I have a new blog! realhomesteadlife.com

Hello from the owl’s nest to anyone who is still checking on this old blog…. guess what? I have a new one! I wanted to go back and leave a post on this one for the next few months until it goes to the land of away on Feb 28 2021. My new blog site is realhomesteadlife.com and it’s short stories and videos of what this experience has really been like here for me at Eight Owls over the last eight years. From experiences I’ve had within myself, on my homestead, with nature, with my health, with permaculture, with organic farming… it’s a little bit of everything that I love rolled into one sweet new website. I also have big plans to interview other homesteaders and farmers I know that are willing to speak honestly on this subject too. It’s going to get super real! And it’s not all cute, simple, and preaching about how easy this lifestyle is… because that sure ain’t the experience I had with it! However, I’m still doing it, still crazy about it, and this homesteading thing… it sure is the only life for me!

So, I’ll keep this short here – and just say, check it out if you want to find out what real homestead life is like for this homesteader!

Big love from my homestead to yours,


P is for patience…. for permaculture… and for Patricia.

Patricia Allison said so many profound things, told so many stories, that changed my thinking and my homestead life over the time I was fortunate enough to have her in my world. All kinds of concepts that were new to me would come up in our conversations. One of her stories though, usually rises to the top for me. I was staying at PA’s house in Earthaven Eco-village to take my first formal permaculture class, it was August of 2015 and I had just met her that summer. Earthaven was in the middle of planning their 21st anniversary party of having broken ground on their acreage, the party was in the coming weeks. She spoke beautifully about Earthaven’s land and its founders turning 21 themselves. That they were all arriving at young adulthood together. As a community of folks learning to live with and grow with the land – they had been born, toddled into childhood, traversed being teenagers and now had survived into becoming a young adult. They were turning 21. Yet, she felt that they still had a long way to go to be the wise old woman they needed to be. I just stood there and drank that concept in. Let it settle down into my stomach as I applied it to my own self and our farm. I swallowed real hard as she continued on. About how when you are new to living and growing with the land, or are on a new piece of land, about when you are, conceptually, a baby in this new relationship…. but yet, you are still expecting a ton of yourself. You know, that you can make these huge decisions about how to set up your land to sustain you and have it work out well. She must have seen the look on my face (I was slightly green by this point I’m sure.), because she laughed, and then said it would likely be good to go ahead and expect that you are going to spend a lot of time with your diaper in the dirt. Because you’re going to fall down. A lot. Then, she continued on with that day’s class lesson – about observing and interacting. About setting up homestead/farm slowly and carefully. About taking your time.

At the time, Eight Owls (both us and our land) were about to turn three. Between renting a piece of land and then buying one of our own…we’d only been homesteading at all for a little less than five years. The whole ride homestead, it just kept repeating my head. Oh. My. God. We’re flipping toddlers. And we’d already tried to set up so much on our farm in our first few years…. you know, while we were still in diapers! In a frenzy of trying to build  up the farm in a way that would turn a profit and replace our former day job’s income – we had done a lot already. We had decided where the gardens, barns, animals, and firewood should be. Built some of the structures, cut down a lot of trees for sunlight, set the fence posts, gotten our animals and had just started to feel like we had about worn ourselves out doing it. I mean, we lost a collective 225 pounds along the way, but I’d come to find out later that for me, losing a 150 pounds was not the magic trick or quick fix I wanted it to be…. even if it felt like a nice stacked function at the time. I’d come to find out that this concept of being a baby that PA talked about would apply to starting to learning to listen to and work on my health and body too. Well, that’s a whole other story regardless.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that we were already knee deep in our homestead set up when I took my first permaculture class and came to truly understand what it meant. We had no idea at the time just how deeply it would resonate with us both to practice forest gardening instead of organic farming. Since, you know, we hadn’t even known what the heck it was when we bought our farm. That to the two of us, forest gardening felt like the perfect balance between farm and forage. (my 2015 word of the year = balance.) By the time I got back home to relay all this to my wife, I’d vowed to at least try to slow down. To get my PDC. To grow some dang patience. (my 2016 word of the year = grow)


Mika and I with Patricia Allison, on our homestead when she taught a permaculture design series here in 2016. Like I have found with many of my relationships with mentors, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in our time together, we had our issues and it was complicated for sure. However, we learned a flipping ton from this lady and she was one of the top five most influential women I’ve met in my life thus far. I’ll never stop being grateful for having known her or loving her to absolute bits. Rest In Peace sweet lady, Rest In Peace.

Now fast forward almost 3.5 years, which is how long I’ve carried this story in my heart. I tote this concept around with me every day, everywhere I go. I hear her words echo in my mind. (my 2017 word of the year = listen.) It often can ground me when I have a tendency to rush. It helps me not have adult expectations of the permaculture farmer growing up inside me. I, as an eight owl, turned six last September. I continue to grow awareness of the world around me that is my land, and what my decisions on it can mean. I know now not to touch the wood stove, because it is hot. I know better than to run with garden shears. I still need someone older and wiser to hold my hand sometimes when I cross a new road sometimes. Because, I’m still six. And of course, I’d probably still bob my little head up and down in excitement over Sesame Street…. you know, when they say P is for patience.

I’m sharing this with you now for two reasons…. one, I totally get it. What it’s like, for those that feel a deep call to grow/homestead/farm, to be new to living this way or on a new piece of land. To be reborn out into nature and onto the land after stepping out from an office or cubicle or customer service desk. To be SO excited about a new lifestyle, new land, a new farm, or being a new farmer. To have the tendency to rush to get that homestead and farm set up. To get your butt handed to you by big mistakes… to spend a lot of time with your diaper in the dirt. I’ve been there. On one hand it felt simple, and on another, it felt complicated as all get out. It’s hard as hell. It’s easy as pie (side note… wait, who said that phrase first anyway? For me, making pie from scratch is not easy at all! Eating pie. That’s what is easy for me. And doing that so dang often was perhaps what got my old self into this mess! ;-P). It’s beautiful. It’s ugly. It’s good. It’s bad. It hurts. It heals. For me, it felt like a perfect storm of all those things. It felt like getting sucked out of one world and into a new one that I didn’t even know existed. Since we bought our land, the journey I’ve been on the last six years with my body has been such a wild and crazy ride. (my 2018 word of the year = heal.) And I personally feel like working with nature and growing into it has the potential to change simply everything in your life. Of course, if you want it to, if you feel called to live and work with the land or grow food… I also know it’s not for everyone! And in my personal opinion… it will go and grow much better with some patience for them really big crates of food to truly come in. Being willing to work with nature, instead of trying to force it to feed you and provide your paychecks… and fast. For me personally, I have found that I just have to breathe it in, slow down, and not full on panic over it. You know, like I used to…  not so very many years ago in the grand scheme of things.

And two, Patience. It’s my word for 2019. I picked it pretty early on compared to previous years I’ve done this word of the year thing. It started knocking on my noggin and suggesting itself in early fall of 2018. Yet, it was the first time since I’ve participated in this particular process that I didn’t throw my word all out there to the general public in the first week, heck the first day, of embracing it in a new year. Don’t get me wrong, I sure told my wife, family, and tribe. And actually – that’s where this blog post came from, it originated as a handwritten letter back in December 2018. However, I’ve learned via this particular self care practice that it’s much better for me personally to take some time with my word on my own first, before I share it in a big way. I know I sorely need to make patience the focus of my self work in the coming year for the sake of my body and continuing to try to improve my health issues. And that, of course, is why I choose these words in the first place – to help me grow into the kind of healthier human, the kind of woman, and the kind of farmer I want to be. I hope that allowing patience to grow in my spirit and my heart will help me in that department… As I continue to struggle with complex and frustrating health issues and try to heal, set up this forest garden to feed us for the long haul, and as I try to be a good and productive member of our homestead’s tiny little tribe. It feels like what God is asking of me right now, and I dang sure want to meet Him halfway. And of course, I am already seeing some benefits of letting it grow within me. Even now, as I realized I was ready to share this story and my word with all of you…. and it just so happens to be almost eight weeks into this new year. It makes me smile.

So, patience. I’m to find out what it means to me in 2019. Of what I am capable of within it. This one is going to be a big one for me, I can feel it.  And I’m ready to grow into it. By the grace of God, I will.

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there was only joy in the world.”

-Helen Keller

-rain (This was actually a letter to our apprentice from 12.18.2018 when we were asking her if she wanted to choose a word for 2019, and then I edited/added to it for online on 2.23.2019 after she said she was cool with me sharing it.)

  • Word of the year practice = as a side note, obviously, I personally have been loving this self care practice since this is now the fifth time I’ve chosen a word of the year. We had met someone in 2014 that did this and I’d never heard of it before. Being a lover of trying new things, we had figured we would give it a shot in January of 2015. Five words later, it means a ton to me to participate in this particular practice. I don’t know how anyone else does it, but the way it goes for the ladies of eight owls is this. We often have a retreat on our farm at the end of each year, with friends, or just with ourselves depending on what all is going on – and words get chosen and discussed….then collaged onto new journals and written about. We pick something we want to work on about ourselves, or aspire to, or need in our lives. And then, for us, it kind of becomes the head of the personal growth snake for the upcoming year. Of course, it sure doesn’t mean I don’t have to work on anything else personal growth wise, but it seems to give it a focal point. I’ve chosen ones that went nothing like I thought they would (grow in 2017), I’ve chosen ones that totally kicked my butt (listen in 2016. and heal in 2018 is still kicking my butt in 2019!).  My wife has chosen ones that went all wonky and were a totally different experience than what she had thought they would be. (It was the year she chose the word wild. It was a wild year for her, but not wild plants kind of wild like I think she thought it would be! She says I should add that being really specific about her word is now firmly on her radar! ;P ) Over the course of the year we have both found that the relationship between us and our words deepens and changes – but it stays in our focus. We check in with each other and our friends about it every month or so by saying something like, “how’s it going with your word?” and we get one another’s updates. And then we retreat again at the end of each year and share how it shook out over all. The rub, of course, is that for me – I find that it’s not like you have a word for the year and then it’s all fixed and you don’t have to think about that one again. I carry balance, listen, grow, heal, and now patience with me every day. I’ll be working on all of them for the rest of my days I think. But, honestly, that’s one of the things I’ve come to love the very best about this process…. the thought that it’s the journey and not the destination.


And of course, I’m finding that pictures can really help me see the physical results of what having patience can mean. The picture above was of the first three swales we ever put in on our farm in late April of 2016. Led by Patricia, during class, we found the contour lines and dug into some truly poor, rocky, and severely eroded red clay soil. As you can see in the picture, it couldn’t even grow grass or weeds on those front two and only a few tufts on the back one! After class was over, my wife and I installed swales in the remainder of our main garden space – it took a few months, since we started out doing it by hand. Then we dug the tiller out of storage to dig the remaining ditches (appropriate technology! saved time and our backs!). It was the last time we ever used that tiller on this farm, and will likely be the only thing we ever use it for again in the future – if we decide to open up a new space for swales again. Then we cover cropped, again and again. At first even the cover crop was tiny and sad! But each round of it, it got a little bit better looking. Grew some annuals here and there amidst the cover crop too, but mostly, we just built soil all through 2017 in whatever way we could…. and then….


This is what those same three swales looked like by late spring of 2018. I mostly just stuck annuals on them in 2018 in whatever way they would fit, and with whatever I had to see how the soil was doing so far. I was pretty happy with how it was shaking out. So I installed most of the trees, bushes, and other perennials that will reside in those three beds last fall – I’ll finish installing a couple more small trees in the coming weeks until they are complete. As much as I am excited to see what they look like when they turn 3 years old in late April – I’ll do my best to be patient until I get there! <3 




…for the love of farming.

My eyes shot open at 4:15am this morning… I was already working on being wide awake. My first thought was about onions. Leeks. Chives. Lavender. Rosemary. Are they all doing okay? Crap, did I remember to water them yesterday? Has the dang cat been sneaking in and napping on them again? My train of thought jumped to the next round of seedling trays that I needed to start today. Then as the fog of sleep cleared quickly, my brain caught up to yesterday’s events…. and the farm’s truck gas tank springing a leak. Right when we pulled into the parking lot to pick up the load of compost I’d need to mix the aforementioned seed start mix. After it had taken a full two weeks to get our schedules to align in a way that my wife was able to drive me to pick it up. (Still not being able to drive a stick shift in anything but first gear at almost 40 years old…. continues to bite me in the butt each year.) Oh nooooo, my next round of leeeekssss needed that stuff!  Dang leak. My brain caught up to the sad look on my face when we had to pull away without what we needed, and drove the truck to the shop. It had actually been so romantic when my wife turned to me on Valentine’s Day afternoon and asked if I’d like to go pick it up since we both had taken the day off to hang out together. I sighed, climbed out of bed, tried not to get frustrated by the simple little things that happen sometimes to set us back and grabbed my iPad. When I checked my email, a woman I love to bits had sent me a message with this quote last night. And it meant simply everything to me this morning.

“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.” – Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table


I read it, over and over again…and I calmed down. And with that much needed calm, came the realization that the truck had needed to go to the shop for some upgrades anyway, we had been trying to get that on the schedule. And the leak forced us to stop and give it the attention it needs before the growing season truly starts. That leak was going to pop up sometime. And honestly, it’s so much better to have it happen now than in flipping March or April when it would really hurt us to not have the truck for a few days or a week. Right now, it’s just a little frustrating and that, I can handle. My next round of leeks… can wait for a different leak to be repaired. I breathed. And I stepped outside to make some tea and start my morning – which, of course, would now be about writing this story, and not about sowing leek seeds.

Wendell got it right. And my dear friend had been so right to send it to me at just the perfect moment. It’s ALL for the love of farming. The stress and setbacks, and the sunny days and soil and squash too. It’s all about love. It’s for the love of growing organic foods to eat and trying to heal my body. It’s for the love of homesteading. For the love of permaculture. For the love of independence. And good lord, it’s for the love of my health, my family and friend’s and customer’s health, and the health of our planet too. I mean, I’d still like to have a home that is a healthy environment, has natural spaces, forests, clean water, clean air, and clean food to eat! And a much healthier body to reside in while I enjoy it all, of course. This awesome quote above pretty much says it all for me. I grow food. And I love it like I never knew I could. It’s who I am, and it’s what I want to do with my life. It’s my passion… the reason I get up each day. Sometimes, it shocks the tarnation out of me that I never grew a thing or even gave much thought to where my food came from really until I was 31 years old. Sometimes, with the world being the way it is today… it doesn’t surprise me at all. Either way, eight years into this love affair of growing food, there’s so much to my relationship with it. For me, I’m finding that taking a totally devastated landscape and working on healing it can pair quite nicely with having started to work on my body and try to see if I can heal it too. It’s become the artwork I create with my life… shaping out swales along contour lines, building soil, and painting a picture with organic produce. It feeds me, as I continue to figure out what all I can actually tolerate eating. I think it can heal my gut and other health issues, slowly… and I know it heals my heart and spirit too. It gives me its patience as I learn to love what’s good for me (vegetables.), and not just what tastes really freaking good (cupcakes. 😉). It usually gives me 10,000 steps a day by early afternoon and it’s my personal trainer. It teaches me, and the women around me, every day we are out there in the garden. And oh lord, is nature rad. Being out there in it most days of the year is probably my favorite part….both in good weather and bad. Watching things grow, crazy looking bugs I’d never noticed before, all the amazing life under our feet in the soil, clouds rolling by, kettles of birds circling above, useful weeds planting themselves in the craziest places, harvesting salad to take to our customers, and the feeling of both sun and rain on your skin…. It sure gets under it, and in it. As for the love of farming forms deep taproots in your heart. For me… I do it for the love. And, just as a side note of homestead truth, it’s sure not because I’m making a bunch of money already or because I’ll be able to easily pay my student loans off with squash!


I don’t know if anyone else would have seen a blasted flat, rocky space at the top of a mountain and tried to turn it into a organic farm and food forest…. but we are giving it a go. This picture was from the first summer we had built soil deep enough to try growing more root veggies, and I was pretty dang proud of finally being able to squeak some small garlic out of it in 2017!

It feels like such big, crazy times out in the world… to me anyway. The last couple of years, I honestly haven’t even really known what to say in the face of it all. I know, I know, that’s not like me…. to not talk so much. To not share much. It’s certainly not because I’ve not been growing food, studying and practicing permaculture, continuing to set up a fledgling food forest, it’s not because I’ve not been thinking about it every day, and it’s not because I haven’t been writing about it on my own either. But what the heck can I even share in the face of it all? In the face of what we are all up against right now with our land, our food, and our health as a people? And how could I anyway…. since my personal crap has been hitting the fan health wise the last couple years? (Oh right, I ran into this online this morning too… so maybe these flipping awesome folks found the words to explain what the tip of the iceberg with the health of our planet and people/ looks like…since I’ve not been able to as of yet. Most intense 20 minutes of my day thus far, this was. Thanks farmers footprint folks, for connecting all these dots between our health, landscape, and how this country has been growing food in a convenient little 20 minute vid. Seeing a doctor with the thoughtfulness to go back to find the source of the problem sure is inspiring!)

For the love of all things farming…. NOW what the heck do we do?! IMO, and for us personally… we grow. And we grow slow.  We breathe and try not to freak out about just how bad off the situation in our food system and environment is. We try to find a new and different way to dig ourselves out of this mess. We try to find more sustainable methods, even if it means less shortcuts to our spinach. We try not to let the setbacks in our learning curve slow us down so much. We try to not stress about the profitability of produce or making a living wage. I don’t find it simple or easy to grow organic food in what I consider to be the right ways, like my naive self had thought it would be when I got started…. there’s a ton to it and it compounds every year that we continue to learn better methods and gain experience… but, we try. We strive to be part of the generation that won’t give up or give in.


I won’t give up. I’ll keep growing, for the love of farming. For the love I’ve finally found for myself and my body over the course of this journey thus far. I’ll be grateful for every minute of time that I have out in the garden. I’ll be glad I’m not still stuck behind a desk somewhere quite so often. I simply cannot imagine trying to traverse all this health stuff without having something I love to do so much that it keeps me going. It means everything to me, and I’m so in love with it… I can barely stand it sometimes.

So, for the love of farming, I’ll give it everything I’ve got to give. 

-Rain, 2.15.2019

P.S. I know, I’ve all but disappeared from being online for awhile. I just needed a minute is all! Dealing with all these health issues the last couple of years has felt like a ton to handle and manage. I sure don’t think I’ve got all this health stuff figured out, it’s a journey — it may be a long one and I’m accepting that. As well as the fact that I know I’m just one human being that is dealing with all this – and I’ve certainly learned I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to a lot of folks…. friends, family, followers, folks in the waiting room of all the doctor’s offices…I sure don’t feel alone in it. Honestly, I had kind of wanted to wait to share my writing again until I was 100% better and all healed up. However, I don’t know how long that might find me waiting to reconnect with something else I love to do besides growing food. But, now that I seem to be making some progress with at least learning to live with a mess of health issues a bit better … I miss y’all! So, I want to try to get back to it as and when I can. And, of course, I think February is a great time to be talking about how much I love growing food – since spring is so close…Spring equinox countdown = 32 days!! <3


“But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say ‘shit, it’s raining!'”

I love Cold Mountain. The book, the movie, the actual place that is pretty close to where I live. I’m not sure what all I love it so hard for… because it is set in North Carolina… because I think it shows the strength and perseverance of women… because it is about struggle… or growing food to survive hard times…. or because it is about all of those things for me. But, I love it. It’s sort of a go to for me when I can’t find anything else to watch or read and when I need to find my piss and vinegar to keep dealing with incredibly hard things. For years now, it would get to the point of this quote, and I’d get all weepy eyed. It wasn’t until a few months ago when I was watching it again for the hundredth time that it settled down into my gut as to why. And this entire blog post tumbled out into my brain in about thirty seconds. Now that I’ve been thinking on it for months, I’m ready to sit down and write it.

Ruby Thewes: Every piece of this is man’s bullshit. They call this war a cloud over the land. But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say ‘shit, it’s raining!’

Y’all…. it’s raining. Talk about a cloud over the land.

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Over the last year or so that I’ve been so sick, I have had to try to figure out why it’s happening. Which, honestly, I’m still trying to figure out all of the pieces of. I know more than I did before (Celiac, stupid amounts of food and chemical sensitivities, histamine intolerance, nutrient deficiencies, anemic, low blood sugar, anxiety, thyroid problems that I’m still waiting for a biopsy on, adrenal fatigue), I know what it’s not (diabetes, Lyme disease, black mold in our house, a heart or lung or lady parts issue) but still don’t know enough (there could be more than that going on, but I’m still currently knee deep in doctors and tests). But one thing stays the same amongst all these unknowns, the reaction that folks have to me trying to explain what I’m going through. There is a lot of head shaking and confusion over why I, at 39 years old, would be battling so many health issues. Especially after trying so hard to shift my life into being healthier eight years ago. Is it something I did? Is it the way that we live? Is it stress? Is it all in my head? Or…. is it because I was simply conceived and then born into the wake of man’s bullshit? Because I tell you what I have learned lately, and that is……. I’m sure not the only one that is dealing with these kinds of health issues. Makes me think maybe it’s just the weather they made.

In my mind, I have this really ridiculous image of a bunch of sadistic little kids performing this crazy science fair experiment where they spray everything tip to tail with chemicals, poison the food and water, try to completely destroy the subject’s habitat and then decide that they will just throw every creature that exists back in there and just see what happens. (Then they hop around from foot to foot laughing maniacally saying, I bet we can get them humans to pay us money to ride this ride too! Bwahahaha!) That, my friends, is what the world feels like to me today.

It breaks my flippin’ heart…. every. single. day.

For the last few years that I’ve been realizing and learning about all the many ways the world is falling apart, if I am being honest, I hung out up here on our mountain… gardened… fed my animals… cooked our organic food…studied and practiced permaculture like it was the only thing that could save us… and cried about it like a little child. I was so sad over the whole thing, it ached like nobody’s business all the way down to my toes and back. When I wrote no such thing as a broken heart six months ago, I was trying to find the right way to accept it and move on. (And, just as a side note, it blew my mind just how many of you wrote to me saying you were feeling the exact same way. It meant more to me than you all know. Thank you.) I thought I would write it, make peace with it, put my typical super positive spin on the situation and move on back to my happy go lucky homestead self of years past. But then after I posted it, I quickly realized I didn’t really understand the succession of myself yet. Or what would come next. So, I took some time for myself and stopped sharing my writing.

Sometime this spring….I had been right about one thing, the sadness did start to fade some. The tears dried up most days. And something in this “smile pretty and be sweet now” southern girl…. GOT TICKED OFF. That’s right, I’m angry. And my wife helped me get to a point where I’m finally okay with letting myself feel that emotion these days, since, you know, it’s all about what I do with it. I’m not going to go out and beat anyone’s butt over it. But, what I am going to do is stop hiding the fact that I am…FED THE TARNATION UP. The state of the world these days, in my opinion, is a flipping crap show on so many dang levels and I’m so angry about it I could spit nails. A friend of mine posted a cute graphic pic the other day that said, “Never pick a fight with a woman over forty. They are  full of rage and sick of everyone’s shit.” It was awesome. So good. And here I sit, all special like, having already hit that point at 39! 😉

I AM fed up. I hate what is happening to my body, it’s so hard to swallow. I’m scared too, that there may be even more wrong that I don’t know about yet….or that all this work I’ve done on it was just too little too late. I hate what I see happening to the health of my family and friends and their children. I want to totally freak out like a crazy chick when I see someone feeding their five year old fritos and factory farmed pork and sugar coated snacks all day long while they seem to not even consider that there could be some consequences for that. It plain ol’ kills me to see what is happening to our beautiful planet and its plants and animals and spaces. It’s. just. not. right. Lately, I’m finding that what is working for me at least halfway decent in trying to deal with it, is using that anger to fuel getting my wiped out self down to the forest garden to work on whatever and as much as I can. Because I still have such huge dreams of trying to provide healthy, actually affordable, organic food to low income families… and trying to get back to having enough stamina to be teaching about how they could be doing that for themselves too. For now, it feels like a good outlet…. turning rage into radishes and such. It’s what I’ve got, it’s what I’ll do.

And, on top of that…. I figure, it’s time. To run my dang mouth while I still can. On the days that I’m actually able to pick myself up, dust off the not feeling well and pain enough to share or talk to ya’ll. And if you don’t want to hear what I have to say… then you just go on ahead now and unsubscribe because it’s not going to only be all cute bunnies and “oh growing your own food is so awesome and easy” and “permaculture is a piece of cake!” from here on out like it was when we were beginners. It’s cool, it won’t hurt my feelings anymore if you unfollow me! Because It’s permaculture homestead truth time. For this homesteader. For as long as I’m able. I’m so ready to talk and tell the truth about how I feel about all of this….and what my first eight years of homesteading was really like and what I’ve learned… about what happened after I lost all that weight that I wasn’t expecting…about the connections I’ve made about just how much what we choose to put in our mouths and how we spend our time impacts our health…….and I have a sneaking suspicion that I might just have some other friends here locally that might want to get real and talk about all of this too. It does feel like it’s time, to connect to each other and make some real changes before it really is too late. I mean, is it just me or does stuff seem a little tense and crazy out there in the world right now ?!?!

It just keeps repeating in my head and my heart….. IT’S RAINING. And in my opinion, us little guys, we didn’t make the rain. But we sure seem to be expected to have muck boots tall enough to stand out in it and not get swallowed up.  Our permaculture instructor from 2016 called it, “trying to learn how to survive and thrive while living in chemical soup”. In my opinion, it is hard to swallow, but it’s the truth…she was right. Our planet, its creatures and plants, everything’s health… as hard as it is to face, and as deep as the rabbit hole goes… it’s red pill blue pill do you really want to start to seek the truth time. Because ignoring it or burying our heads in the sand isn’t going to keep us dry this time I don’t think.

I want to start to reconnect with ya’ll again and find out what you think about all this. When I can and on the days I’m able to. Find out where you are at with your health and your homesteads. And, like always, I have questions… What in the world can we all do now to try to fix it? And….

Who is willing to pull their boots on and wade out there with me to start shoveling?


Like there is no such thing as a broken heart

I got kind of anxious over it is the thing. You know, about the state of the world lately. Over the last couple of years, I kept looking around and seeing what appeared to be the planet and people I love falling apart…. even faster than I thought it could. I tried to just work harder, faster and more to combat it… but it didn’t go away. It just kept getting worse. Chaos. Chemical soup hitting the fan and raining down on all who reside here. The planet getting destroyed. People getting sick and sad, myself included. Our food and water being poisoned. Our forests being destroyed. And then in the last year, when it appeared to me that things got a little interesting politically and pretty darn tense in general in the country I reside in… it pushed me over some edge I didn’t know I had. I fell apart. And it took me the entire year to realize what I’m pretty sure I know what was wrong with me. I have a broken heart.

And it hurt so dang bad that when it got paired up with some environmental + food allergies, my anxiety, and complete and total exhaustion….it seemed to come together into a perfect storm that literally made me sick. For a full year. I didn’t know what to do when I realized this over the last couple of weeks.

One of the permaculture educators I had in the last couple of years told our class that it was our responsibility as permaculture educators to be standing there with open arms when it happened. When other people’s hearts broke over learning about what has been done to the planet. To us as its people. As they fell apart over learning just how much worse it is than they even thought. To tell them that there was in fact a way out…a better way to move forward than we had been in the past. And that we knew what that way was and could show them how to get through it. But… wait… she didn’t say who would hold us… when our hearts broke over it. Or who would hold us up under the weight of that great of a responsibility. Since I’m also not always super great at asking for help or telling people what I really need… I just laid there on the ground… broken pieces of the farmer. And I didn’t know how to put it all back together. I was too tired, too overworked, and too stressed to make a plan. Or even have an idea of how to do it.

But then, several things happened… after I wrote my last blog post, I finally completely crashed to a point that I could not NOT set aside the task of trying to figure out how to save the world to try to save myself. I got given a gift by a couple of someones who love and support me, and I left the homestead for an actual two week vacation. I slept. I got unplugged from the internet and watched old funny movies on vhs tapes and colored winnie the pooh and piglet and ate comfort foods cooked on an electric stove and took naps and went for waterfall walks and sang loudly in the car on pretty country road drives to nowhere in particular. I talked to my people about how I was having a really hard time. I cried a lot. I prayed even more.  I had some really good conversations with women I love. About where we can go from here. About how we can support each other better while we try to get there. Then, I heard this song. And it was just perfect.

“You know you can’t keep the ground from shaking, no matter how hard you try, / You can’t keep the sunsets from fading, you gotta treat your life like / You’re jumping off a rope swing maybe ’cause the whole thing is really just a shot in the dark / You gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart” -this is the section you’ll see me belting out at the top of my lungs as I drive through our tiny town. 

It’s so real. I can’t keep the ground from shaking. In my opinion, it is doing that all around us. But what I can do, is start to glue the pieces of my heart back together so I can love real hard. And I’m realizing that the glue I’ve got is pretty good….  There’s still a whole lot of amazing nature out there to hold me when I need a good cry. I have some awesome people in my life that I can talk to about what I and we can do now… which, according to one of very my favorite women just yesterday, is to band together and do something. I could not agree more my dear friend and mentor. I’m so blessed to have so much love in my life, I know I can figure out how to use it…. how to hold on to it… like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.

I’ve been homestead for a couple of days now… trying to figure out how to do just that. Who and what do I band together? How do I fit the puzzle pieces of my heart back into a complete picture? I have no idea how other people would approach this problem. I just woke up this morning knowing how I will. I’ll do what I LOVE to do. I’ll grow food. Regeneratively. With permaculture principles tucked in my carhartt pockets. I’ll grow food because it is my exercise. I’ll grow food because it is one thing that manages my anxiety. I’ll grow it because I need healthy organic foods that don’t make me sick. I’ll also grow it for the soil, for the bees, for the ladybugs, for the birds, and for the wild things. I’ll grow food like I’m running out of time to…. because what if I am? I’ll grow food… and try to save myself while I’m trying to save my world. I also take more walks, more naps, stretch more, breathe, meditate and ask for support when I need it.

Then, after having this realization, another thing happened. When I got homestead from vacation, I had an awesome email waiting for me in what felt like a sea of them. From a woman named Jessica, who has just finished making a documentary called… wait for it…. Grow Food. She found us online and wants to get to know us both. She wants to come visit our homestead this spring. And man, after watching this trailer… I have just loved starting to get to know her and her work in the world over the last couple of days. We are all totally geeking out on each other. I cannot wait to see the full film when it comes out in March. I can’t wait to meet her in person. I think this film might just have the power to inspire a lot of people to grow food too. It feels like something we can do. To feed ourselves and each other while we heal our broken hearts. While we learn how to heal our broken lands. I’m so grateful she reached out to us, it helped me come to this simple conclusion of what I can do much quicker than I might have on my own. (I hope you will all check out the trailer. Their kickstarter is over, but you can still follow them on your socials. Share their content and watch the movie when it comes out by registering on the website.)

I’m not sure if it is just the fact that it is a new year or the much overdue vacation or what, but I’m finding myself full of hope. Full of faith. And all hopped up on determination. To do what I can, as I can handle doing it. With some better balance than I did before, of course. And with like… a lot more breaks for naps. And coloring books. 😉 I certainly learned my lesson about what not paying attention to self care can cost me. I’m looking so forward to the growing season. To connecting to my community as we band together in tough times…. ‘because we have each other and that’s what’s up’. I’m looking forward to my word for 2018, which is heal. I can see how well that word will apply itself to my broken heart.  I can see how I can do that healing, right here, right now.

So, I will close with this… a few quotes that are meaning a lot to me right now. I have them written in my new 2018 journal and I’m loving reading them every day.

“Out of suffering emerges the strongest souls.”

“You cannot heal the world until you heal yourself.” (Amen!!)

“God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.”

“Healing comes from gathering wisdom from past actions and letting go of the pain that the education cost you.” (halle-freaking-lujah)


Now I have no idea if anyone else has been had a tough year in 2017 like I had, but I’m curious if you did. Did your hearts break? And if so, I’m curious how you are working towards letting it go. Will one way you do it find you trying to grow? Comment away with your own stories, I love it when you do that!! <3


I find Sow True Seed a great way to grow! 

Are you finding yourself wanting to design a new life and a new way? Don’t forget to check out our website for ways to visit for a homestead tour or chat online with me in 2018. We will have limited availability for visitors this year as I’m trying to find some better balance and healing myself… so call or email early in the season!


And of course, if you love the work we do here – don’t forget it is a new year and we could majorly use some donations to our non-profit arm to support our work here and to keep us sharing! Here’s the info on that:

You can now make a donation to the farm’s donation based educational programs by sending funds to our non-profit arm! You can either send checks or money orders made out to “Redbud Institute” with a memo line that says “for Eight Owls Farmstead” and mail them to PO box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712. OR you can pay via PayPal by sending your donation to this email address “redbudinstitute.nonprofit@gmail.com”, again please put a memo note on the donation that it is for Eight Owls Farmstead.

Redbud Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so you will get a receipt to show you donated to one. 100% of your donation will go straight to fund operating expenses, equipment project development and keeping the cost of our donation based education at Eight Owls Farmstead nice and affordable. Please make sure to include your mailing address if it is not on your check and email address, so we can send you a receipt and our eternal thanks! Every single little bit will help us continue to move forward with the work that we do here.



Healing on the Homestead

This post has been a long time coming. I kept thinking about it, but then kept figuring… I’ll write it when I get better. Then, as months past, it became, I’ll write it IF I get better. Now that it’s been eleven months, I figure – I’ll just write it. And it will shake out, how it shakes out. Be it good, or be it bad… it’s what’s happening, and I can’t really hide it from everyone anymore. So, regardless of the fact that this is an incredibly hard one to write, it’s what’s happening. It’s the reality of my homestead life these days.

The first week of January 2017, I had VERY big plans. We both did. We issued ourselves a food challenge. We aspired to put more content online. We had a forest garden to finish installing. We had some very big dreams that we were incredibly excited about. And then around the middle of January, I got sick. And I stayed that way.

I seemed to catch every virus or infection I came within spitting distance of. I was more tired than I ever had been in my life. The tiredness paled in comparison to how overwhelmed I felt by the most ordinary, easy things. I was thirsty all the time, no matter how much water I drank. My gut health was a total wreck and that made things unpleasant in a lot of ways that I won’t go into here… other than to say it’s incredibly painful. I couldn’t seem to remember the simplest things or to keep anything straight through some seriously intense brain fog.  I was dizzy, my balance was off and I fell down a lot, my head hurt, my body and joints ached. I got scary pale pretty often. My vision was blurry and I saw floaters all the time. My eyes got crazy sensitive to light. And then, my anxiety became completely out of control over the whole thing. I saw my primary care doctor in February. Again in March and again in April. Tests got run, physicals by him and my OBGYN got had. And they couldn’t find anything wrong. In mid spring, we realized we didn’t really have much choice but to slow things down on the homestead plans in the interest of figuring out what the heck was going on. In the interest of lowering my stress levels. But by July, it was much worse. I got so dizzy at work that I almost passed out… and I totally freaked my wife out with the sheet like color of my face. I went back to the doctor. Got 2 rounds of antibiotics for a serious UTI… and then they ran a load more tests over the course of July, August and September. Everything that could come out of my body and get tested, did. For a couple of months, I wrote down what I ate, my blood pressure, my blood sugar, my daily activities to see if anything stuck out as an answer. It was quite frustrating.

What was the most frustrating was that by high summer, I was running out of faith. Running out of the belief that I would in fact get better one day soon. I’d felt so sick, for so long that it was wearing down my spirit. I started getting really depressed over it. Now, folks that know me or have had an experience at eight owls in the past – likely remember a really positive, excited, talkative person. Someone so darn fired up about farming and organic food that it was infectious. But all this feeling crappy had that human running out of steam. It had me feeling absolutely nothing like myself. By the time my family had their annual visit to the homestead in early September, I looked and felt like a ghost of myself. I think I scared the tarnation out of them all, they’d never seen me like this and seemed pretty caught off guard by the whole thing.  So was I.

It felt crazy to have put so much focus on making such big changes towards living a healthier life and then to feel like I was falling apart. The not knowing why it was happening was agony.

And, to some degree, it still is making me a little nuts, the not being sure what the deal is. I still don’t have the answers to what exactly it is. All I know, is what it is not… as we did rule a lot of things out this year. I’m not diabetic. I don’t have parasites. It’s not early onset menopause. It’s not a thyroid issue. It’s not pancreatitis. You get the idea… Extensive blood work shows a MUCH healthier human than I was when I started homesteading. There is nothing in that blood work that has made my doctor concerned about cancer or any big bad disease. Well, short of we knew that I have an autoimmune issue already, but so far we’d been able to manage that with the food and by cutting out gluten and grain. My OB appt showed nothing of concern. My blood sugar was a little low (which honestly was kind of awesome since I was pre-diabetic just a few years back) and my blood pressure was a little low (again, an improvement over having insanely high blood pressure when I was overweight). So that all just left a lot of questions… was this all because I had my gallbladder out last fall? Is it my heart giving out or giving up? Was it something in the water making me sick? Something in the house? Was there a nutrient I was lacking somewhere? Was it because I made this huge transition from being so unhealthy to being a homesteader? …. Was it stress? Adrenal fatigue? I didn’t know. I’m still not 100% sure.

By my last doctor’s appointment in early October, I was almost in tears in his office. I was so dang tired of this whole process. I practically begged him for answers. He smiled a little smile, and begged me for something too. Something I’m not very good at. Patience.

He talked to me and the forager (who had started attending these with me pretty early on) about just HOW big a shift this 150 pound weight loss journey has been for my body. He made it clear that having my gallbladder out last fall was kind of a big deal to my tummy tum. He talked to me about managing my gut health better without a gallbladder. He really laid it on me about managing my stress. He gave me a shot of B-12 and put me on a new supplement for that, made a suggestion of new digestive enzymes and a load of new vitamins, gave me strict orders to not change anything else about my almost paleo diet for awhile, and made it clear just how important fermented foods and getting probiotics into my body is right now. He stressed the importance of sleep and restful behavior. He mentioned the stress thing… again. He just wanted me to please just give it a few more months of trying these things before we go the ct scans/hospital visits/cardiologist route. He really seems to think that it is just my body is kind of in shock from everything that has changed for me physically in the last three years since I lost the weight. And as if that wasn’t all enough, I had also piled a whole farm load of stress on top. He didn’t give me a lollipop… and I left, knowing that…. sigh…. what he was saying, made a lot of sense.

Since then, I’ve been on supplements out the wazoo. I’ve been doing everything I can to manage my stress. I’ve been working less and the forager has been working more to make up for it. I’ve been careful with what I eat. I’ve been doing breathing exercises. I’ve been taking enzymes for my gut health. I’ve been taking a lot of walks around the homestead and staring at beautiful wild plants and animals. I’ve read a load of new novels. I’ve started taking a lot of naps. I’ve not been around people as much, except for good friends and family that know what is going on. But the biggest thing I shifted, was in my brain. I stopped focusing on what didn’t feel good in my body every second of every day, and focused on what did. I worked towards thinking about how much I love my wife and the way we live, how much I love our homestead, how crazy I am about how beautiful nature and life is…. and told the whiney part of my brain that wanted to talk about how awful I felt to shut the hell up. I started to think about how it could totally be worse, that many people have much bigger physical challenges than I do, and I started focusing on being grateful for what I am able to manage to do and how amazed I am that I’ve gotten through to this point.

Now, within spitting distance of December… I have to admit, for the last month, I do feel a little bit better about half the time. It’s not where I want to be, it’s not anything like being back to my old self, but it is what I needed – to see at least a little progress. That will help me keep fighting through this I think. It’s what I will need if this is all just going to be my new normal. It’s also helping me to understand just how much me and my body have been through on this homesteading journey.


Seven years and two months ago, another doctor, in another city told me I had six months. To change my life, my eating habits, and my bad behaviors. Or we were going to be having a very different conversation. Or, worse, we were not going to be able to have one at all. It’s occurred to me through all of this that that means to me, that this extra time has all been frosting on the cake of my life already. And I’ve finally arrived at this point in my mind that I’m just not going to waste any more of this time that I’m fortunate enough to have on wallowing in not feeling well or feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to focus on the good parts. I’m going to do everything I can to heal on the homestead, to the best of my ability. Or I’m going to die trying!

So, that’s where I’m at. And I wanted to share it with you. I miss sharing the things I’ve been writing about on my own this year. I want the folks who have been messaging saying they miss it too, to know what’s been going on here. It may have taken me almost a year, but I’m ready to talk about it. It is what it is. And I need to take this on now, because I have big plans for 2018 that I need to execute too.

For the last three years, I’ve chosen a word as a “theme” for the year. Something I want to work on, something I aspire to be or make important in my life. I usually select it on our reset retreat the last week of each year. This process is important to me. It’s my tether to self care and self growth. I’ve already chosen mine for next year, earlier than I ever have before. I’ve known what it would be for the last month or so. And the more I think about it, the more right it feels. Heal.

That’s my big plan for 2018. Get better. Keep working on the forest garden in the ways that I can so we have the permaculture demonstration site we need to continue to teach and share in. Write stories. Make art. Calm down. Live through this. I know I can do this. I know I love this homestead life, permaculture, my body and self enough to get through the hard parts, through the pain. So for now, I will just work on willing it into being so. It is how I can start where I am, use what I have, and do what I can. And I will close this bit of sharing with this simple quote that always makes my eyes well up a bit…. I will take a deep breath, and dig in… one. more. time.

“A winner is a loser who just tried one more time.” – George M Moore Jr. 


During this upcoming season of giving, I’d love to use this space to make an appeal for some help. We could use some kind words, support, healing vibes, prayers, or whatever you are into. I could use some volunteers stepping forward from our followers, former students, guests and friends to make progress on some projects I’m struggling with (Email me if you want to get your terrace on this winter or pile some brush on contour! rain@eightowlsfarmstead.com). We could majorly use some folks willing to make donations to the homestead to continue to develop the work we do here. With everything we have going on, it’s been a hard year. We’ve not really posted about donations as much as we have in years past and consequently, we’ve raised significantly less funds in 2017 than in the past. But, we would like to try to change that with the time we have remaining in the year if we can. We take donations of any size and can take them all at once or you can make a commitment to make a small monthly donation over the course of the 2018 year.

And of course, you can now make a donation to the farm’s donation based educational programs by sending funds to our non-profit arm! You can either send checks or money orders made out to “Redbud Institute” with a memo line that says “for Eight Owls Farmstead” and mail them to PO box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712. OR you can pay via PayPal by sending your donation to this email address “redbudinstitute.nonprofit@gmail.com”, again please put a memo note on the donation that it is for Eight Owls Farmstead.

Redbud Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so you will get a receipt to show you donated to one. 100% of your donation will go straight to fund operating expenses, equipment project development and keeping the cost of our donation based education at Eight Owls Farmstead nice and affordable. Please make sure to include your mailing address if it is not on your check and email address, so we can send you a receipt and our eternal thanks! Every single little bit will help us continue to move forward with the work that we do here.




Coming homestead

Sometimes I feel like it takes awhile for me to realize the simplest things.

It totally freaked me out earlier this year when I became aware of a thought starting to form in my mind. It whispered to me at first and I shook it off, told it to go away. Not only would it not go away, but it started hollering at me until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

What it was saying, was that I didn’t want a farm after all. That I didn’t want to be “the farmer” anymore. Like not even a little tiny bit.

I totally lost my crap.

It was spring when this happened and I was a hot freaking mess over it. I decided to keep the thought to myself, because you know, we’ve spent the last five years trying to make my dreams of having an organic farm come true. What would happen if I was wrong from the beginning? Would my wife totally freak out and leave me here with the farm, finally fed up with how often I change my mind about things? What the hell would I do with a farm that I didn’t want? So, I kept my mouth shut and just figured I was tired, overstressed, and really just needed a break. I’ve been dealing with so many issues with my physical health this year (this is a whole other story for another time), I figured I was just freaking out and that this whole feeling would go away when i started to feel well and like myself again. Months went by. My physical health continued to be a lot to handle and manage. And that thought, it never went away, it just got louder and more impossible to ignore. I didn’t want a farm… I didn’t want to be the farmer.

It was quite confusing, because I still loved our land and growing food, it just didn’t feel quite right somehow.  Something just felt like it had shifted. It felt like I’d learned too much, too fast. About what farming really is and what that really means, about ecosystems, about regenerative agriculture, about permaculture, about our land and what it was capable of. Also, five years into owning our land, I’d learned so much about myself and what I really truly want. Learned so much about my wife and what she truly wants. I’d become aware of what we both want our lives to look like. It felt a little like that moment I think everyone has in college when you learn so much, that you learn how much you don’t know…. that you learn how far there is to go to get where you want to get to. And suddenly, I’d just realized that my big dream of owning a farm, of being a farmer…. just plain ol’ didn’t feel ANYTHING like I thought that it would. It just didn’t feel good or right to me anymore. I wanted to spend more time writing, making art, foraging, cooking, and doing all the other things I love to do around here. I no longer wanted my whole life to revolve around farming, because lets face it, in my personal opinion – if you have a farm, your whole life can pretty easily become consumed by it.

The definition of farming is “the business of growing crops and raising livestock to sell” and realizing that that didn’t feel good to me all of a sudden was ripping my heart apart. I mean, don’t get me wrong I think so highly of folks that choose to farm organically, it’s awesome work to be doing in the world–it’s just not for me. Finally, in early August, I broke down and told my wife what I was feeling. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. All teary eyed over it, I told her I didn’t know what to do. That I loved this land so much, but maybe we should just sell the farm and start over again somewhere. By the grace of all things holy, she didn’t get scared off or freak out. She just smiled and said it was okay, since that was never what she really wanted either. That what she wanted was a permaculture homestead. One where she could be as self sufficient as she could be. One where she could do all the many different things that hold her interest. Sure, she wanted to grow food, but she also wanted to grow supplies to make her art, grow firewood, grow skills, grow herself. I remember my mouth falling open. I remember wanting to holler “Duh” and wanting to slap myself.

It’s so funny how simple things are sometimes. It shouldn’t surprise me that when you are totally overwhelmed or don’t feel well physically, it can be difficult to grab onto those simple things that don’t feel quite right and give them a voice. The word homestead settled down into my heart and grew all warm and fuzzy there. That was exactly it for me too, I wanted a homestead way more than I wanted a farm. I wanted to live at a home, and not live at work. I wanted to be a homesteader, which to me personally, feels like a totally different thing than being a farmer. The definition of homesteading is “life as a settler on a homestead” and homestead is “a family’s house. adjoining land and outbuildings”. I love how nice and loose that is, how easy it is to tweak to our own interpretation. To me homesteading also means providing as many of your needs as you can yourself from your own land, from vegetables to meat to eggs to firewood to furs to income from your land to flowers to art supplies to keep you entertained to some serious life skills. It’s not just a business of selling farm grown foods, it’s a whole life system. It’s a whole lifestyle. To me it feels like it’s the entire ecosystem instead of just one piece of one.

The word homestead, it felt good. It felt right. It majorly helped me calm down about the whole thing. And, whew, it fit in. For us both, for our land. And we wouldn’t have to sell the 9.74 acres I love so much after all. A permaculture homestead. A permaculture homesteader. That’s what this land wants to be. That is who I want to be. It may sound like a silly little detail to other folks that I needed to make this distinction – but it was an important shift in thought for me. And I’m not scared to share that I made this shift in my mindset and in what I want my life to look like. That my dream from the beginning just simply evolved and got refined with time. I’m fine with just owning it. I think it is totally okay to grow and change. It might even happen again one day and I hope if it does, I’ll be even more fine with it then because of owning it right now.


Growing into a homesteader and owning a homestead, for me, is the system I’ve needed to design to try to get well. To lose the weight and keep it off. To detox my body off of some seriously bad eating/life/exercise habits and grow some better ones. To continue to try to manage my mental health. This homestead, it’s my gym, my grocer, and my therapist. It is one major thing that is getting me through as I continue to try to repair all the big and bad things that feel wrong with my body, as I continue to try to manage the physical pain I’m in a lot of the time. It helps me get through all the doctor’s appointments and tests I’ve had to endure this year. Seeing this land continue to heal is like magic to me. It is what keeps me tethered to the hope and faith that I will heal here too.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed that I’ve not been posting, sharing or blogging anywhere near as much this year as I had in the past – but I haven’t been. It’s because I majorly needed some “me” time. To figure out what I really wanted and who I really want to be. To write and take photographs for myself and no one else. To process through the biggest and most important five years of my adult life. To keep to myself and enjoy the amazing experiences I have here with myself, my wife and our close friends instead of sharing them with everyone. It was not the plan, it’s just how it shook out to be… that I just needed to take some time to deal with working on my body, some time to keep trying to figure out how to continue to heal. I’m so grateful that I took that time, that I made the space to do that….that I’m still doing it right now. It helped me realize something so simple, that I just wanted to come homestead. It helped me to let go of what was and is allowing me to embrace what is coming instead.

Anyway, I had been thinking about writing about this for the last month or so, mostly because I did want to share this thought. That change happens, that dreams grow and evolve into new dreams. And that sometimes, for me, the simplest change in a word or mindset, can make such huge shifts in how you feel or in where you are heading. I think it is a really good thing.

We didn’t know what the heck we were doing in the beginning, when we bought our land. We didn’t really know who we were or what we really wanted. I’m so glad that it only took us five years to figure it out. To sync up and find a path that works for us both. And that we cultivated the soil together to grow a homestead life. It just fits me, just like my very favorite pink work gloves do. I’ve come homestead, and I’m so grateful for it – there is nowhere else that I’d rather be.


Please bear with me while I make this mental shift to being a woman who homesteads, while I continue to figure out who I am! I need a new handle/nickname, I need to shift my words, I need to keep growing. I’m sure I’ll still say things about farming sometimes. I still write for women who farm. And, what we plan to do here on our homestead is still ultimately the same. Provide as much of our needs as we can for ourselves, try to inspire other folks who want to do the same, have women with big dreams of their own visit our homestead for a tour, retreat, or an immersion, sell our overflow produce and wild foods, and make art and crafts. Just hang tight while I start to shift my words and thoughts about y’all! 





Other people’s gardens

Crap. Look at their kale. It’s like, so much better than mine. Man, I wish my garden was that big. Jeez, I wish my garden was that small – I would have so much more time for other things. Wait, why are their tomatoes ripe already and mine aren’t?! Oh. my. god. Look at their stunning soil. You got how many pounds of garlic this season?!?! Holy crow their garden is prettier than mine. Sigh. Other people’s gardens…. they are so much better than mine.

Wait… WHAT?! What is this insane inner dialog about how other people grow? Why the heck am I comparing myself to them again?

Let me go back a bit, to the first five years we were farming – when I really did this. Like all the time. I’d sit on Facebook and look at other people’s gardens. And I’d get really upset about it. I’d sit around and compare what I had to what they posted. I’d beat myself up about how much better they were at gardening than I was. How pretty or cool their gardens looked, how much I wished I was raking in as much food as they were. I’d figure that they, their gardens, and their lives were just plain ol’ better than mine.

After the first year or so, this whole thing crept into my brain and built a tiny house there. As I started to compare myself and my situation to other people’s everything. Their houses. Their businesses. Their farms and homesteads. Their trucks. Their tools and tractors. How many eggs their chickens were laying. It all seemed so much better than my farm life. I’ll never understand why we do this whole comparison thing to ourselves. I mean, I guess I could blame instagram… but it’s really not the apps fault.

It was mine. This was a completely ridiculous way to be spending my precious time on this amazing planet. I wasted a lot of emotional energy on something that is just the devil. Comparison. Coveting what other people had…. instead of being grateful for the amazing homestead life, body, partner and piece of land I already have.


Over the last year, the two of us have been out here alone for the most part. It’s the first year since we bought our farm that no one else has lived here, we’ve not hosted any interns or wwoofers, or had a staff. There’s been nowhere, no one, and no distractions to hide behind. What there has been, is plenty of time to work on myself, my land, and continuing to strengthen my marriage.


Finally, I not only started to realize this habit I had was a really bad one for me – I busted through doing something about it. Demo on comparison’s tiny house in my brain started. I just worked towards building a big ol’ gratitude house instead.

It’s been an incredibly hard couple of years of growth and change. However, beginning to finally crush this bad habit of worrying about what other folk’s gardens look like is something that I’m starting to be incredibly proud of.


And my garden…? It is becoming something that I’m incredibly proud of too. It is where I lost 150 pounds. It is where I kept it off for over three years now. It is where I lost myself and found myself. It is where I got my heart broken and where I healed it too. It is where I grew a marriage strong enough to traverse starting a farm, a business, and remodeling a foreclosure all at the same time…  and still manage to be crazy in love with each other too. And I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s life or garden…. because I’m the one that grew it. And it makes me feel like a total badass. 

-the farmer

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for months, but it took having this concept come up in conversation with a handful of different women in the last week or two that finally got me to sit down and write it. It gave me the room to realize that a lot of other people do this too. And that maybe we should just… like… stop doing that! Our lives, are our lives. Our gardens, are our gardens. No one else has to understand it, agree with it, or like it. So long as we do.

I got loaned this amazing book last winter by our neat-O friends at Life Boundless Farm. Then I bought it and read it again. And again. Now, I’m over the moon to be listening to the audiobook on YouTube. I’ve never been super into self help kind of books, but this one totally changed my life and it is worth sharing. She talks a bit about this whole comparison thing and how it’s the devil. She cracks me the heck up over and over again. And this book is SO REAL and good. If you are in a position that perhaps you want to be a bit more badass than you currently think you are, I highly recommend it. Because it is so awesome. <3







Growing a homestead life

Almost seven years ago, when we left the city to start a homestead life, I had such big dreams. Ones that I thought at the time were nice and simple too. I’d been dreaming them for a long time at that point… Growing my own food, watching free range chickens frolicking around, milking my own goats, raising and processing my own meat. I saw myself harvesting huge baskets of veggies, eggs coming out of my ears, and this simple, dreamy, romantic as tarnation life growing out of stunning soil. I saw myself being a heck of a lot smaller than 300 pounds while I was doing it too. I saw my wife and I, who had been successful in our former careers totally crushing this lifestyle. It would be all candlelit dinners of things we farmed and foraged, smiles and laughing… while we never fought about things like free range fowl or where to plant nut trees. It seemed so simple, I’d just step out from behind a computer screen and a life where I made a pretty darn decent sized paycheck, tuck my complete lack of understanding of a farm life in my back pocket and BAM! A homestead life would grow. Easy peasy. This organic farming thing was going to be simple! I just knew it! I mean come on now, we had four college degrees between us after all.


Fast forward to now and to me… 150 pounds lighter, sitting on the semi-off grid 9.87 acre natural farming and permaculture homestead we own… finally being able to laugh, HARD, at myself for what has become the homestead truth of it all. That truth is, for us, that there is not much simple or easy about our real homestead life.  And in my humble opinion, anyone that tells you different – likely hasn’t been homesteading very long or has a situation that perhaps is a wee bit simpler–like a backyard homestead or a little raised bed garden, a house that has easy access to electricity, and a well paying outside job that pays the bills and the feed bills too.

So once again, it’s my homestead truth time. Homesteading the way we chose to do it is the hardest dang thing I have ever done in my life–making this transition and actually sticking it out, and detoxing 31 years of poor food and lifestyle choices out of my body. It’s been almost seven years since we first rented some land to try it and almost five since we bought our place. I had thought graduate school or my first few years of teaching college was hard long ago, but it now seems like a breezy vacation in comparison to the schooling I got on this homestead. Not to mention, that I’ve been doing this long enough now to know that there is no end in sight to the learning–It will likely take me until I’m 80 years old to truly tap into understanding the things I want to on this natural farm. It won’t be something I can get figured out in one season or one year… I’ll be a student of it forever and likely never consider myself be an expert. I’ll probably never get a degree handed to me for being a student of natural farming.

The stress of making this transition has almost sunk me at points. I’ve full on had crying ass meltdowns over homestead messes, chickens killing my kale or stepping in poop on my porches, having to go milk when I was sick or had nasty cramps, the fact that everything under the sun likes to eat ducks and chickens as much as I do, mexican bean beetles and squash borers, having to wash my dishes in a rubbermaid tote or my hair in a stock pot or most often–my total naivety of where I stood in the beginning and all the mistakes I made then that I’ve been paying for for years at this point. And I wasn’t alone in it either–there’s two of us….that have to talk about it all, and agree on it all too. We’ve been together eight years now–we have an unbelievable amount of love for each other and a really strong marriage. But that sure never kept us from having knockdown drag out holler fests over where the fruit and nut trees should get planted or if free range chickens were a good idea or not after I found one standing on my outdoor kitchen’s counter. (She pooped on it too, btw. TMI you say? Yeah, I thought so too while I was scrubbing it down!)

So, why is this normally positive as all tarnation permie farmer spouting all this negative juju to you this morning?


Because, even with all the tough bits that I thought would knock me flat on my face–I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the whole wide world. This homestead life fits me like a glove and I love it all the way down to my toes and back. It’s all I want and I’ve come to know at least one thing – I’ve not given up or given in yet, even with all the hard. And to me that means I still want this life more than I want ease or convenience, nice clothes, clean hair, or expensive things….having a homestead life that makes me healthy and happy is more important to me than any of that. Learning the skills I have here means the world to me. I can grow things, plant trees, and I finally feel like I have begun growing “the plant thing”. I can build soil like its going out of style. I know more wild plants than I ever thought I could just a few years ago, and I learn new ones and their uses all the time. I can butcher squirrels, rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and deer by myself and put every single piece to good use. I can look at most farm animals and tell if they are healthy or not. I can cook or preserve just about any food that lands in my kitchen. I can start fires with a bow drill and do my very best cooking best with wood. I’ve helped build simple timber framed cabins. I can stomp cob like a champ. I’ve slept in primitive structures we built in 20 degree weather and finally don’t think I’d freeze, starve or totally panic if I got lost in the WNC woods. And I’m so dang grateful and excited for the thought that I can’t even imagine the skills I’ll have in another 7 years, or all the years (that by the grace of God) will come after that.


This homestead, it’s what helps me take responsibility for making myself happy and continues to help me find my healthier self too. It provides over 80% of my practically paleo diet, it gives me exercise, sunshine and fresh air. It will be what helps me to keep the weight off that I shed a few years back and be as healthy as my doctors say I am now. It helps me stay sane while my partner and I navigate the 16804064_1446719112045668_875209610003180303_otough conversations and grow better communication skills. I fall in love harder every single day with myself, her, our land, and this process too. A real homestead life helps me find resolution, patience, and fortitude too. The chickens free range, and the poop doesn’t always make me have panic attacks. I’m just grateful for the nitrogen and keep several old brooms close.


So, there’s the real homestead truth. It’s a hard transition to make….it’s a hard working life to choose to live. It’s learning from mistakes and growing because of them. It’s having to want and love this life more than anything else you might want to do with your time. But man, let me tell you, if you do want it, if you do love it – I’ve found it to be the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done with my life. We always finally do agree, and the trees get planted. The gardens get bigger and prettier every year. We learn, we live, we laugh a lot, we love… we homestead. And we never stop growing or being grateful for it. 

-the farmer (who now has to go help plant five black walnut trees… after it taking two full days for us to agree on where to put them… ;-p ) 

{And of course, like all things on this blog – these are just my opinions I’m sharing here! None of this may ring true for other folks! I’m sure there are people that have homestead lives that are simple or that eased into this transition with no problems or panic. That’s just not how it went for me personally, and I’ve always tried to be super honest about that on here and when folks visit the farm!}

Farming + Foraging 80+% of our own food for a year (2017 food challenge update)

It’s been almost three months since I first blogged that we were going to food challenge ourselves in 2017 to farm and forage (or trade for diversity or so we can actually like have dinner with friends at their houses this year) for 80% of our own food. And some friends and family have been asking lately for an update on how it is going – and I sure do want to answer!


This food challenge is one thing ’round here that is going AWESOME so far. In fact, we’ve even stopped buying in several things on our list of eight allowed purchased foods. We had decided we could buy in eight things when we started this challenge, spices/salt, fat, beverages (coffee, tea, etc), sugar/honey, buckwheat, mushrooms, garlic, and eggs. We gave up buckwheat pretty quickly and never ended up buying any in. We also quit buying mushrooms and garlic in January. Our oyster, shiitake, and wine cap mushrooms started to come in early and our chives are doing so well already that we are just using those in lieu of garlic for now. We also both gave up refined sugar in early February, so short of buying in one 2 pound bag a month to start kombucha–we are off it. We just ran out of honey from the bees last year, so we’ll likely just be patient and wait until they make more  this summer before we get any. We’ve also not had to trade for anything in almost 6 weeks, as the season seems to be starting early and there’s been enough veggies, rabbit meat and wild food for the two of us coming in. (pics below: the first decent haul of spring turnips a few weeks back, slow cooked rabbit, and the exciting first lambsquarters sighting of the season!)

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Mika and I were nasty sick for most of late January and February with the crud that was going around town, but we both caved to getting some antibiotics as appropriate technology and are finally getting better. Then, of course, stress of playing catch up on the farm has wrecked havoc on us and our adrenals the last few weeks too. Bah humbug, but hey – such is homestead life. It happens, and like all things – it is how we handle it that counts. But, in the spirit of homestead truths – being sick did find us cheating a couple times. We bought in some miso paste when we were at our nasty sickest per our doctor’s advice to try that in our bone broth. And we also bought in two bunches of bananas and one lemon for sore throats. But hey, here’s hoping we won’t get the crud and have to do that again!

One thing that is not going awesome about this food challenge is remembering to plug in everything we ate into the spreadsheet each day! It’s a total drag trying to remember in the spring pace of farm life, especially since it has long since said we are up and over 80%. I can see it totally falling off our radar by summer, but we shall see. I so wonder if our lack of grocery store receipts would count as well as the spreadsheet?! 🙂 It might just have to! But for now at least… we are trying to keep up with it.


I’m finding myself grateful for lots of things lately–besides having spent the winter opening up a ton of new growing space and creating new terraces…. one of them is having had a bumper crop of bunnies born in the last couple months. No lie, there’s got to be fifty or sixty out there total – so many I can’t get an accurate count. I’m so over the moon about it, because they are fun to hang with, I am getting a couple of new does to keep out of this batch (one is pictured above), and because we are a few weeks away from running out of venison from the fall. So rabbit, other folks unwanted spring roosters showing up and going fishing will be our only meat sources until fall rolls around again.


We are still buying in eggs for now while we are resetting the forager’s flock – but man alive am I glad we will have new ladies laying right here by summer! We’ve got 13 new little golden comet, dominique, and ameraucana hens that Mika is raising up to go back on free range this summer at the farm. Taking last year off from raising chickens while we got new infrastructure growing for them to eat was so hard, we LOVE eggs! Especially after having been spoiled on eating our own for five years before it. Yet, we sure don’t want to have to pay to feed them – so it feels great to know that we have a new system for doing that and will have eggs again soon. This picture was from mid-february so they are starting to look like legit little hens now, it’s quite cute to see them outside pecking around during the day… anddddd not so cute that they are inside at night in their brooder still chirping me awake from time to time while we wait out it not being so cold at night! Although, that whole thing is about to end–they’ll say bye bye to the wood stove and move outside for good.


Can we do it? Keep this up for a whole year? Farm and forage enough food with just us two doing the work (as we won’t have a staff, work traders, or interns this year)? The Forager’s dog Scout sure seems to think so, and we do too.

So, I’ll close with this, one of my very favorite pieces of art hanging in our house – from the amazing woman behind Starfangled Press in Brevard. I look at it every single day and love it so much. It’s so true, and so good to me!


-the farmer


I’ve tried to be super clear over the years that I’m no expert in this life, but that I do love to share what I’ve learned about it and what the homestead truth is of what this transition from city life to farm life has really been like. So, I do want you to know that we are open for our fourth season and booking now for custom workshops, farm tours, land or online consultations, and immersions. If you want to come check out how we are providing so much of our own diet ourselves on marginal land – You can read about options on our website or shoot me an email. We mostly focus on talking to new homesteaders, farm dreamers, or folks wanting to make big changes in their lifestyle – but we can also recommend what local experts we’ve liked taking classes with too.

And of course, we can only keep our costs low and offer scholarships because we take donations – so if you feel inspired by our farm or our story, please consider making a donation to our non-profit arm.

You can either send checks or money orders made out to “Redbud Institute” with a memo line that says “for Eight Owls Farmstead” and mail them to PO box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712. OR you can pay via PayPal by sending your donation to this email address “redbudinstitute.nonprofit@gmail.com”, again please put a memo note on the donation that it is for Eight Owls Farmstead.

Redbud Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so you will get a receipt to show you donated to one. 100% of your donation will go straight to fund operating expenses, equipment and education at Eight Owls Farmstead. Please make sure to include your mailing address if it is not on your check and email address, so we can send you a receipt and our eternal thanks!