Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Wanna be a Prepper

   Not a Preppie, though navy blue and kelly green do make a smashing classic color combo. And HEAVEN HELP ME if a cute guy saunters by wearing his collar popped up...

   No, I think I want to be a Prepper. As in Doomsday. As in the end of the world as we know it. Have you seen this new show on natgeotv? It is our latest viewing obsession around here, ranking far above Hoarders, Animal Hoarders, and even Kitchen Nightmares. It's that good.

   The premise, in case you don't know, is that otherwise normal, average, functioning members of our society are convinced that the world as we know it is on the verge of collapse, for vastly different but equally devastating reasons, and they feel compelled to get ready. They accumulate food, water, firearms and ammunition, you name it. They have a whole vernacular to themselves, too, including bug-out. This seems to refer to a sudden departure. Oh, and *something* is always about to hit the fan. That's how you know the worst has happened. It's all about the fan. 

   Now, listen, I might get a little lippy in the privacy of my own home, gently chiding these worry warts and their extreme providing measures and questionable projections about the future of our society. I might even encourage others, in the relative privacy of Facebook, to join me in the chiding. But the truth is becoming more and more apparent, that something deep inside of me is responding to this, and not only in the chiding kind of way.

   I want to stockpile things. I want to be crammed to the gills with neatly packaged, last-forever, ready-for-anything kind of supplies. I want to have enough stuff to last us and our favorite people for several years, if only because I do love a good party.

   I want to learn how to shoot my little rifle.

   But seriously, watching a few of these television episodes in tandem with reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, wherein I am inspired to become more self sufficient and independent of the "grid," what other  gut reaction could I possibly have?

   Becoming a Prepper will, for starters, mean establishing a space on the farm for long term storage of foods and dry goods. But we are going to do it CUTE. None of this white plastic bins stacked against the window business. We will be prepping with perhaps rough hewn pine shelving, mason jars filled with canned produce straight from our garden and topped with scraps of vintage cotton, and ridiculously tall, thick beeswax candles. And burlap. So much beautiful, tightly gathered burlap for covering up the necessary congestion of Prepping.

   In fact, to get the creative juices flowing, how 'bout we just start a Pinterest board dedicated to the Prepping arts, making sure to be both practical and attractive? Some blogger one of these days coined the term, beautility. Things can be both useful and lovely. Both beautiful and utilitarian. That's how we'll do better than just survive; we'll transcend whatever disaster eventually happens by cultivating joy and beauty in addition to feeding and guarding each other.

   I really don't want to manage this board alone! If you are interested and leave a clever enough comment, you can be an administrator on my Prepping Pinterest board too. I mean, one of the tenets of Prepping is teamwork. Community. We need to learn to lean on each other you guys!!!

   Join me. I'm a Prepper, she's a Prepper. He's a Prepper. Wouldn't you like to be a Prepper too?*

Preparedness is Adorable

(*thanks Brian!!!)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


   Thanks to a writing prompt from Momma Kat, a slightly frustrated craving to see exactly how the heck I have been spending all of this abundant time and energy, and fully charged camera batteries,yesterday I decided it was time for another day-in-the-life entry. This is how Monday went for me. Prepare to be thrilled bored.


6:15 a.m. Good morning! Coffee for me, coffee, breakfast and lunch made for Handsome, checking progress of my windowsill bean sprouts, chat, chat, chat, kiss, kiss, kiss, promise to mend a shirt, listen to the woodpeckers, cardinals, horses, and Oklahoma breezes... Dark, moody morning. Cannot even tell where the sun is, it's so cloudy. 

These soaking lentils have finally grown tails! 

   I love that feeling of suspense before weather arrives. Wonder if I should write early this morning or move on to work first. Then I hear all at once a goose, a chicken, and the buffalo, begging for breakfast, so my choice is made for me. Work first.

7:35 a.m. Consciously choosing to pray for the girls today rather than just hope and worry. This may be easy for you, but it takes a lot of energy for me lately. It is hard, until that moment when it finally happens. Then love and relief  wash through me. 

These are wild budding branches collected during a fated hiking trip last weekend.

7:44 a.m. I release the birds, start laundry, strip sheets off of the bed, empty the fridge of leftovers to fill the chicken bowl, give Pacino some TLC, tidy up the downstairs, etc. Think to myself, Wow, two exhausted people can really do some damage to a clean house! And then I am instantly happy we were able to relax so deeply this past weekend.

Good morning Mia! 
Good morning all the other birds!

Good morning Daphne!

Behold the reason why I don't take pictures of things while I am doing them.
Thankfully Chunk-Hi is cool with a little fluff scuffing 
to let his breakfast fall to the ground.

Our egg count has been suspiciously low this week, and I think I know why...
the hens think it is Easter and are hiding their eggs everywhere again!

Public Service Announcement, with help from the very attentive Mia:
Always, always always hang your rake out of your walkway.
Away, always, always. Not doing this is a painful, expensive mistake you guys.

8:35 a.m.  The animals are all happy for a few hours, so I attack the kitchen which was damaged by Hurricane Weekend. Scrub fridge, rotate laundry, etc.

8:52 a.m.  Discovered hay in my bra. 

9:20 a.m.  Breakfast looks good, but the milk had turned blinky. This is important news, believe it or not. The potability of milk is a real hot button topic on our home. I think milk is almost always good and fit for human consumption; my guy begs to differ. In a big way. So anytime I discover milk I won't drink, I am pretty much obligated to announce it. This milk was baaaaad. More on that drama later tonight.

9:35 a.m. Upstairs to iron shirts for the week, add clean sheets to our bed, clean bathroom, etc, etc. 

10:50 a.m. Caught up on work for a while, I decide to have a little lunch and write. Which really means I am reading. Which means I get in the mood to write again, so I do, resulting in the hay story and some other stuff. 

1:00 p.m. Continue the laundry rodeo, check on animals, gear myself up for some scooping work.

This is horse manure and Oklahoma red dirt. 
This proved to be too heavy for one load.
It almost popped the front tire of my wheelbarrow.

This is Dusty, the girls' horse.
He is such a sweetie, and he was
beyond-words curious about the manure removal.
Love you Dusty!
Love you Joc & Jess!

1:30 p.m. Noticing the future site of my herb garden is looking pretty spiffy, thanks to the chickens' hard work! I take a much needed water break and head back to the raised beds.

Dreaming of a curved line of monkey grass, herbs galore, and blooming cannas...

The day lilies are convinced that spring has sprung!

The guineas had convened at one of our raised beds.
They were debating the republican Presidential bids, 
the deregulation of phone companies, and 
whether to relocate their nighttime perch based on the storm predictions.
They never once solicited my thoughts on any of these topics.

2:25 Final laundry details, cuddle with Mia, three more loads of soggy ashes from the fire pit to the garden, and a little more day dreaming and praying for the girls.

3:12 p.m. Sweep floors again (because of the hay), put away clean dishes, etc.

3:24 p.m. Extra hard cardio exercise and some stretching, toning, etc, felt GREAT after a sedentary weekend! Showered, relaxed a bit before Handsome made it home, brewed some fresh sweet tea.

5:40 p.m. Welcome home!! So good to kiss his face, listening to a few hilarious stories from the office, then greeting a family at the driveway who has come to look at an item we have for sale on Craigslist. They are a husband, a wife, and two young girls. The wife and children have taken a shine to the animals and are full of questions and willingness to feed treats, and Mia has chosen one of the little girls as his own. He climbs her, kisses her, and messes up her feathers with his muddy beak. It is magical. As they are about to leave, the family's Ford truck keys are discovered inside their locked Ford truck. So we all watch the sun set as the husbands fiddle with that problem. At some point the mom good-naturedly blames Mia, thinking he must have delayed their departure on purpose to enjoy extra cuddles. We all agree. They eventually get it unlocked and drive away, smiling and waving. To Mia and the horses and buffalo, not to us. This happens a lot.

6:30-ish Handsome and I race back to the house from closing our front gate, I try not to wet my pants because he is chasing me screaming, and we lock up the birds for the night. Then we retreat inside for dinner, a little television, and zipping up the kitchen one last time.

8:14 p.m. Remember the blinky milk? Well, my guy, unwilling to let this go, shrouds his lactose victory in a veil of chivalry and offers to take me to the store to replace the rotten grocery item. I reluctantly agree, because this means I have admitted defeat. But seriously I might want cheerios again tomorrow, so I find a sweater and we drive to Braum's. Where I buy a lot more than a gallon of milk. That'll teach him!

He more or less forbids me from showing his face. 
So this is his muscular shoulder, on which I am known 
to cuddle, cry, lean, and sleep.

   Shopping at Braum's was an event unto itself. We switched register lines three times. The nice woman who finally took our plastic money wanted lots of explanations about why we switched lines, which was difficult to provide since we had just come to terms with it ourselves. And there might have been both zombies and hidden cameras in that store. It was an odd shopping excursion. But seriously...

I firmly believe that Braum's dairy products are superior to all others. 
And not just because I worked there in high school. 
That is my second public service announcement from yesterday.

Somewhere around 10 p.m. Handsome had drifted off to a half sleep on the couch, so I grinded up some Costa Rica coffee beans for the morning (thanks M!!) and we headed upstairs...


   Overall it was a really productive, happy day, hemmed up with love and prayer. Feeling very blessed and hopeful. Mostly because of the fresh milk in the fridge.

Redeem your Time & be Happy

Mama's Losin' It

Monday, February 27, 2012

Disturbance in the Force

   This morning I was minding my own business, pacing energetically through the normal list of Monday morning jobs, staying effortlessly positive and upbeat about stuff in general, and even whistling. Well, sort of whistling, the best I can at least. I managed to actually pray this morning instead of just worry and hope. The farm was happy and in the sleepy process of hunkering down for the predicted rain. My husband had made it to the office mostly rejuvenated and healthy after a really nice weekend. All was well in Denmark, as they say. Or so it seemed.

   I leaned over to retrieve some clean silverware from the bottom shelf of the dishwasher, caught a whiff of both bleach and vanilla on the way down, then started feeling weird. I was physically uncomfortable, out of the blue, but I had no idea why. My jeans felt strange, my red sweater was definitely getting on my nerves, and my sunglasses which had been perched meaninglessly on my head (it's super cloudy today, no sun, no need for shades, but gosh I like 'em) crashed down on my nose. Rudely. Everything was suddenly wrong.

   I looked around the kitchen cautiously, wondering what the heck was going on. I had an urgent need to escape something, but I didn't know what, so I listened in perfect stillness for any animal alerts. Usually if an earthquake is coming or a stranger has pulled through the front gate, the geese and guineas will let me and everyone else on our road know about it. Loudly.

   But there was almost perfect silence. And this elusive feeling of discomfort was changing over into a needling pain in several places all over my body, so I investigated.

   What I discovered was maddening and relieving all at once. I had hay. In my bra. And in my jeans. And in everything. And it was itchy.

   I had raked and distributed hay to the four leggeds like half an hour earlier, and that's the only time it could have found its way into my not loose clothing and undergarments. Plus I had been wearing a coat. So why I was just then noticing it while tidying up the kitchen is a true mystery. But removing it suddenly became the most important thing in my life.  I became very goal oriented in that moment, working to remove the hay pronto, because no  matter how soft and sticker-free it might seem for eating and carrying, it is just not comfortable as skivvies.

   So the hay got removed, right there in the kitchen, and I silently added sweep the floor again to my Monday list.

   Now the disturbance in the force has been soothed and Denmark is once again a peaceful nation. Woohoo! I am kind of glad the bleach and vanilla fragrances had nothing to do with this.

Hay is for Horses, not Bras, Please

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rest & Relaxation, Much Deserved

   What a Saturday! What a grateful first half of a weekend.

   After too many consecutive days of working too hard for too long each day, Handsome has finally joined me for some slower paces and quieter rooms. I could not be happier. I have been at the farm all week, but with him here I really feel at home.

   Late last night M Half and I returned from a really fun book club dinner with eleven fabulous women and agreed it had been one of our best days ever. We said our sweet dreams to each other and went our separate ways. Then I crept into bed and found my guy already on the edge of a delicious, sleepy coma. The good kind of coma that overtakes a person warmly, gradually, heavily, like an old, weighty quilt in a cold room. Even in the dark I could see the cloak of rest all over his body. We let the History channel usher us past midnight and into the deepest recesses of sleep. I woke up at some point with confusing images of Andrew Jackson and Jeff Bridges from Tron. Weird. But it all made plenty of sense at the time.

   This morning we all enjoyed perfect coffee as the sun was yawning over the farm. I made biscuits and either cheese or veggie omelets for everyone. And M Half and I crammed in some more lofty conversation about things like food origin (trying to exact our convictions without being judgmental). Her visit was drawing to a close. She has been at the farm since Wednesday and today is traveling to Colorado for an annual snow shoeing event with her good friend and fellow book clubber Kerri. (Hi Kerri!) But this morning we all lingered for more friendship, stretching the hours a little too far, allowing M Half and Mia some extra bonding time. 

This photo was actually taken on Friday during an all day cuddle fest.

   After saying goodbye to M Half, Handsome and I explored our neighborhood for a while looking in vain for garage sales and auctions. We returned home and saw that his sweet parents had delivered some little surprises for us in our absence, and we got a giggle. 

This is a salvaged plywood box reserved sternly with an inked up strip of masking tape. 
We have big plans for it around here.

   We sneaked inside (as if someone might try and stop us) to recharge our batteries a little more, eat some lunch, cuddle, and nap. It was so restorative.

   Eventually we found our way back outside. Back into the sun. To warm our own feathers.

   Handsome worked on Daphne's hooves for a while and checked her sore muscle, which is getting better every day. Daphne cuddled while I brushed her, and the chickens supervised.

   Dusty, the girls' little gray and white horse, has been due for some rope time for a while, and today he got it. He did so well! I watched comfortably from the edge of the field, joined the entire time by Mia and part of the time by Daphne. Handsome looked pretty good holding the lungeing rope and whip, too.

   A few more hours of generally soaking up the sun, ignoring the cold wind, and nibbling at projects here and there, distributing treats to our four-leggeds, and our afternoon was full. Nearly every moment of being outdoors Mia was on my lap.

   Today I had the pleasure of watching my overworked and over stressed husband gradually untangle himself from everything that had put him under that heavy cloak of rest on Friday night, mostly from the collective weight of it all. After a plain but heavy carb dinner of spaghetti, we have been continuing this marathon vegging. Almost new. Getting closer.
Wait, we might need tomorrow off too.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Share the Shine Project, Passing it Forward!

    This story today is even more long and circular than usual, 
so please bear with me. 


   When my girls were little we had lots of driving-to-school rituals, one of them resulting in the name of my little textiles effort, Green Goose, a story I'll tell some other day, and another having to do with Christian radio. The three of us listened to K-Love a lot, simmering in the upbeat songs and fun lyrics just like so many other people. It makes for a positive morning!

   One of our favorite songs was called Shine by the Newsboys. We would crank it up, sing along, laugh about at the silly parts with Eskimos and origami, and share the energy. Lots of laughter. Lots of smiles and air kisses. Although the three of us don't drive around together much these days and when we do we're catching up furiously, racing our conversations against the clock instead of singing along to the radio,  Shine remains one of my all time favorite songs. This probably has a lot to do with the loving memories with my girls, but the song is just plain good.
   Give it a listen if you have exactly 3:44. Here's an i-Tunes link. And here are the super fun and motivating lyrics. Funny thing, we used to sing the word ketchup somewhere in there, and now I don't see it anywhere. Huh. Also, I never noticed "Oprah" before. Whatevv.

   My Sweet Chickens on the way to school in 2006
They shine in every way. 
If you know them, you know what I'm talking about.

***Recent History***
   Okay, there's a bigger reason I'm telling you about this. The word shine is special to me, and recently it stood out in a cool way. A few weeks ago I was browsing a sewing blog that has blossomed into a seriously soul nourishing blog called Lil Blue Boo. The owner and writer, Ashley, is a beautiful young woman battling cancer and sharing her story with the biggest dose of joy you can imagine. She chooses joy! I am seriously inspired by her, as are a lot of people. Well, she recently gained a new sponsor in the form of another  beautiful young woman also named Ashley, and her site is called The Shine Project.

   I am not exaggerating to tell you that upon browsing Ashley's Shine site I felt that same rib rattling joy I used to feel when singing with my girls on the way to school. Yes, it could be the word coincidence, but only in part. She drums up a craving to move beyond "enough" and really be vibrant. To really, truly, shine, every single day. No matter your circumstances, no matter your resources, no matter your fears. Just gather up all you've got, smile from deep inside, and shine. She encourages and motivates people to serve others.

   She also sells simple charmed necklaces and tee shirts to raise money for college scholarships for kids in her area (Phoenix, AZ), but the encouragement to Shine is about all parts of life, and I love it. 

   I ordered a necklace and have been checking in on her writing here and there, and today I get to be part of launching a new project. 

***On Shining & Passing It Forward***

(Please check out the Spread the Shine site for complete details.)

   Starting this week, a large quantity 
of pre-printed cards 
will be circulating the globe.
They look like this:


They're kinda like little "pass it forward" Olympic torches 
than belong either to no one at all or to all of us at once, 
depending on how you like to look at things.

Each card has its own identification number, 
correlating to a special site Ashley has designed.

As the cards move about the world, 
one personal transaction at a time, 
spreading good will and small, 
random acts of kindness, 
the unique stories attached to them 
will be gradually documented on the site.

That is, if everyone takes the time to participate, 
and why wouldn't you?

Talk about a community building affair!
So if one of these cards happens your way,
please join the effort.
It does not have to be expensive.
It just has to be selfless.

   Okay, that's my long winded celebration today. I'm pretty excited about this, and I am really looking forward to receiving my card in the mail so I can start its circulation in our little corner of paradise. (I already know who's getting it first!) Remember, you don't need a pre-printed card to be randomly or intentionally kind. And your life does not have to be perfect in order for you to shine, today.

   Take a deep breath, gaze at all the blessings in your life, and embrace joy fully! Love and joy are powerful antidotes to pain, I really believe that. And we all have so much to share with others. Let's get to it.

Be radiant, be happy, pass it forward!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 Days Till Easter

   Springtime is high season for me. This is when everything greens up and things start to bloom. This is when the house is cleanest and my mind freshest. My birthday rolls around. And Easter approaches. I love Easter even more than Christmas, for a million reasons. Do you?

   Easter is when promises are kept. Easter is the fulfillment of hope and the answer to hard wrought prayers. It is a wonderful time for healing and forgiveness. It is the time of every single year of life that we can celebrate the light that follows darkness. Without fail, and independent of anything we do, springtime warms us up and gets our hearts thumping again. And Easter is the culmination of all the waiting, all the spiritual dormancy, all the deadness.

   This year I want to be ready. In yet another bizarre way, God is whispering to my heart a hidden meaning behind our childlessness... that I should be redeeming my time more wisely, not just filling it up. Not just comforting myself or wishing the weeks away. The hours that might otherwise be spent on coloring eggs and shopping for frothy Easter dresses can be spent studying the Word and preparing my heart for miracles.

"God is eagerly waiting for the chance 
to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, 
just as He always has. 
But He can't do it if you don't pray, 
and He can't do it if you don't dream. 
In short, He can't do it if you don't believe."
~ Jeffrey R. Holland 

   I am not sure I agree with Mr. Holland's word choice here, saying that there's anything God can't do, but I certainly agree and believe that the Lord wants a relationship with each of us, privately and permanently and apart from worldly tethers, and so we need to seek Him. That's our part. Praying, dreaming, hoping, trusting, believing in His goodness above all else, far beyond pain. And in doing so we are assured that He will be there with strong, capable, powerful, merciful, loving open arms.

   And by the way, YES. God has already answered so many big, incredible prayers for us! Why would I ever stop believing in Him? So many dreams are already fulfilled, I get chills to reflect on where we are in life, on how much love already surrounds us. These yet unanswered longings, these fears which remain, are only scabbed over by my own limitations. He has the power to heal all of it, to work miracles I cannot even imagine! Same goes for you and your heart, whatever it is that you're hoping for or against, He already knows.

   As late winter stretches and yawns herself into the dawn of another springtime, the life giving tremors of Easter are very real to me. Regret over wasted time and spiritual deadness is finally evaporating under the warmth of hope. The busy-keeping activity of recent months, trying to work away pain and over and over again struggling to make sense of things in my own weak ways, is being replaced with a craving for spiritual activity, seeking what He wants me to seek and discovering His power again.

"Let the past sleep, but let it sleep 
on the bosom of Christ, and go out into 
the irresistible future with Him."
~Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

   Lest we get too awfully serious this morning, below is a photo of Tomato the rooster. You know, spring chickens and all. He was only a few weeks old when this photo was taken, and my nephew Zane (well, Zane is *sort of* my nephew, and I love him so much) named him not knowing this feathery creature's gender. I think it's a perfect name. You may notice that Tomato got a bright red talon polishing that day, too, which may or may not have affected his personality in the long run. That was two years ago.   

   Nowadays Tomato runs free and wild when the sun is out. His rooster comb is a little wonky, which helps me tell him apart from the others. This is good because his full grown talons have lost their red glamour and we have several white and black roosters. Tomato can be a trouble maker, but we think he's cool.

   However you observe Ash Wednesday, whatever your rituals are for preparing for Easter, springtime, or just another fresh new day of being alive, I wish you the very best. I wish you a long, wide view of the world, a closeness to Love,  and renewed hope for the biggest miracles you crave! Paint your talons red if it thrills you, and be happy. You are loved, and big things are waiting.

"I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."
~Psalm 34:4


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sowing, Sewing, and So-Soing

   This past week has been light on writing but packed with happy activity. It feels like a prelude for good things to come, with the first true days of spring so near us and really so many beautiful blessings to enjoy until then. 

   I have spent some time transplanting four ridiculously early and equally thrilling tomato plants gifted to me from my incredibly funny Grandpa Rex. Those are worth talking about. For starters, one of the varieties is "Mortgage Lifter" because the man who originally grew and sold these produced enough to pay off his house! Awesome. I've sprouted lettuces, basil, allysum, and cosmos flowers. I've collected manure for friends and family and have made some progress filling my own raised beds. I have been eating fresh eggs a lot and washing them down with orange juice, all the while watching our 2012 egg count rise steadily. Last Sunday we had enough big, colorful eggs in the fridge to share a dozen each with three different families, and still our own shelves are overflowing. This is how I envision our vegetable and herb production going this year, too. Think positively with me, friends!

   Clean for approximately seven and a half hours one day this past month, on a day when I anticipated a crafty guest, my sewing room has been warmed up with activity, too. I've cranked out a handful of cute cottony things and have been mostly successful in not starting too many new projects before finishing others. That is a challenge. Sketching and combining fabrics is easy; pushing all the way to the hemming and thread knotting is the mark of industry. Like, seriously. Especially on these blessedly cold, rainy days we've been enjoying.

   Speaking of rain, what a gift! There's just no underestimating how good this is. More on that tomorrow.

   This week, thanks to a brief escape with Handsome, I was lucky to have several extra hours set aside just for reading, and read I did. Thanks to my casual education from reading, if all goes as planned and imagined, this year will bring us healthier diets, a more localized take on food ecnomony, and stronger ties to our community via small production farming. This three day weekend, I am starting bean sprouts and homemade cheese and bread.

   As for the so-soing, well, all of these worthwhile jobs, hobbies, and seasonal goings-on have pushed me to the edge of my fitness wagon if not completely off of it. It's partly a matter of inertia, just settling for quick energy at the end of an extremely busy day, but the not working out is a time management mistake. So hopefully I have caught myself before slipping too far backwards. 

   Right now Handsome and I are luxuriating in one of the sweetest, happiest Saturdays in recent memory. The perfect mix of productivity, rest, and affection. Tonight we have plans to watch an OKC Barons hockey game with two other couples, so I'm hoping for big ice fights!! I don't know what the rest of our long weekend holds yet, but it is a welcome pause in a heavy month. Next week and the week after will be at least as busy as the last two, packed with business travel and an overloaded office schedule, house guests, book club, horse training, snow pea and carrot planting, and a bloggers' conference, so we're really carpe-ing our diem.

   I am so thankful for my husband, for our life together, for his job and his success there. I am so thankful for my children, for their health and beauty and love. Even if they aren't here in this house right now, I feel them and hope desperately that they feel me. I am so thankful for our parents, our friends, our community. This might be the loveliest life a woman has ever lived.

"My actions are my only true belongings."
I stole that from a fellow Oklahoma blogger,
her name is Lisa, and she was quoting Thich Nhat Hanh.
He's a Vietnamese Buddhist monk.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Launching Our Own Food Miracles

   So, this new book I'm gobbling up has me thinking a lot about the locality, seasonal freshness and nutrition, and carbon footprint of the food we eat here at the Lazy W. 

   Before I go any further, let me state firmly that we Lazies are unlikely to undergo any kind of food revolution or take up any new environmental banner worth flying. I mean, not exactly. All I'm trying to do is raise our global agricultural and economic awareness a few notches and improve the health of our bodies and our soil as we go. Noble enough for this house. Plus, there's the small matter of pursuing a private edible Eden like this one...

Pinned Image

   This morning I took my notebook into the kitchen and made a quick inventory of everything we had stocked between the freezer, refrigerator, pantry, and fruit bowls. I also tried to write down as many of the things we buy throughout the year that happen to not be around right now. This list was staggering. We are just two people, you guys, and the volume and variety of foods we keep near us seems gluttonous when viewed as a whole. I mean, really. Beyond that, I was more than a little shocked to see how much processed junk still lingers within our walls even after so many attempts to clean up our diet. But the point of this exercise is not chastisement and guilt trips but rather growth and improvement, so onward we go!

   The next step of the exercise inspired by Barbara Kingsolver was to examine which of our food stuffs is or could be produced more or less locally. I skipped the "is" question because deep in the recesses of my cheap skate shopping mind I already knew the answer. Let's just say that I gravitate toward off brand labels. Lots of bright yellow boxes in my pantry, folks, and I am not really ashamed of that. 
   But the "could be produced locally" question was exciting. This was yet another time when being a native Oklahoman filled me with pride and gratitude. My home state is rich with agricultural bounty, so even those items which I myself have not grown or produced, I felt sure I could find them (or most of them) in some way nearby. 

   I sat down with a cup of hot coffee and, trying to ignore the guinea fowl chirping noisily at the window, began marking which of the 115 items* on my list could be moved from the shopping list to the production plan. It was as much fun as circling items in the seed catalog! 

*Note: Many of the 115 items I listed are just categories of things we buy. 
So many product variations exist in our processed food culture 
that I found it counterproductive to list every single thing.
This in itself could serve as a wake up call 
to how much money and energy we waste
in pursuit of flavor or convenience or both.

   Okay. My specific personal lists and plans may be of little interest to you this early in the morning, but I will say that the list of 115 store bought items was easily whittled down to 51. I found 64 edible items that could be produced here at this hobby farm or sourced right here in Oklahoma! Still more that remains on the list of 51 could be eliminated for the sake of efficiency, but that's a task for another day.

   I definitely encourage you to try this  exercise yourself. It is fascinating to realize how many wonderful edibles can be grown, produced, or culled right from your own back yard! Search out other local producers with whom you might do some old fashioned bartering. Visit your farmers' markets when they're in season. Find a local orchard. Examine the meat markets. 

   These are all steps we can take toward healthier diets, more stable growing environments, and economies that are ever so slightly less dependent on fossil fuels. Plus, the pleasure of growing your own food is a known stress reducer, and gardens are proven value boosters for homeowners.
   Wow, I have no trouble at all finding a soapbox in the morning! Sheesh.

   In Zone 7 we are fast approaching the first of many planting dates, friends, so these are the scheming weeks. This is when we still have time to decide to fully maximize our dirt patches and become contributors rather than just consumers. This is when we drive to our local horse-chicken-and-buffalo-keepers and relieve them of a bucket or two of manure for our compost. (hint-hint) 

    We have snow on the ground as I write this morning. It is perfectly beautiful, and it is providing some much needed moisture to the pastures. But it also means I won't be scooping manure or filling raised beds today, which is where my heart kind of sits. Perhaps this will allow some extra time to catch up on other worthy pursuits. All good things are seasonal, after all. 

Have a great day, you guys!
Whatever Your Passion, Dream Big!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Garden's Pseudo Manifesto?

   I had already devoted myself to a more serious gardening effort this year, a deeper, more consistent approach to growing something as close to organic as possible, when I laid my dirty, badly manicured hands on this little book.

   Do you know that feeling when something big and meaningful suddenly clicks with a personal yearning you've felt for a while, largely unable to articulate it until that unpredictable moment? This happened to me today. My craving for seasonal, from-the-ground-up, healthy life and garden reconstruction has found a voice in Barbara Kingsolver's 2007 book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Or at least, this books speaks for a large part of my heart. 

   Earlier today while waiting for a cup of coffee to brew so I could warm up before heading back to the cold chores waiting for me outside, I picked up this book expecting to just skim a few lines. It had come highly recommended, after all, so I nabbed it at a book store recently but then just let it sit around in a pile of good intentions. Working with compost and animals all day had me more in the mood for garden talk and less in the mood for politicians (I have been reading Game Change, that 2008 election story), though, so I branched out. I ended up plowing through the first chapter without breaking a sweat, and with every page my agri-excitement built.

   Kingsolver was an accomplished novelist by the time she wrote this book, a non-fiction account of her family's year-long experiment to become true localvores. So I sank happily into her style of expression which is mercifully free of pretension but rife with poetry. It's just a lovely first chapter. Kingsolver makes a strong case for examining our food sources. She inspires fresh thinking about the nature of culture of any kind, in particular North American food culture or lack thereof. I am now even more fascinated  by the notions of environmental overdraft, the illusion of topsoil, food provenance, and being an agricultural agnostic. (Say whaa???)

   "Live each season as it passes; 
breathe the air, drink the drink, 
taste the fruit, and resign yourself 
to the influence of each."
~Henry David Thoreau

   This has been a favorite quote of mine for a long time, but I usually groove toward it when the weather turns cold, reminding myself to notice the leaves' color change, enjoy the fireplace, etc. But in terms of growing food and working more in cooperation with our environment than in competition with it (demanding for the sake of our mammoth appetites that we beat the elements into submission), Thoreau quickly reminds me to watch what grows here and when. Pretty simple.
   "Isn't ignorance of our food sources
causing problems as diverse as
over-dependence on petroleum,
and an epidemic of diet-related diseases?"
~Barbara Kingsolver

   This isn't meant as a book review tonight. I barely read two chapters today anyway. But I do feel more than a little bit magical for having thrust myself into this family's story just as the Lazy W gardens begin to finish their winter dreaming. As I finish up my waning moon chores and wait for seeds and seedlings to arrive, I will be reading alongside the Kingsolver family's monthly gardening tales and hope you guys don't mind me sharing the comparisons.


This is really beautiful in every way.
I might need to have this framed in my kitchen, seriously.

   I was not exaggerating to call this stuff a meaningful yearning. Beyond the fun of gardening, beyond the superiority of organic produce, even beyond the arguable benefits to our global health by growing and eating locally, there is intrinsic joy to be found in this "hobby," although I think that word is terribly weak. One last quote, then bedtime:

"Food is the rare moral arena 
in which the ethical choice
is generally the one more likely 
to make you groan with pleasure.
Why resist that?"
~Barbara Kingsolver

Why resist it, indeed?

Waning Moon till Feb 22

   In this part of the world we had a Full Moon on Tuesday. That ended the most recent waxing phase of the moon and set us gently into February's waning phase, which will last until the New Moon on February 21st. So for the next thirteen days (I am writing this a bit late) we are poised for a list of gardening chores that should really give us a good head start on the growing season! Interested? Cool beans.

   To review, the waning phase is when the moon is receding in fullness. This is when she is figuratively dormant or barren, lending energy to underground tasks, decay-related work, and bulbs and roots.

   In Oklahoma, we have a forecast of big winter weather this weekend, possibly a blizzard. So the confluence of a waning moon and the soon-coming need to hunker down clearly outlines my work for today and tomorrow. It's funny how nature cooperates with herself, eh? This is what I need to be doing instead of reading and writing:

  • Clean water troughs and chicken pond. Refill all before freeze hits.
  • Clean chicken coop and replace shred, etc.
  • Scoop manure from fields for bagging and composting.*
  • Remove weeds and remaining dead tomato plants from flower beds.
  • Plant last minute daffodil bulbs.
  • Continue filling raised beds, lasagna-style.
  • Groom horses and make sure they're warm.
  • Refill wild bird feeders.
  • If you're brave enough, you might plant perennials & potatoes now, but it's a bit too frosty here still.
   Once the waning work is done, this is one of the best times of the month to daydream and plan. Visualize your dream garden and put pen to paper. Order your seeds while they're cheap and then turn back to the housework, because pretty soon it's gonna be all about the garden again. Basically, I think for the waning moon you just focus on the words "dormant" and "underground." Soil amendment, weed removal, animal nurturing, preventative maintenance... All those things which speak to you of closeness, quietness, and protectiveness, this is what to do until February 21st. Then, with the New Moon, we get to focus again on construction and creativity and above ground beauty! 
   Working in patterns and cycles like this is right up my alley. I feel so optimistic about the growing season this year! Are you a lunar experimenter too? I would so love to hear your ideas and advice. 

Trust Nature. 
Work Hard. 
Enjoy Your Days.

*Incidentally, if anyone who is more or less local wants some excellent composting material, we have it! Organic, locally sourced, well rotted manure from chickens, horses, and buffalo ready to either spread or decompose at will. It's especially great if you making your own soil.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sweet Blog, Really? Aww.

   Well, well, well. I twice received this yummy looking "get to know ya" blog award this week from two very different and equally fascinating women. First Kat the dairy farmer's loving wife and then Periphery, the eloquent and thought provoking monkey wrangler sent the following strawberry shortcake button. I suspect this was in order to test my bikini-preparation resolve. The whole thing was shrouded in ceremonious blog hospitality of course, but I have my doubts. We're having company later today, and guess what I want to serve? Strawberry Shortcake. Thanks, ladies. Thanks a lot. xo

Part One: Seven Random Facts About Me. 

1.  I have broken out my two top front teeth a total of eight times between the ages of nine and thirty seven, but surprisingly I do not play hockey. All of those events were solo traumas, meaning that no other person was ever involved in any of the accidents. Meaning that I alone claim ownership of the klutziness. Meaning that when it happens and I get really super crazy mad about it, I have no idea where to direct my fury. Front tooth trauma hurts, you guys, and fixing it is mucho-dinero expensivo. Protect your mouths.

2.  I have a goose (actually a gander, but he has a goose's name, Mia) who is more protective, jealous and territorial over me than any man has ever been over any woman. It is endearing and embarrassing all at the same time.

3.  I can more or less do a back bend but cannot stand back up from it. So I don't do them very often. Because that's awkward.

4.  I can whip up a pretty fierce Alfredo sauce but rarely know the exact balance of my checking account. Thank the sweet heavens above that I am married to a financial gangstah who also happens to thrive on Alfredo sauce. That worked out nicely.

5.  I love to read and usually have three or more books going at once, which drives my husband to the brink of insanity. Fortunately he likes to watch every possible incarnation of pawn broker television known to man, so I often catch up on reading during these time slots. And we cuddle. I groove this.

6.  If I suddenly, with no strings attached, had to choose to live anywhere else on this planet, it would be in New Orleans, Louisiana. While there I would touch the blooming azaleas, drink French roast chicory coffee, and watch the street performers between stops inside book stores and art galleries. I would soak up the jazz. I would occasionally dine with Anne Rice and make dandelion bracelets at cemeteries, but only in the daytime.

7.  I have discovered that separation from my nearly grown children is as brimming with lessons, comforts, and understanding as it is steeped in pain and regret. I see that as long as they are thriving, I can live with anything.

Part Two: My Nominations for This Award
I am tagging five people today.
New House New Home New Life: Heather captured my attention initially because we share one very particular, very unusual heartbreak. But she has kept my attention by being a passionate homemaker and gardener, two things to which I aspire in the thirstiest way. Plus she comments here frequently, which pretty much makes my day. xo

Carin my Swedish friend: Carin is a Swedish visual artist living in the U.K., and I love to soak up her ideas and read through her book lists and reviews, even if I'm not a scrap-booker and am unlikely to post crafts. Hers are inspirational! Also, when I read her comments as well as her blog, I assign her a lovely tea-and-crumpets accent. But I have no clue as to its accuracy or authenticity.

Lou Lou Sucre: This Southern belle has the most beautiful, most cleanly designed home and garden, and her blog is overflowing with eye candy for the real world. I have pinned more than a few of her photos to my Pinterest boards and am currently on the lookout for green wall platters like hers. It doesn't hurt that she is a Louisiana neighbor. I love to hear gardening stories from people in similar zones.

My artistic philosophy friend from South Africa: Nadya. I would so miss her thoughtful contributions if they ever stopped. Her perspective (specifically, her willingness to gently challenge my perspective) is pretty much the reason I want to approach most topics in the first place. She first caught my gaze while I was browsing poetry and mandala art, then she led me through some yoga circles before I ever really tried it, and I see that we have a lot of the same reading haunts now. We are working out the details of a piece of commissioned artwork right now. I cannot wait to share that!

Fabulous, Healthy, and Loving It:  This young woman named Amy is a relatively new blogger who is driven to transform her health and her body, another something to which I aspire. Check her out, she is beautiful and has a great attitude!

Part Three: Share the Rules. 
We all know the rules.

Okay well I hope you have time to visit these five blogs. And I also hope you're not bored to tears by my seven personal facts. I think after this everyone is yawning and in search of caffeine.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Early February Senses Tour

   What a wide net of beauty and love we have around us right now. I haven't participated in Monica's 5 Senses Tour in a while, probably because the Small Stones project kept that thirst for observation pretty well quenched throughout January. But here we are a fourth of our way through the new month and my senses are overwhelmed again. Once more in need of lancing.

What I See: Patches of green clover and weeds interspersed with the dormant grasses. Small craters scratched into the earth by our chickens, revealing nearly black soil, crumbly and soft. Gorgeous new round bale of hay in the barn. New-to-us tablecloth we found at a garage sale this past weekend, a piece of round floral print cotton that I predict will become my favorite. At least for a while. Gray clouds covering the sun, dimming the early springtime, softening my gaze. New photos of my two beautiful daughters, faces that take my breath away. And possibility. I see possibility all around us.

What I Hear: Roosters crowing with serious joy every time they find new forage material. Geese screaming objections to every breeze. Horses exhaling and snuffling the afternoon into a soft, easy pace. Pacino preening himself before a full-belly nap. And I hear God whispering to me that He hasn't let go, that He never will.

What I Smell: Fresh coffee in the kitchen. Vanilla candle next to me while I write. Tomato babies upstairs in the sunniest window. Buffalo manure in the front field, so strong today that is reminds me of the elephant house at the zoo. Skunk spray in the barn, which kind of smells good. And big, important changes.

What I Taste: Perfectly dark, fresh, hot, sweet, creamy coffee. And thankfully much less bitterness than I have tasted in months.

What I Feel: The grit of dirt under my fingernails from potting up tomato babies then playing with the cats. Thin cotton shirt on my arms. Crinkled paper pages and spiral spine of my planner. Romance in the air. And hope.

Feel Your World and Enjoy It.

5 senses tour

Monday, February 6, 2012

Glimpsing Adrienne Sharp: Ballerina, Novelist, Inspiration.

   Connected again by Ms. Julia Callahan, I have spent the last couple of weeks corresponding with a lovely woman named Adrienne Sharp, authoress of The True Memoirs of Little K.

   Ms. Sharp's laid back openness was like a warm blanket on my jangled nerves. I had so much I wanted to learn from her and had trouble reining in my eagerness, yet she was perfectly calm and easy going about the exchange. If you're interested in my full review of the book, well here ya go.

Following is our emailed interview. 
I am still crossing my fingers 
to someday visit Los Angeles and buy her lunch.
Or instead, maybe she'll visit the farm
and teach me how to write fictive action!
Adrienne, I'll make shortbread and hot tea. 
C'mon... We have plenty of room. xoxoxo

How did you arrive at the original idea for this book, and then how did you choose from which character's perspective to tell the story?
   Because I was a ballet girl and I read ballet history voraciously, I knew about the famous Kschessinska and I knew vaguely that she was the mistress of Nicholas II. But it wasn't until I wrote about the choreographer George Balanchine as a little boy in imperial Russia in my last novel that I drew close to the material for Little K. She was a perfect product of her place and time—a social climbing ballerina who used the stage as her platform to socialize with the balletomanes of Nicholas II’s court—and as almost all the counts, grand dukes, and tsars were big balletomanes, her access was limitless. As apparently, were her charms and her ambition.

If your book is translated to a film, what actors and actresses do you like for which roles? May I please suggest Robin Wright for Alix? Perfection…
   Robin Wright—perfect as Alix.  Kschessinska? Catherine Zeta-Jones? She’s a dancer, she’s small, and she can be gritty.

You said it took you a few years of research to write this (incredible) book…during the research and writing, did you ever want to change perspective or direction? Do you have any drafts laying around that were sketched out from, say, Niki’s perspective? (What a read that would be too!)
   K was my girl right from the start. But what I did think about doing was an overlay of marginalia from her son Vova’s point of view. She was writing this memoir for him, and I thought it would be fun for him to comment on what she wrote and to reveal what it was like to be her son, to provide his perspective of those scenes she recalls. (I suspect he was homosexual, though no one ever mentions this in my research.) But my editor overruled me—she thought the marginalia thing had become a bit too much of a trendy thing to do. But I still like the idea.

I thought the touch of placing young revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in K's ransacked palace was brilliant and terrifying, especially that he sat at the tsarevich’s little school desk and wrote in his notebook! Is there any history behind that, or is it a wonderful piece of fiction from your mind?
   The nascent Bolsheviks did take over her palace and Lenin did in fact take Mathilde’s son’s bedroom for his study. I invented the part about Lenin writing in Vova’s school notebooks--or rather, appropriated the idea of using a child’s notebook for political work. Nicholas’s brother Michael’s abdication as tsar in 1917 was written in a child’s notebook, grabbed from the desk of the palace of friends, where he happened to be staying as a guest.

Did you know what your stopping point would be before you started? I personally did not predict where we ended up and was delighted and satisfied completely. But surprised above all. Did you decide that early on?
   I always planned to end with K preparing for death, sorting through the items she wanted in the coffin with her. But when I got there, this seemed too gloomy an ending. So I gave it some juice, bringing back some of her old defiance, her belief that the old order would be restored, that her son would find his rightful place. Otherwise, she couldn't die. She was too worried about what would happen to her son without her. In reality, he ended up on public assistance and in public housing. So she was right to be worried.

How did you do your research: history books, internet, interviews? Did you compose your story as you went along, alternately with doing the research, or did you amass all of your background knowledge first then devote yourself to the fiction? What was your daily life like during those years?
   I used books, articles, and the internet—and I researched all along the way—to the bitter end. In fact, when I was working on my galleys I couldn't stop adding details I was culling from my nonstop reading. When I started researching, I couldn't keep any of the Romanovs straight—they all have the same names! By the end of it, I could spot misidentified photo captions.

Have you visited any cities in Russia? Or Paris?
   I’ve been to Paris, but I’ve visited Russia only in my research.

As a ballerina, have you danced any of the ballets described in your book? Or are these even still alive?
   Since I was only a ballet girl, essentially a talented scholarship girl in training to be a dancer, I never danced in any of the ballets described in my book. But because I was a ballet girl, I’ve seen almost all of those ballets performed. And those ballets Petipa created for the Imperial Ballet have become the foundation of almost every classical ballet company, except for those  created especially for the tsar’s private viewing pleasure at those hermitage performances, like the Four Seasons.

I would love some solid advice on the mechanics and mindset of keeping so many complex characters organized and effective! What a feat… so many personalities and passions kept alive over so many decades. I am having trouble writing a story about a dozen Sea Monkeys. Help me?
   Honestly, I don’t know how I did it—except by many rewrites.

Fascinating to me that a contemporary author is taking the time to reread a classic, War and Peace, especially such a long work, and not for the first time.  I’m going to take that as good advice for all of us. What else are you reading lately? Who are your favorite authors?
   You know something? War and Peace is short on specific, concrete details to create setting, and I really miss that. I can’t see the rooms or streets or clothing. And I’m noting that Tolstoy had some trouble creating Russia’s war with Napoleon into something more than a dutiful summary of the action of the battles. It’s very hard even for the master to bend history into dramatic fictive action. As for reading—I’m reading a lot of history of Los Angeles circa 1939. And I love Jennifer Egan's work.

Care to give us a glimpse of what other epics are brewing in your imagination? It’s okay if you’d rather keep that close to your chest. But I will be reading it, whatever you come up with.
   I’m working on a novel tentatively titled “Hollywood Land,” that looks at how the Russian Jewish immigrants who came to Los Angeles too ambitious to peddle rags or scrap metal became movie moguls or gangsters, like Louis B. Mayer or Mickey Cohen. They created a parallel universe in the city—since they weren't welcome in the institutions already there. So they built their own racetrack, country club, cotillion, hospital, talent agencies and law firms. 
   My main character is an eight year old boy who watches his mother dancing as a Busby Berkeley girl in some of the MGM movie musical extravaganzas of that time and helping his father as a bookie who falls in with Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel. So I’m reading about MGM back lots, Louis B. Mayer, and the Jewish gangsters who controlled the unions, Nazi Bund meetings in the Santa Monica mountains and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese rooted out of Boyle Heights and sent to Santa Anita racetrack to await deportation to camps in Arizona, Navy boys waiting for their call ups beating up zoot suiters downtown—another big canvas, I guess. Woe is me.

Did you read my quick, amateurish thoughts comparing your heroine to Chiyo in Memoirs of a Geisha? I am fascinated by this role women play in such different parts of the world. What do you think? Who do you think had a better life, the ballerina or the geisha?
   The dancer in one of the tsar’s companies in imperial Russia retired after twenty years with a lifetime pension—so by age thirty-eight she had some financial independence. Many of the girls married well and raised happy theater families, the kind of family Mathilde came from. Her sister married a baron at her retirement. And if a dancer were a woman like Mathilde, willing to sacrifice respectability for a very wealthy protector or two, she could accrue some other worldly goods, as well. But she could never really leave her class—she belonged to the demimonde, not the aristocracy, however she might play with them. And Mathilde could never have married either of her grand ducal lovers if there had not been a revolution and the court had not moved to Paris to live in exile. Even there, she was tolerated, side-lined, and most painful for her, so was her son—and the two of them were abandoned completely when her husband, Grand Duke Andrei, died.

Again, thank you. As a daydreaming writer I appreciate your insights. As a blogger I appreciate your time and openness. As a reader I am just a fan!!
   Thank you—your questions were fabulous and fun to ponder. Let me know if I can ever help you in any way.

   Wasn't that fun, you guys? Isn't she interesting? Every one of her answers triggered at least three new questions in my head, but alas... Life goes on. This just underscores the value and importance of conversation, of exchange and searching in life. I hope you're inspired to read this book if you haven't yet. And I also hope you're inspired to buckle down and write something if that is in your heart. 

   Happy springtime, Adrienne! So very nice to "meet" you, and best wishes on your exciting new novel!

Scratch Below the Surface!


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