Your Only Job During the Holidays

The number one reason that folks feel depressed during the holidays is because they do not feel welcome, a part of a village, or loved as they are. There are habits that have been acceptable for a long time that we as parents and friends must change. If this is the season for kindness, than we must go beyond random acts of kindness to strangers and really be kind and absolutely loving to those around us.

From top left: my husband, Doug, my oldest granddaughter’s dad (and Emily’s ex), Bret, my son-in-law, Reed (Emily’s husband), my son, Andy, his girlfriend, Bree, my granddaugher, Maryjane, my daughter, Emily with Ayla, Bret’s brother, Bailey, me, Shyanne’s boyfriend, Jake, and in front is Shyanne. They are all apart of my family.

Now, this is important- Number One- no nagging. For god’s sake, we don’t really think that nagging will endear our children to us, do we? Your grown children make decisions every day- hard ones- and are becoming the people they are meant to be (whether they are eighteen or fifty-five!) and they need support, not “advice.” Once they head out that front door as a young person setting out into the world, their business is no longer yours. They are more likely to come to you for advice and friendship if you are not already badgering them. The way they raise their children is not your business either. They can homeschool, travel the world, be strict, have no rules, or send them to private school. Our only job is to show by example unconditional love. Unconditional love. That is what this world needs more of, especially around the holiday table.

Perhaps your daughter brings home a young man with a mohawk or her new girlfriend. Or your son brings home a woman your age, or someone of a different religion. Maybe your child quit college to your dismay and your daughter moved in with her best friend who has less-than-admirable habits. (None of that is your business.) Our job now is to be undeniably loving, welcoming, supporting, hugging, happy and accepting examples of love. That is what people need. Unconditional love.

I adore all of my kids’ friends. Many of them call me mama. Everyone knows that we can squeeze in more chairs. I will have plenty of food. Everyone is welcome at my table- mohawk or not. They also know they can call me to talk or if they need advice.

My mother used to say (following the advice of many parenting gurus) that she is not our friend, she is our mother. That is too bad, because she is still not my friend, sadly. Be friends with your kids, their friends, the neighbors down the street, the woman who just lost her husband, the coworker without family here, the people that Creator sends into your life. They are not being sent to you to be saved, they are being sent to you to be loved.

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Let’s make this holiday season a bright one for others by accepting them as they are, opening your home and table to them, offering respite from expectations, and offering unconditional love. See how that doesn’t just change your world and the world around you.

Life Lessons From the Garden

In four weeks from today we will be moving towards the mountains to our new homestead.  Oh, it doesn’t look much like a homestead.  It looks like a suburban style house from the 90’s on an unused acre of land with a workshop that is about to become a chicken coop.  Our neighbors near, our mortgage double, but if I close my eyes and push away the anxiety of moving and inspections and packing, and “see” the new property for what it will be, I am filled with optimism and strength.  A friendly small town.  Baby goats.  A thriving garden where there once was nothing.  A view of the sunset.  I haven’t seen the sunset in years, blocked in by trees and neighbors.

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Google Earth has not updated the view of our present house since we moved here so one can see the tired house, the empty planting rings, the barren yard, a car backed up in what is now my potato patch.  We have done miracles here in just two and a half years.  Everything in life can be transformed by a little love, research, and hard work.  Everything from a house and garden, a marriage, a friendship, to a new outlook and fresh perspective.  Yes, this house and garden represent so much in life and has taught me some valuable lessons.

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1.  Have faith in the future.

Moving here fresh from heartbreak and a mere eighteen months after we lost everything, this house was a blessing.  It represented new life, faith, a fresh start.  A house of our own- not rented.  Always have faith.  Looking back, one can easily see all the “coincidences,” friendships made, sheer luck, and universal pulls to get us where we are.  Even now, my house sold in one day, we found a house the same day, all is going smoothly thus far, the money showed up, the young military family in need of a nice home to raise their infant child precisely around the time of closing saw our house first….everything going on in the world around us is so much bigger and more controlled than we think.

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New, cheaper soil

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Doubled the price soil.

2.  Buy the best that you can afford.

I skimped this year.  I usually buy a particular kind of soil to start my straw bale/permaculture/quick beds of my own design, but it wasn’t there this year.  It seemed Miracle Grow (hello, Dow.) had taken over the shelves at the nearby stores.  So, I opted for cheaper bags of soil.  Lots of them.  It’s just soil, right?  Those beds look terrible.  I wasted hundreds of dollars.  If the seeds did germinate, they quickly died.  In everything you do, just do it right the first time.  Maybe I have always been a cheapskate, but that keeps biting me in my farmgirl derriere.

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3. Expect surprises.

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Being on this earth is such a blessing.  My goodness, to wake up every day and see the great sky, the warm sun rising, the birds singing, the plants surrounding us, to see the people we love, and to learn and experience this day- such a gift.  I love how Mother Nature gives sweet gifts, like wild sunflowers, and potatoes I didn’t plant, and hollyhocks.  Elderberries that aren’t typical here in Colorado.  Fresh rains in July, and cool breezes on a hot day, surprise trees, and places for wildlife to live.  Surprise friendships that become incredibly valuable, great jobs, and moments to help others.

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4.  Leave a legacy.

In all you do, try to leave things better than they were.  Whether that be cleaning up trash at the park, using less resources, offering a smile and compliment to a stranger or friend, or planting a tree, always try to serve.  I hope this pear tree grows wild and fast.  I hope the three month old baby moving in climbs its branches and loves it when he is older.  I hope the tree feeds many and brings joy to the beholder.  I may have paid for, planted, and tended to it, but it is not mine to benefit from.  It is a gift to the future.

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5.  Don’t run from your true self and purpose.

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In a blog post last year, when our shop was about to close, I questioned, “Am I nothing more than an herbalist?”  Well, of course I’m not just an herbalist.  I am a friend, a wife, and a mother, an animal lover, a nature admirer, and I have a few talents, but I am not just those things either.  I am me.  Individual.  Specially created, me.  What I was pondering when I uttered those words though, is if I could be something else, start a new career.  My table is filled with dozens and dozens of single and compound extracts beginning their brewing process.  I am at peace when I am gently clipping echinacea leaves and popping calendula heads into jars, and talking to the rose while I snip comfrey.  I am an herbalist.

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6. Learn to let go.

I am preparing so many new medicines because I am going to have to say goodbye.  I could try to transplant everything I have planted but I have learned that if a plant is thriving where it is, it doesn’t necessarily want to grow somewhere else.  I will take a few things but most will continue to live here, and I do hope thrive.  I will not be able to harvest my sweet corn, or Aztec blue corn, or popcorn, or pumpkins, or all the tomatoes, or so many other things I have carefully tended this summer.  It is hard to leave behind so much that we create, so much that we build, to start over.  But we don’t really start over, we just start anew with more experience, more lessons, more faith.

IKIGAI; What is Your Purpose?

I read the most beautiful book this week.  It has helped me get my groove back.

I had decided last year as my business was failing that I would go back to school to be a chef (but it is hard to be a chef when you don’t use animal products and the busy catering description gave me anxiety).  So then I thought teaching.  I love teaching!  “What would you teach?” everyone asked.  Oh…anything.  Then I got the bill for the first semester and promptly dropped all classes.  I would be retired before I could pay off that degree.  I look around and I love and am fascinated by so much.  My friend is a surgical tech.  That sounds cool!  My friends are nurses.  I was a candy striper in high school.  I wanted to be a nurse.  I could maybe work somewhere or do something.  Anything.  But, I know my pattern.  I go get a job, become overwhelmed, am shocked at the measly paycheck, am behind on dishes for weeks, and then quit.  I am better at being an entrepreneur.  But that failed.  Again.  Last year.  And that is when I went off kilter.  I lost my purpose.  I was no longer a full time herbalist.  No longer a shop keeper.  No longer healing baby calves around the county that were sick because they just got picked up from auction.  Heck, I am not even in the country anymore.

And then my beloved aunt and grandma passed away, I became sick, I think my dear friend, Steve, in California killed himself, and I have been listless and depressed.  Which is not like me.  And something had to give.

It is amazing how a book can change your life.  So many books, so much literature, has changed my life.  And this week, this book, I am so grateful for.  I realized that everything I feel is stemmed from my losing my purpose.

IKIGAI; the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles is a beautifully written and researched tome.  The authors delve into the science and stories behind longevity and happiness, primarily in Japan, where the most super centenarians reside (over 100 years old).  What do they do?  What do they eat?  What are their days like?  I adore research and am very interested in the longevity studies and other cultures.  They touch on diet (tons of fresh vegetables, soy, and fish), social networks (lots of valued friends, social get-togethers, small amount of alcohol daily), spiritual health (honoring all of the spirits and their ancestors), and exercise (they move, not more strenuously, but all the time, biking and walking everywhere).  But the main thing that keeps these folks so alive and well is purpose.  Their IKIGAI.  If they know what that is, they have reason to get up every morning.

What is it that makes you spring out of bed in the morning?  What would you do even without pay?  What is your passion?  What could you talk about without hesitation?  What do you do naturally?  My aunt gave me this picture for Christmas.  I guess she knew.

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I am a writer.  I never have to think about writing this blog.  In fact, it bothers me to take days off but I want to make sure y’all can catch up!  I love writing; books, poetry, articles, snippets of thoughts…I am a writer.  It is my IKIGAI.  I get a modest payment every month from Amazon and the local museum that carries my books.  It won’t support us, but that doesn’t matter.  I am also a gardener, a farmer, a lover of animals.  I need a greenhouse.  I need to be around plants, and I need to grow my own food, and I need to be around animals.  Sanctuary.

After reading this lovely little book I realized that I do not need to have any new degrees, careers, or paths.   I am on it.  If I write every day.  If I take care of my chickens.  If I get into the garden.  I will be okay.  That is my IKIGAI.  And with that knowledge, I am free.  I have purpose.  What is your IKIGAI?

Read it!  It is a lovely book.

It is Enough

My mantra this year, for 2018, was, “Never make a decision based on fear.”  It was amazing how many times I caught myself making decisions (keep my struggling apothecary open, open another shop, apply to begin school) based on fear rather than faith.  This simple mantra helped me understand my motives and make better decisions (no more shops, no school).  And through that faith Doug got an amazing promotion and I am able to stay home and do what I do best, homestead and homemake.  I am available to help my children, feed my husband nutritious meals, keep a house, take care of a mini-farm, and grow our food.  That mantra led to a great outcome.

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Autumn always feels like a new beginning to me.  Like the pagans of old, I feel this is the New Year.  My mantra for the next year is, “It is enough.” I have enough things.  I have enough love. I have enough creativity.  I have enough space on this mini-farm right here, right now.  And most importantly, I am enough. 

Our Lady of the Goats

With so much time on my hands I have had way too much space to reminisce, regret, and be hard on myself.  Over the past four years we have built our dream farm, lost it, went homeless, lost our animals, lived with friends, lived in the city, rebuilt, bought an urban home, made a farm, closed our businesses, Doug went back into the IT field, our children have found the loves of their lives, and our second granddaughter will arrive any day.  A lot to take in.  A lot of gratitude.

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So I may have made some dreadful decisions over the years.  But I have made a lot of good ones too.  I am enough.  I don’t look like I did when I was modeling in my twenties.  I have faults.  But I have more wisdom and I have more love.  And everything around me echoes, It is Enough.

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…maybe one day we will have goats or the animal sanctuary I so dream of….or maybe we will stay here in this space…or maybe it will become legal to have farm animals beyond chickens in the city here…but in the meantime, I must leave the future where it belongs and be present.

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It is Enough.  We are enough.  You are enough.  This beautiful life is enough.  And when we realize that, gratitude comes rushing in with peace and great joy on its wings.

50 Things (replacing anxiety for peace)

It instantly calmed my breath.  My shoulders relaxed.  A smile crept onto my face.  My mind quieted.

I’m no expert at meditation and my discipline in the world of exercise has something to be desired but I found an instantaneous solution to my anxious mind.  50 Things.

Now there have been gratitude journals out there for years and the word gratitude is practically a catchphrase.  Here, on the porch watching the sun rise, or deep in the waters of a warm bath, or lying in bed with my mind wrought with worry, 50 Things soothes like a blanket and a glass of wine.

I have friends who are just cool.  Just easy.  I feel like a sped up record next to them.  My shop is closing up north, my new shop is opening and we pray for customers  One daughter needs to find a job, the other hopes we find success, the dishes are not done, and the puppy ate my bike helmet.  I feel them all most intensely!  But those 50 Things quiets and glides me into the day or night with peace.

 

Try it.  Whisper aloud to the Creator and your guides and ancestors 50 things that you are grateful for.  Try to make them slightly different each time.  For brightly colored marigolds, and pumpkins on the porch, for blue jays waking me at dawn, and hot coffee in a mug my friend gifted me, for each child, and their friends that love me like a mom, and for my husband, and the bumper crop of potatoes, and my visiting granddaughter and granddog, and autumn, the new shop, new beginnings, hope, geraniums….

A breath of anxiety releases and wafts through the cool morning dissolving into sunlight and a new day begins.

Farmgirl Advice for a Happier Life

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1- Just because you are very good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it.  You can always reinvent what your life looks like.

2- Life is meant to be experienced.  There is no one purpose. You will have plenty of time to ponder the meaning of the universe, right now be human and experience life.

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3- Change is never easy.  Allow yourself to mourn.  But keep that glimmer of hope because the best is yet to come and closed doors lead to wide open opportunities.

4- Quiet your chattering mind.  Tune into the activity around you.  As I sit here on the porch on this lovely late summer day I watch a mouse quietly approach the bird seed and begin to nibble as dozens of finches take flight, their silhouettes artful in the filtered light.  I listen to the crickets’ songs of summer and feel the cooling breeze on my skin before the dog days of summer heat that is to set in later.  There is a much bigger world than what is going on in our minds.

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5- Listen to your passions and follow their road.  Do not try and figure out where they go, just follow their lead.

6- See people’s spirits.  See them as children.  Banish ignorance.  Don’t give into fear.

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7- Release the past.  Past relationships, events, hurts, happenings, eras.  Leave them behind with a blessing and move forward.  Cut the ribbons that keep you bound.  Fly.

8- Be enchanted.  Life is brief and blissful.  It is what we make it.  It is what we create.  A large black bird lands on a trellis next to me.  He is fascinating in his mottled browns and blacks and tussled feathers.  I wonder if he was born this very year.  The glorious blue jays screech their joyful song across treetops.

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9- Have faith.  Know that you were not just dropped on this earth without lifelines.  Fear is the lack of faith.

10- Treat yourself with care, my dears, and follow your heart.

The Farmgirl School Milestone

Over a thousand blog followers.  I could not believe it as I lifted my coffee cup to my lips, the steam rising in the cooler morning air, and saw that number.  136,555 hits to my writings.  My most popular blog by far (by thousands) was How to Make Chokecherry Wine!  I want to share that with you again along with a few of my favorite blog posts.

What a chronicle this has become!  I use it nearly daily.  How do you can beans?  I look up my blog!  I am teaching a canning class today and I couldn’t remember how long to can pickled beets and eggs.  It’s right here.

We had a lovely visit with our friends, Lisa and Lance yesterday at Bristol brewery that resides inside a hundred year old school.  They have been on the same journey as we have all these years.  We have watched our children grow up and grandchildren come.  They have worked hard and own a ranch with their family out east. ( https://rafterwranch.net/) We talk about her cows, my chickens, our plans, our kids, this lifestyle.  We have some very big changes and great plans coming up so I bounce ideas off of Lisa and we talk about ways to make my new business idea work (oh, the suspense, I can’t tell you yet!) and how to use our house to buy a farm in the future.  In almost six years so much has changed for both of us, yet there sipping a macchiato on a summer day we may as well have been in her kitchen years ago plotting our next farming move.  Like minded friends are gold, folks.

And so, here’s to a 1000 more readers and a great many more tales to tell.

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How to Make Chokecherry Wine

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A Visit to an Amish Home

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And a Child Was Born

 

 

Ostara, Easter, and the New Beginning

crocus-spring-equinoxToday is a celebration of hope.  The indigenous cultures of old and the modern spiritualists and witches of today will be celebrating.  So will gardeners everywhere.  ‘Tis the Solstice, also known as Ostara.

Seeds in hand, faces to the sun, coffee hot, hose at the ready, we are grateful and joyous that the days will now be growing longer.  Oh, happy day.  More sun.  More Vitamin D.  More outdoor play.  Spring brings with it baby animals and freshly turned soil and new life.

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Ostara celebrates life conquering death.  It had been celebrated long before organized religion did it.  The word “Easter” comes from the word “Ostara.”  Now, Pagans were nothing if they weren’t artists.  Eggs were symbols of new life and fertility and were painted in beautiful colors.  The Ukrainian folk art depicted on eggs is a fine example of art.

Ostara, the Greek goddess of fertility, loved the painted eggs so much that she asked the rabbit to distribute them all over the world.

The Solstice on the agrarian calendar was the date that seeds began to be planted and new life was born.  The death of winter was past and new life has begun.

Our bodies and our lives are a part of nature as much as they ever were, we just kind of hid away behind screens and modern lives and forgot.  You will find that death and new beginnings are prevalent right now.  The Universe may have a bright new beginning for you.  That means death comes first, but know that the sun is shining every day and that life always conquers.  Welcome your new beginning.  Happy Solstice!

Compassion For Even the Smallest

 

tinyTiny Timothina had a bad day.  When we returned from our show last night we thought she was dead.  The other chicks were running over her.  Her wing and one leg were stretched out.  “Mama, I think we lost the runt,” Doug said sadly.  We saw her move though and there was life and hope.

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She was smaller than the other chicks and just wasn’t thriving.  We put her in her own small box with mini bowls of food and water and turned the light on her.  The next morning she was still alive though still laying on her side.  I put her in my shirt and rocked her as I had my coffee and checked emails.

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When we came home from our show tonight she was laying in her water dish and not well.  I held her again until she died.

That happens, it is hit or miss with chicks.  They are hatched then shipped all over the nation within twenty-four hours and sometimes for no reason we find that the chick (or grown chicken) has died of Sudden Chickie Death Syndrome (we made that up, don’t google it).

Each and every animal that comes through our farms is precious to us.  A live spirit.  A soul that came from the same universal energy source we did.  Their life is important.  Many an experienced farmer might just throw the chick away or put them in another box and walk away.  But we have brought many a chick back from the brink of death.  Ginger was practically decapitated when we found her, various chicks brought back by sitting on my lap watching television lived long lives.

So, do not give up hope on your weakened animals.  They may die, but you can hold them as their spirit is released.  We send love to each and every creature we have the honor of being around.  And this returns to us.

Smudging 101, Deer Visitors, and the 10%

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There is a Talking Circle at my shop the first Sunday of each month.  Not really church, just a place to be with others and pray traditionally with Native influences and customs.  This last Sunday we talked about focusing our energies on the 10%.  90% of what we worry about is what the media tells us about, world issues, family issues, and many, many things that we have absolutely no control over.  As we focus more and more on the 90% we lose track of the 10% of things we can control and our gifts that we carry that can assist in this world.  Focusing on the 90% leads to anxiety and depression and helplessness.

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Last night I felt an overwhelming sense of desperation and helplessness.  How can we possibly afford anything in the state that has the newly highest cost of living?  How can we survive?  How can we stay near our babies if we had to move?  and on and on with scenarios that may or may not exist.  I went to sleep early as slumber will renew me and oft give me answers.  I woke up renewed.

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Within the realms of the 10% I can choose my back up plan in case we cannot get the large farm.  I could very well be an urban homesteader while making a difference in a career.  The career that I would be best in (in my opinion) is teaching young adults.  So, I relooked at my curriculum choices for school with a renewed sense of purpose.  I will let things unfold naturally, while saving money, since I cannot see the future.  No matter how hard I try.  Meanwhile I call on strength from the Great Spirit and the Directions.  This is how to smudge (prayers and blessing).

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Traditionally Cherokee prayer herbs would consist of Sweet grass to renew positive energy, Sage to rid negative energy, Tobacco as an offering to the Great Spirit, and Cedar as an offering to the spirits; animal, plant, and the deceased.  In a pottery bowl (heat proof) place the herbs desired and light.  Using a feather to spread the smoke around a room, over thyself, or in the Four Directions.  Any feather will do.

We call on the spirit of the East direction for strength and hope and faith.  We give thanks to the Creator for all the things in our lives and our own life.  We thank Grandfather Sun for rising each morning and providing warmth and light. 

We call on the spirit of the South for childlike wonder and awe, for lessons, and we thank our four legged brethren for providing us with companionship, food, and clothing, and to the plants for giving of themselves for food and medicine.

We call on the spirit of the West for strength, health, and endurance.  We give thanks to our ancestors for guiding us and praying for us.

We call on the spirit of the North for calm and wisdom.  We thank the north for rain and snow, for lessons learned, and for peace and breath.

We call on the spirit of the sky (galun’lati), to the star people and Grandmother moon for protection and inspiration.

We call on the spirit of the Mother Earth (alohi)for caring for us, for her life, therefore our life as we pledge to be more careful with her.

We are thankful for the ceremonial fire as our prayers are taken upward on the smoke and carried on the winged ones’ feathers and for our connection with all around us. 

We draw the smoke over ourselves that we will have a clear heart, a love for all, and will do things in the right way. 

And as my breath and peace came forth, the beautiful deer (ahwi) came to see me.

Wishing you peace and less worries….ehmenah.