Dawali and the Reusable Mug

 

forestWe stepped into the old stone house, its dark hallways lightened by small windows.  The older man with the white beard welcomed us, tall and Sean Connery-esqe.  He offered us a free farm, his kind eyes gazing softly at us.  We giddily agreed to see this beautiful place that we have dreamed of.  We had to take a small plane to get there.  It seemed to be a quick trip.  The lush green around us was welcoming.  Herbs and plants, grassy fields, tall mountains greeted us.  Vibrant green and fresh.  A group of sheep preceded by two small dogs approached us gleefully.  They stood before a large fenced garden patch waiting to be tilled and seeded.  That was when we realized it.  They weren’t real.  They were almost robotic in movement.  The animals were copies of the ones we fondly raised on our last farm.

Confused we went for a walk in this strange place.  We kneeled near a cliff and looked down at the shining waters, deep and mysterious as fish swam through the clear waves.  Suddenly several cars and RVs came driving over the water.  The water was not water after all but a copy.  A water-like surface that was actually hard and became a parking lot as the artificial fish floated mechanically.

I opened envelopes.  One from my sister.  One from my grandparents.  They contained photos.  Photos of our life.  Of things on earth so that our future generations would not forget what it was like on earth.  Someone yelled from a cave.  “Don’t tell anyone else know about this place!  Too many people are coming here!”  No birds could be seen.

We had destroyed Earth.  The animals, the plant life, our lives had been destroyed and now rushes of humans came to occupy this new planet called Dawali.  I was sad.  We cried.  We desperately tried to get back to Earth so we could warn everyone.

I awoke.

The sun shone through the window illuminated by the newly fallen snow.  The mountains in a cloudy mist.  Doug was making coffee and the gas fireplace created an artificial glow.

I thought of the waste created from one commercial store, the overflowing dumpsters near our apartment complex and times it by a billion.

On a homestead I felt secure with my wind powered clothes line.  My hand washed clothes and dishes.  Our carbon neutral wood heat.  Our huge gardens and preserves.  How can I make an impact from my third floor apartment?

I firmly believe in the power of the elements and that we will not destroy Mother Earth but rather we will feel the impact of our mindless decisions.  Cancer, illnesses, natural disasters, whatever it takes to lower the population and protect our resources are out of our hands.  I must be more mindful.  It is far too easy to throw out a bag of trash for the valet trash service.  Or to drive when I can walk.  Or not take a reusable mug around with me.  What are some things we can do to help sustain our Mother?  Our food, our medicine, our life stems from her chest, our bodies return to her soil.  We must become more respectful of our Mother.  I intend to be more mindful.  I hope you will join me.

 

 

 

10 Ways to Be Happier

Happiness.  Happiness is one of those things that can elude as quickly as it comes.  Particularly now that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is settling into our bones and spirits, are there ways to assure happiness?  To establish a sort of hardly wavering inner peace?

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Here are some things that can be incorporated into our lives to help make happiness a more prevalent constant.

1. Keep a gratitude journal.  Write down five things each morning or night (Or by golly if it’s that bad, day and night!) that you are thankful for.  I did not think this would work but am amazed at how such a simple act can really change one’s attitude.  It will begin simple and perhaps grumbly or rather broad.  Thanks for my catThanks for my coffee.  I am thankful for my family.  But it will quickly turn into I am thankful for the soft fur of my cat against my cheek.  For the early morning sunrise and the strong cup of coffee to revive me.  For the sweet texts that I receive from so and so… There is much to be thankful for.

2. Meditate in the mornings.  Seriously, meditate for 25 seconds. Whatever.  I look out at the beautiful mountain peak with ribbons of lavender and rose iced across its tall stature and close my eyes.  I think of a word.  Light.  Peace.  Love.  Forgiveness.  I try not to venture off of that word.  Deep breaths.  It changes the whole game.  Yoga is a great practice to add to this.

3. Become self reliant.  Listen, it would have been real easy for Doug and I to fall into the depths of despair for a much longer span of time.  We could have gone on government assistance, picked up our food stamps, and done the whole woe is me for a lot longer.  But instead we became determined.  We have the ability to work and we work hard.  Doug got a job.  He was not able to get back into the well paying field he was in.  He is working for slightly more than minimum wage.  We opened the shop on faith.  After being homeless for seven months it would have been easy to lose faith.  Don’t lose faith.  And don’t lose faith in yourself!  We are buying fresh, delicious food.  We got an apartment.  We gave up a car.  We are making it work.  It would be too easy to keep up the blame game and feel sorry for ourselves.  Happiness reveals itself in self reliance.

4. Become the Queen of Swords.  Okay, this one might require a bit of explaining. I have a dear friend, a Hopi elder, a wise man, who explained to me that I am imbalanced.  When making a decision I will first consider the feelings of not just everyone around but the impact on dogs in Italy and the children of Kenya.  I will worry everything to death.  What will my decisions cause?  I then will consider my passions.  I will finally think of what is the best decision for me and then lastly money.  I need to be the Queen of Swords! he says.  I must balance my decisions.  To make a swift and sound decision that benefits myself is unheard of to me.  But important. We give until we are depleted. We must begin to make decisions based on our own needs.  If we are well and balanced everything else around us will fall in line.  It is NOT our responsibility to ensure happiness and fairness or to take care of the entire world for everyone.  It is only our responsibility to live our life fully, be kind, and take care of ourselves first so that we can care practically and fully for others.

5. Do more of what you love.  Instead of being so busy caring for others, making ends meet, doing chores, doing what we think we ought to be doing, we ought to be coloring, or painting, or gardening, or singing karaoke, or eating out, or hiking, or…. We are not guaranteed 84.5 years.  Each breath, each moment is an opportunity to do what we love.

6. Get outside.  Therapy is cheaper in nature.  Get outside, walk along Mother Nature’s trails, listen to the birds, see an eagle fly, smell a ponderosa tree while the sap is rising, watch chipmunks scatter, smell the rain coming, touch a fuzzy mullein leaf.  Know that our life’s problems are rather mundane and we are connected to all things.

7. Connect with Spirit.  Your idea of God, Creator, or Spirit is exactly right.  Your connection with Spirit is written in each of your cells.  Worship with smudge herbs and a feather, with the Bible, with a candle, with a whisper of thanks, or by picking up trash.  Be connected.  Whatever your version is.

8.  Surround yourself with folks that inspire you, who love you, who make you happy.  Just because you are related to someone does not mean you have to have them in your life.  Our people enter our lives in many ways.  Since we only have so much time to offer, spend it with those that bring you up.

9.  Spend time with an animal.  A pet can truly bring joy and peace.  We take our minds off of ourselves for a moment every time we stroke the soft fur of a purring cat or take a happy dog for a walk.

10.  Watch what you put in your body.  Its mineral and vitamin content, or lack or, it’s source, it’s way of getting to you, all make a difference.  Eating powerful food gives you power.  Our mood can be directly related to the candy bar we ate instead of the avocado.  There are also herbs that help with anxiety and more severe sadness.  Find a real herbalist to make them for you (not a health food store).  St. John’s Wort, Borage, and Lemon Balm are just a few.

These are tried and true ways to add joy to your life.  To ensure happiness.  It is easier to get back to happiness when we are wavering or side tracked once you incorporate these.  Start with just a few.  Add more on.  Do what you can but ensure that happiness becomes a part of your life.  You are worth it.

 

 

 

A Feast for the Senses on an Urban Homestead

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I put the kettle on. I am oddly consoled flipping the switch to turn on the fireplace. The sound of the dryer after nine years naught reverberates softly. I sip tea and watch the moon drift silently away above the rose hued mountain top in the early morning dawn. What shall I do now in my third floor apartment looking over the city blocks and the glorious mountain range? There are no chickens to tend to. No young lambs following on my skirts. No goats in need of milking. No ducks swimming in their icy pond. What shall we do?

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I positively glow at the sight of my kitchen. It is a beautiful, large expanse of creative space waiting for dinner parties and garnishes. For finishing touches of truffle salt and a sip of local Cabernet. It calls for melting butter and the smell of homemade bread. It speaks of decades of cookbooks and articles, of sustenance and my internal need to cook. Nay, create. Cooking is meatloaf every Tuesday. I have never made the same thing twice. I can be the entranced chef I long to be and still be in bed by nine.

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There are community gardens close by. My bicycle and basket yet to be purchased await and I can already feel the breeze against my warmed cheek as the summer sun heats the pavement as I whir past the buildings. Fresh produce overflows my carrier. I am planning a traditional Cherokee garden complete with language. Sacred sunflowers, the three sisters….more. Agaliha. Selu. Watsigu.

What shall we do here in our third floor apartment? Let’s cook. Let’s be chefs and farmers, shall we? Let’s preserve. Let’s not just can corn; let’s make relishes and marmalades and chutneys and more. Let’s create.

What’s that old saying? I think I have quoted it a time or two, Grow Where Planted!

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off To the City We Go

 

apartmentOver the years I have written about how to homestead and I always include those in apartments.  For urban farming is not only possible, but probably easier.  I can still can and preserve.  I will get a plot at the community garden. (I’ll have some community garden plot, eh?!)  I can turn raw milk from a share into cheese.  I can grow herbs on the balcony.  I can also ride my bicycle around town and walk most places.  How cute will I be on my bike with my basket of produce from my garden plot riding to my home just a few blocks away?

Doug and I had decisions to make.  We could stay with our friend and pay lower rent plus housework and save up.  I am indebted to our friends for their kindnesses and keeping Doug and I off the streets last year.  But, y’all know how much Martha Stewart I like to channel and it may seem strange and maybe some folks won’t understand but I need a place to nest.  To decorate.  I need a home.

We thought about farming on our friend’s property for a  year but decided that we have continually put out all of our available resources to improve other folks’ property and then have to leave and enough is enough.  We will save money for a farm and in a few years perhaps will sit on our own piece of property but in the meantime, it just makes us sad.  No farm and no place to nest?

We are moving to a beautiful apartment on the top floor facing west with a balcony and some perks this farmgirl has not had in a long time.  Dishwasher, dryer, gas fireplace, holy smokes, people!  I’m gonna get spoiled!

It’s just a few blocks from Doug’s work and walking distance to everything.  Twenty-five minutes to my shop.  Close to the kids, friends, and the library!

We feel like we are eighteen years old again.  Moving out with a double bed and a table.  Hoping we can afford it all.  Excited to be together in our own place.

So here’s to our new adventure and urban homesteading (while drinking a glass of wine by the gas fireplace).  The next chapter begins…

 

 

 

Irony and Good Reading

How ironic is it that we have to save up money to become backwoods homesteaders living below the poverty line?

It almost makes me laugh.  Almost.

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Ah, to keep my mind off of eternal questions like that I read.

What are your favorite books?  Here is a list of some of my favorite reads.  I would love to hear yours.

  1. Made From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life by Jenna Woginrich started me on this journey.
  2. Followed by Barnheart; The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own again by Jenna Woginrich
  3. And her latest- One Woman Farm; My Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chickens, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle. 
  4. A Diary of Dixie by Mary Boykin Chestnut are her true memoirs written in the midst of the Civil War.  Fascinating!
  5. Medicine of the Cherokee by J.T. Garrett is filled with stories, history, and wisdom.
  6. The Good,Good Pig; The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery was heartwarming and fun.
  7. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls are a wealth of homesteader knowledge.
  8. Poetry by Robert Frost, Maya Angelo, and Mary Oliver…

There are so many more I have loved and enjoyed….share with all of us your favorites!  Winter is the time to catch up on reading and planning.

 

 

 

The Gratitude Journal and Poem a Day

 

Can an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety cure be found in a journal?  $280 to apply for an apartment.  Run down trailers for rent for $1500.  The 10,000 people coming to Colorado every month for tech jobs and weed are making us Coloradoans struggle to live here.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed about the next step.  Is it in another state?  Is it here?  Is a miracle around the corner?  Is…whoo!  No wonder I have been taking so much of my herbal anti-anxiety that we make in our charming shop!

I decided to start a gratitude journal.  So cliché, I thought.  What am I going to write?  I don’t have much to be grateful for.  The first few were the basics, my husband, my kids, my coffee.  But now they delve deeper.  The feel of my kitten’s fur against my cheek in the morning.  Maryjane saying, “I love you, Grammie.”  The deer outside the door.  The customers that trust me to help their family with their health.  So much to be thankful for.  I find that I am less anxious in the mornings.  I am even…happy.  The dawn seems brighter.  The coffee tastes better.

I also gave myself a challenge to write a poem every morning.  The beginning ones were sad and simple.  One paragraph, sometimes no rhyming at all.  Now they are elaborate stories or sweet inspirations.

I encourage you to purchase a beautiful journal.  Gratitude. Poetry.  Memories.  Trust me, you will be glad you did.

The Powwow

The drum beat sounded

of heartbeat and womb

the dancers took their place

Their colors swayed in grace

and pride

Their feathers told stories

as their leathered feet

rose and fell softly on Mother Earth’s breast

Singing in tones unheard

in other cultures

whirled the sound into reverie

Every drum beat my heart

every step my ancestors’ lives

every note a page in history.

 

 

 

Freezing Produce (it’s not too late to preserve!)

 

IMG_2344Lest one would think that our homesteading duties are through until spring, I must correct.  Now granted, if I had had the prolific garden I thought I would have had I would have long before now canned a year’s worth of peppers, but as life would have it, I did not.  And down to the last two jars is no laughing matter.  So when my dear friend, Lisa, handed over boxes of produce that Whole Foods did not deem sellable (Gee, they look like they’ll cook up just fine to me!), I practically ran from her kitchen laughing maniacally all the way to mine.  Homesteading personalities can be a bit peculiar and they do tend to show themselves in times of seeming triumph.  A box of peppers and mushroom and other goodies awaited the knife.

Save for the balmy outdoor temperature of precisely zero, my kitchen looked like summer.  Homesteaders must be thrifty.  It is the only way.  And if one should find items on sale that look great still, do grab them.

I chose to freeze these beauties.  Cut in half then finish pulling apart.  Remove the seed ball, seeds, pith, et cetera and chop into fine chunks.  When your hand gets tired and you find yourself rather bored just cut them in half, seed them and throw them in freezer bags.  Now, I have always taught you to freeze them on cookie sheets first, always.  They come apart easily and cleanly.  But should you find yourself with a  very small, very full freezer then just bag two chopped peppers in each sandwich bag and pile the halves into a gallon bag.  You will have to pry them apart but then they are quite easy to cut up frozen with kitchen shears.  Do what you can, you may have a ton of mushrooms to do next!

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A full freezer equals a happy new year.  I wish you all that and much, much more.