Birthday Travels Through the Southwest (and the year of learning and adventure)

As adults we don’t seem to celebrate birthdays with the same festivity as when we were children, but I think all birthdays are incredibly special.  Having lost many friends at a young age, I know that each birthday is a great time to reevaluate, reground, regroup, and to be filled with gratitude.  Each lesson leading into another great discovery and memories fill the spaces in our days and lives with those we love and experiences to treasure.

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Last year was my year of bravery.  I shaved off all of my hair for my birthday.  It was freeing and light and was like the world’s burdens had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Now of course I am trying to grow out with some semblance of normalcy!

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My birthday is Sunday.  This year is my year of adventure and learning.  My farm is ready to really increase food production with experiments, new gardens, and my greenhouse.  I am registered for school in the fall.  But before everything gets really amped up, we are going on a ten day trip through New Mexico and Arizona.

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We will be staying with our dear, dear friends, Monte and Erik, whom we haven’t seen since they moved away over three years ago.  My friend from high school (26 years since I have seen her) is down there, as is one of Doug’s (30 years), and my wonderful Great-Aunt Lila.  I have never been to Arizona and I am excited to see the land and the people.  There are restaurants, parks, and museums to discover!  Sun to soak up!  Glasses of wine to clink with dear ones.  The overnights to and from Arizona in New Mexico I look forward to and always savor.  Chimayo is calling me.  So, for the next ten days I will be reporting to you from the fabulous Southwest with inspirations, ideas, and life.

 

 

 

All the Beautiful Collections

What do you collect?

I am not a great lover of tchotchkes because I am not a great lover of dusting.   I do not need fifty seven plastic Santa Clauses no matter now much I love him.  In Country Living magazine they have a section that showcases this gal who collects so many things.  So many useless things.  But if they bring her joy or remind her of a time long gone or of her mother, who am I say they are useless?

When we lost our rented farm and became homeless (not completely homeless thanks to the goodness of friends allowing us to stay in guest rooms with our nine cats until we could get on our feet which took six months), I lost so many collections.  Antiques, dishes, silverware, New Mexican Santos, books….everything.  For the first few years we just gathered what we needed.  Why collect when it could be gone in a moment?  Why waste energy and money on material items?  Simplicity!  Freedom!

When we were first married we both had a few Coca Cola items.  I had purchased my first one from an antique store down on south Broadway when I was twelve years old using my babysitting money.  Together we had the beginnings of a regular collection and friends bought us pieces and we bought pieces and it was a full blown collection before I tired of it and sold it all at a garage sale.

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Back at the farm, while we were reeling from loss and devastation from losing everything, my daughter, Shyanne, was calmly moving some special things to her apartment.  She had saved the Christmas ornaments we had collected over many travels and years.  And she saved the wedding dishes.  She gave some to me when we moved into an apartment.  They are beautiful English Castle.  She has the rest.  I want her to have the whole collection.

Times change and our tastes change and different things become practical and memory filled.  I do love useful things.  Of course, over two of said items is probably just collecting.

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I love aprons.  They are so sensible.  I wear them most everywhere.  A pocket for my keys.  They keep dish water from splashing on my clothes.  They keep my clothes clean in case Doug wants to whisk me off to dinner.  They have a delicate feminine flounce to them that takes me back to a bygone era and makes me feel pretty.

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I love book bags.  I have never found a purse I like.  I love to throw my wallet, some tissues, my daytimer, a pen, a writing book, a great reading book or magazine, and my water bottle into a unique bag.  Each bag showcases a side of me.  A bear having tea.  Lots of cats and books.  A typewriter.

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Plants.  I collect plants, I admit it!  I am truly out of windows now though.

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Books.  I can be frugal as can be.  Envelope system, check.  Budget, check.  Book store, we didn’t need that much grocery money anyway!  Even if I don’t care for the book, I keep it.  I adore books.  I want them to be available for others to read.  I love bookshelves of creativity and knowledge at my fingertips.  (I also love libraries and read a fair amount of their books too, but I also love taking my time, and a fresh new cover pleases me so.)  We didn’t move our books when we moved to the country.  We had such a huge collection of books while homeschooling but didn’t have the strength or time to move them all.  I wish I had.  I wish I had those books.  The ones I had to give away when we left our farm….an autographed copy of Jane Goodall’s book…..so many books….are gone.  I am clinging to these books I have now.

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I know, I know, they are just material items.  I know that, you know that, but material items bring some joy to our life.  They remind us of things that made us who we are.  They inspire us to move towards the person we want to be.  I had just mentioned to someone that I wanted to find Fiesta dishes.  My love of the southwest is not a secret and my home doesn’t hide that fact.  Oh Fiesta dishes would make me ever so happy having my coffee in the morning.  A student and friend of mine, out of the blue, offered me nine sets for a crazy low price.  They were her mother’s.  Her mother passed away.  Can’t take it with you.  I hope she loved them while she was here.  I know I will love them.  They inspire me and brighten my morning.

What do you collect?

 

 

On the Verge of Spring at Pumpkin Hollow Farm (an enchanted life)

Petunia is still rather plump, even after having babies last autumn.  She is very fluffy and so cute I wish she would come in the house to live, but of course squirrels don’t typically enjoy living in the house.  She sits next to me on the porch as I eat my lunch on warm days.  I just watched her from the picture window jump from limb to limb.  I need to put more bird seed and peanuts out.  The Blue Jays are making such a racket.  They do despise when I am late.

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Hundreds of lovely, chirping sparrows reside here.  As do many doves and starlings.  Crows fly over.  Owls can be heard in the night.  Hawks stop to rest.  Sea gulls and geese fly over towards the lake.  A third of an acre in the city sure can be a wild life haven.  I love it here.

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The chickens from the factory farm that we rescued are plump and quite loud.  They run towards me bow legged and squat, hollering like miniature geese.  They love to eat and are firmly against being on a diet.  “We are not broilers here, Dears,” I remind them, “You do not need to get so fat!”  Dixie is still tiny.  My granddaughter renamed the infant rooster, Bob.

I am fervently manifesting and saving for a greenhouse.  The ducks come April 20th.

My classes are chosen for the autumn session of college.

I am quite sore from teaching dance last night.  I am teaching two herbalist classes.  Just keeping busy until I can be in my gardens full time!

I leave in three weeks for ten days in Arizona and New Mexico for my birthday.  Such wonderful blog posts I will write!

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The seedlings are doing well.  The ground is softening.  I am teaching a gardening class Sunday to plant potatoes that have taken over the cupboard.

My friends are here visiting for the weekend.  I have so many dear friends.  I am so lucky.

Such a slow, lovely, blessed, ordinary, extraordinary life I lead.  And that, my friends, is what is going on at Pumpkin Hollow Farm on the verge of Ostara and the equinox.  Spring is next week!  Here it is quietly arriving.

What is happening on your homestead this week?  I am honestly interested!

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.

Farmgirl Inspiration

Hello March, it’s nice to see you.  January and February can be the very hardest time of the year for farmgirls.  We have our gardens, our farms, our animals, our preserving, our home making, our crafting in the fall in anticipation for the holidays, we have our cooking, and our entertaining, and our pleasant fatigue.  Then there is January and February…hello March, it’s nice to see you!  Thank the Lord you’re back!

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Even though it is still cold and there is ice on the car and tomorrow it is going to snow, it is March and all things can come anew now, in my mind and in nature.  I have plans!  Oh glorious plans, and guess what?  I figured out a way to make them manifest.  My son texted me yesterday and said he would come help with the fencing.  I found an affordable way to get the outbuildings I wanted.  Yes, my gardens are about to take on some marvelous expansion and changes.

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Field fencing is a farmgirl’s friend because it is easy to put up and can be taken down if needed.  I am expanding the chicken yard.  I am fencing off another part of the backyard for a greenhouse, raised beds, and space for a rooster.  Doug isn’t thrilled we have a rooster.  But I think one in seven wasn’t bad!  I also have ducklings on order to pick up in April.  They are honest-to-god worthless (few eggs, eat ten times more than the chickens, are noisy, splash water everywhere), but dang, they are so cute!  The greenhouse will double as night quarters for the trouble makers and Captain the Rooster.  None of them can jump or fly up on things, so plants will be safe and the added humidity from the ducks’ water antics will create a nice space.  (Did I mention my husband doesn’t like ducks either?  I just look at him like I don’t speak English.)

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A shed is going up to fit all the yard tools in, which will make room for some outdoor furniture and hanging plants around the back porch.  Listen, y’all, I will do before and after pictures when all this is said and done, but right now it looks like a hundred and fifty pound puppy dug holes to China, ate all the outdoor pillows, destroyed a huge dog bed, and threw some trash around.  (Actually, that is what happened.)

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In the front yard, a large archway will have pumpkins and other climbers growing up it.  Add in a few twinkly lights and I will have an enchanted garden for sure.  I have added a couple hundred feet of gardens.  The stalks of the roses are all turning green.

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There is a loom downstairs.  I have friends that can show me how to use it.  I have always wanted to learn how to weave.  I painted a box with a lid for my son’s long time girlfriend for Christmas.  It has a dear clasp and longs to be filled with secret treasures.  I painted a scene from a vacation they took on the lid.  I would like to do more of those.  Maybe set up my sewing machine.  Craft ideas come to mind.

Inspiration to farmgirls is like medicine.  Maybe even breath, if I am not being too dramatic here.  What are you inspired to achieve this spring?

The Enchanted Friendship and Birthday Wish

Did we all have that friend when we were kids?  The one that was intertwined with our very self evolution?  The memory we keep with us forever?  I have written about mine a few times over the years.  Her name was Susan.  I watched her through the windows of my classroom that looked out on to the courtyard of my old Catholic school.  She walked in with her mother to the office to register.  I just knew she would be my friend.  I prayed that she would be my friend.

She had mousy brown hair, and big glasses.  She was very short and was athletically built, even at twelve years old, because she was a competitive figure skater.  And sure enough we were fast friends.  Her mother said to me one day that she always knew when I was on the telephone because Susan didn’t hang around and chat but would respond quickly, “Meet you in ten minutes!” and would dart out the door.  We would meet at the park, ride our bikes, take buses downtown, or just hang out at her house before her parents got home from work.  We would watch foreign films and drink too much coffee.  We would dance around the living room and stay up late to gaze at the moon.  She loved classical music and was intelligent and so, so confident for a teenager.  She inspired me to be better.  And we made some really great memories.

Then we go through those decades of marriage and raising children and working to make ends meet and before we know it we are middle aged.  Oh, we had the kids’ friends’ parents, we have friends we met at work, or we have the couple’s friends.  We have old friends and we have family but I always longed for another friend like I had when I was young.  I sent up a prayer about it.  You can do that.

Well, for the first eight months of our friendship when I would describe her to my kids or tell them what we were up to, I would say, “Oh, she’s like Susan.”  My children do not remember Susan- she was their godmother but our fallout was when they were far too young to remember- but they know what I mean because of all the stories I have told to them over the years.  Not that she is like Susan, but that our friendship reminded me of the carefree relationships of youth.

Tina took my herb class and that is how we first met.  I don’t really open up to many people.  So many times I am not what people expect.  I must have decided a long time ago that I really didn’t want to be hurt.  I started a women’s group at my husband’s recommendation to get me out of the house and meet new people in our new town.  One month five of us went to a nearby small town and shopped in the old main street shops.  We stopped and had coffee on a patio, our faces to the sun.  Tina had offered to carpool with me and as we drove down the mountain she asked me if I wanted to see the house she was building.  I was surprised but delighted.  I loved the second floor loft of her new home that looked down upon the river and the wildlife.  “It’s an Anne of Green Gables room!” I exclaimed.  And she knew what I meant.

“Meet you in ten minutes,” one of us will say.  To the coffee shop or to the mall or the Riverwalk or to each other’s house.

I was first astounded by her generosity.  I have met few people with such a big heart.  She and her fiancé (now husband) brought us over a whole truckload of chopped wood, barely knowing us.  She is the only one I know who owns all of my books, though I am certain she has little use for them!  I officiated their wedding.  As we walked down the path along the river talking about this and that and everything, a large owl swooped down in front of us.  The trees were filled with leaves and the water from the river was cool.  And all was enchanted.  Just like when I was young.

Tina is lovely and petite and gracious and funny.  Intelligent and kind and heartfelt and authentic.  She listens.  She talks.  She is wonderful to be around, whether in silence or in rapid conversation.  I can be myself.  She is herself.  We are at a stage of life where we can meet in ten minutes.  Being older, I appreciate her friendship so much more.  I am so lucky that she was sent to be my friend.  That she wants to be my friend.

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It is her 50th birthday today.  I hope you will join me in wishing Tina a very happy birthday.  Those friendships that define us and help inspire and build us get better over time and it is never too late to wish for a new best friend.

Taking the Extremism out of Veganism

What is the first thing you think of when you think of the word vegan?  I think of craziness.  I think of mobs of people pushing their way into health food stores yelling.  I think of anger.  I am vegan.  But the word vegan makes me nervous.

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Just like any group, there will be those that have to force their ideas on others in order to create what they feel is right, whether that be religion or lifestyle or opinion.  I understand it.  I just think there are better ways.  Because veganism is really a peaceful, beautiful thing.  My husband said that when I posted on Instagram and then on my farm facebook page the other day that we are vegan and opening a sanctuary we would lose followers.  We did.  The word vegan makes people nervous.

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Others have changed the term to plant based diet.  A benign term that means lots of delicious plants and denotes more of a health food approach then a save the cow message.  I told the teller at my bank that I was plant based and she looked at me very confused.  “I’m vegan,” I corrected.  “Oooh,” she answered, “what do you eat?”

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My friend is in the trenches.  She and a group of dedicated, emotional, loving people go out to cities all over the country.  They stand on street corners with masks on, wearing all black, holding televisions that display the atrocious way that animals become meat.  Blood, fear, and reality fills the screen.  Videos of these events show people walking briskly by.  Does empathy enter any of the bystanders?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  They go out to factory farms and create an unnerving presence.  They rescued a hundred turkeys before Thanksgiving.  The thing is, that when I see my friend, the violence and the plight has so greatly affected her.  Her emotional wellbeing.  Her eyes.  I worry that it is slowly destroying her.

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I have been on both sides.  So, I know that anything anyone told me while I had my blinders on when I was farming would not have changed my mind.  Only I can change my mind.  I taught herbalism for many years and a plant based diet was a central part of my teachings because you can only heal symptoms for so long before you have to look at diet and lifestyle.  I am surprised still how many of those students became vegan.  At least one or two a class.  Including the aforementioned friend.  Friends have sanctuaries now.  My writings whisper and inspire.  My friends know I am vegan.  I make amazing food.  They make amazing food for me.  No one is being forced to do anything.  Most people do not want to harm animals.  They can only eat meat because they can’t see the suffering, the crying, the blood.  They don’t see families, they see packages.  But sometimes people want to see what this is all about.

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So if you want to try veganism, keep these things in mind:

1- You don’t have to tell anyone.  You can just do your thing.  I didn’t want to cause harm.  I know there are cow parts in my tires and I still drive.  I know there is no way to completely avoid it all but I can be vegan.  My anxiety has notched down to near nothing.  Depression is not an issue.  Karmically I feel better.  I love animals.  Why would I want to consume them?  I smell like death when I eat them.  Plants create vibrancy.  But I don’t have to wear a PETA shirt to the grocery store.  I can inspire in my own way.

2- Don’t go out and buy new leather shoes, but the old boots you been wearing, keep wearing them.  Throwing them in a landfill doesn’t bring that cow back.  Be reasonable but be mindful moving forward.

3- Just peek at the labels of cleaning, beauty and bath products and make sure they are vegan and didn’t test on animals.  Goodness knows, no one wants dogs and rabbits to be stabbed and tortured in the name of good eyelashes.

4- You don’t have to go no-oil, no sugar, no gluten, only whole foods vegan.  The health benefits of giving up animal products is huge.  Knowing that you saved one more animal.  One more animal.  That is enough. You can use veggie meat along with your veggies and fresh bread and glass of wine.  There are no rules.  The meat and cheese substitutes out there are awesome.  No better time to be vegan.

5- Follow farm sanctuaries on Instagram or facebook.  The animals speak for themselves.  Know that you are saving hundreds of animals in your lifetime from pain and slaughter.  Watch some documentaries if you don’t know what goes on.  Don’t be tricked by the term “humane meat.” There is no such thing.  You are also helping the environment, your health, and so much more just by one simple, light decision.

Let’s take the craziness out of veganism and replace it with compassion.  I am Animal Friendly!

 

Losing My Identity

It all began simple enough.  A ringing came from my stocking on Christmas morning in 2002.  My husband wanted me to have a cell phone so we could reach each other.  Then many years later came the smart phone and all of a sudden I could be instantly connected to my email, to text messaging, to the internet.

It all began innocent enough, you know.  Such a new, fascinating thing, social media.  I could find old friends, see photographs of family, keep track of my kids, share our fun, farm life.  I started my first company- a modeling agency- twenty years ago.  Since then I opened a dance company, two apothecaries, a farm, written ten books, and have been written about in several newspapers from the Denver Post to the Huffington Post.

I am connected.  Bound.  A Facebook page, four business pages, two Instagram accounts, two emails, a cell phone, and an unexplainable addiction to the thing I despise, technology.

My very self has been wrapped up in it all.  My identity.  I fear that if I don’t have a social media presence that I will disappear.  If I only have a home phone, will I become invisible?  How will I make friends?  I might be out of touch.  I might be free.

My friends know where I live.  There is a big sign that says Pumpkin Hollow Farm out front!  They can call me on a home phone hung on the wall in my farm kitchen.  In reality, my daughter can send me photos.  The same eight friends like all my posts on all my pages.  I don’t really like the wide world of Instagram knowing where I live, actually.  I am kind of tired of hosting zillions of events.  Amazon sells my books, as do the local shops and museum.  If I wanted to boost my farm, or my books, or my work, I could go to markets.  I could be local, face to face, authentic.  You know, old fashioned.

I can still write my beloved blog.

Does anyone else feel trapped by the constant pace of the tech world?  How much time do I lose?  I am a simple housewife, apron donned and all, who grew up in a time where the phone cord wouldn’t reach around the corner so I could have privacy.  How did we get here?  With every person we see on the phone, all the time, in every place, in every situation, always connected, as if we will lose our place on this earth if we disappear from it all.

I think I am going to get a home phone.

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.

 

A Housewife with “the Sight”

Thick snow begins to blanket my quiet, little homestead.  It is peaceful.  Last night my spirit was reeling, this morning it is calm.  The birds sing sweetly from the trees.

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Have you read my memoir?  (AuthorKatieSanders.com) The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman is my life story.  It is filled with many of the tales that I don’t typically mention on Farmgirl School for fear of scaring off a few folks.  In my other, less written about blog, DancingwithFeathers.com, I wrote a few months ago about a shaman friend who came to visit me.  “You are not getting out of it that easy,” she breezily said.  I didn’t think I would do that work anymore.

“You’re a medium,” the reader next to my cousin at the holistic fair yesterday said as he stopped me.  “Can you help this woman?”  Uh…er…what?  I sat down with her at my cousin’s empty table (she was out shopping) and immediately her recently deceased husband started talking to her through me.  I felt his every pain, how he died, how he was still worried about his business partner.  For twenty minutes, the fellow filled his wife in with everything she needed know.  Through tears, she nodded, smiled, and I may never see her again.  She gave me twenty dollars.  It is so awkward to take money for spiritual work.

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I suppose that this is only odd in this day and age.  My Nordic, Celtic, and Native ancestors wouldn’t have thought it at all strange that the lady of the house would have “the sight.”  I always figure that I can just be normal.  I can be a housewife.  I can sew and make tea and play the piano and play with my grandbaby…who is psychic as well.

“You have to do readings.  You have to do the medium work,” the reader said.  I had sat down with him after I spoke with the woman.  If truth be told, I had already done three other readings at Julie’s table.  They just kept coming.

I took a break from doing spiritual work in July.  I love being a spiritual guide.  I love helping people.  But I wasn’t sure if I was actually helping anyone.  And I wasn’t sure what emotional or physical effect it was having on me.

A woman in the hall stopped me at the fair.  “Remember when you told me that a cowboy would be coming in to my life?  He did!  Just as you described him!”  She was so happy.

Apparently there is no hiding behind the sewing machine or pressure canner on this one.  Yes I am a homemaker, a quilter, a homesteader, a Grammie, a wife, a mama, an animal lover, a passionate gardener and herbalist.  I am a great lover of the Creator and of Mother Earth and of all the ancestors and guides and nature spirits and yes, I guess I am an instrument to help people find their way with a most unusual talent.  We all have a role to play in helping others.  It is our destiny.