Imbolc- Following the Agricultural Calendar

The agricultural calendar has eight farming and community holidays and celebrations making a wheel.  Every six or so weeks is a corresponding holiday that helps denote the time of year and gives us space to receive blessings and to show gratitude.  These holidays are Celtic historically but they are celebrated still.  The first of these holidays in the year is Imbolc.  Pronounced im-bowl-g.  It begins the eve of February 1st and sometimes goes until February 2nd.  It is not too late to bring back some of our most beloved traditions and wisdom.

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It is interesting to note that in each culture around the world, the gods and goddesses looked very similar and had similar roles.  Brigid is the goddess of spring.  She brings back the light of the sun.  She awakens Mother Earth to warm and bring spring.  She travels through the night on January 31st blessing articles of clothing that are left outdoors.  In her wake life is sparked. 

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Now as Christianity came rolling through, destroying cultures and people in its wake, the church demanded that the peasants (another word for peasant is Pagan) stop worshipping gods and goddesses.  But the people so adored Brigid that the Catholic church finally made her a saint so that the people would at least be praying to a saint.  St. Brigit was born.  Her Celtic cross is not a crucifix, it is a symbol of the four directions. 

Imbolc is one of four fire festivals.  The elements are revered in every original culture for their power to destroy and renew.  Fire warms, awakens, enlivens, brings life. 

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Imbolc translates to “In the belly” or “Ewe’s milk” depending on text and is the celebration of lambs being born.  Fiber, milk, and meat were of course ways of survival before we could truly choose compassion completely.  This is a time to bless seeds.  And each day gets a little longer and a little warmer and gives us hope for spring and a break from the cold. 

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Ways to Celebrate and Prepare

Sweep out the house and set out a bouquet of fresh flowers. 

Mix in a small spray bottle a blend of essential oils along with witchhazel or vodka to suspend.  Try lavender, cedar, sage, orange, frankincense, sandalwood, vanilla, rose, or other intoxicating, cleansing scents and smudge your home and yourself with the oil spray.  Your house will smell fresh, negativity will be released, and a fresh start will commence.

This evening, start a fire or light a candle.  Ask Mother Earth and Brigid and Creator to bless your seeds and gardens. 

Prepare a glass of warm almond milk with herbs steeped in it like lavender or green tea and enjoy before the fire. 

Place a scarf or hat or other article of clothing outdoors to be blessed. 

In our world of science and seriousness, we have lost the enchantment of what was.  People would not have been doing these traditions and celebrating these holidays for thousands of years if there was nothing to them.  Accept your blessings, feel renewed, and enjoy the warmth of Imbolc. 

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Winter Book List 2019

I am done reading seed catalogues for the season.  I got my extensive order in and am dreaming and scheming up all sorts of garden plans.  From indoors, on my sofa, with a cup of great coffee and my sleeping farm dog who doesn’t love cold.  All that dreaming aside, this is the time for catching up on projects or reading.  Otherwise one might be prone to give in to seasonal affective disorder and crying until spring.  I have lots of books and plenty to do around her to get me through until spring crops.

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#1 #Do Not Disturb; How I Ghosted My Cell Phone To Take Back My Life by Jedediah Bila was a must.  I try to put my damn phone down long enough to read it.  When I was young (“Oh here we go…” I can hear you say.) we could not have even fathomed such a thing.  A phone without a cord?  A phone that you can take with you?  The computers had math games on them.  There was no Google, we had encyclopedias and libraries.  When the first shoe box sized phone came out in my great aunt’s fancy car, I couldn’t believe it.  So, to say that I am not sure how much time I lose checking email, texts, instagram, facebook, and googling things is beyond my scope of imagination.  I have eye strain, anxiety, and I see the detriment these things have brought our society.  Where children and spouses are ignored, personas are created, and time disappears.  Yes, I am reading this book!

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#2 Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Ngugen is magnificently written with captivating prose and such convincing characters and scenarios that I am tempted to google what is fact and fiction as the narrative is so convincing in this Little House on the Prairie obsessed novel.  Read it!  You will love it.

Also on my list to start-

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#3 Mud Season; How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont Raising Children, Chickens, and Sheep & Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another by Ellen Stimson- I checked this book out many years ago from the library and I am not sure why I didn’t get very far in it.  Did another book show up that I wanted to read more, was it not interesting?  I don’t know but the plot sounds fun so I will start it soon.  I have a friend who did just this, left and went to a small town, a place in the country, and started a farm and café in Vermont.  Perhaps she read this book!

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#4 My Gentle Barn; Creating a Sanctuary Where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope by Ellie Laks- I follow this beautiful sanctuary on social media and I am looking forward to going there via the pages of this memoir.  My small sanctuary that I told you I was starting last year has come to be and eventually we want land where we can welcome more animals so reading first hand the pros and cons and ins and outs and triumphs will be a lovely way to learn.

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#5 Grow the Good Life; Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise by Michele Owens- You don’t have to tell me twice!  I am well aware of the powers of the garden, but I love reading other’s accounts, often hilarious and educational.

I have a few other memoirs ready to start as well and I hope no one requests them at the library so I have time to read all of them!  Wishing you great reading this cold winter season.  What are your favorite books right now?  Respond in the comments so we all have more books to look into!

How to Treat Parasites and Infections in Chickens (and other animals)

The chicks that we brought home were rescued by brave volunteers that worked parallel to the killing crew that came in and snapped thousands of necks by hand.  It is amazing that these chickens have lived this long.  And it might be amazing if all of them make it another month.  Some are stronger than others.  One of our girls has beautiful, sleek outer feathers and a sweet filled-in face while another is smaller than the others with a deformed shoulder and a terrible cold.

The easiest way to treat chickens is with tea in their water.  They all love their water and don’t mind the taste of the herbs.  The infusion works quickly, so I expect whoever is going to survive is going to be well by the end of the week.  No more parasites, E coli, viruses, or infections.  You can use this same technique to treat other animals as well.

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In a saucepan combine 1 Tablespoon of each loose herb-

pine needles

mint

rosemary

eucalyptus

goldenseal and

3 cloves of garlic

You could also use/sub in:

Walnut shells

Oregon grape root

echinacea

mugwort

juniper berries

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We are using a blend of herbs that are anti-parasitic and antibacterial.  Bring to a boil with 4 cups of water and simmer (decoct) for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and let continue to infuse.  Pour 1/2 cup of infusion into small water bowl if chicks are in your guest room or the whole thing (herbs and all) into a large waterer if you are treating a whole flock.

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I cut up a pumpkin and placed it in their little pen.  They also get a tablespoon of cinnamon mixed into their feed twice a day.

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Right now we have seven chickens taking up the guest room.  I don’t want them to freeze, nor do I want them to get the other chickens sick.  In their infirmary, they are snuggled together, eating, drinking, or singing.  We take turns holding each one each day so that they get used to contact.  My cat, Frankie, loves to snuggle on my lap when I am holding the chicks.  We have a fun, little farm here.

Field Trip to an Animal Sanctuary (and saving chicks)

We loaded up the cat kennel in the Fiat (our urban farm vehicle) and headed hours north.  Through our old county, our old town, past our old farmhouse, and down the Kiowa-Bennett road.  The prairie is breathtaking even in winter.  Golden strands peek through layers of snow as the sun glistens across the vast expanse of country.  The western sky a watery blue stretching far and wide.  Singing to country music on the radio and a good feeling in our hearts, we drove towards Danzig’s Roost, a rooster and animal Sanctuary in Bennett, Colorado.

 

Sometimes the carefully protected public get glimpses inside factory farms.  What we consider family, humane, free range, and all the other marketing words that help sell meat is all a façade of chicken houses crammed with suffering birds and sometimes people are able to get a peek at those and the whole operation is exposed.  The huge chick rescue in northern Colorado this month made the news and raised thousands for resourceful sanctuaries.  But then so often apathy returns and people continue their habits.  Sad that animals are suffering, but unwilling to omit them from their plate.

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We were on our way to take home some of those rescued birds.  Chickens are snuggly, sweet, and have all different personalities.  One of the chicks we brought home is tiny, fluffy, and sings day and night like she is singing her songs of thanks to the heavens.  She doesn’t like to be put down.  As it happens, we went to get between four and six birds and ended up with seven, soft, white babies.  They are in the guest room.  They have every disease you can think of from parasites, E coli, to upper respiratory infections.  That is what is in meat.  I am treating them with my herbs.  So far they are thriving.  These lucky few were saved and will live their life here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm dust bathing, getting treats, and sitting in the sun or on our laps.

We are only allowed poultry in Pueblo but one day we will have land where we can take in more animals, save more lives, do what we can.  But every life counts.

Jewel Straightedge runs the sanctuary that we picked the chicks up from.  She has, what looks to be, hundreds of roosters that she has rescued.  Two calves with big, heartbreaking eyes are from the dairy down the road.  The little girl fights to live.  Darling sheep and goats and geese that clearly know the friend that rescued them all add to the raucous singing of the farm.  Turkeys strut about.  The wind picks up and turns cold and we hasten our tour.

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Jewel and her team rescued over six hundred chicks from the thousands and thousands that were being inhumanely killed and dying without food and water.  With the swift turn in weather, we help her chase hundreds of chicks trying to get them back into their warm enclosure.  It is every bit as hilarious as it sounds.  We are happy as we head back towards home.

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Winter’s Song

I love springtime and the return of the birds.  The warm sun on my face, my hands in the soil.  I do love seed packets and promises of gardens galore.  I love tree blossoms and flowers and bees and more.

I love summer and all the fun to be had.  The gardens and watering.  Fresh peas off the vine and corn growing high.  I love the long days and al fresco meals.  I love the way the hot sun feels.

I love autumn and its flurry of work.  Harvesting, preserving, the fatigue that comes.  The colors, the holidays the promises of rest.  The smell of wood smoke and coffee and warm blankets ’round the fire.

In my hurry to get back to spring, I was stopped in my tracks.  I checked on the chickens all warm in their house.  Big flakes of snow were falling suddenly from the sky.  The smell was so fresh.  The coolness livened my skin after the warm house within.  Such quiet descended as the flurries went on.  Just birds in the trees trying to keep warm.  Chirping and singing, they had quite a time.  As the flurries of fluffy snow came tumbling down, resting on trees and the sleeping ground.

Winter songs are of rest and peace.  Of cleansing and warmth.  Of cold and restoration.  This time I treasure for its ability to calm.  I am enjoying my hibernation.  Ready to be out in the garden beds in no time.  But in the meantime, the house is warm, the coffee’s hot, the snow is falling, and all is still.  Winter whispers, “Take a breath.”

What the World Eats (and being aware of what we eat!)

I saw the photo montage go by on my Facebook feed of What the World Eats.  Each photograph of a family in a different country with all the food that they eat in a week.  It took me by surprise, really.  Many of the countries that I thought would have healthier food choices did not.  And the ones that I would consider healthy had little more than five bags of staples like beans and rice.  What really astounded me though was the sheer amount of processed food.  My goodness, big companies have made their way around the world.  One photo showed liters and liters of Pepsi.  Packages of pre-cut meats.  Boxes and boxes of processed foods.  And some produce.  It made me think, What am I eating? What would our photograph look like?

Just for a day I began photographing my meals.

When we had our practically off-grid farm there for a bit, we were practically self-sufficient.  We had a root cellar filled with fruits and vegetables.  A freezer full of local meat and my own cheese curing from my own goats.  What that photo wouldn’t show is all the food that went to feed the animals that I consumed.  (Nor would it show the chronic heartburn, weight gain, and gout.)  What do I eat now? was a question that would ultimately help me see what I could make myself and just how much processed food I consumed.

Breakfast- I love a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  I buy the organic box of raisin granola for $4-$5 and it feeds me for five days with roughly four cups of cereal in the box.  I wrote a book many years ago called, Gone Vegan, and I pulled out that trusty manual to find my old granola recipe.  It is so good and it made doubled the granola in roughly 40 minutes for a fraction of the price.  One less box I need to send to recycling and one less plastic insert that goes in the trash.

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Homemade Granola

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 6 cups of oats with 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 T pumpkin pie spice, and 3/4 cup of canola, sunflower, or safflower oil, and a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Spray a cookie sheet with oil and after mixing all ingredients well, pour onto cookie sheet.  Drizzle with agave or maple syrup.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.  Then add 1 cup of nuts and 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit (I used pecans, raisins, and cranberries) and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.  Stir a few times after it comes out of the oven as it’s cooling to keep it from sticking or clumping.

Now, this is delicious with almond milk.  And indeed, I can make my own cashew, hemp, or almond milk.  But, I usually buy the carton because it lasts longer.

Lunch- For lunch I had a power smoothie.  My Vitamix is ten years old (a new one is on my wish list) so I have to juice the big stuff first.  I put in the juicer a large leaf of aloe, 3 apples, 3 carrots, a big handful of chard, and a chunk of ginger and turmeric.  Then I poured that into the Vitamix and added a big banana, spirulina, maca, hemp protein powder, pumpkin pie spice, frozen berries, a dollop of both peanut butter and coconut oil.  A drizzle of maple syrup or agave and on the machine goes.  I split it in half and send my husband with his tomorrow in his lunch and drink my half with a few crackers and vegan cream cheese and jam that I preserved.  I could certainly make my own crackers but they aren’t quite as good as organic Ritz style.  But maybe I will work on that this week!  I do buy packaged vegan cheeses and meats.  The packaging is far less waste than the actual act of raising meat and dairy and the karmic value of going vegan is astronomical as well as the lessened impact on the environment.

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Dinner- Pizza with a homemade, 15 minute crust.  I topped it with my own preserved tomato sauce, vegan mozzarella and cream cheese, a ton of spices, and a bunch of delicious vegetables.

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The next night we had vegan carne asada with crisp oven fries, cashew queso, Beyond Meat crumbles, guacamole, tomatoes, and homemade red chile.

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The Big Picture– Well, I have a bit to go, don’t I?  But being aware is the first step to doing better.  So, yes, we use some packaged items and some of them could be made and some of them are the lesser of evils.  But produce is a large part of our diet and so are healthy grains.  I grow all of our produce for the four months we garden and I preserve a few hundred jars of produce a year.  This year with my expanded gardens and vertical gardening techniques, I hope to produce doubled what I have been.  This continues to increase our nutrition intake and lessen our footprint even more.  Preparing more ethnic dishes, like Indian and Mexican food allows the use of more beans and pulses, further increasing our health, and costs less environmentally and monetarily.

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Vegan cheesecake with homemade chokecherry sauce

As Americans especially, we have a lot of unwiring to do.  I hope in a year or so to look more like the family from Guatemala (sans meat) then the one from America.

http://time.com/8515/hungry-planet-what-the-world-eats/

 

 

The Powerful Healer- Part 1- Mornings, Gratitude, and the Seven Directions Prayer

This week on Dancing With Feathers, I will be writing about different ways each day to regain and maintain good direction, peace, and joy in your daily life. If you are a healer, these are ways to really get strong and balanced.

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Healers all look very different.  A mother is surely a healer.  A doctor.  An Acupuncturist.  A friend who is there in time of need.  Then there are different kinds of healers.

I am a medicine keeper.  I had four readings yesterday at the same time.  Two lovely couples drove two and three hours, respectively, to see me.  In my work, I delve into the minds and bodies of those that come to visit me.  I see illnesses, bruises, cancerous cells, heartbreak.  I fall backwards into the past and see violence and abuse and the reason the illnesses came. I delve into the future to see where the path is leading so any words of wisdom that come through me (as opposed to from me) are one with sound guidance for the person’s Divine path.  I see their children, their children’s children, joy, fear, their life.

One reading is tiring, four is…

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Our Farmstead Goes Solar

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Our farm began in an old house on two-thirds of an acre backing to the fairgrounds in a small, country town that will remain beloved to us for all time.  There on our rented mini-farm we watched goats, chickens, alpacas, and ducks play in the back yard, grew so many pumpkins in the front yard that people speeding down the street slammed on their brakes to take a better look, and we farmed the rest of the driveway.  We fell in love with oil lamps in that house.  The sweet glow of old fashioned light as we read in the evenings.  The gentle tick-tocking from the cuckoo clock on the wall letting us know the time as the stars came out and the moon rose.

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The landlords were losing the house but we found an amazing farm on ten acres where we would live in a late eighteen-hundred’s homestead on the property near the owner’s own house.  We had a wood cook stove to heat the house and cook on.  For a few months in the warm autumn of that year the world looked enchanted indeed.  We plotted a large garden, and gathered three cords of wood.  The chickens and goats were far from the house and we missed seeing them.  That winter we mastered the art of starting a fire while the house was thirty-seven degrees.  We quickly realized that the small firebox was not going to help and put in a large wood stove with our own money.  Of course, many of you know the ending of that dreadful tale.  We were forced to leave after putting every penny into that farm.

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So from friend’s house to friend’s house we went until we had enough saved to get into a beautiful, decidedly on-grid apartment.  That year was fun using a switch to turn on the fireplace, turning the heat up, basking in a large tub.  But the cement gets to a Farmgirl and it was time to see what was next.  Agricultural land was out of the question with the loan we qualified for.

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We found our homestead on the south side of a big-small town.  It’s big, but everywhere you go you see folks you know and I have never met friendlier people than here in Pueblo.  One third of an acre, an adobe shed with seven foot fencing made a fine chicken yard, wood floors for easy cleanup on what we knew would be our urban farm, and a wood stove held prominent position in the main room.  A root cellar holds hundreds of jars and the climate here allows for prolific gardening.  And dreaming.

The large grandfather clock keeps time, ticking regally and alerting us to each quarter hour and moon cycle.  The wood stove heats the house well, save for the back bedrooms.  We are constantly looking for ways to increase our sustainability.  How can we use less?  How can we spend less?  How can we show the beautiful earth that we are grateful?  And in return for our simplicity we find a peaceful existence of health and quiet joy.

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In the city, it is nearly impossible to be off the grid.  One can easily find one’s home condemned if attempted.  Composting toilets are against code.  City water is a given.  But there are still things we can do.  For us, the next step was solar power.  On that first farm, it would have been impossibly expensive (particularly for a rented home), but here on our very own home and in this time, it is absolutely practical and affordable. In fact, it cost us nothing.

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The solar company comes out and surveys your property, sees about light hitting the roof, and local zoning.  With a credit score of 650+ you get a loan for the amount of the solar panels, which was about $10,000.  $3000 is rebated back to you on your taxes.  We put nothing down.  The loan amount is the very same that we pay for electric every month so there is no change for us.  My neighbor’s electric bill is three times higher than ours, so she would save much, much more.  We pay a slight $8 charge to our utility company to “manage” our electricity.  Once the panels are paid off, we only pay the $8.  Our home value goes up as well.  The solar panels are flat against the roof and hardly noticeable at all.

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I have written many times how all of us really need to use less.  Wind energy is so destructive.  Obviously the power we have been creating with fracking and coal is detrimental.  Solar panels never decompose.  We can’t keep going on about the government and big oil.  We cannot stand around with our “Save the Earth” signs and not do something ourselves.  Solar was a great way for us to use considerably less resources, save thousands of trees, the equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road, and using Father Sun for our power “needs.”  (I guess refrigeration and internet are fun.)  And it is completely accessible.

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If you are in Colorado, call Peak View Solar.  Everyone was so friendly and easy to work with.  Elisa Harrelson, 719-387-7232.  They have a referral program so mention us when you call!  It will help me get my greenhouse going!

Other things you can do to help save resources:

Eliminate animal products from your diet.

Grow a huge garden, community garden, or support local farmers.

Buy organic.

Drive less- get a bicycle!

Don’t buy crap. You know you don’t need that.  Put it back and save the money for seeds!

A wood stove is carbon neutral.

Preserve your own food.

Go for a walk.  The more you are in nature, the more inclined you will be to not hurt her.

Be grateful for life.  Indeed we are lucky to be alive this day.  Happy farming!

Creating a Vision Board

I am so grateful for all of you lovely readers. This is my other blog, Dancing With Feathers. I would like to invite you to sign up to follow it if you are so inclined. It is where I write about my spiritual work and on all things heart centered and encouraging. This was yesterday’s post. My friends and I had so much fun creating these profound boards! Have an amazing day, Friends!

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It might look like just a few poster boards, glue sticks, and piles of magazines.  But there is power in deciding, creating, drawing out for the universe, and manifesting what you want your life to look like.  To take that power back!  To not let society or past notions dictate your day to day.

20190106_151647 My beautiful cousin creating.

My friends and I started a group of like-minded women and we meet once a month.  This month for the new moon and beginning of the year we got together to create vision boards.  Tina put out a spread of vegan cheeses, delicious dips, and crackers and Elizabeth brought sparkling apple cider.  Everyone pitched in bringing glue sticks, scissors, markers, and magazines.  We all found spots on tables or on the floor and began to create.  A silence descended for awhile as everyone thought about what they wanted.

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That is…

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Winter Evenings and What Are You Reading?

These cold days are quiet and sweet.  I am trying this year not to immediately begin pining for spring and planting season.  I figured I won’t even look at seed catalogues (oops) or plan out my garden (weeelll…), but I am enjoying the relaxation.  You know, spring and summer is filled with baby animals, and digging, and planting, and harvesting, and watering every day, and preserving, and weeding, and more!  Winter is for settling in and restoring.  In the spring and summer we get more done because the sun is out.  Right now in the freezing dark of suppertime we stay in.  What do you like to do on winter evenings?

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I am the self proclaimed rummy queen.  It’s probably best because I am terrible sport!  I used to play rummy with glasses of iced tea with my great-grandma.  I remember double decks and a large table of family playing at my grandma’s house.  I remember my cousin, Helen, teaching me how to play when I was eight years old on our way up to a cabin with my grandparents.  Doug grew up playing gin among other games.  Do folks play cards anymore?  After dinner the past several nights the shuffling of cards can be heard from our dimly lit kitchen table.  Laughter, music, and memories.

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Winter is also the time to catch up on books!  We love to read and we end every evening with reading and a cup of steaming tea.  Right now I am reading, Meeting the Medicine Man by Charles Langley.  It is out of print and I highly suggest you try to secure a copy off of Amazon.  It is fabulous.  I last read it ten years ago before I started working with medicine people.  It is a glimpse into the world of the Navajo and medicine people.  Of good and evil and the people that help keep the community safe and bring things back into balance.  What are you reading?

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My television is covered by a painting.  We rarely utilize it but for our favorite show (The Voice) and football and the occasional movie night.  It is more pleasant with it not being the center of attention.  We are able to converse more easily, make more memories, and enjoy the ease of these lovely winter evenings.