Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Siren Song

Spent 45 minutes today cowered on the floor in one of our bathrooms with my daughter, the two dogs, a jar of baby frogs, and one of the cats as a wicked little storm blew through and a tornado was spotted just a few miles from here. No idea whether or not in actually touched down. Scary stuff, these summer storms, but we were together and were able to monitor the storm over the internet and text with my husband throughout the ordeal on my phone. Everyone's fine, we didn't lose power this time, and hopefully the worst is over for the week. 90 degree temps are bad enough without wicked humidity and the threat of funnel clouds.
The chickens did a great job hustling themselves back in the coop and the outdoor cats dug in and hid under the coop until the rain and wind had passed. In a short time it will be time to make the rounds looking for eggs, but I would be surprised if much of that went on during this morning's storms.
The last few days though have been what I call "5 egg days", meaning we got 5 eggs and the day was overall a relative success. I'm waiting anxiously for a few phone calls and really hope today ends up being a five egg sort of day as well. Tomorrow is the holiday and I'm not sure I could bear the suspense of waiting for two more whole days. I'm so close to a solution to my unemployment problem I can taste it, and I'm dying to see how things turn out. Distracting myself with cleaning and household chores isn't really working either, so the pins-and-needles stress from the morning storm is carrying over into my afternoon. Saying a little silent prayer that things will work out and I'll get my answers soon.
The garden is really enjoying the rain of the last few days, even if I find it sort of stressful. The cucumbers are starting to grow and there are more than a few peas on the vine. Our broccoli is getting eaten alive by cabbage moths though, which have also taken up residence in my kitchen window too. Not sure if it will work or not, but thought of spraying them with a little Murphy's Oil Soap after it dries out a bit to see if that refers the moths some. I read oil and soap were both pretty effective, so I am hoping this will do the trick. I've been growing these broccoli plants since the late winter and would love to get something off of them if we could. They're the trippy broccoli variety called (I think) Romanseco or something like that and the florets are supposed to have a spiral pattern to them, which would be pretty neat to see, let alone taste. The tomatoes are starting to produce as well as the peppers, so we might get some salsa out of our garden just yet.
Since it's kind of a crappy albeit cooler day today, we're kind of sticking closer to home, enjoying each other and the silence after the storm, cuddling the dogs and catching up on our rest. Only one week left till the big camping trip, so soon it will be time to reserve a rental car and start packing. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us and it will be cool and sunny once again. I'm a little anxious about leaving the farm, but my brother, whom I very much trust, is coming to look after things and I'm sure he'll do his best with the chickens, dogs and rabbits (and everything else). I also hope he enjoys the relaxation here a little bit too, kind of like a working vacation for himself. I hope to have tons of pictures to post and stories to tell upon our return to a place I've heard described as stunningly beautiful. I can't wait to see it.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Paws for Prayer

Today was our first day of chicken tending in the rain, dodging drops of much needed cool wetness on our way to the coop and hutch. After the oppressive heat of the last few days, this kind of cold is a welcomed thing, even though it's predicted to be in the 90s again today. It's a good thing though, that we are getting what we are, as hauling water from the front of the house to the garden was hard, hot work and the plants are certainly grateful for the drink.
It's so interesting to me how much more attention gets paid to things like the weather which, in most people's lives, is just something that arises as kind of a nuisance. Here it affects a lot that we do, from when the lawn gets mowed to how often we must check on the animals to how we spend our time in the evenings. It really is a pivotal thing, these whims of Mother Nature, something I have learned to have a deep respect and gratitude for as we learn to live closer to the land.
I have no ideas yet what today will bring, except a trip to the feed store for more layer ration and dog food. Part of the family is still enjoying the cool weather resting in bed to the birdsong, which is a great way to spend your Saturday mornings as far as I am concerned. It's likely where I'd be if the animals didn't need let out and fed so early in the day.
Yesterday was a flurry of activity that began at 6 AM, a time I haven't seen on purpose for many months. It was a day dedicated to finding new employment and I was slated to have both a job shadowing interview and a regular interview for a type of job I've done for a very long time. The job shadowing turned out to be a whole lot of fun and a great reminder on just how much goes on in this world that I know nothing about and how much there is out there to still learn and explore if I treat everyday like the adventure it is. It was a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at something I have wanted to try since I was in high school and even took a course in but never did. For multiple reasons I had let that dream die, just like my childhood dream to be a real writer, because the timing wasn't right or the money wasn't there and I was just getting established. I am trying to have faith that everything will work out as I need it to and be patient as I wait for the outcome, but, truth be told, it'd be like following my heart again instead of my head to get this job. It'd be a chance to finally make a difference every day with what I do in a real and meaningful way, to impact the world around me positively with my actions. I'd be pursuing what is known as "right livelihood", one that helps end and ease suffering for other beings I share this planet with, and I'd be honored to have a chance to make a difference in that way. I'm nervous, hopeful and excited, and know that every day would be a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but I'm ready. I have no idea what it pays and if the money or scheduling part would even work out well, but I am trusting the universe here that I'm being steered in the right direction. The best thing about being at the bottom here, career-wise, is that there is only room to go up, and I am trusting that the right opening will find me.
So this weekend will be spent mainly in anticipation of what's to come. Here I sit with many, many more questions than answers. It's slightly uncomfortable, this needing to trust. Control freak me is forced to let go for once and just allow things to happen as they will. This is the biggest challenge for me of all, a lesson that I'm learning through this slow life of chicken tending and rabbit feeding. Deliberate action + following your heart + living with integrity and honesty = dreams starting to come true. Here's my silent prayer everything will fall neatly into place and I can finally try something completely different. Pray with me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

love is overwhelming

It's from a beer commercial and is about a girl~ but I feel exactly this way about my husband...what a beautiful song. Enjoy!

When You Garden, You Grow*

My garden is like the job market, full of hundreds of other plants besides the ones I planted there. My seedlings compete with the weeds, just like I do with countless others, for very limited resources. In the case of my garden, the competition is for water, as we have had a very dry growing season so far. Me, I compete for attention, hoping some employer will notice this helpful plant amongst the so many others growing around and that I'll be recognized for what I am- not someone who merely wants to suck up and use precious resources like time and opportunity, but can take those things and grow them into beautiful fruit. What I am searching for is not just a job, but a chance at a career doing something that matters, making the lives of those around me that I share the world with better somehow. I will keep growing tall, hoping to stand out amongst the purslane and crabgrass as a different, somehow brighter shade of green.
I've been diligently sending out resumes and cover letters and trying to wrangle more freelancing gigs, all the while tending to this mini farm and all that goes along with that. I'm not just playing here folks, I'm serious. I'm treating my writing like a business and doing things like spending hours a day joining professional associations and marketing myself and my services to a wide range of businesses and individuals. I know right now I am planting seeds that someday will grow. We're just waiting on the rain here to make things happen.
While I'm surrounded by so many others searching for work, I've learned a lot about the things that make me unique, chief among them this blog and farm. I've learned how to add mentioning my writing and pseudo-farming in the course of an interview and that doing so proves I am both creative and not afraid to get dirty when necessary. I've also learned some great ways to feel more comfortable about myself and my skills, manage my anxiety about not knowing where this journey will end and just appreciating the path I'm following while I am on it.
As I sat out in my garden today, surrounded by the daunting task of getting the weeds under some semblance of control, I realized that I am doing all I can to get my life under control by spending so much time shouting out to the world that I'm looking for work. Just as it's futile to expect my garden to be weed free (a notion that I think is hilarious), it's pointless to stress at what I can't control. I just need to do the best I can when I have the chance to talk to folks to point out that I'm a helpful person, not a noxious weed.
This pace of life is both slow and busy, every minute occupied by either pursuit of more work or the completion of what's already here. There are cages to clean and mouths to feed and I enjoy every second of it.
This Friday I have a chance to try on an occupation I've never done and I am a bit nervous to take that step, beginning again as I have done so many times in unfamiliar territory. I'm not sure where this opportunity will take me, whether it will become a viable long term option or simply be another something to fill up my day. I'm going in on blind faith in my ability to be adaptable and helpful and with trust that this opportunity, if it's the right one for me, will pay enough for me to be able to make it work. It sounds like fabulous fun but hard work and is something I have always wanted to try. Please say a little prayer that it at least turns out to be a fun experience and that, if nothing else, I'll have potentially lined up a new freelance client.
I'm planning on spending countless hours today out in the garden, trying to bring some order to it and some peace to my mind. Weeding is the best kind of meditation~ slow, deliberate and productive~ a way to see your efforts making progress in a world where it's often not so straight-forward.

*Today's title is the slogan of the National Gardening Association, which offers a fantastic visual library of weeds, among other things. Visit their site at www.garden.org.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

There is dust in my house. I am not a designer or a decorator. Nothing in this place looks like it crawled from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog of even the pages of Country Living magazine. I am not Martha Stewart and frankly, I don't care if my carpet is stained.
My home is full of second hand furniture or pieces we've re-purposed over the years. My pantry is a cabinet that was repaired and once owned by my father-in-law. My daughter's changing table now holds bakeware and kitchen towels instead of diapers. My couch is lumpy and a tomato soup color but my dogs love to sleep on it and drool on the pillows. It's okay.
I think the most expensive things I own are my computer and my cell phone and everything else was on sale or salvaged from Craigslist. We're frugal people, and we have learned that material things aren't all there is to life. We spend our money on experiences and food, pets we love and spend time with, and basic necessities, not flat screen tv's or expensive cars. In fact, both our vehicles are over 10 years old, but we're less than 4 payments from them both being ours.
I'm not a slob. I spend as much time as I can cleaning to keep our things and place in comfortable condition. We vacuum each day and straighten up, but there's perpetually dishes in my sink because we cook at home and there's laundry in the hamper because we are blessed with clothes to wear.
I am grateful for my dirt. Pine shavings in the hallway from the garage means there are chickens in the yard laying eggs for us to eat. Grass clippings on my driveway means I have a large yard to enjoy. And dirty socks under the table mean we worked so hard yesterday we were too tired to carry them to the hamper. Don't worry. They'll make it there today.
I wish I could keep house like something out of Real Simple and that my garden had leaped from the pages of Organic Gardening, but, honey, we are working here, so if you don't like the dust and fur, well, then you just head back to town. We're busy living life and taking care of what's important, each other. This isn't IKEA and we're not on some TV set. Things poop here and we clean it up. This is the best I can do. This may not be a big or expensive place, but it's my own and it's comfortable. I put my feet on the coffee table. I work hard to have what I do and won't be ashamed that it's not storybook perfect.
There's soil and straw and spiders and weeds. There's love and there's mouths to feed and always more work than there is daylight, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
It may be small, but I love my farm.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rubber Boots and Antique Sieves

My mornings have morphed into a simple routine involving large rubber boots, my pajamas and the garden hose. Each day shortly after waking up and well before coffee, my daughter and I begin our morning rounds, beginning with the kittens, who lazily emerge from under the chicken coop and begin prancing and pouncing around the yard. Lexi checks on the rabbits first, picking one up at a time so they get used to being handled. They are already larger than when we brought them home, consuming large quantities of broccoli as a favorite snack courtesy of my dad and his garden.
Next we move on to the hens, who are impatiently waiting in their coop to be released to the outdoors. They know when they go in the run, Lexi will come out and dump the remainder of yesterday's food on the ground for them, scattering it inside their pen for them to forage. For some reason it tastes better off of the ground and they get excited, with wings flapping and lots of coos and clucks. Then it's off to refill the water fonts and feeders all the way back at the front of the house, which is the only place we have an outdoor spigot. A short bath, a rinse of the dishes and everyone is a bit more prepared to face the day, whether it brings sweltering summer heat or cool breezes and rain. We are fed and sheltered, and we are a happy bunch.
After tending to the livestock, we can take care of our needs: getting dressed, having breakfast, brushing hair and the like. We do so with a greater sense of urgency because often at this point we are running late to a morning appointment or just rushing to that place where we can finally relax, having completed the morning's chores. Something crossed off our list this early feels good, a great way to start the tempo for the day.
I love days like today, where I can spend some time after the morning feedings alone with a cup of lukewarm coffee and my laptop, clicking out stories or query letters at a slower and more deliberate pace. This is the time of day when my head is clearest and I do my best work. I can see the connections in life, between people, things and events, more clearly in the morning sun than I do once the world intrudes on my peace and quiet. This is my time to connect with the earth, say a silent prayer of gratitude and hope, and pour out onto screen or paper all my innermost thoughts and feelings. My writing becomes a sacred act.
Creatives like me don't always move at the same pace as the rest of the world. We need time to lounge and reflect, to piece together the intricacies of the universe inside our minds before we can adequately describe the beauty and pain around us to others. That's why homesteading so appeals to me I think. It is a chance to reconnect to my roots. I can bake a loaf of bread from scratch and imagine my great grandmother once doing the same thing or feed the chickens vegetable scraps and marvel at how efficiently they turn waste into edible protein. I can slow down and experience the world here in awe and wonder, instead of it flashing by me in a blur.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting some older folks at a yard sale where I discovered an antique puree sieve for jam and jelly making. It was rewarding to pause for a while and hear their stories, something I think is often lost these days as we rush to work and school, soccer and ballet. Chasing the ever elusive material success sometimes leaves us tired and empty-handed, slightly confused when we realize the journey was what mattered, not getting to the destination. Instead I heard about chickens and what my county was like in the years before I was born, got a tip on another nearby sale, and learned from my elders, even if only what it means to be neighborly.
I love waking up in the country, smelling the dew on the grass and tending to the needs of these animals before my own. It's what keeps me grounded in a world so bent on consumption and material gain. Here I can hunt down experiences and learn skills that many people don't ever get to have. I know how a metal bread pan leaves the ends of a loaf of bread looking folded and how lemon balm is used in tea and what the ping of a canning jar sounds like. Do you?
Now as I try to cultivate slowness and patience in myself, I pray that I can fit my writing somehow seamlessly into it all and provide for my family with my talents and gifts. If I am only given the chance to prove my resourcefulness, it shines like a beacon in the night. This girl is not afraid of hard work to get there. Every day begins and ends with work on a farm. If given the chance, I'll help prove to the world that its beauty and truth we should be chasing, not money or fame. I dream of a way to share my words with the world and earn not riches but enough to provide a simple, slow and deliberate life for my family, one where we can enjoy the little things that so often go unnoticed. But writers have to eat too, and I need someone to gift me with the chance to make my dream a reality. I want it so bad I can taste it and pray the flavor doesn't change to bitter disappointment.
Say a little prayer for me, that the freelance clients will decide to start projects, that I can find at least part time work doing something I love, and that we can finally include in our routine writing as work.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Three's Our Lucky Number

A pic for you this Silent Sunday...
From left to right: Ouzo, Goose and Bailey.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Update on the Tally

3 people
2 dogs
5 cats
6 chickens
1 fish
3 baby rabbits

Ouzo, Goose and Bailey are resting and getting used to their new digs here at the SemiFarm. Pics coming soon!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Just a Little Patience

Life here is settling into a comfortable rhythm, one of waking up at certain times and doing chores in pajamas, then getting on with the business of writing, looking for jobs, and all the other chores that come with being a housewife on a homestead in Ohio. The chickens are thriving in their new environment, laying eggs daily, about a total of 3 or 4, which are quickly translated into egg salad sandwiches, frittatas for dinner or any number of other delectable treat. We just love having them here, and my parents come and visit them bringing them treats like corn on the cob and the neighborhood children delight in hearing them make their cute chicken noises.

We also have brought in 3 outdoor cats to our little menagarie. They are probably about 3 months old and their names are Stitches, Marshie, and Midnight. Midnight is black and very shy, hiding under the chicken coop (which is where they have decided to hang out) whenever anyone comes near. Marshie is a ball of calico fluff and is named after marshmellows. Stitches was so named because you may need them after picking him up. He is the boy in the bunch and is all shades of frisky, chasing Marshie up trees and stalking things behind our barn. It's hilarious to watch them romp about the yard getting acquainted with their new home, and a relief to know that someday soon they will start hunting the mice and moles who try to eat the chicken feed and tear up the backyard, respectively.

Other than the addition of a total of 9 animals in a relatively short period of time, nothing much is going on here. I am still feverishly applying for work, to the tune of at LEAST 3 applications a day, if not more, and waiting for calls back on my applications. I really am discovering a lot about myself, in that I lack patience and can only seem to get through the waiting by distracting myself with doing things, which is not as hard to do as one might think around a place like this since there is always something that needs done. My daughter has begun a campaign to earn money for a very expensive gadget she wants, so she had been doing most of the chores herself, leaving me with little to do but write, read and brood over how I wish I had a job to pass the time, even part time.

So things at the SemiFarm have been productive if not a bit lazy as we get used to our new tally of critters around here:
3 people
2 dogs
5 cats (2 inside, 3 outside)
1 fish
6 chickens
3 raccoons (that apparently are into cat food and scheming how to get the hens- good luck with that- we built a fortress)

I keep searching for that perfect job in between all the animal love, searching for creative ways to get out and enjoy our summer for cheap or free. For instance, this weekend, we are attending the World's Largest Yard Sale in Seville, OH and going somewhere to ride go karts for a fun outing. There's also plans of long-overdue oil changes for the cars and maybe, just MAYBE, haircuts for us ladies this coming week.

Being unemployed and at home so much has taught me a lot of things about myself, so I am glad for the time to spend with my daughter and husband and all our new livestock. Still looking for that dream opportunity though to contribute to a team for pay, so if you know anyone who needs help with blogging or social media, please send them my way, as my freelancing is what's keeping us afloat right now. The only part I am not enjoying about this summer is how nerve-wracking it is to not have a steady income and how difficult it is to entertain an 11 year old without spending money, both of which are pushing my creativity to the limits (and that's a GOOD thing too).

Today I am having difficulty with spelling and verb tense and keep screwing up on everything I am posting, which is really frustrating me as I am making and then overlooking some silly mistakes. My daughter reminded me that it's impossible to be perfect though, so I am giving just being a go instead of being so hard on myself.

Hope you all have an excellent Father's Day weekend and enjoy the pics of our new additions!

Our New Kittens and Rabbit Hutch




Friday, June 8, 2012

Hen Zen

It's nearing a week now that the hens have been here with us and they are already up to almost a dozen eggs in production. What's been more important and enjoyable, however, is seeing how my daughter interacts with and enjoys them. She has anxiously been waking me up in the morning when it is time to let them out for the day, reminding me throughout the afternoon that we need to check for eggs, and often even just sits by their outdoor run feeding them clover from the yard, enjoying their company. She is enthralled with having them and I am so glad they are making her summer an interesting experience.

Watching the chickens myself has become something of a meditative awareness practice, as I see them just be chickens without all their hurry and bustle to accomplish something or get somewhere as we often do in life. It's a relaxing, peaceful afternoon when I can sit with them and listen to their soft cooing, calling them by their new names and watching them explore their new home.

We have a total of six birds that are accompanying us in beginning our farm here, while the garden gets off to a slow but clightly less pitiful start than last year. I think it's going to be another bumper year for cucumbers, and hopefully the girls will get to enjoy some of the bounty with us. These birds help be remember not to get too stressed out or flighty as I continue to look in earnest for a job to help support my family. I have been applying at slightly random things lately, sort of letting my heart guide what feels like might be the right opportunity. I've been applying at the local hatchery, for the Dairy Farmers council here in town and also for a lot of writing jobs as well, still trying to make a go of this business, which I am very fortunate to have had to help support us through these tight times. If I could only bring my writing up to where I can make a few hundred a week instead of a month, I think I'd be able to support us on this lifestyle and still be home to meet the needs of my homestead and family, which would be spectacular. My spirits are surpirisingly up after receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, and I think the addition of these birds and watching how they just focus on attending to their basic needs has helped me maintain focus myself. It is getting easier, as the time goes on, to adapt into a new rotuine and just "be" instead of trying so hard to "do" all the time.

The personalities of our birds are starting to show as well as they get used to their new home. Knoxville, our Golden Buff, is the bravest among the bunch and is always the first to come in and out of the henhouse and try new treats we stick through the wire of the pen. She's a bit of a daredevil, hence her name, after Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame. We've seen her jump from the nest boxes clear down to the floor with seemingly little regard for sanity or safety. She is our girl who lives life to the fullest.
In contrast, we also have Florence and Spiker, two black Australorps, who kind of sit in the background trying to figure out what is happening before they get involved. I can relate. Sometimes all the activity can be confusion if not outright frightening.
Little Ann is the largest of our chickens and was named after a dog from Where The Red Fern Grows by my daughter, Lexi, presumably for her kindness and loyalty. She's also quite curious and has already made a grand escape and journey to the farm next store, exploring the cow pasture and cow stall to some degree before Lexi scooped her up and brought her back home. It's so great having neighbors with chickens to whom you can turn in moments of panic and nothing quite breaks the ice like chasing a Buff Orpington around barefoot in a pastureful of shit. I feel more a part of my community every day.
Our other ladies, Levi the Ameracauna and Koalbey, the Wellsummer, have taken more of a laid back approach to life, just laying eggs, tasting stuff and scratching around being chickens. The seem otherwise completely unphased by the drama that unfolds around them. There are lessons to learn there from watching them too.

Having chickens has definitely deepened my spiritual practice, helped me enjoy more of the present moment and focus less on the constant worrying about work, the weather, money or whatever is making me tense. It's almost meditative watching them just hunt for food and lay around, and I am glad I have some time free this summer to watch them adjust to their new home here at the Semi-Farm. They are stretching me in ways I can't even explain, from encouraging me to keep the house cleaner, slow down and plan life less, and learn to try new things like cooking for my family, which I have done twice this week without any major complaints or making anyone sick. It's amazing the lessons animals can teach us if we just open our eyes to how THEY do things without all this emotional baggage to weigh them down.

Even though they are confined my chickens are a lesson for me in freedom from overthinking and planning, helping me see the possibility and peace in routine and the freedom that can come from changing the way we look at our circumstances.

Thanks, little birds, for your valuable lessons. And tasty eggs too.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Hens Have Arrived!

May I present...the ladies of the SemiFarm!

And their first contribution to our family's self-sufficiency:
More details coming soon!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

In a state of almost.

My garden is beginning to take shape, its ghetto staggered rows and grass clippings kind of look something like a food factory I and my husband have coaxed from the earth. Being tight for cash has made it an interesting year so far to say the least, but fortunately we invested in quite a bit of seed last year in our overzealousness. This year all I had to do were start seedlings, which is an exercise in patience and hope if ever there was one. This bit of earth is cobbled together on dreams and goodwill; a little sweat equity, lots of venting of my frustrations at this life and countless hours of weeding. It is my therapy garden, and I am deeply indebted to this who've contributed to this: my father and husband, my two favorite men.
The potatoes and onions are sprouting up nicely but slowly from the seed potatoes and onion sets my dad shared with me. The broccoli I started in our warm February is also doing well, as are the mystery tomatoes from dad and those and the peppers Hubs picked up at the nearby nursery. So far our cash investment has be less than $20 this year. And there are watermelon and cucumbers taking off like they are trying to reach the sky. It's all very cobbled together and ugly, but I love it so much it brings me near to tears to think what we might have accomplished.
The coop is all set and ready for the chickens, who are coming today. I am very excited and somewhat nervous- I hope the ladies like their new digs and all fit well without fighting each other. Again, as with the garden, not the most beautiful sights in the world unless you are looking with my eyes, brimmed with tears and hope. I don't know what comes next, but here we are. We are moving in the right direction albeit slowly and sometimes painfully. The SemiFarm is growing.
The garden is the only place I seem to be able to just be, where I can let go of all my stress and worries and focus my energy on doing something for another living thing, like saving my seedlings from being choked out like weeds. In my garden, I can be a hero to something beyond myself, I can do simple deeds that make a large difference. In my empire of dirt, I am both a humble servant and a sculptor. I can help the plants who in turn help me by sharing their fruit. It is a very symbiotic relationship we have, my garden and I, and I can let go and trust that if I help it it will feed me. No worries. It simply is what it is and turns out how it does. If only I could extend my garden mind out into the rest of my life as well. Beginner's mind, they call it. I need to cultivate my beginner's mind as a grow my garden, my sense of awe and wonder at life and my trust in the process. I need to learn to love the state of almost, and enjoy the possibilities and anticipation rather than turning it to anxiety and impatience.
Here are some photos of the garden and its beginning stages. May summer help us both blossom and bear the fruit of our efforts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Slight Hope. It Dangles on a String. Like Slow Spinning Redemption.

Remember those seedlings trampled and ravaged by some wild animal? Just like me, they're about to make a comeback.

Not much has happened around the homestead due to lack of funds, lack of motivation, lack of everything but time. That I have plenty of. Hoping soon that there will no longer be a problem with that and someone will find it in their heart to offer this girl a chance at finding something meaningful in terms of a career. I'm on the upswing baby- I can feel it. I just want to make a difference.

This being without a job, I cannot sugar-coat it; the worst is the waiting. It is horrendous and soul sucking, the day after day of no calls and no offers, of wondering if something I said or did or am is in someway inadequate. I tire of it all. I tire of feeling as if I am not good enough for the hundreds of places I have applied, that in some way I am defective. I am letting go of it tonight. Say goodbye to insecurity and hello to self-worth.

What I can do instead of wait is write, write my heart and soul out on this blog and in my journal about all the crushing feelings, the disappointment that comes from being unemployed, the vast dissatisfaction at never seeming to be quite enough in a competitive market. I am through wringing my hands in anticipation. I am dropping my fear of failure at this off a cliff, letting it go.

The right job is coming my way. I just have to let it get here, which it will do in its own good time. I have to have faith. All things grow and die, come and go, burn out and fade away. At some point this situation must change, but that doesn't mean I can quit trying.

A long walk with an old friend today revealed to me, in a moment of Zen, that in order to live, I must accept failure. Every interview I have, whether or not I get the job, is another blessing, another chance at practicing my skills and networking with others. There are lessons in both outcomes, and a phoenix can rise from these ashes of my defeat. If I let myself cling only to feelings of failure and inadequacy, I only cause myself more heartbreak and anguish. It's okay to enjoy the process, the sense of exploration and adventure that comes with starting a new career. I don't need to make what will eventually pass more of an arduous process by grasping for control or trying to force the world to unfold according to my timeline.

So I am seeing the seedlings as a bright new sign, an omen that the tides are changing and all that is is passing away. We'll start a new chapter, a new adventure right here where we are, for where else can I start? The chickens are coming and it will be a new season of bounty on the SemiFarm, with all the focus in life turned to illuminating the good, being grateful for what I have and am instead of ruminating about what I lack. Each day will be an adventure in mindfulness, a new chance to believe in the cycles of birth and death, of growth and change. On this lonesome road I'm travelling on, I'm setting down the fear the best I can and carrying on lighter and freer for it.

I believe a better time is just moments beyond my view. Sometimes all you can do to change the world is just one little thing. My little thing is hope.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No Ordinary Moments

Since I am waiting for my friend to get my chickens, we have a bit of a delay in the homesteading plans. Since the coop is complete and we have some time yet to get supplies, we took advantage of this time to begin our garden this year, or at least start planning it.
This year's garden is a low-budget affair on account of me not working at the moment. So hubs picked up a few seed starting trays from the local Walmart and I busted into last year's bounty of seeds from Seed Savers Exchange and Burpee's organic selection. I already have some broccoli plants started as well as a peach tree on my back porch and have direct sown some spinach, chard, leeks and radishes out in the plot we used last year that dad has filled up for me already. Today I went out and sowed some peas under the trellis, so in a couple of months we should have some delectable snow peas to put in our salads.
My wonderful neighbors at the farm have been gracious enough to share their harvest of asparagus with us, and I am excited to taste fresh, homegrown spears with tonight's dinner. We have rain coming up the next few days. At least that's what they're calling for, so I should have plenty of time to make up a sweet thank you note and send it off to them. I can't think of anyone I'd rather live by than this family, who is so generous and caring. We borrow eggs and time from one another, share coffee and childcare, and I am so grateful for their friendship.
I love this time of year. This spring has been fantastic and I am enjoying every minute I get to spend here at the SemiFarm. I desperately need work and believe the right thing will come along in due time, so I am filling my waiting moments in between applications and interviews with lots of outdoor time, tai chi, reading and reflection, and practicing meditation on my back porch as much as possible, with the wind caressing my hair and the birds as a soundtrack to my bliss. I enjoy the possibility that lies in spring, when, as Dan Millman put it, there are no ordinary moments. Growth and change is all around us, in the air and the earth, and everything, including hope, is born anew.
I am practicing patience and presence as I wait for seedlings to sprout and hens to arrive. I am trying to enjoy the journey, which, after all, is more important than destinations. This present moment is a precious moment and will never happen again. I'm going to savor it, like local asparagus, and revel in each breath of this country air, every ray of this brilliant sun and radiant moon and take time to enjoy the wait. Each moment is special, happens only once, and is perfect. It is all I have to enjoy and the way things change around here, not a one of them is going to be ordinary.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


i am but a small part
inside a large whole
spreading out all around me
here i sit grounded in me
watching it all go by
a winding country road
bent over some far away horizon
i'm a cog in the machinery
a blip in the Universe
important but tiny
whose purpose cannot be seen
from the finite view of
my one little part
so instead
radiant, hopeful
i spread my wings
and jump :in faith:
praying for the winds to
bear my weight
and gently guide
me in the right direction

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Nearly two years exactly after I set out to get chickens, the coop is complete. After a long day of chasing one of my dogs through the neighboring fields and woods after his cunning escape, we knocked out bolting down the roof and cutting the entrance door for the hens. As soon as I can muster up some supplies like feed, pine shavings and straw, I can contact my friend about when to bring the ladies home. I am so excited!

This weekend also marked the end of a long standing dream for my husband too as we brought home and installed a second-hand pool table in our extra room. It's something he's wanted for a very long time, and we found an exceptional deal so we jumped at it, even if the timing isn't perfect financially.

It feels great to get something accomplished around here, and we are celebrating by cooking some beef out on our grill on this gorgeous day. Now if I can just find a job... We are moving so much in the right direction.

Next on the homesteading agenda: the garden, followed by some cute and fuzzy (probably pet) bunnies to get us used to rabbit tending.

Hope everyone had as great of a weekend as we did! Here's to the beginning of another week.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Almost Only Counts...

...as my father says in horseshoes and hand grenades, but we are getting there with the chicken coop. The run is reinforced and wrapped in wire on 3 sides. A board has been put up to keep the birds from climbing under the coop. All that remains is the roof on the run and the door for the little buggers to go in and out. Two years in the making... we are almost there. It's about the journey, not the destination anyways, right? Anyways, for lack of something better, enjoy some random music on this too-windy-to-do-anything day....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Zen and the art of chicken coop building

We started today off with a little fishing as the weather slowly warmed up to the 80s today. It was windy and hard to cast and I didn't have but one bite in the hour we were there. It would have frustrated me, been a waste of time and made me angry except I spent the whole time meditating, trying to be present and just fish. I love how fishing makes me stop and just be.
Fishing also makes me feel connected more to my inner hunter-gatherer, even if the objective is simply catch and release. There is something primal about pretending to be prey, something in it that makes me notice the small things like ripples and bubbles in the surface more. My senses are hightened when I fish. Thank goodness I still get to eat even if I fail to catch anything. I am blessed that way I guess.
After fishing it was time to work on the coop some more, which is so close to finished I can taste it. We built the run today, and all that's left is cutting the door and adding some wire mesh to the run, which we will probably complete by the end of next week. Then I can wait for the hens to come and begin to obsess over our next animal venture, which will be rabbits. I am delighted and can't wait. Every day seems like an adventure living in the present, once I shut my mind off to the past and future. I feel a deep sense of peace and happiness this weekend. It is a welcome change from the stress I've put myself through being unemployed, though I know we have plenty of money and will make it just fine.
Enjoy the pictures and the remainder of your weekend friends. I hope you are safe, happy and at peace wherever you may be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

before the fun.

memories of my time in the valley of the sun...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting my Farm Fix

Last night I needed an infusion of farm. Having spent the whole day reading Novella Carpenter's Farm City, I was in need of a fix, so my family and I headed down to the local Tractor Supply for the end of their Chick Days promotion, and I got to see some white leghorn chicks and baby ducks hanging out under brooding lamps in all their fluffy glory. Sadly, I couldn't take any home as I am expecting much larger adult chickens as soon as I can get the door and fencing finished on the poultry palace. But the need to have livestock here at the SemiFarm is real. It is visceral, like my need to find a job, and I try to ignore it as I go about my days, as it lurks looming in the background like some hungry beast or addiction, waiting to be fed. I pine for the winged foragers and their hopping counterparts, rabbits, have also started to be a drug to which I am slowly succumbing.
I am desperately in need of some warmer weather, you see,  as it has dropped into the 40s and 50s here as of late. They are even calling for scattered snow flurries tonight, so any hopes of holding off my farm fiending by planting something in the windowboxes or flowerbeds are dashed by the threat of bitter frost. Once again, in my life, I am required to do the one thing which I abhor. I simply have to wait.
I have a simple lesson the Universe is trying to teach me, cultivating the art of patience. Unfortunately I am a poor student at this, and I fidgit and fret through most days unnecessarily, hopped up on caffiene and my desire to completely control the world around me. Circumstances whisper to me this basic truth of letting go, yet I claw and clamor for some way to affect my fate in the present, like a wriggling toddler impatient to go. I know things will work out on their own, deep inside myself, that the chickens and the right job will come in their own due time, but I can't sit still. I am plagued with a need to do SOMETHING that will allow me to feel like I have control over my circumstances, or merely something with which to fill my time, of which I have a considerable amount suddenly that I am quite unaccustomed to.
Being outside and weeding my garden was my antidote for the antsies last summer when I was off work. Without a garden or livestock to tend, I find myself lounging with my dogs, sleeping too much of the day away and wasting what I should be languishing in, this peace and freedom to do exactly as I please with my time. I suffer, you see, not only from a lack of patience, but also a lack of imagination, as I cannot think of things to do to fill my hours other than write this blog on the hopelessly small keyboard of my cell phone as I wish for it to ring instead.
Complaining is not what I intended- I am grateful for so much: my health, my family, my writing, and enough money to help keep the farm afloat while I look for a new career opportunity (I don't really want just another "job"- I have had enough of those days.) I just need some distractions as I bide the time.
If you, readers and friends, can recommend some good books, interesting local places to visit or home crafts that are relatively inexpensive, I'd be forever in your debt. Maybe these things, combined with a lunch date here and there with a nearby friend, will ease my cravings for fur and fowl and stave off the boredom that is seeping into the cracks of my slightly dishevelled life.
Today, as I wait for some feedback from you friends, I am off in search of the company of rabbits and plants and perhaps a few books until the school bus delivers me some company when my daughter returns home. I have to feed the addiction somehow, and if it must be with window shopping, so be it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Inside of the Chicken Palace

Now all we need is a chicken door and fencing! Exciting!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Things Unemployment is Teaching Me

It's crazy how much you can learn from yourself when you really have time to stop and think about where you are headed and how you can get there. All these silly little life lessons suddenly make themselves available to you, out of the blue, right in front of your face that you may have missed before. Being unemployed, even though we are only in my second week (which is long enough, thanks universe, for the break), has taught me a few lessons about who I am, skills I need to learn to cultivate in myself and time to reflect on what is really important. Maybe you have already learned these things, and if so, great, but if not- here are some of the things you might take  for granted in how busy you can become every day when you are working.
1. I am not what I do for a living. We spend so much time as kids trying to decide what educational paths to pursue to have the type of job we think we will be happy at that it's easy to get caught up in this one. Guess what? My job is gone and I am still here, with all the things I love and enjoy and believe still wrapped up inside this mind and body. Just because we tend to identify ourselves to each other by our career choices, doesn't make that the sum and total of who we are. We are more than how we earn our money.
2. I need to work on my patience.  Not everything happens on the timeline I want it to and, as much as that sucks, it is probably a good thing. I should learn to let go and stop obsessing about things while waiting for them to happen. This is a hard one for me, because having a sense of urgency is a great thing to have on the job and one of the many things most of my employers have loved about me, but sometimes that needs to be tempered with patience, both for others and for my expectations of myself.
3. My most productive time as a writer is the late morning. Really, I can think clearly with my cup of coffee in my hand and almost complete silence around me. I had really missed this and have been enjoying every second of it that I get. Hopefully I will practice more and produce better quality posts than I do when I write out of a sense of frustration or obligation. In the mornings after seeing my family off, I can write from a place of love and peace. It is very calming and nice.
4. There is a difference between being honest and being an open book. This is the chief lesson I am taking from my experience at the bank I think, is that I don't have to practice full disclosure to have a sense of authenticity in my life. Some things are best shared with certain people and not with others, and the best way to tell the difference in who these people are is to follow your gut about how you feel about them, which is almost never wrong. Putting too much trust in some people can backfire horribly, which is a painful but important lesson I suppose I had to learn someday. (The universe used its own timeline for this one and seemed to say "how about now?" at a time I wouldn't have preferred but hey.)
5. There are more than enough hours in a day, but our motivation often makes the difference between what we consider a day wasted or a sense of accomplishment. I am a list person and if I don't have a plan for what I can get done in a day or what I expect to do, I tend to feel like I have accomplished little if nothing if I just were to "wing it" and attack my day without lists. It is easier for my to get started with a clear plan of where I want to go, and, although it is important to leave some unstructured time in your day, if you don't know where you are going, you will most likely not get there, at least not in a time frame that most of us would consider productive.
6. Things break all at once and when you have no money so you can see how resourceful you are and how good you are at prioritizing. This also lets you remember who your real friends are, see who loves you for who you are, even when you're not at your best, and learn the unique skill sets of your true friends and family. Sometimes you can even learn from your neighbors and help solve a mystery like where a fainting goat went and reunite it with its family. You never know till you reach out to others.
7. You still have to get up, brush your teeth and pretend you have someplace to be, otherwise it is easy to get depressed and wallow in self pity. And really, what's the point of that except to feel worse about yourself and your situation? You still have to actively participate in your life even when you don't feel like it. If you don't, you are only making things worse and risking having others resent you for increasing their workload. Crying in baseball is okay as long as you keep playing the damn game too.You have to at least try.
8.  Not everything has to happen right now.  This kind of goes back to patience, but when you have extra time you see all these projects you wanted to do when you had no time, and now you have plenty of time but no money. Guess what? The wallpaper isn't coming off the walls by itself and no one has died yet from it being up there so if it stays there until you get back on your feet, so be it. Give yourself a break and realize you have to live your life and not cram in all your backlogged projects to feel useful.
9. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should and just because you should, doesn't mean you have to. My dogs do not need walked all day and I certainly don't need more sleep then I get at night. It's okay to indulge yourself a little bit, but don't feel guilty about taking a nap. Allowing yourself to be flexible with yourself on the way to achieving your goals is important, but don't hold yourself to an ideal that is unrealistic. I could and should be baking my family's bread now that I have the time, but my heart's not in it and I am not a crappy homesteader if I buy a loaf or two. And my husband doesn't think me any less of a wife.
10. Family and your health are more important than money or things.  Being civil to each other and recognizing that you are blessed to be together and are all working toward a common goal is crucial~ it does no one any good to be resentful or angry or blaming. Don't give up and keep trying, but realizing you should be enjoying the really important things like each other, will make getting through lean times that much easier. I have to go back to work because we need to have things, and it'd be cool to get a good job so those things could maybe be nice too instead of crap, but it does no one any good for me to stress about my bank account balance every waking second, and it certainly doesn't improve matters. Learn to enjoy each other and make a game out of being frugal- walk in the park and enjoy the spring flowers together instead of going on a pick-me-up shopping spree and most importantly- believe and KNOW it will all work out.
Now I am off to make my list for the day and call my mother to do some errands and hanging out before I come home to pick up the house and wait for my child to get home from school. This is my new routine and although things aren't happening at the pace I'd necessarily be more comfortable with (come on, interview phone calls and job offers!), the world is turning and we are making it, one day at a time. Sending hope and good thoughts from the SemiFarm to each of your families and hope you are able to find the lessons in the manure piles of life too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Small Pockets, Big Dreams

Last night the temps here soared into the high sixties and I couldn’t let the day go by without taking a
walk in the park. My father, daughter and I hiked what seemed like 5 miles and I realized how sedentary
I have been this winter, how much the depression wore on me and made me lethargic. I am out of
shape, surely, weighing the most I have ever weighed in my life save for when I was pregnant. It’s time
to get my workout on. We walked all the way around the lake by the time we were done, getting a good
stretch into my tired muscles that I am feeling today for certain.

They are calling for today to be even warmer than yesterday was, highs near 75, which is unusual for us
here in March. Last winter we were plowing this time of year; this year my husband took the plow off
the tractor to prepare to roll out the hills, valleys and cow footprints in our yard. I’m planning out an
herb garden and eagerly eyeing the pots on the back porch into which I have already sowed seeds for
lettuce, leeks, broccoli and cauliflower. Who knows if any of them will germinate, but I might as well try
and see if something can happen yet in this bizarre weather.

Tonight I am going to start to sketch out a plan for the cold frame for the back of the herb garden. I
got some used glass shower doors from my aunt last year that have been waiting for me to build a
box to set them on. I don’t know yet what I will plant in them, but it should be interesting to test my
rudimentary carpentry skills out with our circular saw and drill. It’s just a rectangle; how hard can it be?

Work today, as always, is slow. It’s great to write and meditate on things I want to change about my
life or do, a great time for the seeds of my future projects to germinate in my head and heart. Today
is a little challenging as I write this because I fear I’ve had a TAD too much coffee, so my hands are
shaking a bit and my heart is racing as I think about being outside in jeans and a t-shirt, doing work I
love. This work here, it just pays the bills, but there is nothing remotely exciting in processing deposits
and withdrawals for customers, except interacting with the people themselves. Some of my customers
are also gardeners and as the weather warms up and things begin to bloom and grow, so too do my
conversations with them about things that interest me. No more chats about just the weather- now I
am learning to grow potatoes in tires and how to trellis tomatoes the way the Amish do so they grow
larger. It’s fascinating to hear about things like this from financial analysts and doctors (our clientele is
rather well-to-do). This common interest, which stemmed from my reading The $64 Tomato at work,
has helped me break down communication barriers with people I find slightly unnerving and feel a bit
uncomfortable around, those with lots of money.

People with big bank accounts have always intimidated me a bit. Those that can (and do) enjoy the finer
things in life I think I have always felt looked down their noses a bit at me in my thrift store jeans and
$7 haircut. I don’t care about designer labels but being around people for whom that determines your
worth makes me a little queasy. Fortunately my clients here are not the snobbish type for the most part,
but I still feel uncomfortable wearing dress clothes and pretending to be professional, when inside I am
dying to be digging in dirt and writing in my journal about the size I hope this year’s strawberries will
be. It’s weird territory for me, being a grown up, and in many ways I don’t really care for it. I’d rather be
going to camp next week with my kid than earning a living this way, or making money stringing together
words for this blog or for freelance clients about things that matter. Being an adult is such a strange
thing, this land of responsibilities and schedules and fear. I’d rather have the carefree spirit of a child to

explore and interact with the world, to learn new things than be tied down like this.

A fellow blogger who is building her dream of farming and writing has a Paypal donation button on her
page and people send her money sometimes just to help the cause of her finding her dream. I don’t
know that I’d feel right about accepting donations, but I do need more freelance work to make my
writer/farmer dreams come true. If my blog readers would help out by telling people about my writing,
about my blog, that’d be a tremendous help to this little girl who doesn’t want to grow up.

If anyone you know needs help with their resume or some web copy for their business, article writing
for print or the web, tell them to send me an email at lexirain2001(at)gmail.com and explain what they
need. I’ll be more than happy to help however I can.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Let's Get It Started In Here

I spent the better part of my morning at work dreaming of this kitchen herb garden I started to put in last year. So far all that exists of it is some black landscape fabric over dead weeds, a few circular pavers and some concrete edging that wasn’t too ugly. We haven’t spent much more than a few dollars on it at this point and honestly it is an eyesore more than anything else, but I am dreaming of a little raised bed garden full of creeping thyme, chamomile and a little cold frame at the back where I can raise lettuce through the winter. I’m dreaming of a place where I can stick this rosemary bush my last boss gave me as a parting gift that is just suffering through the winter in my living room. I want lush and green and earthy and I wish I could get started on it right now. The temperature outside is climbing over 60, which is unusual for March here and it’s not storming so I am itching to get started gardening.

This year I am going to make this little section of earth my priority, my project that hopefully the dogs will leave alone once I get started on it, as it is in the fenced section of the backyard. I’m going to bring this one bed to life in addition to the vegetable garden and the window boxes. They’ll be color in the backyard.

The warm weather has me dreaming of last summer when I was off of work on leave. I spent the whole summer blissfully pulling weeds and working on my chicken coop on weekends while battling my inner demons and getting used to my medications. It was a nice respite from work and this year I face spending most of the summer indoors inside the bank I work at, where you can’t exactly throw open the windows to let in the breeze. It is going to be an adjustment for sure, but I will have every evening free to pull weeds in the garden and make sure my plants are doing just fine. Plus I will have all the time at the bank for writing, which is what I do in between customers. There should be no reason with all this free time why I can’t be posting to my own blog, something I care deeply about and haven’t made enough time for lately.

It’s sad how we can make ourselves so busy with the routines of our daily lives that we often miss, like I do with the blog, making time for what is really important to us. I have been working on a ghostwriting project for pay for nearly a year for which I write once a week and I always find time to fit that into my busy schedule but never make the time for my own work and promotion, which I realized a few weeks ago is crucial if I want to continue to market myself here on the blog as a writer. My advice to you if you are struggling to get something started, whether it’s a small herb garden two years in the making or a 500 word post about the smell of fresh tomatoes (which I can’t WAIT for I might add), is just to do it. Get started, even if it isn’t perfect.

I put a lot of things off, including this blog, because I want everything I include or do to be representative of my best efforts. I procrastinate until the "time is right" or I "have a good idea", which often means I do nothing at all because the right moment or ideas never seem to materialize. Then I get caught up in a funk where nothing really happens at all, so, in an effort to only show my best work, I end up showing nothing at all. Silly, right? How many times do we let fear of failure or not doing great work keep us from doing any work at all?

I resolved before to let this blog be a reflection of me as a grow and learn to cope with my disorder and establish my homestead at the same time. Right now it is a reflection of me waiting for things to be better, of not taking chances for fear of failure. Instead, right now, this blog is going to become something I update every day with something- even if it isn’t my best work, at least it will be place to practice writing, promote myself and get started again with the tale of our homesteading adventures, slow as they may be.

That’s one part of my BP I am having the hardest time adjusting to- the change in motivation (or, more appropriately, the complete lack thereof). I used to bounce of the walls in my manic states and write all night and have plenty to say even when depressed. I had plenty of energy to make my own bread, clean my house all the time and do extra projects like the chicken coop. Now that I am more leveled out on the meds I don’t feel as crazy but getting started on things is sometimes very hard to do. That first step and initial focus is hard to rally sometimes, even for the smallest things.

So let’s make a date then every day for me to come here and post something- a song, poem, post or rant. If you don’t start you can’t expect to finish and I have a lot of things that can’t be left undone.

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sowing the Seeds of Change

Last week it was near 60 degrees outside one day so I took some old seeds from last year we hadn't used all of and planted them in the planters full of dirt on the back porch. I planted things that were cool season crops- broccoli, califlower, leeks and lettuce. Then, as is true to form in Ohio, in snowed the most snow we've seen all season at once, a full 3 inches to top the pots off and along the edges of the porch railing. I'm not sure if the seeds will survive the frigid temps or do anything at all, but I had a need to dig in the dirt, for some change in the routine, so I gardened. This week it's supposed to be 65 by tomorrow, so they have ample opportunity. Let's see if we yield any results.
Things in life have been changing as well. My doctor made some modifications to my medication routine and it has proved to really drastically increase my motivation and make me sleep a lot better. I wake up rested now instead of exhausted and I am excited to get on with the day instead of dreading it. What a world of difference that has made for me. I finally want to do things I love again like read and write and grow things. I am even thinking of what queries I can send to magazines again as well as working on a few YA projects- one fiction and one non-fiction. All in all I am finally happy and busy again.
Usually I am one who Shirley from change but as the seasons turn again I am relieved to feel my life returning with it. I am looking forward to a summer full of gardening and geocaching and letterboxing and just lounging around my yard with the chickens. Speaking of which, I am going to start with a flock of 5 or 6 and have arranged to buy some older birds from my chicken friend and her husband. Do you have a chicken friend? Every homesteader needs one- someone who has chickens who you can talk with about chicken related things and general homesteading topics. Someone who gets it and doesn't look at you weird. I met my chicken friend at the office, which is unusual given I worked in retail at the time, but she is amazing and I am so glad I thought to share my chicken dreams with the world and began to realize how similar we really are.

Thank you Teresa, for being such an amazing friend!

Here's to hoping spring brings many new and wonderful changes to the SemiFarm.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Today is butchering day for my neighbor's cow, Uncle Wiggly, who wandered into our yard one morning not long ago and also gave me my first and only cow kiss. Soon he'll be providing nourishment for my neighbors and their wonderful children, transformed by a skilled hand from a living, breathing creature to a freezerful of beef.
It is bittersweet, this knowing the life cycle of your food. Just yesterday we dined on one of my friend's rabbits (which was superb). It is nice to know when my food came from loving homes and lived life fully instead of living a life of cruelty and confinement as so many factory farmed animals do. I only wish I had the means from this moment forward to vow to know the names of all my food, so I can properly thank them for their sacrifice.
Godspeed Uncle Wiggly. Thank you for sharing your cowness with me during your short but happy stay here by the SemiFarm. You will be sorely missed.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Simple Living & Complex Thoughts

I am reading this book right now called Simple Prosperity by David Wann. It's about "finding real wealth in a sustainable lifestyle". It is fantastic and I'd highly recommend it to anyone, environmentalist or not, who seeks to have a more harmonious life. There are some fascinating looks at what really brings us happiness in life and what only makes us feel momentarily better.
I'm struggling with this a lot myself. You see, my medications for the bipolar disorder have helped tremendously with my depression, but at the same time often leave me feeling "flat" or incapable of seeing the unique ways in which life teaches us from moment to moment. I'm left with a feeling of nothing to say, though a lot of basic and important things happen around here on a regular basis. I spent today engaged in making laundry soap for my family- something visceral and real- and it made me happy for a moment that I was doing something so essential. But those moments have become fleeting and I feel like I am searching for simple things all the time. To compound my mental stress, I've begun having anxiety attacks at nearly the same time everyday, which feels both terrifying and bizarre.
I'm not sure anymore that my blog can be just about farming, just covering homesteading topics like making bread rise well and raising hens for eggs. I feel like somehow this ordeal has changed me, and I know it has and does affect the way I see the world around me and relate to it. No- this blog has become more about homesteading with a mental illness and all the challenges that entails. My everyday struggles just to get out of bed and lead this simpler life...seems somewhat impossible to separate the two facets of my life anymore.

So now I am struggling with this sense of forboding as I write this- unsure of how much to share here and what should remain just swimming around in my head.
I want so much for this blog to grow into a community of people who want a simpler life, of people who struggle with these challenges of mind, but don't feel I can do that without being honest- my best writing here was when I was purely myself without a filter.
Should I bravely go there again with my challenges homesteading as a bipolar woman who suffers from anxiety or should I just continue to tell only part of the story and relay only details related to country living? Hoping your comments will help me decide. Please leave them if you've read this and can relate or would simply like to be part of my community.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GUEST POST: Life as Compost

Many times in our life we are dealt circumstances that aren’t what we would have liked to have happened. We get fired, lose a friend, or have a fight with a family member. Many times we write these experiences off as just negative things that happened to us, focusing on all the bad they brought into our lives without looking for a way to transform it into good. Beneath every challenging circumstance we might endure is a shred of light- an opportunity to learn something about the world around us or ourselves.
When I think of all the negative memories I harbor, I am often able to see how I grew as a person out of the challenges surrounding the negative event. Sometimes it takes years to see what the lesson was I was supposed to learn, but it is there none the less. It seems reminiscent to me of the idea of composting for your garden, when you heap piles of what would otherwise be waste together and in the end after a period of time and decomposition, the same waste turns into some of the most valuable garden soil fertilizer know to man. All this process of decay and time turn something we see at face value as worthless into a completely natural and necessary part of life.
Perhaps the challenges we face with our everyday negativities are in some way fodder for the compost of our soul. Each of these inconveniences or hardships might seem useless or unnecessary, but they in some way transform us over time into stronger, more resilient and more kind and caring individuals.
It is sometimes said that we aren’t able to understand how others truly feel about things until we ourselves have experienced them. Perhaps the “composting” of these unhappy moments allow us the perspective we need to be more cognizant of the feelings of those around us and to be more open to other viewpoints. Maybe these experiences teach us ways to overcome adversity by teaching us what did and didn’t work in a way we will remember and be able to recall for future use. Perhaps the pain of these circumstances isn’t futile at all, but just needs some time to transform into the miraculous gift we can recognize for what it truly is- nourishment for our very souls.
Perhaps then what we need to do in moments of difficulty is remember the kitchen scraps- the eggshells and coffee grounds that make up our garden compost and reflect on ways that this moment of pain can be transformative to us rather than a burden. I have a feeling changing our perceptions this way will help not only in the long term but also in the short term dealing with of the strife as well.

About the Author, C.S.Shride, Author of the Lucy Dakota series of YA fiction (http://lucydakota.com)
    C.S. Shride grew up in the western suburbs of Denver at the foot of the mountains. Like Lucy, she was a chubby, rejected girl during her middle-school years and surprisingly enough, she rarely, if ever, ventured forth into the nearby hills. Her pleasures were derived from armchair and bed-top adventures achieved while reading her favorite novels.
    Like Lucy, Shride’s life took a turn for the better when a group she was involved with in high school started introducing her to the mountains, rivers and wilderness areas of Colorado. At that time she discovered one of her lifelong passions, high-altitude trekking and mountaineering, which led to her first career as the owner of a multi-million-dollar adventure travel company. For the next 20 years, she would orchestrate, conduct and lead thousands of clients through the mountains of Nepal and the wildernesses of South America. She spoke to dozens of audiences each year on the joys and beauty of traveling to remote areas of the world. Although she is no longer an international climber and mountain guide, she continues to hike and explore mountains around the world.
    Shride’s love of learning and her sincere desire to share with and help youth led to her second career as a classroom teacher. Even though she had taught hundreds of people the art of backcountry travel and wilderness trekking through her business and volunteer activities with the Colorado Mountain Club, Shride returned to school for a master’s degree in education and began teaching in both public and private schools. She experienced tremendous satisfaction and joy in teaching children in the classroom setting. It was at that point, while conducting a creative writing class for her students, that she decided to write about Lucy’s adventures.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Tribute to Our WIld Winter Weather

A Kid at Christmas

Every day for the past several weeks I have been religiously checking my mailbox every day after work with the fervor reserved normally for children at Christmastime. Today it was there, tucked inside a dirty and tattered manila envelope- the package I'd been waiting for. I squealed, held it close to protect it from the rain than ran through the blustery winds into the garage to gather the rest of my things before I went in the house. It was here. Finally. It was here.
Once inside safe from the wind and the rain I gingerly opened the package after checking the postmark and return address label for Bow Tie Inc.- soaking in all the details of my first time I'd do this, the first time I'd hold in my hands the results of so many days work and so much stress. I tore away at the mustard colored paper and there it was in the upper right corner. My byline: start a fiber CSA. I was holding a pre-release copy of one of my favorite magazines and it it in full color in the center of the magazine were several pages of something I gave birth to, an article about starting and marketing a fiber CSA.
There's nothing like that feeling of seeing your words in glossy print inside a national magazine. I'm swelling with pride and can't wait to show it off to everyone I know. My baby is here, it's arrived and I want to shout it from the rooftops. I did it. I'm a feature article writer for a national niche magazine. It may not be on newstands yet, but will be soon, and people all over the country can see the name of my blog, right there in black and white. I'm in love. I can't wait to do it again.
I'd love for this blog to eventually grow to be a community, to be like my mentor Jenna Woginrich's blog, Cold Antler, where my readers engage in conversations with me about the things I write about. I want this to be a breathing, living extension of my life, something that sees me at the end of each day reflecting over this homesteading life and touching the lives of people around the world. You can help me grow and evolve.
My next endeavor will be to pitch my other favorite magazine, Mother Earth News to write and article for them about a subject I'm unsure of yet. If you have suggestions for something you'd like to read, please shout it out in the comments. I'd love to hear from you. And, as soon as it hits newstands, I'll tell you the name of the magazine so you can pick up a copy.
Blessings to you and your families tonight. Hope everyone is warm, safe and  happy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside

Spent the last two days here at the SemiFarm being pelted with the white stuff. To quote one of my customers from work it's "colder than a well digger's ass" out there. (Anyone ever heard that? It was new to me. How cold is that exactly?)
Yesterday I called off from work after spending an hour behind the wheel and not even making it to the nearest town. The roads were all snow covered but what was troublesome was that that snow was layered over ice, which made for some pretty treacherous driving, even with my four wheel drive truck. So, I sat home with my daughter, enjoyed a little quiet time and fell asleep at the end of the day looking over my Randall Burkey catalog that came in the mail. I woke up with the crumpled magazine tangled in my bed covers so my husband didn't even notice what I was lusting over when sleep overcame me as he came to bed.
Since then we've been mostly hunkered down in the homestead, waiting for the lake effect snow to taper off and to plow the driveway a final time when it's time to pick our daughter up from her sleepover at a friend's house. Other than that we've just been enjoying some time to catch up on homesteading chores, and I've rearranged the bedroom to give me some new scenery to look at.
This weekend will likely find me making another batch of homemade laundry soap and perhaps some bread for the upcoming week, then off to visit my chicken friend at her farm on Monday weather permitting.
The dogs and cats are all being lazy as well, finding cozy warm places to sleep near the heaters or freshly folded laundry as we endure some pretty chilly temperatures with winds bringing the temps to where they feel below freezing.
Hope your weekend is filled with warm happy moments with the ones you love.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting My Homesteading On

These last few months as I transitioned to a M-F 9-5 sort of job I haven't written much. Much of what I had to say was kind of drowned out by how I was feeling as I adjusted to a few new things- there was a lot of instances where I knew I needed to change my mindset and was having a hard time doing so, especially about my job. Now that I have, things are flowing more easily again and I am trying to reconnect with the homesteading I love so much in some way while I still am waiting to add chickens in the spring. There's just not much happening around the SemiFarm in the winter, you see, not much to write about. There's no vegetable garden, no cold frames, it's too early to start really dreaming about seedlings, and I have been so in a funk in my writing there hasn't been much to tell in that respect either.
So here I am devouring homesteading books. I've already read Jenna Woginrich's Barnheart.which I will say has quickly become one of my favorites- I am so glad I bought it. I commiserate with Jenna on a number of things but mostly it helped me remember how different we are as people in our live experiences and how much I treasure that. I love her words and how they flow from the paper just like a conversation- something I only hope I can do here on my blog.
I am also reading Joel Salatin's "Folks, This Ain't Normal" which is very eye opening about our relationship to food and the natural world around us. Joel's writing style is different than most books in that his also reads like a conversation or lecture but is non-fiction. Took me a while to adjust to it but I just adore it.Great book- highly recommended and will probably get passed among my friends for quite some time.
Other than reading I have begun baking bread from scratch again. I found a wonderful recipe for a honey oat loaf here and with some modifications (quick oats cuz I'm a bit impatient) turned out a very good product my new boss and co-worker were much impressed with.
I'm looking to join a CSA perhaps this spring for meat if I can find one. My article on fiber farm CSAs should be out soon in a national magazine- see if you can spot it! I also have more magazines to query as I learn to balance my writing life and this new work schedule. Hopefully 2012 will be full of new beginnings here.
What I have learned most through all the past few months is that it never feels good to put on airs. Just be yourself and follow your heart in everything you do- genuine and true. Trying to impress others, while important, should never be your primary goal or you will fail and hard and exhaust yourself at the same time. It's something you can't control that is best to let go of- just by being the best you you can be. That has to be enough.
My homestead isn't really ready yet. Not much goes on here right at the moment worth sharing, but we're growing and evolving every day as I figure out who I am and how to cope with how I feel about the world around me. We're a scrappy bunch us Hunters but we do the best we can with what we have and that's all we can do. I'm a damn good me. How good are you at being you? Do you hide behind personas at work than you do at home or are you genuine all the time? How do you balance the two worlds?