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Archive for July, 2008

all my life i’ve been very into nature. as a kid, i’d spend my summers on horseback, often heading to a niche in the woods where i created a clubhouse and corral. i’d sit and read books such as my side of the mountain and gone away lake wishing i lived an alternate life. i dug wild onions and boiled wild onion soup in my girl scouts mess kit. i’d make up nature club songs and try to get my friends to join. they all thought i was weird.

well, 30 years later, here i am, still doing the same thing with my kids. only this time, i know a lot more about herbs and cooking and the food tastes much better!

when i was in my 20’s i moved to LA! of all places to get away from a bad relationship. while it wasn’t a very homestead friendly place, i was able to claim my own identity. i was no longer in my parents’ grasp and could become the adult i wanted to be. i dreamed of buying an old rv and traveling around the country, stopping in odd towns whenever i ran out of money to get a job. i dreamed of growing plants in this rv and having my own personal little garden.

well, dreams often get interrupted by real life and mine was no exception. a major earthquake and unplanned pregnancy brought me back to the midwest. a marriage to a credit card crazy man (he had been dirt poor all his life and credit cards were a way to make him feel rich) and another baby forced me to stay here as every time i’d get our debts paid off, he’d create more debt. i finally divorced him and thought about my dream to travel again. i didn’t see the travel happening any time soon but the love of plants surfaced and i began creating a homestead in my suburban back yard. the neighbors hated me. i hung all my laundry to dry outside, i mowed my lawn with a reel mower (even when pregnant which drove them all nuts). i dreamed of moving back to the country and having animals again.

i met a great guy and after 4 years of dating, i found myself pregnant for the 3rd time. since we had 4 children between the two of us already, we realized my tiny 3 bedroom home (about 900 square feet) wouldn’t contain the lot of us. we started a harrowing house search which resulted in a lucky find in our current home. 4 bedrooms, 2000 square foot farmhouse with a barn, 2 sheds and 2 chicken coops plus an orchard and plenty of space for gardens on 4 1/2 acres for a song. the catch was all the buildings are very run down and in the need of major repairs. undaunted, we purchased it. oh, and did i mention the subdivision that cropped up next to us literally overnight? yeah, well, we are a novelty to them i suppose.

now, almost 4 years later, we have a handful of dairy goats, dual purpose sheep, laying hens, broilers, turkeys, dogs and cats. we have about a 1/2 acre in veggie and herb gardens, possibly a bit more. we sell eggs at the local farmer’s market along with the herbal products that i make, herbal jellies, herb plants and anything else we can come up with (gourds and other odd produce).

i also have worked hard on pursuing my dream of being an herbalist. i have taken a course with rosemary gladstar, attended a conference in north carolina (and hope to attend it again in the future) plus have spent countless hours researching and studying on my own and with a friend/fellow herbalist. it is my passion. i grow probably 100 herbs on our property, including the herbs i am lucky enough to steward through wild crafting sustainably. i have taught herbal classes at a local college, store and out of my own home. i host a monthly study group to teach others about herbs and have taught classes to both adults and kids. i am constantly adding to my herbal gardens and push the envelope on what will grow here.

homesteading wise, i try to can and preserve our veggies and fruits. we have blackberries, chokecherries, wild grapes, sour cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, apricots and asian pears growing.

i milk our goats and make cheese, butter, yogurt and kefir from the milk. i also barter with it at the market with a farmer to get produce that i have problems growing (broccoli, lettuce). we butcher our goats for meat as well.

we just purchased some navajo-churro sheep and i am excited to work with them. i am a spinner on holiday, waiting for my youngest to get past the destructive stage so i can dust off my wheel. i picked up the skill very easily and find it very meditative and could spin for hours if my family would let me. nc are dual purpose so we can eat the babies (and tan the hides for cozy lambskins), use their wool and even milk them.

we also captured 2 swarms of bees this year and have been fortunate enough to get some honey from them. we hope to be able to sell excess next year however, we go through about 10 gallons a year so we will make sure our needs are met first. i cook a lot and preserve a lot with honey instead of sugar.

raw, raw, raw. i believe wholly in having everything as raw as possible. raw milk, raw honey, raw foods in season. i love nourishing traditions but i do not follow it 100%. there’s a balance in everything.

we are mostly a paper free house…no paper towels, napkins and tp somewhat (50/50 in that aspect). some are not sold on the cloth tp but i am. i cringe when i am out and have to use that scratchy paper stuff now.

we are hoping to switch to solar and wind power soon as finances allow. we put in a wood stove last year for our primary heat source. it is backed by kerosene heaters as needed. we also use lots of layers and covers. we do not have a/c. i grew up w/o it and enjoy not having it, even during the humid summers.

i have 4 children now. two are in public school due to circumstances beyond my control. the youngest are homeschooled. the 4 year old is a great help around the house. i hope the 2 year old follows in her footsteps. the older two (14 and 11) help out when they are here with the animals and household chores. all my children are very conscious of the environment and the possibility of a different world emerging very quickly. they are ok with us eating our own animals and enjoy it as much as we do. they beg me to cook barbequed goat.

when the older kids graduate and move on, we hope to get that rv and travel. only, it will probably we a converted diesel bus an will have an area in the back for a goat and some chickens. i am a gypsy at heart and want to create a self contained world on wheels. after we’ve had a chance to travel north and south america, we hope to build our dream house on a huge amount of land with lots of animals and gardens with herbs and vegetables and a greenhouse.

i have so much more to say but my 2 year old is demanding to nurse to sleep now so i will close for now.

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Hi, my name is Robbyn, and I’ve tried rewriting this post about four times.  Writing about myself is awkward and hard to summarize. 

I’m not sure I’ve spent much time being concerned about where I fit in or don’t, since it seems to change as life goes on.  But I’m very happy to be here, and happy to share a little bit about myself as an introduction.

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 I grew up in the deep South, mostly in Mississippi, but also with some later years spent in Tennessee, Texas, and a couple of years in Arkansas.  I now reside with my husband and daughter in Florida.

 My first 18 years of life were a challenge, and a springboard for gaining later perspective.  We moved on average every 2 years, and I never had any roots to speak of.  My father was handsome, charismatic and convincing, naturally intelligent and at ease around people, and came from a very religious and conservative background.  My mother, even more conservative,  was very creative, sensitive, intensely insecure, and a perfectionist, and she has always stayed at home.  I grew up in a troubled and financially unstable environment, but was taught the importance of etiquette, hard work, achievement, and belief.  Appearance was very important to my parents.  My father held many jobs throughout the years, which changed often, but were most times in the realm of medical sales.  My parents never dumbed us down as young children with baby talk or edited conversations.  My father taught me to study about anything I questioned, and he shared with us his familiarity with the medical world.  Both my parents always talked about wanting to move to the country to live, raise a garden, and have animals, and we had some occasions where they purchased and cleared land, but then relocated elsewhere because of financial reversals and my father’s changing jobs.

My mother spiraled downward into untreated mental illness and physical problems requiring more and more care, which resulted in a pattern of continued violence and physical/verbal abuse. There was a professional image to be maintained, as well as a family and church status to preserve, so these family secrets remained intact even as they escalated.

I found refuge in books and nature.  I also personalized the world and God in my own way.  This put me at odds with my mother and made me her special target.  I seldom think of these things anymore, but for the first part of my life, they were fairly defining.  I don’t harbor bitterness about those days, but I do strongly believe in protective boundaries and making choices so as to not remain a victim.

We did move to some land for a few years when I was a teenager.  There were so many things I loved about it…too many to list here.  We had a house built on 5 acres in Mississippi, where finally my parents could have “their dream.”  The dream was never realized, though, in that my mother was incapacitated most of the time and my sister and I were the designated labor force to deal with the mowing, and the 1 acre garden.  We mowed the 4 rough acres with a push mower and did a lion’s share of keeping the garden weeded, medicated with sevin dust, harvested, and then canned.  We also cooked dinners and cleaned the house, kept up our grades, etc, and dealt with the near-impossible standards my mother’s perfection demanded.  We were out of date with our clothing, and cash poor, though to hear my folks talk we lived the good life.  We certainly weren’t popular at school – too conservative to be rebels and too un-trendy to be cool.  If you made good grades, you were already on the fringe.  Life then was a long process of worry, family dramas, and work, but no time to really enjoy any of it.  I began to hate the country life as we were living it then, and swore I’d NEVER have a vegetable garden when I was grown if I could help it.  All it represented to me back then was hours of backbreaking labor and fatigue, and then getting up and repeating the process.  Thankfully today I take time to smell the flowers…even if something doesnt get done.  I’m pretty stubborn about that…

 We kept moving, and family life was always chaotic, so I had two lives as such…the one at home and the one elsewhere.  I did anything I could think of to not be at home, and pretty much decided I never wanted to have a family – I yearned to see the world, find myself, learn things, and go far, far away.  I did have a wonderful set of grandparents whose constancy was always an anchor, and what I learned from them I learned from their steady, responsible, and simple daily lives.  I am so very grateful for having known them, and they are an image I keep before me in my mind, loving that in my adulthood now I long to be like them.

 Due to the escalation of the family situation, at age 18, I left home with just my purse and the clothes on my back.  The intervening years have been so full of experiences, I hardly believe them myself when remembering them :)

 I’ll skip most of the details, but I will say I do not regret my past, nor has it embittered me.  It’s taught me an awful lot, and has helped me view things differently than I would have otherwise.  It’s been an interesting journey of making choices, taking responsibility for my own path, and forgiveness.  The day came when I prayed to have a large family of my own, with a house full of children.  I was grateful to have my one daughter.  I have a deep appreciation of our humanity and our flaws, and strangely, I’ve come away cherishing this fragile thing called family. I tenaciously love my daughter and promote her safe passage into her own world of possibilities.  I cling to God.  I do not take a single day for granted.  I appreciate my husband and value our differences and commonalities.  I appreciate our flaws.  I know how to laugh, and that there is a time to mourn.  I did get my chance to travel the world, investigate a range of lifestyles and beliefs, meet all sorts of people, have special relationships, and grow.  In many ways, I’ve always been old…never feeling like I had a real childhood, and in other ways I feel I’ll always nurture a part of myself that doesn’t want to lose a child’s perspective.  I’m quicker to bypass things that seem to be destructive…too much of my early life was caught up in the consequences of others’ self-destruction.  I did better at that some times than I did at others.  I thank God that He helped keep me out of a lot of trouble in my wanderings.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes, many of them by my own bad choices.  Hopefully I’ve learned from them.

In the course of my life, I was married to my daughter’s father for 13 years.  He was never interested in gardening or country life, so during that time, those things were a closed door.  Life held many beautiful and valuable things, though..  And on the side, I still dabbled in herbs, flowers, cooking, and kept children, wrote, and home-schooled, among many other things.  I enjoyed making home an open and welcoming place, and in that I felt fulfilled.  The demise of that marriage was devastating, and it took considerable effort to get the heart enough to get back on my feet.  Life has seemed strangely unfamiliar since then, and I am getting back some of my balance.  I am married now to Jack, and found to my delight that besides being each other’s soul mates, we both harbored many of the same desires for a homesteading lifestyle, with similar histories past.

What in the world does this have to do with homesteading in general?  Perspective. Life for me has been unpredictable, and with the changes going on in the world around us today, it would seem we’ve been equipped to endure tough times.  Jack and I both want to liveon some acreage zoned to allow animals, to be self-sufficient, and to revisit past goals and dreams, hopefully with some ingenuity to tailor them to our abilities and limitations now.  I do long for that, and I realistically don’t want to do it the way we did in my youth, so labor-intensively that we’ll burn out or ever have to be wholly dependent on others.  We work hard as it is…we want to transfer that elbow grease to sustain ourselves in ways best defined as homesteading.  And we still do hope for land…we’re working hard for that, too. 

Will we get there?  We’re working and praying to that effect.  If we don’t, we will make the conscious decision to do the best right here and make it work in different ways. 

Regardless, we’ll bloom where we are planted.  Life is too short to always postpone it till someday.

I am never quite sure what I’ll write before I sit down at the keyboard.  I hope I’ll share things here on this new site that are relevant and interesting, but I’ll shoot for just being me and hope for the best J  I am probably the newest member here as far as having any experience…I just don’t have much. I have a talent for goofing some things up, and then being able to laugh and learn from them.   I DO have a love for exploring questions, finding solutions, finding out what works for other people, and desiring to recover and preserve traditional ways of living that our modern world is fast losing.  I love the diversity of lifestyles and people I see whose paths converge in the wonderful melee of the homesteading “community” at large, even worldwide.  I love learning and simply BEING around this community.  It feels more like home, and very much ME. 

Whatever “being me” is or isn’t,  it’s at least a recognition of this place in my journey as being a far better fit of lifestyle than anything the mainstream has offered.  It allows for individualism while staying connected to free-and-kindred spirits.  I’m also seeing how many people in what we assume is the mainstream are drawn to things that are authentic…authentic people, lives, solutions, dialogue.  If the authentic becomes the norm, it is at that point maybe I’ll care about being normal.  Till then, like the wonderful people I know online and in person who are originals and find labels a fairly irrelevant measure of anything, I’m not really stopping to worry too much about what mine is. I’m a contradiction of things — painfully shy but friendly, a taker-in of strays, private renegade, preferring quiet but not purely a loner, tough but squishy on the inside.  I don’t cry often, but when I do, I cry hard.  I’m the tomboy embracing my femininity, going barefoot, procrastinating the dish-washing, loving long talks and walks, and reading voraciously…and you’ll usually find me here over-or-under-watering my plants, conspiring with Jack how to make our own car fuel, stockpiling seed catalogs, naming chickens I don’t even have yet, and burning food experiments in the kitchen.  Or reading blogs and burning even more dinners ;-)

Sorry this has run on so long…in short, I’d like to learn from you, and I take to heart the lives and wisdom of the wonderful homestead community…enjoying the kinship and friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

I’m Gina. I have always thrived in the midst of challenge. Here is my nutshell story:

All my life I have skirted the conventional. I don’t think this was exactly intentional, just that I felt different, liked different, and, thus, surrounded myself with different. My parents used to call the friends I drug home my “stray puppies”-these were kids from various backgrounds who also weren’t controlled by the mainstream culture like many of our peers seemed to be. Kids with colorful personalities that just didn’t quite fit in the way American T.V. instructed. My own personality list included these titles: Bookworm, shy, tomboy, lover of nature & animals, introvert, old-fashion, modern (yep, a contradiction), weird, vegetarian, alternative, book smart, and loner. At least, this is the list I would have made for myself as a teenager when “not fitting in” seemed to be a negative thing. In the sixth grade, along with a gorgeous boy who decided to embrace his Native American ancestry, I was voted “most weird” by a jury of my peers. (Believe me, this was not exactly a happy moment in my life and even two and a half decades later makes me sad).

As I grew, I slowly began to embrace my eccentric persona. I began to care less that I was a square peg in a round world. I met others like me and realized I wasn’t so alone. I also began to notice that the “normal” kids were secretly attracted to the “weird” kids like me (maybe because they felt “weird“ too). I realized it no longer mattered how I dressed, what I listened to or how many hours I spent reading or hiking alone in the countryside. I’m not saying it was easy being different: I felt like I was trapped in this realm between wanting to be a back-to-land girl or an Indy rocker. I mean try telling your mohawked, punk boyfriend in the middle of Cornfieldville that you really would love to be a farmer and see how weird you feel!

In my early to mid-twenties, I decided I wanted to escape the connections and venues of my Indiana birth-city. I picked an area in complete opposition of the deciduous forests and seasonal changes of the Midwestern state I was raised in. I picked Tucson, AZ because I kept in my memory an article about Tucson in an old 1975 Arizona Highway magazine I had seen as a child and I wanted to see the giant cacti for myself. I took a short trip and fell in love. I moved there three months later alone. Well, not alone, I had my beloved pitbull/Dalmatian Isaak with me (he died a few years ago at the age of 16). I lived out there for awhile, but ended up back in Indiana with a broken heart and even bigger questions about who I am. I decided to return to school and gathered enough knowledge to be labeled with career options. IF I knew then…I would not have wasted my time & money in school.

In my early 30‘s, still in Indiana, I met my farm boy husband. I threw everyone who knew me for a loop (including myself) when I became pregnant and eventually married him. I threw even more loops into how people had known me when I gave up vegetarianism (after more than 13 years) and began to raise our own meat. I bawled over the first pig we slaughtered.

I can’t really say what makes me not normal because everything I do is so normal for me. I do have the insight to realize when my ideas or the path I am following are not exactly the status quo path of sorts. I do have the ability to censor my weirdness in crowds of near-strangers (like professional contacts). I also love and unconscientiously seek out other people who are not exactly the common bean in our cultural soup.

(more…)

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by jessimarie78

I am Jessica. I can’t honestly say I’m not normal, at least not compared to other people. I really don’t see myself being very different from others. I find most people I meet to be wise and interesting, each with something unique to offer and teach the world. Since each of us is on our own personal path of purpose, discovery, and change, it really doesn’t make sense to compare one path to the other. What does make sense to me is comparing myself to myself.

My normal way is to trudge through my life on automatic pilot, playing out my habitual habits and resisting growth and change. My not normal way is to notice my behaviors, reactions and habits, and stretch myself to live more purposefully and intentionally. When I am learning, course-correcting, opening, and being mindful and creative, I am not dabbling in normal.

I am different from the other women in this blog project in that I am not a “homesteader” per se. At this point in my life I live on a small suburban plot of land with my two children, husband, dog and cat. We do strive to be more and more self-sufficient through gardening, composting, vermicomposting and preserving, raising meat rabbits and soon chickens, slowly incorporating more “green” into our lifestyle, homeschooling, and using our community resources to find local food and support.

My focus is on my ongoing experience of becoming a better nourisher– of myself, my family, and in turn my community and the world. I am learning that seemingly small everyday choices do have a global impact. I enjoy sharing practical ways to improve in parenting, relationships, personal development, food, and gardening, as well as sharing useful books to go along with these topics.

I’m looking forward to sharing with you on Mondays. I appreciate your comments, so please chime in with your own perspective. I want to know what your thoughts are about my posts, ideas you’d like to add, concerns you have, questions, suggestions, and your own personal stories.

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First let me say, welcome to Women Not Dabbling In Normal!  I’m so excited to see this collaboration come into being and look forward to watching it develop.  What an amazing group of women, we have, I feel so blessed to know each of them and so grateful that they agreed to do this project with me!  I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones here.

I’m Kathie and I’m not normal.  At least not normal in the way its defined by mainstream culture.  I live in northwest Montana with my very handsome soulmate, Jeff, and our two cats, Patches and Meggy.  We recently bought a home on just shy of an acre, that we hope to turn into a small “urban” homestead.  I live a simple life and do my best to build a life by my own hands instead of counting on culture at large to tell me how to do things.

I was born and raised near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by an interesting, wonderful family.  My grandmothers are without a doubt the two biggest influences on the woman I am today.  My grandmothers canned, crafted, cooked and baked from scratch, worked hard, and were incredibly kind.  My father and both grandfathers were amazing gardeners who taught me more about growing vegetable than I’ve learned from any book or website. 

Today, I grow my own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers organically.  I practice vermicomposting and traditional composting to feed my little patch of earth so that it can feed me.  I can, dry, and freeze my homegrown food as well as food I find from local farmers.  I’m very much the novice when it comes to drying foods but am learning and hope to share some of that here.  I cook and bake from scratch with whole foods and do my best to avoid pre-processed and GMO foodstuffs (if they can even be called food).  I enjoy a creative life, where I quilt, sew, and craft.  I make my own clothing or re-purpose thrift store clothing, often.  I also very much enjoy the art of homemaking and life lived fully at home. 

I’m honored to be your host every Sunday here at Women Not Dabbling in Normal.  On Sundays you expect a honest posts with a dash of photography now and then about a life that doesn’t dabble in normal, but does revel in simplicity, creativity, love, and hard work.  Most often these posts will tackle the topics of gardening, cooking, crafting, frugal and simple living tips, and much more.  I look forward to spending these Sundays with you.

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Coming July 27th!

We’ll begin posting here on July 27, 2008.  We look forward to seeing you then!

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