Fumbling Along

I have been feeling a little lost the past month, fumbling along and finding it difficult to find the right words and purpose for this blogging space. So today, I share a moment, simply for the sake of writing. Wishing you peace and purpose in your days…

Heart Pounding, Lung Expanding, Full Body Motion

The headlamp strapped to my head offers a small beam of light as I run along, the steam from my steady exhalations rising and glowing white in the darkness. An early morning run, frost sparkling on the ground, takes more motivation than I have most days, but today I am out here, enjoying the peace and quiet as I travel the familiar path along the river. As difficult as it is to force myself out the door, I am always pleased when I do.

The glow of the moon fades as the sky pinkens with the rising sun.

moon morning

Perhaps it’s the combination of quiet, the brilliance of stars overhead, or the solitary time without outside demands that I find these winter morning runs in the dark so satisfying. Or maybe it’s knowing I did something good for myself, even as I tried to make excuses not to. Likely, it’s a combination of all these reasons.

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I don’t run to “burn calories” or to manage my weight (although I imagine it helps). I run because I love the exhilaration, the feeling of my lungs, heart, and muscles working in concert as I am propelled along. Our bodies are meant to move, and the opportunities in life for me to experience heart pounding, lung expanding, full body motion are limited. And so I run.

My first memory of the exhilaration of running is from when I was only three or four years old. I was in footie pajamas, in the side yard of our big three story house on Clifton Avenue. It must have been spring, because I remember the grass was fresh and green, and I ran in circles, simply for the joy of it.

Active as child, I turned to “running” as an older teen, attempting to set distance and speed goals for myself. I discovered I loved running long distance, but hated running fast. I abandoned track in high school, but continued to run on my own. I am not a particularly competitive person, although I enjoy setting goals. Running 5ks, a marathon, and eventually duathlons and biathlons enabled me to set training goals.

But completing a race never gave me the same sense of satisfaction as a long, slow run through the woods on a crisp fall day. Or pushing myself up a long a steep mountain trail, the sound of wild turkeys in the distance. Or the simple pleasure of picking my ways across the river, the sound of water moving over and under the stones.

trail-shoes

Running is the most natural thing in the world. I don’t require special equipment or training, and I don’t have to go anywhere other than out my front door. Regular stretching and good nutrition seems to keep me injury free, even as I approach my 47th birthday – that’s 44 years of running on these two legs. I hope for 44 more…

In health,
~Michelleafter-the-run

 

 

Posted in Authenticity, Finding Our Passion, Fitness | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Giving Thanks and Gratitude

I originally posted this November 2015, but is seems more relevant now than ever…

I am pretty selective with my media exposure – no television in our home, limited radio, and I am particular with news outlets. I am too sensitive to take in the 24-hours of violence and tragedy. Part of me wants to apologize for refusing to embrace the suffering. Part of me acknowledges I have no power to change it, and for me, the exposure leads to feelings of anger and despair.

Despite my  media limits, somehow the frenzy of the shopping season seeps in.

Can we remember to pause and truly feel thankful?

Can we pause and remember to be Thankful?

A farmer friend shared this traditional Native American Thanksgiving Address with a group of us, and we each took a turn reading a part. It was such a grounding experience for me, and I want to share it with you.

The address is not a part of what we Americans call “Thanksgiving”. Thanks and appreciate is formally acknowledged with much greater frequency with the Native Americans. The short video provides a brief description of the tradition and purpose of this beautiful  Thanksgiving Address:

 

 

This is the translated version as it was shared with me…

Greetings to the Natural World

The People

Today we have gathered and we see the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.
Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Waters

We give thanks to all the water of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms – waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.
Now our minds are one.

The Fish

We turn our minds to all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Plants

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.
Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers for the Medicines.
Now our minds are one.

The Animals

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.
Now our minds are one.

The Trees

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.
Now our minds are one.

The Birds

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds – from the smallest to the largest – we send our joyful greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.
Now our Minds are one.

The Thunderers

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwisers underground. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.
Now our minds are one.

The Sun

W now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.
Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night-time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.
Now our minds are one.

The Stars

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.
Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.
Now our minds are one.

The Creator

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.
Now our minds are one.

Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.
Now our minds are one.

~With Love,
Michelle

Posted in Growing Gratitude, Mindfulness, Simple Living | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Beginning Homesteading – Our Second Year On the Land

Beginning Homesteading – Starting Where You Are

We started our homesteading journey as suburban homesteaders in a townhouse not far from Washington, D.C. Growing vegetables and herbs in containers on our tiny back deck, replacing landscaped azaleas and ivy with tomatoes, cucumbers, and bush beans, learning to can, sew, and cook from scratch were the tasks we started with.

As much as we wanted a home in the country and to increase our self-sufficiency, we weren’t in a position to move. For five years we dreamed and planned of beginning a homestead in the country. We spent those years budgeting, saving, researching, learning new skills, and preparing ourselves for when we finally found ‘our place’.

We started our homesteading journey as suburban homesteaders in a townhouse not far from Washington, D.C. Growing vegetables and herbs in containers on our tiny back deck, replacing landscaped azaleas and ivy with tomatoes, cucumbers, and bush beans, learning to can, sew, and cook from scratch were the tasks we started with. As much as we wanted a home in the country and to increase our self-sufficiency, we weren't in a position to move. For five years we dreamed and planned of beginning a homestead in the country. We spent those years budgeting, saving, researching, learning new skills, and preparing ourselves for when we finally found 'our place'. Here is our journey and what we have learned along the way.

 

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Starting a Homestead

We arrived at our new home Thanksgiving day 2014, with much relief and excitement. Finally! We were home.

Our new home - view from the driveway

Our new home – Willow Tree Farm

Back Yard

Lawn where the new garden will go

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choosing paint color for the interior living spaces

 

transforming lawn into garden

Transforming lawn into garden

 

There was so much to do! We were determined to transform this land and house into a homestead. We tackled one project after another, and enjoyed a sense of forward progress. Most of our energy went into creating or improving our infrastructure – home improvements, transforming lawn into garden, and building hutches for our meat rabbits.

 

Homestead Journey – The First Year

 

Of course, like many new homesteaders, our goals were overly optimistic and many of our second year goals were not accomplished. The first year it was easy to see the tangible results of all our hard work in beginning our homestead. But for this past year, I would say much of what I did accomplish was more intangible – mainly in the way of lessons learned as I dealt with prolific pests in the garden, trying new varieties and gardening techniques, and learning more about the process of growing, harvesting, and using the medicinal herbs.

Slowing Down – Homesteading and Family

As we approach our second anniversary on our homestead I am slowing down a bit and focusing on our mindset. My husband and I have reduced our work hours outside the home to focus more energy and time on increasing our self-sufficiency, homeschooling our youngest, and taking care of our health. We started this homesteading journey to live a slower, more contented life focused on family, home, food, and community. And I believe we are already succeeding.

Not that we have reached any kind of milestone. Not at all. In fact, everywhere I look around me, I see projects waiting to happen, and like most homesteaders, we face the challenges of time and money. Homesteading is never-ending work. There is no “end point”, no destination where we can sit back and say, “There, now our work is done.” The house will always need repairs, the grass and weeds need managing, the animals require food, water, and fresh bedding, seeds planted, food harvested and prepared. The house will never magically stay clean, the laundry washed, or our stomachs full.

Our focus has shifted this year. Homeschooling the youngest changes the rhythm of our days. It’s exciting to watch my daughter learn and to experience her enthusiasm for working alongside me in the home, with the herbs, and in the gardens.

Homesteading – Projects and Goals

We expanded our garden this year by adding a circular garden bed for our perennial herbs directly in front of the house.  I have had little time or energy for creating pretty spaces, but eventually this bed will be mulched properly, a bird bath added, and there is space for annual flowers between the medicinal herbs.

Amy at Tenth Acre Farm has a great post on creating beautiful and practical circular garden beds.

But the big project and the one I am most excited about is the creation of a berry patch. This is a project I started and abandoned several times during the spring and summer, and I’m excited it’s finally finished! There is a layer of cardboard, soil, and pine needle mulch covering a large patch of lawn adjoining our existing garden. In the spring we will rake back the pine needles, add finished compost, and be ready to plant.

preparing-the-berry-patch

cardboard, soil, and pine needle mulch in place for next spring’s berry patch

 

We are enjoying warm fall days, but with hard frosts overnight. I am still unaccustomed to the swift changes in temperature that happen here in the mountains, so different from my home along the coast on the Outer Banks, where the temperatures were much more steady.

I am still learning the land, weather patterns, and how the plants and animals respond. Our roses and a wild patch of violet continue to bloom despite the overnight freezes. And the caterpillars are still abundant and eating their way through my cabbage patch.

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Fall blooming violets

 

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Fall blooming roses

 

Our goals for the coming year include:

  • Plant blueberries and blackberries in the spring
  • Add laying hens
  • Obtain new breeding pair for our rabbit stock
  • Add a garden shed
  • Focus on growing more root and storage crops
  • Choose a location and prepare for apple trees

This winter my goals are to focus on learning more about:

  • Cold storage and above-ground root cellars (our water table is too high to build a proper root cellar and our crawl space is difficult to access)
  • Composting and soil building
  • Garden planning, crop rotation, and varieties of cover crops

My husband has some projects he is working on including:

  • Building a wood shed
  • Building a potting shelf
  • Building a chicken tractor for our laying hens

 

 

For everything in life, I think it’s important to look back, acknowledge our achievements, examine the lessons learned, and to assess our overall progress. And it’s important to have goals and plans for moving forward.

But the present is where we are, and staying mindful and grateful for all that we have, no matter where we are on our homesteading journey, keeps us grounded. I’m hoping you are finding gratitude and groundedness, wherever you are.

With affection,
Michelle

More on getting started homesteading:

7 Ways to Start a Homestead (Without Being Overwhelmed)

Off-Grid Living and Starting a Homestead from Scratch

 

 

 

Posted in Homesteading, Self-sufficiency | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Sweet and Crunchy Fennel Apple Slaw

Combing sweet apples with crunchy fresh fennel, cider vinegar, and molasses for a unique slaw.

 

Combing sweet apples with crunchy fresh fennel, cider vinegar, and molasses for a unique slaw.

 

Ingredients

1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 fennel bulb trimmed and cut into strips
4 large apples cut into strips (a nice combination is to use 2 tart apple varieties and 2 sweet apples)
3 stalks of celery thinly sliced

Instructions

Whisk the first six ingredients together for a dressing. Combine with the cut apple and vegetables. Mix thoroughly and chill.

Have you used fresh fennel bulbs in your kitchen? Do you have a favorite way to serve it?

 

Posted in seasonal foods, Simple Food | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From Fear to Gratitude

From fear and overwhelm to gratitude

In the Darkness of Night…

The distant call of a great horned owl echoes down from the mountain behind us. Dawn is still hours away, and the moon hangs low in the sky.

My breath fogs in front of me and I wrap the old blanket tighter to keep out the chill.

moon

From the shelter of our covered porch, I hear the shhh sound of the breeze in the remaining leaves that cling to the trees edging the creek.

I shift my eyes to the west, taking in the vast depth of sky overhead and the stars that seem to hang in the inky darkness. So many stars.

Turning my head to face south, I pick out a constellation – Orion, the mighty hunter. How many others have peered at these same stars over the centuries? With this thought, I feel tiny and insignificant, yet connected somehow.

I’m having trouble sleeping tonight. In just a few more hours I will head off to work, and I know my day will be difficult with so few hours of sleep. But I can’t seem to quiet my mind as it flits from one thing to another. I am wide awake and feeling irrationally anxious.

Some of this is related to the swirl of negativity surrounding our recent elections, and I find the divisiveness and vitriol within our culture more troubling than the politics and politicians themselves.

The Power of Fear

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.”
– Dale Carnegie

Fear hangs over us like a heavy cloak, making it difficult to move through our days with love and grace. 

Recently I find myself responding to situations and people from a place of insecurity and anxiety. And so I am looking for the messages and insights my fears are offering. As I attempt to dissect my fears and anxieties, many of them deeply held personal beliefs that are not serving me well, I am turning to another powerful emotion – Gratitude.

 

We all feel fear and overwhelm and at times it can feel crippling. Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there's always something we could be grateful for. - Barry Neil Kaufman

 

The Power of Gratitude

In the words of Brene Brown~

We can spend our entire lives in scarcity . . . just waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering when it will all fall apart. Or, we can lean into the uncertainty and be thankful for what we have in that precious moment. When I’m standing at the crossroads of fear and gratitude, I’ve learned that I must choose vulnerability and practice gratitude if want to know joy. I’m not sure that it will ever be easy for me, but I have learned to trust this practice. 

And so, as I worry, I remind myself to keep my eyes open to the goodness and grace of humanity, to let myself feel vulnerable, and look for the abundance in life. When you are conscious and looking, here is some of what you may find:

  • The kindness and generosity in others.
  • Knowing we are not alone, and
  • Remembering we are all in this together.
  • The unconditional love of family and true friends.
  • The support of community.
  • Small acts of kindness.

For the most part, I am avoiding social media (even more than usual). But I did step in and find compassion and reason within the madness, and I came across this comment, which reminded me there is something I can do.

I plan to fight as hard as I can against the divisiveness and negativity so present in our culture – by being scrupulously honest in my dealings with others, by being polite and courteous, by valuing good character in others over their material trappings, and by giving more to my community and country than I take.

 

Sunlit clouds

 

The lights have gone on in the kitchen. My husband has come down, and is probably wondering where I am. Glancing east, I see the first tints of pink announcing the coming sunrise. I take one last look at the stars, close my eyes, and make a wish. A tired smile is on my face as I enter the warmth of the kitchen and begin my day.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
-A.A.Milne,Winnie the Pooh

So tell me, how do you cope with your worries and fears? 
And what are you grateful for?

In peace,
Michelle

 

 

Posted in Authenticity, Growing Gratitude, Mindfulness | Tagged , | 2 Comments