Farmsteading Scenes and Living Life Well

When we first began this journey, we went into it wholeheartedly and completely naive. We learned, we cried, we laughed. A homesteading/farmsteading lifestyle makes life amplified. The good is really amazing, healing, and life-giving; babies being born, fresh food from the garden, baby goats prancing sideways, a lamb’s comical yell, gathering fresh eggs from the coop, watching the sun set, waving at friendly neighbors, gathering wood to bring inside before an approaching storm, hanging clothes on the line while watching wildlife.

Crop losses, predators, freak accidents, money worries; there are a lot of things to worry about while being a homesteader. The neighbor’s wolf/husky got into my coop last night and killed my favorite chicken, Bubba. I was mad at myself for not closing the coop sooner. I was mad that I purposely chose this lifestyle! Where there is life- and farms are teeming with life- there is death. And it is much more in your face than apartment living. When we lived in an apartment, on our way to our next homestead, we had plenty of stresses and things to worry about then too. So, it really is a matter of how you want to live. This lifestyle gets ingrained in you, so that you have no other choice but to live like this. And we do love it.

Being a homesteader and farmer comes with a great sense of accomplishment. I tend to point out everything on a guest’s plate that I grew or handmade. I love the methodical motions of traditional domestic work. We appreciate the intense rush of love that comes over us when we see a baby being born. We appreciate seeing the horizon and knowing how to judge the weather by watching nature. Homesteading and farming is all about family, and living life to the fullest. If life is short, then I want to spend time bottle feeding precious infant goats, and being followed around by lambs and chickens. I want to laugh at duck antics while sipping homemade wine. I want to watch the fire swell up as it fills the wood stove. I love tying off the final piece of yarn to finish a project or snipping the last thread on a dress I have made.

If you are considering adopting this lifestyle- Do It! You won’t regret it. It costs some to get started but it pays itself back quickly. We save money, eat well, live healthier, have a happier marriage, a closer family, and a sense that we are really living. Start somewhere. Get chickens, or cheese making equipment, or get out yarn to make holiday presents. This is a very good life.

Permission to Let Go (a poem)

And then

All of a sudden

She found herself quite tired

So she sat down.

Why all the madness?

she thought to herself.

Do I do so much just to keep busy?

Do I do so much so I haven’t time to think?

What do I fear if I have time to think?

I might find peace.

Do I need to give myself permission to let it go?

Have I convinced myself that the only way is this way?

Is there more I have yet to discover because I keep looking back?

Keep walking back

Keep turning around and heading back

Do I keep looking ahead into the fog and muttering

what if?

There was nothing but time, of course

and a comfortable chair and a lovely steeping tea

a good book and a cat curled up on her lap.

There were pasts to leave behind and old memories and old habits and old

And there were futures and memories and friends and children and laughter

and everything that seemed so imperative just kind of drifted away

For she was quite tired, you see.

So she sat down to rest.  and the birds sang.  and the sun shone.  and life went on.

The Glamorous Life of an Urban Farm Wife (and the realities of death)

I tucked my Christmas pajama bottoms into my bright purple galoshes and tightened the belt of my fuzzy bathrobe that covered my nightgown.  I sighed, mouth askew in a grimace, and pulled my work gloves on while balancing the shovel.  Poised over the dead creature I tried to hold my breath while finagling the blade underneath the hardening body of a skunk who did not see it coming.

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I love ignorance.  It’s the best.  Kind of wish I could get back to it.  Ah, the mystique of becoming a farmer.  The love of the land, the fresh air, the bright dawn, the sound of a baby goat, the feel of a newborn chick, the taste of fresh eggs with gorgeous orange yolks.  The urban farm with the front yard completely gardened.  Beds filled with corn and pumpkins, rows and rows of chilies and tomatoes, and dozens of other herbs and beans and cucumbers and other delights fill the space where a lawn ought to be.  A rooster crows from the backyard.

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I guess what I never prepared for, and what no one could really express to me, is that death and cycles of life were going to become quite apparent to me.  The emotions that one might feel day to day in the suburbs would morph into much more intense versions of joy and grief.  That becoming a farmer means becoming privy to the real natural world.

See, in a high rise apartment or other such place, one might see a fallen bird from a nest or a cat that has been hit by a car.  We sniff and pout our lip and then move on with the day.  Styrofoam cartons and air sealed packages line shelves neatly labeled.  Beef tip.  Short ribs.  Chicken breast.  (Where did the rest of the chicken go?)  Away from a farm is an easy place for Utopian ideas to thrive.

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Last night the skunk was apparently on his way to have appetizers and cocktails in the chicken coop with the ladies when he was swiftly taken out by a monstrous being, that at first sight might not be taken for a swift sort of creature at all.  But the massive bite to the spine without being sprayed proved that Gandalf was on duty and was not allowing frolicking with the chickens past curfew.  The chemical, nauseating smell permeates everything but the dog.

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Now, if the pup was not there, the skunk would have made quick work of the chickens without a smidgen of remorse.

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The Cornish chickens can barely stay alive as it is.  Since my post three days ago, another chicken’s legs are breaking and one of the hens that seemed fine died of a heart attack.  They are scheduled to meet their maker in two weeks (because it is the humane thing to do) but we will see if they even make it until then.  My own Utopian ideas of compassion and living in a world without death backfired with meat chickens that were never meant to live this long and are suffering.

Over the years I have held a screaming goat as she died.  My cat, two chickens, a robin, a sparrow, and my dear friend’s ashes are buried in my yard.  A dead skunk is in a plastic bag in the alley until I can think of something to do with it.  Death is real and it is not necessarily not compassionate.  Not necessarily unfortunate.  It just is.

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But where there is death, there is new life.  New baby chicks, and wobbling ducklings.  Baby goats taking a bottle, and finches learning to fly.  A farm- whether in the city or in the country- teaches us what working in a temperature controlled office after driving in a temperature controlled car, after picking up a quick breakfast could never teach.  That life in its whole is a natural process of birth, delight, strength, illness, sustenance, death, grief, reality.  And in every cycle, it is beautiful and sacred and real.

 

December Morning Dawn

The lavender sky spreads and stretches over rolling pastures and forests of trees.

Along the railroad tracks the mist lightly rolls as dawn awakes

Golden sun rises and the air is ever cool in the December morning breeze

Deer move along the tracks with motions swift on crisp winter grass.

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Here at cozy home the dawn wakes me without clock as the lavender clouds drift by

Outside my window a new day begins of promise and light

No window coverings block my view of the large trees and the colored western sky

I mutter silent prayers of gratitude and breathe deeply.

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‘Tis too easy to get caught up in past affairs and travesties, harsh pain and mire

‘Tis too easy to become obsessed with what one still desires

But in this moment, my Dear ones out there, be the heart and smile that you would admire

Let not any negative word or thought escape to the world.

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Focus, Dears, on what is real and light and bright and sweet, upon blessings, and present here

See beauty in all things big and small, from children to birdsong,

Speak in tomes of love and forgiveness and inspire those that are near, for joy they hear

For your spirit’s light this Yule tide season can be very bright.

 

The Grand Arrival of Ayla Mae

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She would be induced at 10:00 that night.  Not wanting to be two hours away, we checked into a hotel with our granddaughter, Maryjane, near the hospital after packing bags and finding a pet sitter.  We went swimming and snuggled in for the night, checking my phone every few hours.   Maryjane and I had coffee and then went to the hospital while Pa checked in at work.  Maryjane’s other grandma came to pick her up.  The soon-to-be big sister was nervous and excited and emotional.  My daughter, Shyanne, arrived and we all settled in for the seemingly long arrival of a little girl.  Pa came back a few hours later.  We drank tea, and watched the clock, and talked to relatives on the phone, and tried to help Emily.

Being her second baby, Emily knew what to expect and what to request.  She was amazing during her labor.  New daddy, Reed, was nervous and doting and sweet.

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The nurses all knew that we hoped the baby would arrive that day, November 14th, for it was the fervent request from the new baby’s great, great grandmother.  November 14th was my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary.  Never mind silver or gold, Grandma and Grandpa wanted a baby.

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And then quite suddenly it was time.  Within thirty minutes a very small little girl with curly, black hair arrived into the arms of her mother.  Daddy swelled with pride.  Pa and Auntie Shyanne cried.  Mama sobbed with joy.  I smiled and welcomed the new little one to our family.  We are ten now in our tribe.  Over a hundred in families that we gained through the children’s partners and our own extended families.  There is truly nothing more important to me than our family.

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And Ayla Mae was born.  A new little medicine woman in our line.

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Maryjane bounced into the room accompanied by her grandma.  She held a stack of papers that she had composed a song in scribbles on and immediately went to singing to her new baby sister.

Those near and dear came in to call.  Ayla has our family birthmark.  She has her daddy’s ears and nose.  She is so beautiful.  I caught my breath and held her close through the night letting mama and daddy sleep some.  And in the quiet of that dimmed hospital room, that precious heartbeat next to mine, I felt the immensity of it all, the blessings that fill my life and this family that we have helped create.  A Thanksgiving gift. (And an anniversary one as well!)

Ayla Mae Thompson

November 14, 2018

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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.

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.

Hygge Lifestyle (simple pleasures and joyful living)

As the season begins to change, and the light appears more golden, as do the leaves, I find myself responding as well.  A natural response to the cool nights, I suppose.  Autumn welcomes in the New Year in many cultures so perhaps that would explain the nesting instinct.  My ancestors of old would be busily putting up food (as I am) and preparing the garden beds to sleep for winter.  Firewood will be cut and stacked soon and soups are on the menu for the first cool day.

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Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is the Nordic principal of all things cozy and good.  Of cable knit sweaters and wool socks.  Of blazing fires and drinks with friends.  Of self care with baths and saunas and good creams.  Of gifts and community and laughter and warmth.

Perhaps it is because of my Scandinavian ancestry or perhaps it is from living in a four-season climate, that I so love the hygge concepts.  It is one thing to prepare for winter and be ready to survive, it is quite another to prepare for winter beautifully.  It draws in the sensations of warmth and soft textures, and good books by the fire, and romantic evenings in, and game nights with friends, and rose scented baths, and hot chocolate in the snow.

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But outside of the seasonal aspects, the Hygge lifestyle is for all year.  Its focus is on friends and family and self love, and good food and good drinks, and noticing the beauty in every moment, in every season, in every facet of life.  Of embracing bliss and goodness and waking up to these lovely days we have.

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The book, The Hygge Life; Embracing the Nordic Art of Coziness Through Recipes, Decorating, Entertaining, Simple Rituals, and Family Traditions is a lovely book to curl up with and incorporate into your home and lifestyle.

Wishing you heart warming and simple joys!

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.

What if There Were Four? (a joyful family tale)

fam 3And then they thought, “Why, we should be four.  Four holds infinite love at its door.”

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But first there was one.  She is our youngest daughter, Emily, and she is ever so much fun.

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Then there were two.  And no one stole my heart faster than you know who…

I became a Grammie and Doug became a Pa and we looked at those two girls with great love and awe.

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Then they met Reed, handsome and strong.  Of course, for years Emily had known him all along.  Maryjane sized him up and thought long and decided they’d keep him from now on.

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Then they were three, as happy as can be.  They saw concerts and learned yoga and climbed mountains and had fun.  They fought and made up and became closer and one.  They made a home and a family and are as cute as can be as three.

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“But what if we were four?” they whispered in the dark.  The spirits of the world gathered and the Creator went to work.  They sent a little soul that fit the mold that would give them the role of parents of two.

And so our family grows and grows and hearts are full and celebrations begun.  Oh this will be ever fun!  November 24th…

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