Farm Heroes and the New Chicken Yard, Greenhouse, and Shed.

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Emily, Shyanne, and Peep (and Maryjane in that little baby bump)

We started our farm when the girls were young teenagers.  They spent hours in the chicken coop with the new chicks, cooing to and naming them.  Tempers would flare and they would take their own time out among the soft chirping and fresh straw.  My youngest daughter and I (along with dad and Reed) have plans to go in on a farm together in the next few years.  We dream of two houses, one land, a barn, a large community plot of garden, animals, greenhouses, a view.  A Farm Air B&B, hot farm fresh breakfasts, coffee on the porch.  A small restaurant on site to serve high end dinners with a set menu with room for four couples a night.

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Emily and Ayla

But right now, everyone is busy.  The kids have their own lives.  So, it was incredible to see them all show up at the front door in the un-forecasted snow to help us create a functional farm back yard.  We certainly could not have done it by ourselves and our gratitude is overwhelming!

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We live on one third of an acre.  We have fourteen chickens and a very large dog.  Our eighteen month old Great Pyrenees doesn’t require a lot of room for running (he spends most of his days sleeping under the elm trees in the dirt or on the pink futon in the living room (which is covered in dirt).  I have a lot of room for the chickens but wanted to increase their yard to reach the piles of branches so they could play and have more space to roam.

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I also desired a greenhouse which I received last week as an early birthday present from my friend Tina.  This would require a fenced in separate yard to increase my garden space, and keep the puppy out.  This space will end up having a pond and waterfall with a tea ceremony setting.

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Doug purchased a shed to house all of our yard items and tools and try to make sense of our back porch which has become overwhelmed with debris, broken chairs, tables, tools, and market items.

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These things came in a million, zillion pieces.  A roll of field fencing to top it all off.  And two not-so-handy parents.  Enter the children riding in like heroes to our farm story.

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My beautiful granddaughter, Maryjane’s dad came.  Bret is amazing and he will always be one of my kids.  He helped Doug build the shed.

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Reed

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Emily’s long time boyfriend Reed (Ayla’s daddy) and I started on the greenhouse.  It got incredibly complicated and when Jacob (Shyanne’s long time boyfriend) showed up, he took my place.  They got it built and it is perfect!

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Doug and Shyanne and Bret then started on the fencing and quickly got two areas partitioned off.

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My granddog Lupo enjoying the new shed.
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The chickens enjoying their new yard.
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And my new greenhouse and garden.

Six cold hours later we took the kids out for sushi to celebrate Reed’s birthday and to thank them for helping us make the next phase of our farm dreams come true.  This little urban farm sure has lots of space and opportunity.  But it always feels more like home when the kids are here.

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A Field Trip to the Denver Art Museum

Daniel Libeskind Architect, Studio Libeskind and Davis Partnership

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We have a lovely art museum in Denver.  The architecture is modern meets medieval and the exhibits change regularly.  Floors of ancient and new art serve to inspire and educate.  The museum makes sure that there are things to keep the children busy as well.  Pads of paper and boards with things to look for are set up in stations around the museum to encourage children to be mindful and alert and to express their own innate creativity.

My daughters and I and my two granddaughters were originally headed to the Denver Zoo but due to the mass amount of people (and I shall save you the tirade about what marijuana legalization will do to your state) we had to find other activities.  Maryjane was less than thrilled about trading elephants for fourteenth century art but we made it a game where she was to find every dog and horse in the paintings and sculptures.

It is really something to stand before a painting that was carefully drawn over five hundred years ago.  It is really inspiring to see the spirits of people captured on canvas- ordinary moments in life stopped in time.  The colors, the shadows, the stories…

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Rosina Ferrara, Head of a Capri Girl by John Singer Sargent
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I enjoyed this exhibit the most this time.  Jordan Casteel is a Denver native and I love how she portrays every day moments.

I haven’t painted in a year but I think it is time to gather some canvases.

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My painting- “Native Inside,” acrylic on canvas, 24×36

DenverArtMuseum.org

A Frightfully Fun Halloween Party for Any Age

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My daughter, Shyanne, is the queen of Halloween.  She drives an old, lifted Jeep Cherokee with a life sized skeleton named Victor in the front seat all year.  When Shyanne invited me to her Halloween day with my other daughter and granddaughter, I didn’t hesitate (never turn down opportunities to be with loved ones).  I hopped in the car with my witch hat and headed to the eastern plains.

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Now there is nothing quite like the sound of a five year old’s bent-over, belly laugh.  And that is what I was met with.  “You look like a unicorn!” Maryjane wailed, a twinkle in her eye.  “I am a witch!” I declared.  “Looks like a unicorn to me.”

There were crafts laid out, and snacks galore, spooky music met me when I entered through the door.  I got straight to work, for this Grammie has a role.  I make the best Halloween hamburgers (veggie burgers) this side of the veil.  I sneaked the bits of cheese from cutting out eyes and mouths to my scary granddog.

Witch’s brew was put on, just like when the children were small.  Ah, it does not seem like it was that long ago at all.  A jug of apple juice or cider, a handful of brown sugar, a good sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice and let that begin to simmer then serve.

Shyanne put on a spread of easy treats, crackers and chips and cookies.  We decorated warm sugar cookies with edible watercolors and sprinkles.

We made puppets out of tongue depressors glued to construction paper cutouts that we glued googly eyes to.  Shyanne had carefully pre-cut Frankenstein heads, pumpkins, bats, and ghosts out.  We painted and glued and sprinkled our way into the Halloween spirit.  I did notice that is hard to get into the spirit when no children are present.  This was a welcome party for me.

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“The neighbors are going to wonder what is going on,” Emily said, as Maryjane and I danced to Disney songs and howled loudly like werewolves.

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Emily posing with her pumpkins. She is very ready for the new baby to come! (a few more weeks!)
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Maryjane’s broom. It’s a compact like my Fiat.

Pumpkins were carved, and we danced, and sang.  Halloween parties can be impromptu and easy.  For any age, for us older children regress rather quickly in the sight of sugar cookies and glue sticks.  I hope you find a few ideas to incorporate into your own spooky Halloween day!

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What if There Were Four? (a joyful family tale)

fam 3And then they thought, “Why, we should be four.  Four holds infinite love at its door.”

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But first there was one.  She is our youngest daughter, Emily, and she is ever so much fun.

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Then there were two.  And no one stole my heart faster than you know who…

I became a Grammie and Doug became a Pa and we looked at those two girls with great love and awe.

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Then they met Reed, handsome and strong.  Of course, for years Emily had known him all along.  Maryjane sized him up and thought long and decided they’d keep him from now on.

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Then they were three, as happy as can be.  They saw concerts and learned yoga and climbed mountains and had fun.  They fought and made up and became closer and one.  They made a home and a family and are as cute as can be as three.

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“But what if we were four?” they whispered in the dark.  The spirits of the world gathered and the Creator went to work.  They sent a little soul that fit the mold that would give them the role of parents of two.

And so our family grows and grows and hearts are full and celebrations begun.  Oh this will be ever fun!  November 24th…

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Brigid and Joyous Imbolc

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And she awakens at the dawn of Imbolc and wanders the country side warming the earth as she goes, for the maiden has been reborn and with her the internal fire of life.  She is Brigid, the Celtic goddess who was so beloved among the people that the Catholic Church made her a saint in order to lead the people into Christianity.  But long before that she was there.  Her cross was the symbol of the directions and the sun wheel.

We place water out to greet her.

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The agricultural calendar is also called the Wheel of the Year and roughly every six weeks there is a holiday, a celebration, an event that corresponds with the natural intricacies of life and nature.  Imbolc is the whisperings of spring.  The first lambs are born.  The days warm slight.  Farmers prepare for spring planting.

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Brigid is the goddess of children and fertility.  The protector of midwives.  The promise of new life.

She is the goddess of creativity.  This time of year is when our hearts awaken and we desire to create something new, or something beautiful, or perhaps just an old fashioned valentine.  She is the maiden in the sacred trinity or maiden-mother-crone.  She is youth and vitality.

She is the goddess of healing waters known as the Lady of the Sacred Flame.  Next time you visit a hot springs think of Brigid and thank her for the healing virtues and warmth of the water.

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She is the goddess of our precious animals and of crops.  Farmers thank her for her blessing.  A bowl of honey or a bit of milk to offer her was left out the eve of Imbolc.  She is the patroness of wealth upon the land and the life she brings to crops and animals and the fire she brings to our souls after a dreary January brings gratitude and hope.

The waters we leave out for her to bless are used in sacred medicines and for healing.  Look for baby animals in your travels being born.  Smile at a child.  Get out a seed catalogue.  Make a beautiful wreath for your door.  Warm yourself in a bath.  Wash away the winter doldrums for spring is on its path.

Today light a red candle and ask for compassion for all things, including yourself.  Feel the life flame within yourself come alive.

The Storytelling Tree

Ornaments are special.  They tell stories and relive memories on the glistening tree.

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This year when we went on our family vacation and visited the North Pole I picked up an ornament that held nine names.  It helped seal the moment.  We will look back at that ornament and relive the fun we had riding the train and petting the reindeer.

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A glass doll named Sarah that my grandmother gave me when I was very young.  Ornaments from my other grandmother’s tree.  Doug’s first ornament (he grew up Jewish) and our granddaughter’s first ornament mingle on evergreen limbs.  Decades of tales whisper among branches.

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From our trip to Las Vegas with the children in 2004.
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Ornaments that were given to me by my students in the dance company I had brighten my day. That was a special time.
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A gift from Rodney and Pat some years back. We all dream of getting our own adobes.

The tree is filled with memories of our trip to Las Vegas.  Of our honeymoon cruise.  It tells of Bronco fever and the children in elementary school.  Ornaments that were given as gifts.  Quite a few from New Mexico.  Next weekend we will pick up another.  Everywhere we go, we get an ornament.

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My Andrew at seven years old.
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Shyanne at seven years old and Maryjane’s hand print Santa.
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A very sweet five year old Emily.

When we look at our tree, it clears its throat and begins its sweet reminisce and dreams up ideas for the future.  Future names written on the tree, travels yet to be, but the comfort of home and hearth will always be the theme of our humble Yule tree.

What are your favorite ornaments?

A Thanksgiving Tale

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The hazy golden dusk illuminated the sky behind their silhouettes in the cool evening air.  The cars stopped and the elegant family of deer crossed.  The leader had a staggering limp.  Yet the two does stayed at her flank and did not attempt to cross quickly or ahead of her.  The large buck, his antlers glorious and scenic against the autumn backdrop of mountains and sunset color, stayed back with the two infants as they gingerly crossed.

In the chaos of a grocery store I stood looking seriously at disposable pans when an elder gentleman approached softly.

“Are you going to make a turkey?” he asked.

I smiled at the man whose dark tilted eyes revealed close to a century of memories and Thanksgivings.  His wife had fallen, he said.  Thank the Lord she was home from the nursing home and rehab but she still couldn’t walk good.  And well, his hip was killing him but he thought he’d come out and get a few things.  A package of frozen hash browns and a plastic container of diced watermelon well out of season sat in his cart.  One of his children was going to bring them a Thanksgiving feast.

He pulled from his inner pocket a photograph of his son to show me.  Two photos, actually, side by side on a funeral program.  A handsome young man in a navy uniform and one of the young man as a joyful middle aged man.

“This is my boy,” he says.  “He got sick from the war and died.”  He didn’t elaborate.  He just folded the three year old paper and placed it back into his inner pocket.  “Once he died my wife and I went downhill.”

Now, the crowds in the aisles bustling with noisy carts and lines of folks faded as I watched him hobble away.

The family of deer safely crossed and nimbly flitted through the fencing.  They stood together grazing in the golden field.

May we all keep the spirit of Thanksgiving in our hearts tomorrow.  I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Homeschooling Adventures Continue (my daughter’s new blog)

20171110_065324I will never forget the moment we decided to homeschool. The teacher that rummaged nervously through her notes looking to see who my son was.  At the end of the year.  We raised strong willed children and encouraged them to dress how they like, read what they like, and do what they like so they could learn at their own pace and really enjoy what they were doing.  Schools just weren’t keeping up.  Classes were too big.  Curriculums too restricted.  Those homeschooling years were the best years for us.  We went on vacations in the middle of the week.  Ate ethnic food in areas of Denver that we were unaware of for geography.  Visited museums.  Created.  Read in trees. We have three very intelligent, compassionate children who think for themselves.

20171110_065341My youngest daughter will be twenty-one years old in a few months.  (How that is possible, I will never know!)  She has a four year old whom you all know well as she is often the highlight of this Grammie’s blog!  Maryjane Rose.

Maryjane assists us at our shop.  She gathers plants to be used in medicine.  Helps to measure the dried herbs into jars.  Chooses teas for people based on their ailments.  Talks to fairies and squirrels and trees.  That magic begins to leave when they enter school.

schoolI am thrilled that Emily Lynn is homeschooling her beautiful, strong willed daughter.  I am even more glad that I get to help.  Emily’s long-time, serious beau, Reed came from a family of six homeschooled children.  Emily has a lot of support.  We still get the question from well-meaning family and friends about when she’s going to go to school.  But she is in school!  Every day we all wake up to a new day of school.  Maryjane will read what she wishes, write when she wants, learn the real history of the world (not the edited version available in text books), and will pursue what she is interested in.  This makes her a well rounded, delightful, social child.

My daughter started a blog yesterday.  I am so proud of her and I am glad my children are writers.  Please check it out and send a young mama some encouragement!  She has a million great ideas.  https://homeschool341.wordpress.com/

A Simple Samhain Ceremony with Children

samhain 2Long before the church said it was evil and before Hollywood and candy companies made a fortune, a simple holiday took place on October 31st.  The third and final harvest festival and the eve of the new year called Samhain (pronounced Sow-en).

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The hard work of farming, hunting, and filling the larder was through as the winds changed, the sun went to bed earlier and earlier, and dark settled upon the land.  It was an inevitable time for introspection, remembering those that had passed on throughout the year, and reminiscing around the table with mead and friends.  A million miles from the Celtic homes, the Day of the Dead was being celebrated in Mexico.

There was a time when everyone was attuned to the spiritual energies around us.  It was nothing weird or scary, it just was.  October 31st is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.  Our deceased loved ones can always hear us but at this time of year, sometimes, they can reach us and they can certainly hear us better.

For children, sugar rushes and the perfect costume steal the holiday.  I wanted Maryjane to know what the real holiday was all about.  I simplified the ceremony so that my four year old granddaughter could understand.  Of course children innately know these things. I had her draw pictures of the people or animals she wanted to talk to.  She wrote adorable letters instead.  One to Anakan the snake, one to Grandma Kat, and one to Grant, her mom’s boyfriend’s brother who died a few years ago in a car accident.

20171023_111031We decorated the alter (the wood stove) with a beautiful nest we had found, a feather, and a butterfly that has passed away on my porch.  Her letters and a bell were really all we needed.

20171023_111026She chose a candle and so did I.  I chose pink for love and she did the same.  We thought of our people that we loved and missed (for me; Nancy, Kat, Great-Grandma, my Uncles…) and lit the candles.  We looked at pictures.  She sat in her little chair and read the letters to them and listened.

20171023_111014By incorporating the original spiritual belief systems and the nature based holidays, children learn connection to all things and great empathy.  Children naturally understand.  Giving them a basis to work with as they get older to celebrate and remember will help them create their own traditions.  It helps children learn to deal with grief and I know Kat, Anikan, and Grant enjoyed hearing that little voice.

Happy Birthday HotRod!

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For those that are long time readers, the people that are mentioned in my blog are almost characters in a book.  It’s fun to see folks that read the blog meet my friends for the first time.  It’s almost as if they know them!  Rodney is one of those characters.  He and his wife, Pat, have been our best friends for twelve years now.  I have never had friends for that long.  We have traveled together, celebrated together, watched our kids grow up, mourned together (especially when Rodney’s mom, Kat, died last July.  I called her my mom too), and laughed together.  When we were losing everything and about to lose our minds, they threw us in their backseat and took us to Utah for four days to play.  We go to New Mexico together and plan our respective homesteads.  They are moving to Pueblo this year along with Rodney’s dad, Rod.  These are my people.

Today Rodney turns fifty.  I think that is a monumental success and reason to celebrate.  We have all lost friends that did not make it to fifty.  This is a gift, a blessing, and I am blessed to still call this man my friend.  We have a lot in common spiritually, and our families have really melded into one.  My granddaughter, Maryjane, calls them Aunt and Uncle, and their son is her best friend (he is 16…that is the sweetest kid) and cousin.  We are their grandchildren’s godparents.

So today I just wanted to share this celebration with all of you out there.  Happy Birthday to my best friend, travel partner, confidant, and trouble maker.  May you get every wish come true!  Wishing you health, happiness, love, and peace.  And a home by us!

Here’s to friends (clink!) and here’s to Rodney (double clink!)….Raise your coffee cups!  Cheers.  Happy Birthday, HotRod!