IKIGAI; What is Your Purpose?

I read the most beautiful book this week.  It has helped me get my groove back.

I had decided last year as my business was failing that I would go back to school to be a chef (but it is hard to be a chef when you don’t use animal products and the busy catering description gave me anxiety).  So then I thought teaching.  I love teaching!  “What would you teach?” everyone asked.  Oh…anything.  Then I got the bill for the first semester and promptly dropped all classes.  I would be retired before I could pay off that degree.  I look around and I love and am fascinated by so much.  My friend is a surgical tech.  That sounds cool!  My friends are nurses.  I was a candy striper in high school.  I wanted to be a nurse.  I could maybe work somewhere or do something.  Anything.  But, I know my pattern.  I go get a job, become overwhelmed, am shocked at the measly paycheck, am behind on dishes for weeks, and then quit.  I am better at being an entrepreneur.  But that failed.  Again.  Last year.  And that is when I went off kilter.  I lost my purpose.  I was no longer a full time herbalist.  No longer a shop keeper.  No longer healing baby calves around the county that were sick because they just got picked up from auction.  Heck, I am not even in the country anymore.

And then my beloved aunt and grandma passed away, I became sick, I think my dear friend, Steve, in California killed himself, and I have been listless and depressed.  Which is not like me.  And something had to give.

It is amazing how a book can change your life.  So many books, so much literature, has changed my life.  And this week, this book, I am so grateful for.  I realized that everything I feel is stemmed from my losing my purpose.

IKIGAI; the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles is a beautifully written and researched tome.  The authors delve into the science and stories behind longevity and happiness, primarily in Japan, where the most super centenarians reside (over 100 years old).  What do they do?  What do they eat?  What are their days like?  I adore research and am very interested in the longevity studies and other cultures.  They touch on diet (tons of fresh vegetables, soy, and fish), social networks (lots of valued friends, social get-togethers, small amount of alcohol daily), spiritual health (honoring all of the spirits and their ancestors), and exercise (they move, not more strenuously, but all the time, biking and walking everywhere).  But the main thing that keeps these folks so alive and well is purpose.  Their IKIGAI.  If they know what that is, they have reason to get up every morning.

What is it that makes you spring out of bed in the morning?  What would you do even without pay?  What is your passion?  What could you talk about without hesitation?  What do you do naturally?  My aunt gave me this picture for Christmas.  I guess she knew.

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I am a writer.  I never have to think about writing this blog.  In fact, it bothers me to take days off but I want to make sure y’all can catch up!  I love writing; books, poetry, articles, snippets of thoughts…I am a writer.  It is my IKIGAI.  I get a modest payment every month from Amazon and the local museum that carries my books.  It won’t support us, but that doesn’t matter.  I am also a gardener, a farmer, a lover of animals.  I need a greenhouse.  I need to be around plants, and I need to grow my own food, and I need to be around animals.  Sanctuary.

After reading this lovely little book I realized that I do not need to have any new degrees, careers, or paths.   I am on it.  If I write every day.  If I take care of my chickens.  If I get into the garden.  I will be okay.  That is my IKIGAI.  And with that knowledge, I am free.  I have purpose.  What is your IKIGAI?

Read it!  It is a lovely book.

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!

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.

 

Living Space Makeover in Poem- Part 1

Oh my, there’s clutter and  everything galore

There are Christmas boxes all over the floor

I have books aplenty and furniture too

I love all my beautiful things, this is true

Vibrant plants fill the places fighting for sun

An inspiration ignited has begun

Trying to find my husband in all this stuff

But getting started here can be kind of tough

So out with the old, the new year rings tonight

And I want my house to be a pretty sight

So we’ll start with a paint can of creamy white

And begin to fill this living space with light

As the promise of bright tomorrow dawns clear

I’ll tone down the clutter, put things away I hold dear, decorate, because that’s what I do

And start the year 2019 anew.

Check back January 2nd for the “After” pictures and post!  Happy New Year!

Welcome to Our New Shop (a video tour)

My friends, I would like to show you around my new shop that opened Saturday!  My daughter and I (and a beautiful array of angelic friends) have been scrubbing, painting, creating, preparing, and decorating this glorious 1800’s store front.  Welcome to Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes.  If you are ever in Pueblo, Colorado, do come by!  687 S. Union Ave.  Facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm

Redecorating the Farmhouse, part 3-vintage item revival

Our Lady of the Goats

It has been three years since we lost everything and left our farm.  Sure feels like a lifetime ago!  We had our family and a few things and started over.  I used to love the thrill of the hunt, the search for the usable off grid item.  I had no desire to purchase items for mere decoration, they needed to be usable.  I had every homesteading item you can think of before we left, and truth be told- material items or not- it has taken awhile to fully heal from loss.

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So, for the first time, I was able to walk through our nearby antique stores without lamenting that “I used to have that!”  I simply kept my eye open for a bargain that I could use.  A relic to make my life simpler.  Not simpler in the modern theory of flipping a switch or hitting a button, but in the beautiful space in time that hand grinding coffee beans takes, or being mesmerized by the percolator.  Or curling up beneath an oil lamp with a delicious book.  Or knowing if the power went off, we’d be none the wiser as our clocks ticked, our lights shone, and our wood stove puffed out smoke into the cool air.  The tea kettle on, a dog at my feet, a cat on my lap.  Goodness, I know no better life than one like this.  The homestead revival.

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Here are a few pieces to keep an eye out for that can go to work in your home.  They are pleasingly decorative in their own right, creating a lovely old fashioned coziness to the home, but are also useful and trusty.

Oil lamps are amazing, beautiful, useful, and fairly easy to come by.  You can, of course, buy all these things from a great homesteading catalog, like Lehman’s, but that takes some of the fun out of it!  Make sure the knob on the side works.  You can get wicks at Walmart.  They create the most lovely glow and help the body realize that bedtime is soon, as opposed to LED lights which awaken the body more.

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The coffee grinder is imperative on a homestead!  This way you can purchase five pounds of whole beans at a time at a more affordable price (organic, fair trade please!).

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There a few options for coffee.  I have long loved my French press.  It makes delicious coffee and you can keep it hot by placing it on a tea warmer with tea candle.  This percolator was in perfect condition at the antique store and the price couldn’t be beat.  There is something soothing about the gentle perking of coffee coming through the lid.  It could also go on a wood stove if the gas weren’t available.

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In this picture we have a great tea kettle that goes from stove to wood stove.  A beautiful oil lamp.  A pile of library books and musical instruments.  There are many ways to keep oneself busy without screens!

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I have three amazing clocks that I got from my friends, the Jensens’.  I have the lovely, old grandfather clock that shows up in many of my photos.  I have a fun cuckoo clock in the kitchen.  And I have this melodic, wind up clock.

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Simple baskets and reusable bags (perhaps that you make out of old clothing) are great to take to the market, or to bring in the harvest for supper, or carry books back to the library.  Try with all your heart not to buy or bring home another new thing that is plastic.

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Use less energy by unplugging cell phone chargers, anything that lights up, and shutting down your computer at night.  Turn off the television and go for a walk.

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Being outdoors hits the reset button for our lives.  A nice walk at dusk, or a hike on the weekends, helps bring life back into focus.  Finding things to do that have a lower footprint inadvertently gives you things to do that are great for mental and physical health.  We may have more health care options in this day and age but I bet our fore bearers were actually healthier and happier because they had purpose, family, and kept busy.  They had the magical satisfaction of work well done, of having purpose, and the space of mind to relax during methodical tasks.

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There are many ways that we can lessen our load and the one we have put on the planet.  Spend time with family, eat homegrown or local food, laugh, read, be.  And maybe read by oil lamp.

Redecorating for the Season (easy tricks for a beautiful home)

20171027_071224In the winter I was experimenting with how to set up our new house.  An art and writing area, a music and reading area, and a sitting area took up separate sections of the old living room.  Then my classes started and I needed to be able to seat ten people comfortably and have a bigger conversation area.  The living room was rearranged again.  Now I am looking at having my family over for Thanksgiving dinner and entertaining for the holidays.  I will need a place for the Christmas tree (I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween…) and I wanted the seating area to surround the wood stove for cozy nights with a delicious book and a cup of hot chocolate.  Add to that I wanted to display my medicines for when customers come by, and have a place for all of my plants so I tapped into my inner Martha Stewart and spent the day redecorating!

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Faux fur rugs and gold toned throw pillows cozy up the velvet futon which reclines to become a double bed for guests.
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On the other side of the wood stove the love seat sits. A colorful sofa cover and earth toned throw pillows set a comfy space to play the guitar or have a drink. Guess what is behind the cow painting? The television! Wish I would have thought of it years ago. I am always trying to hide that thing!
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I knew our life transitioned into a new stage when I agreed to buy matching recliners. To me, recliners are the ugliest things ever and I swore I’d never have them in the house. (They are awfully comfortable though…)
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There wasn’t room for the coffee table in front of the recliners so I made it into a stand for my farmer’s market kit of medicines. Games, movies, and music are stored on the bottom shelf of the coffee table.
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Books are always at the ready and Maryjane’s books are easy to reach for when she comes to visit. A set of old doors creates drama, and my lovely grandfather clock adds charm. My collection of Native art and my feathers adorn the shelves.
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The table is closer to the front door than the kitchen now but I have more space to expand the table here. I can roll the giant aloe plant to the corner and add another table in here to accommodate more guests.
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My desk is an old sewing machine table and it can be rolled into the bedroom when it’s time to add a Christmas tree after Thanksgiving.

I didn’t spend a penny on this redecorating day and it only took a few hours.  The house feels cozy and the pumpkins and colors add an autumnal spirit.  Twinkly lights are always in order for a charming home.  Wishing you a beautiful season filled with warmth and family and home.

 

 

Top Five Books for Winter Reading

During the summer I often only have time to read magazines between farmer’s markets and gardening, and babysitting, and the shop (and soon to be a full blown urban farm), but in the winter I have more time.  The sun goes down earlier, I am called to warm sheets quicker, tea by my side, a book (not an e-book, mind you, I prefer the loveliness of paper) in my hand, and I am whisked away to new places amongst new people for a time.  A way to stop my swimming mind from wandering from subject to worry to plan.  These are my top five books for winter reading.

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1- The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

This book takes us to the plush apartment of an elderly, elegant woman, at once a hermit and extraordinary storyteller of her time as a courtesan.  Taking place at the cusp of World War Two, her granddaughter both listens to her grandmother’s stories and becomes a woman in a world where being half Jewish in love with a Jewish rare book seller could prove dangerous.  A lovely tale of love and luxury, of loss and simple pleasures, I enjoyed every word.

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2- If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying by Stacia Spragg-Braude

I laughed throughout this book.  The author follows an older farmer around for a year and creates a memoir of the life of a Farm girl in Corrales, New Mexico, easily transporting us to her youth, introducing us to family members throughout time, then back to present at the stove stirring this or that to be preserved.  Incredible farming wisdom and homesteading tips are inevitably sought during this delightful story of a life lived simply and near the earth.

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3- The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Mind you, fiction is not my reading of choice.  I challenged myself this year to read more fiction.  This book delivered an enticing story that jumps from past to present as a young reporter tries to find out the truth behind a maid’s mysterious death by interviewing the elder models that still inhabit the once prestigious Barbizon hotel.  Secrets unfold and kept me thoroughly entertained as it took me to sexy jazz clubs in the 1950’s, Puerto Rican singers, smoke, spices, and models trying to make it set the scene for a beautiful tale of love and second chances.

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4- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

One I have already read but must recommend you read if you haven’t yet.  The beautiful ideas of self renewal, travel, food, love, spirit all entwined in one enticing book with gorgeous prose and colorful scenes thrills and inspires me.  Then watch the movie.  It is spectacular as well.

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5- The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

I’ll have this one finished in the next day or two.  It makes me stay up past my bedtime to read (which is really saying something as I am fast asleep by 10:01 every night!) just to capture a bit more of the Scottish hillside, hear the brogue, see the kilts, pet the lambs, and travel around with the protagonist who has left her ordinary librarian job to sell books in a large restored van at markets.  I am smitten, and oddly desiring a pint of something.

Bonus- As for magazines I am wondering if some of my fellow farmgirls may have overlooked one.  Oprah magazine is one that I will subscribe to every year.  I have plenty of farming and homemaking magazines but this makes me.  Filled with constant inspiration, encouragement, and great book ideas, I cannot stop pouring over the glossy pages of this beautiful ensemble of ideas and friendship.

What are you reading?  Book recommendations?  Happy reading!

A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

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My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

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These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

National Poetry Month (poetry contest and win one of my books!)

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April is National Poetry Month.  I have always been pulled in by rhyming sounds, expressions in A-B-A-B form, and with eloquent words.  How a Maya Angelo poem can break your heart or a Robert Frost can transport you to another time.  Into Emily Dickinson’s world and nod knowingly at one of Mary Oliver’s beautiful notes.  The prose, the cadence, the way that poetry takes on emotion and vivid imagery in just a few lines or in a drawn out sonnet.  I love that it doesn’t have to rhyme.  It can be a sentence.  It is a piece of one’s heart transferred to paper in a whim of bravery.

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I am holding a poetry contest.  No pressure, as of course like art, poetry creates itself and there is absolutely no right or wrong way to write poetry.  Just write a sentence, or a rhyme, or a sonnet.  Respond here, or on facebook (facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm) or by email (katie@pumpkinhollowfarm.net).  Homeschooling mamas, have your children enter, you enter, if you have never written poetry, enter, let the expression free!  I am offering a free book of your choice that I have written to the winner.  The winner is the one that stirs my soul.  Open March 31st-April 15th.

Here are two of mine I would like to share…

The first one is a tale of many young women.  I am friends with a great many amazing young people and sometimes their struggles can overtake.

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A child in the dark lets out a shrill cry

she is lost within her spirit

but she doesn’t know why.

Growing up too fast

lovers that don’t last

        a piece of her gone

ending life’s song.

Now as she connects with herself

    with her Source

and lays in a hospital bed

through this course

and as she gathers strength

and refills her lamp for light

perhaps she will see the dawn

through the starry night.

And a more happy one…

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Maryjane, the beautiful child that came to be.

I knew her immediate and she had a piece of me.

Our hearts were connected and I love her more and more.

My life awakens as she walks through the door.

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Now, it’s your turn!