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.”

Winter Evenings and What Are You Reading?

These cold days are quiet and sweet.  I am trying this year not to immediately begin pining for spring and planting season.  I figured I won’t even look at seed catalogues (oops) or plan out my garden (weeelll…), but I am enjoying the relaxation.  You know, spring and summer is filled with baby animals, and digging, and planting, and harvesting, and watering every day, and preserving, and weeding, and more!  Winter is for settling in and restoring.  In the spring and summer we get more done because the sun is out.  Right now in the freezing dark of suppertime we stay in.  What do you like to do on winter evenings?

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I am the self proclaimed rummy queen.  It’s probably best because I am terrible sport!  I used to play rummy with glasses of iced tea with my great-grandma.  I remember double decks and a large table of family playing at my grandma’s house.  I remember my cousin, Helen, teaching me how to play when I was eight years old on our way up to a cabin with my grandparents.  Doug grew up playing gin among other games.  Do folks play cards anymore?  After dinner the past several nights the shuffling of cards can be heard from our dimly lit kitchen table.  Laughter, music, and memories.

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Winter is also the time to catch up on books!  We love to read and we end every evening with reading and a cup of steaming tea.  Right now I am reading, Meeting the Medicine Man by Charles Langley.  It is out of print and I highly suggest you try to secure a copy off of Amazon.  It is fabulous.  I last read it ten years ago before I started working with medicine people.  It is a glimpse into the world of the Navajo and medicine people.  Of good and evil and the people that help keep the community safe and bring things back into balance.  What are you reading?

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My television is covered by a painting.  We rarely utilize it but for our favorite show (The Voice) and football and the occasional movie night.  It is more pleasant with it not being the center of attention.  We are able to converse more easily, make more memories, and enjoy the ease of these lovely winter evenings.

 

Wintertide

It is about now that I start wanting my house guest to leave.

“Winter,” I say, “Old Chap, is there anywhere else you need to be soon?”

He shakes his head through gales of frost.

I put on another cup of coffee.  Put another log on the fire.

The cold crops go in the ground in six or seven short weeks.  We will have bustling to do to get the new garden fenced and the soil ready.  We will devour the warm days as they come.  Spring will surely rise from the frozen ground.  I appreciate the rest, the rest for the plants and trees, the water, the blah, blah, blah.

‘Tis about the mid of January that I am ever ready for blessed warmth and activity.  Yet Jack Frost rarely hauls out slow so I must welcome the guest awhile longer.

The snow lightly covers the landscape as the golden sun arises and sends glitter across the lawn.  My winter puppy is in love with the season and leads his walk outdoors by mouthing up big gulps of icy snow.  I found a small, fallen branch.  Abandoned after falling out of yonder tree.  The sap still slightly sticky.  I brought it home.  It is the flower of winter, the conifer bough, and it sits proudly in its vase upon the stove.  (The only place the kitties can’t get it.)  It hearkens the beauty of winter-all of its reds and greens and glittered snow and great open blue sky-and reminds me to walk upon its icy tread, to breathe fresh air and not yet make the spring to-do list, but to visit geese and winter ducks and welcome the winter time.

For a few more months anyway….

 

Homestead Gardens and Winter Rest

20180103_073048The first seed catalogue arrived in the mail the other day.  My four year old granddaughter, Maryjane, took a sharpie and circled everything we need to order.  Instead of toys, she circles plants in seed catalogues.  She is one of us.

It is impossible, I believe, for a homesteader to not think of the garden at all times of the year.  I am creating a new space, roughly 500 square feet of ground.  A square, fenced in, next to the chicken coop, three feet from the porch turned greenhouse we are planning, and ten feet from the compost.  I dream of the colorful rows of fresh produce, the front yard of fruit trees and medicinal herbs, the patches of volunteer vegetables and wild foods.  But, these gardens, of course, cost money.  Fencing, glass, extra compost, and seeds do not come cheap.  I know it will all come together wonderfully and before I know it, I will be sitting here next year pondering the next season’s garden!

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I do love January, even if it is not my favorite month in the least.  It makes me rest.  We homesteaders aren’t much for rest.  We are a lot less anxious with our hands dirty, faces in the sun, planning, harvesting, moving.  The ground is asleep.  My fingernails are clean.  And I can dream, and January brings that lovely reflective sense of peace and accomplishment.  We dine like kings on everything we stored in the root cellar, freezers, and pantry from this last season.  We remark how beautiful our house is and our yard is coming together and in just short of one year’s time, we have transformed it into a working homestead.  Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Hawks swirl and the large lake is out our south windows and the city bus rumbles by out the north panes proving you can homestead anywhere.  I write on my list that I need lamp fluid for the oil lamps and more tea candles.  Wood is chopped and piled by the stove.  The chickens are waiting to be let out.  The farm dog sleeps and I need another cup of coffee and a sharpie so I can start circling items in the seed catalogue and create dreams for spring.

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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.)

Top Five Books for Winter Reading

During the summer I often only have time to read magazines between farmer’s markets and gardening, and babysitting, and the shop (and soon to be a full blown urban farm), but in the winter I have more time.  The sun goes down earlier, I am called to warm sheets quicker, tea by my side, a book (not an e-book, mind you, I prefer the loveliness of paper) in my hand, and I am whisked away to new places amongst new people for a time.  A way to stop my swimming mind from wandering from subject to worry to plan.  These are my top five books for winter reading.

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1- The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

This book takes us to the plush apartment of an elderly, elegant woman, at once a hermit and extraordinary storyteller of her time as a courtesan.  Taking place at the cusp of World War Two, her granddaughter both listens to her grandmother’s stories and becomes a woman in a world where being half Jewish in love with a Jewish rare book seller could prove dangerous.  A lovely tale of love and luxury, of loss and simple pleasures, I enjoyed every word.

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2- If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying by Stacia Spragg-Braude

I laughed throughout this book.  The author follows an older farmer around for a year and creates a memoir of the life of a Farm girl in Corrales, New Mexico, easily transporting us to her youth, introducing us to family members throughout time, then back to present at the stove stirring this or that to be preserved.  Incredible farming wisdom and homesteading tips are inevitably sought during this delightful story of a life lived simply and near the earth.

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3- The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Mind you, fiction is not my reading of choice.  I challenged myself this year to read more fiction.  This book delivered an enticing story that jumps from past to present as a young reporter tries to find out the truth behind a maid’s mysterious death by interviewing the elder models that still inhabit the once prestigious Barbizon hotel.  Secrets unfold and kept me thoroughly entertained as it took me to sexy jazz clubs in the 1950’s, Puerto Rican singers, smoke, spices, and models trying to make it set the scene for a beautiful tale of love and second chances.

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4- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

One I have already read but must recommend you read if you haven’t yet.  The beautiful ideas of self renewal, travel, food, love, spirit all entwined in one enticing book with gorgeous prose and colorful scenes thrills and inspires me.  Then watch the movie.  It is spectacular as well.

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5- The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

I’ll have this one finished in the next day or two.  It makes me stay up past my bedtime to read (which is really saying something as I am fast asleep by 10:01 every night!) just to capture a bit more of the Scottish hillside, hear the brogue, see the kilts, pet the lambs, and travel around with the protagonist who has left her ordinary librarian job to sell books in a large restored van at markets.  I am smitten, and oddly desiring a pint of something.

Bonus- As for magazines I am wondering if some of my fellow farmgirls may have overlooked one.  Oprah magazine is one that I will subscribe to every year.  I have plenty of farming and homemaking magazines but this makes me.  Filled with constant inspiration, encouragement, and great book ideas, I cannot stop pouring over the glossy pages of this beautiful ensemble of ideas and friendship.

What are you reading?  Book recommendations?  Happy reading!

Balancing Health and Life with the Four Directions

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Life can be hectic but it is nothing short of a beautiful winding journey.  What are we to learn on this journey?  We struggle to understand ourselves, those around us, our children, our jobs, our circumstances.  But through all of that, flowers begin to flourish in the cultivated areas, even in the seemingly destroyed crevices of our experiences.  What are some ways that we can maintain balance?  Balancing the spiritual, physical, and mental, and emotional aspects of our lives takes some conscious effort.

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The four directions in Native tradition demonstrates a visual path for us to follow.  In the east the sun rises and another day has come.  We find ourselves thankful for another day of life.  The Creator resides in the east.  Life begins in the east.  Our spiritual strength begins there as we enter this world and look to the rising sun for new beginnings.

Opposite is the west, the darkening way, looked over by Grandmother moon, where we go when we pass over, where our ancestors reside and look over us.  Our physical selves are focused here and the plant medicines in the medicine wheel in the west are able to heal the body of diseases and ailments that prevent us from living our human life to the fullest.  Sensory and rootedness are focused here, where our connection to Spirit resides in the east.

Over in the south we find fun and childlike laughter as we run through the woods and play with animals, plants, birds, and fish.  Where we find our teachers, where we are young and joyous.

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In the north a colder, but not harsh, mountain rises and we become the teacher and wisdom is attained from lessons.  It is also the way of rest and recuperation.

If we find ourselves pulled or “stuck” in one area or another we simply change our focus to its opposite and therefore keep balance.

Experiencing all of the elements can aid in this.  When I think of Mother Earth, I think of the forest.  It was powerful looking out into the ocean and seeing her in all her power.  It is humbling and makes me relook at my priorities.  Going on a hike can reset your whole outlook.  Getting up and watching the sunrise, or taking some quiet time during the sunset can help improve calm.

I have trouble meditating.  If I focus on my breath I will start hyperventilating!  I can barely touch my toes but I do yoga anyway.  Everything can have a variation that is specific to you.  Walking and yoga, eating nutritious food, whole foods closest to the earth, using plant medicines, all these things can balance the physical self.  Whereas meditating  on a word or phrase can help clear your mind enough to rest for a  moment, prayer, smudging, connection in quiet to your Source is the way to balancing the spiritual.  Finding time to play and doing only what brings you real joy balances the emotional self while being mindful of your lessons and getting plenty of rest balances the mind.

Close your eyes and meditate on the bus, sit on a park bench, go swimming, be thankful and as we continue to learn on this journey we will find that we are calmer, wiser, and more mindful.  There is a lot of beauty out there in the world.  Capture as much as you can!

The Interim Room (and a recipe for a luxurious oil bath)

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I am sitting in the waiting room between the first part of my life and the second.  A space with cream colored walls and carpet and a fireplace run by a light switch.  It’s quiet here in this respite room as I wait for the universe to throw open the next door.  I breathe and listen to my own heart beat.  My lesson here is rest.  Learning to balance rest, work, and play. I am plenty good at the work and play part, not so much with the rest.  I am forced to learn rest before I can move on.  It is imperative to the creation and success of our next ventures.

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I will be forty-two next week.  I am thankful for each and every birthday as I know how precious they are no matter the age.  Perhaps I will be sitting on a beach or running about the San Diego zoo or strolling a really fresh farmer’s market.  I know not, open to adventure, we fly out Tuesday to stay with our friends, Lisa and Steve, who graciously opened their home to us.  We are taking the opportunity to travel some this year before we have to find farm sitters again!

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I am really listening to myself in the silence.  I am highly sensitive person.  I have to be careful what I watch or read as it can completely change my heart rate, ignite fear, create chaos.  I close my eyes and meditate on nothing, or love, or acceptance, or peace as I look out beyond the crows to the snow bound mountains and the low lying clouds that embrace.  I stretch into yoga poses, more flexible and getting stronger than I have been in a long time.  I have written poetry and gratitude every day since the beginning of the year and my poetry collection is growing into an anthology of my life.  I recognize myself more, I embrace change, I look forward to the future, but I embrace today.  Even the dishwasher and dryer (which I still could do without).

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The highlight of this beautiful apartment is the garden tub.  The first I have fit in at nearly six feet tall.  It is wide in girth and long and luxurious as I rest my neck against its back and meld into the warm water in the warm bathroom with candles lit.  My spirit resetting at each wave of water and each meditation prompt, and each yoga move, and each delicious clean dish served from my kitchen.  A lovely interim.

The Luxury Bath

As the bath is filling, light candles.  Let there be silence, it is mesmerizing.

To water add a good drizzle of oil, such as olive, apricot kernel, avocado, sunflower, et cetera.

Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to balance the PH of the body.

Add 1/2 cup of fine sea salt.

Rest in bath and pour a bit of your favorite (not volatile or hot) essential oil under the pouring water.  I particularly love rose, lavender, jasmine, and/or orange depending on my mood.

Breathe and rest completely.

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Rest, I am learning, is as important as work and play.

(You can type “A Walk in the Vineyards” in the Search and find our week of adventures in Napa Valley and San Francisco with Steve and Lisa from a few years ago.)

Irony and Good Reading

How ironic is it that we have to save up money to become backwoods homesteaders living below the poverty line?

It almost makes me laugh.  Almost.

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Ah, to keep my mind off of eternal questions like that I read.

What are your favorite books?  Here is a list of some of my favorite reads.  I would love to hear yours.

  1. Made From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life by Jenna Woginrich started me on this journey.
  2. Followed by Barnheart; The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own again by Jenna Woginrich
  3. And her latest- One Woman Farm; My Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chickens, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle. 
  4. A Diary of Dixie by Mary Boykin Chestnut are her true memoirs written in the midst of the Civil War.  Fascinating!
  5. Medicine of the Cherokee by J.T. Garrett is filled with stories, history, and wisdom.
  6. The Good,Good Pig; The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery was heartwarming and fun.
  7. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls are a wealth of homesteader knowledge.
  8. Poetry by Robert Frost, Maya Angelo, and Mary Oliver…

There are so many more I have loved and enjoyed….share with all of us your favorites!  Winter is the time to catch up on reading and planning.

 

 

 

Listening to Intuition and Dreams

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In one of my favorite travel memoirs, “On Mexican Time” by Tony Cohan he notes that it takes about three weeks to completely relax and decompress.  It has been three weeks since we arrived at our temporary home with good friends.  And the longer we are here the more I begin to feel my tense muscles relax, the tears come less and less, and clarity is ever more present.

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I had a dream after we saw the homestead in Calhan the first time.  I dreamt that the landlords were chasing us and the feeling of dread I felt upon waking trying to escape that house made me decide that we should not move there.  But the low rent and my sweet intern’s prompting made me think I was being ridiculous.  I have a gift of discernment.  I can look in someone’s eyes and know if they are telling the truth or if they mean harm.  The last tenants left in the middle of the day leaving everything behind and never came back.  I knew there was something not right, but I dismissed my own intuition in the name of $700 rent and a possible forever homestead.  And as the tension grew and it got more and more unbearable, Shyanne had a dream that they had set the house on fire and that she saw the cats burning and since that child has the same gifts as I do, we hurried to get out of there a bit faster.  We would hear her screaming into the phone outside our house ranting about my blog.  I had to shut my phone off so I couldn’t receive more stalking texts from her demanding more money.  When we came the last time to clear the rest of our things, half of it was piled in a huge jumble outdoors and the rest had been picked over.  We left for good.  I should have listened to that original dream.  Turns out a friend of ours has a friend who was a dairy farmer in Calhan who had heard of that couple and their con.  They get people in for very low rent, make them feel sorry for them (he is in a wheelchair), the tenants improve the property, pay rent in advance, then get forced out with fake breaches in the contract.  Never, ever doubt your gut feelings.

So, when I had a dream that I should not go work at the restaurant, I listened.  Even though we are down to fifteen dollars, I must not second guess my intuition.  We need to listen.  We have food, and drink, and clothes, and shelter, and our two bills are paid.  We need to listen.

Last night I had a dream that our family were all in boats, canoes sort of, wading through crystal clear waters in a lagoon in the mountains.  The boats peacefully cut through the silent waters.  It was warm and sweet.  A time of respite.

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My work with medicines is a beautiful calling but one that can be draining and sometimes dangerous.  I have much work to do.  We have new places to be, our favorite communities to be a part of, and a future home and people to help.  This is my opportunity for respite.  Something I most definitely fight against.  But there are no mandatory chores to do right now.  No places to be necessarily and no deadlines.  Just time and space and thoughts.  Cups of tea and mountainsides, writing books and dreams to listen to.