Everything in its Season

I long to get this show on the road. To get this new farm set up! Get the rototiller! Get the goats! Get the fencing done! Let’s get planting!

But, alas, it is October 2nd. I can plant hopeful bulbs of dancing tulips and sunshine yellow daffodils that will surprise me with delight come spring. That is all.

The wood stove is coming next week and the goat shed is coming too and we are slowly getting fencing done. I can see it all! I can see the corn in rows interspersed with pumpkins zooming along the front yard on green tendrils and vines. I can see the vineyard I have always wanted stretching out to the western sky. I can see the bright red tomatoes, the crisp lettuces dancing in the cool breeze, the baby goats and sheep jumping around the pasture in the sunlight. My polar bear dog with a job, finally.

I can see myself moving the dutch oven to make room for the kettle for a cup of tea and checking the fire. I can hear the vibrant shaking of the pressure canners putting away summer’s gifts. Wiping my hands on my apron and taking my granddaughters outside to play. Watching the sun set behind the wild pasture with rabbits shooting to and fro and turkey vultures swaying gently on the breeze overhead.

This is our fourth farm. Our fourth homestead. The second home of our own since beginning homesteading. This one on land. In the country. Our own. My heart soars with gratitude and excitement to get this farm set up! But alas, it is October 2nd.

The dark smoke billowed densely and ferociously off the mountain sides. The smell of it all filled the air. The wildfire was scarcely contained and my heart broke for the animals and trees and the wildness being consumed. Death and ending before our eyes as we drove to our mini-vacation spot. Next spring, there on the mountain, life will unfold. Everything in its season.

The aspens and oaks danced in brilliant colors of gold and red, creating patchworks across the mountainsides. That specific shade of bold autumn blue sans clouds stretched above everything and the west was in its ultimate splendor.

Our youngest daughter, her husband, and their new baby joined us for a few days at a beautiful place. A private spot where one can hike to various hot spring pools nestled along the mountain. Walking along the path we stopped to eat hawthorn berries and wild plums. Deer wandered past the pools, a fawn catching up with her mother. Birds flitted from thick tree to tree and life buzzed all around. It is a clothing optional resort and the feeling of air on one’s skin while passing thickets of herbs and trees and the feeling of the water from warm waterfalls is grounding and restorative.

A crow cawed and flapped its wings loudly as it flew close by. The warmth of the water followed by the cool breeze was enlivening. Amongst plans of future and to-do’s and day-to-day life, it is good to rest and restore, to ground in a new place, to spend time with loved ones, and to look out over thickets of oaks and pines and into valleys. To pull a blanket closer around, sip coffee, and hear the earth speak, as breezes lightly blow fog up the road. Everything in its season.

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.

20190711_185114

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.

20190711_185421

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.

20190711_185124

New, cheaper soil

20190711_185153

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.

20190711_185306.jpg

3. Expect surprises.

20190711_185214

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.

20190711_185322

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.

20190711_185106

20190711_185523

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

20190710_160134

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.

20190711_185625

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.

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.

IMG_0355

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.

IMG_2820

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.

20190516_070113

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.

20190516_070536

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

20190503_074419

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.

IMG_0801

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.

 

The Crone and the Ants

20171103_092307We named her the Crone upon first seeing her, for her lengthy limbs and wide trunk seemed to tell stories of old.  It was obvious she was coming up in years and wouldn’t be around forever.  Sawdust fell at her feet and pieces of her skin fell off in the dust.  Her scant leaves held firm.

The tree men came and took down just the limbs over the electric wires and noted that the Crone was hollow.  “Carpenter ants,” a shrewd one said.  You have to go get ant killer.  Bayer.  It’s at the hardware store.  It’s the only way to save the tree.”

Doug hopped in the car and started for the store.  I had a sudden realization, like a deck of cards filing out quickly in front of me of what we were about to do.  I called him and told him to come back home!  No poisons.  That is not how we have ever done things.

“Then your tree will die,” the tree man shrugged.

I had him put corn meal into the hollowed ends.  I put the wood ash around her base.

The thing to remember here is that the ants are there because the tree is dying, not the other way around.

20171115_101201

I watched the wood pecker the next day with his lacy wings and red head pecking at the tree.  Several friends joined him.  Sparrows and finches burrow into her limbs.  Squirrels play among her arms.  We would have killed them all.

I planted twenty trees in her place.  She will fall when she falls.  Then she will return to my garden and to the wood stove.  All in nature’s time.  No poisons necessary.

The Saving Daily Walk (and Hugo and George at it again)

Two loads of wet laundry hit the winter ground with a thud and instantly were covered in dirt.  The entire clothes line had fallen.  I had asked my husband to tighten it for me months before but the real culprit was probably the innocent looking puppy who had pulled half the clothes off the clothesline the week prior and shredded them.  I looked over and two new articles sat on his bed.  I glared.

20180103_132123

Instead of cleaning up the freshly washed clothes I walked indoors.  It would wait a moment for me to compose myself.  Moments later Gandalf had one of my shirts from an open drawer and was running madly around the house.

Instead of crying, losing it, or pouring a shot of whisky, I grabbed the leash.  We both needed it.  We walked three and a half miles.  We made it home just in time for my appointment with a client.  I have found that there is always time for a walk.

6e5e53dbf8f7690f8eef14b1ef4e7a3c--bugs-bunny-bunny-rabbit

Really, I wish I could get a proper picture of these two blurs, but they are constantly playing and moving.  We missed an opportunity (perhaps it is not too late) to name the four month old, gigantic abominable snow puppy, Hugo and his little black sidekick, the five month old Merlin, should have been George from the Bugs Bunny cartoon (my own little bunny rabbit…”

20180102_073013

The whir was happening right behind me yesterday as I typed but these kids are fast!  The kitten jumped on the chair, the puppy trying to catch him.  The puppy pulled the tablecloth to get to Merlin and down went all of the oil lamps.  Shattered chimneys carpeted the floor.  Gandalf scared himself so much he backed up into the hall.  They upset the big, black, older cat so much that Booboo chased Gandalf in circles until he begged to be let out.

“How’s the zoo?” my husband emailed from work.

“Hugo and George at it again!” I replied.

20180103_131851

The leash came off the wall and we walked.  We passed hundreds of chirping and bleating red winged blackbirds.  They have returned.  The villages of geese congregated for a meeting on the wide expanse of lake as the sea gulls danced above.  The mountains in the distance were a violet hue against great blue sky and the golden fields and reeds stretched out around the glimmering, icy waters in technicolor.  Calming breath entered my lungs as the puppy skated slight on the ice as he licked the frozen water.  We were exhausted and happy as we skipped home.

20180103_130231

A simple walk daily can improve your outlook, bring you back to present, connect you with what’s real, and with the natural world, and will help your heart in more ways than one!  Being a new parent to a puppy and kitten not required.

The Secret Power of Gratitude

20171031_182428This is the time of year that we speak of gratitude.  Gratitude is a secret ingredient to a happy and content life.  Even if it seems like not one more thing could go wrong, simply sitting still with a cup of tea, the sun on one’s face, or even just with eyes closed, thinking of the things we are really grateful for changes the energy around us.  We exhale.  We smile.  We know it’s going to be alright.

20171012_111725Fear is the opposite of gratitude.  Fear is based on losing something.  If we just flip the wheel and see the things we do have, we can change our attitude, therefore our perception, therefore our life, and the feeling is contagious.

20171022_134338Every day for the next three weeks consciously do something to encourage gratitude.  Some ideas might be:

Call a relative you would like to visit with.

Make a huge pot of soup and invite neighbors or friends over.

Drink a green juice to help heal your body.

Write a poem about the sunrise.

Compliment a stranger.

Do something towards a dream or goal you have.

Put some money in a coffee can and start an emergency fund at home, little by little.

Do a twenty minute yoga video.

Meditate quietly on all the things you love about yourself.  About your life.  About your circumstances.  Allow yourself to grieve and then watch the grief fly off on an imaginary butterfly.  Allow peace to come back into your heart.  Smile.

Walk in nature.  Really, this does wonders!  Walk around the block even.  Get out and be near Mother Earth and the great vast sky, and the trees.  Laugh at squirrels.  Listen to your footsteps.

Write a letter, hug your loved ones, eat nourishing food, breathe deeply, watch the sunrise and sunset, turn off the news, stretch, smile, live.  Gratitude for our health, our loved ones, our life, our experiences, our time with those passed, food, shelter, clothing, animals, friends, candlelight, joy….all these things remember.

20171011_124929Whisper “thank you” often.

I am thankful for my readers.

There’s Just Something About the Mountains

 

20171007_180402There’s just something about the lulling embrace of the mountains that cajoles my spirit into quiet.

There is a comfort wrapped in the songs of pines surrounding every side.

20171007_180507

A murder of crows sing raucously of encroachment.  A haunting and thrilling sound.

Two does jump airily by.

20171007_180415

There is just something about the West.  Sweeping desert valleys and climbing vistas of conifers and scrub oak in autumnal color.  The quaking aspen dances in the breeze.  Snow comes this eve.

20171007_180451

Perched on a balcony up high watching magpies caw as the sun crests the Colorado mountain ridge I breathe in the earthy pine air.  Pour another cup of coffee.  Wait for my family to wake up.  An hour from home, our weekend away to the mountains delightful and restorative in the fragrant woods of the West.

A Daily Meditation

 

img_5801A daily meditation is a lovely way to begin or end a day.  A time to reflect, think, dream, pray, be.  An idea floated upon me yesterday.  An idea to listen and record a daily message from nature.  We all know that we go too fast in this society.  We have isolated ourselves from the things that enchant and feed our life force.  We desperately try to connect but get a busy signal.

I am among the most guilty of this.  I despise sitting for a long period of time though I do dream of great books and cups of tea and long walks.  But from sun up to sun down I busy myself to the point of frenzy.  My body yells for rest now.  It used to whisper, now it demands.  Fatigue hits me with a powerful force mid-afternoon.  I get the subtle and not-so-subtle messages my body and weary spirit are telling me.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Listen.  There is much to learn still.

So each day I will be out in nature, even if that means walking along the pavement, and will listen and record what I am being told.  Plenty of photographs and symbolism will intertwine with the daily meditations I write.  These will all be recorded on my other blog, Medicine Wolf.  I will still be writing this blog daily with all of the fun, recipes, homesteading, farming, herbal remedies, and stories you have grown to love.  But, then maybe hop over to Medicine Wolf and sign up for a daily email with insights and wisdom from nature.  Let’s all become students of nature and Spirit.  (Click on the name Medicine Wolf to be taken over to the other page.)

A New Year

Jpeg

I feel the earth beneath my feet

breathing

Breathing through cracks in the pavement

breaking the asphalt like a too tight corset

pulsating life

A breathing mother

I stand upon her breast amongst the prairie grasses

and through her gentle rise and fall

I breathe in a new year full of promise and life.

Blessings to you all for a bright, beautiful 2017. Happy New Year.

 

Mad Mother

The day was quiet and calm.  Our first farmer’s market was going really, really well.  Lots of new faces, lots of folks to help, and it was nice being around our old farmers market vendor family.  Then towards the end it happened.  Usually microbursts come later in the season so this one certainly took us all by surprise.  The familiar yelling and the words, “Hold on!” and “It’s coming!” at the market is the equivalent to “All Hands on Deck!”

market

If you are new to microbursts, they are invisible, highly volatile, mini tornados on the ground.  They wind up, sometimes with dust and debris, but often without a sign until you see the first tent fly up in the air, weights or no.  You can often hear it, it sounds like a train, but this one was quieter and more stealth than most.  It picked up more tents slightly as folks held them down, vendors jumping to help others with theirs, and then it picked up speed and turned.  Right towards us.  We had two tents.  Doug was on one side and I on the other.  I had one hand on the tent and one on our shelves of medicines.  A customer held onto the shelves as well.  Our buckets were filled with large rocks and securely fastened to the tents.  The back of the tents were attached to our van.  I held on with all of my might but the microburst picked up our tent, and me.  It carried me in the air until I hit the van, the leg of the tent caught under my skirt and cut and bruised my thigh, then released my hem and flew up and over the van, both tents and buckets, and rocks and debris flying away, crashing down into the street, narrowly missing two cars.  The customer that held the shelves with me was shocked and scared as Doug came running over to help her with the large shelf.  The smaller had flown off.  Sample jars, cards, bags, product just gone.  Broken, missing, blown away in parts of the city we may never know.  The power of Mother Earth is astounding.  If the van hadn’t stopped me I would have kept on flying with it.  A ragdoll on this planet.

A few weeks ago I had another dream about her.  The soil was loose and unassuming as it opened and sucked down entire towering trees.  It is not improbable that that could happen.

Jpeg

We were walking through Castlewood Canyon on a trail that just opened for the season.  As we turned a bend I heard something, saw something, so fast I could not comprehend but I suddenly felt like prey.  My stomach went in knots, nerves, I held my breath.  My eyes grew large, I tried to listen, I froze in place.  But it was gone, or seemingly so, watching us as we finally passed by.  We are not the top of any food chain.

Her name in Cherokee is Etsia Eloheno.   She is known in other cultures as Gaia, Terra Mater, Maka Ina.  I believe, from experience, that she is not viewed as a living being.  In many major religions we are to not have any other “gods” and for some reason the earth gets viewed as such and we forget that she is a real, living being with destructive and life giving power and only focus on the Creator and forget about our mother.  Every single thing on this planet has a spirit.  Each rock, each tree, each animal, each of us.  We are no greater than a rock on the path, than a dog on the street, than a tree growing tall.  We are children lacking respect.

boat 3

I have returned to the city and watch bags and bags…and bags of trash being thrown out in my apartment complex alone.  Electricity, oil use, driving two blocks, modern conveniences, privilege, waste.  More and more counties aren’t accepting recycling anymore because there is no money in it.  We expose animals in factory farms, bastardize our crops to make genetically modified organisms, we pretend we are on the top of the food chain, that we are the rulers of the world.  No religion or belief system will save us from the consequences of how we treat the Earth.

Let us walk quieter.  Let us leave less foot print.  Let’s take less.  Let’s talk to trees and plants.  Let’s acknowledge that we are but visitors and children.  Let’s love her.  She gives us medicine and food and places to play and everything we need to survive.

I highly recommend the book “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel and to take more walks.