Farmgirl School Turns Three

Last week Farmgirl School celebrated its third birthday.  I have been writing this blog for over three years.  It is amazing to think how much has happened in that span of time.  Doug and I became farmers.  We learned how to milk goats, care for chickens, watched Maryjane ride the sheep, chased ducks, grew veggies like crazy, chopped wood, canned, preserved, and made a good go at homesteading.

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I have never been what you would call a private person.  Can a writer actually be?  So you also followed along as we raised three teenagers and became grandparents, our greatest honor to date.  We became homeless.  You cried with us and supported us.  You cheered as we opened a new shop and got our verve back.

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Today I register for school.  I will continue learning.  I do not know where that path will lead me.  I do not know what path we are on.  I am praying it is leading us to some land where we can build a little house.  Maryjane wants sheep for Christmas.  I sure hope Santa sends me a place to have them!

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This next year in Farmgirl School ought to be really interesting!  I look forward to seeing it unfold!

Here are some of the stats.  They make a writer’s heart very grateful.

90,714 people have viewed this blog from over 100 countries.  Y’all were most interested in “10 Things You Should Know Before Moving to the Country” and “How Much Does it Cost to Have a Farm Animal.”  Closely followed by “How to Make Choke Cherry Wine” and “A Visit to an Amish Home.”  We all seem to be on the same page.  Thanks for sticking around!

To Thine Own Self Be True (a recognition of oneself when starting over)

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I am Yeopim Indian and Cherokee proud, and Scottish and English and Irish loud, along with Dutch and Black French and possibly more.  And from them all my genetic disposition lays.  In my hair, in my eyes, in my innate knowledge and intuition, in my sense of adventure and in my search for home do I find glimpses of all those that came before.  All my ancestors, all in me.  But I alone have my spirit.  My true self.  That has been here before.

And in mindful analysis and decompression of the physical frame as each day becomes a bit more mundane the layers of thought and peers wash aside as the essence of being comes forth in glints of light.

“Why do you fear being wealthy?”  “Why do you believe you do not deserve riches?” I am asked.

Struck, I wonder, is this true?  Should I be rich in homes with heightened ceilings and possessions galore?  Is that what my life’s work is for?  I would like to have enough-though that maybe less than many, more than some.  Seeds to grow into food for mind and strength and chickens here and there.  A rambling adobe with rooms for art and friends, for laughter, for cooking, for light, and memory.

Enough to visit new places at whim, for inspiration and to meet people and culture new.  But to watch a sunset from my own porch swing would be as sweet a riches as I could dream.

Sommelier?  I cannot drink more than one glass of wine!  Food industry?  I can’t stay up past nine!  A city plot, cement gardens, and lack of birds, no deer around, no late owl heard?

Impossible.

Homesteader, homemaker, home dreamer am I.  Making a home under the Great Mystery’s sky.

My job is to raise grandchildren when so blessed to have them near.  To teach them herbs, and trees, and birds, and through the wind the Creator heard.  To show them things that schools do not know.

To help those that seek my help, in physical or spiritual need should they ask, to find the right herbs and prayers and songs.

Silence and nature are my friends as the early dawn and the night sky guide my days all year long.

Searching for Home

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It is just an ordinary old building from the outside.  It was a feed store and a liquor store among other things.  Its basement is flooded and water rushes around the old, old boiler standing proudly, its ankles wading in the rainwater misplaced.  The large main floor is open with high ceilings, windows, wood floors, and my eyes gaze around in wonder as if I were designing a loft for a popular television show.  The upstairs is a rounded loft that would make a lovely bedroom.  The back room is really the gem.  A rustic blank slate of old brick and cement, a kitchen it must be.  I dream as the owner shows me around.  Lord, I could decorate anything.  Unfortunately we have to rent a year before we can buy and she could not afford to allow us that being too far behind.  The bank will likely have this unspoken masterpiece, unappreciated in its barrenness but too expensive in its needs.  I wished her luck.  I could have had supper clubs there and art openings and karaoke nights!  But alas, it is not for us though if could buy we could get it for a song.  I could even turn the outside strip into a garden oasis with chickens.

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So, Doug and I decided to head out to the building that holds the company that he is interviewing with tomorrow.  We are confident and hopeful.  We backtracked from the building to various neighborhoods, many with pristine grass and home owner’s associations written all over them as well as mighty confident price tags.  Because his work, should he get the job, is on the far north side of Colorado Springs we would be a mere ten minutes from the first bit of country.  A life Doug would like to hold onto.  Truth be told, so do I.  We still want the large gardens and chickens.  The views, the stars, the quiet, that life.

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We drove past the trees that were scarred by the fire I wrote about a few years ago.  The area is regrowing and beautiful.  To live in the trees would be magical even though the fire risk is always a possibility.  A few minutes further we get into the prairielands we know and adore.

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Oh where will our new home be?  And can it be somewhere we can stay?  To put down roots and apple trees without fear of being forced to move?  Can we find someone to help us get the house then buy it from them?  Or a place that we can rent then purchase later?  A place that we can call our own?  Dreaming of home is a bittersweet ordeal when you know not where home is.

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Home is by a hearth and fire, surrounded by our cats, and visited by our beloved ones.  It is where we find each other at the end of the day and at early dawn.  Where the rooster will crow and the pumpkins will grow.  We are searching.

Picking Personas (and cookin’)

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I knew it wouldn’t be long before I came up with another hair brained scheme.  It would take awhile to institute it and I have no idea how to make it happen but I do have a dream of a type of supper club.  Whether it be at a restaurant after hours or in our home once a month I can’t be sure.  It would include no more than three tables, very romantic, beautiful music, set five course meal for one price.  Wine pairings would be included and the meal would end with one of my daughter, Shyanne’s amazing baked confections.  All housemade specialties, local and seasonal produce and ingredients, nothing artificial, everything perfectly seasoned and paired.

I am not sure how so much complexity and personas can be in one person.  How can I be just as fascinated with being a mountain mama hermit as I am a high profile sommelier?  I am as comfortable in long dresses and old fashioned aprons as I am in stilettoes and a pencil skirt.  I love the entertainment of the city as well as the old farm truck and chickens in the country life.  I am a talented herbalist, have learned from shamans over the years, love food and wine and entertaining as well as gardening and chickens too.  I have taught, modeled, danced, and owned a quaint little shop.  I devour Country Living magazine and Food and Wine magazine each month with the same intensity.  Surely these things can all culminate into one lifestyle and profession?  Which persona to choose?  The vagabond hippie?  The chef that carries truffle oil around everywhere?  The music pastor?  The shaman/herbalist?  The food critic?  The housewife hermit?  Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes if we were a smidge simpler in design?

I was walking past a restaurant that is locally owned by a man that I have done farmer’s markets with for years.  We started the same time, sold similar products for a time, quit our jobs at the same time, moved to the country at the same time, now he still does lots of markets and runs a restaurant.  As with all the roving vendors at the market we had a bit of a love/hate relationship and hearty competitive nature as well as a reverent respect for each other’s craft.

Mark walked out of the restaurant and directly towards me and asked if I would like to cook at the restaurant.  I said no because I heard he yelled.

“Are you going to yell at me?” I asked.  He replied that he could not promise that he wouldn’t.  I told him that I cry if yelled at then throw sh#t. (Maybe I have been watching too much Hell’s Kitchen.)  He said fine.  I also told him I would be the worst employee because I never know my daughter’s schedule until the last minute and don’t know when I would be able to work.

“That’s fine,” he replied again.

I start Tuesday.

Winds of Change

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The warm wind blew around me foretelling a light rain to come.  The mosquitos lessened and took cover as I pulled bindweed and thistle.  I don’t know why I would be weeding a garden that I cannot harvest from but I looked down the other day and noticed my nails were clean.  The lines in my hands were free of earth.  I had to get back into the garden.  I pulled weeds and counted what was growing.  Rows and rows of crops are waving proudly in the prairie soil.  Plants growing heartily in the prairie without much amendment and among weeds and voles.  My goodness, I think I can say I have a green thumb now.  How easy it will be in the city.  I begin to cry.  The cows are lowing loudly to capture the attention of the males across the road and the owls sweep grandly from tree to tree and the wind carries on it the sweet smell of first cut hay drying in the sun.  The country holds a place in my heart that cannot be tethered.  But it is not meant to be for us now.

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There are great opportunities in the city as well.  Wonderful folks to meet and wilder animals coming through from the mountains.  Its own beautiful scenery and friends to be found.  And seeds.  I can always plant seeds.  A message from a friend and I now understand.  It is sometimes hard to step off and go with the wind in a new direction but there is always a reason and the Creator knows where we are going in this sliver of time.  We just have to hold on to the tailwind and be on our way.

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A Pioneer’s Life For Me

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I was dreading going into the goat pen.  Elsa has mastitis and we have been diligently treating it but that along with her spoiled little girl self makes it incredibly difficult to milk her.  It takes all of my strength to hold her as Doug milks her out.  All of our muscles are shaking by the end and she has kicked the milk bucket a few times.  Our clothes are covered in milk and goat hair and I am often near tears.  Last night as I looked up before going in the pen a beautiful sight transpired.  The same one that made us feel we made the right choice moving out here.  The brightest rainbow arched across the sky, seemingly right above us, from horizon to horizon it promised peace.  Its colors sparkled in the rain that fell in straight glistening showers downward watering the gardens.  The sun shone through it and all was bright.  Today we will tie her back legs.

I love the peacefulness of home.  Now that Emily has moved back in, we drive considerably less.  We feel better in our bustling schedule around this homestead.  I love the heaviness of the cast iron skillet as I prepare eggs fresh from the coop and slice warm bread that I baked.  Dandelions, or other produce later, are mixed into the eggs throughout the season along with homemade cheese.  I hope fresh fruit will join these.  We look across our table and see how much of it we produced.  We are aptly satisfied and proud yet strive to produce nearly everything we consume.  Of course we shall rely on the humble farmer that provides the grains for our table.  The coffee from far away.  The teas exotic.  But our year long sustenance grows each season on this homestead as we produce more and more.

The milk hits the bucket in a sing-song tune as Isabelle stands sweetly on the stand.  She occasionally turns to kiss Doug’s ear.  She loves him and seems to want to impress him.  This year she is giving over a gallon a day of fresh milk.  I pour the warm milk into his coffee once inside.  The creamy morning treat warms the farmer.  These simple pleasures transcend the ordinary ones we knew growing up.  Last night after Doug had fallen asleep I sat in the rocking chair my father gave my mother upon learning that she was with child over forty-one years ago.  I sat in front of the wood stove and let it warm me as I relaxed into my book, the oil lamp highlighting the page, a cup of hot tea by my side.  The house and land is quiet.  My muscles are tired but my mind is joyous.  There is cheese pressing, bread dough rising, and at least the dishes are done.  I am reading an Amish book.

I have sat in an Amish home and read accounts.  They are not unlike mine.  Keeping the world out is something I strive for.  The news stays in its dramatic studios of fear.  Anger, stress, and sadness dissipate quicker here.  We are not immune to financial wonderings and relationship woes but here in this setting they work themselves out and the spirit is restored quickly.  We pray openly here and are thankful for our blessings.  We call on the Lord for signs, for help, and for comfort and receive them as we listen softly in the night by oil lamp and quiet.

The aprons hang on the wall and tell stories, I decide which one I wish to don this day.  I have long skirts, and long slips, and layers to make them stand out because they are comfortable, and feminine, and fine.  The apron pocket holds what I need as I bustle from clothes line to barn yard to kitchen.  Three meals a day grace the table and the children always know they can come home to a hot meal, peace and quiet, and an escape from the world beyond.

The counties out here argue over fracking, over wind mills, over water.  Not here! they say.  Yet folks will not give up their luxuries and want these means of fancies and want destruction to get them so long as they cannot see them.  We work on our own solution, to use less.  To find alternative ways.  And the classical music plays softly in the kitchen and the electric kettle often gets turned on but bird song could fill the musical need and a kettle whistling from wood stove could suffice.  And the world could howl outside our door but our respite remains here in our pioneer ways.  I put on my sun bonnet and head outdoors to plant.

The Joys of a Simple Life (goals, self reliance, a day in the life)

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Forget January first as New Year’s!  That is only one time of pondering goals for a homesteader.  There are several pivotal times in the year that homesteaders like us take stock and decide and dream and implement plans for the year.

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Our average spring day starts at dawn with strong cups of coffee.  Doug reads the news and I write.  We do outdoor farm chores like milking, feeding goats and sheep, letting the chickens and ducks out and making sure they are cared for.  We plant as the weather allows, watching the weather and clouds like an addiction.  Preparing soil, adding beds, caring for plants.

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Doug fixes fences and puts up gates.  He repairs things damaged from winter and makes sure we have plenty of firewood curing and in the house for the still chilly nights. We watch our beautiful granddaughter.  She wants to be a part of everything, carrying wood, making cheese, doing dishes.

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I keep up the farmhouse and put three meals a day on the table.  I preserve throughout the year to keep the pantry rotating.  Five pints of meat sauce put up the other day, seven quarts of broth last week.  Cheese rests in brine on the stove. (I will teach you that next week!)

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We watch owls swoop by, worry about family members from a distance, pray for sunny days, and relax in the evenings after milking, reading by oil lamp.  We lead a simple, busy, enchanting life.  In order to keep this lifestyle we have to find everything possible that we can do ourselves.  This allows us to live on very little money and enjoy the profound satisfaction of doing things ourselves.  We live softly on the planet and provide healthy food and peaceful living for ourselves and our children that came home.

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For the past six years we have added skill by skill and vast achievements but this year I would like to go one step further and do these things more intensely, more prolifically.  I have grown all my own green beans, but how about all our corn?  I have sewed a skirt, how about sew what I need this year? (I am in dreadful need of new aprons)  So, these are my goals for the next two and a half seasons and of course you will be drug along with me through my writings to see just how self-reliant we can be and how satisfying it is to live a life of freedom and work by hand and I hope I can inspire you to step back and live a little more simply and old fashioned too.

Can I: Grow all my own fruits and vegetables?

Make my own wine?

Prepare my own spices?

Make all my own dairy products?

Provide some of my own meat?  And source the rest from friends? (Whole Foods is killing me y’all!)

Bake all my own breads, tortillas, rolls, etc.?

Stock, organize, and fill staples so that we can practically eliminate the need to go to the store?

Grow enough variety to satisfy us?

Be creative with recipes?

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These are my goals for my farmhouse kitchen.  I have a list of what we need to reserve for winter.  How to improve my relationships. What to sew. How to rearrange the living room and kitchen.  But most of all I need to be present, unfettered,  and loving.  I need to not get so busy that I forget to hug my husband, sit and watch the rain from the window, read a good book, or play with the baby.  Our old lifestyle allowed a two week vacation.  This one allows a bit every day.  This is truly the best life for us.

Ebb and Flow of Farm Life

The ebb and flow, the life and death, the frequency changes and seasons all so crisply clear when one lives on a farm.

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The ducklings do not fail to bring smiles.  Frolicking in their playpen in a casserole dish turned pond.

The farm dog lays under freshly mounded soil by the empty bee hive.  Bumble passed away in the night.  The quiet house without his tick-tick-ticking and the sight of him this morning haunts me still.  Dumping the pile of dead bees in the compost.  A weight pulls my heart.  The dead chicken with suspicious slobber on her feathers.  Death is real and constant.

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The monastery of frogs chant from the pond beneath the full moon.  The baby red winged black birds chirp madly in the greenhouse.  The kittens play.  The seedlings stretch to the sky, the sun on their limbs.  The breeze brings on it blossoms from trees and the scent of dampened soil.  Elsa’s side grows.  Twelve more days until she kids.  Bundles of fluff, lambs who think they are dogs, greet me with kisses and lean against my legs.

Relationships start.  Unexpected, journeys change.  Paths bring second thoughts, perhaps regrets.  Marriages strengthen.  Friends offer embraces.  Words of wisdom and love over the telephone far away.

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The Creator waits for our prayers of thanksgiving as we busy ourselves with endless internal chatter.

Wading through and finding peace in the respectfulness of death, the joy of birth and spring, and my spirit shall join the frogs in their meditation of all that is.  Take a breath.

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Spring is here and the journey continues.

5 Ways to Make the New Year Better (write down yours!)

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I really enjoy my time with other homesteaders.  I find comfort in how much we have in common.  We don’t get to see our country friends too much because we are all so darn busy but now that things are settling down we’ll possibly have time for impromptu visits.  Yesterday our friend and neighbor from ten miles down the road came by to visit.  He didn’t call (country friends rarely do) and I was frazzled that the house was in such disarray.  We had the baby all day and I could either do dishes and clean or play with the baby.  I spent too many years cleaning and doing dishes while my children grew up without me playing with them so I opted to play.  She had just fallen asleep when Jim came by.  We had a nice chat in the sunny living room in front of the Christmas tree and talked about the snow coming, work slowing down for both of us, the holidays, he lost his dad and how sad he was, what medicines we were making (he was one of my students), and laundry.  Yes, laundry.  You can tell the weather out here by the clothes lines.  The day before a cold front comes in we all do our laundry so it will be dry by time the cold hits.  He had a load in the washer so couldn’t stay long.  I did too.  We had a pleasant chat and agreed to get together for cards soon.

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I am very content.  Despite the cold (which we can handle and are hoping to put in another stove) we have just the life we want out here.  As the new year approaches though I find myself pondering what I could do better, what more I want in my life, and how I want to improve as a person.  Maybe you are too.  Instead of calling these things resolutions, let’s just call them new additions (or subtractions!) from our life and make a personalized plan for success!  I have started them now.  No reason to wait.  Write these five things down on a piece of paper and start pondering them now.  They can be easily implemented throughout the next year and help you become your best self.

1. Learn Something New

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What would you like to learn in the new year?  Let’s not forget that learning goes on our whole lives and that learning new things is great for the brain, the body, and spirit.  I wanted to learn how to learn how to ride horses.  Now, I have rode dozens of horses on trails that the horse knew by heart and they were already saddled up and ready to go for fifty dollars an hour.  Or friend and family’s horses that were in a ring, and again, already to go.  I put out on social media that I would like to learn how to ride horses and was willing to barter for lessons.  I expected to learn western riding.  I would love to get a horse or two in the future (the sooner the better!) and expect to be riding western style.  But when one of my friends and past students offered me English riding lessons, I took it.  She already knows how to make medicines so I bartered for my husband.  His expertise anyway.  I let him know he was helping her design a facebook and website for her upcoming business.  He is a good sport.

You can find someone to teach you virtually anything and folks are happy to share what they know.  You will easily be able to barter or find inexpensive classes.  Or splurge and take up tap lessons or go to drawing school.  Just learn something new.

What skill would you like to learn?

2. Take Care of Your Body

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We can all do the things we love a lot easier if we feel good.  Identifying and implementing what we need to feel our best is very important and shouldn’t be put off!  We all have different needs and cannot just blindly follow the latest fad or phase.  For me, I need to change the way I eat.  A year ago, after twenty plus years of being a vegetarian, I decided to start eating meat again.  The prairie lifestyle and the organic farms around me, not to mention being out of things to cook, inspired me to try it.  It would be a more self sufficient way to eat as well since I could easily pack my freezers with friends’ harvests.  In one year, I became depressed, my face showed more wear and tear, my stomach always hurt, I had heartburn every night for the first time in my life, and I was lethargic and tired all the time.  My husband wasn’t faring much better.  His acid reflux came back, chronic congestion, and breathing issues ensued.  He gained weight and was also tired all the time.  Enough was enough.  I sold every bit of meat in the refrigerator.  We are starting our mornings with a quart of green smoothies filled with spinach, aloe vera, frozen berries and rhubarb packed away earlier in the season.  Apples, also from Aunt Donna’s, and bananas, pumpkin, spices, anything else I can find filled with antioxidants goes into the fabulous Vitamix and is already infusing our bodies with more nutrients than we have had for a long time.  The hole in my stomach is healing and I can sleep now.  All digestive ailments have gone away.  Doug is detoxing pretty harshly but will feel better soon.

Instead of buying veggie meats (I was trying to get away from them because they have so many GMO’s in them and are owned by the big companies) I am experimenting with more ethnic foods.  Dal, Curries, Mexican food, all different cuisines from other countries that don’t eat a lot of meat or have a wide variety of beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices.  We are still eating and enjoying fish.  Not only will be getting healthier again but I have opened up a whole other world of delicious recipes and foods.  I will start checking out a different cookbook each week from the library.  I can also grow most of these foods.  I will increase my bean and lentil crops this year and pack in as many vegetables into my new garden as possible!

How will you make your body work better?

3. Take Care of Emotions

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Our bodies are made up of emotions, spirit, and physical and they all need to be working well because they effect the rest of the systems.  I avoid the news like the plague.  No news is good news.  But social media bothers me as well.  I enjoy getting onto Facebook and seeing what my friends are up to or seeing pictures of my kids and granddaughter, but then there comes a point where I have to stop.  Folks posting pictures of abused and neglected animals out in the snow, and posts of what Monsanto is doing, and what our government is doing, or complaints about various ailments, and this and that, I just can’t take it all in and process it without feeling saddened.  Check it in the mornings while I am writing and returning emails then leave it.

How will you seek emotional health?

4. Take Care of Spirit

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I love church, I really do.  I find myself making it way too difficult.  I do not like legalistic and superior feeling folks.  I love the Catholic church, but stupid as it sounds, I cannot get down the new prayers and sayings and need to get the new booklet on the changes.  I yell out the wrong thing.  I also would need to meet all new people.  I just want to go, sit in the back, and pray.  I don’t want to be a part of a community.  I am always disappointed in church communities when I do.  I know I am expecting too much.  I love the gathering every other Sunday downtown with my American Indian friends called Talking Circle.  It is two hours from my house though.  We pick up the baby at 11.  So I don’t have time (so I say) to go to any of them!  Excuses, excuses.  What do I want?  Go to Saturday evening mass, pick up the baby early and drive to Denver and go to Talking Circle and make a day in the city of it, or just go for a long walk and pray.  There are many ways to connect to the Creator.  Put it on my schedule and do it.

5. List What Makes You Happy

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These are the things we need to do more of.  We so often say at the beginning of the year, no more of this!  No more of that!  Change this!  Change that!  How about add this and that?  It will make all the difference.  For me, I love being home more.  I do not like running errands and driving all over all the time.  We have one more week of craft shows.  I love just staying at home and working on my homestead.  I love taking walks and being in nature.  I love writing.  I love reading magazines on the porch.  I love being around my kids and around sweet Maryjane Rose.  These are the types of things I should do more of.

Now write down yours!

From our farm to yours…wishing you a beautiful and prosperous year to come filled with good health and joy and many, many great memories!  Feel free to respond with your goals for the new year.  Let’s not wait until the 1st to feel great!

 

 

‘Tis Thanksgiving Eve

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‘Tis Thanksgiving eve

a prayer hushes over the land

of grateful hearts for harvest so full

such bounty in our lives and hand.

 

We bow our heads in repose

to give sweet thanks for blessings abound

for those before us that bowed their heads

their new lives on this prairie found.

 

A feast to eat before us

everywhere in the wild to be found

our little cottage so filled with love

warm sun setting without a sound.

 

We will be thankful and not want

so easy to wish for something more

we could be unloved, hungry and cold

and sleeping on a sodden floor.

 

So we bow our heads and say grace

lest we forget that our basic needs are few.

Tomorrow we will be thankful too.

And the day after.

And the day after.

Happy Thanksgiving!