Losing My Identity

It all began simple enough.  A ringing came from my stocking on Christmas morning in 2002.  My husband wanted me to have a cell phone so we could reach each other.  Then many years later came the smart phone and all of a sudden I could be instantly connected to my email, to text messaging, to the internet.

It all began innocent enough, you know.  Such a new, fascinating thing, social media.  I could find old friends, see photographs of family, keep track of my kids, share our fun, farm life.  I started my first company- a modeling agency- twenty years ago.  Since then I opened a dance company, two apothecaries, a farm, written ten books, and have been written about in several newspapers from the Denver Post to the Huffington Post.

I am connected.  Bound.  A Facebook page, four business pages, two Instagram accounts, two emails, a cell phone, and an unexplainable addiction to the thing I despise, technology.

My very self has been wrapped up in it all.  My identity.  I fear that if I don’t have a social media presence that I will disappear.  If I only have a home phone, will I become invisible?  How will I make friends?  I might be out of touch.  I might be free.

My friends know where I live.  There is a big sign that says Pumpkin Hollow Farm out front!  They can call me on a home phone hung on the wall in my farm kitchen.  In reality, my daughter can send me photos.  The same eight friends like all my posts on all my pages.  I don’t really like the wide world of Instagram knowing where I live, actually.  I am kind of tired of hosting zillions of events.  Amazon sells my books, as do the local shops and museum.  If I wanted to boost my farm, or my books, or my work, I could go to markets.  I could be local, face to face, authentic.  You know, old fashioned.

I can still write my beloved blog.

Does anyone else feel trapped by the constant pace of the tech world?  How much time do I lose?  I am a simple housewife, apron donned and all, who grew up in a time where the phone cord wouldn’t reach around the corner so I could have privacy.  How did we get here?  With every person we see on the phone, all the time, in every place, in every situation, always connected, as if we will lose our place on this earth if we disappear from it all.

I think I am going to get a home phone.

Facebook Groups and Meeting New Friends (how to expand our communities)

20180205_091100We are in a new town.  Our lives have changed quite a bit; Doug is working full time and I am not working every day.  I thought it would be nice to have some people over to play cards one evening or to ask a girlfriend to coffee.  Then I realized we don’t know anyone here!  I knew a few people from my classes and from the fairs and markets.  But if you do not know people well enough it is hard to just say, “Hey, you wanna go get some tea?”

So I started two facebook groups.  Facebook is my nemesis and saving grace all in one.  I get easily trapped in the negativity but it is also the only way to properly build and promote my business and writings.  It is also a great way to meet new people.  A private Facebook group can be easily made (it can also be made public).  I made two of them.

One of them was Doug’s idea.  His original name for it was the Black Hat Society but it turns out there are several chapters out east so instead the Purple Door Society came to be.  A beautiful woman who was in my herb and shaman classes and supported my little farm encouraged me to put the idea into action.  We sat down one day at a coffee shop and ironed out a rough idea of what this women’s group could look like then invited four other girls.  Who invited a few others.  We had our first meet up at another coffee shop last week.   Four free thinking gals, most of them healers, not wanting anyone to need something from them, just wanting to be themselves.  We sat and had tea or coffee and realized that most of us hadn’t been out with girls in a long, long time for conversation!  Next month the group (a little bigger now) is going to Florence for shopping and lunch.

We wanted to meet couples as well, like minded ones.  I created a vegan supper club called the Plant Foodie Supper Club for Southern Colorado.  Vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and the curious all welcome.  The other night we hosted two other couples for a potluck style feast.  Homemade pasta and sauce, pesto stuffed mushrooms, a vegan cheese board, French bread, and chocolate mousse.  The food and wine great, the conversations amazing, the game filled with laughter, and the evening wonderful with new friends.  Next month a young couple that we haven’t met before is hosting the dinner.  It’s wonderful to be getting out of our 24 hour a day working habit and getting out there to see who is sharing this beautiful city and planet with us!

I always say that what we learned from our adventures in losing everything was that we were so busy trying to be self sufficient that we ended up becoming completely dependent on others.  We were made to be communities, our success, joys, and health depend on it.  In a world that values media and overtime, let us make a bit of time for new friends and time with others.  Maybe start a facebook group of your own!

Winter Doldrums (staying inspired, spreading the love, great books and movies)

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This is a farmer’s time for rest and regeneration.  To allow our bodies the much needed extra time they screamed for last October.  To sit another minute in front of a sunny window, to read the books we wrote down so that we wouldn’t forget, to see the movies we missed because we couldn’t get to the theater (and renting is cheaper anyway).  We eat good, we sit longer, we find our friends that we missed in the summer!

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In the summer it’s all go-go-go!  Go to sleep, wait…get up!  Market, water, harvest, preserve, teach classes, make product, go to bed!  In the winter we have more time to think.  We learn more skills, read about new ways of doing things, think about what we want for the year.  I also have time to notice and work on emotional health and happiness.  I noticed that every time I looked at Facebook I became livid, would snap at Doug, would waste time thinking about responses.  Most people just share and post things without giving any thought to validity or seeing all sides.  They just post emotional, volatile, usually false articles and comments.  I was picking up way too much anxiety over it.  Movies would sink in more leaving me to either feel sad or stressed.  I listlessly thumbed through books then took them back to the library.  I was picking up the negativity all around me.  Even in my beautiful snow globe of a world out here, if I checked the internet, I was suddenly seething.

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We are meant to be empathetic and to understand others’ thoughts and emotions so that we may help them.  But the internet and media has opened up a whole new world of overwhelming information.  Our human bodies were never meant to take on the problems of the world.  We can barely take care of our own!  News from around the world that we have no control over, articles written from a skewed viewpoint, frustrated and complaining posts on social media, sad dramatic movies, only bad news in the press, it is enough to climb under a rock and hide!  Or snap at your husband over.

Our main source of positivity, Maryjane, our adorable and spunky granddaughter!
Our main source of positivity, Maryjane, our adorable and spunky granddaughter!

So, what can we do?  We can add more positivity into the atmosphere.  The more we add, the less negativity there is, the odds that the person you enlightened will spread it around are good, and by shutting out or buffering the negative, the more positivity can come in..

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We watched a great movie last night that I found at the library.  Based on a true story and very cheer worthy, “The Mighty Macs” was fun and enlightening.  A story about a girls basketball team, a private college, a bunch of supportive nuns, and a coach in the making, we were smiling the whole movie.

I removed a few people from my friends list on Facebook and I have more to take off.  I don’t have to read the feed either.  I can just post my blog, see what my closest are doing, and then get the heck off!  I can read inspiring information.

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I just started the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, not because I am unhappy, but because there are habits I could do to embrace more happiness.  When you are happy, it spreads.

Some things we can all do, please comment on your ideas, favorite books, movies, and inspirational materials…

1. Random acts of kindness.

My daughter was in the second hand store picking out clothes for her baby.  When she took them to the register, they were already paid for by a stranger.  For Emily, this really was an amazing gift as she doesn’t have very much money.

I don’t either but perhaps sending a homemade gift when it’s not a holiday or birthday.  Or adding a bigger tip than usual to a check.  Or sending a card.

I also love to compliment people.  I am kind of an introvert but telling someone they look lovely or that I like what they are wearing, or whatever strikes me (not making things up, but telling them what I notice) always brings a surprise smile to complete stranger’s faces.  This is important because that compliment could have negated the effect of an aggressive driver, a sick parent at home, or a fight with a spouse.  Who knows what folks are going through, just spread love.

2. Read inspiring works.

I loved Christmas at Rose Hill Farm; an Amish Love Story so much.  It had elements of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, well researched information on roses, and a beautiful story written with colorful characters and lovely prose.  That was the last book I completed.

Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie series, Under the Tuscan Sun series, anything by Jenna Woginrich, and many others top my list of favorite books.

What are books you recommend?

3. Watch inspiring films.

We recently watched “How to Train Your Dragon, 2” and loved it.  “The Mighty Macs” was great.  “Maleficent” was much better than anticipated and had a fabulous story line.  I highly recommend it.

What movies do you recommend?

What will you do today to spread more light in the world?

Eight Steps to Starting a Farm

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So you have decided to start a farm.  You have a burning desire in you that is unquenchable, filled with seed catalogues and pioneer books.  A desire to grow your own food.  Fed up with the what the government deems safe for consumption, you have decided to take matters in your own hands and will feed your family yourself.  Organic, heirloom, homegrown, beautiful produce will fill your yard and your pantry will become your grocery store.

Perhaps you also desire to feed others, share the bounty of healthy vegetables.  Maybe you want to start a community garden, or teach people to farm.

You love making $1.25 an hour, working for eighteen hours a day in the summer and fall and enjoy dirt, bugs, and cold beers after weeding.  You are in good company, my friend, make yourself at home.  Now let’s talk about how you make this a business.

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1. Find out the rules in your area.  Some of you may not even be able to have a clothes line let alone a farm.  It does not matter how much land you have or what your soil type is.  You can fix all that.  You can use containers, raised beds, and the side yard.  You can amend the soil with compost and make wonderful soil.  Here at Pumpkin Hollow Farm we are on two-thirds of an acre.  Essentially two lots in town.  Because we live in a small town, no one has thought to make a ton of rules yet.  I asked the town administrator and was given the go for farm animals as long as I don’t carried away (whoops) and the neighbors don’t complain.  Simple enough.  I can farm to my heart’s content.  We rent, but the landlord is out of the state and as long as our rent comes in regularly, they don’t care what we do.

I planned grand schemes of pumpkin festivals, a roadside stand, and folks coming over to pick up their vegetables.  That is where I ran into trouble.  I am zoned residential, not commercial.  I can grow and sell everything somewhere else, but not on my own property.  No businesses allowed.  Soooo, that takes some creativity.  Deal with what you have but in the next place, check ordinances!

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2. Choose a name and make a logo.  We did a contest on our Garden Fairy Apothecary Facebook page and a gentleman picked the perfect name for us.  Our family has always loved autumn and attend pumpkin festivals with the reverence of religion.  The movie, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is memorized and quoted throughout the year.  We even have a cat named Ichabod Crane.  We love the colors of fall and especially pumpkins.  So when Pumpkin Hollow Farm came up as a suggestion, we grabbed it!  Doug said that we don’t live in a hollow though.  No imagination I tell you.  I showed him where the ground was slightly lower in front.  Done.  Hollow.

Now, Google your name.  Make sure there aren’t two million entries for Old McDonald Farm, or whatever you come up with.  There are a few Pumpkin Hollow Farms but they are in another state.  We then checked to see if the domain name was available (more on that in a few) and if the Facebook page was available.  Pumpkin Hollow Farm was born.

Draw a logo or have someone do it for you.  For our Garden Fairy Apothecary logo I chose a beautiful and eye catching fairy from free stock photos.  The problem is that I cannot blow it up for larger advertising.  My art banner has one of my paintings portrayed on it.  When we took the photo of the painting, it was easily blown up to make a stellar banner.  I painted an Americana style pumpkin and that will become our logo on the banner this year.  HalfPriceBanners.com or your local office supply store can make banners for you.

3. Register your name.  The Secretary of State website for your state is your next stop.  For roughly $25 you claim your name.  Now, all hell could break loose and you could decide against having a farm.  That is fine, registering your name doesn’t make you have to have a farm.  It just makes sure that no one else takes your name within the state.

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4. Market your farm goods.  If you can set up a roadside stand, do it!  If not, then you may want to check into farmer’s markets in your area.  Google “Farmer’s markets in_______ (enter your town name)” and you will find the markets near you.  There should be a link to their website or at the very least their contact information.  Lately I have been able to reach prospective markets by finding them on Facebook.

You will need to fill out an application.  There is often a fee to get in ranging from $5 to $200.  There will be market fees each week ranging from 10% of your sales to $100 a week base.  Choose your markets wisely.  Just because they are more expensive does not mean they are a better market.  We are choosing one of the more expensive this year because we have some established clientele there, it is a short drive, and we are tired of driving across the state at 4:30 in the morning to set up.

Be prepared for a lot of hard work.  Folks stroll down the lanes at farmer’s markets and see the people running the booths and mistakenly think that this is easy.  Think up before dawn, harvest, finish packing the car, have your lunch ready (and breakfast, and coffee, and snacks) and after taking care of the animals, stumble over to the car.  If you don’t get there early someone will take your spot.  It is rather competitive at the markets.  Just smile and get there early.  Once everyone is set up the ugliness goes away and everyone is friendly again.

Farmer’s markets aren’t always the best way to make money because the market managers want their share too and folks that visit the market seem to think it is a swap meet.  Pick your prices, be proud of your work, and stick to your guns.  Display is everything.  Do not make people come into the booth to see your wares.  They will not venture past the imaginary line in the front of the tent.  I promise you.  Set the table up as close to the front of the tent.  Use bright colors and unique display pieces to show off your items.  Have a banner made so folks know who you are.  It is best to sign up for markets in February.  They fill up.

Also look into local festivals.  We have Elizabash and Kiowa Days here.  Most towns have a celebration that has vendors.  That is a great way to meet local people and let them know what you are doing.

There are also co-ops or selling right from the yard if the town will let you. (or don’t see you…)

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5. Advertise the farm.  Make fliers and put them around town and on community boards.

Start a Facebook page.

Get a website.  1&1.com and Go Daddy are good places to register your domain.  1&1 had great templates that make it very easy to set up and design a website.  You just fill in the text and upload pictures.  The rest is designed for you.  For $10 a month, it is worth it!

Start a blog or write articles for local papers.

SAM_0499We made brochures this year and handed them out at the market, put them in packages we shipped, and have them on community boards.  This has really increased interest.

6. Find out if the areas that you are going to be selling in charge taxes on food.  A lot do not, some do.  If you need a tax license then you can go to your local tax office and apply for a number.  Send your sales tax in quarterly.  A lot of markets don’t ask for your tax information, and most vendors, I would say, do not even claim the income.  That is your call.

For income tax, fill out a Schedule F.  Here you claim your income but also write off chicken feed, seeds, and beer!  Well, maybe not beer.

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7. Order seeds.  You probably already have.  Keep in mind that organic and heirloom seeds keep history and health alive.  At the very least farm organically.  I love Seed Savers, and other heirloom companies.  If you are ordering corn, order organic seeds!

8. Don’t limit yourself to produce.  You can sell a table full of carrots and only go home with sixty bucks.  Think eggs, canned goods, meat, vanilla extract, baked goods, homemade vinegars, anything else that you do or make, consider adding it to your list of goods.  We have an Apothecary.  We make our living from making and selling herbal medicines.  We would not be able to survive on this small of acreage as farmers alone. Variety is the key.  I will also have hand spun yarn and soy candles.  A bit of this, a bit of that.  I also promote my classes.

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Now that you have done all that, you are ready to call yourself a farmer.  So, like the rest of us, you must wait patiently until spring.  Happy Farming!