Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

  1. People do better when they don’t know what’s coming.
  2. People go to bed earlier when they don’t have clocks.
  3. There are more stars to see at night.
  4. The house is quieter during an outage… unless your neighbor’s dog is barking like a maniac or they’re running a generator.
  5. When you don’t have cell service, you need to think twice about borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor.
  6. People like to take chances rather than being prepared.
  7. Dogs know that somethings up when there are no lights in the house at night.
  8. It’s good to remember our survival skills.
  9. It’s a good time to get creative.
  10. You don’t have to wait until winter to start a jigsaw puzzle.
  11. There is no such thing as too much ice.
  12. Panic is a totally useless emotion.
  13. You can never have too many D batteries.
  14. Turning on a light switch is a function burned deep into our psyche.
  15. You’re not the only one that looks like hell.

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A Whole 30 Days

There are journeys in life that take us to places we’ve never been without ever leaving home. For the past two years, my life has been in transition. The decision to sell my final business was an emotional roller coaster filled with anxiety, depression, sadness and an overwhelming sense of loss. I knew that it was the final-final of business ownership and I worried constantly about how clients would receive the news. I lost sleep… and then there were the nights when I didn’t sleep at all. My anxiety levels were off the charts! Every night I would drive home from the office dreaming of the cocktail (did I mention cocktails?) I could create to relieve the stress followed by a refrigerator raid for whatever would soothe my anxieties.

When you grow up in an Italian family, you buy into the myth of Food Solves Everything. “Here honey, eat something. You’ll feel better.” And so I did. And so I have for more years than I care to admit.

And then, this wonderful thing happened. I actually sold my business and a newfound freedom found its way into my life. But it took a few months to recover from the years of stressful living. About that time, I witnessed the dedication and commitment of a young friend who used a period of one year to get healthy and lose 175 pounds. And I heard about this book called The Whole30 which claimed to be a “30-day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom.” (Watch for these words again in a paragraph below.)  So I put 2 + 2 together and thought, “If Kris can commit to 365 days, I can do it for 30!” Not to mention that I was intrigued by the concept of food freedom. I had no idea what that even meant. Until I bought the book and set the date for Day One.

I admit, that first week I thought I had lost my mind. Give up sugar (3-4 teaspoons, mind you) and half & half in my coffee? No more of my adored cheese purchased from the local specialty shop? No bagels and cream cheese for breakfast? And most of all… no wine?? “But I’m Italian,” my inner child screamed! “How can I cook without having a glass of wine nearby?” Right about then, my friend Sheri advised me that I could make a pseudo cocktail of lemonade Kombucha and pomegranate juice and that was that. Pour it in a wine glass over ice, add a lime wedge and Voila! For visual support, I copied the before and after photos of Kris and put them on my phone as a symbol of commitment and created a countdown chart on my refrigerator to strike out the day number as a nightly ritual.

At the beginning of Week Two, I was really getting into it. The book talks about these predictable periods when certain things happen based on the body’s withdrawal from sugar, dairy, grains and alcohol. Things were happening inside… and I was suddenly feeling this boundless energy and creativity. I discovered how much I loved cooking with foods I never would have thought to combine in the past. And I even found that kale (the bad boy of vegetables) wasn’t so bad at all if it was prepared properly. I started posting photos of my creations on Instagram and Facebook and the reactions boosted my dedication even more. My nightly kitchen cleanup (and there is a lot of that) became like a meditation… actually more of a reflection and appreciation for all that I was learning about food.

Sometime toward the end of Week Two, I noticed that my skin and my digestive system were also changing. The phrase “you are what you eat” began to make sense. My mental clarity sharpened and I found myself feeling periods of pure joy for all that I was doing. I was sleeping soundly and dreaming again. We’re talking amazing dreams here, too. I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t eat and started enjoying all that I was able to have. I called Diane, a local woman who had moved to the coast but was also in the midst of her 30 days, and we chatted about life, love and the pursuit of Whole30 “approved” food. And I learned to relax… I mean, really relax.

By Week Three, full-fat coconut milk, clarified butter and avocados became my best friends. I learned that I could make a sweet and flavorful snack by stuffing Marcona almonds in fresh Medjool dates and rolling them in unsweetened coconut. And I played with all kinds of spices and made dishes I had never before attempted. Can you say leftovers for lunch?

And did I mention an abundance of energy?

At the beginning of Week Four, I experienced a slump… a period of discouragement actually. The high of the first three weeks was beginning to wane and the finish line seemed so far away. Really? Cook another exotic chicken dish? Make more of that cauliflower rice? It wasn’t that I was craving my old food habits; it was more the acceptance that this had become my new relationship with food. Maybe this was the “Food Freedom” that I was so unclear about in the book’s title. Here was the reality check: I felt better eating healthy food but was I ready to embrace “Total Health?” A sobering thought after a lifetime of erratic eating patterns and not-so-great food choices. This was my journey’s fork in the road. Go forward or go back. So I made myself a cup of tea, walked over to the refrigerator, crossed off Day #23 on my chart, and went to bed.

By the end of Week Four, there were still two more days before reaching the finish line. My enthusiasm for getting healthy had been renewed and my thoughts shifted to Life After 30. Then suddenly it was Day 31… time to weigh in. There’s a reason the book suggests that you stay off the scale during the 30 days. There’s a process here that has very little to do with weight loss (though the missing 13 pounds this morning was a great surprise). It’s been about paying attention to the new creative world I’ve entered into since I chose to retire. It’s about taking precious time to decide how I want to feel because now I can make healthier choices without the anxieties and stresses of the past.

Tonight I had dinner with friends. One had wine; the other beer. I had water.

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The Lost Summer

It’s been a most insightful year here on the Farm.  Foot surgery in January, a fractured patella in June, a cracked skull in August and the ugliest black eye you’ve ever seen… life was really put to the test to say the least.  Living in a rural environment and having the opportunity to experience all four seasons, I can certainly attest to the fact that Summer is the most anticipated season for outdoor fun as well as those once-a-year maintenance projects.

Sadly, there was no kayaking this summer, no barn painting, no gardening… just a season of recovery and observation of the world around me. It was a struggle to get to a couple of concerts sporting a wheelchair, although it did allow me great seating. And I did manage to take a few rides in the electric carts at Safeway & Lowe’s just to give my sister a photo op!

Now that the year is just about over, I’m feeling pretty confident that the trips & falls are behind me (although I fear I might be jinxing my luck whenever I mention that) and I’m ready to make up for lost time.

My costume for the Bad Taste Party just about sums it up!

My costume for the Bad Taste Party just about sums it up!

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I have no excuses or explanations. Let’s just say that my creative writing was derailed about a year ago and leave it at that. But what’s most important is that I’m sitting here now typing as if no time had passed.

Life here in the past year has been filled with lots of ups and a sprinkling of downs. Some new additions include six additional hens, a miniature Tennessee Fainting Goat named Priscilla, a white fuzzy Pygmy Goat named Lisa Marie, two (sometimes three) barn cats simply called One, Two & Three, and a son-in-law named Mike!

This year, I began the day with a cup off coffee, a warm blanket, a writing tablet, my favorite pen and a seat in the barn surrounded by a number of curious animals. Yesterday, one of my new friends, Lorinda, posted this on Facebook: “Until you commit your goals to paper, you have intentions that are seeds without soil” and I was definitely inspired. So I set about doing just that.

I was actually pretty pleased with my progress until Mrs. White decided that she’d like a closer look at what I was doing and jumped up on my lap. (You may recall that my initial flock were all named with the help of my grandson.) She felt satisfied that there wasn’t anything of interest and walked across the blanket to the other side. Shortly thereafter, Little Red decided that she needed to take a peek and took a stroll up my leg to inspect the progress. “Nothing much going on,” she clucked and retraced her steps back down to the ground.

Now I was getting close to having what I would call a rough draft (don’t goals always need more definition?) when my blanket was suddenly engaged in a tug-of-war. Lisa Marie vs Millie! It became clear to me that my presence there in the midst of their barnyard routines had become enough of a distraction that it was time to move my chair onto the porch.

I cherish days like these; they don’t occur as often as I’d like. But to start this new year as I did was enough for now. And did I mention that resuming this blog was on my list of goals?

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Autumnal Return

I’d like to say that it was a long hot summer that kept me away from writing but to do so would not exactly be the truth.  This first summer on the farm was a busy one with a long learning curve.  Projects everywhere… growing fruit and vegetables is one thing but finding time to do something with the harvest is another.  I lost the war with gopher control and realize that living with these rodents will be very much like living with the demonic deer in Twain Harte.

I did manage to resurrect my skills in the art of canning… pickled beets, strawberry preserves, pickled peppers, and tomato sauce.  During the long winter, all of these will be reminders of the glorious feeling of warm sun on my back and the joy of walking into the garden each morning to see what had ripened overnight.  What I’ve learned is that overplanting can be intimidating when one only has a limited amount of time to deal with a prolific crop.  How many eggplants can I eat in a week??  So my fall and winter garden is much more reasonable for a family of one.

As I became comfortable with caring for chickens, I increased their ability to roam and allowed them to truly be free range.  Unfortunately, they quickly learned how to scurry under the pasture gate and my vertical sunflower garden became horizontal overnight.   The demand for farm fresh eggs has increased so much that I brought four more hens into the fold a month ago.  That was an experience!  Each flock kept to itself, refused to blend, and claimed its own area of the henyard.  Literally lots of henpecking going on as they jockeyed for position within the fold but eventually they became one.  Now, when I walk into the pasture, ten hens start their half-run/half-fly/half-waddle toward me and I feel like a nursery school teacher entering a school yard!

Ironically, as the demands of my farm increased this summer so did my business.  I expressed my creative energy in the form of gardening, planning, and summer living; writing took a backseat.  However, now that the shorter days of Autumn are here and the outdoor work begins to decline, I long for the opportunity to write again…  to sit in the quiet bubble where the words just flow like water.

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Working Hard for the Money

Has it really been three weeks since I posted here?  Wonder if it has anything to do with the upcoming April 15th deadline?  Working for pay and working for fun are two completely different things… and one provides the other with the opportunity.

Most of what’s happened in these past few weeks has been inside the farmhouse, and the weather has been cooperating with these indoor projects.  Get ’em done before the real Springtime arrives!  However, in an impulsive moment this week when I no longer could stand paperwork, I donned my Muck Boots, put on my “mom jeans,” threw on a bandana, armed myself with the broom-from-hell and swept out the barn.  Not just the floor, mind you, but the walls, the ceiling, and all of the crevices.  Abandoned wasp nests and cobwebs are now part of the mulch pile… the bird nests won a reprieve.

SO, today is Day One on the prep work for the upcoming animal entourage.  A couple of friends have accepted the challenge to help me fence in the henyard and build the nesting boxes.   And away we go…

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Time is On My Side

I have nothing but time… yet there are so many things I want to do here.  Until now, it seems as if my life was spent waiting for something to happen.  But the decision to buy this lovely space was a decision to make something happen.  And now, I’m wanting to make things happen every day.

Signs of Spring are all around me here.  When I lived on the mountain, I felt like I was always waiting for it to arrive.  I started working the soil in the vegetable garden yesterday and realized that I have time to start my plants from seed rather than having to buy them as plants.  The growing season won’t be confined to just 90 days here!  So I’m off to do some online shopping from Seeds of Change and have started thinking about building a small hotbed that can be converted to a cold frame next winter.

Nice to have an extra hour of daylight… it buys me more time!

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My new mantra:  Things are moving along.

I have to keep reminding myself that one doesn’t turn a vision into reality overnight.  This week was about learning the workings of my well, replacing the outdated and inefficient furnace ducts, and the ongoing process of unpacking.  Fortunately, the rainy days have helped with the discipline of getting my house in order before I begin the learning curve of barn animals.

I know that Spring is just around the corner and it will show its lovely face earlier here in the foothills than it did in Twain Harte.  The blossoms on my fruit and nut trees are giving off an exotic fragrance and flowers are beginning to bloom.  Compost piles are ready for turning and soon it will be time to start the early vegetables.

It’s happening all around me.  Some boxes may need to wait…

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Sweet Discoveries

Don’t tell anyone but I think I’ve turned a corner!  Despite the chaos of the move and all of the little hiccups in my life these past three weeks, I’ve made some small discoveries in the past few days that have contributed to the joy of being here:

  • A waterfall on the other side of the creek behind my garden
  • A pair of American Kestrels nesting in a tree nearby
  • A pair of Mourning Doves on my feeding tray each morning
  • The neighbors on the property next to mine
  • The joy of uncluttering and letting go of “stuff” that I haven’t needed for years but thought I couldn’t live without
  • The sense of a new beginning

I think I’m home now.

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As the Dust Settles

This first week has been all about settling in.  The engineered septic system is finally complete and now I have these strange pipes sticking up out of the ground in places that seem somewhat illogical.  However, I am reassured by the county that things are exactly as they should be.

The unpacking process is definitely going to take longer than I realized.  The downsize into a smaller house is leaving me with an abundance of no-longer-necessary items, most of which I have chosen to donate to the local Humane Society thrift store rather than taking on the project of organizing a yard sale.

I promised myself that I would spend the rest of this winter focused on getting the household in shape before I even begin setting up the barn and the animals soon to reside within.  However, my sense of discipline is wearing thin.  The koi in the pond, the birds outside my window and the neighbor’s rooster  just don’t seem to be satisfying my need to partake in animal husbandry (wifery?).

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