The Farmer on Black Friday

Ah, Black Friday. In my old life, I used to LOVE you. I’d line up and get so excited about all that you offered and all that I would save by hanging with you today. Why I wasn’t focusing on how much I’d end up spending on you or the holes you burned in my debit card, I have no idea. Why it didn’t occur to me that what I was doing, trading my precious hours of life for dollars at a job I hated, just to be so easily parted from them by things like video games and big TVs I have no idea. That stuff just encouraged me to sit inside and get heavier… they sure didn’t make me happier. They made me a lot sadder in fact…. but yet, they somehow did manage to distract me from that for a bit with their flashy lights and sleek looks.

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When I got married for the first time in 2008, man – talk about stuff rolling in! Dinnerware, silver, house decorations… stuff was landing in our newly purchased house from every whichaway. But what was I (and my very bestest and oldest friend in the whole wide world) SO dang excited about here in this picture above? What made these two girls grin so darn big in the face of all this other stuff? The fact that my stepdad had actually managed to find not just a magnet replica of the ticket of my first Phish show in summer of 1997, but also the t-shirt and DVD of the show that had all just gotten released from the vault. That show changed the whole course of my young adult life–it helped me find a way to travel a little on the cheap in the summers, meet amazing artists and musicians, and start to see the potential a young artist might have in promoting small bands with her computer graphics. That marriage didn’t last long, and being long since divorced–I no longer remember the dinner plates we were given… but I still have this ticket and DVD to remind me of an amazing experience I had when I was 18. It means the world to me. The shirt, of course, is way too big these days–but it is safely tucked in my bag of sewing gear… along with the skill of how to sew, which I learned on Phish tour too.

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During the holidays in my old life, I imagine now that I would open every gift box hoping it would be something that would make me happy, because I was so sad inside. Would it be a flashy new thing that would keep me from feeling that so deeply? Or would it be something practical, like socks or clothes, that would just make me sigh and move on to the next box?  I just found this picture yesterday… from Christmas of 2010 at my mom’s house. Now, let me tell you, that lady is the queen of giving me practical stuff. I can almost promise that this box was full of socks and thermal underwear. Because the daughter she cared about had just moved to a chilly mountain and rented a farm that she would need to keep her butt and toes warm on. Back then I didn’t understand it and I’m so sorry I ever felt this way mom, but it was a little disappointing when I just thought wanted something shiny. Of course, that said WAY more about me than it did about you and your awesome gift giving… but those socks and thermals did keep that butt and those toes warm to. On the many walks and adventures that helped her become the farmer. And these days, I LOVE getting new socks and thermals!!! I keep shrinking… and my farm life total shreds my clothes. Plus, they are gifts that encourage me to get outside… and not sit behind a screen or blowing things up via a hand controller. So thanks SO MUCH mom, for the adorable socks and toasty thermals (I’m wearing the electric blue ones you gave me year before last right now as I write this!). They are just PERFECT… and always were, I just had to change how I looked at them–that’s all!

We humans, we are so creatures of habit. And man, is that hard to break!! Which is why yesterday when the forager told me we were going to need more external hard drive space to store some of the things we have been up to here lately–I jumped straight online and started telling her about prices and options. She just turned and looked at me a little funny, like I’d missed something, and said, “Uh, well if you would be willing to help me clean off and organize the three we already have–we could save that hundred bucks.” Man, that lady just has some seriously slow and simple solutions sometimes. Which means that not only do I have a new empty external hard drive this morning, that didn’t have to travel to get here–I found a bunch of old pictures of me to sort and share with you too. And my heart almost stopped when I found another old picture that I had thought I had long ago lost. One of the very funny and amazing woman who would likely be my oldest and bestest friend today, if she hadn’t died tragically when I was 21. It shattered my heart into a million pieces. She taught me SO much about how to accept myself and how to begin to find my inner fabulousness by showing me hers. It took me years to get back there, to find my own fabulousness–but I sure do think she would like who I’ve become now. I think she smiles down on me as I think about her almost every day. I can hear her saying, “Gurrrrrrrrrlllll” or “FABULOUS!!!!” when something crazy or awesome happens around here.  And finding this old picture to add to my collection of others I have of her–meant way more to me than a new shiny hard drive would have. And I so have my smart wife to thank for that.

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Shortly after that yesterday, I realized we really need to flesh out this gym in the garden thing. I’m finding I love running on contour. I really love working out near the plants. So, I asked if we could keep adding to it and have a full on outdoor gym for season. And the forager seemed to think it was a good idea too. So we sat with our neighbor and talked about all the cool things we could add in–balance beams, rock piles to climb, jungle gyms, swings, ropes, pull up and sit up bars, places to parkour. We talked about how smart it would be to get a punching bag–since, you know, sometimes we work with ladies that are a little mad about some injustice in the world or abuse they are working to overcome. So… what did this farmer do? Even though she had just learned a hard drive lesson? Being a creature of habit… I hopped back online to see where I could buy one. Well, at least I went to Craigslist first this time to see if there was a second hand one anywhere close. Hey, that’s progress! It’s steps! And hoooo knew it, but there was one in Brevard listed that looked to have been collecting dust for quite awhile–so I emailed the fellow to see if he still had it, since the listing was old. He did! For once, I actually gussied up and figured… hey, it couldn’t hurt to ask if he would consider donating it to a scrappy donation based educational farm! Eh, he wasn’t so interested in doing much more than taking ten bucks off. Which is totally fine, I completely get the need to get compensated for something you spent good money on!! Folks can’t always afford to give something away, even if you offer to promote their business in exchange for it, and I know that so well too. But since I’d realized via research by then that I could have gotten a brand new one for that same price he was offering on amazon and filled it with my own sand from our pile, I figured I should probably pass. My smart forager picked that moment to speak up again, “Remember when I told you last year that street gyms use old tires for punching bags? I’d much rather have one of those. And I already have the bolts to make one. And I’m sure we can get a couple more old tires to add to the three we have and don’t know what to do with.” Whoa. That means its free! I won’t have to build a roof over it like I would have had to for a leather punching bag! AND it keeps them tires out of the landfill!! … how cool is that?! Man, that is going to go GREAT with my fancy new trampoline!!! Multiple function indeed…

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Plus, it looks pretty bad ass! I think the ladies are going to love this one!

In permaculture class this spring, we got told to watch The Story of Stuff as homework at some point. And it leveled me a bit. I’d already seen this other one, about food marketing. I was so proud someone stood up and said what that awesome lady did. It was about time for one of us marketing folk to pull back the curtain on what we are paid to do. It took guts that this graphic designer didn’t used to have. I mean, having a former career in not just marketing and advertising stuff to people that don’t need it and can’t afford it–but also in teaching young folks in college how to do that too….I knew this all of this already. Yet, it sure does make me gulp to see it streamlined into a video. Yet, I used to still participate in it. Even though I had a ton of janky feelings about the whole shopping and consumerist system already. It was why I gave up graphic design for a good while and tried to pretend I hated it. It’s why I jumped ship on that career and started an organic farm. But really, its not graphic design’s fault. It’s not the stuff’s fault either. It’s what I was doing with it. It was how I was looking at it. It was how I wasn’t thinking about it. You can do good things with graphic design. You can do good things when you shop local or support certain things with your wallet as well. Cuz, don’t get me wrong, I have to buy stuff too. Things break and not everything can fixed or replaced in an up-cycled sort of way. I’m just making a commitment to slow down and try to find the right way for myself to find the stuff I need. To get more creative before I part with cash. Because now, just in the last 24 hours–I’ve seen that doing just that can save me some serious money if I do (I would have spent almost 160 bucks yesterday on that punching bag and external HD alone!). But it can also find me having an experience or warm fuzzy emotions over finding old things I thought I’d lost… like pictures of a really good ghost of my past… or me remembering the Story of the Ghost.  It can find me seeing the potential in old things that can become new ones…. like tire punching bags.  I just had to start looking at things in a very different way, and I’m wondering if today, some other folks can be inspired to do the same.

In the past, I wasn’t thinking about what was important. I wasn’t finding the right way to warm, fuzzy feelings. For me, these days, I find those come from being of service, from spending time with the people in my community, from making someone a gift or giving them my time, from having amazing experiences, from being outside, from finding myself enjoying some self care. Video games or getting a bigger TV on Black Friday simply never did that for me. And I’m not saying that it won’t help you or that you don’t need to go–I’m just asking you to think about it. To think about how buying stuff makes you feel and what you are really seeking out there today. Are you shopping today to forget about how you feel about how much you ate yesterday? Are you spending money on stuff to make yourself happy? Are you purchasing gifts for people that might rather just spend some time with you? Regardless of if you decide to go or not, please try to restrain yourself from punching someone or knocking down an old person for the newest and greatest plush toy for your kid. In my opinion, that teaches your youngins’ the wrong things y’all. An amazing human I know sent me an email this morning, mentioned Black Friday and that he wasn’t doing a single thing but tucking in and avoiding it, because he’d rather smash his thumb with a hammer than go. Agreed my friend, I feel the exact same. And I got one of them hammers at home already too if I get tempted.

Yet, I do find there are great things going on that you could show some support for, just by showing up or maybe even spending a little money! Did you know, this farmer also frames fine art? For an AMAZING artist she knows? Well, it’s true! I do get all cleaned up and make or frame art sometimes! And if you have any kind of desire to see the farmer in a dress… you should come out to the opening of that amazing lady’s solo show at Starfangled Press tonight during gallery walk! It’s located at 36 W Jordan St and is going on from 5–9. However, if you want to see the whole farmer in a dress thing, I recommend getting there in the first hour, because I have many a farmy thing to do first thing tomorrow morning! (Interested in who made this fancy flyer for Nancy’s art show? Hey now, that was me too! If you are interested in getting this farmer to do some freelance for your farm, food, art or music based business…. email me at rain@eightowlsfarmstead.com. I have way more time for that sort of thing in winter! And, I try to keep my rates nice and low these days and will also take organic food trades from farms!) 

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And of course, there are loads of AWESOME local small businesses to shop at or non-profits to be donated to, Standing Rock to be supported, firefighters in our area that need food delivered, and soup kitchens that could always use more ingredients for their stock pot. So, today, I’m asking in the spirit of being thankful and in the season of giving… that you consider doing this farmer a favor. That you try to be thankful for what you already have and for the planet your feet stand on–and that you try to find the right ways show it that fit in for you. That you try to get creative in your giving this holiday season… and never underestimate the gift of your support, your time, and your hand crafted gear or written words to the folks you love. Hoooo knows, it might make them feel way more warm and fuzzy inside than a shiny new gadget would! What a gift that would be for this farmer, even if you never have or never will donate to eight owls at all–it would mean the world to me if you just did that!

-the farmer

Going to homestead school

Can you imagine if, as a child, you got your little lunchbox packed up with organic foods and walked outside into your parent’s yard? Or left for a place like Mountain Sun Community School that focuses so much on educating students on the environment or their mental well being as well as math and science? I CAN.

I can, because I see my homestead tribe and the way they spend time with their children in the fall. I see adorable pictures on their instagram of their youngins’ digging up dahlias for transplanting next spring or gathering kindling for their wood stoves. I see it when friend’s youngins’ visit here and are over the moon excited to help me butcher an old retired hen for the first time. Because they want to eat meat, but because they also want to save every single feather and the skull to make something out of when they get back home. I see how excited they get when I tell them even the parts of the meat we don’t want to eat, their new cat likely would love to. I see it on the faces of the well rounded middle school students I spend time with from Mountain Sun, shortly after they got back from a cold weather camping trip led by the school. Just this week, when one of those Mountain Sun middle school girls told me (after I was warning not to be afraid to get your hands in there to mix the soil for micro greens because that manure I mentioned was in there is well composted.), “Oh don’t worry, I’m not afraid of dirt.” and just plunged her hands right on in there. It plain ol’ makes me feel like we are ALL winning at life. It shows me the tide is turning. That these young folks are totally ready to be taking on changing the world. And they ain’t afraid to get their hands dirty while they are doing it.

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Can you imagine if women like me hadn’t had to learn homesteading from YouTube and books alone? If they could get their hands in there and have someone supporting them while they learn some skills? I CAN.

I can, because I saw it this week when a woman we are friends with came out here to learn to process a rabbit for the first time. She learned to process it and how she could handle the hide to make a blanket from the forager, how to preserve it and how to cook it from this farmer. She took not only those skills home to her family of five to share, but the rabbit meat itself to try her hand at making that stew we discussed. I saw it when that same woman was here the week before learning how to make friction fire. It makes this farmer feel so good that that lady is one step closer to keeping that family of five fed and warm, under just about any circumstances. It humbles me that those skills we just spent time sharing, will get shared again–at least to four other folks in her tribe. Talk about a ripple effect from a rain drop.

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Can you imagine if 8 weeks after we bought this piece of land, we’d gotten to visit another that was four years in and had a lot of experience and examples to share? Experiments that shook out and ones that didn’t? So we could hear how they processed their emotions, how they can finally laugh at their mistakes and aren’t afraid to share them now? I CAN.

I can because I spent yesterday morning walking around this farm doing what I now feel like was the most organically grown lecture I’ve ever done in my 11 year career as an educator with two amazing new homesteaders. It was the first one ever that I went into with absolutely no plan and just felt my way through. Those two are just now 8 weeks into their own land. One of those fine folks is a female veteran who has not been back stateside all that long in the grand scheme of things. Sharing information with those two in particular means the absolute world to this veteran’s daughter–and I don’t know if they even know that. I don’t even know if they know how much it heals my heart to talk to them about how to homestead better than we did.  How much it made every single mistake I made SO worth it. Well, I guess they do know, because they also told me they read every one of my blog posts. I simply love spending time with you two ladies, I’m so glad you walked up and into my world at farmers market this summer. I’m so glad you found your homestead (complete with rain barrels already, wahoo!!), and I can see already just how much better you are doing than we did. It makes my heart so dang glad, it could just bust.

As we sat out there yesterday, talking about swales, ponds and orchard trees–the forest and wind gave us a pretty stunning show. It was hard to capture in a picture, but the leaves seemed to be trying to blanket the sky. It felt like the winds of great change. It felt like nature herself wrapping us all in a hug of wind and leaves and saying thank you for trying to find a better way through the world that you were previously taught…because I need you to.  I stopped mid sentence and just looked up and said something like, my God that’s stunning. I’m so glad that one of them tried to capture that moment by taking this picture. For once, I completely forgot to take any pictures of their visit here. For once, I was just too darn plugged in to hanging with them to even remember to pick up the iPad. Winds of change indeed.

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So… can you picture it now? Going to homestead school? What it would mean to be able to if homesteading was important to you? It means every single thing in the world to me. I can feel my eyes welling up right now, my heart swelling and beating harder just thinking about if this kind of education had been easier to find, affordable and attainable to someone like I was when we started. It would have made such a huge difference. But, it wasn’t there for me or the forager… we didn’t know how to find it six years ago. We wouldn’t have been able to afford it, hadn’t built the confidence yet to attend it–even if we had been able to find it. Which is why each one of these experiences I’ve written about here, that all happened just this week on this homestead–were at no financial cost to any of these folks I’ve mentioned. It’s why this blog doesn’t have ads to distract you from my words, because I talk enough already to fill this space completely. I write because I think it might be able to inspire folks, not to get paid. How can I charge people money that already have so much motivation to change our world? I don’t even write because I know people read it, I purposefully have no tracker or stats on this thing… so I have no idea how many folks read what I write. I just write, because I love it. Because it makes me feel good. And so that means, I’d do that even if no one read it at all.

It is way more important to me to have a planet to live on that is habitable for human beings than it is to pull a paycheck from these amazing people I meet that are willing to do the work to heal land and grow organically. So… I work off the farm one day a week for an artist friend of mine in an attempt to pay for it myself. It’s the best I can do, to help and be of service to my community and mother nature–so that’s what I do. I’m fully aware that I have not always done it in the best ways. There have certainly been a ton of things in the past I’ve rushed into, people in the beginning that did not get the best version of the farmer. But, I grew perseverance right here on this farm too… and so, I will never stop trying. I will never stop growing, adapting and getting better.

Yet, I saw some other things this week too. Those students from Mountain Sun have to take shifts with the two shovels we own. Those new homesteaders have to use the one rake I have left that doesn’t have a broken handle while we are working in the rabbit colony. The steep road you have to traverse just to get here and learn always seems to need gravel I can’t swing purchasing, so we just keep climbing off road and pulling what washes off up the best we can. The two of us almost never have pulled a paycheck from the 50 or 60 hours a week we put in on this farm–it would be nice to know what that feels like one day. It would be so nice to see the forager not have to push herself to total exhaustion trying find a way to squeeze all 60 of them farm hours into the one day that she is not working off the farm–when a certain week finds us  needing a little extra cash–like she did yesterday. The farm’s truck has recently broken down and now, after a run in with a tree that was bigger than it–it also needs a new door. (enter the reason that lady is working extra time away right now, she loves that dang truck so much!) The two axes we have taught so many women to split wood with, have both finally succumbed to those beginner’s mistakes… so we no longer have one that still possesses its handle.  And that means I’ll have to pick up extra work off the farm in the coming week to get the sixty bucks I need to replace them with the even better axes I know we need–before this upcoming weekend, when we have another set of women coming out here to hang with us. The Forager will be continuing to pick up more off farm work for the truck’s repair and new door–as we just simply can’t go without that truck anymore like we did in the beginning of being here. And it finally occurred to me yesterday afternoon, that it might just not have to be that way. That perhaps, I could just ask. I could just tell folks that read my blog, that love what we do here…. hey, we take donations here on this homestead from folks that feel inspired to do so. And if you do, I’ll have even more time to share cute bunny pics and stories with you. Getting told we should start accepting donations in early 2015 is what has kept our heads above water since–because I also have this tendency to keep donating any extra vegetables or meat we have to folks that need those too…. which is one big reason why I so rarely had much at farmers market this summer. It’s why I finally just gave up my spot there to not take it from someone else.

So, I didn’t do a crowd funding campaign in 2016, even though I kept getting told to. I didn’t do it earlier and I’m not going to do a full on crowd fund campaign in 2016 because I just see so many more people in the world that are in need that I plain ol feel guilty asking. Yet, this week and its experiences shifted my perspective. We are providing a service here, one that we hope is of inspiration. One that I keep hearing lately, makes lot of folks feel hope or just plain ol feel good. One of us stands out there and shovels or shapes growing spaces. One of us stands out there and speaks about how to grow (and shrink!) in that space. I find it so important, the work we are trying to do. And, if the work we do inspires you – I do want you to know that we do. Take donations.

Checks can be sent (PO Box 1791 Brevard, NC 28712). Big ones, small ones–every single one of them makes a difference and puts seed or soil in someone’s hands in the form of an organically grown experience. Lump sums or commitments to monthly donations in 2017 are currently being totally welcomed around here. But hey, you already heard me say what we need – donations sure don’t have to be just in the form of cash. We need things too… shovels, rakes, hoes, axes, hammers and other tools. Books for our loaning library. Seeds. Cardboard, straw, leaves, your kitchen compost and any other organic matter. Building supplies, nails, and screws. Old windows for cold frames. And we just love second hand stuff that is in good working order too. And even if you don’t have any of that stuff to share…. I also take donated time. I love working with groups, my wife more likes working on her own with her headphones on, but I love having folks out and I’ll always take volunteers that want to get their hands dirty while I’m telling homesteading stories. For those that don’t have interest in or ability to do any of those things… you can share our pages on Facebook and Instagram (@8owlsfarmstead). You can share and comment on this blog. Your support and kind words is what keeps me going, keeps me sharing stories when you ask great questions, keeps me posting cute pictures.  And any one of those things I’ve listed above would be a huge help and make a huge difference with what we are able to do on this homestead. {And, that crowd funding campaign I mentioned earlier–I’ll go ahead and warn you, that you can be darn sure there will be one in 2017. Because I want to share with you all even more, and even better than before. And we’ve spent the last six months out here on our own figuring out exactly how we can do just that. How we can slowly and organically get there. How we can answer all your awesome questions. How we can make it much easier for more folks to learn from the eight owls experiment. And what we have planned… is going to take some funding for more than just shovels.}

So, homestead school. Ain’t it fine? It sure is for this farmer–it’s where I learned who I am and what I’m made of. It’s what has me weighing in at 154 pounds this morning and not 300. Homestead life, it’s what helped me change my whole lifestyle. It’s what made it enjoyable and easy to keep my pants size one I was proud of. And that sure is what had to happen for this lady to lose that weight and keep it off alike.

That’s all. I’ll sign off now, and just ask for you to let me leave you with this song. I listen to it every time I get in my head too much about money. Every time that finances find this farmer all frazzled like. Every time I kick myself for giving up a lucrative career behind a computer in a classroom for being a donation based homesteading and healthy living outdoor educator. It always helps me remember why I do what I do. How much better I feel now than I did when I had a bigger bank account balance. Because now I have something that I so didn’t before…. a simple life that makes me so darn happy and healthy alike! It’s catchy and I hope you like listening to it! I just love it….

Small changes change our world. Striving to inspire the change we want to see.” -Eight Owls Farmstead 

-the farmer

The legend of the Eight Owls

Holy crow, do I get asked this a lot…. “So, what made you name the farm eight owls?” In fact, I just got asked this yesterday by one of the neat-O students from Mountain Sun. I had been so focused on our permaculture lesson that it caught me totally off guard. So I stumbled through my answer and relayed some of what you will read below–and then after he had left, the forager turned to me and said, “You know, I guess it is time to write it down. The Legend of the Eight Owls. We’ve been meaning to for awhile, so maybe its finally time. to tell folks how the name seemed to come to us from some other place. maybe its time to say how much we’ve learned since then about the symbolism behind it and how glad we are that we named the farm what we did.” Talk about connected wisdom, that lady always sure does seem to have it.

So, seriously, this is going to sound hokey as all get out–but when the name “eight owls” came to us four and a half years ago… we didn’t even know where it came from. I don’t remember what inspired it, who thought of it, and we didn’t have a flipping clue what it meant at the time. We’d done none of this research below and had no idea what the symbolism of eights or owls meant. We just knew we really, really liked eights and owls.

Back when we were on the rental farm, and the closing of this 9.87 acres was just around the corner… the forager saw this GIANT owl outside one night. It flew down right across her path and landed on the bridge that was part of our driveway at the time and just…. looked at her square in the face. Before silently flying off, back into the forest. She came running back in to tell me about it after it flew away. Just like that owl did….the name just flew, silently, into the tiny house, landed in our hearts and looked us square in the face. we knew it was simply perfect, even if we didn’t know why yet. So just like everything else we’ve done since we went homesteading–we just picked it up, ran off, and took the name with us. Now, after the most epic four year journey either of us has ever had in life–it makes even more sense than it did then.

So here it is, what eight owls means to me today. The following is a cliff notes version of research I’ve done over the years on what the symbolism behind eights and owls means and I think you will see below why this name always was and always will be just perfect for the two of us and this land. We are both owls that live on eight owls farm. Eight owls is us and we are it.

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To me, the number eight means connectedness, its ability is infinite. It literally is an infinity symbol turned on its head. Its curves and swoops never cease to connect back to itself. It means love–love of self and being connected to nature, connected to all things.

Typically, owls represent death–yet, there is so much more to it than just that. Owls live within the darkness, which includes magic, mystery, and ancient knowledge. Related to the night is the moon, which owls are also connected to. Owls become a symbol of the feminine and fertility, with the moon’s cycles of renewal. Even the mythology relates owl to this wisdom and femininity. According to myth, an owl sat on Athena’s blind side, so that she could see the whole truth. The Pawnee and the Sioux saw the owl as a messenger to the first of all evil creatures. Owls move silently through the landscape, disturbing nothing. To fly like an owl means you are soundless, without impact, and searching for what should live and what should die. What works and what does not. What should change. And you barely even disturb the wind with your wings as you seek out the ways to create that change. Having the owl as your spirit animal is emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge. If you have the owl as totem or power animal, you’re likely to have the ability to see what’s usually hidden to most. When the spirit of this animal guides you, you can see the true reality, beyond illusion and deceit. The owl also offers for those who have it a personal totem the inspiration and guidance necessary to deeply explore the unknown and the magic of life. Owls have deep rooted intuition and the ability to see what others do not see. The presence of an owl announces big change. Owls have the capacity to see beyond deceit and masks. Owls mean wisdom. The traditional meaning of the owl spirit animal is the announcer of death, most likely symbolic–like a life transition, a big change. Owls can help you see what’s kept hidden. They also symbolize the ability to cut through illusions and see the real meaning of someone’s action or state of mind. The owl is a strong spirit guide for discernment and making decision based solid foundations. Call on the owl totem when you have to assess a situation or are going through confusing times.

The owl is the animal symbol for people born between November 23 and December 21. November 24 2010 was when the farmer and the forager stepped away from the city and what wasn’t working for them both. It was the day they flew to the rental farm… and were truly born.

So, in a nutshell – Eight Owls, to me, means connected wisdom. It means being low or no impact to my environment. It means being high impact to my tribe and what needs to change in our world. It means embracing our magic and femininity. It means getting connected to our power by cutting through the illusions that used to dominate both our worlds. It is being able to slow down and access the situation correctly during turbulent times. It is seeing the real meanings behind people, places and things.

The last four years and two and a half months that we have been on our own land, building our own nest–have been the biggest change either of us has ever witnessed in our 36 and 37 year old lives. And I simply cannot wait to see where it goes from here on out. I learned who I was here, how to fly here, how I want to exist in the world here–and I know it will only get better as I continue to get stronger, more confident and happy with myself. I’m so dang grateful for eight owls flying into that tiny rented farm four and a half years ago and whispering in our ears what to name our land. what to name ourselves. Big change indeed, it truly changed everything. It helped the two of us find out who we really are.  Older, Wiser, Ladies than we once were. Quite connected owls.

-the farmer (and of course, I should just note this is only my version of the legend – it’s only what eight owls means to me + my story telling interpretation of what happened. perhaps one day the forager will write her own as well!)

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Yup, there is that big change I mentioned! It’s what got us from here (above) to there (below). It was what happened as these two owls learned to fly.

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and I’m just SO darn glad we did! (If you really want to geek out on owls, there is an awesome documentary on owls called Owl Power – which we, of course, highly recommend!)

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A few years ago, the forager found this (below) tucked in an old stack of collage materials she had been collecting over the years. It seemed so perfect, so important. So I took a picture, printed it out and it hangs on the back of our front door. It’s what I feel when I think about all of this, that we are on a journey that might just become a legend. A legend of the eight owls.

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The ethical meat eater

The Forager and I have been watching in horror all week as an episode of When Vegans Attack is playing out in Meredith Leigh and Wild Abundance‘s world. At first I thought it would fizzle out, as these folks are doing such wonderful and important work in education. Yet then, just like the wild fires in our area–it grew.

(Not sure what I’m talking about because you’ve not been following this as closely as we have? You can read an article in the citizen times here. )

Now, I know this historically has bit me in the butt from a marketing standpoint, because we almost always have lost followers anytime I discuss meat eating or butchery. But, I’m coming out of the closet. Guess what… I’m a meat eater. And after 6 years of homesteading, I’ve gone through a lot of phases about how I feel about that–as I’ve learned what it means to raise an animal from birth, what it means to butcher it, what animal agriculture means for the environment. I still drag my feet to do it and cry every time I have to butcher my rabbits. I still have a hard time not smiling a little when I butcher a rooster that has spurred me or a turkey tom that’s jumped on my or my staff’s back and tried to make one of us bear his children (yes, this can actually happen. ask our poor 2015 interns). It’s been a long road, but losing followers or not, I want to talk about where I stand now.

And this is it, in all it’s hard to swallow glory…. I’d feel better about slitting a sheep’s* throat than picking it up packed in styrofoam in the grocery store and somehow deny that it had never had to die for me to eat it….like I used to. (*that had been locally raised on no spray grass, no grain and rainwater catchment) After now becoming fully aware of just how much animal agriculture, and trucking meat all over the world can have on the environment, I darn sure want to be eating meat that never saw anything but life in my county.

Look, we all have the right to eat just how we want to. Which is why I don’t run at you folks holding Snickers bars or Starbucks screaming and hollering that it is poison and slap it out your hand. It’s why I don’t get fussy with vegans about how much I’ve read about the fact that they actually do more damage to the environment than an ethical, local meat eater by shipping soy products all over the world so that they won’t have to eat meat that was raised in their area. It’s why I don’t hop around mad as tarnation stomping my foot and tell everyone that bread makes you fat and you should go gluten free. It’s because I can only do what’s right for me. It’s always, and always will be, my choice on what to put in my mouth. And all I can control is how it gets there.

I can control how that animal lived on this farm. I can eat wild things. I can make sure it meets a quick end, as nothing is painless about death–but it can be fast, and now after butchering 25 or so goats, a 1,000 or so chickens/rabbits/turkeys/guineas/wild small game, and 10 or so deer for ourselves and friends over the last 6 years…. we both have some serious butchery skills we used to lack in our old life. We can thank that animal for letting us eat from right here in our county and we hope it is to some degree grateful we did that instead of damaging the environment it lived in trucking in tofu. We can make absolutely sure to use every single piece of that meat and also use the seemingly unusable bits of that animal to make tools, crafts, and leather. We can show it respect. We can not take any more life than we need to survive. Because here’s the deal, we aspire to not buy anything but spices in from the grocery store one day soon. We only want to eat from right here in this county. My body can’t tolerate eating gluten or any grain but corn and rice (and only tiny bits at that). and that means that I can’t live, can’t get all the protein/nutrients I need from our current growing space and soil, without eating meat. And who knows, maybe the ethical thing to do would be to starve to death to let that sweet little sheep live–but that is not my opinion. Mine is that I gotta do what feels right to me. I gotta put healthy, well raised, and ethically butchered meat in my mouth, in small amounts and coupled with a ton of vegetables–so I can talk to other folks about making the big changes I did… so they can find their own path to doing the same. Whatever that means for them…. be it vegan, vegetarian or omnivore.

Now, here’s the real rub and why this whole situation just plain ol’ ticks me off. The Forager and I had to teach ourselves to butcher a chicken from YouTube when we did it for the first time. Which of course, in a pinch, will do if it has to. But let me tell you, and I’m going to get very real here, that chicken did NOT meet the quick, ethical end it should have. It was the first thing I’d ever killed besides a fish, and I felt horrid about how I’d done it. Talk about crying, I was a total wreck and I vowed to not do that again until someone could show me how. Fortunately, a few months later we met a female butcher, and she came out to the farm to show us what gear we needed and how to get this thing done with a chicken and a goat both. But, jeez, what if I could have taken an ethical butchery class from Wild Abundance or Meredith Leigh?  (We also have two other awesome friends who host rabbit butchery and chicken butchery classes on their farms in this county… but with death threats being doled out, I’m unsure if they would want me to list and link them here. However, our transylvania county agriculture extension agent sure does seem to have a lot of great information. Ahem. Cough, cough.) These programs are available in our area now, so why in the world would anyone want to shut any of them down? Do they want more people to have to learn the hard and wrong way? Or do they want it done ethically, well, and quick? Because you’ll surely shut down the latter and find more people butchering butchery if you disrupt these classes y’all. 

Look, we all gotta eat. Some of us gotta eat meat. Some of us have a surplus of stellar soil to grow their veggies and don’t have to eat meat. And if you have noticed one theme on my blog posts in the last week or so–it’s that the time to come together and not apart is RIGHT NOW. The world’s gone mad. A lot of folks are sad. In our area, the world is literally burning due to wild fires. Do we really need to add more confusion and chaos by pouring on more fuel over the food we choose to eat? And seriously, if I can say that, I hope anyone can. Because I have some majorly strong opinions about what the folks I care about put in their bellies, and yet…… I’m (mostly) able to keep them to my flipping self. 

Here’s the bottomline for me, we gotta start to THINK, about what we eat. Where it came from and how it makes our bodies feel. What the earth and her environment had to pay for our dinner. Was it crammed in a feed lot or chemical sprayed mono cropped row? or was it free range or from a clean forest or field? Is it locally grown and raised or did it travel too far to get here? The time for these questions is so RIGHT NOW.

“The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world.” – Michael Pollan

-the farmer


SO, what can you do? If you want to support ethical meat? If you want these sorts of classes to continue like I do? You can sign this petition created by Wild Abundance. You can share, like and comment on this petition post on their Facebook page (it’s not pinned to the top, so just scroll down a bit). You can reach out to the media outlets. You can come to their counter protest. (here’s info from their newsletter: “We expect to have a bunch of protesters show up at Wild Abundance on Saturday November 19, planning on harassing our class!  We need support! We will have some signs ready, but feel free to bring your own. Just please keep them respectful.  Our signs might say things like “Open-Minded Vegetarian for Ethical Meat” or “Moms for Wild Abundance”, etc… If you are interested in coming to support Wild Abundance, please email us for details. We would like to have a list of people we know we can count on.”) You can do what I’m trying to do to show my support since I can’t be there Saturday – blog about it, write about it, post about it, share with your friends about it.

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This is a photograph I took of Natalie at last year’s cycles of life class. I was there because I was working there at the time, not because I needed to take the class–we’d taught a ton of our own butchery classes by then. I was there to try to promote, to try to help, because we haven’t taught a butchery class in awhile and don’t really want to again. we get too darn emotional with folks about it all and it takes a lot out of us. I’m so darn grateful for the fine folks that do, so that I don’t have to, that I’ll literally do anything to help them out!!

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Just because we don’t teach classes in butchery anymore, doesn’t mean the tribe doesn’t need to know! Here is a picture of the forager overcoming the emotional struggle this fall to show our neighbor from Crow Ridge Homestead how to break down a deer. This ONE will feed us stew and bone broth for the whole winter, if it is used right.

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Its hide will get turned into beautiful buckskin to keep us warm. (There’s one of them classes at Wild Abundance too y’all!)

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Even its feet, which usually get thrown away–will get turned into jewelry, tools, and glue by the forager and nothing will get wasted. Also–the scraps, belly meat and organs we don’t eat get processed into dog food by me–and that little herding pup just loves that.

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In my old life, I had no idea how many steps there were between me and a steak landing on my plate. But… there are. Death is involved in that dinner. Someone had to do that. That animal had a life that needs to have been a good one. These days, we usually only have a steak or two a year. We will pull ONE off a deer, since eating a steak every night isn’t the greatest way to stretch out that deer I so revere. But, we do still crave it. So, these days, for us, it is all in finding balance. Getting what we want, but in the right way. And that makes that steak dinner one SERIOUSLY special event for the two of us.

 

 

 

How to get started homesteading… the wrong way.

After I got featured on Women Who Farm in late summer, I got overwhelmed really quickly by the huge response I got from all of you. And you were almost all having the same response and asking the same question, “Oh my gosh, I love your story!!! It’s so amazing! I want to be just like you and do just like you did! Get my body right and get some fresh air and fresh eggs to boot! Can you please tell me what you did? To get started?”

I almost lost it. I had a total panic attack. Because I knew I was going to have to answer you. And in my heart, I knew I was going to have to woman up and tell you the truth.

“Oh my gosh y’all…. DON’T DO WHAT I DID.”

This morning, while doing some research, I stumbled across this awesome blog post from Reformation Acres. It was called 15 reasons to reconsider your homestead dreams. I gulped and just clicked on it. I wish it had been there six years ago for me to read–but really, since this post is all about being honest… I doubt I would have slowed down and read it then anyhow. But I want to tell you now from the clarity of homestead hindsight–I sure wish I had!

Now, don’t get me wrong–I did what I did, and I DO NOT regret it any longer. Because I learned so stinking much. About this life, but also about myself–what I was capable of and how much I can persevere. And that built a ton of confidence in a human that had historically had none. But, it also meant that I spent a lot more time in the last six years thinking and dreaming about what I would have done differently… than I ever did about chickens, gardens, or goats.

Which is why I want to start talking to you about it now. About how not to homestead. About how to not do what I did. About what I’ve learned. About how much I’ve grown. That’s JUST as important, if not more so, than how I shrank.

When I dove in and went homesteading, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was so insanely overweight. I was even more depressed. I was slowly killing myself with food, alcohol, and anti-anxiety medicine. I was so dang sad that I was seriously considering speeding that process up. I knew in my heart that I couldn’t stand my old life for even another six months. The thought of slowing down and having it take years would have pushed me over the edge at the time. So, I dove in. Because I knew I needed to hold a chicken, milk a goat, grow a garden–just to get through it and survive.

But, of course, that meant that chicken and goat were about to be in a less than ideal situation due to my inexperience. It meant that garden would grow really slow and badly. And that fact that I was the one standing there tending both, meant I had to be the one to handle that. As a person with no confidence and in poor health–that meant it was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do in my life. It was even harder than being in the sorry state I was in in the beginning.

So, I’m going to piggyback off of the aforementioned Reformation Acres post and share a few reasons why that post is so worth a read… because almost every single one of those things happened to me. And I want to give some very real examples, from part of her list, of how quickly this thing can get away from you.

  1. “Your spouse doesn’t share your dream.” We had been homesteading for four years and had owned the farm for two of those before the forager turned to me, in the middle of a fuss over free range chickens (which by the way, happens way more than one would expect when dreaming romantic farming dreams) and said, “Did you even know that I didn’t ever want a farm in the first place? I wanted to get back to the land, but that meant something really different to you than it does to me. And to me, it didn’t have a darn thing to do with a farm.” I was devestated. I had had no idea we didn’t share the same dream, I felt like we had talked about everything. But really, I had talked. And she had listened. Now fortunately, enter permaculture (which neither of us had even heard of at the time) and we SO found our commonalities. We found a path to both being permaculture farmers and both feeling great about it. It found us both finally loving that we had started a farm. But it sure would have been nice to have navigated that conversation better in the beginning and found that path then.
  2. “Going DIY to save money” This life can be pricey. And after spending so much of the last six years crunching numbers–I can tell you one thing, it’s no way to get rich. It’s not even that cost saving to do it yourself… and that’s if you don’t factor in the labor involved. If you do factor in the labor, you are paying way more for eggs than you would in the grocery store. Yet, again–permaculture is the answer. One of the first permaculture courses I took in 2015 leveled me right from the jump when the instructor said, “The biggest mistake new homesteaders make is getting animals before they have a system in place to feed them for free.” It’s true, and I made that mistake in spades. Feed bills used to wreck my measly outside income. Couple that with the environmental impacts of animal agriculture done wrong and it’s just a hot mess. But now, with the introduction of permaculture combined with taking a full year off from most of our animals–we have found that system, to feed and water them chickens for free. And that means that the only cost we will have in our eggs in 2017 is our labor. And I just love that. That’s a cost we can afford and enjoy.
  3. “Consider your health” Whoa, what a weighty one for me. (see what I did there? to try to keep this a bit lighter? tee hee, i just did it twice!) Yes, consider your health. Consider doing what I didn’t. So that you won’t have to stop writing a blog post every 15 minutes to go to the bathroom and deal with being 6 weeks post gallbladder removal surgery. (Too much information you say? Yeah well, if you are considering homesteading, TMI in your life is something you are about to see a ton of.) And, of course, I am not a doctor or dispensing medical advice–so this is ONLY what I would have told myself six years ago. Slow down and get evaluated by your doctor before you begin. Document where you are beginning with lab work, photographs*, and writing. Pick a natural path doctor that can work with you and your doctor. Form an action plan for steps to lifestyle changes with yourself and your family. Form a mental health care plan that will properly support you through this transition. Properly document your progress + alert your doctors to changes (have certain gear, like a blood pressure machine, or blood sugar tests – depending on what health issues you are addressing) If you are part of a couple, making a plan for relationship care and support–as this will likely be the biggest thing you have ever tried to navigate relationship wise. (weekly one on one time for processing, “friend dates” to share with someone else what you are going through, journaling, and working on communication skills together). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly realize you will also have to grow adaptability – as things can change or come up at any time and you have to be able to adjust and not be defeated by what might not have worked. *take a ton of pictures or videos. I didn’t and hate that I don’t even have a single picture of when I was at my heaviest, because I wouldn’t let anyone take one. I promise that you may not want to see them now, but if you stick this thing out, you will want to later. 
  4. “You have a romantic vision” Oy, I sure did. And there are huge parts of my homestead life that are devastatingly romantic, but you need to know that for every one of them… there is another that is tear filled, manure covered, blood spattered or finds you burying  an animal that succumbed to parasite load or predator attack. You can’t really have the good parts without some bad parts too so that you will appreciate the former. It’s just so important to know to expect the balance of both.
  5. “You need people” On this homestead, one of us does, one of us doesn’t really need that as much. I thought I could combat this in the beginning with intentional community–but that sure doesn’t work if only one of you wants one. I keep mentioning my friend Wendy and what a wise woman she is. She changed my world last year by saying, we are all already living in an intentional community–it just doesn’t look a single thing like we thought it would. How right she is. I need community, I need people around me. So–I find it in different ways. I find it at my one day a week off farm job, because getting out of here sometimes to go somewhere clean and manure free is also so good for me. I find it in “friend dates”. I find it in potlucks at our homestead. I find it in our intentional neighborhood, which has all the benefits of intentional community for me, but doesn’t require quite so much consensus or communication skill.
  6. “You want to travel” Here’s the reality… we bought our farm on September 10 2012 and did not sleep off it for the first time until May of 2015. Because we literally couldn’t leave. There were too many irons in the fire, too many animals, and no “farm sitter” in sight that would have wanted to come to our house that didn’t have power or plumbing. If it hadn’t been for our 2015 interns being so awesome and capable, and making us feel like we could actually get out of here… I don’t know when we would have taken the plunge. And I tell you what, as someone who LOVES to travel, I was about to be done with this whole shebang. Since then, we’ve been going a lot more places–visiting family, going to the beach, going camping, taking day trips. It provided much needed balance for us both I think.
  7. “You have not really considered how much work is involved” If you think this blog post or the reformation acres post is too long for your attention span… if you are thinking that this all sounds too slow or like too many steps already…. then I hate to break it to you, but you haven’t really considered how much work or how many steps are involved in your homestead dreams. It’s a ton of work. It’s slow. It’s steps. It’s succession. Watch nature. Does she do everything quickly? No. And nature has been homesteading at her place for way longer than you or I can even comprehend. She’s a pro at going slow. And if you want to be a pro one day, you’ll have to go slow too. You’ll have to work harder than you ever did at your desk job. Forty or fifty hours a week will start to sound like a vacation’s leisurely pace. You have to really, really love doing hard work for a long time. I have found that I do, but it may just not be for you.
  8. “You want to be self-sufficient” Enter my smart friend Wendy again, who said last year that that was pretty much a fruitless quest. She said that what we could do though, was become “community-suffient”. We need each other. We need outside things. We can minimize our needs for the system, but I no longer believe that we can truly be self-sufficient. It just doesn’t work that way.
  9. “you think you are going to make extra income” Extra income? Really? I can’t believe I thought in the beginning that I would. We are still deep in setting up our infrastructure on our farm and likely will be for a couple more years–that means if there is anything extra, it just gets funneled right back into the farm. However, again, permaculture. One day, there will be extra income–I know don’t just think it, but know it. But there are a lot of steps between now and then, and I’m willing to work for them. I work off the farm a day a week framing fine art for an awesome artist I know, I do freelance graphic design from home–and those two things provided the financial float I need a lot more than free range eggs ever did. It won’t always be the case, but in the beginning–it’s what worked for me.
  10. “You’re prepping for disaster” …….. hmm, yet another weighty one. Was this why we started? Well, it was for me. My health was a disaster. The state of my world scared me. But, I was not thinking zombies or world wars at the time–I was thinking I’d become a zombie. My body was fighting a world war within itself. And that was enough of a disaster for me. Because we host homesteading workshops, “prepper” type folks somehow always seem to find us and it always finds me having incredibly interesting conversations with folks. But really I agree with Reformation Acres, I don’t know if homesteading is the answer for the apocalypse either. Because you have to want this lifestyle for what it is. I’ve already mentioned that homesteading is a ton of hard work. That you really have to love in order to do it. I think that for those folks, the best advice is to skill up. Store knowledge in your mind so you would have to pack less. That would likely get you and your bug out bag farther than a farm would.

Look y’all – what I’m getting at is…. there is A LOT more to this than you might think there is. Homesteading is hard. Organic farming ain’t easy. Doing what, in my opinion, is the right way, via permaculture, really ain’t. It takes a ton of time and patience. It takes being willing to slow down and do it right. It takes years to get the right infrastructure in place, to find the common ground with your spouse and your tribe, to skill up and succeed. Now, if you know me, then you also know the last thing I want to do is discourage you… because it is also the greatest and most beautiful thing I’ve ever done in my life. And, while I can’t predict the future, I simply cannot imagine ever not living this way. Not because I’m stuck in it and can’t leave neither. But because I love it so darn much that it resides in my soul. And I realized that yesterday while we were watching wildfires burn in our area and making a plan for if we do have to evacuate–I told my wife, and really meant it, the whole place could burn to the ground and as long as we get out safely… I’d want to come back and start again. And at least I’d have 9.87 acres of biochar. That I now know what to do with.

If you choose to farm… it’s not going to look like it did on Facebook. It will not be as picturesque as it was on Pinterest. It won’t happen as instantaneously as it might look like it did on Instagram. It will be hard…. but guess what? You can start right where you are. You can read, online or better yet in an actual book with a cover and pages. You can watch documentaries, youtube videos, and e-learning channels. You can volunteer on organic farms and take permaculture classes. You can go help a busy farmer butcher a chicken so that when you have to do it for yourself, you’ll do it better than I did it for the first time six years ago. You can spend less and skill up more. You can talk to your spouse and see what your common ground looks like. You can start eating real food and talk to your doctor about the right health plan for you. And you can make all those dreams come true right now.  Permaculture says, start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. I say, I’m just telling you things I wish I had known in the beginning… because maybe it will make it a bit easier on you than it was on me, if I’d known to expect all of this.

“Patience is not the ability to wait but how you act while you are waiting” –Joyce Meyer

“We all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answers, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking.”          “All the “not readies,” all the “I need time,” are understandable, but only for a short while. The truth is that there is never a “completely ready,” there is never a really “right time.” As with any descent to the unconscious, there comes a time when one simply hopes for the best, pinches one’s nose, and jumps into the abyss.” – Women Who Run With the Wolves – Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

-the farmer

Here’s a few pictures I dug up this morning… one from the beginning I’ve never shared because I looked awful in it plus a couple more you may have seen.

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Here’s me in my first garden in 2011 on the rental farm. That I planted squarely in the shade. I couldn’t figure out how the heck I’d done it so wrong, so I just stood out there smoking and staring at it, trying to figure it out.

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This was in late 2013, when we’d been on the foreclosure we bought to turn it into a farm for about 8 months. I was about half way through losing the weight. That goat was Bella, the first goat I ever bought and I loved her to bits. It broke my heart to sell her in 2015 when I realized I never should have bought her to begin with…. because I wasn’t ready. I miss the goats every. single. day. So, I pray. That one day we will also have a system in place to feed them for free. And until then, I pray for the patience to wait until I can have them again. And also, pray for the acceptance to know that if I can’t figure it out–I’m quite sure that there is a goat farm locally that would let me volunteer there to get my goat fix.

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This picture was in spring of 2016, right after we had started our permaculture design series. Right about the time that we really, truly started to accept each other. It was when we first found our common ground and began to grow. I’m so grateful we did. That we persevered, that we are still here.

An ode to my overalls

Dear Carhartt, I know you don’t know me–but I know you…. or at least, I do these days. Back when I was 150 pounds heavier, I didn’t know what in the tarnation a carhartt was, but now, in my new life as an organic farmer… they are the lifeblood of my closet. I wear something with your logo on it almost every day. I don’t think any other threads under the sun could hold up to the life I now lead. I doubt anything but carhartts could stay sewn together on my organic farm. I’ve chased goats in them, butchered poultry in them, dropped trees in them, grown countless pounds of vegetables in them. I learned about permaculture in them, taught myself to milk a goat in them, trained up a little herding pup in them. And of course, I got a lot skinnier inside them too.

Back when I was a MUCH bigger lady, I never would have worn overalls. Heck, I rarely wore any pants that weren’t elastic in the waist bits if I’m being honest.

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But now, overalls are this farmer’s uniform. It’s because I think they are adorable on me and match any type of social event I usually tend to attend. It’s also because I never would have dreamed of wearing them when I was overweight. So each morning when I pull them on–they make me smile. Because they are so worn in and well loved. Because they are loose. Because the farmer inside them looks so dang different than when she aspired to squeeze them on over her belly.

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I’m sure that my friends sometimes wish they could see what I looked like in different outfits. So, I do cave every once in awhile … and wear carhartt pants and a t-shirt instead. I’m sure my grandmother would like me to wear more dresses and skirts since she always says I look so darn pretty in them these days–and I bet if carhartt made dresses, I likely would. But, I don’t think you do that carhartt, and that’s okay–at least I can grow her figs while wearing overalls… and she really loves those too.

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Carhartts were designed for my new life. They just make sense. From their many pockets that carry things like tools, knives, seeds, and straw (seriously, I don’t know how but literally at the end of every day there is straw and soil inside every single one of my pockets. How?! I have no clue. Well, okay, I guess I do.) to their insane durability–they feel like they exist in the world just for me.

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From saving a new batch of baby bunnies from a flood to teaching youngins’ how to grow food to harvesting honey from hives–my carhartt overalls truly can do it all.

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Short of the fact that I can rarely identify what farm chore caused the massive amount of stains on them, and truly–i don’t want to know, I have not one complaint after having been sporting the same two pairs for the last few years.

Well, except that now–I’ve finally run them both totally ragged and they are begging for retirement. Since I bought them second hand in the first place, I suppose I should let them find the end that they are so politely requesting. They are both too big. I’ve now literally torn them to shreds, I’ve come to understand that climbing over fences sure does seem to have this capability. And really, I’m just so dang grateful that I’m a size these days that actually allows me to climb over a fence, and relatively quickly, that I don’t even care that they are finally showing their wear and tear.

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So, I suppose it is time to let these two poor pairs of overalls go. But I simply could not do that, without saying thank you carhartt… for the overalls. Thanks for the experiences I had while wearing them. Those experiences changed my whole life and I cannot imagine having had them in a different set of pants. Thank you for making clothing for folks just like me. Thanks for understanding that yes, I do in fact need 8 pockets. Thanks for knowing that I need pants that can hold up to goat horns…. for knowing I need them to have enough give to break into a quick sprint after a free range chicken. Thanks for making them go so well with my garden work. Thanks, carhartt, for clothing this farmer in gear that just…. works. I’ll start saving up right now for a new pair, maybe I will even be able to spring for brand spanking new ones this time around.

-the farmer

 

 

The Veteran’s Daughter

Dear Pops, I’m not sure if you know, how often I think of what you went through. How often I try to relate to it, try to wrap my mind around it, try to imagine it. But… I do. I think about it all the time. Mostly because, there was no way that that war couldn’t come home with you–which really meant it happened to our whole family. It happened to me. That war came into the home I grew up in, in huge ways. It affected my mother, my brother and me–all alike and all differently at the same time. If organic farmers think they are scared of Monsanto–it pales in comparison to how afraid of them and their agent orange the health challenged child of a Vietnam veteran is. Put that farmer and that child together and you find someone who lives and breathes not just fear, but a deep hatred of who they are and what they did to me, my family and friends.

I try to imagine all of the time what it would have been like for me to get drafted when I turned 18. That instead of traveling around and making art as a young adult, to have been traveling around making war. I can’t really imagine it, but I do know one thing–I wouldn’t have been able to survive it. My emotions couldn’t have taken it. It would have completely broken me and I would not have been able to go on. I would not just be living with severe PTSD like you are, I’d likely have opted out long ago.

I also need you to know, I was so bitter with you for so long as a kid and a young adult. For what that PTSD did to our family. To me and my self esteem. I held that bitterness in my heart for so long because I didn’t and couldn’t really understand what you had been through. I didn’t understand then why Vietnam and PTSD had to make my childhood home a war zone too.

Yet, now as a semi-seasoned adult (my friends and I are on a quest to avoid the word middle aged) I find myself fighting a war of my own. A war against GMOs and chemicals hitting me from every direction–the food, the medicine, the water and sky. Our people are combating one another. Our planet is being destroyed. And I’m starting to understand you. How you felt when you got drafted on your 18th birthday. You got asked to join up and you had no choice but to go and fight. Now, I’m being drafted into a similar, albeit different, sinking ship’s war. And I am becoming fully aware of the fact that I may not have been able to act quite right upon returning home either–if I had been expected to properly process and handle all of this as a young person and not when I was 37 years old.

I know our relationship has been incredibly challenging, for us both. There are so many big feelings there, for us both. Yet, I am on a quest to become the best version of myself I can be. That has to do with my health and coming to understand the many layers of what living in this world has done to my body. It has to do with my diet and lifestyle. But it also has to do with my emotional state, and that means–I have to let go of what was and just look forward. If I don’t, it will eat me up inside with bitterness and resentment, and that helps no one… it just eats upon me as the host. So, as a gift to you and me both on this day–I want to tell you that I finally think that I can. Let go of all that happened and forage a new future with you. One based on who we both are now and not what was. I think I can, and will give it all I’ve got to just focus on what happens from here on out and nothing else.

I’m so proud of you that you got through it, even if it may have not been in the best ways…. I can see now that you did in fact do the best you were capable of at the time. And that that is all that you could do. I’m so grateful you did get through it, so that I could be born and participate in this amazing world of nature, people, and experiences.  So that I would have a chance to live. It amazes me every day what you were and are capable of.

So, on this Veteran’s Day–I don’t want to wish you a happy one… because that doesn’t make any darn sense to me as someone who wishes there were no wars to have veterans from. I just wanted to say, thank you. For your service. For being strong. For surviving. For being my dad. Thank you to every veteran I know and all the ones I don’t. I wish you all got way more than just one day a year. I wish you all got the care, support and respect you need and deserve. I pray one day, you all will.

“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.” –Maya Angelou

-the farmer

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My relationship with my dad has historically been SO darn complicated–but for my own sanity, I need it to be simpler. So, I just asked him… hey, can I write something about you and share it. And he said yes. Without asking if he could read it first. That shows me just how much he has in fact changed from the person I grew up with. I have no idea how the rest of my extended family will feel about the fact that I wrote this about him, I have no idea if  they will be upset–since he is no longer part of their lives…. but he is part of mine. Please understand, it was part of what I had to do. To heal. To get over it and move on. And I have to… to be okay.

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This picture levels me every time I see it. He was just a kid that I so wish had never gotten handed an M-16 and asked to use it.

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