Stitching together a patchwork quilt

I never knew perfection or easy circumstance in my life–unless I worked really hard and did my best to try to create it myself. That was just my experience and I feel so incredibly blessed about that now. I’m quite sure it was what got me so into and kept me loving art. I love finding the beauty in seemingly unusable or not stereotypically pretty things. I adore seeing what I can create, what I can build. I’m married to a forager that is an even more extreme version of this than I.

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Looking back to just four years and four months ago to when we first drove over to this 9.87 acres from our rental farm feels like a hundred years ago and a blink at the same time. I was still so incredibly overweight then, so inexperienced, so disillusioned that this simple life was going to be easy. That the two of us were going to just agree on everything. I’ll never forget the first day the forager and I drove up to this foreclosure. I had no idea until much later that what I saw a farm, and what she saw a lot of forest and living off the land. Yet fortunately, we both saw the homesteader’s life we could stitch together here.

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 (spring 2013 left, summer 2013 right)

After we closed on our property, I saw my family’s and friend’s faces–as they shook their heads and expressed concern over what we had just bought. I don’t think anyone thought we would stick it out… there was no soil to speak of, it was too steep and scrubby to be a farm. There were houses that were falling down or apart, the property was in total disarray. Yet, from the very first moment we saw it–our hearts fell for it, with complete and total abandon.

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(spring 2014 left, spring 2015 right)

Now, it’s four years later–and I love it more with every passing day. I lost so much weight here, grew a ton of skills and confidence here, learned to sew together a simply amazing life here. It’s one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the whole wide world to me, because two women I just love to bits–make it more so every day. And I’m so darn lucky that I get to be one of them. 

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(spring + summer 2016)

What I love more than anything in the world is the journey. The experiences you have along the way. To me, my homestead life feels like a patchwork quilt. And I would so much rather make my own… than be given a perfect one that had been created for me. Even if I have to learn how to do it as I go along. In the end, I always find myself loving the uneven stitches or unexpected patches the very most. They make me smile–because they are where I learned, where I grew. Somehow those spots always mean a little more, keep me a little warmer when I wrap that quilt around me on my self care Sundays.

Even better than that, when other folks see the quilt of my real homestead life–they won’t expect that theirs will be perfect either. Because I can almost promise it won’t be. But yet… they might just be inspired to try quilting one of their own. And I just love that part of it so dang much I could weep over it. It makes my heart so glad it feels like it could bust.

This homestead life, it’s simply stunning to me. I spent the first 31 years of my life in a very different sort of world. It was all computer screens, jobs I disliked, cell phones, convenience and disconnectedness. Money and paychecks and bills and trading my hours for dollars. Six years after making a huge switch, I’m not yet sick of homestead life–I love it so much more every day.

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It is not a cake walk. It’s amazing and crazy and awesome and simple and complex and easy and hard and inspiring and infuriating and crying and laughing and stress and relief. It’s I want to get the hell out of here for a vacation and oh my god I want to do this every minute of every day until I draw my last breath. With your homesteading partner in crime it can be all romantic oil lamp lit nights or big ol free range poultry poop on the porch fights. It’s good things and bad things. I’ve found that in real homestead life, it’s always both–no matter how it looks when homesteaders share their social media posts.

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Real homestead life seems to always be about learning. Times and priorities change constantly. I find the most important thing I grow here on this farm is adaptability. The confidence to be totally cool with change… to find learning SO legit. And most importantly to me, to never stick my nose up in the air and think I’m too cool or too experienced to be an eager student of this homestead. I’ve known from the very beginning that I would be for the rest of my days, and any attitude otherwise sure would find the farmer getting schooled by this land or nature herself.

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These days, I look out into the world and see that there seems to be a lot of unhappy folks getting bogged down by turbulent times. It appears from here that there are very few threads holding their life together. It truly looks like it makes for a weak bolt of cloth. I often wonder why is that? When we are the ones that stitch together our own experience? We are the ones that have the power to gather the scrappy pieces of cloth we like, a needle and thread. We are the ones that have to begin to stitch together whatever we’ve got that makes us happy. We sure are the ones that are going to be cold if the times and conditions out there in the world get even more harsh–and we don’t have a quilt.

-the farmer

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HOMESTEAD TRUTH = These last few pictures are from a photoshoot one of my awesome students did in July of 2016. It was a couple months after I gave up my college teaching job and was trying to be the full time farmer for the first time. Our spring staff had been gone for 7 weeks and we were carrying the workload of high summer. I’d barely slept and was completely and totally exhausted. I was flipping out about our finances, about our farm life and I was quite fussy with the forager about it. About the fact that she had slept great and I hadn’t at all. I had so wanted some pictures of us and I wanted to see my former student as well–but I had gotten up that morning with a crabby attitude and just didn’t want to see anyone. I wanted to go back to bed. I wanted my huge to do list to kiss my butt, burn up and die. But, Shannon came out and took pictures anyway. And I’m so glad she did, because they were the only pictures we had time to get taken of us this summer. I’ve saved this one for last because I hadn’t shared it a ton, like I had the three above it. Because I think I look tired and cranky in it and I know the reason why. If you follow our social media and blog then you’ve likely seen the other three plenty. But, this is the homestead truth. Some days are damn hard. You’re crabby and tired and pissed and want everyone on the farm to kiss your butt and leave you the hell alone. Yet, there are a plenty of other days that are wonderful and amazing and stunning and fun and easy – and those days make the former, SO worth it. And make you SO dang grateful for them too!! And I am at least finding that with each passing year, the good days outweight the bad ones more and more. Thank the homestead gods for that!

 

The Farmer + Forager’s 2017 FOOD CHALLENGE!

The Farmer and the Forager…  we move through the world and like to spend our time in quite different ways. One of us loves being around people, one of us likes more time alone. One of us loves mornings, the other one loves nights.  One prefers to permaculture farm, one prefers wild permaculture. Yet, we have at least one major thing in common. We think all people have at least one thing in common.

We humans…we all have to eat. 

Folks may sometimes think that it is silly, how often we talk about trying to create community over carrots. Making peace with peas. Farming our way to better bodies with broccoli. Skilling up while sowing seeds. Hoeing rows of radishes in the hopes to grow radical humans.  Helping ladies find their inner wolf-woman in the forest over fiddlehead ferns. Cooking up connectedness in the outdoor kitchen over a wood fired stove.

Yet…we don’t think so, because it is one thing we all have in common…. FOOD.

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We may make different choices about what to put on our plates and how it gets there, but we all gotta eat. We may farm it, we may forage it, but we have to eat… to live. To survive and thrive. So when we bought this homestead, we had at least one common goal.

We both wanted to provide as much of our own diet as humanly possible. 

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We wanted to see how much two people could grow, raise, forage, and preserve. We wanted to see how little we could buy in. We wanted to raise or hunt our meat and process it ourselves. Yes, the farmer wanted to lose a 150 pounds, the forager wanted empowerment and independence… but we both wanted to take responsibility for our diets in a huge way. But, we weren’t sure if we could.

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When we started taking permaculture classes in the summer of 2015, it felt like a door cracking open in many ways. This was the biggest one. Farming and foraging the majority of our food, without it killing us with 80 hour work weeks, started to seem possible. Yet, we started getting told by our own customers and followers… that although permaculture sounds great, they have yet to see a permaculture farm or homestead in this area actually  feeding the majority of its humans’ diets. They sure do seem to have been right, we’ve not seen one yet either. (But we sure would LOVE to, so if you are anywhere close to WNC and are growing/raising/foraging 80+% of your family’s diet, omg …. PLEASE EMAIL US. WE SO WANT TO VISIT + SHARE ABOUT YOU!!!!) 

We’d like to tell you what we’ve spent the last few months planning. We’d like to answer our own question, by doing what we do–yet another Eight Owls Experiment.

Can marginal land with poor soil, the two of us and sixteen months of permaculture education–provide at least 80% of our diet? And not just for a little while… but for a FULL YEAR?

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Well, starting today–we are about to find out. And we invite you to follow along during 2017 while we do it!! (You can subscribe to this blog, our youtube channel, follow us on facebook and instagram or sign up for our mailing list.)

Six years ago when we were in a city and spending our days behind computer screens, it sounded crazy to aspire to be a farmer and a forager at all. We certainly had no idea we could homestead off a collective 225 pounds and grow a ton of skills. Yet, here we sit! Much stronger, healthier, empowered, a hell of a lot more skilled, and darn happy about it.

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We are ready to take our next step in the succession of being two homesteaders atop Panther Mountain. We want to take this to the next level and see how it shakes out. We are willing to change our diets again in big ways and phase into being practically paleo. Both of us are ready to see what it will do to our bodies to be eating the most local food we can get. We are going to get super real with sharing our journey, the good, the bad, and the (possibly) hungry–with you!

CAN WE DO IT? Will we survive? Will we thrive? Will the farmer lose this last ten pounds she’s been working on for a couple years? Will the forager hunt and gather her way to total empowerment? Will we prove to ourselves that we could caretake ourselves under just about any possible circumstance? Will it prove that even fledgling permaculture systems can feed a family?  Will our families and friends want to strangle us over yet another difficult diet choice that makes it actually impossible for them to feed us when we visit? We will find out in 2017. And if you choose to follow our journey, you will too! (Don’t worry friends and family, we love you and we’ll bring our own! We swear we are not doing this just to make you nuts!) 

And of course, what if we took this one step further and challenged YOU too? Are you willing to try to farm or forage more of your food in 2017 too? Or become a locavore? Or eat more whole organic foods that you cook with your family instead of the pre-packaged processed stuff? Or shop at farmers markets more and supermarkets less? The two of us sure hope we have shown over the last six years that making simple changes, one step at a time, can have a HUGE impact on changing your whole lifestyle! We also saw this awesome graphic, just this morning and it really hit home. If you decide to accept our challenge and take one step towards making a food challenge of your own–we would LOVE to hear about it!! Please feel free to comment below or on our social media if you decide to do a food challenge of your own in 2017.

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-the farmer + the forager

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So here’s the logistics for those who love’a the details.

We chose 8 things we are allowed to buy in (5 that will stay, and 3 that will hopefully phase out over the year):

1. Spices + Salt

2. Fat (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Coconut milk)

3. Beverages (Coffee, Tea, wine, spirits, cider, apple cider vinegar, and of course, the occasional greenheart juice)

4. Sweeteners (Sugar, Honey)

5. Buckwheat

As the year goes on, we hope we won’t have to buy these things in past a certain point.

6. Mushrooms (ours should start to come in in spring, then wild ones in summer and fall)

7. Eggs (we finally got our feed them for free system in place! So, we will be getting hens again in spring and hopefully, not buying in our eggs will soon follow)

8. Garlic (ours didn’t do well this year, but we planted a ton in fall of 2016, so here’s hoping it will do well and we can stop buying this in in 2017)

We already have some things too, since we had bought bulk food in summer before we planned to do this challenge. There are grains in there–but we do plan to phase them out slowly over the course of the year. We are already gluten and dairy free–but want to be grain free one day as well, since we likely can’t grow much of that here. And that’s really our goal, we would just LOVE to be providing or trading for 100% of our diet one day–if that is even possible. And, of course, we don’t know the answer to that question yet.

What we already have:

45 pounds of brown rice, 75 pounds of corn grits,  5 pounds of various gluten free flours, 40 pounds of coconut oil, 20 pounds of flax, 110 pounds of winter squash and pumpkins, 10 pounds of dried beans and peas, 10 pounds of venison, 15 pounds of venison bones, 4 whole chickens, 3 whole rabbits, 3 gallons of mixed salt water fish, 5 gallons of frozen greens, 3 gallons of frozen green beans, 2 gallons of kraut, and then there are roughly 25 quart jars of miscellaneous dried veggies from the garden this year (peppers, sweet potatoes, greens, herbs, onions, garlic, beans, dried berries, raisins and tomatoes).

(We also have a failsafe. In the form of having close friends that either work at or own the only two health food stores in the area. They both follow this blog. They’d likely give us a lot of hell if we try to sneak something through the check out line that’s not allowed! We also have a pretty darn decent network of homesteading friends we could trade with if we get in a pinch. And hey, trading counts–it’s sure not like the pain of spending real money.) 

 

A huge thanks to two of our sponsors for 2017!! Through the Woods Natural Health and Sow True Seed. (If your business is focused on the health and empowerment of our community and you would like to get promoted heavily by us in 2017–email the farmer!!) 

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Growing the owl’s nest

WooHaaa, it’s been like pulling teeth for this farmer this year, as I’ve tried to keep my big mouth SHUT. About what we have been up to since the beginning of 2016, our next big leap.  Being the one that really just likes to dive in and swim, It was so darn hard to go slow on this one. Lay bricks for the pool, get some education via a lot of teachers, practice a ton, and then walk down to the end of the diving board. Now, that I’m springing up and down getting air–getting ready to take the plunge on January one… it’s time to give you fine folks that already follow us a sneak peek.

goat-workshop-class-2014 Goat workshop fall 2014

When I dove in in 2013 and started teaching out here, I loved it. It felt so good to share hard won information. I love spending time with people and seeing them get inspired by our stories, big smiles, and lack of being scared of telling homesteading truths. Yet, every passing year–it got more complicated. Logistically + legally, it’s kind of a nightmare to host certain kinds of homesteading education. The insurance cost is pretty insane. Our space is small. Our road is steep, scrappy, and really loves you to have 4×4. This place is also our home and we do truly love having our privacy often too. A lot of what the forager wants to share, just ain’t even allowed. Certain various officials have a tendency to get all squirrelly when you start talking about handing small children bows and arrows. Or showing women wild ways. Or taking college students out in our forests foraging. Lord help you and your business if you try putting ladies up on a roof with a hammer in their hand. With good reason, we totally get it. Our homesteader’s life is not for the faint of heart. It can be dangerous. There are a lot of licenses, legalities, and hoops to jump through. Homestead life, it’s hard. There’s a ton to it. And there are literally a million ways to hurt yourself, and that’s just the homestead truth.

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Two ladies from our intentional neighborhood here atop Panther Mountain, roofing the new outdoor kitchen at Eight Owls. Never fear, no homesteaders were harmed in the roofing of this kitchen! 

Over the course of 2015, we looked to see if we could get involved with another school, or another farm. Anywhere we could work, teach, and bring our marketing skills to the table–besides our home. Yet, never found anywhere that was just the right fit for us. It’s because we love working together and we love working right here. So, at the beginning of 2016–we came up with a question. What if we could teach right here on the farm… but in a totally different way? What if… we just put our stories, education, and experiences online instead? E-learning, homestead stylie. We talked about it for about six months. Practiced how we would do it for the last six months. Got two permaculture design courses, more workshops, immersions, and online summits under our belts. We know a few other homesteading couples that we just love, of varying experience levels, homesteading situations, and businesses of their own. We hope to start sharing and promoting the content they are already creating right alongside our own. We came up with the mother of all challenges for ourselves to share (stay tuned on January 1 when this puppy gets released!). And now, it’s almost time–to see if these owls can take flight online by writing stories and making videos to share.

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So, we have an end of year favor to ask–and that is for your continued support in 2017. If we are going to reach those new heights, we are going to need your help family and friends. We would be incredibly grateful to get it. Check out the updated website about what we have going on here next season + sign up for our newsletters. Subscribe to our new youtube channel. Share our content on Facebook and InstagramSign up to get our blog posts straight to your inbox–forward them to your friends. Tell your tribe about who these owls are and what they do. 

We have got two amazing sponsors for 2017, and are looking for more! If your business is focused on organics, education, medicinals, health, art, farming, wild food, medicine, building, home repair or remodeling, or supporting our community and you want to get some serious promotion from a couple of owls online… Email us for sponsorship details.

A HUGE thanks to our farm’s first two supporters for 2017:

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Through the Woods Natural Health in Brevard NC. Through the Woods Natural Health is the practice of naturopathic doctors Glenn and Marty Ingram. They have a passion for helping people follow nature’s wisdom to restore their health and vitality through lifestyle, nutrition, herbal medicine, and homeopathy.

Sow True Seed in Asheville NC. Sow True Seed provides open-pollinated, heirloom and organic vegetable, herb, and flower seeds to enthusiastic home gardeners and small market farmers.

They sure are big ol’ friends of this farm!!

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And of course, we have a couple of our goofy practice videos up already if you want to check them out. The Forager’s first ever shared video and the farmer’s first try to double the function of her daily run by stopping to record a video during one!

We are so incredibly grateful for our journey thus far and ESPECIALLY grateful for all of you that already follow and support us in such amazing ways. With your time, your resources, your tools, books, sharing, comments and amazing questions. We can’t wait to see what grows! Big love from the ladies of eight owls farmstead to you and yours,

-the farmer

 

Locust versus Locust

In October of 2015, I went on a permaculture and primitive living immersion I organized for a group of ladies I just love to spend time with. We visited both an eco-village nearby and a well established homesteading school.

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At the conclusion of the immersion at the homesteading school–the owner turned to me and said it was so awesome that I had put this together for the girls. Then shook her head and said, “Huh… you’re like…. a locust.” I was so starstruck over her back then that I think I said some nonsense like, “Yeah, I just like to connect dots… bring order to chaos and such.”

Of course, in the car on the way home–I started to flip out about it a little to the Forager. Oh. My. God. WAIT. Did she mean the tree? Or the crop leveling insect?!! The Forager, our resident locust (the tree) expert–let me know she definitely meant the tree. She patiently walked me back through it all. Through what being a permaculture student had already taught me about how beneficial this tree is to the plants around it.

Locusts are nitrogen fixing. How by getting coppiced, it feeds all the plants around it the nutrients they need. That if it doesn’t get cut back–it grows taller, stronger, and harder than any other wood around it.

She started talking a bit more to add in some details. About how if you cut it back before it has really grown, its heartwood is not strong enough for fence posts or foundations for houses. That it isn’t as beneficial of a wood as it could have been. Like it would be… if you would just let it grow.

She giggled and told me she’d never thought of it before but that I am totally am a locust. She added something too. Could I please stop cutting myself back so often for other folks? Find a better balance between doing so and growing tall and strong? Lord, the connections that can get made ’round here via farm life! The clever reference points!

Here’s hoping I’ve grown and raised the confidence and capability to do just that right here on this farm too.

In the fourteen months since this locust conversation happened–so much has changed for this organic farmer. I’ve now been a permaculture student for sixteen months. I’ve attended so many classes, workshops, conferences, online summits and courses, and read a ton of books. I’ve spent the last six months conceptualizing, implementing, experimenting, and adapting our farm’s new permaculture design.

We hosted less workshops, immersions, tours, WWOOFers, and guests on our farm in 2016 than we ever have. I gave myself a complete break from social media earlier in spring while we were taking our second permaculture design course and… <gasp> hired someone else to do posting for us for a couple months. I took a huge chunk of the year off from blogging even, in order to make sure I would still write a lot… even if I wasn’t sharing it. To get better at it on my own. To write the stories I don’t want to share, in order to get them our of my head. To refine my words. To finally find an editor I love, wahoo! (Who I’m not using today, hence my rambling and lack of proper sentence structure.)

Looking back now, I’m realizing exactly what I was doing. Even if I didn’t understand it at the time. I was lightening my load. I was establishing my root system. Because I was getting ready to grow.

Back in December of 2014, we started choosing a word for ourselves for the year ahead. A word to hold close to our hearts, something to aspire to or to let go of. A word to work towards. Choosing a word for the year has come to be one of my very favorite self-care practices. It is my teether to what I want to become in the coming year. It’s a talisman I can turn over in my mind as I’m working on getting raised on a farm. For me, it’s such a boon to becoming a better human.

My word for 2015 was balance. 2016 was listen. Like all things, it isn’t some magic trick. I’ll be stacking these words up in my heart and working on getting better at them for the rest of my days. But it was a great place to start that process, setting one for myself each year.

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I’ve already chosen my word for 2017–and I do want to go ahead share it with you. Maybe it will inspire you to choose a word for yourself for next year too.

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I think I’m finally ready–for a word as big as GROW. For choosing one that I know will be hard for me. I’ve kept the weight I lost farming and going gluten free off for over two years. I’m pretty sure I at least know how to not grow bigger around the middle again. I know I’ve designed a homestead life that has given me the ability to shift my whole lifestyle. I continue to stay pretty motivated to work at it. I think I can focus on growing now, and not just shrinking.

My brain about burst open in spring 2015 when one of our staffers loaned me a book and let me read about my north node. It felt like getting slapped over the head as I read. About my tendency towards service. To the extreme. The kind that has you bending over backwards so far, you break. That all I seem to want to do is help the weak, helpless, troubled, sick, or addicted. It let me know I have a hard time saying no to them, even if I don’t have anything left to give. However, if I would just begin to learn to say no sometimes, I’d have a much stronger foundation. And that once I establish that, I would actually be able to help many, many people. Until then, stopping to feel others’ pain would only drag me down with them.

In 2015, I found the balance to begin to see it. By 2016, I learned to talk at least a bit less… and began to truly  listen. To myself, my body, my wife, family and friends.

And so, I think I am ready to grow. Into a big ol’ tall tree that is totally capable of being a fence post one day or strong enough to hold up a building. Or, perhaps even a tree that stays firmly rooted to the ground and never gets cut down. So it can support a huge nest, that holds a whole lot of owlets flying in and out of it.

Can I do it? Can I grow into the stronger better human I want to be? I feel so confident that I can. That I will give it my very best shot. I already feel like a shiny new permaculture farmer that got sprouted on this homestead. I so feel like I got raised on a farm, Eight Owls Farmstead. I’m so ready to grow some dense heartwood, get taller and stronger on it too.

“Don’t go through life, grow through life.” –Eric Butterworth

-the farmer

 

 

Being Pretty

When I weighed 300 pounds six years ago, I felt pretty far from pretty. I wasn’t happy or healthy. I was depressed and anxious. I didn’t feel capable or confident, I felt I lacked some pretty serious skills. Empowered or inspired were certainly not on my radar.

Yet, here I sit this Saturday morning at 5am. I’m happy. The Farmer’s Diet and Detox hopefully has me on the way to being healthy. At least I do know I’m 146 pounds lighter and I don’t carry around so much depression either. I feel more capable and confident every day. I get so inspired by the humans I meet and the experiences I have. Homestead life empowers me every single day. The skills residing in the seven pounds above my shoulders make me feel proud, as I watch them grow every day. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty happy about how I look in my overalls these days too. But, there’s a reason that that statement comes after all the others. It’s because what makes me feel beautiful these days is how I feel inside. For me, being happy, healthy, smart, capable, inspiring, empowered, confident, and skill up…. is what makes me feel “homestead hot”. More often than not!

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I woke up yesterday morning and made a handful of quotes over pictures of ours from this year. Posted them. I’d never seen this quote before, but I really liked it. (Here’s the whole post I got sent later about where this quote came from.)  Went to some awesome friends‘ homestead for a visit and to drop off a rabbit. Came home to find Women Who Farm had shared this graphic I made… and it had got a little attention. This morning it has hit a reach of 85,960 and 923 shares.. and it is still counting. That’s our heaviest hitting post ever. We also got almost 500 new followers yesterday, thank y’all so much!!

Me thinks, I’ve stumbled onto an interesting subject! Do we all have some feelings about feeling pretty? Like I used to? Perhaps!

So, I just wanted to share a little story this morning–about the moment in my homestead life that is depicted in the graphic above. Anyone else want to know what’s going on there? And why it was one that made me feel like a serious homestead hottie?

It was early August of this year. We had barely had any rain all summer and everything on the farm was suffering for it. Yet, on that day–the skies opened up and it dumped what ended up being a few inches of rain in an hour. The Forager and I ran out on the porch, started squealing and dancing around in circles. We were so grateful. For about 30 seconds before we looked over at the rabbit colony–we got horrified and fast.

My rabbit doe Groats had taken advantage of the dry weather and dug herself a full on burrow to have babies in. I hadn’t been too worried about it until this point–because it was so dry and I knew they’d be up and out of there in a week or so. The whole rabbit paddock was filling with a river of water and fast. I panicked. We stood there for a second, talking about how could we dig it out without letting even more water in and drowning the kits. But, we just didn’t have that long to strategize and I realized that pretty quickly. I just put on my muck boots, grabbed a shovel and mattock and ran.

I didn’t even think about my clothes or my hair. I didn’t care about looking pretty. There was a job to be done. Permaculture had taught us so much about how to move water. We put in a water break and rerouted the path of it. We were able to quickly dug into the burrow. I found two gasping, mud covered, cold kits floating in a puddle of a burrow. I handed them to the Forager who ran them up to the porch to wrap in a blanket. I stayed behind and dove my whole body into the burrow to see if there were any more. There weren’t, thank God. I grinned so big I about couldn’t stand it. I was shaking with relief. The rain finally stopped. I turned around to someone laughing and saying, “DANG you look really hot right now, so I got the camera”. Click.

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As I stepped up on the porch, I felt smart, capable and pretty too. I rubbed those baby rabbits in an screen printed onesie gone wrong until they were warm and dry.

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I returned them to their mom, and tucked them back into a nest box in the hutch. She has seemed to learn her lesson and has never tried to bury her babes in a burrow since.

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This was a couple weeks later.  Fat, happy, healthy, and pretty too. I named them Shovel and Mattock. But, just a month later–I realized they were both girls and the names didn’t feel quite right. I’ve noticed girls can be sensitive about what they get called. Everyone can really, and I get that too. I didn’t know what to name them. But I did know, I sure didn’t need two more female rabbits. I held on to these two through several butchery days–because I just couldn’t do it. Their story was too epic, I liked them too much. I did actually want to keep one for breeding for next year. But what about the other one? So, I gave a couple new homesteaders I just LOVE a holler–and asked them if they were ready for a rabbit for their homestead. They were. I drove her there, just yesterday–while so many folks were loving this picture of me.

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They don’t even know this whole story, but they decided to name her Athena–from my blog post last month about The Legend of the Eight Owls. It was just PERFECT. So perfect, I’m wondering if they would mind if I name her sister the same… since they both were born of a pretty epic tale. One of coming from poor circumstance, but surviving, thriving and going on to become great things. And, of course, I think they are both pretty too.

How we all feel about being pretty or handsome, it is so darn complicated. And everyone feels totally differently about it. Everyone reacts differently when they do or don’t get called that often. And here, on this blog–I’m always just sharing my opinion. And that is, that it is all about how we feel inside. If we are happy or not. Confident and capable or not. That’s what radiates out and makes other folks have a reaction. To me, strong and smart are both so sexy on anyone… and being smeared with mud doesn’t really slow that whole thing down.

So, I want to close with a section of an amazing quote that I got from a new Facebook fan of ours–who I’m now a big fan of! It seems just perfect and I love it so much.

“Neither “pretty” nor “handsome” has ever saved a life, invented something desperately needed, fed the hungry, provided healing care to the ill or injured, kept pollutants out of our soil, water, air, or bodies, kept someone from harming themselves or others, built or rebuilt the vast majority of the world’s governments or businesses, created a timeless or classic work of art, housed the homeless, kept an innocent person out of prison or from losing their job, made an original scientific discovery, taught anyone to read or write, raised or mentored a younger generation, saved a species from extinction, advanced our knowledge of the universe and how it works, and so much more!” –J.S.

Thanks girl, for making this farmer’s morning with your wonderfully wise words! I agree, completely. Let’s put the power on building people up for what is within and not just for what’s on the surface of their skin. Let’s make capability cool and smart sexy! I think the best thing in the world that we can all do is make people feel good about doing what they love with their lives–no matter what that is. If it makes you healthy and happy, then that sure makes you look real pretty to me!

-the farmer

 

 

 

 

I wan’na be like YOU!

We hear several things pretty often… “Your story is SO inspiring!!! I want to lose weight too!” or “I’ve always wanted a farm/homestead. I want to be like you!” or “I wanna be off grid, just like you!” or “I’ve wanted your life for all of mine… can I come live at your farm?” or “oh my gosh you are like the cutest couple ever!!” or even better yet…. “ya’ll are badasses”.

When I’ve gotten featured on Women Who Farm this year, that kind of commentary grows by leaps and bounds. I woke up several times this week to inboxes stuffed with these sorts of amazing comments. Now that I’ve been asked to be a writer for Women Who Farm, I’m guessing it might happen even more! So, I just wanted to talk about it a little this morning. I wanted to say thank you so much for all the awesome confidence building complements! But I also wanted to talk about something else. That what I want… is for you to want to be just like YOU! 

As I was talking to the forager yesterday morning about this, she got a smile on her face and just started singing. A song that felt so darn appropriate for this situation that we stopped our conversation and danced around the living room singing along to it.

Change the words to “woman cub” and this song is kind of what it feels like when folks first hear about us. That we have a magic red flower to share that will make all their “dreamsteads” come true. And actually, we do. That red flower we hold is our passion for how we live coupled with hard work and the willingness to share our process, successes, and mistakes with you. In the hopes that very soon, you will hold a red flower of your very own… At your homestead! And that YOU will inspire people with it too!

We both do it, not because we are super confident humans that love public speaking, but because we want to see the world change SO much. We want to see humans realize how amazing, capable, and badass we can ALL be! We share our stories with you in the hopes that it will inspire you. Of course our hope is to inspire you to change the world, to share with others, and to become a human that you LOVE and are so proud to be. We want you to want to be just like YOU!

I’ve tried to talk about this on my blog so often over the last few years. I make it incredibly clear when folks visit the farm by waving my hands around and saying “We ain’t no experts now” right when people land in the nest. And it is not because we are being modest, it is because we aren’t experts!! That would likely take decades, not six years! We are still students of living this way and likely will be for a long while. And we just LOVE that. We are both smart and are both good at a lot of things. That means we can both get bored easily. Learning about living the way we do very obviously has no end that we will find until we are much, much older ladies. So, it’s just perfect for these two educators who love to keep learning and who also DO the things they talk about with students.

The Forager has a lot planned for how she wants to start sharing with you in 2017. However, after the week’s emails–she told me she would love it if we would co-write a post to try to clear up some common misconceptions. Even though I’ve talked about this a lot before, we’d love to go ahead and put them all together into one post… Together!

Losing weight. Yes, we lost weight and that was great!! However, at least for the farmer, I didn’t do it in the way that I would if I was starting again. (The forager is going to talk to you about her weight loss later and separately, we had two totally different journeys in this department)  I’d have taken some pictures and documented where I was when I started.  Now, I majorly regret that. I didn’t make a plan with my primary care doctor, a nutritionist, or find a naturopathic doctor. That would have been incredibly smart. It wasn’t safe to just wing it like I did, and safety should always come first. It wasn’t just farming either, that got the weight and depression off. I only eat organic and gluten free. I gave up having a cell phone six years ago. I use minimal grid power. I don’t have plumbing in my home. We use wood heat. So, I chop a lot of wood and carry a lot of water. I spend a ton of time outside. I even sleep outside some of the year. So, it’s not some magic trick. It was a total lifestyle change. If you want to try the homesteader’s life, on a quest to lose weight, I want you to do better than I did! There is a lot to it, it’s not simple. I sure don’t want anyone to throw their metabolism off or get a gallstone…. LIKE I DID! So, I’d love to introduce you to our awesome naturopathic doctors, Glenn and Marty Ingram from Through the Woods Natural Health. They have been helping us both a ton lately to get our bodies patched up after putting them through a huge detox of losing a collective 225 pounds. We just love that their medical care and support covers our whole lifestyle.  When I stepped on a scale on November the 3rd of 2016 and saw that it read 172, Marty and Glenn helped me approach this thing the right way this time. Post gallbladder surgery and a complete lack of exercise had packed pounds back on me. I also went to my primary care and got new blood work done. I took a picture of myself in my birthday suit so that I could compare it to others later (I won’t be sharing those with y’all!! They’re just for me!).  I weighed in this morning at 157. I feel a lot better about how it went this time, since I’ve had a couple of doctors tracking me as I go. And I’m telling you about it now–because I’m still mid journey with this thing. I still have about ten more pounds to either lose or turn into shredded farm muscle. I’m not a doctor or a weight loss expert. I’m just a woman who has issues with food. I’ve found a way to design a lifestyle that makes it harder to regain the weight I lost. (Unless you have to sit on your butt for six weeks healing from surgery that you only needed for losing it too fast in the first place!!)

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(My new garden gym obstacle course has me up to four rounds each of eight push ups, three pull ups, six push ups, fifteen minutes of running, and gaining some serious balance on a beam. Shredded farm muscle here I come!) 

Skilling up. Yes, we have a TON of skills we didn’t use to. Yet, we have a TON more we want to have! The Forager finds wild plants, makes primitive crafts, is a terracing and swale making geek, and builds a mean friction fire. She aspires to be a lot farther down her foraged skilled up road one day–as she swears it’s what keeps her looking and feeling 17. ;-p My strengths are cooking, food preservation, teaching, being a homestead housewife, making art…. and then gardening. Notice how that comes last? It’s because I wasn’t born with a green thumb. Gardening has not come easy for me–I had to grow “the plant thing”. I’ve tried to be super honest about it over the years. I’ve also never given up on it, because it is something I want to be good at and I’m willing to work hard to get there. I’m not afraid to laugh at myself or share silly stories with folks about how I used to weed away my ground covers or how I planted 40 asparagus starts upside down. But, I think that is why folks like coming out here so much…. we make things seem approachable. Attainable. We just share what experience we do have. We make them laugh a lot while we do it.

Being off grid. We aren’t. It’s that simple. I say semi-off grid because our house doesn’t have power or plumbing. But there is a small building that is hooked to grid power on our farm. Our tiny intentional neighborhood shares it. It runs our well pump, a communal deep freezer, a modem for internet, and has a power strip for charging batteries. In winter, I run an extension cord to our house for one lamp and to charge our computers and batteries somewhere that has heat. (I didn’t do this for two winters, to make sure I could live by candlelight. I can, so now a lamp feels okay to reintegrate a few months a year) But, that’s it for what we’ve got power wise. Last month our two households used $52.41 of power. (Over half of that is the service fee to get it to the tippy top of our mountain.) I have no idea if we will ever get solar panels, but I’m sure a small setup could handle that. We want to be incredibly sure we are NOT dependent on having power, and it seems to help our anxiety issues to not have so much buzzing about. We have a lot of infrastructure in place in the form of rain barrels and research books for if the power does go out. All of us are completely skilled up and mentally prepared enough to not be upset or even disrupted much when it does. That my friends, was our real off grid goal. It feels incredibly good and empowering to use less power. It has a lot of positive impacts for the environment too.

Living at Eight Owls Farm. We get asked pretty often about if there is an option to live on our farm. We do not plan to have other people live here at this time. Our hope is to give you experiences here that inspire you to homestead, permaculture farm, and forage where you already are! We are part of an intentional neighborhood we love, but are not an intentional community and we no longer aspire to be one for a lot of reasons that would need its very own blog post.

Being the cutest couple. Hey now, even we agree with that one! 😉 But, we need you to know that there is plenty we DON’T agree on around here. We are both incredibly different, have polar opposite passions, and move through the world in quite different ways. I ramble when I talk, she listens and chooses her words carefully–they have a lot of impact when they come out. I’m get’er’done, she’s methodical. I farm, she forages. I love early mornings, she loves late nights. Yet, somehow, those difference seems to bring out the best in each other. I have no idea why that is, but I think it has a lot to do with our homestead lifestyle. We do what we love with our time. These days we focus on doing what works and let go of what doesn’t. We do our best to minimize our stress and don’t hang around folks that have a tendency to add that on. We make a lot of time for spending together and we give each other a lot of room to be different. We’ve worked really hard at it for the last 7.5 years too. Neither of us were the greatest at communication–but we love each other so dang much that we try really, really hard.

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Being badass. We saved this for last because it is the most complicated. People started telling us we were badasses three years ago. We didn’t believe it then at all, so it was a bit horrifying to hear. But this past year changed that and we are starting to believe it now. We are pretty badass after all. We think anyone can be. But we want you to know we are human too. We’re not superheroes, wizards or aliens. We are just two women who aspire to be all we can be. We want to inspire folks to try to be all they can be too. And that’s it. We don’t ever want to make anyone else feel stupid, small or like we are better, cooler, or more badass than they are. The two of us have been made to feel that way plenty in our lives and would never wish that on anyone else. Mostly because the kinds of people we usually meet are standing at the beginning of trying to walk down a very different road than the one they are currently on. Which means that they are the baddest of all bad asses. Because being willing to stand at the beginning of a difficult road takes a ton of guts. So, yes–we finally think we are badasses. But, if you have gotten this far reading this long post… it likely means you are trying to find a different road. And that makes YOU a badass to US!

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We get it – everyone needs homesteading heroes! Even US! In fact, just yesterday we went and met one of ours. We’ve been wanting to get up to Turtle Island Preserve to meet Eustace Conway for a good long while now and it was a blast making that dream come true yesterday. It was an amazing place to visit! Desere gave us an unbelievable private tour, we got to hang with the man some and we got inspired to all get out! Those folks make you feel incredibly comfortable–talk about approachable and attainable. Turtle Island staff sure manages to find the balance between being bad ass and not making you feel like they are any better than you! Give those fine folks a holler if you want some serious homestead hero inspiration! 


So, there you go–the common misconceptions all in one tidy, albeit long, blog post. We can tell you a few things we are both incredibly committed to… Telling you the truth, about how we are set up, and that the most important thing we have grown here is adaptability…. because the way we are set up may have to change year to year as the world changes or as we get older. But we will talk to you about that honestly too. We won’t try to make things look pretty or unrealistic–we want you to know what to expect on your own homestead… and we’ve found that pretty or prefect isn’t usually the case for homestead life. And, that we will never forget what it was like to be who we used to be. To be standing at the beginning. No matter how long we do this, or how big the eight owls following might get, we will give it our best efforts to be just how we are now in this regard. We will try to support you as you grow, we will do our best to build you up and not break you down if you visit here. We will see you as the bad ass we just know you are working to be. We’ll accept and love you just how you are. Because, it’s the eight owls way… we just want to show you how we learned to fly and how we built our nest. So you can go do the same, in your own way.

–the farmer and the forager (we came together and wrote this one together… she talked, I typed, she edited!) 

The Farmer + Forager’s Holiday Shopping for Homesteaders Guide!

What in the world do you buy your homesteading friends for a holiday gift? What do farmers and foragers want stuffed in their stockings? We’ve gotten asked this a few times over the years – but haven’t ever done a blog post about it. When we got asked again this year, we figured we would come together and co-write a blog post of a few ideas for the homesteaders you love to receive this holiday season.

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We are both big fans of the hand crafted item, letters/cards, knitted hats, custom clothes, or gifts that show big hand crafted love from our friends and family. A framed photograph or scrapbook goes such a long way with the two of us! Upcylced things, gear from the habitat re-store, old things you don’t want anymore but may be totally useful to the scrappy homesteader (kitchen gear, camping gear, building materials, research books about farm and forage related things, basement/attic clean outs, etc). Seriously tough clothes that can hold up to farm life. Organic food you grew or cooked! See how fired up the farmer got when the forager brought her a surprise gift of a few figs off a tree we just put in this year?!

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Getting something creative and that a lot of cash wasn’t spent on goes a long way with the two of homesteaders that reside here!! Granted, the forager says that her ideal gift would be both a letter or piece of art from someone she loves alongside the duct tape she needs to survive her farm life–but you get the idea.

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The Forager began to turn her bow making skill to basket making in 2015. She loves doing them when she has time. this was her first one, so she gave it to a beloved family member as a holiday last year and I stuffed it with food we grew! 

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So, in the spirit of answering some great gifting questions this week… we also each picked 8 things that we would love to find in our stockings this holiday season. We sure hope it helps you shop for your homesteading friends!

The Forager:

duct tape • tarps • steel toe boots • rain gear • a good knife • tools • A-frame level • a fire starter or metal match

The Farmer:

ball canning jars +/or extra lids/bands • carhartts • wool socks+ long johns • skinning knives • non-gmo seeds • gift certificates for homesteading education • fermenting crocks • sprouting boxes

And then, there are always books. We have a million we love… but these are just a few of our favorite homesteading books (we’ve starred our must haves):

The Foxfire series*, One Straw Revolution* (our new very favorite!), Wild Fermentation, the art of fermentation* , Encyclopedia of Country Living*, Basic Butchery of Livestock and Game, Fruits of the Forest, How to Build Animal Housing, Unlearn, Rewild*, Backyard Homestead*, Gaia’s Garden*, The Market Gardener, The A to Z guide of Healing Herbal Remedies, Off the Grid, Game for all Seasons, Raising Goats Naturally, Natural Goat Care, The Organic Artist*, Edible Forest Gardening (2 volumes)*, Mycelium running, square foot gardening, The Permaculture City, the bowyers bible set of 4, anything by tom brown, field guides to edible or medicinal plants, and the stalking the wild asparagus series.

And, of course–the best of all… is experiences and time together. For these two homesteaders we find that TOPS. We so love being able to just spend some time with the folks we love. So, maybe all your homesteaders want from you is a promise of a visit in the upcoming year. One where you won’t make them feel weird for the way they choose to live! ;-P Or if you REALLY want to make their whole year, tell them you will FARM SIT for them while they take a couple days off! Holy crow, what a gift that is for a new homesteader. Take it from two ladies who didn’t get to sleep off the farm for the first three years they owned it. Because no one else had the know how or desire to wrangle the goats and milk twice a day!

It’s hard to even wrap our minds around the fact that the holidays are here again. What a big year it has been in the world. Now is the time to just get together and enjoy each other–so hopefully the focus will be on that. But, if gift giving is important to you, hopefully this helped just a little bit… to give you some tips on what your homesteading friends may be needing this holiday season! Hope everyone has a great one!! Big love from our homestead to yours–

The Farmer and The Forager

Right before we started to write this post last night–I started out by asking the forager what she thought she would want… here was her response. Sorry for the poor quality and lighting – we only have one lamp in our limited power source house!

 

 

 

 

 

The renaissance farmer

I’ve gotten told by more than a few folks in the last couple weeks that they don’t know how we do everything we do out here. I got called a renaissance woman. I got some head shakes. I heard some disbelief of if I sleep. It made me think. I started to wonder, why do I do all this? Gosh…..am I taking on too much?

After spending a couple of weeks marinating on it, I’ve decided that no–I haven’t taken on too much. I’m doing exactly what I have to. Staying busy is one of the things that manages my anxiety. It keeps me from getting too in my head or getting depressed over the state of the world. Staying busy with my own activities keeps me from being so quick to pick up other people’s issues or energy. First off, I’ve designed my life these days to stay on my homestead six days a week. I seem to only need 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night. I don’t have the most important job in the world–of raising any youngins’. There’s no TV here. I haven’t had a cell phone in six years. I only follow a handful of my very closest friends on social media, and I seriously limit my scrolling time. I have to save some energy to promote my own business on there. So I have roughly 115 hours each week to fill with activities I enjoy…. and the farm is only one of those.

In the first couple years we were here on our land, farming was all-consuming. My lack of experience and the fact that i constantly overextended myself meant that 115 of those hours were getting eaten up by panic, putting out farm fires, or having tear-filled meltdowns. As we are now a quarter of the way into year five on our own land… less things burst into flame with each passing year. This means I’ve had time to really settle into being the renaissance farmer in the last six months. It feels so darn good! At this moment in time, I can say with total faith and belief that I want to homestead for the rest of my life. I understand that may change as I get older, but somehow – I doubt it. I’d rather not start to hate this or burnout, so… here’s a few things that I’m just loving spending my time on.

Homesteading… I do love it so much. It still feels like a new love affair. This time of year, it’s all about planning next year. Making maps, diagrams, lists, and project goals. That’s always such an exciting time, sitting inside by the wood stove and talking possibilities. Reading books, studying, and making next year’s garden maps. The warmest parts of the day are filled with clearing more land and terracing it on contour for future gardens. And of course, there is always wood to chop or water to carry…. food to ferment or to cook into warm tasty meals.

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Running and my new garden obstacle course…! I still have weight to lose, and just farming hasn’t been enough to get off the last 10 pounds of the 160 I needed to lose. So, I’ve stepped it up. I run on contour, hop over logs, practice my balance and climbing skills, I’m up to seven pull ups and eight push ups. I’m loving it. I have an amazing friend who wrote us a letter about why she runs. Her being so brave in what she said gave me just the nudge I needed to slip those sneakers on. One of my naturopathic doctors and former track guy, Dr. Glenn, had plenty of tips and tricks to tell me about how to avoid injury. He even came out here to supervise me and check my form and full range of motion so I won’t hurt my back or joints! My mp3 player full of Ariana Grande and FloRida pushes me when I start to pant. I’m still working on a video of this–it’s proved a bit tricky thus far to record. But, I’ll get there!

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Writing… I’ve come to love it so much. I never wrote anything but art history papers before, and it was like pulling teeth for me. I never in a million years dreamed of becoming a writer or blogger. I started this blog so my friends and family could keep up with what was going on atop Panther Mountain. But, I fell in love with it. It feels so darn good for me. I got asked this week to be an article writer for Women Who Farm. I guess that means some other folks are loving it too. And I’m so happy about it, I could about bust! My first article that is getting featured landed on my own blog yesterday, Becoming a Woman Who Farms.

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Art… This was the first love that I had all kinds of issues with. We’ve been together 23 years. I used to blame her for making me fat. For forcing me to sit at a computer to make graphic design. When I started farming, I all but broke up with her over it. Yet, art was my first love. It wasn’t her fault I got fat – it was mine. Graphic design doesn’t seem to mind if I take a break to go to the garden gym. So, we got back together a couple years ago and decided we could do different things together. Help small businesses and non-profits. Musicians and other artists. Holy crow, we could promote for farms and homesteads!!! Best of all, we could drop our old hourly rate, and do it more affordably or for trade. We could get back into photography and drawing, start to make videos, and get over ourselves and our confidence issues. Thank goodness for drawing group, for intentional neighborhood, and for my neighbor over at Crow Ridge Homestead (who is making all my custom illustration dreams come true)! We’ve come together this fall to form Eight Owls Design Collective–so if your farm, homestead, food, art or music based small business or non-profit needs some marketing help… shoot us an email!

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All of that and it doesn’t keep me from continuing to build confidence so that one day… I’ll sing and dance the way I dream of too. It doesn’t keep me from spending Saturday night dancing around with the love of my life in socks. Singing this new song I just love…. out loud. Like we did last night. It doesn’t keep us from going to drawing group together (pic above left). All this activity sure doesn’t seem to keep me from being part of a couple, that’s still goofy in love after going on 8 years.

My busy life won’t make me break the tether between myself and today…. my self care Sunday and my afternoon nap. These activities I love won’t slow me down from taking the time to pray or be extra grateful today. They won’t keep me from stepping outside into the sunshine and worshiping in nature She accepts me just exactly how I am. It won’t keep me from forgetting that if I don’t take care of myself and take a day to rest, I won’t be able to keep juggling all these things I love.

It doesn’t even keep me from aspiring to do even more. I have an old violin back in my studio collecting dust that I’d like to pick up again one day. There are a lot more ideas in my head about how to help our community. One day, I want to know what it feels like to only want to eat our own food and not buy anything in. But for the moment, those things will have to wait while I get good at balancing what I’m already doing. It feels great so far, but I need to see if it can be sustained before I pile more on. I need to see if it keeps feeling good.

So, I’ll close now with the forager’s very favorite piece of tea bag wisdom. She’s holding on to this one for our quote door. She says it is just perfect for her, and I’m finding it is for me too.

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Self care Sunday…. here I come!

-the farmer

 

Becoming a woman who farms

Six years ago, I was a woman who made art behind a computer screen and taught others to do the same. A woman who ate a lot and didn’t exercise much. I hated a lot of things about myself. How I looked, how I felt, how I spent my time, and who I was. I drove to the grocery store a lot. I didn’t think much about where the things on the shelves came from. I picked up a ton of processed food while I was there and not a lot of produce. Inevitably… I got a whole lot bigger around the middle, more depressed, and more anxious with each passing season.

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Thank goodness, that back then–I had a big dream. Of being a woman who farmed. I daydreamed about ducks. I was curious what it felt like to pull carrots. To stuff a wheelbarrow with squash.

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I wanted to know what it would be like to meet my meat. I geeked out over the idea of goats. I felt like my hands had memories of milking, even though I’d never even seen a milk pail….much less an udder.

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I wanted to know what it was like to have a job where I could get muddier.

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I had a lot of questions too. Like where did my food even come from? How far had it traveled to get to my plate? Who picked it? Were they well paid? Was my food… sprayed? Were the animals that made my beloved cheese well loved? Did my fried chicken meet a quick and ethical end? And who cooked it before it got sandwiched between two sides of a biscuit and handed to me through my car window? And then came my real question…..What was that kind of food doing to me?  

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It suddenly all stopped making sense. The convenience all seemed to have had a cost. That cost showed up in the size of my pants. In the weight of my anxiety and depression. So I decided to try something new, not a fad diet, but to follow a farm dream. I chose to trade a large paycheck for peas. A life behind a screen for one in the sunshine. I decided to sow a seed and see if a woman who farmed…. would grow.

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Today, those seeds of a new life have long since been sown. A TON has grown but my waistline shrank, by 150 pounds. My confidence grew by leaps and bounds. Infectious smiles now outweigh the sadness I used to carry around. I grow a lot of peas. I hang out with a lot of bees.

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I’ve found a lot of peace. As I chop a lot of wood and I carry a lot of water.

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I’ve found a home in the dirt. I’ve completely let go of having to wear elastic banded skirts.

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Now, I teach other women to do the same. A forager and I use this 9.87 acres to share space and stories with women who have big dreams of sowing seeds. We provide a safe space for shrinking waistlines and/or growing confidence. I do it because when I had that big dream six years ago–no farm I applied to for an internship would agree to take me, my weight or my inexperience on. I do it because it means everything in the world to me to watch women grow. Just like the two women who own this organic farm did.

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We lost a collective 225 pounds here as we grew, gave up gluten in lieu of our own food and began to go off grid. We have gained a million or more pounds of skills here. We can farm and forage our own food. We can build soil and make fire from sticks. We can make ink for our art from foraged walnuts. We can craft baskets from wild harvested plants. We can use every piece of what we take from nature. We can live more simply and with less negative environmental impact than we ever did before. And best of all, we can show other women how to do the same in their own way. We can send those skills back to their families, to their children.

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We can sow a permaculture seed in young folks, so they will understand that one day their food could be free.

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We can give priority to women who apply to work here. Our farm can give them the chance that we were never given in the beginning. We can provide a safe space for women to learn to swing an axe. We can tell funny stories about how we grew and shrank. We can be honest about our mistakes and missteps in the hopes they will find a more sure footed path. A farmer can share how to raise rabbits, how to nurture things as they grow. A forager can show how she carved a path to the wild side, how she makes bows or creates buckskin. We can use our farm to show them, girls can do ANYTHING. That we can be anything we set out to be…. farmers, foragers, builders, hunters, nurturers,  warriors and wild things. If the two of us can grow, any woman can. 

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Just a few pictures of some of our very favorite women staff over the last four years

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It’s what we aspire to do here on our educational farm. Empowerment. Enlightenment. Education and experiences that are affordable and attainable. We pray that what we do here will change our little corner of the world to be a better place. That people will gain skills here that they will share when they go back home. If those people happen to be women who farm, so much the better. It means everything in the world to this woman farmer that we have a space to share, to teach, to show other women just how much we are capable of. In the hopes that some of those women, might just be the ones that can change our world. 

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“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” —Maya Angelou

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I am a woman who makes art. A woman who eats food she grew and gets plenty of exercise. I still get to wear skirts sometimes too. I just love a lot of things about myself. How I look, how I feel, how I spend my time, who I am and who I am becoming. I drive to the grocery store a lot less. I think about where the things on the shelves came from, what is in them and what I can go without. I pick up a few bulk organic staples or spices while I am there. Inevitably… I get a whole lot stronger, happier and more skilled with each passing season.

-the farmer

Growing Organically

Six years ago, I didn’t even really understand what organically grown meant. I mean, I saw vegetables in the grocery store that said they were. I also saw their price tag often being double or triple the cost of the other produce beside it. I was an art teacher, so my wallet was already a bit strapped for groceries anyway. Since my belly back then really preferred the convenience of the freezer section, or better yet the candy or bakery aisle to carrots anyway… I’d just shake my head, put those carrots down and walk away.

Yet—I weighed 300 pounds, that walk to the candy aisle was pretty slow. Going through the checkout line with a cart full of chips, soda, bread and chocolate always seemed to make my anxiety and depression worse… Not better like I thought it would. Somehow I thought heading home to stuff all that junk food in my mouth in the evening in front of a television would make me forget the looks I got from the cashier or other customers when I bought it in the first place. But it didn’t. Not even a little tiny bit.

What I didn’t realize then, but do now–is that just picking up those carrots did something to me. They planted a seed. Of what seemed like a crazy idea at the time… what if I could grow organic carrots of my own? What if I could get an egg from a free range chicken I’d actually raised? What if I actually knew where my food came from?

It’s funny how depression worked for me, it always just kept getting worse and worse. Worrying about my weight just seemed to make the numbers on the scale keep spiraling up at a dizzying clip. Until one day–that idea of carrots and chickens was all I could think about. It felt like it might just be a way out… of being overweight, of feeling so disconnected, of being so anxious and so depressed that I didn’t want to even wake up some mornings. There were actually nights back then that I would be so sad and feel so bad, that I’d go to sleep crying and praying I wouldn’t wake and have to face another day of being who I had become.

Fast-forward six years…. to today. To find a 154 pound permaculture farmer sitting on 9.87 acres of her very own. A lady so dang excited about life, vegetables, rabbits and chickens that she can rarely sleep past five am. A woman that is so proud to have been organically grown.

The last six years have been the very best ones of my whole life. I spend daylight hours outside sowing seeds and not so much behind a screen. I know exactly where the food on my dinner plate came from, because I usually put it there. I’ll skip the freezer section every time these days in lieu of my deep love of food preservation. I go to the garden instead of the gym or the grocery store. Lack of confidence that used to crush me grows stronger and bigger every year out here. Muscles and big smiles I’d never seen before do too.

I’ve gained skills on this farm that I never even knew existed before–when I just went to the grocery store. I can butcher my own meat. I can find those sneaky free range eggs the hens hide. I can grow some serious squash. I still don’t grow carrots so great, but I’m okay with it–I grew a lot of determination to keep trying here too.

I share this homestead life with a forager, who overcame her own issues and found her best self in the forest and with the wild things. Who lost eighty pounds here her own self. A side effect she didn’t expect when she went into this with me on a quest to just skill up. So that means my life has the happy balance of also being about primitive living and wild foods. I can start a fire with sticks. I can hunt the precious chanterelles I love. I know how to breakdown a deer and use every single piece of that amazing creature to feed my belly and put clothes on my back.

An organically grown life–it means everything in the world to this farmer. I may not have been sown or sprouted until I was 31 years old, but I couldn’t be more grateful that I did. Every single day feels so incredibly precious and inspiring. These days I simply cannot wait to wake up, and I don’t pray for much else except to have a lot more of them days that I do. Well, and for rain! Yet, not today–it’s raining right now as I speak and it sure does feel like nature saying thank you. For being willing to grow… Organically.

-the farmer


Okay so, here’s the homesteading truths I try to be very serious about sharing on this blog. Yes, I have a great story and I’m so happy I did just what I did. It was exactly what I had to do at the time, to just survive my sadness. I’m so darn grateful that I lost the weight and have now kept it off for over two years by designing a life I love and that keeps me healthy. But, if the idea of homesteading your way to better health and happiness sounds like something you would like to try–you can likely do it better than I did!

I sure am no doctor, and I’m never dispensing medical advice or telling you what to do. But I can tell you what I would have told myself 6 years ago. To do what I didn’t do. Make a plan with your doctor to make sure you don’t put yourself in peril in the name of produce. Get an appointment with awesome naturopathic doctor that you love, like I love mine from Through the Woods Natural Health here in Brevard, NC. Those fine folks can help you make a support plan to make your transition easier than mine was. Take a picture or video of yourself at your heaviest weight, like I was too afraid to do…. but SO wish I had now. Keep following us on this blog and social media in the coming years as we do our best to keep getting better at sharing with you what worked here and what didn’t.

You can get education that is affordable and organically grown too – like from the amazing Organic Growers School in Asheville. That way, it likely won’t take you six years to be standing where I am today. You can spend this winter reading and studying how you might want to grow. Because remember…. I’m living proof that changing your lifestyle can be as simple as the seed of an idea being sown in your heart…. even if you’ve never grown a single thing before. 

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Man, I get a lot more fired up about figs these days than I do about that old candy aisle anyways!

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There’s those serious squash I mentioned. I’m a huge fan of Sow True Seed and cushaw squash these days!

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Man, my garden sure is quicker to get to than a convenience store! Tastier to me these days too…