Month: January, 2012

-4 Before Windchill

It is damn cold out. On Friday, the cold motivated me. Today, I’m dragging, dragging, dragging. We put some more work into the goat house – patched holes where the wind snuck through the slats, made room for the flock of birds, and installed nest boxes. I did some trim work between the panes of plexiglass to keep some of the cold out and the warmth in. She raised the goats’ sleeping platform so the chickens could shelter underneath, and their feed could be tucked out of the goats’ reach.

And I shredded my knuckle with the bow saw.

The most satisfying thing is that this whole set-up cost us nothing, except for some screws and a lot of frustration and successes. The basic shed was thrown in with the goats at purchase time, the lumber for renovation came from freecycle, the plexiglass and scraps of plywood salvaged from my dad, and several dozen pallets from the local bread company warehouse. And it’s turning into quite the palace for the little ones; five New Hampshire Reds, three Buff Orpingtons, and two beautiful French Alpine goats.

I fell dead asleep when we came in from outside, so much energy the cold pulled out of me. I still haven’t completely woken up. I’m not sure I ever really woke up today, actually. I just pray the animals are warm enough tonight, as well as my friend without oil and those seeking shelter in a place they cannot call home. And I am heartbroken for those who knew the teen who was struck by a train this evening. And I’m really praying for the bees.



Wintery Mix

Everything soggy cold, freezing then thawing then freezing again. Got the car stuck off the side of the drive. Can’t wait to use the brand new winch we got for Christmas tomorrow!! Shoveling tires out of sleet ruts, wrapping webbing around tree stems, tugging at the winch lever…sounds like a fabulous Saturday morning to me. (Actually, I’m not being sarcastic.) Lamb and lentils on the menu. Contemplating this Mother Jones article and also this blog by a coworker – both pieces on food, money, and creating challenges. The wind is whipping past my curtains; my nose tickles because the snot is solidifying. But the light is soft and the roof above is sound. I really am so lucky and rarely allow myself to know it.

Slowing Down with the Snow

I don’t take much time to slow down these days. Actually, I haven’t ever in my whole life; this is the first time in my life that I’m considering the lengthening of time by sitting still a priority. I’m still too scattered for meditation, and I’m just not yet on to yoga either.

Yet: took time up my drive; sought footprints from hours back; car nestled between snowbanks at the road’s edge; the soft light from my homestead; the stillness and the clear, clear air.

Paths from cabin to chicken house to goat shed greeted me home from work, and the wood stove feels useful again. Kindling in a basket. She has made this place wintercozy, and I brought home the bacon and made the short stroll from car to house count.

Y’all got snow? Bets on how long it’ll last?

January Seeds

Packets spread in piles on the bed, layers of seeds in paper pockets awaiting the first buzz of springtime. It just doesn’t feel the same this year. The temps are still wavering, the ground still bare; I could scatter some brassicas with a flick of the wrist and they might grow. I love the brassicas. This morning I was drooling over the kale, the vitamin green, the broccoli rabe. And arugula. So many packets of mouth-watering arugula.

When we had a farm in North Carolina in 2010, we ordered a lot of hybrid vegetable varieties, because we needed production. Now, our focus is resilience and we want to start saving seed this year. What to do with aging hybrid seed? Sprout them in lonely winter months, when you could die for a fresh kohlrabi or kale salad. Can’t wait.

Tomorrow: clean house and yard, and get the next step of the water system completed. She says it has something to do with caulking something or another, but I’m just the manual labor. I would love to have time to split some wood this weekend. And mend my leather bag. I wonder where I might find my thick thread and leather needle…

“Storm Clouds Gathering”

This is the discovery of the day. I’ve been following his videos for a while, but this one is very summing. Terrifying. Keeping me up at night and haunting my dreams. Yet a call to action.

I know many will watch this and wonder if I’m a little loony. At the very least, extreme. An anarchist. Someone who latches onto ideas that crazy people create to be sensational.

I really do believe this, though, and I’m choosy about what I delve into with a whole heart. I play devil’s advocate as much as possible, and tend to doubt stories of impending doom. And I’m kind of a normal person. I have a college education. I work a day job, spend too much money on cosmetics and too much time on facebook, and love sunflowers blooming in the garden. I’m really into family. I hope to get a tattoo someday.

But this is with a whole heart.

And I’d love to hear your feedback, whatever it is.


Meg Mott, in her latest post about this year’s presidential race, climate change, and the current American mindset, writes about a world view I’ve been embracing recently – if not in practice, then in theory and fantasy. “This new world of melting glaciers and rising sea levels requires a different sort of faith,” she says. “One that stresses adaptation and response instead of the imposition of will.”

To me, right now, adaptation is literal. The recent rainy season left my emotions soggy and my body weary; my floor still wears the weeks of dried mud tracked in and deposited as if my home were a riverbed. Every pair of shoes is caked in what used to be my front yard. I can’t get rid of the dust.

Now, the cold comes in bursts like thunder: two days of temps in the teens pushed us to patch the goat shed and bring the chicken water into our house to defrost overnight. This weekend, with whispers of fifty degrees Fahrenheit, I anticipate more mud, and fear my plans for hauling out the mop bucket tomorrow morning may be in vain. Will the bulbs start growing, thinking it’s already spring, just to freeze mid-shoot? Will the scraped hillside erode before we have enough warm weather for rye grass to take root? Will my Subi make it down our driveway before we can afford a load of gravel? And when will the snow come – in March or May, when I am planting my wedding flowers? When I am setting the foundation for my new bedroom and writing studio-nook?

Needless to say, I – like most other Americans – am not adapting well to the weather.

And all these nuisance crises. I seem to pull them towards me, like little shards of steel from a grinding machine to an ordinary kitchen magnet. These constant sinus bugs, these pulled muscles and financial collapses and workplace shootings and dog fights and dying mother-inlaws and fickle family disgruntlements. These stuck cars and loose goats and cracked wood stoves and eight crowing roosters at three in the morning. Okay, that last one was entirely preventable.

Needless to say, I – like so many others – am quick to find disaster everywhere, and to brew in it. Finding the peace and the joy and the rest is so much more difficult.

How does one learn to adapt?

I think we will learn. As food becomes more and more expensive, and our paychecks become more and more obsolete, we will learn to grow our own vegetables, fruits, bees, mushrooms, worms, grains, cows, sheep, goats, chickens and ducks. As transportation becomes more and more expensive as oil reserves continue to dwindle, we will understand the importance of community more wholeheartedly. We will learn the importance of family again, and the nuclear family will expand to contain those who used to live nearby – grandmothers and grandfathers and grown children and godparents and various adopted humans that make a family truly whole.

But what about me, just me? My brain isn’t adapting to the lack of sunshine this time of year; despite my reduction in coffee consumption, my increase in sleeptime, and my focus on that which is important to me, I am having trouble finding energy anywhere. I slug to work. I slump against my stool. I stagger home and stare at facebook for a while. I argue with my significant other for a while after that. I groan when the dog needs to pee. I fall into bed and pray for energy in the morning.

I am focusing on creating myself (as opposed to finding myself) and a goal is adaptation, but how do I do this? What concrete steps do I take to be a human being who remains alight in the face of change…and turmoil? Any lessons, anyone?

Homestead Hurdles

The only fresh, local, certified organic vegetable at the co-op right now is cabbage. My partner made miso soup for dinner, to try to wipe out this cold. Carrots (Cali) and lots of ginger (Cali) and probably a whole head of garlic (Cali). Tofu (not sure where from), miso (non-GMO soybeans), and whole wheat noodles.

I’m in the midst of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I would miss ginger if we did an all-local diet.  I mean, I would miss chocolate, black and green tea, and spices from the east, too. I could give up coffee – I’m already working on that. But ginger?

It’s hard eating locally in the winter. Left work early this afternoon because my head was pounding and I was starting to feel that dizzy hot/cold flu-y stuff, and walking past the row of vegetables…I wanted every one. Two or three bunches of bursting, flowery kale, a few heads of broccoli, a full parsley salad with dikon radishes…I was craving all those summer vitamins the way we yearn for longer days this time of year. Sickness brings that to the surface, I suppose.

Next year, I hope to have plenty of stored garlic for my January miso soups. Beets, carrots and celariac buried in buckets filled with sand in a root cellar. Canned tomatoes and pickles and frozen berries and rhubarb…

How does one do all this? How do you start from scratch and produce a full-fledged, functioning homestead? I’m having trouble finding time to stack this year’s firewood, not to mention start cutting and splitting and seasoning next years’ cord or two. What gives? Can’t stop paying the bills, bettering myself, building family, taking time to relax. (The latter of which, latent, is surely what causes the sniffles and headaches I find myself plagued with every few weeks.) And when I get sick, or she has a bum knee, or we have a dog crisis, or the holidays burns us out like an old oak struck by lightning, well, then it feels like ten steps backwards. And when you’re the plumbing in and out of the house, and there’s not quite enough room from side to side to sweep the dirt into a corner, getting behind becomes a crisis in itself, and I suddenly wonder if it’s all worth it, if we should just go rent an apartment in town with all its amenities.

But did you know that goats lick their lips when they see you approaching with hay? It is the sweetest thing in the whole world. And when they stop chewing mid-bite, letting you stroke their neck and jaws for minutes upon minutes…


1. Be on time to work
I don’t even want to admit how many times I’ve clocked in late this last year. Completely unacceptable. Makes me feel like a bad employee. A bad person. Who wants that? So how will I accomplish this goal? Make a point to be more aware of time on a regular basis. Catch myself slipping in “just this one last thing” or “just five more minutes” of whatever.

2. Track the year with a daily blog post
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If three quarters or what I write is total shit, that’s still more than ninety decent posts. A haiku would be sufficient on exhausted days. A single word that paints the sum of the day’s parts, on days when even three lines feels like climbing Everest. I want to do this for myself because I haven’t been able to keep a regular blog for years and years, and because I believe this is going to be an important year for me. (P.S. After midnight counts. Sometimes, a day becomes a run-on sentence and I have no reason to fight that.)

3. Complete the twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way sometime this year
I’ve started this wonderful course in spirituality and creativity several times, and I think I’m on the brink of sinking my knuckles in deep (as in a mound of dough) and working through the weeks sequentially and completely. I may start and stop again a few times, but I intend to get through it this year. I think it will change my life. I began yesterday, again.

4. Take more responsibility for cooking meals at home
Home cooked meals are about as important to me as breathing right now. I crave local food and the sensuous act of chopping vegetables and seasoning a stewpot, whole grains and bleeding meat sliced with a self-sharpened knife. I crave cooking slowly and intentionally, taking the time to make food that is truly good for the body and soul. And I am tired of feeling guilty for spending too much hard-earned (and badly needed) cash on food prepared by someone else. I want desperately to know my food, inside and out, from start to finish. How will I accomplish this? Work on getting my kitchen set up. Get the water flowing, buy a stainless steel cookware set and a few more good knives. Make the time for cooking. Clip recipes. Be patient with myself as I learn.

5. Continually create myself
Last year I learned that I have deeper to fall than I ever thought possible, and that I have the ability to climb out of darker holes I ever thought existed – with stumbles and grace all at once. I learned that I don’t find myself; I create myself. I don’t want to lose this lesson. I am never stuck in something lesser; I don’t have to wait to “find myself” or wait for my life to “get better.” Yesterday I read: “We become what we envisage” and I know this to be true. (Claude M. Bristol said this.) I will accomplish this resolution by remembering these two truths.

6. Start running with the dog
I’ve got a lot to learn about discipline* and follow-through, especially with exercise, so I’m not expecting to do a 5K in three months or anything. Just to start running. Keep running. See where that takes me. Maybe I’ll just make it out with my sneakers once this month. Maybe I’ll manage to chase the fog three mornings a week. I’m leaving this one to the breezes of chance and change and time.

7. Create monthly and weekly health goals that reflect my overarching desires
I just got incredibly sleepy from expounding upon these resolutions. This is pretty damn self-explanatory anyway.

*Someone recently defined it for me so well. Discipline: the organization of

(Georgia O’Keefe, ‘Pelvis with Moon’)

“In the old world, bees were known to be prophetic.” Our bees are dying so fast that we’re shipping them to the US from Australia via airplane. Have been for years. Vanishing of the Bees is possibly the most important movie for our time that I have seen.

Forty-Three Fahrenheit?

Bouts of pouring rain douse the laundry, frozen in a heap in its basket next to the lumber pile, so I can make a trip to the laundromat tomorrow. Just in time; I’m down to wearing my dress slacks again. The chickens are moist but no one’s shivering. Forty-three degrees Fahrenheit at eleven P.M. on New Year’s Day – what’s up twenty-twelve? Is this swampfloody mess the new normal? Am I overreacting? (After all, my baby sister was born during a January rainy spell in Wisconsin almost sixteen years ago.) Clearly the weather is changing, but maybe it’s too much to talk about The Coming Changes all the time. I’ve been having nightly dreams about the apocalypse for months.

Anyway, the intention is to track this year with a blog post a day. I’d love to start the year off with a brilliant post, but to be quite honest, all the buildup to this new year (self inflicted, I know) created nothing short of a big ‘ol…I dunno. So I’m going to have a glass of red wine, snuggle deep into the down, and watch the latest movie about Colony Collapse Disorder. Go bees. Is there anything sexier than being a beekeeper? I do believe I’d like to have a go at it sometime soon…

(And no, I don’t always “relax” by watching documentaries.)