The Life of an Ordinary Woman (a fascinating book)

“To really learn about history, there is nothing quite as good as a memoir.”


This book. I am mesmerized as I turn the pages. I am transported to a time that few books have written about, particularly by women. What was it like during the mining booms? What was it like to live in the mountains in a time where corsets, trains, and horse drawn sleighs were the norm? One could read textbooks and proper dates and names, but to be transported there, a memoir is necessary.

I love memoirs about homesteading and farming (not to mention memoirs from the 1800’s or travel memoirs, or autobiographies- I just love to know about people) and I find that I learn so much more in tales of recollection than I do in DIY books. The Life of an Ordinary Woman by Anne Ellis is a fascinating and clear account of her life. She came to Colorado in a covered wagon. She was raised in a mining town. Her coming of age story speaks openly about her first love, her exasperation with her mother being with child all of the time, her accounts of helping to raise her siblings. The entertainment, decor, and lifestyles of this time are at the same time so different than our current lives, yet oddly similar.

This memoir spans from 1875 to 1918 but continues the dialogue in the introduction and in a second book. We read a lot of male accounts of history but this brave woman’s accounts showed me intimately just how damn hard it was back then. Anything we face in this day and age just cannot compare to the trials and every day dilemmas of that time. Her mother had a phrase when people were doing well, “They are having their white bread now.”

I had a dear friend when I was young who was born in 1892 so it reminds me that this story was not so long ago. I find myself wanting a long black dress trimmed in velvet with hoops beneath. I wonder if that will come back into style. The fun of this book is that it takes place in Colorado, not very far from where I reside. So the names from Pueblo to Westcliff, to Denver and Salida are at once familiar yet foreign, as it was all so very different. This book is a fascinating account of a women’s life as a bride and mother, life in mining camps in Colorado in the 1800’s, of life, love, loss, and hope, and most importantly, it is an accurate account of history. I do hope you will read it!

30 Days of Real Food (and the science of food)

I wonder when we as a whole forgot how to eat?  I doubt my Depression-era great-grandmas ever had to overthink it; what do we have to eat?  Women all over the world wake up in villages and towns and prepare food every day dictated by culture and availability.  The women in Okinawa make sushi and rice dishes, in Sardinia pasta is being made, in India a curry can be found, in America (and probably other places), we don’t know what the hell we are eating.  Most of us have lost any cultural identity we had and foods are so prevalent, shipped in from everywhere, that we haven’t an inkling of seasonality or even health.  It is incredible that we have forgotten how and what to eat.  Convenience and big companies dominate.


You can find a fad a minute and I trust none of them.  Keto?  Come on.  Extreme veganism?  Not healthy or realistic.  Paleo?  Don’t get me started.  I might be a housewife, but I do research like a University professor.  I want to know what we should eat, why, when, how, and I desperately want to stop overthinking it.  My theory (which is not a new one) is that we are dying and sick from sedentary lifestyles, stress, loneliness, and chemicals.  Aka: fake food.


Doug and I decided that in May we would do a 30 day Real Food challenge.  Is that the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard?  Can you imagine great-grandma saying something like, “You guys eat fake food?”  It sounds like a sci-fi movie.  Most of the food that we eat is indeed chemically altered and processed.  For example, my day yesterday: coffee (real!), cereal, almond milk, a cookie, a previously frozen breakfast sandwich at the book store, 3 dates (real!), and a breakfast bar.  I did make a mean Shepherd’s Pie from my daughter, Emily’s recipe.  Instead of lamb, as she called for, I used Beyond Meat crumbles.  Delicious, convincing, but my intuition screams that these new fangled veggie meats are not what they seem.  And they are, in a nutshell, chemically altered.

30 days of Real Food.  Which means, no eating out, and I need to conquer my lack of creativity in the realm of lunches.  Cookies are not lunch, y’all.


While I figure all that out, I have two great books to share with you.  One is called, 100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le.  It studies the eating habits from then to now and how in each area of the world, our enzymes and needs changed.  Much of his research comes out as, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but it is fascinating information.  Yes meat will make you stronger, more fertile, and fast, but you will also peak and die early.  Yes, being vegetarian extends lifespan but at the expense of energy and nutrient deficiency.  Yes, dairy makes you grow strong and tall, but also increases the risk of hip fractures.  (Incidentally there are only a few places in the world that the people developed the enzymes to process dairy; Nordic, Celtic, and some African regions.)  Fruit is good for you unless you eat too much, then you increase your risk of Pancreatic cancer.  The whole book is like that but I enjoy the research and the ideas it triggers within myself.

food lab

The second book is called, The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.  You all know I wanted to attend cooking school, and I have even toured a few, but let’s be honest, I probably won’t work in a restaurant, I just want to be a better cook.  I saved roughly $9000 by purchasing this book!  It is the science and exact how-to’s and why’s of cooking.  Love it.  I can’t wait to cook my way through it, not unlike the popular blog, book, and film, Julia and Julia.  I will have to, for the first time in my life, actually follow the recipe.  But there is no chemically altered food found here.


Along with our food ideas, we are also walking 3+ miles a day around the lake in the evenings, completing the exercise stations at the lake on the weekends, and incorporating yoga into our routine.  Our hope is, not only weight loss, but more vitality, energy, strength, and overall health, as well as a shift in our thinking so that we can sustain a healthy lifestyle.  Perhaps you would like to join in on the challenge!

Getting Back to Simple (and paying off debt)


We are firm believers in the powers of intention and manifestation.  You can paint your life however you wish.  We were desperately trying to manifest more income.  On the full moon we generally each light a candle of gratitude and ask for what we would like to see in our life.  Usually it’s more income.  Then it kind of hit me, we have actually doubled our income since June when Doug found a job.  Our online business has picked up and my work down south has too so it’s not a matter of making more money.  I realized we have been spending more money!

Oh, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it?  There was the debt to start paying again, of course, but there are plenty of places money falls through the cracks.  When I first started this blog over five years ago we were seriously starting to homestead.  Before we moved from that house I was canning four hundred jars of produce, growing food and ninety percent of my medicine herbs, had chickens, and Doug milked goats each morning.  I learned to make cheese.  I hand washed our clothes in an old wash bin with a handy plunger-like item that got our clothes far cleaner than the washer.  (We had all our kids at home and a grandbaby on the way so we did go get a washer.  Our washer here still doesn’t clean for anything.)  I made our body products (we sell them in our shop), cleaning products, sewed and handmade presents, and had like minded friends near by.

Being frugal is so much a part of being a homesteader.  Having some money set aside to get by is only a part of it.  I want to get rid of all of our debt (except the house) this year, fifteen months max.  My ideas never go as planned, but it is a good goal!  Debt is our jailor.

But it’s not just about money.  Once we moved around and lost and found ourselves again I had stopped making our own things.  Our skin is drier, we are paying five times more for organic body products when I can make my own.  Same with cleaning products.  I seem to have forgotten how to be frugal.  Frugalness is eco-friendly, healthier, savvier, and freer.  It is in the Homesteader’s Ten Commandments.

I hadn’t been to the library for a year because I have been playing at the book store (expensive!) and I decided that was a good first step.  Walking out of the library with a pile of books and movies makes me feel like I’m robbing the place!  Free knowledge!  I picked up a gem (which I may have to buy) called “Little House Living” by Merissa A. Alink.  As things run out I make the homemade version.  Her book is inspiring.  I have already made the dish soap (took five seconds and very little cash).  I could have written this book four years ago.  I love it and I love that it’s getting me back on track.  I love her rice mix, and her youth, and her story, and her recipes.  She shows us (or reshows us) that it takes no time at all to make your own things and the benefits far outweigh the minimum time and cost.

We will get that debt paid off and I will get back to my Little House on the Prairie self.  It’s good for the soul.

What are some ways that you stay frugal?


Favorite Farm Books

We love to read around here.  We are at the library a few times a week.  Emily has already started reading daily to Maryjane.  Transporting oneself into an adventure for free and the unlimited knowledge that we can obtain from books is something I do not take for granted!  I prefer farming memoirs over “how to” farm books.  I do love The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living by Abigail Gehring.  It is a mega textbook that graces the coffee table and gets little use.  However should I ever need a reference for how to fix a fence, milk a goat, or grow raspberries, all I have to do is thumb through this trusty tower of farming wisdom.  I prefer the whimsy of tales from the farm.  Direct and full of set backs, disappointments, laugh out loud humor, and triumphs.  Teach me through your story.  I have learned everything thus far from memoirs of what others are doing and from trial and error.  These are my top ten favorite farm books.  They are entertaining, secretly educational, and great summer reading.  What are your favorite books?

wisdom of a radish coverThe Wisdom of a Radish; And Other Lessons Learned On a Small Farm by Lynda Browning

I really enjoyed this book.  I laughed about every minute of it.  Her personality is so beguiling and fun.  And the lessons learned I have already instituted on my own beginning farm!

made from scratch coverMade From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life by Jenna Woginrich

This is one of the first books that set me on my current path.  Her prose is easy to read, like she is an old friend with a great sense of humor.  Stories of first time bees, chickens, learning the fiddle, and inspirations from her friend’s farm made me want to farm too.

barnheart cover Barnheart; incurable longing for a farm of one’s own also by Jenna Woginrich

She is one of my favorite authors.  This is the sequel to Made From Scratch and it is again like visiting an old friend, comfortable and speckled with humor.  From her rental farm, to driving around with sheep in her Subaru and to finally getting her own farm, this book is heartwarming and fun.

sheepish coverSheepish; Two Women, Fifty Sheep and Enough Wool to Save the Planet by Catherine Friend

Another laugh out loud memoir where she holds nothing back.  Her personal life, the personal life of sheep, and life on a farm are all painted realistically and hilariously!  I am about to read her other book, Hit By a Farm.

growing a farmerGrowing a Farmer; How I Learned to Live Off the Land by Kurt Timmermeister

From a shock of land covered in brambles and junk to a full working farm, this story is uplifting and entertaining.

the feast nearby coverThe Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

This book isn’t so much about farming, but of eating locally.  I ended up buying the book because there were so many delicious looking recipes!  After a heartbreaking divorce the author moves to a small cabin and tells delightful stories throughout the seasons.

the town that food saved cover The Town that Food Saved; How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food by Ben Hewitt

This book takes us on a journey of different farms around a town where local food and small farmers bring sustenance to the people in a small area.  A roadmap for all communities that wonder how to provide truly local food.  Inspiring.  Made me want to make cheese.

the good life book The Dirty Life; On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

A great story from city to family life on a farm, it is full of antidotes, lessons, and ideas for farming and what farming life really looks like.  A little whiny at times (Oh you poor dear, had to run off with a good looking farmer to the country and *gasp* live a freeing lifestyle…) but makes up for it in vivid writing.

animal vegetable cover Animal, Vegetable, Mineral; A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Though I was not impressed, nor pleased with her incessant bashing of vegetarians throughout the book, the general story captivated me.  Canning, preserving, growing enough food to survive, and eating in season all inspired me to try to do so myself.

the bucolic plagueThe Bucolic Plague; How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

One of my favorites.  I never laughed so hard.  The insights of a gay man and his partner, who works for Martha Stewart, stumbling upon an old farm and purchasing it.  Full of vivid local characters, darling baby goats, and great food all make up this wonderful memoir.  Funny and sensitive, a hilarious look at becoming a farmer.