Posted in Homestead

Holly Hobbie (and the need for more homemakers)

Denise Holly Ulinskas (born 1944) is an artist and writer. One who has captured the hearts of many. She goes by the name of Holly Hobbie. In the 1960’s American Greetings bought her paintings that were based off her own children and the charming life of New England in a previous time. The little girl who loved cats and was dressed in blue patchwork didn’t have a name but readers gave her the moniker of her artist, and Holly Hobbie was born.

When I was a child I had a copy of this darling book, Holly Hobbie’s Around the House Book. This book took ordinary household chores and made them beautiful. It gave a new life to homemaking.

Just recently I heard Michele Obama tell a group of children that they can all be lawyers and doctors and teachers! What about homemakers? Doesn’t anyone promote that anymore? Why not?

Even in the 1980’s I fielded questions about why my mother didn’t work. Never mind that there were five children at home. When we all moved out, I was surprised that she did not look for work. I, too, was a little brain washed from the latch-key era. Women are every bit as amazing as men (true), so women should be in the workforce! (Wait, what?)

Women can very nearly get by now in society if they are staying home with children (cost of childcare, etc.), but what happens when the kids move out? There are several housewives in my family tree. I grew up in an old fashioned family where my dad worked and my mom stayed home and tended to children, laundry, cooking, and supported and upheld the family system. There is great honor in that, even when the kids are gone.

I now spend my days quilting and painting, caring for animals, cleaning the house, doing laundry, bringing in wood, meal planning, cooking, growing and preserving food, making herbal remedies, and I probably should do more mending. My business card would read, Creator of Home.

A lot of people equate homemaking with laziness and I can tell you right now that a 9-5 job would be easier! In our society right now, we are collectively concerned about health, obesity, children with disease, lack of activity. We are concerned about where our children are, if they feel secure, and we are trying to raise children who will be ready to take on the role of adulthood. These are not always our own children because the children around us are all of ours. We are concerned about pollution. We are concerned about economics. The myth that it takes two incomes to survive is driven off of a need for things that were never important in a bygone era. Smart phones, cable television, subscriptions, gym memberships, restaurants, fancy gadgets, new clothes…new everything. Homemakers have always contributed some money; selling eggs, or crafts, or the like. A housewife is a powerful source of security in our society. If there were more housewives, we’d have better health, more economic security, happier and more active children, and a simpler life.

What Holly Hobbie did was create a world where folks could see the every day beauty and sacredness of domesticity. I have always carried that in my heart.

Posted in Farming

Seven Years in Farmgirl School

Seven years ago today, I began to design a blog and was giddy with the possibilities. Dozens of journals and manila envelopes filled with typed short stories and magazine articles that I had written filled shelves in closets. I had just read about blogs and was excited to try my hand at one. Farmgirl School came to mind and I laughed out loud as I typed it out.

We were city people, reborn in the country, trying to access knowledge from generations past and from books and experiences. We worked the soil, the gardens, and they grew each year. We longed for goats, and we fell in love, and we cried when one died, and we bottle fed newborns, and we longed for goats again once they were gone. We had sheep who thought they were puppies and followed me around the farm and enjoyed singing shows in the living room wearing diapers. We laughed at ducks in swimming pools and snuggled friendly hens.

We fretted about renting that farm in that small town that we loved. We knew at some point the owners would lose it to the bank. That day came and we ushered over to a different rented farm with dreams and aspirations as big as any. Nine months later we had lost everything- scammed out of every penny- lost each beloved farm animal, and antiques and heirlooms and silverware and part of our spirits, and moved quietly and brokenly into friends’ houses until we could get back on our feet.

We moved into an apartment, worked harder than ever, saved and bought an urban farm. One of our own! We’ll be here forever, we chanted! Ah, but the country called.

And here we are, dreams come true, three months now on our own farm in the country. Our chickens love it here, as does the farm dog. The views can steal your breath away, the air is crisp. Our fourth farm is slowly coming together. Why, by next August, you will not even recognize it, for the gardens and the animals and the life here will expand along with our hearts.

Seven years. A million years ago and a breath ago, it seems. It has been quite a road.

This blog has become a beautiful, exponentially important journal of how-to do just about anything. I, myself, refer back to it constantly for recipes and reminders of how to do things. Thousands of people have followed my Chokecherry Wine recipe- the ongoing number one blog post of mine, with How to Make Your Own Witchhazel on its heels.

164, 850 times people have read my blog. That is really something. The reach we can have with our words. Oh, I occasionally quit the blog when I don’t think I will be farming anymore, or when I think I want to do something else, and two weeks later, here I am posting again, because it has become entwined with my being. Farmgirl School has become as much a part of me as my name.

Here’s to seven more years in Farmgirl School. I oughta really know my stuff by then! Thanks for hanging around.

Posted in inspiration

Be Brave Before the People

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There is a reason that it has taken me so long to write this book.

Coqui Ashui,” my friend and Comanche elder would say.  “Be brave before the people.”  To write one’s life story is indeed brave.  To divulge every secret means that relationships may be altered.  Unrepairable.  A good book will leave the reader filled with emotion.  By challenging beliefs and opening up my spirit to the world, I risk leaving myself open to criticism and backlash.

Yet, the resounding voice in my head pushed me forward.  I must write these words.  There are folks out there like me that may find comfort from knowing that there is an entire tribe of us that span the world but we were all taught to be quiet.  Quiet about neglect, about abuse, about abilities and gifts, and enchanted happenings and brilliant triumph and peace.  And we all need the lessons of medicine people from different walks of life.

I originally wrote a book that was a point by point way of embracing the beauty of the world and living to one’s fullest.  However, it came out like a text book.  I wrote my story as if it were a novel.  That way I didn’t have to be afraid.  It came out shallow and devoid of life.  I am nervous, but it is written now.  The whole story.  The whole beautiful, amazing story.  It was healing and inspiring to write.  I loved reliving my lessons with the Native American medicine people, and seeing just how enchanted our life is.  The birds that flock around us and the eagles that circle our house.  The owls.  The people we have met.  The lessons I have learned.  The path to now.  It is all lovely and part of a bigger plan.  I am humbled and honored.

The witches, the wise ones, the medicine people, the psychics, the lovers of the enchanted world, the ones trying to be normal, those that are too sensitive, the beautiful healers and wisdom keepers…they will be not be silent any longer.

Coqui Ashui

May 1st.

Posted in inspiration

The Medicine Woman Memoirs

wild 23“I had the best day today,” I told my husband when he called me on his way home from work yesterday.

“Oh yea, what did you do?”

“I went to see Maryjane’s dance class and then had lunch with our girls.  And I wrote most of the day.”

I am writing my memoir.  I am my own worst critic.  Aren’t you a little young to be writing your memoirs?  What makes you so special that you should write a book about your life?  They might be voices from my past that just keep following me around.

I am writing my memoir.  I realize that most people have not experienced many of the things I have like working and learning from Native American elders and seeing miracles and healings and dozens of eagles circling my house.  Most people don’t look at others and see tumors and broken hearts and see where the break in the bone is.  I am a medical intuitive and am very psychic.

On the other hand, there are a fair amount of people like me that feel alone or do not understand their situations.  There are folks who were not nurtured as children, or who are stuck in abusive relationships, or who are highly sensitive to everything and those that are clairvoyant, and those young people that are desperately trying to be “normal” and society has labeled them mentally ill or ADD.  There are people that need to know they are important and special and need to know how to embrace, understand, and move forward with their great gifts.

There are a million reasons why I need to write my memoir.  And I am.  It is flowing out of my fingertips faster than I can write and I am fascinated by what is coming out.  I feel like a bystander transcribing a medicine woman’s journals.  We are going to talk about that?  Oh yea, I remember when that happened.  Oh, those were good times.  Yes, talk about that, that was scary…amazing…beautiful…devastating…real.

I want to blog about planting potatoes and spring crops and spring herbal remedies and changes but I cannot.  I am writing my memoir and it is fascinating and the Universe is quite insistent that it get done.  I cannot wait to share it with you.  Right now I need another cup of coffee and I will begin my new day’s work, writing.

Posted in Our Family

For the Love of Farmgirl School (your one stop resource for everything homesteading DIY)

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Even when I wasn’t actively writing this blog for the short time that we weren’t homesteading (I was pouting), I kept pulling up Farmgirl School on my computer.  I used it to find recipes.  How do I make eggnog again?  I need a good recipe for dinner.  How do I make…

IMG_0741I love my blog.  I always have.  I am so happy to be actively writing again here.  Want to make something new for dinner?  How about Margarita Chicken?  Want to crochet some fingerless gloves for someone for Christmas?  Do you want to make soap?  How about cheese?  Interested in getting farm animals?  Maybe you just want to can some broth.  Maybe you want to read some funny, heartwarming stories about a real family and their life.  You are in the right place.  This is your blog too.

papa

If you love this blog as much as I do, perhaps you will consider sharing it on social media.  Or email it to a friend.  Or share a post on your own blog.  We sure have done a lot and been through a lot in those five years!  And now settled into our forever home, a small homestead in the city with chickens, a root cellar, and the love and experience to enjoy every second of it, I would like to invite you to come around more often, too.  Let’s celebrate all the great things about homesteading and the joys of a simple life.

Posted in Our Family

A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

fishing

My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

dolls

These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

Posted in Poetry

The Great Novelist

Southern-belle-civil-war

My first attempts at writing fiction were as a pre-teen, huddled in my room with a spiral notebook and pen, scribbling away.  Two chapters of strained dialogue and always two girls in southern belle dresses and absolutely no plot, I would grow bored and go outside to play.

Freshmen year in high school I was writing a book about a girl who finds a baby.  The baby’s name is Emily (all my characters were named Emily) and the mother was of course in a southern belle gown and the first two chapters were only dialogue of some sort and my dear teacher said, “Why don’t you write about something you know.”  Something clicked and for twenty eight years hence that is what I write.  And write it well, I believe.  But in my heart I wish I could write a stunning, beautifully choreographed novel.

I am not entirely sure that I could write fiction.  A novel seems preposterous in the creation of worlds and dialogue and characters.  For just in life, I am chained to the truth.  The characters would end up being exact replicas of those in my real life and so at the beginning of said novel I would have to say “all characters are the imagination of the author and any resemblance is purely coincidental (sorry mom)” and the whole plot would read strangely like my blog, and somehow everyone would be wearing southern belle gowns.  I do believe I may be a firm non-fiction writer.  Fabulous, but oh I do wish I could dream up a scape of world complete with whimsy and easy dialogue and characters to remember.  I shall wait patiently for the idea to land upon me.  In the meantime I am dreaming up my next non-fiction farm book…complete with everyone wearing aprons.

Posted in Poetry

The Writer

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I know how the memoir will read, it will be filled with humorous stories that make the reader laugh out loud, and ones that make the reader’s breath catch and tears well, and ones that make the reader cheer, and want to visit our new farm.  It cannot be written yet.  Next year with full intention and intense motivation we will purchase our forever farm.  It will likely be in town, in the small town we have lived in and loved and have our shop in.  Then the circle for this writer will be complete.  I will use my favorite writing techniques, foreshadowing, flashback, and will provide the reader through plenty of laughs and can’t set the book down moments, a true vision of farming and homesteading and will be an entertaining text book of novel-like prose, from our first farm to our present.

Elizabeth Gilbert, one of my favorite authors, wrote that she is a writer and she must write or she will die.  I nearly jumped off the couch upon reading it, “YES!”  That is how I feel.  In my darkest moments I considered never writing again, quitting this blog, living a private life, but no, I am a writer.

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There is no privacy here, folks.  One on one I speak openly and embracingly.  More than two people and I am introverted and Doug does all the talking.  But on paper and with keys I am an outgoing and open friend, farmer, homesteader, mother, lover, grandmother, ex-model, future farmsteader, chef, hard worker, plant healer, coffee loving teacher of all things I know.

Writing, the very thing I threatened to quit, is the very thing that got me through.  I write so that I will not die.

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I encourage you, my dear readers, that if you even love to write a little bit, start a blog.  It will increase your life and how you live it.  WordPress has free blogsites.  I can’t wait to read what you write.

Posted in Poetry

National Poetry Month (poetry contest and win one of my books!)

books

April is National Poetry Month.  I have always been pulled in by rhyming sounds, expressions in A-B-A-B form, and with eloquent words.  How a Maya Angelo poem can break your heart or a Robert Frost can transport you to another time.  Into Emily Dickinson’s world and nod knowingly at one of Mary Oliver’s beautiful notes.  The prose, the cadence, the way that poetry takes on emotion and vivid imagery in just a few lines or in a drawn out sonnet.  I love that it doesn’t have to rhyme.  It can be a sentence.  It is a piece of one’s heart transferred to paper in a whim of bravery.

ink well

I am holding a poetry contest.  No pressure, as of course like art, poetry creates itself and there is absolutely no right or wrong way to write poetry.  Just write a sentence, or a rhyme, or a sonnet.  Respond here, or on facebook (facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm) or by email (katie@pumpkinhollowfarm.net).  Homeschooling mamas, have your children enter, you enter, if you have never written poetry, enter, let the expression free!  I am offering a free book of your choice that I have written to the winner.  The winner is the one that stirs my soul.  Open March 31st-April 15th.

Here are two of mine I would like to share…

The first one is a tale of many young women.  I am friends with a great many amazing young people and sometimes their struggles can overtake.

starry night

A child in the dark lets out a shrill cry

she is lost within her spirit

but she doesn’t know why.

Growing up too fast

lovers that don’t last

        a piece of her gone

ending life’s song.

Now as she connects with herself

    with her Source

and lays in a hospital bed

through this course

and as she gathers strength

and refills her lamp for light

perhaps she will see the dawn

through the starry night.

And a more happy one…

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Maryjane, the beautiful child that came to be.

I knew her immediate and she had a piece of me.

Our hearts were connected and I love her more and more.

My life awakens as she walks through the door.

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Now, it’s your turn!

 

 

Posted in Homestead

Citygirl School

 

parker

My long, layered skirts, aprons, and prairie style do not even invoke a second glance in Elizabeth.  The country knows me, as well as its occupants.  In the city, here in Parker, Lord, I am provoking full on gawks and stares!  I feel a bit like a fish out of water.

Yet, I sit near the large window looking out across rooftops and mountain ranges, a cup of coffee and a cat on the sill, and write.  I am also in my element here.  How odd how many versions of ourselves coexist.  Maybe not reinventing, but finding a way for all of the various selves to combine.

I am tired of my prairie dresses.  I am not on the prairie.  Nancy and I are no longer farmgirls.  There is no farm.  I sit in a coffee shop using the wifi and sipping tea.  The sun creeps from behind the building and splays across the pavement.  It will be a beautiful day.

I am not homesteading.  I am living the city life.  We booked our trip to see friends in San Diego for my birthday.  We have no charges to find a farm sitter for.  We walk here and there and listen to song birds and stop in for sushi.

Does anyone read this blog anymore?  The term Farmgirl School seems a bit deceiving.  Oh, there are plenty of years of articles to aid the newbie farmer here.  Indeed.  Yet, I seek myself among cars and shops.  Near community gardens and coffee shops.  Across windowsills and in more normal attire.  A clairvoyant healer walks into the city in flowing dresses and a desire for sheep and ends up in a jean jacket sipping tea in a crowded coffee shop.  Unidentifiable?

No, I am still noticeable and I have a great many adventures ahead of me.  A writer still must have an outlet even if the readers stop reading.  Or perhaps new ones will join.  Or perhaps many are still here.  Sit down and have a cup of tea with me.  It is almost spring.