A Housewife with “the Sight”

Thick snow begins to blanket my quiet, little homestead.  It is peaceful.  Last night my spirit was reeling, this morning it is calm.  The birds sing sweetly from the trees.

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Have you read my memoir?  (AuthorKatieSanders.com) The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman is my life story.  It is filled with many of the tales that I don’t typically mention on Farmgirl School for fear of scaring off a few folks.  In my other, less written about blog, DancingwithFeathers.com, I wrote a few months ago about a shaman friend who came to visit me.  “You are not getting out of it that easy,” she breezily said.  I didn’t think I would do that work anymore.

“You’re a medium,” the reader next to my cousin at the holistic fair yesterday said as he stopped me.  “Can you help this woman?”  Uh…er…what?  I sat down with her at my cousin’s empty table (she was out shopping) and immediately her recently deceased husband started talking to her through me.  I felt his every pain, how he died, how he was still worried about his business partner.  For twenty minutes, the fellow filled his wife in with everything she needed know.  Through tears, she nodded, smiled, and I may never see her again.  She gave me twenty dollars.  It is so awkward to take money for spiritual work.

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I suppose that this is only odd in this day and age.  My Nordic, Celtic, and Native ancestors wouldn’t have thought it at all strange that the lady of the house would have “the sight.”  I always figure that I can just be normal.  I can be a housewife.  I can sew and make tea and play the piano and play with my grandbaby…who is psychic as well.

“You have to do readings.  You have to do the medium work,” the reader said.  I had sat down with him after I spoke with the woman.  If truth be told, I had already done three other readings at Julie’s table.  They just kept coming.

I took a break from doing spiritual work in July.  I love being a spiritual guide.  I love helping people.  But I wasn’t sure if I was actually helping anyone.  And I wasn’t sure what emotional or physical effect it was having on me.

A woman in the hall stopped me at the fair.  “Remember when you told me that a cowboy would be coming in to my life?  He did!  Just as you described him!”  She was so happy.

Apparently there is no hiding behind the sewing machine or pressure canner on this one.  Yes I am a homemaker, a quilter, a homesteader, a Grammie, a wife, a mama, an animal lover, a passionate gardener and herbalist.  I am a great lover of the Creator and of Mother Earth and of all the ancestors and guides and nature spirits and yes, I guess I am an instrument to help people find their way with a most unusual talent.  We all have a role to play in helping others.  It is our destiny.

 

The Good Life Map

Isn’t life interesting?  How it changes and ebbs and flows from one experience to another?  Always opening doors to dreams and lessons and then moving us through to the next bend.  It all can be breathtakingly beautiful in its innate simplicity and flow.

I went for a job interview yesterday.  I got it, but realized that I really do not want to go back to working the same old things I have done off and on since I was sixteen.  I gave my apothecary to my daughter, Shyanne.  Yes, I am tired of expensive printers, and labels, and sales taxes, and such but I gave it to her because I can think of no better gift to give her than a career and a set business.

“I don’t know what I can do.  I need to do something!” I mentioned to a friend over coffee about jobs.  “You can always teach,” was her reply.

I had said (oh, how many times have I said things and then changed my mind?!) that I didn’t want to teach anymore.  Why?  Because my classes are three months long!  It then occurred to me that I made that up, I can change it!  Ha!  We forget our own power of decision.  I will be teaching a six week Certified Herbalist Course.  I’ll start each week with tea, a bit of ceremony and camaraderie.  They will learn all the important things they need.  Ditch the text book.  Teach them real herbalism.  Make it less expensive so it can help more people.  And it helps me.

We often forget the power of decisions.  We can manifest anything we wish, but we are also at the mercy of fate.  So, make simple changes to make your life better, and breathe.  Your gifts are your map to your good life.

The Entertaining Farmgirl’s Yuletide Gathering

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The breeze blew mischievously as Doug continued lighting the luminarias that lined the walk, the oil lanterns, and the dozens and dozens of tea lights.  The house was ready for a party.  And so was I.

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Luminarias are prevalent in New Mexico where they light the way for travelers and carolers alike.  Simply fold down a few inches of a paper lunch bag.  Pour in three inches or so of sand and place a tea candle in the center.  

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An oil lamp makes a lovely welcome outdoors and adds whimsy to the lighting indoors.  Remember, no overhead lighting allowed!  Twinkly lights and tea candles work beautifully to create drama, softened features, and enchantment.  

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We haven’t thrown a Christmas party in four years.  It was wonderful being able to send out invites to a Yuletide Gathering with a few friends.  I chose to serve soups and had my guests bring either wine, bread, or dessert.  Soups are easy to prepare in advance.  They are always delicious and hard to mess up.  Alongside, I served a platter of garlic bread for the Sherry Tomato Soup,  corn chips and sour cream for the Three Chile Mole, and green olives for the Italian Lentil soup.  Friends came bearing garlic and cheese breads, sausages in raspberry chipotle sauce, and lots of divine desserts.

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Make sure you put out little cards stating what each thing is.  The key is to free up as much time to mingle with guests and join in the festivities and you want your guests to feel at home.

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Before guests arrived I put out a platter of my homemade manchego cheese and crackers with roasted orange-parmesan olives (almost all of these recipes are in my new cookbook, From Mama’s Kitchen With Love).  I don’t wait too long after guests arrive to serve supper but something to snack on quells early dinner pangs and gives folks something to do.

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Place all plates, silverware, and glassware out so that friends can help themselves.  Use china.  You can do dishes tomorrow.  

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The couches and the easy chairs are set up in a circle for ease of conversation and it was very easy to pull up other chairs so that everyone could take part in the games and laughter.  I invited an eclectic group of people.  A surgical tech, a Reiki master, the owner of a metaphysical shop, a veteran and her older three children who homestead and homeschool, my oldest, great friends-Rod Sr., Rodney, and my dear Pat.  Everyone had things in common and the conversation stayed lively.

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Start with an ice breaker.  We name all of our animals after movies and so we named off our eight cats and dog to create a fun ice breaker where they had to name the movie.  

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From walking up the illuminated path, to having wine and hors d’oeuvres, to the ice breaker, than dinner, a ten dollar gift exchange, then the game.  We played a fun game called “Catch Phrase” that required no boards or teams, just an electronic device that we passed around that gave us a word and we had to get the group to say it with clues.  It created a lot of great laughter and fun.

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The White Elephant game where people bring odd gifts and people trade and such just creates more items that folks don’t want and may end up in a landfill.  Everyone brought a nice ten dollar gift, such as small oil burners, and salt lamps, crystals, books, and candles, and everyone was delighted with what they received.  

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Pour leftover soup into pint jars and send them home with friends!

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New friends were made, great food was had, joy was spread, and I do believe that is the best party I have had.  Such a beautiful way to celebrate the season of light.

Farmgirl Time; the beauty of old clocks

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I love old clocks.  I love that there are no obnoxious light up, LED, plugged in clocks messing with my natural rhythms and using up electricity.  Old clocks have a steady pulse to them, a heartbeat, an ongoing dance of time so long as you remember to wind them.

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I have always loved clocks.  I always wanted a cuckoo clock.  We stayed with a couple in Kansas one weekend whose home was filled with old clocks.  I loved the top of the hour when they all sang and then returned to gentle ticking, methodical and calming.

clockKat’s father repaired and collected clocks.  Rod’s home is filled with them.  I am the grateful owner of three of them.  Kat gave me a cuckoo clock for my birthday many years ago and I still adore it.

The grandfather clock came from their son, Rodney’s home, I only needed to get it repaired, which I with great joy.  It has a lunar face set to the new and full moon cycles, effectively telling me when to make my medicines and when they are complete.

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This old wind up alarm clock is quirky, loud, and fun.  It pleases me.  We never have the alarm on!

Even though farm time goes more with the seasons and natural progressions of the day, if I do want to know what time it is, all I have to do is listen and the clocks will tell me.  All in good time.

 

Ten Yule Gifts To Give Yourself

The Yule-tide season oughtn’t be just about giving gifts to others.  Why, we might want to be a bit self indulgent.  Lord, I think we have all spent enough time learning from society that it isn’t about us, and that we should just give, give, give to others.  I don’t know about you, but I think I deserve a little treat now and then.  I work hard, love hard, and I should treat myself as I would treat a small child in my home.  With comforts and love abound.  Here are just a few ideas to make the holidays at home sweet.

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#1 If you have a queen sized bed, splurge on king sized sheets.  Even better, get those glorious plush, micro-fleece sheets.  Soft, comforting, and enough leeway to share with your partner.  Curled up under warm sheets pulled to your chin (a treat when you are as tall as I am) and still have your feet covered is indeed heaven.

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#2 The Christmas tree is magical.  Treat it as such.  Twinkly lights, memories in ornament form, the smell of pine if it is a real tree, and the tall evergreen monument in the living room for but a month is a joy to have.  Pull up a rocking chair and opt to sit in it a few minutes with the lights on morning and evening.  A cup of coffee or tea, a magazine or book.  Perhaps a little music.  Magic.

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#3 Treat yourself to smoothies whipped up with fresh vegetables and fruits in the morning and a glass of fresh pressed juice before dinner.  You will infuse your body with a great number of nutrients and fiber and perhaps won’t eat so much of the not-so-great foods.  Eat well.

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#4 Use a vaporizer that has a little well for essential oils.  Lavender reminds me of my favorite places in New Mexico and lulls me to quiet sleep.  Pine invigorates and smells of holidays and forests.  Find your scent (and your moisture).

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#5 Stretch gently in the morning.  Or vigorously.  Yoga and meditation is beautiful.  Prayers said while lighting candles is healing.  Remembering our loved ones is essential.  For all those passed and those that are here helping us along, be grateful.

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# 6 Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to coffee before brewing.  Add a cinnamon stick to a cup of hot tea.  (It stabilizes blood sugar tastes great.)

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# 7 Write love letters to those near to you.  Then write a love letter to yourself.  I dare you.  You will feel awkward and giddy the entire time you write your missive to yourself.

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#8 Say no.  Stay in.  Watch silly Christmas shows and movies.  Drink hot cider and eat popcorn and a few cookies.  Snuggle on the couch.  Look at the stars for a moment before darting back into the warm house.  Start a fire.  (That has several meanings.)

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#9 Start planning your year to come.  Dream.  For dreams cannot possibly come true if we don’t dream and plan them first.

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#10 Love you.  Merry Christmas to you.  All the magic in the world is at your fingertips.  you can make anything occur.  You are made perfect, look perfect, are perfect.  Just love you.

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Cheers, Friends.  Time to light the Christmas tree and candles.  The sun is sloping towards the west.  I hope you are enjoying your season so far.

 

Embracing One’s True Gifts (and the bloodline medicine girl)

And in all the world enchantment remains as our true gifts flow through our veins.

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I suppose I really did think that everyone could do what I do.  I assumed that I could also do what others could do.  Surely I could learn to play the guitar well and walk around sounding like Joni Mitchell.  I played the piano for twenty years and cannot remember a single tune.  No Carol King career for me.  I love my art work until I am next to other artists.  Then mine looks a little fifth grade.  I can do a lot of things if I work terribly hard and then I will grow bored of them and wander off, for they are not my true gift.

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Plants are my passion.  I live, breathe, dream, create, and work around plants, specifically in medicine.  I have a green thumb after never giving up and I can grow anything in a pot or in the soil of the prairie.  But my real magic is in making plants into medicine.  This is very humbling, very honoring, and I am a little awestruck at the magic of it all.

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Over the years I have seen people working so hard, trying to learn herbalism, and it doesn’t quite work out, and then they wander off to pursue their true gifts.

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It changes everything when you know that you have a true gift for something.  A responsibility even.  The idea of multiple stores or hiring employees goes out the window if I am the vessel that makes the medicine work.  I would never sell it wholesale.  The importance of working one on one with people is so important to the craft.  I so respect the plants and their medicine, as well as the people and animals I care for.  Out of all the gifts I could have been given, I am deeply honored and slightly insanely passionate about being a plant healer.

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There are lots of gifts flowing through both sides of my family line, the blood line of varying types of healers, and they can all garden like it is second nature.  I am the first plant healer in awhile.

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In every culture there was a medicine person.  Many households knew minor remedies but there was one person who knew the plants and their medicines intimately, who could handle the bigger issues.  Not everyone could do it.  The odds of having it in one’s bloodline and as their gift was really quite rare.  Just as all gifts are.

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Shyanne Mae has really grown up since this blog first started.  She has become an amazing young woman.  She read my entire text book, did all of the assignments, passed the test, made an effective medicine for her father, and learned to work the shop in twenty-four hours.  She said she had an epiphany.  She was in love with the plants too.  Granted she grew up with this lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean she would fall into the enchantment of its gifts and lessons.  You can imagine my excitement that my daughter is working with me side by side to develop medicines for our community and beyond.

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So, I may not ever become a Rockette, or a folk musician, or even a proper artist, but I am embracing my gift and all the emotions that go with it, and am so happy to share the gift with my child.

What is your true gift?

The Homestead Pinafore (Mennonite treasures)

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Over two years ago a fellow blogger, Eileen, and I sewed aprons for one another and sent them across the country to each other.  I made her a half apron with beautiful fabric with a chicken towel sewed on as pockets.  She sent me a Mennonite style apron since she lives near a large community.  She wanted to make me something that I wouldn’t have and indeed this apron was a great gift to me and one that I have never seen replicated.

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It reminds me of the pinafore on the front of Raggedy Ann’s dress and pinafores were always a pretty accessory to the occasional dress I had growing up.  I wondered what the difference was between a pinafore and an apron.  A pinafore comes from “pin a fore” or pin the apron to the front of the dress such as the Amish do.  Then it came to be understood as an apron that had two arm holes and covered a large part of the dress.  It turns out a pinafore is another form of an apron.  So, I naturally love it.

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I’ve touted it before, aprons are an important accessory for any farmgirl.  They can make an ordinary outfit look different every time one wears it.  They keep one’s dress clean so one doesn’t have to do laundry as often (yea!).  There are pockets so that one can find their keys, pocket knife, tissue, phone, gardening trowel, small toys, clothes pins, and eggs from the coop.  (Just remember to take the eggs out when you get in to the house!)

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I probably strike folks as a bit different with my long skirts and aprons but fashion should hint at one’s personality and passions, not on what companies want to sell that season.  I get many compliments about my aprons from adults and I overhear young people whispering to their friends that they love the way I dress.  Yesterday at the farmer’s market a vendor said that she had seen more people with aprons on.  Fabulous!

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My beautiful apron that Eileen had given me had seen child’s tears, gardening dirt, held a dying chicken, was stained with goat placenta, had been covered in flour, had been worn around our homestead, then to our new temporary one, to now.  I asked Eileen if she would sew me a few more.  Apparently Eileen hates to sew.  She had a solution though!  I sent an extremely fair price to her to give her Mennonite neighbor who had loaned her the pattern in the first place and her daughters made me five of the most beautiful aprons/pinafores I have ever seen.

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A gift beyond measure.  I cannot wait to wear them on my next homestead! (and today….I’ll wear one today!)

Empowering Young Farmers and Humbling the Farmer (and how to design garden beds)

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I received a message wondering if I could use the help of twenty girl scouts.  The farm they were supposed to help out decided they didn’t need volunteers.  Not only can I use volunteers, but I always jump at the opportunity to reach out to kids.  It is staggering to me the minute amount of people who have chosen to grow food and the even smaller amount of women that have opted for this job.  I don’t remember in school it even being an option.  I was told I could be anything I want, a stay at home mom, a doctor, a lawyer, a nun, but never was the word farmer uttered.

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I think it is so important to show kids that living simply and farming is indeed a real career and lifestyle choice.  So I stood there thinking of all the ways I would inspire and encourage troop 2251 to do great things as they pulled in.  My breath caught and tears threatened to come.  Two cars of smiling girls were followed by a truck and trailer.  Stacked a top that trailer were twenty bales of straw for mulch and twenty bags of organic potting soil.  They had raised money to help out a farm.  What a blessing, what a group of angels that descended on our humble farm!

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I welcomed them to Pumpkin Hollow Farm and told them a bit about our simple lifestyle.  I introduced them to the animals.  They swooned over the baby lambs and my granddaughter, Maryjane.  They looked for all the kittens in the house and I showed them the wood cook stove.  We then set off to work.  We had a daunting task, turn the barren patch of dirt that was once a thriving garden at one time into a ready-to-plant plot.

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We gathered all the cardboard boxes that I had thrown in there over the winter, flattened them, and laid them beneath the paths.  I explained how we would make a one foot path, then a four foot bed, and repeat that all the way across.  They didn’t have to be straight beds.  Gardening is art, I told them, so they could make the beds wavy like little rivers, or use interesting items to line the path.

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The girl scout leaders, the girls, and I worked diligently under the first hot day of spring to create a masterpiece.  We brought over loads of bricks from the side of the outbuildings and made wavy streams of paths.  Discarded wood and branches lined the way.  I dared the girls to find the most creative piece to line the beds with.  My Christmas three that the goats stripped clean now lines of the beds!

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We had lunch beneath the pine trees and took in the views.  The little girls took turns carrying Maryjane around.  She has been in heaven this week with so many kids around.

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We then laid the twenty bales of straw thickly onto the planting beds.  All I need to do is lay a thick layer of wood chips on the paths and place stepping stones at strategic places across the beds to get across easily.  This plot will feed many, many people.  I am ever so grateful for their help.

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They taught me about generosity and hard work.  They helped a farmer that they didn’t even know.

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 5-Community

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In this “How to Become a Homesteader” series we have talked about leaving the rat race for greener pastures, eliminating a lot of unnecessary bills and cutting others.  We have lowered our need for so much income and found a good trade or homestead job that we can bring in what little we do need.  We have discussed farm animals and heating with wood and with telling time on a cuckoo clock.  We have figured what skills we ought to pick up and we are ready to roll.  But there is one very important aspect to becoming a homesteader.  Community.  It seems that would be opposite to what we are trying to achieve.  We want to be self reliant, grow our own food, take care of ourselves, and have less fear.  But, what we are really doing is becoming less reliant on big corporations and more reliant on ourselves and each other.  That is how we were made.

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When you become a homesteader you will naturally attract and meet other homesteaders.  Each has something to offer. It is one big circle out here.  A gentleman took my herbalist classes who has a tree service who got us our first cords of wood and will provide me with wood chips.  He is teaching me more and more about wild plants.  I make herbal medicines and Doug fixes computers but we need some help learning how to build things and with cars.  We have found more and more people that need what we have and can offer what we need.

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Even our friends who aren’t homesteaders, per se, have like minded ideas.  Rodney used to have a large garden before arthritis made it difficult.  Rodney Sr. can fix many things and is very creative.  Kat would love to have chickens and a small homestead.  Sandy and Bill have lots of chickens and a mad goose near their gardens.  Monte and Erik have food, water, and other necessities in case of emergency.

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Monte and Erik, our dear, dear long time friends, are moving across the country next month.  This is a couple that has a framed painting from Emily that she drew when she was six on the wall among their fine art.  The kids used to call them Uncle Monte and Uncle Erik.  We have traveled with them and they were among the first at the hospital when Maryjane was born.  Eating and drinking and watching the Superbowl at their house with all the kids was bittersweet this year.

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In a fit of silliness at the end we planned our ideal homestead and what we can all do. Bret is a hunter and is going to school for mechanics, Dillon (Shyanne’s long time boyfriend) works in construction and can help us build things on this imaginary homestead.  Shyanne is an amazing baker.  I volunteered to grow the gardens and make the medicine.  “I’ll be the bartender!” Erik says and across the room Andy says, “I’ll grow the weed!”  and everyone cheered.

Despite the fact that some of us don’t smoke weed (our son is an executive at a dispensary), and Monte and Erik are moving to Washington DC, and our kids probably don’t want to live that close to us, we enjoyed imagining the possibility.  There is comfort in being near close friends and family and a need to be near others.  The old saying still rings true, “Many hands make light work.”  And since each of us has our own gifts and talents, we can come together to provide a completely self reliant community.

The Life of a Healer- Part 2 (gifts and fire)

I think you would have liked her.  She was a very nice girl, naïve and not equipped with a lot of common sense, but a very nice girl.  I remember her to be very compassionate.  At six years old Wildflower pointed to a truck load of sheep and asked where they were going.  Her father told her they were going to be dinner.  Wildflower was horrified at the very notion.  When she was twelve years old she read in a teen magazine about a lifestyle called vegetarianism and was so excited to find such a thing that she adopted it immediately.  Being such a lover of and having such a connection to animals seemed so contradictory to eating them.

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This was about the time her intuition began.  A nervous feeling in her stomach wracked her for hours at school one day and she simply could not figure out what was wrong.  She learned that afternoon that her friend’s house had caught fire that morning and had burned.  As she grew older she started having dreams of tragedies before they hit the news.  She was so upset by these things and confided in her grandmother.  A funny thing about intuitive abilities, they remain secret among families.  It turned out that Wildflower’s grandmother had been a medical intuitive.  Her sisters were all highly intuitive.  Her nieces were too.  Wildflower’s sister was finding her own abilities.  A strong gift was evident among the female family members but one would have to search to learn about it.  Wildflower’s grandmother told her how to shut off what she didn’t want to see.  What Wildflower was left with was the ability to know when the phone was about to ring.  She still didn’t know what her gifts were or how they would be used in the future.  A very close family member told Wildflower these things were of the devil and to denounce them.  But the intuition continued though it was weak for there were many other things going on in Wildflower’s life.

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As she held her newborn son, after barely turning nineteen, in a cold hospital room with two beds, another mother holding a screaming infant across from her, she took in the beautiful sight of her new love.  Her son was beautiful and small, a perfect gift from the Creator.  She, of course, had other plans now.  There wasn’t a convent in her future.  Something more pressing and passionate had overcome her, motherhood.

One year before she had met in school a quiet, brooding, mysterious, artistic boy who was both charming and confusing.  A decision turned to an infant and Wildflower felt that she should stay with him even though he showed signs of intense anger and would go for months without even uttering a word to her.  I told you she was naïve.  Very nice though.  You would have liked her.  You just would have felt sorry for her for she was truly a clueless child and felt if she got married, things would work out.  If she had another child, things would work out.

As she sat huddled in the small basement after being locked in there, six months pregnant and holding onto her frightened two year old, she wondered how she had gotten to this place.  She heard the leaves and kindling being shoved around the door and the sound of a match.  The door was being set on fire.