Posted in Homestead

The Amish, Pioneers, and the New Homesteader

Ruth and Joel’s house was cozy and warm. The sun shone through the large windows looking out on the cold mountains just yonder, the wood stove stood guard against the chill, in front of a wood cabin wall. Their children played with simple toys and brought me books to read them. Ruth had sewing waiting for her- a task she dislikes despite her very fancy sewing machine plugged into the outlet that is supplied by propane. She brought us out sweet rolls and a drink. We talked of her husband’s job, canning, her makeshift root cellar under the house, and about the animals. It was really no different- to my surprise- than if you visited my farm some January morn. Except that her husband rode his bike or hitched up the horses to go to work, whereas my husband starts the Fiat, which is much smaller than Joel’s buggy.

Ruth and Joel are Amish. We have a small community not far from here and a good number of Mennonites as well. Tourists snap photos of their buggies and horses and sweet caps and darling children.

I, myself, was rather fascinated by the Amish. The simplicity. The family focus. The back-to-earth lifestyle of gardening, chopping wood, living off grid, and staying away from the chaos and destruction of social media and television. Living on faith and hard work and enjoying the slow, simple life of a happily busy existence is something most people these days are searching for, which just adds to our fascination of people brave enough to live that way.

The Amish didn’t create anything new. The pioneers lived that way out of necessity. The indigenous cultures of each country lived that way at one time. Some still do. The back-to-land dreamers of the 1970’s saw the benefits. There are men and women who quietly live this way today.

People choose to live a homestead life for many reasons: food security, and health, to live closer to the earth (therefore feel closer to the Creator), and to walk softer on the planet. The focus is on simple life requirements such as: growing food, saving water, raising animals, being close to family, having faith, and providing basic necessities for oneself, like heat, medicine, clothes, and other handmade items.

It starts with the buying of a few cute oil lamps at the antique store. Next thing you know, you’re weaving scarves and sewing quilts and making baskets. Soap, body products, cleaning products can easily be made. Then you are cooking on a wood stove and have your crocheting nearby. Instead of fine art, you display five hundred stained glass-looking, sparkling jars of food. Researching rain barrels and organic methods to gardening and increasing the size of the tomato rows is next. Then you are making mead, inviting friends over for farm suppers in front of a bonfire, or getting the instruments out to strum some music for the ducks while watching the sun set neatly behind the mountains, splaying splashes of vibrant summer colors across the clouds that you pray rain will come from.

It is a good life, and every year we strive to become more and more self reliant while still immersing ourselves in our community. The reasons that people do not choose to homestead are things like: no time (didn’t you just post that you binge watched something like eighteen hours of some ridiculous show?), no skills (no time like the present to learn! There are lots of great books in the library or you can order mine here!), too hard (you can reverse ailments and get super healthy farming), and then there is the age old don’t-want-to-give-up-anything. Just remember, that big house, green lawn, fancy electric appliances, gas guzzling multiple cars, credit card bills, manicures, hair dye, and restaurants all have to be worked for. They cost hours of your life. I’m not saying those are bad things, but if we want a life of peace, then we must choose what we want to spend our life working for. If homesteading is on your list, this is a great time to get started.

Posted in Homestead

How an Old Fashioned Life Benefits HSPs

What is an HSP? I first heard the term Highly Sensitive Person some dozen years ago. It is used to describe someone who is very sensitive and emotional. Words such as empath have come forth, but there are differences. An empath is someone who feels others’ emotions and feels empathy for them. My husband is an empath, but he is not an HSP.

I wish that more parents knew the traits of a highly sensitive person. They might recognize their own child and know better how to raise them. The HSP is generally the black sheep of the family because they are not easy to live with. They are emotional, anxious, and not like other kids.

HSPs are highly sensitive to artificial lights. Fluorescents can nearly take us out! (Or so it feels.) HSP’s are sensitive to sound. They are generally born with heightened sensory. So very loud voices, yelling, loud music, and crowds can leave an HSP in tears. School is usually very difficult for an HSP, as they would rather be anywhere but sitting still. They are also usually the targets for bullying. And not just as children. It is hard to be an HSP in the world today.

There are many great traits of highly sensitive people. HSP’s are wonderfully mesmerized by beauty and that rubs off on the people around them. They notice every bird, every color, every sound, the tastes of food, the moment in which they live. They are loyal friends and sensitive family members. Their empathy is beyond an average empath, because they physically feel what they see or what they are around. For instance, I cannot watch the news, because I physically will feel what someone who was beaten or raped or lost felt. That can be exhausting. An HSP has to be wary of what they see and what they read and who they are around. Highly Sensitive People are often psychic, because all of their senses are heightened. It isn’t far fetched to believe that hermits are all highly sensitive people! Maybe we don’t want to become hermits, but that is where living an old fashioned life comes in.

Last night, my husband and I sat in our rocking chairs listening to records by the light of oil lamps and candles. The calm of evening resets my senses and helps me to breathe. My friends and I joke that I become a pumpkin after nine. A kind way of saying I straight fall apart and end up crying after ten! I honor my circadian rhythms and that helps me to stay happy and relaxed.

To incorporate old fashioned living for a HSP is simple, here are some ideas:

Highly sensitive people need softer light. Oil lamps, candles, and twinkly lights all fit the bill.

I am overjoyed that I inherited my Great Aunt Donna’s record player the other day! Soft music is better than blasting music.

Highly sensitive people cannot deal with anger problems and fighting. Soft voices, sweet words, this is more important than I can describe.

Turn off electronics. The television overstimulates highly sensitive people. (We won’t get into video games.) The sound, the light, (the fact that there is nothing good on except The Voice…) it is often too much. Books and creative outlets are better. LED lights can be switched off. Unplug anything with a light shining from it.

Highly Sensitive People are better homeschooled and as entrepreneurs. Home should be a respite so decorate with comforting pieces, like quilts, musical instruments, books, soft lighting, and old fashioned items from a relatives’ house. My house is filled with memories since I use things that were once my grandma’s, my chosen mama’s, my aunt’s, etc.

Spend lots of time outdoors! HSP’s do better outdoors. Grow a garden, have chickens, and chairs that face the sun. Animals are important.

From scratch cooking and herbal remedies are important for health. HSP’s don’t do well with conventional medicines or vaccines. You will find that many HSP’s are vegetarian.

Highly Sensitive People do not have a disease or a disability and it is not something they can just get over or toughen up. All of the HSP’s I have met have been truly loving, extraordinary people. I think the lifestyle that we can create to accommodate an HSP is one that could benefit everyone! Being present, being positive, avoiding hysteria in the news and on social media, filling time with creative pursuits and great books, spending time with ones we love, honoring our circadian rhythm, improving health, slowing down, being easy on our senses; all these things make life a million times more meaningful.

Posted in inspiration

Map of Purpose and Inspiration

My heart is a little heavy today, but I know why- it’s midwinter. All the dreaming of gardening and spring and trying to keep busy do not completely veil the wintertime blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. My mind wanders and ponders and when the mind is given too much berth it tends to get into trouble! I wonder about social media. I wonder about this blog. I wonder of my own worth and contribution to society. Then I quiet it down again with a gardening book and a cup of tea, thankful for the respite of winter and the rest before the miraculous madness of farming season.

What is the point of my being on facebook? It began as a way to reconnect with old friends. Which I did. And I never see them and few would even notice if I left facebook. I use it to promote my blog. What is the point of my blog? I like to think that my purpose is to inspire others. To help them bring the quiet simplicity of a handmade life into their own lives. To be able to walk softer on the planet. To find joy in an old fashioned lifestyle. It is particularly useful for highly sensitive people like myself. But, does it really make a difference at all? And then there is Instagram. Do sharing photos of our life really inspire anyone at all? Ah February. I will have my hands in the soil towards the end of next month.

My beautiful friend, Annie, lived with me two summers ago and helped me with the gardens, animals, and with canning and soap making, and was wonderful company to me.

In these moments of quiet insecurity when the sun still goes down way too early and the outdoors beckon but it is still too cold, and Vitamin D stores are low, minds do begin to wander. I believe what most of us are really worrying about is our purpose. Our contribution to the world. We receive so many blessings, are we returning them in a good way and are we appreciated? I tend to hermit myself into my home and adore the company of my animals to crowds and office buildings. I could easily fall into my only socialization being social media and this blog (though I have a handful of great friends, children, and a husband that won’t let me). But I do have a dream that I would love to see come true, though the universe would have to arrange it. Still, I believe it could happen. When a dream is put upon our hearts, it is map, a blueprint of our current purpose.

My friend, Ethan was my farm intern in 2014. We still keep in touch. He now farms in New York.

High school age and young twenties, I love their energy, their smiles, their hearts. I have such a desire to be a mentor, a friend, a surrogate mama to those that need someone to be there for them. I have a handful of past students and my children’s friends that consider me one of their mamas and I try to keep up with them. Make sure they feel loved. Make sure they have the encouragement they need to pursue their purpose.

I loved my daughter Shyanne working with me and teaching her the art of herbalism.

Over the last ten or so years my farm and homestead has revolved around how to make it profitable (or rather, how to survive), but now that my husband supports us, other ideas come forth. This is my biggest garden plan ever, my most ambitious homestead yet, and I will surely need help. I also want to share my skill set with the next generation so that they can feel secure in the fact that they could be subsistence farmers, homesteaders, nature restorers, and find peace in the soil of our sustenance. It could offer a safe place while they are learning by working with me. Have family style meals and be a positive influence and encouragement while working alongside future gardeners and friends.

I am so grateful to live this homestead life. This old fashioned, apron wearing, reading by oil lamp, warming myself by the woodstove, kitten on my lap, homegrown and handmade life, that I cannot help but share it. And hope that it brings inspiration.

Posted in Non-Electric

The Hand-Cranked Life

The dawn filters through the windows white and glowing after the night of snow. I put my warm robe on and wander out to the wood stove to start the fire. It starts spreading heat quickly and the kitties gather and curl up on furniture around the stove while I start the coffee.

The grinder has a gentle whir that I rather like as I churn the handle around. It isn’t difficult and within minutes the smell of freshly ground coffee awakens my senses. The kettle on the stove starts to bubble and the grounds hiss and extract as the boiling water immerses into the French press.

My Great Pyrenees will not come inside, despite the very cold temperature. I have never had an outdoor dog before. I always thought it rather cruel. But there he is, happy as can be sitting in the snow barking at who knows what. I give him a bowl of water that is not frozen. I open the chicken door and give them food and water as well. The mountains are hidden behind a thick veil of clouds and threatening snow storms. The large western sky above makes it feel like a snow globe. The cats are fed and fresh water given and I settle in with my coffee amongst them before the fire and write.

I turn off the computer, unplug all cords, there are no LED lights shining non-stop here. They irk me for some reason and I can actually here the buzzing from electric devices. The grandfather clock gently ticks time and tells me the quarter hour. My home wouldn’t be quite the same without the master of time standing guard in the living room.

I tie my apron on and the day is spent in blissful schedule. Bringing in wood. Stoking the fire. Putting the kettle back on the wood stove for tea. I think I will put on a Dutch oven of beans and make sage white bean soup for supper. Maybe I will knead together a loaf of bread.

I tend to whatever household chores are on the day’s list and do all the cooking from scratch. Stopping to snuggle animals. Catching up on sewing projects. Dreaming of spring. Reading gardening manuals as if they were the most fascinating of novels. My education in farming and homesteading continues. Though is doesn’t make a lot of money, it saves a lot of money. And money saved is the same as money earned sometimes. Particularly for homestead wives.

Today I will write to my pen pal and perhaps call my grandpa. The piano is longing to be played. There is a steadiness to the winter days here. Soon I will have my clothes line up and in the spring I will get a set up to do my clothes washing by hand outdoors once again. I will use a hoe to weed, and my hands to harvest. Nary a machine in sight.

The warm water and suds caress my hands as I place the dishes in the dish rack. Stir the soup. Take a sip of homemade mead. Light the candles and oil lamps as the sun begins to fade, casting shadows across the house and another day winds down.

We sit together and chat, enjoy the fire with a hot drink and talk about our day. Blow out the oil lamps and the candles. And fall into bed sleepy and happy and content.

The furnace will come on if the indoor temperature drops too low. My daughters will snapchat me throughout the day. We can turn on the lights of the lamps. There is a coffee maker for entertaining in the garage. I could just go on using the washer and dryer year round and I certainly could turn the clock on above the stove. But why? When the gentle cadence of an old fashioned life brings with it such quiet and loveliness. When clothes and dishes are cleaner, coffee better, house warmer, air more crisp as one gathers wood. Laughing at animal antics, kneading the bread, the feel of a wooden spoon in hands that work joyfully. Reading by oil lamp, snuggling near the fire, a kitten on one’s lap, and a song in the heart. That is a day in a hand-cranked life.

Posted in inspiration

Creating a Peaceful Reality with an Old Fashioned Life

When I die, I’m going right back to 1830″

Tasha Tudor

I was not familiar with Tasha Tudor as an illustrator, but rather became fascinated with the works that highlighted her lifestyle. A fierce, talented, and enchanted woman who lived on her own on her homestead in Vermont wearing her long skirts, aprons, and living a life from the 1800’s. A life the author of one article referred to as a fantasy world. I smoothed my own apron down across my long skirt and took another sip of tea as I read.

Why do women want to dress like men when they’re fortunate enough to be women? Why lose femininity, which is one of our greatest charms? We get more accomplished by being charming than we would be flaunting around in pants and smoking. I’m very fond of men. I think they are wonderful creatures. I love them dearly. But I don’t want to look like one. When women gave up their long skirts, they made a grave error…

Tasha Tudor

I suppose I came by it naturally. My mother had a collection of lovely vintage aprons and wore them all the time (albeit over jeans) and played music from the 1940’s on the radio as she prepared everything from scratch, and read the Little House books to us in the evenings. My grandmother leaned over the quilt frame and sewed her dainty stitches. My great-grandmother fed me simple, three course meals before our game of rummy. I come from a line of women who appreciated or came from the fantasy world. The difference, I suppose, is that my grandparents could not wait to leave the farms they grew up on and were happy with a small kitchen garden and cable television, and I try to grow all of our food and medicine, make all of our food from scratch, and have even gone a step further in time as I read by oil lamp in the mornings in front of the wood stove. I have a lovely collection of aprons and I am much more comfortable in long skirts and petticoats. You might think the outfit in the photos of me are a costume, but rather, they are my day-to-day clothes. They are comfortable, feminine, and most efficient for the work I do.

I enjoy doing housework, ironing, washing, cooking, dishwashing. Whenever I get one of those questionnaires and they ask what is your profession, I always put down housewife. It’s an admirable profession, why apologize for it. You aren’t stupid because you’re a housewife. When you’re stirring the jam you can read Shakespeare.

Tasha Tudor

Does being a modern homesteader seem like a fantasy? I stash my cell phone away so that I can get my housework done and check on it occasionally to see if one of my daughter snapchatted me. I walk around the house unplugging anything that saps energy, except for the refrigerator. True, Google Home does play me lovely bluegrass tunes as I crochet, my needle moving to the sound of the Appalachians. But only because I haven’t a record player. Oh, how I do long for a record player. I could get a full time job. Or start a new business. I could wear jeans and tennis shoes (oh but they are so uncomfortable). I could look “normal” as I walk to town. I could purchase packaged items, rely on trucks and fuel for vegetables, and sometimes I do. Though it may seem like a terrible bit of work, I intend to transform this homestead (our fifth, so I am getting rather good at this) into an oasis of sufficiency, sustenance, and beauty. This feels like how life is supposed to be.

It’s exciting to see things coming up again, plants that you’ve had twenty or thirty years. It’s like seeing an old friend.

Tasha Tudor

When I’m working in the barn or house I often think of all the errors I’ve made in my life. But then I quickly put that behind me and think of water lilies. They will always eradicate unpleasant thoughts. Or goslings are equally comforting in their own way.

Tasha Tudor

‘Tis actually a lovely feeling to haul in wood to stoke the fire to warm the house and to cook the soup for supper. Such peace to tend to seeds, to plant, to water, to speak to, to harvest, to feed us. Such purpose to knead dough, or put up three hundred jars of sauces and vegetables and fruit and root cellar bins of potatoes and onions, chilies, and garlic. To soak beans overnight. To sew a quilt for my daughter’s wedding. To crochet a blanket for a new life soon to be born. This life is precious and the real fantasy is the modern world of 5G this, pressure to succeed, anxiety, and social media dissonance. I find my peace among garden plants and great skies of stars.

I gather my skirts around me. How fun that my galoshes match this one. The 2000 square foot kitchen garden (not to be confused with the three sisters garden and perennial/medicinal gardens) is fenced in and swept clean. The clear mountains beyond hover over the valley and hold up the watery sky. The cedars fold over creating a place for rabbits to nestle and the goats next door wander together in friendship. It will rain today. The fire crackles. Steam rises from the kettle.

Tasha Tudor’s illustrations are a beautiful portrayal of an old fashioned life that can still lived today.
Posted in Homestead, Non-Electric

A Pioneer’s Life For Me

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I was dreading going into the goat pen.  Elsa has mastitis and we have been diligently treating it but that along with her spoiled little girl self makes it incredibly difficult to milk her.  It takes all of my strength to hold her as Doug milks her out.  All of our muscles are shaking by the end and she has kicked the milk bucket a few times.  Our clothes are covered in milk and goat hair and I am often near tears.  Last night as I looked up before going in the pen a beautiful sight transpired.  The same one that made us feel we made the right choice moving out here.  The brightest rainbow arched across the sky, seemingly right above us, from horizon to horizon it promised peace.  Its colors sparkled in the rain that fell in straight glistening showers downward watering the gardens.  The sun shone through it and all was bright.  Today we will tie her back legs.

I love the peacefulness of home.  Now that Emily has moved back in, we drive considerably less.  We feel better in our bustling schedule around this homestead.  I love the heaviness of the cast iron skillet as I prepare eggs fresh from the coop and slice warm bread that I baked.  Dandelions, or other produce later, are mixed into the eggs throughout the season along with homemade cheese.  I hope fresh fruit will join these.  We look across our table and see how much of it we produced.  We are aptly satisfied and proud yet strive to produce nearly everything we consume.  Of course we shall rely on the humble farmer that provides the grains for our table.  The coffee from far away.  The teas exotic.  But our year long sustenance grows each season on this homestead as we produce more and more.

The milk hits the bucket in a sing-song tune as Isabelle stands sweetly on the stand.  She occasionally turns to kiss Doug’s ear.  She loves him and seems to want to impress him.  This year she is giving over a gallon a day of fresh milk.  I pour the warm milk into his coffee once inside.  The creamy morning treat warms the farmer.  These simple pleasures transcend the ordinary ones we knew growing up.  Last night after Doug had fallen asleep I sat in the rocking chair my father gave my mother upon learning that she was with child over forty-one years ago.  I sat in front of the wood stove and let it warm me as I relaxed into my book, the oil lamp highlighting the page, a cup of hot tea by my side.  The house and land is quiet.  My muscles are tired but my mind is joyous.  There is cheese pressing, bread dough rising, and at least the dishes are done.  I am reading an Amish book.

I have sat in an Amish home and read accounts.  They are not unlike mine.  Keeping the world out is something I strive for.  The news stays in its dramatic studios of fear.  Anger, stress, and sadness dissipate quicker here.  We are not immune to financial wonderings and relationship woes but here in this setting they work themselves out and the spirit is restored quickly.  We pray openly here and are thankful for our blessings.  We call on the Lord for signs, for help, and for comfort and receive them as we listen softly in the night by oil lamp and quiet.

The aprons hang on the wall and tell stories, I decide which one I wish to don this day.  I have long skirts, and long slips, and layers to make them stand out because they are comfortable, and feminine, and fine.  The apron pocket holds what I need as I bustle from clothes line to barn yard to kitchen.  Three meals a day grace the table and the children always know they can come home to a hot meal, peace and quiet, and an escape from the world beyond.

The counties out here argue over fracking, over wind mills, over water.  Not here! they say.  Yet folks will not give up their luxuries and want these means of fancies and want destruction to get them so long as they cannot see them.  We work on our own solution, to use less.  To find alternative ways.  And the classical music plays softly in the kitchen and the electric kettle often gets turned on but bird song could fill the musical need and a kettle whistling from wood stove could suffice.  And the world could howl outside our door but our respite remains here in our pioneer ways.  I put on my sun bonnet and head outdoors to plant.

Posted in Homestead

The Joys of a Simple Life (goals, self reliance, a day in the life)

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Forget January first as New Year’s!  That is only one time of pondering goals for a homesteader.  There are several pivotal times in the year that homesteaders like us take stock and decide and dream and implement plans for the year.

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Our average spring day starts at dawn with strong cups of coffee.  Doug reads the news and I write.  We do outdoor farm chores like milking, feeding goats and sheep, letting the chickens and ducks out and making sure they are cared for.  We plant as the weather allows, watching the weather and clouds like an addiction.  Preparing soil, adding beds, caring for plants.

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Doug fixes fences and puts up gates.  He repairs things damaged from winter and makes sure we have plenty of firewood curing and in the house for the still chilly nights. We watch our beautiful granddaughter.  She wants to be a part of everything, carrying wood, making cheese, doing dishes.

papa and baby

I keep up the farmhouse and put three meals a day on the table.  I preserve throughout the year to keep the pantry rotating.  Five pints of meat sauce put up the other day, seven quarts of broth last week.  Cheese rests in brine on the stove. (I will teach you that next week!)

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We watch owls swoop by, worry about family members from a distance, pray for sunny days, and relax in the evenings after milking, reading by oil lamp.  We lead a simple, busy, enchanting life.  In order to keep this lifestyle we have to find everything possible that we can do ourselves.  This allows us to live on very little money and enjoy the profound satisfaction of doing things ourselves.  We live softly on the planet and provide healthy food and peaceful living for ourselves and our children that came home.

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For the past six years we have added skill by skill and vast achievements but this year I would like to go one step further and do these things more intensely, more prolifically.  I have grown all my own green beans, but how about all our corn?  I have sewed a skirt, how about sew what I need this year? (I am in dreadful need of new aprons)  So, these are my goals for the next two and a half seasons and of course you will be drug along with me through my writings to see just how self-reliant we can be and how satisfying it is to live a life of freedom and work by hand and I hope I can inspire you to step back and live a little more simply and old fashioned too.

Can I: Grow all my own fruits and vegetables?

Make my own wine?

Prepare my own spices?

Make all my own dairy products?

Provide some of my own meat?  And source the rest from friends? (Whole Foods is killing me y’all!)

Bake all my own breads, tortillas, rolls, etc.?

Stock, organize, and fill staples so that we can practically eliminate the need to go to the store?

Grow enough variety to satisfy us?

Be creative with recipes?

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These are my goals for my farmhouse kitchen.  I have a list of what we need to reserve for winter.  How to improve my relationships. What to sew. How to rearrange the living room and kitchen.  But most of all I need to be present, unfettered,  and loving.  I need to not get so busy that I forget to hug my husband, sit and watch the rain from the window, read a good book, or play with the baby.  Our old lifestyle allowed a two week vacation.  This one allows a bit every day.  This is truly the best life for us.