The Joyful, Simple Life of a Frugal Housewife

I have a little book that was written by Mrs. Child in 1832.  The American Frugal Housewife is surely just as useful today in many senses.  The author almost lost me when she noted that coffee was not economical and could be avoided.  Oh, she’s a strict one, that Mrs. Child.  Her prose is clear and concise and the book is ever fun to read.  Going on two hundred years old, it is a bit of history rolled into a gentle reminder that not that much has changed.

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If you make a dollar, only spend eighty cents.  If you make fifty cents, only spend forty.  The original Dave Ramsey.  Why do all the girls these days need the new bonnets from France when clean, proper dresses and a ribbon will do?  Girls have no home education these days!  In this book she covers everything from cuts of meat (she would wonder about me and my vegetarianism), to how to make custard, and Indian pudding.  She discusses herbs for cooking and all their medicinal values as well.  A new onion will take the pain out of a wasp sting.  Every housekeeping gem that we housewives- even in the twenty-first century- could ever need are in this book.  She would tisk-tisk me for sure.  But in this time and age, I am not too bad.  But there is always room for improvement.  A simple, frugal life is a life of peace.

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The gents installing the meters for the solar panels on our homestead were surprised at how little electricity we use.  Now it can all be generated from the sun.  When you walk through our gate, past the Pumpkin Hollow Farm sign, you will find yourself in a large yard.  Under snow, it looks ordinary, but this spring you will find dozens, upon dozens, and dozens of medicinal and culinary herbs.  This year, enough produce growing to last us eight+ months.

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When you come in there is a wood stove and nice wood floors that are easy to clean.  Plants and aloes and seed starts fill my home.  We read by candlelight and oil lamps.  Twinkly lights are the electric lights.  Piles of books to read, board games, and a tuned piano supply entertainment. We rarely watch television.  In the warmer months we will sit on the porch or go for a walk, all free things.  And blessed time together.

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In the kitchen, home cooked meals are made.  I am finally getting used to not cooking for  all the children.  Just me and Pa and some left for the puppy.  Our root cellar is dwindling but there are still over a hundred jars of produce put up.  There are fresh eggs from the coop.  Cups of herb tea steaming on the counter.

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You will almost always find me in an apron.  They are so practical and keep my long skirts clean.  I make all of our own medicine, prepare our meals, create much of what we need.  I can sew a quilt, make our own soap, brew some meade, put up green beans, bake sourdough bread, make antibiotics, save seeds, use the library, ride my bike, and if I make fifty cents then I shall save ten!  More likely five cents, but we’ll get there.

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Such a good life indeed.

Winter’s Song

I love springtime and the return of the birds.  The warm sun on my face, my hands in the soil.  I do love seed packets and promises of gardens galore.  I love tree blossoms and flowers and bees and more.

I love summer and all the fun to be had.  The gardens and watering.  Fresh peas off the vine and corn growing high.  I love the long days and al fresco meals.  I love the way the hot sun feels.

I love autumn and its flurry of work.  Harvesting, preserving, the fatigue that comes.  The colors, the holidays the promises of rest.  The smell of wood smoke and coffee and warm blankets ’round the fire.

In my hurry to get back to spring, I was stopped in my tracks.  I checked on the chickens all warm in their house.  Big flakes of snow were falling suddenly from the sky.  The smell was so fresh.  The coolness livened my skin after the warm house within.  Such quiet descended as the flurries went on.  Just birds in the trees trying to keep warm.  Chirping and singing, they had quite a time.  As the flurries of fluffy snow came tumbling down, resting on trees and the sleeping ground.

Winter songs are of rest and peace.  Of cleansing and warmth.  Of cold and restoration.  This time I treasure for its ability to calm.  I am enjoying my hibernation.  Ready to be out in the garden beds in no time.  But in the meantime, the house is warm, the coffee’s hot, the snow is falling, and all is still.  Winter whispers, “Take a breath.”

A Peaceful Holiday

The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh.  The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule.  Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.

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It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home.  Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day.  I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air.  We keep the lights on the tree on often.  Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm.  I put a Christmas album on.  My favorite is Andy Williams.   The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.

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Christmas past when my children were very young. (1999)

The birds outside sing and dart about.  The fat squirrel looks at me through the window.  She is out of bird seed.  Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife.  A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time.  The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky.  Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live.  I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.

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Dreaming of Christmas cookies

Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors.  Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding.  Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here.  Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house.  Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family.  A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.

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Christmas present. My beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane and Ayla.

What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends?  From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule.  May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.

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.

 

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.

A Simple Life

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We were at our favorite Celtic festival this weekend.  For two days we step back in time.  We feel a swell of pride and odd recognition as we hear the familiar bag pipes sound.  Outfits of different eras swish in the morning air through the woods.  We find our clan (Mackay) and bid everyone well.  It is an annual time of catching up with old friends and seeing glimpses of a simpler time as we toast with our mead and listen to the fiddlers and harpists play.

As I drive home, flying down the highway, I see the abandoned homesteads and outbuildings that line the railroad tracks.

All our modern conveniences do not add up to happiness.  We still work the same hours but with less meaningful work and constant stress.  I think our bodies were made to be more physical, our tasks plenty.  Our evenings filled with music and books by the fire instead of stressful television shows.  Home cooked meals and clothes on the line and chickens waiting for scratch and friends coming to call on Sunday afternoon.  There was joy in simplicity and we were not so inundated with brain washing media and mass panic.

I could see the ghosts of the farm women in their aprons taking a pail of milk into the farm kitchen.  The men throwing hay to the sheep.  A trusty farm dog by his side.

At the festival our friends did demonstrations of sheep herding with their incredible Border Collies.  A tradition as old as the Highlands.

We do not have to fall into the day to day modern but can choose to live more simply.  We can choose to unplug the television, hang up a clothes line, put a pot of beans on, cancel cable.  We can choose to dress simpler, eat simpler, enjoy simpler activities like having friends over to laugh by the fire or take a walk in the evening.  We can shut off the news and don our aprons and embrace our inner wisdom and enjoy a simple life.

For many of the greatest joys are from holding a warm egg just laid in your hands, or clipping herbs for tea, or seeing how many tomatoes are ready to harvest.  Some of our greatest joys are in an embrace, a smile, a plate of locally grown food, and a day consumed with inner peace.

Release and the New Perspective

I thought I would cry when the razor came on.  But instead I found myself laughing the rest of the day.  Joy and mirth followed me in awe and shock and relief.

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Struggles, burdens, fifteen hair colors, and my ego fell to the ground.

Release.

 

What If? (a birthday pondering)

DSC_6435My birthday is Saturday.  The years fly by in the breeze faster than I can blink but I am grateful for each and every year that I get to celebrate being on this beautiful earth.

New Year’s makes me ponder how I can do things better and makes me set lofty financial and personal goals.  Autumn makes me rethink what I need and what I don’t need.  It is a cleansing of sorts.  My birthday makes me think of ways that I can live.  How can I take in each day more deeply?  How I can be more present and more compassionate and more alive?  It makes me think…what if?

What if I stopped making a to-do list?  Would anything actually get done?  Instead of cramming sixty-two things into one day, what if each thing was done as I thought of them.

What if I stopped counting every penny?  Would money begin to flow in after I loosened my grip on worry?

What if I stopped circling back every time I began to move forward in my work?  Can I let go?

What if I got a Buddhist hair cut?  Would people think I was sick?  Or ugly?  What if it didn’t matter?  What if I released my appearance and symbolically started anew on my journey?  How fun would that be to not do my hair.  Or to not have a headache every night from hair ties?

Why is cutting my hair or releasing worry or moving forward or not having a to-do list so monumental?

What if I took more time to do yoga and to sit in coffee shops writing or got a bicycle and rode around town?  What if I spent more time in the garden or with my children or reading?  What if I had tea time every day at 4?  What if I cut my hair?

Maybe this is the year of boldness.

Of courage.  Of peace.

of living.

A New Year’s Resolution to Truly Live

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As we take the final footsteps of 2016 we look back on the year past.  It was a very good year for us, but a lot of folks have gone through similar circumstances as our dreadful 2015 of loss, and I know we are all looking towards 2017 with great anticipation and hope.  It seems the universe is sweeping so much from all of us, a cleansing of sorts, a realization of the reliance we had on items, jobs, people, and places, a new chapter of self discovery and path changes has occurred to most people I know.  This can be a very good thing.  Through the ashes and chaos comes a bright new path through the woods of adventure, inspiration, great views of beauty and joy that could only be experienced through darkness.  This is going to be a beautiful year, Friends.  (What are your resolutions?)

Every year I plot my course, a rigid syllabus filled with learn everything about…., master this language, do this, achieve that, be in perfect physical shape and eat only green smoothies for a year!  This year I sit with pen and paper and attempt to write out my desired life.  My beautiful new house awaits our family.  There is a garden to tend (an entire yard to garden, that is!).  My shop is busy.  We are planning a second shop down south.  I find myself battling questions like, “Should I still teach?”  “Should I start the homesteading school up again?”  Every cell of my body wants to sit with a cup of coffee and a good magazine.  I realize that I do not need to plot out the whole year.  I don’t want to teach…right now.  Perhaps I will later.  Perhaps I won’t.  I have spent so long coming up with every hair brained scheme to make enough money for us to survive that this year I want to just trust.  We are good.  I am taken care of.  I am blessed.  (What blessings did you have this year?)

This year I want to live.  I never put that on my resolutions.  I want to rest more.  Spend more time with friends.  Go dancing.  Go travel a bit.  Read more.  Eat well.  Be happy.  Laugh more.  I am far too serious.  I must learn to laugh. (What do you need to do more of?)

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In order to achieve this deep seeded peace and happiness I realize that I need to get rid of animosities and deep seeded irritations.  I have such a profound anger, I realize, towards the medical model.  The urgent cares popping up on every corner.  Friends in the hospital under care for things obviously caused by drugs they are on, only to be given more drugs that interact.  The brainwashing of society to believe that doctors know everything and that we have to take their advice, must take the pharmaceutical companies’ drugs, must run to urgent care for fever, sprained ankles, you must not make your own decisions towards health care….I fall in a heap of sadness that mothers have lost their power to heal.  I want to reteach everyone that plant medicines are every bit as effective, or more so, that they heal, that you can treat yourself, that you can….Another commercial comes on for another drug that won’t heal.  Marijuana also parading around pretending to be medicine.  I sigh and take another sip of tea.  I have to let this go.  I have to let this go.  (What do you need to let go of?)

People can do their research, they can read side effects, they can make their own decisions.  I am not responsible for the world.  I need to just do my work.  Make my medicines.  Help those that come.  Love them. Smile.  Help who I am sent.  Breathe.  I am not responsible for the world. We all just need to do what we are here to do.  Do your work with great love and passion.   (What is your work?  Hint: not necessarily what you do for a living.)

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Live.  That is my new year’s resolution.  I want to live.  Be in the moment.  Laugh.  Smile.  Love with all of my heart.  And all will be well with the world.  All the other resolutions will fall into place.  But peace is the best resolution we can have.  The dawn of 2017 looks wondrous.  (What are your hopes for the year?)

“I Trust You”-Learning to Live Peacefully and Happily

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We all have had less than positive things happen to us and it can fuel worrying even further.  How do we release worry and fear in our day to day to life so that we can enjoy more moments?

I can sure get myself worked up over nothing.  What if he gets in a car accident on the way to work?  What if she died?  What if…  I have to stop myself pretty quickly before a full blown, out of proportion, fearful scenario transpires in my mind.  I simply whisper, “I trust you,” and oddly, I am calmed.

We were never meant to know the news of the world.  Our minds and hearts are not prepared to handle so many things that we cannot control.  We have nearly zero control over anything, if we must be honest.  I have to believe that when we were placed on this earth we were not left alone to our own devices.  Just looking at the millions of medicinal and food plants made synergistically to us.  Miracles upon miracles (coincidences?  I have had too many crazy things happen, several healings, unexplainable escapes from certain death…) and people showing up in our lives at the right time and for the right season with the right lessons and the doors opening for us at each turn.  And sometimes the doors closing.  Which we can only understand in hind sight.  Because we have no power over much, I believe that is why we feel so much worry.

I look up and whisper, “I trust you.” Maybe that is to ancestors, friends that passed, my Creator, Mother Earth… I blend together plant extracts for ailments I have no power to heal myself and just whisper, “I trust you,” to the plants.  The medicines always work to my great relief and joy.  Things really do work out.  We are given fight or flight to deal with stress and worry at that very moment, not light years before anything happens, if it ever even does.

We must learn to live happily, peacefully, and fully on our journey here, knowing there are plant and animals spirits, ancestors, loved ones here and passed, and of course, our Source looking out for us.  Just relax and whisper, “I trust you.”