Roses; Memory and the Gift of 17 Rose Bushes

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I adore roses.  Roses on their stalks and heady smell.  Taller than me when I was young.  I stood in Grandma’s and Great-Grandma’s respective yards (next door to each other) and had my first internal lesson of aromatherapy.  Nature teaching me early.

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I have grown roses in pots, roses in the gardens, and have a granddaughter named Maryjane Rose.  The tall, cut stalks in the store ready for Valentine’s Day are not my favorite flower to receive (I do love tulips), but in the garden and cut from an old varietal, roses are so powerfully beautiful.

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Medicinally, roses are a mild nervine.  That means they are a supporting actor in medicines for sleep, stress, and pain.  Particularly stress.  All one has to do is feel the effect of smelling a rose to note its healing properties for calming.  Spiritually, it is love medicine and we use it in our teas to help create more love for oneself. It is a lovely tonic to drink and a beautiful water or oil to apply to skin.  It is, of course, the flower of romance and beauty.

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Yesterday, I had a few moments to actually walk around our property.  There are many stumps along the fence line because Siberian Elm is insistent upon taking over the world.  (I will use it for medicine.)  Among the stumps I found new stalks.  New stalks of rose!  Many of the stumps are ROSES!  I wonder how old they are.  Perhaps planted by the mistress that first built this home. Some are feeding off of the elms.  Some are their own masses made up of smaller stumps, some two feet in diameter, and life shooting out of them here in this milder climate.  Seventeen rose bushes from what I could see.  They have been fiercely neglected, but they waited for me.

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I have five in pots that I brought with me that are ready to be added to the garden.  Perhaps one day my grandchildren will walk through my gardens and remember fondly the towering rose bushes and how they made them feel.

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Geraniums on the Porch (memoirs and present)

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We sit on the balcony each evening watching the clouds.  The Creator paints and creates as we watch and laugh and point out different animals and characters.  We see the same things in the clouds, and the illustrations dancing across the sky above the mountains from this third floor view helps us wind down.

The balcony is my respite.  No doubt done with the city and missing my feet on the earth but this little abode in the sky makes a lovely garden and peaceful place of thought and memory and gift.  The bare root roses bought for dollars create a lovely garden in their brightly colored pots.  The lavender flows over its spot and the Christmas poinsettia happily flaunts green.  The transplanted comfrey and horseradish root strongly and the gooseberry, mini roses from the grocery store, the rosemary that barely made it though the homeless trek, the mint, curry, catnip, Jerusalem artichokes, and chives all spread out, face the sun, and thrive.  The gay petunias beckon the hummingbird.

And the ones that have been with me the longest, the geraniums.  They are large and lush and have survived everything along side us, from house to house, and shop to balcony, their colors rich in the summer heat.  My great grandma would be impressed.  She always had geraniums on the porch.  I would pass them as I walked up the steps and to the door where I never knocked.  And there she would be in her chair in the corner.  Smiling, excited to see me, always wanting a kiss, her love for me so evident, her small frame hugging mine.

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We would walk along her row of roses, always taller than me, their fragrance rich with summer and future memories of past.  Her yard seemed so big.  Her house quaint and tidy filled with relics and memory and life.

I went to a friend’s house for dinner last week.  She lives in Washington park, one of the places I grew up.  I rode my bike past her house a million times with my best friend, Susan, I bet.  The beautiful old cottages and bungalows all similar in their individual layouts.  I walked up the steps and noted the imaginary porch swing, knocked.  And through the door I entered and did face the fireplace and mantle, the two small windows above it with beveled glass, the couch, the corner where Great grandma’s chair stood.  The same floor plan as hers, situated just blocks away, and my breath was taken as my eyes moistened and there I stood eleven years old, gangly and tall in my all encompassing grandma’s house.  I saw her stand and squeal that I was there.  I saw us at the dining room table, plants behind us lining the south window, drinking sweet iced tea and enjoying hours of rummy, where I obtained my title of rummy queen.

How she would be thrilled with my roses and geraniums.  Now we sit watching a bear emerge from the depths of the sky and an old eagle flying by, our sights set on getting to a homestead respite of our own.  Soon.  Our feet firmly on the soil of earth and our spirits restored to freedom and homestead.  We breathe in the fumes of the city streets and post rain scent.  And look upon the roses and geraniums and flowers that Mother Earth has lent.

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A Pirate Turns 22

Of course my world revolved around him.  How could it not?  That smile captured me, that little face, that personality shining through from the beginning.

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He was a great lover of animals and would cry if someone gave him meat.  He thought himself a wolf and ran around with my wolf howling and peeing on trees, howling at sirens, and barking at strangers.  He loved Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee and wore his karate belt (often without anything else on) when he was very small.

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Every Saturday night he and I would have a dance and he would have me call the radio station to request his favorite song, “Brick House.”  But he thought it was called “Big Cow” and would sing the lyrics that way.  Still to this day Doug and I cannot hear that song without singing, “She’s a Big…Cow…she’s mighty mighty…”

We sat on the porch eating cookies and watching the sunsets.  We went on hikes all the time and he became a great admirer of nature.  He loved music and instruments and his sisters and was the most fascinating little boy.

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As he got older he self studied many topics and thought himself a pirate for a time.  He led Shyanne and Emily on many grand adventures.  He is a compassionate, heartfelt, and talented man.

I am proud of his accomplishments because those are what he set out to do, but what I am really proud of is that he is a faithful friend, a loving uncle, a protective brother, a strong willed, beautiful person, and a great son.

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Happy 22nd Birthday to my Andy. Dad and I love you immensely.

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Arrived)

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First things first, chickens.  A few short weeks after moving in Andy came to spend the weekend.  He went with me to the feed store a few blocks away and helped me pick out the cutest, fluffiest egg layers we could find.  We chose ten one day old chicks.  We had never held chicks before.  They are absolutely precious.  Their small, soft bodies cradle perfectly in the palm.  Their innocent chirping and small frames bring out the mama in anyone.  We brought them to our new farmhouse and set them carefully in a large plastic box with a heat lamp in the crooked chicken coop.  We kissed their heads.  We cheered them on.

Each child and adult in the household went out to the crooked chicken coop several times a day to give kisses on the head, and to see what the chicks were up to.  We held them close, we named them.  These were not going to be eatin’ chickens.

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We were sad when two passed away.  We were told that was normal.  Laverne and Shirley were our Jersey Giants (at two inches tall, this was hard to believe), Lucy and Ethel were our California Whites, and Mahalia, Peep, Violet, and Daffodil were our Golden Buffs.  Their personalities began to emerge.  Peep would stop in front of you to get picked up and loved.  Lucy and Ethel were, as their monikers suggest, always into mischief.  But, they were lovable little white chickens.  Violet kept pecking at my toe nails which quickly became unnerving.  Her antics made her stand out as the constantly in detention chicken.  She was ever protective of the flock.  The Buff girls were all sweet.  Laverne and Shirley with their blue-black feathers and lovey personalities won us over.  We saved Shirley’s life by applying a cotton ball neck brace around her tiny neck and letting her watch television with us.  She survived her injury and won our hearts.

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We ignored the boards falling down around the raised beds (we are still overlooking them) and added in compost.  We planted all of the beds and waited patiently for fresh greens, tomatoes, and farm fresh eggs.  Homegrown food was becoming an obsession and we wanted to be able to provide as much of it for our family as we could.

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The store was still busy and we were doing farmer’s markets as well with our herbal medicines so the garden was somewhat neglected but we did get some produce out of it and the eggs we were getting were the best we had ever had.

One warm autumn evening, the Broncos were playing so the game was turned up high.  I heard Bumble barking hysterically from outdoors.  Bumble doesn’t really bark.  I went to the back door and looked outside and what I saw seemed unreal.  A horror movie of sorts.  A medium sized dog was running around playfully, slightly mad, with Violet in his jaws.  Feathers were everywhere.  A dead bird lay in the doorway of the coop.  A small child, not more than four, stood in the fenced in area for the chickens, a scratch across his face, a blank look in his eyes, kicking a white chicken viciously as she struggled to get away, convulsing to her death.  I began screaming.  I’m not sure who was the more crazy.  Me, the dog, or the child.

I swung over the fence with ease in my delirium and approached the young mother.  She could say nothing but sorry and blamed the dog.  I continued to scream and cry for another two hours in my yard.  Into the night we searched for missing chickens.

Lucy died, after struggling.  Violet was already stiff with rigor mortis.  And little Shirley, who had survived an injury and won our hearts, lay dead as well.

We found Ethel running around desperate to get into the coop early the next morning.  The other chickens avoided the horrid fate.  I wondered if I was cut out for this.  I have such an intense love for animals.  Perhaps farming and animals was not right for me.  We have had no other predators since then, thankfully.

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I still wonder at times if we are cut out for this.  If Katrina delivers a baby that dies, Doug and I would be heartbroken.  We do not want to lose any of our animals.  But, that is what makes us cut out for having farm animals.  These animals live very good lives.  Spoiled, and well loved.  Well fed, and even if we sell the babies or lose chickens, we will have given them a great life until then.

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The next spring we got more chickens and dug up the entire yard to make a quarter acre of growing space.  These events I have written about.  Our farmer’s market folks started to taper off at the store.  No one wanted to drive that far and if you aren’t directly in front of people, they forget you.  New folks that walked the street looking for antique stores literally looked at our sign and hastened their pace by us.  One woman walked in the store, looked around and slowly backed out of the store.  I told Doug I was going to set up a giant cauldron with dry ice just for laughs our last day open.

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Turns out it was the best thing to close the retail shop.  We are more available to folks when they need us when there aren’t set store hours.  I have many herbs on hand growing in the yard.  The farm is taking shape with its alpacas, goats, chickens, a rooster, and whimsical pumpkin patch out front.  This year we will add many more medicinal herbs, plant more intensely, and hit the farmer’s markets as farmers and herbalists.  Our lease is up next year and at that point we may search for a bigger farm.  Baby steps.  We have about mastered this practice farm.

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We are farmers.  When a passion is so strong that you cannot stop talking about it, can’t stop dreaming about it, it is your calling.  Doug’s passion is people, animals, farming.  Mine is educating, children, animals, farming.  We want to not only bring people fresh food but teach them how to do it.  Not just heal people, but teach them how to do it.  We want to leave a lighter footprint.  Lead a simpler life.  Lead a happy, peaceful, sometimes difficult and heartbreaking, but rewarding life.

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I know I could farm on my own.  I could fulfill all of these dreams alone.  But, I am so thankful to have found the love of my life to farm with.  To follow this journey with.  Each day we turn the pages of our joint chapters together, the next book to come.  Fourteen years ago this Valentine’s Day I met my future.  Together, we are making a difference and falling in love each day with each other and with this farming life.

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This is a love story.  Not just a romantic one, but a love story about the smell of fresh soil, the taste of cherry tomatoes straight off the vine, the warm sun on your face, the smell of roses in bloom, the sight of chickens running through the back yard, of fresh food, friends, family, community, and following your passions.  I’m in love.

To Go Back in Time…

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I wonder what Laura Ingalls Wilder must have felt like at the end of her life.  To have seen the wild west as truly that.  To have only used candles, wood stoves, and root cellars.  Then to watch as electricity took the nation by storm, coffee makers and dishwashers plugged in, refrigerators and stoves.  I am sure it was amazing and something to marvel.  A woman’s life made easier.  But, I wonder if there was any mourning for the way things were done.

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Fast forward and we see that feminism brought with it the ability and expectation to not only work full time but also get to take care of the entire household at the same time!  Chemical cleaners, packaged poison food, and quick medicines with side effects, day cares where someone else can raise your child, and all the electronics you can handle are our everyday life now.  All to make a woman’s life easier.

Many folks want to go back a little.  Get a little land, live a lot simpler.  One overwhelming comment that I always here is, “But I want running water and electricity!”

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My Aunt Donna has a cabin up in the mountains built circa 1800’s.  I used to take my son there when he was small.  It sits nestled in a canyon with a sloping, giant of a mountain as the back yard.  Tree houses and forts dot the landscape from family members past that played in those woods.  A small meadow with a pond and a stream is in front of the house.  The sun rises over the meadow and brightens the landscape.

At the time I stayed there, electricity was not present.  There was water, gravitationally pulled I imagine, a well I don’t remember, for there was a shower outdoors in the back.  Water ran from the sink.  The outhouse was a small walk away through the fresh pines and the smell of clean air.  Birdsong escorting you there.  The peacefulness that the cabin bestowed was something that I wish for in my everyday.

At twenty one or so years old, I never even considered the fact that it had no electricity.  Oddly, I took to the woodstove instantly.  I started a fire and cooked meals on it without problems.  The smell of sweet wood.  Fresh fish.  I kept the cabin warm in the evening.  I also started a small bonfire by the pond and cooked potatoes and corn over the fire.  My son and my wolf by my side.

I know that running a full household that way day in and day out may grow old, particularly if one were to have several children.  It’s just me and Doug now.  The children skip in and out, mostly out.  And our house is getting quieter and easier to run.  I can cook on a wood cook stove.  I can heat the house with wood.  It certainly would be less shocking than the electric bill I got in the mail the other day.  I could use the water from the sinks to water the garden.  I could use a root cellar.  I could….

There is a small farmhouse with my name on it out there.  And a cook stove waiting to be lit.