dust settled the outlaws were dead and their spirits still haunt the grounds.

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One night Doug and two other camp counselors were walking in the night between buildings when a wind picked up, gathered strength above the towering trees and swooped down and through them with a great scream leaving the young staff members shocked and pale.  Walking into the lodge I felt a notable uneasy feeling.

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The good vibrations far outweigh the ghost stories and children’s laughter fills the air.  The grandeur Ponderosas, rock ledges and prairie grass paths, the wild life and vast wild flowers thanks to the temperate climate and rain this year.  The JCC Ranch is an enchanting place and a place that fills Doug with fond memories and recollection.

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We went a few weeks ago for Friday night dinner (Shabbat) and took Miss Maryjane with us.  Children ran from cabin to cabin, staff members of all ages walked about keeping smiling order while a goat happily munched on hay.  Maryjane went wild.  Children, goats, dogs, the great outdoors, that child was in heaven.  She found the directors’ eighteen month old daughter and sat with her at the outdoor service holding their song books upside down and smiling and singing along with the older children.  She danced wildly after dinner on the basketball court with the children under the stars.  The director said that perhaps the girls will share a bunk one day.  The camp isn’t inexpensive so we just nodded but if there were an opportunity for Maryjane to go, I think she would love it.  The camp is Jewish but everyone is welcome.

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We certainly felt welcome on our two visits.  Such a beautiful place and peace accompanies its trails and the people are warm and friendly.  Doug felt instantly at home.  The place was good for our spirits.  Maybe we will visit Maryjane there in a few years!

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