Monday, December 28, 2015


The cold winter wind finally found its way to the homestead; a wind of change, I do believe. This year is leaving me and moving on never to be seen again.

So many changes have come and gone on the little plot of earth we inhabit:
        children have grown...
             a grandchild has come...
                    jobs and routines have altered...
                      a boy became a man...
                           all while I wasn't looking.

This year has been a challenging year of revelation; a time to see the hard truths and find the way to face them. Nothing tragic has happened and no losses have occurred- things have just changed.

With a new year comes evaluation and adjustment; life will be different:
            no children living at home....
                a full time job with changes of its own...
                     a young man in the military spreading his wings and taking flight...
                          the home to consider.

There is no doubt in my mind the homestead will need to adjust to the needs and changes of our household. We have less people to feed, so considerations will be made regarding gardens, livestock, and space; no plans to end our homesteading- only adjust it.

I sit in the quiet wrapped in hand made warmth; Ben and my warm cup for company as I patiently wait for the ideas to flow. For now, it is time to rest... to breath.

Happy New Year! May God's grace be with you.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rambling: The Overly Affectionate Dog

The other day I read an article about a woman who was dropping her dog off at the animal shelter because he 'constantly wanted to be near her'. Yes, you read that right. Pet owner, dog shelter- reason given: overly affectionate. I was dumbfounded. Was affection not the reason most of us take in a dog?

Admittedly, the livestock on my homestead live here for a purpose. They provide a purpose, meet a need, or serve as protection: goats are milk and meat, poultry are meat and eggs, while the donkey is the herd keeper and the puppy (Ben) is guardian. Despite how cold this may sound, they also serve as companions, comedians, and comfort- distractions from the world around me. Never has one of them been sent away or put down because of their affection.

This article came across my news feed shortly after my own Ben was attacked in our own property by two aggressive pit bulls. In reality, my dog's 'affection' for us nearly cost him his life; he was protecting us because he loves us.

Before we jump to condemn this woman, let us consider her lack of understanding. True- a dog can be inconvenient when they jump on your cleanly pressed work clothes; when you trip over them every time you turn around in the kitchen- or when they bark at the 'shady intentions' of every leaf in the yard. Did she not realize that, in turn, the dog's affection also meant his loyal protection? He would, most likely, defend her against any unsavory intruder (human or otherwise)? Warn her of danger- natural or devised (snakes? coons? even a 'dark personality')?

The take away from all this rambling? Animals of any type are a responsibility we must consider before we bring them home; sometimes people just don't know how to handle them; and, finally, if we put the work into them, the benefits out weigh the irritation.

Now if you will excuse me, my giant lug and I have a snuggle routine to complete before bedtime rounds start. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dark, Difficult Love

I did something I rarely do. I sat at the TV flipping through the 'holiday happy love' junk. Dozens and dozens of sappy situations to feed our emotions (and our discontentment). Every channel offered 'the spark', the glow, that tingly feel good thing that is suppose to be love.

Not one to deny those loves exist, I am one to say those moments are not constant. The warm, fuzzy emotion of love is fleeting, even occasional in real life. Images given to us by media and entertainment toy with us, pressing us to believe that is the one and only true love.

Love is a choice; an action; a daily thought that is tested and tried- pushed to its limits. Love challenges us to look at the deepest parts of ourselves and face what we often choose to hide. Our vanities and virtues are tested by love-
                   as we are placed in a place of humility for the needs of another
                        as we stand back for another to make their own choices no matter the outcome
                             as we look past the mirror and see the darkest parts of ourselves
                                  as we face who we are forced to reckon with that darkness and move forward.

Over the many years of my life, the pain and test of dark, deep love has surfaced and subsided. So many times it pushes me to places in my heart I dare not look (nor do I want to). Some moments creep up on you, some hit you like a bus:
                    as our dreams are not reality and others don't play by 'our rules
                           as our spouses are imperfect and flawed (as we are) choosing a path we didn't
                                  as our children grow and make choices and mistakes of their own
                                        as loved ones come to a place of need.

There is a beauty in choosing this dark, difficult love; in submitting to it, facing it, and working through the fire it brings. Nothing compares to the emotion, pain, and joy found here. When the dark moments pass, sweet release reveals the precious, secret reality:
                        there is no greater love that this
                                  there is no easy path to it
                                           there is no more precious a gift that to be given the opportunity to love
                                                     in the dark, difficult, humble and gracious

Monday, October 12, 2015

Decluttering the Homestead

Time gathers things- or, maybe it's better to say 'we gather things with time'. Either way, the reality is.. clutter happens.. and a homestead is a clutter magnet! Over time space becomes filled with this and that- the things we said we will get to later. Items that fell to the wayside and the wayside crept closer and closer to the door. You get the point.

This month's focus on my homestead is declutter: use it or remove it.

The goal: break the homestead into zones and clear the zone.

Repurpose, recycle, reclaim- but do not let it remain!

We are twelve days into this month and let me just say this is hard! One: it's ragweed season so I am battling out the histamine drip while trying to decide keep or cull. Two: emotions and doubt play tricks with your mind as you try to decide in there is any use for 'that old thing' (OTC allergy meds are not conducive to mental clarity!). Three: not everyone in the house is on board with my manic urge to purge.

Since the allergies are winning, my focus turned inward these past few days. Closets, pantries and drawers are the starting line. So far the upstairs spare room (now the sewing room) has been gone through- though I can't say it is clutter free since it is packed floor to ceiling with outgrown baby items. Does every grandparent's house have a baby stuff stash?

From there I pressed on to the downstairs spare room- now the grandbaby room. Despite the toys it is in pretty good shape- if only I could figure out how to make the art table/supplies less messy looking. Wait, why? Aren't all creative, artsy people a bit messy? My room is now where I'm at. Then pantries and cabinets. The house is only one small piece though.
We have a barn, well house, storage shed, greenhouse- four poultry pens, three gardens, three pastures- not to mention the place where the trailers set, the 'bone yard' and the dreaded place where all clutter goes to multiply and mock me..the shop! The magnitude of this mess makes me dizzy. Standing in the drive at the end of my work day causes me to ask myself why I didn't start sooner. I know the answer- it is a pain!

The plan?

Burn the fallen trees - or re-purpose them in the goat pen (they are dropping like crazy right now).
Recycle the metal- damaged metal objects are now being piled on a trailer for a little trip.
Trash the trash- determining what is truly trash is the object of many grumblings. (keeping it real)
Thin the 'herd'- metaphorically, of course. Here we are focusing on downsizing or simplifying the chores: barn, gardens, and pasture care. There are less hands on the homestead, so time to re-evaluate what we focus our energies on.
Finally, there are some areas of disrepair that need a tune up. My goal is to fix those fence 'patches' and make things easier for me to handle on my own... calf panels are this girl's best friend. (If only I could find a gate solution as wonderful as calf panels).

Will I get this all decluttered by November- oh, honey, I doubt it, but there's no reason not to be ambitious!

Now, before I get distracted again (or my sinuses clog up), better go bag some more stuff from the closet!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Detox or Purification: My Experience with Healing Baths for When We are Ill

Detox: the removal of toxic substances from a living organism.

Purification: to clean of foreign elements or pollution.

Imagine a long soak in warm, soothing water; the aroma of ginger and clove paired with lemon and mint tickle every breath. Your scalp tingles a bit and your skin drinks up every mineral as muscles relax all the way to the bone. Sigh. A sip of herbal tea warms you deep inside as you smile in gentle peace.
That is a healing, restorative bath- and they are delicious!

The purpose of such bathing is to draw out what has slowed our body; elements from the environment, preservatives from a meal, or illness from the body. Many believe it helps with metal overload or environmental chemical absorption. Overall, the healing bath is meant not only to remove, but to restore as well; rich minerals, vitamins, herbal plant properties, and deep hydration.

What are they used for:
hydration, restoration, aide in detox, relieve migraines or tension headaches, allergies, PCOS or female stagnation, digestion, and stress

How are they used:
warm water as you tolerate, soak 20-45 minutes or until the water cools, sip tea or water to keep internal hydration, dark or dim atmosphere

When are the used:
as needed or up to three times a week (more often is generally only recommended during times of extreme malady)

My study into healing baths spurred from my migraines- I knew a steamy shower or relaxing bath seemed to really help ease the symptoms. I also knew from my herbal studies that many herbs and oils gave relief. The search to put them together led me to page after page of 'detoxifying baths', purification bathing, and herbal steeping. I admit some of it seemed rather far out there, but there was a common practicality to them. Draw out and soak in. The experimentation began.
The first 'recipe' I tried was simple: magnesium salts, sodium bicarbonate, with thieves oil in the warmest water I could tolerate 20 minutes. Pure joy! It relieved my symptoms and offered a refreshing feeling (relaxed and restful). I tried the bath several times after that, not only when I was facing a migraine, but also when I was worn down, exposed to stress or illness, traveling, and even when I had just 'gotten off track'.

Not being one to settle, I dug deeper into the study of healing baths to find there are a plethora of bath recipes and methods: vinegars, minerals, clays, herbals, essential oils and even some with tea. What works for what symptom varies as much as the herbalists and practitioners who write them. It can be a bit confusing. As an herbalist studying holistic nutrition and healing, I like to cater my bath elements to the need or symptom: thieves blends for illness; kava or chamomile for relaxation; and a steeped vinegar bath for when my body seems out of balance. Unless you are under the consultation of a practitioner or you are a studying herbalist yourself, the basic recipe is most likely best.

The most basic recipe I have found:
2 handfuls of magnesium salts or flakes
1 handful sodium bicarbonate
warm water
20-45 minutes
dim lighting with a mild tea such as mint or kava, or simply water

essential oils
herbal vinegars
herbs steeped in your bath (I do bag mine as I dislike cleaning the tub afterward)
bentonite clay

Notes from my journal:
often my body sweats a bit after the bath, so give yourself time to rest and dress lightly (about 30 minutes or and hour)
it is not to apply lotions to the skin as your pores are very open
eating afterward may upset your stomach (remember- detoxing)

This week ragweed bloomed in my area- not at all pleasant for me. An herbal bath, some herbal tea, and plenty of restful reading are on the agenda!
Wishing you wellness during this allergy season:)

I am not a medical doctor. This information is for educational purposes only. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Balance of Being

Lately I find myself struggling to find the balance as our season in life changes. Isn't it amazing how you can finally start to get your footing in a stage, then wham! everything dumps over and we start again. In only a few short years we have gone from a bustling homestead full of teens, to an empty home with a grand baby.

When our children became adults, a whole new need for balance came with it. While we are still there parents, and forever will be, we are not their boss- nor should we be. There is need for balance to maintain a healthy relationship without hindering their independence. When asked by a parent how this is done I simply responded- it looks different to all of us.

For me, there is a tendency to tell them how to do it (not very balancing). As you can imagine this tends to grind nerves and set distance between us. Putting into practice the balance of being available without being in the way has helped quite a bit. I'm not saying there aren't times when a bit of 'motherly direction' slips out, but occasional is better received than constant.

Along with balancing our advice and directions, I found our time needs balanced. When they first left, they seemed more eager to come home for a weekend. Time as shown them visiting less and less, as is natural with growing independence, Not expecting them to drop everything and come over is part of the balance of respecting their space and their schedule.

Grand-parenting is another delicate balance to practice. New mommies don't necessarily take well to constant advice. Being available and willing to let them come to me when they are ready (if at all) is hard, but again, balancing. I can not tell you how hard I find it to sit back and remain silent sometimes (I'm sure it happened when I was a young mom too).

The last balancing I am finding these days is the balance of aging family. Giving our aging or declining families their space, independence, and integrity is hard. I am a do-er, a fixer.. I do not sit back and wait very well. My nature is to jump in and get it done, but that can tip the scale quickly. It isn't easy to let them decide they need help, but it does transition more smoothly if we do.

My empty-ing nest is a new challenge; one I am trying to balance gracefully. So far I have spent a great deal of time crying, praying and most often distracting myself with projects. In the end, I realize the only contentment I will find is in seeking the balance of being where I am, with who I am, for the purpose of what I am.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Get More In Your Day- Movement

This week has challenged me; I am a mover. Anyone who knows me understands that sitting for hours is not conducive to my personality; even at my desk I am moving thanks to my stability ball 'office chair'. The problem this week? I am in a master specialist training requiring me to sit through several hours of lectures. It made me realize, many people do sit for hours on end be it work, choice, or physical restriction (often times I hear people do not realize they have sat for a long period due to distractions/entertainment).

Chatting with my fellow students during meals, I discovered not only are people often not moving, they are challenged with ideas to get moving more. Concerns over opportunity, safety, and the all out interest, or lack of, seem to be common. I love a challenge. It's time for some creative movement that is safe, flexible with our schedule, and not mind numbing.

My personal 'move it more's' challenge:

On the job:

* Parking lot
   Many of us have heard to park farther from our destination- that's fine, but let's take this a bit further and spread it throughout our day.
   I say, walk the parking lot! Every time I take a convenience break (potty) I take a stroll around the parking lot. This hint of sunshine and fresh air offer a wonderfully stimulating brain break.

* Stairs
   I didn't have stairs available to me in either of my locations, but if you have them use them. Stirring the cardio system is excellent for mental clarity and focus.

* Stability ball
   Stability balls offer core strength and gentle movement without being disruptive to the office environment. If you have a private office, gentle stretches can also help with long hours of desk time. (more to come in another post) My stability ball was not with me and I could tell; shoulders and back were sore and stiff after hours of sitting.

Once the day is over:

* Stop off at:
   The gym: Stopping off on the way home is much easier than leaving once you have arrived home.
   A park: Frugal and easy, parks are all over the place. As long as it is still light outside, a brisk walk is quick and easy.
   Trails: We have a few trails in our area and some subdivisions have walking paths. They are great.
^^^^I keep a spare pair of shoes and some 'walking clothes' in the car just in case I am not dressed for a walk.

* Play
   If you go home to children or a dog, play with them! Ben was very eager to walk, fetch, tug, and play with me when I made it home. Play is an excellent way to move and to enjoy our family.
   No pets or kids- play anyway. Shoot hoops, toss or kick a ball at a net, visit a batting cage, maybe even just swing a little while- it's fun!

* Garden
   My garden chores are never done, offering me an opportunity for some movement every time I visit it. Walk through, pick a weed, pluck some pests, and water it- all great moving activities.

So what's the point? We could all use more activity in our day, and our schedules don't make it easy. This month my focus professionally and personally is to find more simple, effective, safe, ways to get moving and share it with others.
Did I do all of these things? You bet. I promise not to share it unless I have done it!
What's your way to get more movement in your day?

Monday, September 28, 2015

For the Love of a Girl- Doc and Miss K

From the first moment they met, Doc knew he loved Miss K. This tiny human stole the heart of a giant long-eared grump.
For the love of this girl
paces the fence waiting for her to visit his pasture;
announces her arrival with what seems like enthusiasm- if a donkey can be enthusiastic.
For Miss K, Doc
withholds his nibbling habit
for the tender brushing fingers of her tiny hands;
allows mushy girl kisses to command his mighty presence.
Not only has Doc become rather mushy with her, but he even caved in to nibbling dried leaves instead of his preferred 'fresh green' leaves (though he does spit them out when she isn't looking).
He has been seen fretting over her as she climbs the slide, 
or works the garden.
Jealousy has been suspected when he sees her
petting Ben, 
or chatting with the goose.

Yes, it is quite mind boggling how such a determined beast can be brought to gentle grace by a tiny bundle of giggles and curls. 
He is the first to announce her arrival and the last to tell her goodbye.
He is the first name she calls when she gets here and the last visit she makes before going home.
For the love of a donkey, Miss K sneaks carrots and apples from the fridge- and talks everyone into a walk outside.
For the love of a girl, Doc humbles himself with gentle love and grace.
I'm just waiting for the day she finally gets him to 'sit' on command (she is working very hard on that one). 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Whole Living"- a New Direction

As a life long learner, and a nutrition educator, I have been furthering my knowledge base in nutrition, gardening, and agricultural practices- with a focus on frugal, practical, and functional. My life is in a season of change bringing with it a need for re-focusing- but in what direction? When your passions are many and somewhat broad, it can be a challenge to really zone in on a specific area of study or expertise. During a recent conversation with some youth, my mind was stirred at their questions, their direction of conversation, and their interaction with me.

While many are specialized in specific areas of study and knowledge, there is a need for someone to pull it together and be unique in their path of education. My chosen direction is 'holistic'- whole. It is time to gather the pieces of my knowledge base and blaze a path that meets a need often overlooked; holistic living, or whole living. Helping the average person worth withing their environment, utilizing the whole life, to move in a healthy direction physically, mentally, spiritually, and environmentally.

I have already been doing this for years- I just never realized it.

So bear with me on this journey as I seek to pull the parts together and make 'whole';
for myself,
for women,
for children,
for families,
for those around us.

Let's see where this new road takes us, shall we?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Our Farm Boy's Cinnamon Rolls

                                                           Farm boy's Cinnamon Rolls

There's nothing like a delicious home made cinnamon roll. The tantalizing aroma of hot bread and sticky cinnamon filling teases the senses. Our Farm boy is well known for his delicious cinnamon rolls. Today, after many requests. we share his wonderful recipe- adapted from an Amish roll recipe we found many years ago. These rolls were fair entries, sleepover treats, and many a holiday breakfast. Join me in the kitchen - let's cook up a batch!

Farm Boy's Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
4 eggs
2 packets yeast
1 cup warm water
5 cups flour
One cup of brown sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste
enough butter to coat the dough (approx. 1 TBSP)
1 stick of butter
1 cup confectioners sugar

In a large mixing bowl - yes large, a big one, mix the potatoes and shortening until no lumps are found. Now stir in sugar and eggs. Dissolve the yeast in the slightly warm water before adding it to the potato mixture. (I use the liquid from my potatoes for the water or whey from cheese making) Stir in three cups of the flour, then knead in enough flour to make the dough smooth but not sticky. (I usually just knead this particular dough right in the bowl) Cover your bowl and allow the dough to rise one hour or until doubled in size.
 On a well floured surface (I use the kitchen table) roll your dough to 1/2 inches thickness. You want a long rectangle shape. Lightly butter the surface before spreading the cinnamon sugar mixture all over- covering every inch. Starting on the long side closest to you, roll the dough into a nice log. Cut your dough into two inch rolls and place them on a greased baking sheet. (we found that using dental floss helps the rolls keep their shape better than cutting with a knife) I generally get 16 to 18 rolls per batch. When they are all cut, cover them lightly and let rise thirty minutes while preheating your oven.
Bake your rolls for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. They should be lightly browned and "dry" looking- no gooey dough.
While they cool, mix with a mixer one stick of butter with one cup of powdered sugar. Frost the rolls when they are cool and serve at your own risk...warning...they are addictive!

Doesn't that sound good?
Of course, now I need to walk a dozen miles to work them off!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tasty Baked Quinoa- It's Healthy, You Know!

I don't know if you know this, but I'm a busy gal. You too? Well, then you understand the challenge of getting the chores done, yourself put together, and getting a healthy breakfast before you leave every morning- don't you. Thus the quinoa.
My fall back, go-to, make ahead breakfast dish is baked oatmeal. It's simple, filling, economical, healthy and rather easy to stir together. Having the oven preheating, I started stirring ingredients before actually gathering all of them when I realized- no oats. Yep. What do you do when you have already started and- no oats? Improvise.
Being one to never give up I scanned the shelves for a worthy substitute; sadly I haven't shopped in a couple weeks (hubby has been stalking the shelves for BlueBell, but that's another story entirely). I ended up with a bag of quinoa. Hm- challenging, to say the least.
 My first attempts at quinoa were rather flat and unflavorful disasters which caused my family members to write it off completely. Yes, I touted the amazing healthy benefits of this 'ancient grain'- the iron, magnesium, potassium- the Vitamin E and fiber. It wasn't until I decided to dump it in home made bone broth that we actually started liking it. 
So, with that said, the thought of putting this rather tasteless 'nutritional powerhouse' into my delicious baked oatmeal recipe seemed, well, sacrilegious.Not to be dissuaded, I picked up my bag of tasteless grains and set off on a quest to make them stinking delicious.

Cinnamon Baked Quinoa

You need:
3 cups cooked quinoa (see note)*
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk of choice (I used coconut)
1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used agave)
   1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons oil of choice (I used coconut)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees; grease your 9"x13" pan with the coconut oil. 
Stir everything together in a bowl. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until center is set and top has nicely browned.
*Note: 1 cup of dry quinoa cooked in 2 cups of water at a simmer for 15 minutes yields 3 cups cooked quinoa (red, white or multi-colored).
Variations I like:
Use maple for the sweetener.
Add in dried berries.
Stir in chia seed or flax seed or both (I used 2 tablespoons)
Serve with fruit on top!

I really liked it- my family was slower to come around; still scarred from their first devastating encounter, I guess. Never the less, it is a great recipe that freezes well, reheats nicely, and is quite portable if you have to eat at the office (or in the car in a parking lot- don't ask). 
Maybe next time I can try oats with quinoa, or baked barley- even some psyllium husks. Okay, maybe that was too far!
Anyway, if you try it let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Miss K & Uncle J

There is a special bond that grows in the heart of a child; a bond shared with a person that just 'gets them'. For Miss K, her 'person' is none other than the farm boy whom she affectionately calls 'My J'. From the moment they met, she just knew he was her person.
J put her swing on his old swing set and introduced her to the magic of 'flying'. 
Ready, set, go!
Higher and higher!
Giggles abound as the bond grows.
J shows her how chores are done; patiently walking with her hand on his pant leg. It's quite a sight to see this very tall guy being led by such a small girl, but they fit. 
Miss K knows where there is a J there is food! Nothing is sacred when she finds you eating a tasty lasagna or a cup of pudding. The conversations here are priceless! She has been known to barter a snack for a story; after all a growing boy and a growing girl need that, right?
She knows J is the perfect guy for taking a walk with, or taking swimming. He is okay with mud pies and fishing (because you know a swimming pool has fish, don't you?)
Together they play hard, get all sweaty, and cool off in the little pool.
They are a perfect pair- he never talks and she never stops!
Two of a kind.
Full of fun and mischief.
Always ready for a good laugh, 
or an energizing game of peek-a-boo.
Miss K and J

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fostering a Creative Life

A recent conversation stirred my mind- the topic? Creativity, or- more specifically- a creative lifestyle. We batted back and forth the ideas/notions that creativity is a thing some people have and some people don't. 'Creativity is for 'art people' not everyday people.' That confused me. I don't see myself as 'art people', yet I do see myself, my family, my kids as creative.

I decided to define creative as I see it:

Create: to make something new; to bring into being something that was not before

Creative: engaging the imagination

A creative life: setting an environment for involving the imagination

These are my personal definitions; the ones that lead me to believe each and every one of us has creativity- even a need for it. Most of us have either buried it ourselves or had it buried by someone/ something along the way.

Sit still, Keep clean. Don't make a mess. Study hard. Take a test. Be entertained. Work hard. None of these statements invoke notions of creativity, instead they stifle it. These things are not necessarily wrong; just out of balance. The realities and demands of our lives need a creative balance to them.

The work side educates, provides, and produces. The creatives side relieves, relaxes, and rebuilds. They go together, or they should. Where do we find creative? You may say, like my friend, 'I'm not crafty or artistic.' You don't have to be. Creative is self-expressed and grows from our individual interests... but it must be fostered.
Our minds are so numb from everything pressing us, we no longer know our interests!

So how do I foster it when I don't know what it is?
Put stuff in front of you and see what happens.
When I introduce children to creativity, I simply put stuff in front of them and let them go. Various paints and papers, craft items, glue, natural leaves, sticks and string, fiber supplies such as yarn and fabric are all items to put in front of you. Dig a small corner of your yard and stick some plants there. Doodle or color... give yourself a child-like opportunity to relax and do something new.

If you have children at home, like I once did, designating a 'creative space' is wonderful. A small table in the corner, a desk, or even a spot on the porch can give opportunity without pressure. Sit and do it with them, but be careful not to dictate perfection; that is not the goal. Expression, release, and rest is what we are going for. Let them, and yourself, display your results- no matter what they are!
- A note: your child might scribble black crayon all over a paper; beware your reaction. Only they know what emotions, feelings, frustrations, or interests sparked that. Let them release it safely here. You might feel like doing it too one day (some work days go that way, am I right?)

A word of caution:  be open to the possibility their creative niche is not the same as yours...their creative language, their medium....may not match you!
My son plays guitar, works with leather, and build things- one daughter paints, sketches, and does digital arts- another knits, crochets and does beautiful thread work... I quilt, garden and humbly paint/sketch. We are each drastically different in our medium, muse, and approach to creativity! Be open to the reality... we are all different!

Growing up, it never crossed my mind that I was allotted creative expression... but I was. Gardening, sewing, nature, time to color or play.. these things were always in front of me and available to me (I even studied art for a time). The key to fostering a creative life is to let it happen without pressure or force. Make it available to you and your family- you will be surprised how relaxing it is!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Life of Ben: In the Garden

The back door eases open; he sniffs the air to see who is in the kitchen. He finds me there and waits patiently by the fan as I finish up dishes before gathering my gloves and basket; we are going to the garden.

In the corner of the garden, just beyond the peach tree, a tiny nose twitches. Crouching back in the shadows his heart races as the garden gate opens.

With a burst of energy, Ben charges straight to the back corner; past the peach tree and to the shadowy corner.

The little rabbit we fondly call 'Pete" has bounded under the fence. He sits in the shadow of the wood's edge watching Ben sniff the very spot he was sitting. In hushed tones Ben 'speaks' to Pete; I wonder what he must be saying; is it a warning about eating my garden or simply a conversation between oddly paired friends?

In a show of good measure, Ben carefully searches every inch of the bunny hideout making sure I know how hard he is working. Convinced that task is complete, Ben moves through his routine checkpoints, sniffing, scratching, and nuzzling every inch of the garden- every possibly hiding place. He nibbles snippettes of greenery as he goes.

A stop at the water barrel for cool drink ends his list of things to do. Lumbering through the growing things, he plants himself at my feet. His large head nuzzles my side, seeking approval for a job well done. As I picks a pepper, I scratch his soft ears and pat his strong shoulder- he has worked hard today keeping her garden safe. Ben decides to take a welcome rest in the shade of an oak tree when the watering begins; he's not fond of being wet.

Together we stroll back to the house; he stays just close enough for my hand to rest on his shoulder as we walk.

Once inside, I make a glass of tea as Ben enjoys a bit of egg leftover from breakfast. I take my seat at the table to answer emails and sketch a bit; Ben takes his place at my feet.  There he will nap until we head out for evening chores and one more visit to the garden. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Adventures of Miss K: S is for Song

No matter what the moment or the mood we find ourselves in, a song always brings a smile. It seems a great many of our emotions are lifted when music tickles our ears. Miss K loves to sing.

In moments of play she is always drawn to musical items: her favorite? the nativity that plays Away in  a Manger. Dancing and smiling, the music gives her joy and softens a sour moment. Knowing this, we have set various 'musical' items around the house in order to offer her opportunity. Of course, she loves to snatch my phone with a request for Pandora's toddler tunes. Music is joyful, but singing is even better.

Holding a baby doll in her arms, she starts the tune Rock a by Baby, eyeing anyone nearby to join her. There is Twinkle Twinkle and a host of other familiar tunes- but there is one that stirs a reaction like no other. A song a have sung to her since birth; one I keep unique to her and her alone. When the first few words are heard all movement stops. She turns to face me with a smile bigger than anything you have ever seen. Giggles escape her as she wiggles side to side and inches closer- because we have to have a full hearty hug at the end.

I have no idea what made this 'our song'- it isn't modern, new, or even that common. It's quirky and unusual- like us. Interestingly enough I had decided the second verse just didn't fit us, so I reworded it when she just a few months old; a reflection of the crazy chaos that was at that time and how fun it was in spite of it.

So here it is, Miss K's favorite (the original version).

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

His Name Is Ben

His name is Ben, or as Miss K says, "Big Ben". This gentle giant came to be part of my home a little over a year ago; just about the time Miss K joined us. They have been partial to each other since the day they met. So have Ben and I.

It was a long journey from the little farm he was born on to the simple homestead where he now resides. Ben came to me at the tender age of 6 weeks; a cotton ball with a wet nose. From day one he found my lap, my foot, and my shoulder his favorite places to lay his head. We were inseparable, learning each other's manner and temperament. 
He has been my shadow, comfort and fervent protector every single day. At my side or under my feet, Ben is never far from me and always ready to warn me when things just don't seem right. He is a gentle dog, but has shown on more than one occasion the ability to protect and defend. 
Miss K and Ben are kindred spirits- loving the garden, the barn and the great outdoors. Story time has often found them side by side listening to me read to them. Upon her arrival, Miss K's first order of business is to bring Ben up to date on all things as she chatters away beside him in the kitchen. He offers a tender dose of attention and a few will placed kisses. If K goes outside, Ben is close beside her- it's the only time he goes anywhere near the baby pool!
With my family growing and changing, Ben has been my comfort and companion. He lays at my feet as I sip coffee after work, 'helps' me with chores, and joins me in the garden while I work. We are never apart when I'm home- he lovingly walks me to the gate and he eagerly greets me when I return. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

August's Garden: Let it Go

August made it's appearance in a wave of intense heat; we tipped 108 last week! Temperatures like that pretty much bring all of life to a searing halt; especially the garden. That is why the garden theme in August is 'let it go'.

1. Pull it out! Plants succumb to the heat quite quickly leaving the garden a sad, crispy mess. All we can do is pull it out.

2. Put it in! The soil will be somewhat depleted from nurturing the summer garden. This past weekend found me adding manure and compost in thick layers.

3. Cover it up! As much as possible, I cover the beds/rows and let the sun cook down the compost along with weed seeds and pests; the fancy word is 'solarize'.

4. Let it go! I walk away and pretend it doesn't exist until planting time. That's the plan anyway. I never really can stay out of the garden!

5. Plan something new! Whether it is what we plant next, adding a new bed or two, or even creating a 'theme' for the area I love sketching and making notes on the next season's layout.

The three garden beds are going through a major overhaul this year in order to adapt to our changing homestead. Our large 'raised row' garden is intended to become the orchard/vine patch; blackberries, gourds, melons and wildflowers are in the plans. The victory garden (the one with a greenhouse) has six raised beds and several raised rows- the plans are to add a few more raised beds and possibly irrigation while planting 'pottager style'. This area will also have a small bed area for Miss K to work her tools in. I hope to stock the greenhouse with fresh herbs. Finally, the rose/herb area is to undergo the most change as a children's wonder garden filled with color, texture, fragrance and hidden storybook characters such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle Duck.

Today I'm drooling over seed catalogs and perusing Pintrest for garden art ideas. I guess when you really look at it, I'm not letting go after all!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Adventures of Miss K: We Paint

In the afternoon, long after goat herding and chicken chasing, there comes a point in the day where we paint. A time of togetherness; of quite and stillness; painting time is where no words are spoken- none are needed. We paint. 

I hear the pitter-patter of her little feet. There at my side she smiles, paints and brushes in hand, and impish smile and teasingly asks, 'We paint?" She knows I always say yes. The anticipation builds in her little heart as I grab paper and a bowl of water; she loves to paint. 

At the table, she climbs to her favorite perch a.k.a. my lap. For the record, I attempted to find her a chair just the right height, but that was not going to work for Miss K. My lap is where it's at! Sitting there together, she has her paper and I have mine Together we begin the beautiful dance from water to paint to paper. Swish, swish, swish. 

Recently I purchased some glitter water colors- imagine her delight! Then I picked up a few new paint brushes- now that excited her. She loved them so much, she used every one of them (at the same time). 

Generally Miss K is much like me- always moving and going; quite a busy gal. Not true when we paint. Here she is still and quiet; focused on the process; unphased by the outcome. Some days she uses her favorite colors: blue, yellow and green. Recently she has been focused on individual colors and their variance: blue, then purple. I think for a 1 year old that is fairly amazing. 

What happens to all these water color pages? I'm glad you asked. After they have dried and Miss K has gone home, I sit down and sketch a memory on them. One of her in the garden, one on her swing, another with her donkey- you get the idea. These are gathered together in a folder for when she is older- Miss K's watercolor memories of Grandmama's house. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Project Completion

Today's post is brought to you by the letter 'c'. 'C' is for 'complete'; as in 'The project is complete.' Wow. I can hardly believe it. Two years went by rather fast!

Some of you may remember, I took a part time job as a project specialist in a research study testing curriculum focused on combating childhood obesity. That was two years ago. In that time the project grew from one grade level in four schools to multiple grade levels in four schools plus after schools; from there we even made it to summer camps. It has been quite a ride.

Today I took a moment to really look at what had been accomplished. There is the research assessment which says we improved nutrition and garden knowledge, improved vegetable preferences, and showed improvement in beverage choices and physical activity.  The office assessment shows thousands of educational contacts with expansion in the county and a diverse outreach base. Those are great accomplishments, but they seem rather impersonal.

The project took me to places I never thought I would be, to do things I could only imagine doing, with children who truly needed 'just one person' to be a change in their day. Amazing teachers, camp and after school staff have become work partners and friends. My eyes have been opened to the hearts of many families that shared their children with me- and I have grown to love them. It has pushed me to challenge my creativity and my knowledge base. I have grown and become better for it.

These past few months have been filled with data collection, documentation and finalization of all the hard work we did. There were speaking engagements and conferences; training dates and sharing moments. Now it is complete.

So what will become of 'Professor Go?' now that the project is complete? We won't know until the month ends; she might just be around a little longer or she may stay a while. Either way, I can confidently say, 'I did that and it is complete!'

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Garden Salsa Three Ways

   This garden season has been a tough on; heavy rains and flooding followed by heat and humidity. Needless to say, the tomatoes are stressed. Fortunately our education gardens are all raised beds, offering a bit of help- their harvests this week have been impressive. Since some have managed to survive long enough to ripen, it's salsa time!  
   There are two main ways I make salsa at home: stove top and oven roasted. What's the difference? The flavor. Stove top salsas are delicious, simple and quite delicious- with the added bonus of not heating the oven. Oven roasted salsa is distinctly different- enhancing the natural qualities of the fruits and drawing a caramelized yummy-ness that's hard to beat. 

Simply Salsa- Stove Top

10 cups chopped tomatoes
5 cups chopped green peppers
5 cups chopped onions
2 1/2 cup chopped hot peppers 
(such as jalapeno)
1 1/2 cup lime juice or vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons salt

In a large heavy bottom pot, stir all together mixing very well. Cook over medium heat until the color deepens and the juices thicken (about 30 minutes). Ladle into pint jars (approximately 6) leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process in water bath. 15 minutes. Hint: a food processor is a wonderful friend:)

Simply Roasted Salsa

12 Roma-style tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large onions, quartered
5 hot peppers
olive oil
1 lime

Spread tomatoes, garlic and peppers on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt modestly. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until the onions start to caramelize.
Once cool enough to touch, peel skin off tomatoes before pulsing them in a food processor (with peppers, onion and garlic). Add juice and zest of one lime..stir well before ladling into pint jars (about 3). Process in water bath 15 minutes.

   If you are really in a pinch, or if you are cooking with kids, fresh salsa is a snap! I generally use the food processor to get things done quickly. Bear in mind, this can start to 'juice' as it sets- you may want to strain it a bit.

Salsa Fresca (fresh salsa)

5 medium tomatoes
1/4 an onion
2 hot peppers
3 cloves garlic
1 lime
salt and pepper

Seed and chop your tomatoes. Rough chop the onion, peppers and garlic *remove pepper seeds for a milder salsa. Toss them in a food processor, pulsing to incorporate to desired consistency. Juice and zest the lime and stir into salsa with the salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated if you have any left!
Note: this recipe is from Food Heros

A few notes:
- pepper seeds and veins hold the heat- remove for milder salsa
- pepper size also effects heat- larger ones are milder
- green tomatoes can be used, preferably in the cooked versions
- a blender also works for processing the salsas, as does a food mill
- salsa is a great dose of nutrition so put it on everything!

Now grab your favorite tortilla chips or a hearty "Mexican-style" dish and dig in!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nutrition- It's Not About Celery Sticks

Image result for image of celery sticks
Large groups of teenagers can be daunting- especially if your might be an unpopular activity in their summer schedule! In a moment of hushed bluntness, a young man's comment caught my attention, "Great, celery sticks and ranch". Ouch! 

His comment stirred an immediate reaction in me- of gratitude! I have been brooding and fretting over a few crazy me ideas (you know, the ones that only sound good in your own head)- in attempts to put together a fresh summer teen nutrition/ag program. One dealt with none other than nutrition myths, such as 'nutrition is all about celery'.

Without fear I walked right up to the boy, who was quite strong in his defense of his comment- and quite clear he would not be eating any celery, and thanked him for his honesty. Our small one-on-one conversation gave me an open door to assure him this would not be a boring activity, but an opportunity to change his outlook. He challenged me further with a smirk and an agreement to give it a shot. My long ride home found me in 'all tabs open' mode as the creative juices struggled to marry with sound fact and reasoning.

If nutrition is not about the celery sticks, what is it about? 

1. Food, not food shaming! Learning about food, both natural and processed, in order to equip you for your choices.

2. Choices. What goes in to your body is your choice- but be sure you are informed and educated in order to make good ones.

3. Be where you are. Children/youth generally do not make food purchasing decisions for their families, so there are limits to what they can choose. Family finances, ethnic preferences, and food knowledge can also play a role. Work with what you have and learn to make it work.

4. Trying new things- not just new foods. Sometimes nutrition is about trying new skills, or new ways to use certain foods.

And finally- 
5. Fit your tastes! Each of us are different- and our tastes are too. Learn to adjust foods to suit your tastes; you will be more willing to eat them and make them yourselves.

I have no doubt this summer will be full of challenging personalities and hard set preferences- most kids have rather firm views of food and nutrition. My hope is that this young man's honesty will truly open the flood gates to the many jumbled notions in my head and bring them to an engaging plan of action! 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Engaging the Mind- Miss K and Me

Miss K: pint size bundle of energy, ingenuity, and noise. Let me just say, this grandmama sees an awful lot of her mama, aunt and uncle in this little firecracker! Weekends with her are fun, fast, and fascinating- it keeps me on my toes!

Like any tot she has always been curious and engaging- focused eye contact and gurgly noises. Growing into the mobile, interactive, tot she now is offers even more insight into the curious mind of this little lady.

As I prepared for another visit from our little tot, I found it a great time to share specific examples of how I strive to engage the mind and allow a child to find self expression and self soothing. Let's start at the beginning.

Baby K
She was around three months old when she first started really spending time with me. One of her favorite soothing activities was a walk outside. Her face would light up as she gazed all around her: blue sky, green trees, the flower and veggie gardens.. farm animals and the noises of farm life.

Touching different textures was another engaging activity she loved: soft toys, rough books- tough and feel books are her favorite. Reading and music were calming- it amazed me how long she would let me read to her.

As she grew, we put paint on paper and placed it inside a zip bag, allowing her to poke, smear, and play at painting without too much mess. Water play- scooping, funneling, pouring- and soil exploration- getting down in the dirt and feeling it- were things she grew into.

Miss K today
At the start of her sitting up time to now, she loves fabric textures and colors; patterns are something she tends to notice and follow. Sitting on the floor with fabric and yarn offer her textile touch and interaction with creative opportunity; make a blanket, a fort, or wrap a doll in it.
Outdoors is still number one: the animals, trees and garden are always visited shortly after she arrives. Petting, smelling, hugging- touching, digging, and gazing- all offer her moments of exploration and engagement.

Painting is her indoor favorite- now with brush in hand. Watercolors are top request; dipping the brush, swirling and swoohing it in paint and paper are times of determined concentration and intense focus.

Reading and music are excellent calming activities for her. She could hear a story over and over for half an hour- and dance and sing as well.

So what does it matter?
A creative mind is a terrible thing to waste- and every mind is creative. The key is to expose them to various outlets of creativity and allow them the freedom to find the avenue best suited to their needs. If Miss K is a bit fussy, she now asks to go outside or to paint- whether she realizes it or not, she is already using self calming activities. Children need outlets to express themselves and deal with the frustrations/emotions which are simply a part of their natural growing experience.

Today's encouragement:
Let's do a little self exploration. What do you do to calm your frazzled mind?
Share your experiences, tips, and questions- inspire each other!