A Simple Life

girls

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.

Saving the Ice Cream Maker (and dreams of adobes and cabins)

wine

Have you ever wondered what you would take if you had to leave your home?  Photographs seem to top the list and yes, I did grab three boxes of mine.  The other items now that I stand back and look made me laugh.  Granted I have been in a fog lately but my priorities must have come through anyway.  The highlight of my stash is as follows.  I grabbed the pottery pieces that my children have made for me over the years.  I packed a select number of books.  And the ice cream maker.  Seriously?  I grabbed the ice cream maker?

Jill gifted me with some milk yesterday if I goatsit for an hour tomorrow and my friend, Diana, gave me some farm fresh eggs so I will make some ice cream.  That might fix everything.

Another friend who lost everything in a fire aptly said that you find out that things do not make up who you are.  They do not define us.  My style represented me, gave glimpses of my personality, but are not what me and Doug are about.

I am a homemaker though.  That is my favorite job.  Taking care of my kids and now granddaughter, fixing supper, working in the garden, making sure the house is clean, mending, canning, day dreaming on the porch all bring me joy.  So, understandably I have swirls of possible houses and dreams of cabins and adobes and porches running through my mind.  Then I’ll think, ‘Oh crap!  I don’t have anything to put in the house (save for some fine art deco, books, photos, and an ice cream maker).’

I cannot imagine how this will all unfold.  How the heck will we get our own place?  But I know when that mystery unfolds then the things to fill a home will follow easily.  I had to give away so much for free that I know that there are ways to get things for a low price.  I don’t know why I ever bought new.  I will make sure that I do not accumulate as much stuff.  Lord, where does all our stuff come from?!  I think my new style will be Quaker style.  Of course there will be things that I miss but part of me is the slightest bit relieved to be free of so many items to care for.

I am, as usual, ahead of myself.  Job first.

What this journey is really teaching me thus far is to get out of my head.  My friend, Pat, is the most joyous creature, just full of energy and life.  She is rarely stuck in the cerebral but rather enjoying good food, drinks, her husband, life, adventures, and sensations.  I am always thinking.  It gets annoying and I miss the chance to be human.  I am so stuck in the spiritual/cerebral/can’t shut off my brain for two seconds that I forget to be in touch with right now and all the sensations that make being a human worthwhile.  I am learning to be present.  Well, I am thinking about learning to be present.  We’ll get there.

What would you take if you had to leave your home?

Prairie at Dawn (and you can rest in January!)

IMG_0441

I stepped outside before the sun’s colorful hands glided over the edge of the prairie.  The lighting was surreal and looked as if I lived in a Renaissance pastel that might hang in the museum.  A painted landscape so beautiful my mind could hardly fathom.  The owls called to each other from tree to tree and the city lights in the distance shone against the silhouette of the mountain.

IMG_0440

IMG_0442

IMG_0444

IMG_0445

Our year starts in spring when the baby goats are born and we start our early planting.  Spring is filled with preparing beds, planting at the right times, bottle feeding goat kids, cooing over baby chicks, and praying for warm weather.  We are also madly getting ready for farmer’s markets.  Preparing, bottling, labeling, farmer’s market checklist; tent, tables, chairs, displays, application fees, products made…ready, set, go!

IMG_1866

And we catapult into summer where for the next four months family and friends have troubles getting a hold of us.  Those close to us understand.  We live a whirlwind of sunrises, farm animals, farmer’s markets, farming, herbal business, preserving, holding classes, getting ready for winter.  Always getting ready for winter.

Grammie and Baby at Parker

Sporting my new fashion look.

September seems like it will be slower as some markets draw to a close and we see our pantry filling up but for the next three months we will still be actively preparing, just as the ants and bees do, to settle in for winter.  Always wondering if we have enough stored.  Enough food…enough water…enough wood.

SAM_0492

Moving was a wonderful thing since it marked the end of our years of pining for a homestead.  It is exactly what we prayed for.  Low enough rent and no utilities that we can afford to be healers.  The landlords share the property which is not something we would have ever considered before until we started being intrigued by the idea of cohabitating homesteads where we started to think that we should not share property with friends.  Too complicated.  But, the idea is sound.  The owners here are quiet and leave us to ourselves but we are all here if the other needs us.  Best of both worlds.  We are near my favorite city.  In twenty five minutes I am at a library, coffee shop, or restaurant if I want to be.  Then back to the confines of the vast prairie, large stars, and serene silence.  I am humbled to be here.  But moving was exhausting and we find ourselves longing for rest.  But there is something about Autumn that makes me want to keep working.  An innate desire to get things done and prepared.  The longer I homestead the closer to nature and natural seasons and intuition I get.

IMG_0435

IMG_0443

Our friend, Jim, was one of my students; he is a Vietnam Vet, commander for a veteran’s organization, lover of plants and herbs, a survivalist, loyal friend, and in the tree business.  He gave me a great deal on three cords of wood.  Even though it is a lot of money for us, a winter without utilities will even things out.  He dropped off the cords one by one while Doug and I spent the afternoon stacking wood.  Doug kept stopping to pull up his jeans.  Forget a gym membership.  We work hard, our muscles are defined, we eat healthy, homemade food, and though we’ll be a little soft by the end of winter, we’ll be right back in the swing of things for the remainder of the year.  Homesteading looks good on folks.

papa

We have a pantry full, two freezers full, now a total of four cords of wood, and we are getting closer.  Time is ticking because we are still doing farmer’s markets through the end of the month and craft shows through the middle of December.  In between we get ready for our winter rest.  We are drying off the goat; we have plenty of cheese made and milk frozen.  We are getting ready to breed Isabelle again.  Today the gutters will be cleaned, homestead area mowed, garden worked on, chimney cleaned, and orders filled, even though we are under the weather.  The seasons don’t stop for sick days.  Soon we will only have craft shows on the weekends and the holidays to look forward to.  Then for three months we will rest and grow restless and be ever ready for the seasons to start over.  We are thankful to live this lifestyle.  This is truly the good life.

Autumn Prairie Musings

IMG_0426

I am in love with this place.  It speaks to me…

of heartbreaks healed and promises kept.

IMG_0420

The lingering wood smoke scents the air as the rustic landscape captivates me.  It pulls me in and dances with me across further snow capped peaks and nestles me near in elder Elms.  I am pleased here, at peace, quiet, exhaled.

IMG_0423

Words and new poems run through my mind- cadences and song, psalms and prayers.  I think I have been burnt out for a long time.  Work too hard.  Expect too much of others and myself and often forget to live.  The rabbit that shoots out of the brush and away in a zigzag when I startle him cares not if I answer every call or busy work myself to exhaustion.  The wild world of nature will still be there if our chaos of whirlwind, human made, self righteous living were to end.  It would go on, more peacefully perhaps.  I breathe again and look out across the prairie and realize my soul is connected to this natural world and I come back to myself.

IMG_0422

The prairie is so alive.  Rabbits scamper under brush as owls speak in trees under foliage of vibrant hues.  Hawks circle, the sky is huge here.  Dauntingly beautiful, I cannot even find myself to paint.  I could never match the beauty.  Inspiration fuels me, revitalizes my senses.

IMG_0421

Fall is evident in scenes I failed to notice in our past existence.  Piles of firewood in country front yards.  The thicker white coats on our goats.  Chickens getting new feathers, laying less eggs.  The winds are different, the clouds look different.  The colors increased- vibrant, charged, glowing.

IMG_0419

I watch for birds flying south so I have my timeline of preparedness.  Firewood.  Sweaters.  Pantry full.  Animal feed stocked.  Chimney swept.  Gutters cleaned.  Garden prepped.  Garlic planted.

IMG_0425

My list never ends but may I learn to live in a simpler breath.  Slower.  Methodical.  Meaningful.  Breathe, the air is sweet upon us and Autumn is in the air.

Re-Simplifying

puppy eyes

We go through lots of changes, moves, lifestyle changes, job changes, but we have always tried to simplify in the process.  More meaningful work, less bills, less consumerism, more good, simple fun.  Inevitably things sneak back up and though we are not “as bad” as we used to be, we certainly are not that simple anymore.  I look around and there are a lot of items to dust!  The cable and cell phone bills are more than the utilities.  The amount of gas money we need is exorbitant!  Where the heck are we going that we have to drive so much?  Our shop is seven miles away and everything else is in walking distance.  (I do go drive to pick up Emily and Maryjane quite a bit, I’ll give you that one.  But ever so worth it!)  At least we haven’t picked up our really bad habits again like credit cards, but we still need to look around and see what is happening here.

IMG_0456

Where did I get all of this stuff?  Oh my poor friends.  We asked them to move us last year.  We saved a thousand dollars not getting a moving van and it looked like we didn’t have all that much stuff.  John and his kids grabbed their horse trailers and our friends from all around came to our rescue.  As I saw them driving up, vans, and trucks, and horse trailers, and cars full of stuff, my mouth dropped open and a glazed look of shock took over.  Where the heck are we putting all this…ahem…stuff?  The garage is packed.  The basement is packed.  The more I take to charity the more it seems to procreate.  I think my junk is cloning itself.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not hoarders or packrats.  Our house looks very nice.  I just get to wondering, why don’t I sell the piano and make a rent payment?  Because it is almost a hundred years old, and in perfect condition, and I play it for two minutes once a year…or so.  Why don’t I sell the hutch that takes so much space?  Oh, and why do I have seven sets of dishes?  Where did all these tables come from?  I might need them.  I love my roll top desk. It has taken up residence in the garage for the time being…for the last year….hmm.  We are having a garage sale this weekend.

cans

Where is our money going?  Well, right now I guess I could ask, what money?  Ever since our vacation things have just been dwindling down and I better straighten up.  Sales are way down and we have had to use our savings to pay bills and taxes and even though the farmer’s markets are starting soon, what happens afterwards?  We eat out too much.  It is fun and tasty and a habit we really ought to knock out.  We spend a lot on gas.  We dwindle.  We have contracts with the cable and phone companies until the end of the year and we can readdress those.  What we really need and who has a better deal, etc.  Those are really our only extra curricular bills.  It is possible that our student loans may never get paid off at our current rate!  Time to evaluate our money situation and what we are going to do and start implementing all of the things I have been preparing for.  Grow and put up all of our food for this year.  What I cannot grow enough of, I can get from farmer friends.  I can freeze enough milk for the year to make cheese with over the winter.  I can get cheese from the store on sale and wax it myself.  Lisa taught me that.  It will stay good for twenty-five years that way.  Holy smokes.  That is some aged cheese!  Play more cards, read more books, use less electricity, cook all of our meals.  Be a good homesteading housewife, for crying out loud!  And get back to that good simple life we adore and aspire to.

wine

Sometimes you just need to re-evaluate.