The Things that Form Us (and weaving them into life)

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The Holly Hobby lunch box stood behind the vendor whispering.  She whispered of kindergarten, and my old Holly Hobby book, and my favorite quilt pattern.  Of coloring books and the bonnet I still have that my grandmother sewed for me on my fifth birthday.

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“Will you take $10?” I asked meekly.  With a silent question to her partner and a nod she smiled and handed me the lunch box.  I began to cry, which surprised me, but the rush of childhood and innocence and fresh beginnings so moved me at that moment.

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Looking at her dress and apron and her early influence on my life, is she the reason I have such a love for pioneer and the old fashioned?

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Up until my twenties I had never heard that I was possibly Native American.  It wasn’t until I became an herbalist that I started searching for that link. Where does my odd clairvoyance come from?  Where does my innate knowledge of plant medicines come from?  I know now it comes from both sides.  I also need to find help to break my genealogy addiction!  I was excited to see that I am the granddaughter of a Cherokee chief but I am not sure what role that plays in my present life!  Is the knowledge and personalities, just as DNA, passed through our grandmothers and grandfathers into us?  That would seem as probable as getting blond hair from a relative through DNA.  Everything that goes into forming us is so complex and fascinating.  Through this journey we became involved in a wonderful Native community and place where both of us can worship.  We have made great friends and I have been honored with their trust of my plant medicines.

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Now standing looking out on the next chapter of our life, literally building each piece from scratch, it is easy to see what parts of us we want to use to create the next step of our life.  Choosing a job, Doug made the decision to not pursue the IT field and go for something different.  He has his third interview with Starbucks as a shift supervisor tomorrow.  If you know Doug, he is very talented in the computer field but he really thrives around coffee and customers.  He is happy and easy going and with benefits and a steady paycheck he will do great and create a fun environment for others working there too.

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I know my calling and I cannot wait to get a little shop open so that folks can find me.  A lot of people thought we disappeared when we left for Calhan and a lot of people have expressed excitement that I will be making medicines and being in one place where people can easily come for help.  We had our second showing on the house yesterday.  Everything is moving forward and as we build our life, we will incorporate gardens, and herbs, and art, simple living, and community.  For community has formed us too.

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey (a field trip)

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Sometimes one needs to run away, to have a change of scenery, and to put the day to day chaos away and perhaps have a glass of wine!  A change of place can create calm in thought and help bring on new ideas.  We haven’t had a field trip to a winery in some time, so Doug and I with our friends, Rodney and Pat, headed up to Canyon City to explore one in our own back yard.

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The Holy Cross Abbey is a beautiful gothic structure that used to house monks and a boarding school, but as it declined the grounds were left to a viticulturist and the abbey now rests while the winery does the work now.

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We enjoyed the VIP tasting (surprisingly affordable) which included eleven pours to taste most of the wines produced there, from a luscious Petit Sirah to a sweet Apple wine made from local apples.  As we walked outside to the place that the tasting would be held we immediately took in the quaint picnic table set for four with wine glasses.  The vineyard directly behind buzzing with life.  The perfect early autumn air and the smell of nearby mountains and flowers made the event seem as if it were written out of a magazine.

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Our delightful hostess, Elise, was a charming addition to the tasting as we compared stories of herbalism, homesteading, and future dreams.  Her aspirations include starting a community organization that brings like minded people together and turning her parents’ property into a lively homestead for them.  We took to her sweet spirit and enthusiasm immediately.

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It was a day of laughter, good weather, friends, and wine.  We sat in the sun, enjoyed a meal together afterwards, and sang karaoke into the night.  The perfect day.

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If you are in the area the Holy Cross Winery is a lovely place to stop. http://abbeywinery.com

Farmgirl Herbal Remedies (my new Apothecary)

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I know I always tell y’all to take a risk and jump off high cliffs to catch dreams and I do live that.  Why exactly I thought it wise to give up my main source of income and life calling, I know not, but we all have those moments of burn out or boredom and I had both.  My herbal medicine business didn’t look like I wanted it to and it was too late to change much about it.  You may think I am crazy, but it was going too well.  I became an herbalist in order to use my medical intuitive abilities, play with plants, and help educate and offer other folk alternative ways to effectively care for their family armed with the knowledge of thousands of years of practical Native medicine.  I don’t play doctor or diagnose, but I know my stuff when it comes to herbal medicine.  But, I ended up just shipping products all over the world and it lost its personal touch.  If I could pinpoint a place where I got off track, trying to put herbalism behind farming was my wrong path.  Herbalism is my calling.  We detoured back onto the main road now and are heading somewhere.

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Our investors/friends/clients really want us to reopen an apothecary.  I want to as well.  This time I am designing it differently.  Margie will have the Garden Fairy products in there and I’ll get commission.  My part will be seventy glowing single extracts where I can pour what people need at the moment or they could build their own tincture.  I will have over seventy herbs for teas, many that I have harvested.  I think we need some green teas and chai blends as well.  We will sell my books and art as well as a wide variety of herbal medicines in a small, airy shop attached to the house.  Can you picture it?

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I have been thinking about how to create my new extracts.  I have always done straight alcohol because it pulls the most medicine out of the herbs.  However, the taste is repulsive and sharp.

I would love to make honey tinctures but then I leave out any client under the age of one and how many bees would be killed in order to get that much honey?

So, I tried to imagine the perfect medicine.  If I wanted to give someone a gift of medicine what would it look like.  It would be slightly sweet, filled with antioxidants and health, and thoroughly infused medicine.  I think one part maple syrup (nutrient rich and anti-tumor), one part vodka (to infuse the herbs properly), one part live medicinal herbs, and one part homemade red wine vinegar (antioxidant and good for digestive system) would be wonderful.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  I will try a batch and see how it is.

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It is fun dreaming up my new Apothecary.  Farmgirl Herbal Remedies will hopefully be open this autumn.

Rock in the Rough (the little farm that possibly could)

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“It’s a rock in the rough,” Dennis said while we were looking at it.  Not diamond, rock.  It’s special, folks, and so long as one can look past the piles of belongings, the thick, dark drapes, and if one has watched Martha Stewart for decades and if one has been a subscriber of Country Living Magazine since one was twelve, then that one just may have the imagination and the thrill of the decorator ready to turn this place into a gem!

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My store

Not haunted despite its appearance!

Not haunted despite its appearance!

Do you think they would leave this?

Do you think they would leave this?

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As I followed our friends and Doug while we tried not to trip over the neon blue shag carpet that has bunched up in places I continually cooed, “Oh look, if we did this…oh look, if we did that, oh look, a sewing room!…”  They were smitten too and the house holds onto her good bones, block and stucco walls, and built for nuclear disaster frame of the nineteen fifties.  She just needs some paint and wood floors and a pretty dress and that girl will be ready to host her first farm party.

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The house I told you about the other day was great and ready for a storefront right away but it was also not zoned to live in, not designed for living spaces, and the taxes were four times higher than the above fifties girl who needs a party dress.  We drove down the street that same day and peeked through her darkened windows and torn curtains and walked the third of an acre, looked at the distance from the main road and went to town to ask questions.  And for the first time, they all came back positive!

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Apothecary entrance

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The art shed

The art shed

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We can live there.  The outside porch can be rebuilt and made into an apothecary.  There is an art studio and a chicken coop.  Even though I can have a small storefront, the property is zoned residential and so are the taxes.  Everything is aesthetic and can be easily beautified and secured to make this our new farm.

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Last night I thumbed through fifteen years of magazine clippings that I have cut out showing rooms and design ideas that I love.  And I was amazed at how many of them were very similar and how many fit this house.

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Now, we just need to make an offer!

Store Fronts and Upside Down Paintings

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Right now is a waiting game (ugh, my favorite…) while we wait to see about the auction on our old house in Kiowa, the second interview for Doug, and what the universe has in store for us.  This morning we go see a house in Elizabeth that is zoned commercial.  If we can get it rezoned to mixed use (another waiting game!) it could be full of possibility.  It is a darling home from 1883.  The front of the house is set up like a store and the back has a kitchen and two other rooms and upstairs there are two quaint bedrooms under the eaves.  No shower and I do not know how hard it would be to convince the town to change the zoning but my imagination goes wild upon entering the grounds.  There is a large yard.  I mean large, Friends.  We could have a heck of an urban garden right on highway 86 in town!

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My paintings are hanging at Grumpy’s coffee shop and I notice they are getting a little slim.  One sold before I could get it hung up!  I would like to paint and I have always wanted an art gallery.  I have a new idea for an apothecary.  Not one that has perfectly labeled bottles and exact ingredients and an online store but jars and spigots of single extracts where I can mix things for folks as they come in and offer teas and blends plus some fun creams and salves.  Folks know me in town well enough now that I don’t have to have the perfect store front for herbal remedies; they can just come on in and get a custom blend for the ailment they have.  I could also resume my homesteading classes, my herbal classes, and any other idea I come up with!  I can sell my books as well.  All while not leaving my home and farm.  Makes the mind wander with possibility, doesn’t it?

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Well before I start dreaming too much before my third cup of coffee, we better go see the inside first.  I have been in there before visiting prior businesses but not with an eye for staying there.  Who knows what is planned for us but in the meantime I wish I had a place to paint.

I have a fun tip for all of you to try your hand at drawing or painting that I learned in middle school.  Turn a page out of a magazine or a photograph or anything you want to paint upside down and draw it.  You will be amazed at how it turns out!  When your mind stops telling you how it should look and you draw it how it actually looks your work will turn out brilliantly.  This works great for photographs of people where your mind really wants to step in and boss your paint brushes around but once you flip that photo your hand has to draw it exactly as it is.

Well, my world is certainly upside down and my mind is still trying to tell me how it should look!  Let’s see what the universe paints for me….

The hanging sign in front might read-

Farmgirl

School-Art-Farm-Books-Herbal Remedies

On Pumpkin Hollow Farm….

Early Autumn

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The school bus rambles down the main road as the sun hovers low while slowly making its ascent.  Sounds from the football field yonder bring to mind glorious fall days; of young men running, yelling, crowds in the small town bandstands cheering.  The leaves are turning brilliant shades of gold in the highest cottonwoods.  Autumn has snuck in early whispering cool breaths in the early morning hours and in the evening too.

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My mother’s 61st birthday is today.  I hope she has a wonderful day!  We always considered her birthday to be in summer.  We didn’t start school until September and the days were still hot.  Summer arrived late this year and it seems she was only visiting on her way to Tahiti for the next season has arrived in her place.

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Autumn is my favorite time of year but I am not ready for the impending cold that accompanies.  I long for a few more months of warm summer days.  The air is crisp and bright full of birdsong and daytime warmth.

I sigh.  “Alright Fall, you can come in.  I’ll get my sweater.”

When Homesteading is Life

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When one is faced with starting over there is an underlying gift involved.  One that creates space.  Yes, it is sad to lose everything one owns and it is odd to have to reinvent one’s occupation and lifestyle but what this creates is a place to only bring back in what one loves.  What one needs.  What improves life and doesn’t clutter or overwhelm it.

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I am living in a beautiful home with friends.  Electricity is used as needed and sometimes when not.  I have relearned to use a dishwasher and a dryer.  We flip on lamps to read.  I walk around their house in the evening squinting for the overhead lights are so bright.  I do not like overhead or artificial lights.  My forever farm will have oil lamps again.  I miss them, love them, feel better by them, and will not miss turning on the switch.

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I rinse and lightly scrub dishes and put them in the dishwasher.  One more good rub and these dishes could be put away.  I do not feel I need one.  The dryer has been fun and makes laundry day a snap with these beautiful machines but I miss hearing the flick of the clothes as I snap them in the air before placing them on the line while listening to birds and taking a few breaths to myself as I enjoy the outdoors.  My clothes, wrinkle free and not shrunk coming off the line in piles of aroma that could not be matched with dryer sheets.  “Perhaps I will love city life again or at least modern conveniences,” I thought.  Wrong.

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Right now we don’t miss milking twice a day but we really miss our chickens.  I haven’t eaten more than four servings of fresh food all summer.  My gardens filled with bounty in my memory and planning.  No eggs, no produce, and no milk on hand is sobering.  Maybe we will get a milking goat again, I know not as of yet, but the chickens and gardens will be taking over available space on the forever farm.

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Our neighbors hope we get the place.  They miss us and our goats.  We have only been farmless for a month and a half so perhaps more things I miss will come up.  But we will start house with as little as if we have just left home.  Mementos and little else.  No clutter, only build what we love and treasure in our new home.

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We are having trouble securing work that pays over minimum wage despite our experience and education.  Another interesting dilemma.  But, we are following open doors and not trying to force our way through bolted ones.  Let’s see where this meandering path leads us.

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“It’s a good thing you know how to homestead!,” my friend exclaimed.  She said that most people faced with our situation moving to the country with little wages would think they wouldn’t survive!

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I know how to build a fire, how to can, how to preserve, I know friends who raise their own livestock for meat, I know how to make bread from scratch, and how to make a corn field come up in a driveway.  I am not worried.  I got this.