As I carefully unwrapped each fragile teacup, each plate, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Each dish is over a hundred years old, hand painted from Denmark, and so beautiful. How did the young newlywed, the new farm wife, feel as she carefully unwrapped such fine things on her wedding? A hundred years separates and joins us in a flash of a tea cup.
My beautiful friend, Kat (whom I called mom) had a great love of history, and homesteading, and family. She knew that I might be the only one to appreciate such things as old linens, and wind up clocks, and this and that, and so for each holiday I was gifted with heirlooms. Hilda was her grandmother, a farm wife in Iowa and in my home I have her things. I have never met her but we are connected through time as farm wives. As women. As housewives. We are connected by our love of Kat and by the material things she used that carry memories and love.
Gunhilda was her given name, but she always went by Hilda. Her family was Danish and her husband was from Denmark. A darling looking man named Jorgen, or George once he came to the states. They were married in 1918 when Hilda was twenty-three years old.
I have read her old postcards often. I am fascinated by her friends’ scripts and brief notations. How sweet to receive such correspondence on a snowy day.
I put on one of the aprons that Hilda made. They are starting to fray but they are sturdy and lovely in their simple way. A good sized pocket to gather eggs.
I will make tea for the ladies that might come by for a visit. Just as she would have done in that farmhouse past the rows of corn a hundred years ago and just as women will do a hundred years from now. We are all connected by that nurturing spirit, love of family and community, and of simple things like hand painted dishes so fine.
I do adore history. And the history of things. I feel that structures hold the imprints of spirits and memories of those that came before. All you have to do is walk into a place to get the heebie jeebies and know something tragic happened there or to walk into a place and feel a wonderful sense of calm to know what I mean.
When we walked into the house we are buying Thursday I felt like I was in someone’s Grandma’s house. I could not explain this but I saw children running through and laughter and celebrations and quiet contemplations in the light filled home.
The internet has made it rather easy to find out history. A few clicks of Google and I had found the names of all the owners of the house and then the history of the family that was there for seventy five years.
Leslie was eighteen, and his lovely wife, Jane was twenty-two. They came from Kansas and the newly married couple built this house in 1925. Since the bedrooms and bathroom were not built on until 1952, their growing family lived in close quarters indeed. Their children, Elmer, Leslie, Weslie, Dorothy, Ruth, and Donelda (I just love old names.) grew up in this home and it was passed to Elmer then to Elmer’s daughter until it was sold in 2000. It was lost to the bank a few years after and in the past six years, three owners have fixed and flipped or rented the home. My beloved grandfather’s name and my son’s middle name is Elmer and I feel its kismet.
I found the grandson who still lives in Pueblo and I am extremely tempted to pen him a letter to see what memories he may still carry.
Soon we will add a lifetime of memories and children and grandchildren and celebrations of our own to that beautiful dwelling. I shall indeed treasure it.
Sometimes one needs to run away, to have a change of scenery, and to put the day to day chaos away and perhaps have a glass of wine! A change of place can create calm in thought and help bring on new ideas. We haven’t had a field trip to a winery in some time, so Doug and I with our friends, Rodney and Pat, headed up to Canyon City to explore one in our own back yard.
The Holy Cross Abbey is a beautiful gothic structure that used to house monks and a boarding school, but as it declined the grounds were left to a viticulturist and the abbey now rests while the winery does the work now.
We enjoyed the VIP tasting (surprisingly affordable) which included eleven pours to taste most of the wines produced there, from a luscious Petit Sirah to a sweet Apple wine made from local apples. As we walked outside to the place that the tasting would be held we immediately took in the quaint picnic table set for four with wine glasses. The vineyard directly behind buzzing with life. The perfect early autumn air and the smell of nearby mountains and flowers made the event seem as if it were written out of a magazine.
Our delightful hostess, Elise, was a charming addition to the tasting as we compared stories of herbalism, homesteading, and future dreams. Her aspirations include starting a community organization that brings like minded people together and turning her parents’ property into a lively homestead for them. We took to her sweet spirit and enthusiasm immediately.
It was a day of laughter, good weather, friends, and wine. We sat in the sun, enjoyed a meal together afterwards, and sang karaoke into the night. The perfect day.
A road trip is always a fun adventure and we were happy to be headed out on one!
The scenery was beautiful as we drove two hours from Aurora to Wyoming. The beautiful red dirt, ornate rock formations, and green grassy hills set against the mountains were heavenly.
Laramie was there before we knew it. One night at the Best Western was reserved. We quickly dropped our things off in our rooms and headed back to the car!
First stop was Roxie’s for lunch. They had a terrific menu, and though a little pricey, the food was great. Our server was from Elizabeth, knew our daughter, Shyanne, and grew up next door to Shyanne’s boyfriend, Jake. It was definitely a small world moment!
We walked around downtown and admired the buildings from the western 1800’s and turn of the century.
I wonder if I will ever stop shopping for wood cook stoves. I wonder if we will ever get a homestead again.
We stopped in this lovely apothecary. I love that everywhere we go more and more apothecaries are coming up.
Next stop was the Laramie Plains Museum.
A residence for a small family, then a boarding school for girls, this mansion is an impressive collection of period furnishings and décor.
These wide pianos were throughout the house.
One can tell that music was a big part of entertainment back them.
I bet they threw some lively parties!
So much pride and detail went into building and design. These old houses and museums that Doug and I visit are masterpieces in art. The quickly built, same as the next houses of today will never come close to the loveliness of even the most simple home from these time periods.
I wonder if Bill Nye, the science guy, named himself after the real Bill Nye?
This style was in both museums we visited yesterday. The wall paper design ends a foot from the ceiling, a similar pattern is carried to the ceiling, and a slightly contrasting paper covers the ceiling.
This was our lovely guide, Skylar. She is a middle school honor student that volunteers her time to lead folks through this beautiful place.
Built in shelves and hutches always catch my eye!
Another wood cook stove….
The sink is original to the house. One could do a lot of dishes or wash a baby comfortably in this sink!
30 pounds of butter, anyone? I have seen butter churns but not one in a barrel form. I thought this piece was very interesting.
The refrigerator was a built in hutch with a screened bottom. Ice was placed below the hutch and it kept everything in the cupboard cold. Here, Skylar models the lined flour bins that held a hundred pounds or more of flour!
This staircase is like the one in Santa Fe that was built without nails or supports. It is a gorgeous staircase and one that we had to come down dramatically.
A collection of dresses from the 1950’s boarding school era. I wore my grandmother’s pink dress to prom that looked very similar to the green one!
The desk is the oldest piece in the house. It is from the 1700’s.
This shower cost the equivalent of $10,000 but was only used twice due to the very poor water pressure!
Upstairs held a collection of this and that. Old remedies, a barber chair, large paintings, and more history…
These paintings inspire me to paint.
The borders on them are painted.
Skylar then took us outdoors to see a very old schoolhouse that was moved to the property.
Then I am afraid we went behind bars…
We went and toured the Territorial Prison where the likes of Butch Cassidy spent time.
This was the law enforcer’s office.
The large kitchen that fed the inmates was light and beautiful.
Minnie’s story struck me as quite sad. A young woman and her husband were ambushed and framed for murder by their neighbor who wanted their land. She spent five years in prison, and her husband was there for ten years. All because of a horrible neighbor!
This young man’s story struck me as well for how young he looks. He was twenty-one and was caught forging a check. Was his family hungry? Was he an outlaw? He was released after three years.
The prison was restored but the ghosts of the past still wander the halls.
Outside our car awaited…
But we couldn’t find our horses.
It was then that Doug and Rodney joined up with a local gang.
We ended the action filled day with karaoke and went to bed rather late!
As most readers figured out early on, Wildflower was the name my mother gave me as my Indian name when I was born. I felt compelled to explain to folks what I do, as owning an Apothecary could mean anything from growing pot (we don’t) to being as screwy as the shop I ran into in Old Colorado City (virtual tinctures where the herbs never touch the liquid…uh, okay….), and healer…what does that mean? But I found I could not tell how I became a healer or what I do without telling how we got here. The miracles couldn’t be expressed without the rest of the story. The last six chapters of this autobiography have rarely been uttered. Why? Fears of judgment, fears of folks thinking I was nuts, people thinking badly of me? This is also the first time that I could relive the nightmare that was without having reoccurring dreams or tears. I felt like I was writing about a past life or someone else’s life and it was quite a healing process. I just had to write in third person. It made it easier to get the memories out. I do hope that it might reach someone out there who needs it. Perhaps it will save a life, or encourage a young intuitive person, or bring faith and hope to those who need it. Now, on with the rest of the story.
Teachers come in and out of our lives seamlessly sharing their knowledge then moving on. The first medicine person came up to my booth at the farmer’s market quite some years ago. She had long grey hair and lived in her car traveling wherever the winds took her. She was kooky enough to have a long conversation with my dog the first time she met him, yet psychic enough to know my family history before I did. And she was there to teach me. My son is more psychic than I am and things would happen, like Doug’s grandfather appearing to him after he died, or things would talk with him. We could tell that there was lots of activity going on in our home in Parker and she came to help get it all out and quieted as it was really bothering my son. She showed me how to smudge with sage and what to say to put a shield around the house. She was the first person to tell me about the grandmother that looks over me and that she could see right next to me. I was skeptical but was trying to be a good listener. She told me the spirit grandmother was an American Indian. Now, there had long been rumors of a bit of Indian blood in us and every part of my family has the one or two kids in the group that are darker than the rest. Including two out of three of mine. But, we had no proof, no names, and no idea what side of the family it was on. The grandmother’s name was Mary and she stayed very close to me at all times, she said.
I am using the term Medicine person because in our culture that is what we would see them as. But medicine women and men are essentially herbalists. But there are many who are readers, shamans, and spiritual leaders and for the sake of this post, we’ll call them medicine people. For they were medicine to me.
The Indian woman needed medicine for her dog and after giving her some cash and some medicines she was off to find another place.
A trip down genealogy lane and a little pressure on my grandfather revealed that his father who had committed suicide during the depression was Cherokee. Then he stopped talking and said that it wasn’t enough to worry about. His father’s mother’s name was Mary.
Did you know that being Native American was illegal until just a few decades ago? You could go to jail, you have your land taken from you, your mother would have written on your birth certificate that you were white, and folks didn’t talk about family members. This saddens me. I am proud that I have this heritage.
I also found a picture of my great grandma on the other side of the family who was Yeopim and who was forced into becoming a Quaker. So both sides had this culture, and of course the Celtic side has a lot of herbalists in it too, so combined into me, it would explain a lot about why I could see ailments and lay hands on someone and feel where the initial injury was and then know how to repair it. It gave me quite a lot of comfort. I could use my abilities for more than knowing when the phone would ring.
The next medicine person had been one of my students. I had a dream that she was my next teacher. She looks white as most of us are all mixed up now genetically and I had no idea that she was a shaman or the things she had gone through to get to that point. I didn’t know what she was to teach me either. She taught me how to shield myself. I really wanted to learn more cool stuff regarding healing but she was there to teach me how to create shields. Many healers take a physical turn for the worst later in life after absorbing so much around them. Healers, including myself, pick up emotions and physical feelings from everyone around them. After years of this, the body can succumb. It could very well be the reason my grandmother has had chronic pain for twenty years. Protecting myself was my next lesson. She showed me how to walk a medicine wheel praying in each direction and being humble to the Creator. How to layer on shields around my physical self and how to turn off sound. I can make someone’s voice muffled if I don’t want to hear everything they are saying. I love listening to people. I like comforting folks. I am happy that people feel they can come to me and talk to me about anything, even if they hardly know me. That is one of my gifts. People feel compelled to tell me things and that is healing to them. But it is the ones who complain non-stop that I have to shield myself from or I end up anxious and sometimes depressed. It was a great gift to learn how to shield.
The next medicine person is still in my life and is a reader, a Catholic priest, and a hospice chaplain. He is Hopi. A calm spirit surrounds him. He helped me when my friend died so suddenly. He helped me understand the hypersensitivity that surrounds being a healer. I cannot be under fluorescent lights very long. I do not use overhead lighting at all. Only oil lamps, candles, and twinkly lights. I love soft music but can’t be around loud noises, and the television drives me crazy. I simply cannot handle the lights and sounds from it. Large groups of people overwhelm me.
Many years ago he had done a reading for me that showed how our family was doing. (Tarot cards are not necessarily of the devil, folks. If used properly they are simply a tool in helping us see clearly.) Andrew would very likely become a spiritual leader later on. Shyanne was often pulled one way or another because of her peace keeping abilities and needed to make sure she didn’t end up in relationships that took advantage of her. Emily was seen as a strong storm. Strong willed and well balanced. Doug and I would continue to grow stronger together and our business would prosper. He also said that I had a direct connection to the Creator. Everyone does, but that this was a bit different. I was going to be used to help the Creator and would increase my healing abilities. The most recent reading was astounding and powerful. And exciting things are to come as I let go and let things occur and trust myself and my surroundings.
The other current teacher probably doesn’t even know he is a teacher to me right now. He also mentioned the grandmother at my side that is always making sure no one hurts me spiritually and helps me with the herbs. He is perhaps the sixth person who has seen her without prompting. He further described her and told me about her history matching where she lived to the ancestry I had been researching. She was a healer but since it was illegal to practice Indian religions, and herbalism was often seen as part of that, so was therefore illegal, she kept it a secret. A line of medicine women, a long family history of herbalism was passed down from person to person but all in secret. Until one day someone was brought to the grandmother who needed desperate help and she healed him. He told me how she dresses and it is the same as how I dress (long skirts, aprons, a bit old fashioned I suppose) and what she looked like. It was how I saw her too.
This teacher is a religious leader, a representative for Indian affairs in the schools, and a Shaman, clearing spirits and negative entities from places and people. He holds knowledge and language that is being lost and our Thanksgiving prayer this year was all the sweeter with his prayer in his Indian language. At the Talking Circle he runs on Sundays I was given a gift not many people experience. A ceremony. A traditional ceremony to restore the spirit and strength of a healer. It is well known that this year was monstrously difficult for me. And as the feathers swooshed by the face, and the language floated through the air, and the protection was laid on me, I could feel my spirit soar and my strength regenerated.
Through the years I have been able to better understand my gifts. I know that these gifts are from the Creator, and are used to help people. I understand myself by knowing my genetic makeup. I understand why I am a little different but that it is not a bad thing. I understand how to use my gifts to help folks live better lives and teach people how to heal themselves and their animals. I empower people to not lose faith. I live on a farm where the animals are safe. The breezes are peaceful across the prairie. The views are awe inspiring. This is my respite. My healing place. We grow or wildcraft almost all of the sixty-plus herbs that we use in my medicines. I am now learning more about the spiritual use of these same herbs. For instance, Angelica is a hormone balancer yet also acts as protection from negative energies. St. John’s Wort is named for St. John the Baptist and also creates a shield around a person while virtually stopping depression and anxiety. Hawthorn heals heartbreaks as well as physically strengthens the outer muscle of the heart.
The owls have been here since we moved in and they are increasing. They fly over my head into the nearest tree. They are my spirit animal. But they are also a sign of transition. I am nowhere near my peak. A woman does not come into her complete ability until her menses stop. I have much to learn still and many people to reach. I have folks to teach and inspire. I have more plants to learn from and more teachers ahead of me. And I am a teacher too. The future looks bright.
We walked along the dusty paths, the only sound from our shuffling feet. Cottontail rabbits with their winter fur occasionally crossing our path. Hawks swooped overhead. A beautiful silence and solace lay across the land. Not another soul out hiking today. Just the two of us.
The valleys used to be filled with Buffalo and antelopes. This was a hunting ground for various tribes and a place that must have awed immigrants travelling across the prairie.
The land used to be a tropical rainforest, most of it underwater. The ghosts of dinosaurs swimming by. But what you really feel is the spirit of the old west here. One feels as if they could be on a horse at the top of the cliff looking over into the caverns and rocks and hoping for a good hunt. Looking out for other tribes.
A hawk circles overhead then glides down near the long grasses.
The colors here look like an artist’s palette. God’s own canvas. These clays were used in ancient pottery as well as paints in more recent times. It is all protected now.
We found this place just a few miles down from our new homestead. It is called the Paint Mines and it is located in Calhan, Colorado. The signs say no dogs but the footprints through the sand willows tell me a few snuck in. This is a free park and has two nice sized loops with plenty of places to decide how far one wants to walk and pretend to be from a different time.
It is amazing how complete quiet and time in the natural world can rejuvenate and relax.
I know folks love three day weekends. After three days of graduation parties, farmer’s market, barbeques, and a bad tummy ache, I am happy to be home today.
There is magic in an old farmhouse. My cousin came over the other day to drop off a wedding invitation. She was friends with one of the original owners of this house. They were here many years, she said. The kitchen is exactly the same. There is a lot more clutter here now. The original Mrs. of the house kept a sparse, clean home.
“They didn’t have much”, Janet recalled, “but it was always pristine.”
A couch. A large rug. Everything in its place. Makes me want to run through and get rid of some more stuff. The original Mrs. wouldn’t be too happy with me.
The light filters in the large south window in the kitchen illuminating everything as I make coffee early. Other friends came over to visit yesterday and pointed out the cabinet handles. Something I never noticed.
“They are like sterling silver,” Trish ahhed.
The house speaks to me. It is filled with promise and hope. The old well is covered up in the back yard. Bits of the coal chute and furnace are here and there. Original steps to the cellar to heat the house with the coal stove. The old kitchen and its beautiful white farmhouse sink, now showing its use and age. Glimmers of wall paper show through the paint. The original chimney, now not attached to anything, falls in with fatigue.
But the house has promise, even a renter can see that. We are happy to be working around the large yard, in the gardens that would have made the original owners proud and provided sustenance in the cold winters. Walking around history and making new history is a mesmerizing task. This week I will paint the porch, perhaps robin’s egg blue, and tend to the vast beds of vegetables and herbs. I will make cheese from our goat’s milk, and get the ducks a swimming pool. I will hang clothes on the line and swat at the Miller moths. I will stay home and be a farm wife just as the great women before me did. We will watch our granddaughter discover her surroundings and we will make new memories, new history, in this old rental house.
The Three Sisters method will be employed. This town is called Kiowa after all and the soil belonged to tribes. Smoke Signals will be planted in the far center garden bed. The rows will look over the rest of the garden beds, standing proud of their heritage. Their multi-colored, brilliant ears will provide delicious popcorn. How many American Indian ladies planted this same corn? And the Black Aztec will be in the next bed to try my hand at making blue cornmeal. Did my great, great grandmother use the same varietal? And the Golden Bantam, the original sweet corn, will adorn the other side. Ancient seeds carried in covered wagons and in pouches.
So many choices! Buy organic seeds? Or conventional seeds? For me the clear choice as a history buff with too much imagination are heirlooms. Who doesn’t want pink and brown pumpkins scrambling around their Aztec corn? The colors excite me. The histories enthrall me and I feel connected to every farmer, every family before me who fed their family using these seeds.
Heirlooms are an important part of sustainability. They are not genetically modified. They are pollinated by bees and birds and butterflies and the seeds can be saved so that my great, great grandchild will wonder who I was but know that I planted orange watermelons and that I may have been a little eccentric thanks to the multicolored beans I saved. And heirlooms whisper about history.
Imagine perusing a seed catalogue of seeds that are ancient! Like the seeds that were just recently rediscovered. These Morning Glories are not your typical shape but frilly raspberry colored petals. I cannot wait to see them scrambling up the trellis. Purple carrots will taste so much better than orange ones. I do love to choose the prettiest colored vegetables, many that had to grow in this climate so they ripen early. I plan on watering this year (whoops) so I do plan to have the most beautiful and productive garden I have ever had. And walking through it will be like walking through a history book of covered wagons and pioneers, strong willed women and gracious, hard working men who fed their families using these very seeds that I will feed my family with.