Tuesday, August 28, 2012

~ A Life Fulfilled ~

"Blanche" looking at me from the stock trailer.
For many years I longed to raise livestock.  As a young woman, I had a desire to raise sheep.  As I got older, I thought about cattle.  At the age of 51, I've had the pleasure of raising both! My beautiful flock of sheep & my funny steer...... stirred my spirit, taught me patience, showed me love, frustrated me, made me laugh, made me cry.  Every morning for 7 years, I greeted these girls with, "good morning girls."  I walked up to the barn, leaned against the ol' fence railing and talked to them, they listened.  Food was disbursed, grain was hand fed out of a bucket, treats were given.........organic animal cookies were there favorite.

I've been with each one of them during their deliveries of lambs.......for 7 years.  I've nursed wounds, sore bodies & rubbed their heads and bum for 7 years.  I've massaged them during the last days of gestation & delivery.  I've helped them clean their new baby's, even washing their sore tushes with warm water after delivery.

Making the decision to sell them was the hardest decision I've ever had to make.  Honestly, divorcing my first husband was easier, as callus as they made sound, it's the truth.  I will miss these girls, but I will never forget them.  In a very spiritual way, these girls taught me a whole lot about my life.  I pray that in some small way, I imparted some small hint of something.......maybe love.......I hope they know how much I love(d) them.........................

Monday, May 7, 2012

~ Up A Holler, On A Creek, In The Appalachian Mountains ~


     Places find me. I'm drawn to them as if an unseen hand is gently pulling me along saying, "this is where you need to be right now."  My whole life, this is the way my gypsy spirit has flowed.  I think it's because I'm an old soul, travelling to places I've once been.  Mama say's I get it from my granddaddy.

     Thursday, May 10th, we close on our beautiful 112 year old home in Western North Carolina.  The "old girl" has been inspected, poked & proded for weeks now.  Everyone concurs, "she's got good bones, she's fixable."  This seems to be our destiny.........restoring old homes.  Much of her architectural detail is still intact, but much has been sorely lost through previous owners.  I do have original hardwood floors (some with carpet covering it), I do have the beautiful and original fireplace mantels on the two-sided fireplace.  I do know that an old wrap around porch has been torn down and additions added on in it's place.  I do know who built the home in 1900, a Mr. Hardin.  I have a phone call into his great-granddaughter for further historical information.  I know that the Cherokee indians held annual pow-wows in the front yard of this home, along Beaver Creek, which runs through the property. It's magical, it's spiritual, it's where we'll settle ourselves.

    The first time I laid eyes on this home, I saw it on the internet and fell in love.  I turned to "The Man" and said, "let's go look at it!" When I got home that afternoon from a hike, he told me he had called a realtor and booked us flights to Atlanta, Ga.  Gotta LOVE spontaneity.........we do that well as a couple. We flew into Atlanta, rented a car and the rest......well.

Two trips were made back South and a whole lot of other homes were looked at, including making an offer on some acreage (which fell through).  In the end, this property spoke to both "The Man" and myself.  We have a piece of property with all the amenities, beautiful Appalachian mountain views, and a raging creek.  When looking at other properties and homes, we didn't have any of these features, when looking at raw land with creek or lake views (note: Views), we'd have had to pay exuberant amounts of cash.  This home, as the home inspector told us, "is a diamond in the rough, beautiful!"  We knew that, but it was nice to hear it from a local.  And so, on "The Man's" final journey back he made an offer on The Hardin House on Beaver Creek.

Ironically, after making an offer on the home, while researching geneology on my grand daddys side of the family, I'm in the very heart of his/our people.  I am 20 miles from Fires Creek, N.C. where some of our people lived.  I'm less that 40 miles from the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, where we also had family.  I've traced the family back to the early 1600's, starting in Dublin, Ireland, making their way from the Virginia coast to North Carolina where they settled the land.  I haven't even begun geneology research on my granny's side, her mother was half Cherokee..........so the exploration continues for me.

  I'm fascinated with obtaining information on my people, who were these people?  What did they farm and how much land did they farm? How many babies did they raise to adulthood, how many fought in the Civil war? How many fought in the Revolutionary war? What craft did they master?  I'm finding answers bit by bit and I'm proud of my people.  It gives me strong ground to set forth on. My granddaddy and I were very, very close, I speak with the man often.  By far, he's one of the most influential men in my life, I honor him and I want to make him proud of me.

I will live up a holler, on a creek, in the Appalachian mountains.  And when I've passed through this life, send me afloat on that creek.......let her energy guide me once again.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

~ Invoking Granddaddy ~

 Southern Appalachian Mts. near Murphy, N.C.

I just got back from N.C., Georgia & Tennessee two nights ago.  Experiencing the South was one of those "wish list" items I've wanted to do for a long time.  And so, Rick and I flew into Atlanta, Ga., rented a car, and drove..............a lot!!!!  Six days to be exact.

We're searching for the "perfect" area for retirement.  I've always been fascinated with the Appalachians mountians, so we picked a spot in N.C. and headed out.  We are working with a realtor, born and raised in Savannah, GA., who now resides in Murphy, N.C.  With our list of homes and properties in hand, we head into his office Friday morning. The realtor has sworn to dedicate two days to us for the hunt, he fulfills that promise beyond measure, he's a super cool guy.  Holler (hollow), after holler we drive.........Rick and I are in complete awe of our surroundings, I've never seen anything more beautiful than these Appalachians.

Beaver Creek House in Andrews, N.C.  Stunning creek-front home.

After two full days with our realtor, we release our realtor to resume' his job.  We obtain a map from the Chamber, figure out our base camp on the map, and pursue looking on our own for the next three days.  Let me just say, this is an exhausting and emotional task we've set ourselves upon.  The Beaver Creek house was a huge let down for me, I can't hardly shake the gloominess.  This home sits on a raging creek, Beaver Creek.  The land the home sits on has historical history, it's a place the Cherokee indians travelled to annually for pow-wows.  The creek is full of trout.  The outside of the home is darling, built in 1900.  The inside..........a "tear down" Rick informs me............I'm in tears!  It's the end of a long day, I'm ready to go back to our cabin, I'm tired and drained.

The next morning, my spirits are lifted, I'm ready to start the search once again, our time is running out.  I step out onto the deck of the cabin we've rented in pre-dawn hours, with my mug a joe.  I take a deep breath, center myself, and call upon my granddaddy for help.  I ask him to guide me on this search, to let me know when I'm "home."  I ask him to show me a sign, send his beloved energy to me.......then the two of us head out.......Rick's arms around my shoulder, he knows my hearts been heavy.

We travel South of town, down near the GA. state line, about 10 miles S. of Murphy.  We drive up a holler called Marrestop, then we veer to our left into another holler called Sourwood.  I'm asking Rick, "where are we going?" His answer, "just driving, checkin' it out."  As we head further into this holler, we see a 4-sale sign on the road, the road heads up a ways, it's called Whittler's Mountain.  We locate the piece of property for sale, it's up on a knoll.  After parking the car in a semi-gravelled driveway, we get out.............I begin to cry........... I can't shake it, I feel something very strong.  I know in my heart that I've been led here by my granddaddy.  I've invoked his guidance, his help, and he's shown me the very spot, I'm home.  The property has million dollar views of the Appalachians,   It's been somewhat cleared so that only the majestic oaks, maples,  white pines and dogwood remain, it's very, very private.  I look over at Rick and one look tells me, he knows what I'm thinking and he feels the same way. 

Sourwood Holler


Whittler's Mountain, Murphy, N.C.

We call our realtor the next day, we put in an offer on the land.  As it stands now, we're in the stage of buying that everyone dreads, the countering of price.  What I do know is this, I invoked help from my granddaddy and he's led us here.  My grandfather, he was a whittler, a good one too.  Our family history traces us back to N.C. long ago.  Although we hadn't really thought about building a home in the Southern Appalachians, the excitement of doing so, makes our heart sing!!  The sale will go through, I know this in my heart.

Martin Houses at John C. Campbell Folk School

The Johnsonville Farm House across from Hothouse Creek.
A 100 year old farmhouse we looked at.

Our soul is touched, we leave with a renewed spirit.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

~ Seeking Self-Reliance~

Organic veggies from our garden
My focus homeward began when I was young.  I really shifted my desire  in high school, attempting to drag as many friends as I could into "working a farm" with me.  Long before the CSA was a popular, locally-sustainable way to eat good, organic food I was trying to recruit friends, to no avail.  At that time, my family owned a 40 acre farm, it was to be left to myself and two siblings by my grandfather, who wanted the farm to stay in the family.  I had every intention of farming on that farm, but greed can do bad things to people, and so, off I went in search of another place that I could live self-reliantly. 

  "Today we choose to grow our own food because we prefer quality, and we recognize the tie between good food and good health.  It's hard to buy that kind of quality." ~Harvey Ussery.   I personally just wanted to get my hands in the dirt and raise my own, healthy food.  And so, a big garden went in, I purchased four sheep, brought my chickens with me......and the rest is history. 

I love this life, but one of the biggest misconceptions people have about homesteading & homemaking is that it's tidy, and that every homestead is picture perfect.  The truth is it's a messy, exhausting way to live.  There are always things to do, and you must learn to live with the feeling of not having accomplished all you wanted to on any given day.  For example: today is butter making day, tinctures are brewed and ready to bottle, barn & hen house need cleaning, garden beds still need further amending, wood from the tree limbs need to be stacked..........oh yeah, laundry is piling up and bread needs to be made........will I get to all of them, certainly not, but I'll mark off what I can for today and be satisfied that I did a lot for this one day!  It's a dance, an ebb and flow.

Many people confuse self-reliance with self-sufficiency.  True self-sufficient living is impossible (unless you're Amish maybe).  I can't grow all of my own grain to feed my sheep,  However, I do believe that we can and should, build a community with like-minded people and continuously work toward self-reliance, the ability to make and do things.  Because a self-reliant community builds resilience through networks of shared skills and goods with the goal of sustainable living.

My motto: produce more than I consume.  There are myraid ways to do this, for instance, I play music rather than download it, I knit rather than go to the movies, I grow food rather than buy it from a grocery store, I cook rather than go out to eat.  I love producing for my well-being, it makes my life more interesting, further, I just don't have time to waste money!

  Maybe "progress" means taking a giant step "backward."  The world has become so enarmored with technological solutions that many people don't recognize the efficiency of natural ways.  We need to follow a more cyclical model: Things are produced, they die, and then they are recomposed through natural processes.  In nature, there is no waste.

"Self-sufficient living allows us to experience magic daily, and it's wonderful: the magic of germination, decomposition, the cycling year, the relationship between soil and plants, the diversity of birds and insects, and how they do this great wheeling, complex dance."  Natural processes transform in magical ways.

Start up fees can be exuberant depending on what you desire, but it doesn't have to be.  You can start with a garden and chickens, whatever works for you.  There is a great turning going on in our country, this world.  People are hopeful and being part of a hopeful movement truly is exhilarating.  If you have the dream, desire and work ethic, I say.........FOLLOW THAT DREAM! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

~ My Christmas Spirit in A Junk Yard ~

     The ranch has had snow on the ground for 3 weeks now........lot's of snow,  which is why I had to go out this morning, and shovel out the back of the pick-up truck so I could drive it to the junk yard. 

   This particular junk yard is East of Snowflake.  It starts on the side of the county highway and meanders back on acreage.  Mike owns it, he and his wife.  Mike makes treasures out of others junk, and it's always worth stopping to take a look around.

   After wandering around for awhile (in mud I might add), I found a piece I liked.  Unfortunately, no one was home.  I walked over to the Country store next door, asked to use the phone, and called Mike on his cell.  He was ecstatic that someone was at the junk yard inquiring about one of his pieces.  He was almost to town with his wife, but he said he'd turn around and scoot back to meet up with me.  He did so promptly I might add.

   We settled on a price and shook hands.  Something I have always done when a deal has been struck or when conducting business with people.  Mike took off somewhere in the junk yard to locate a dolly to load this "piece" in my pick-up truck.  I wandered around a bit longer looking at things.  Out of no where a young man walked up to Mike's wife, he told her he'd run out of gas down the road, he wondered if she had a used gas can he could borrow.  She located one for him, loaned it to him, and off he went to the country store to fill it with gas. A few minutes later, he took off on foot to fill his tank.  Another older gentleman pulled up in his dilapidated truck, got out with a big ol' grin and said "hi" to both of us.  Mike's wife obviously knew him.  They chit-chatted while I continued to wander. 

   While I wandered around, I couldn't help but tune into their conversation...................the man was having problems locating and obtaining parts for his old truck. He evidently lived many miles off the highway on a county road. Without blinking an eye, Mike's wife told him she would get the parts he needed while she was down in Payson this week, not to worry.  Mike then walked out from the back with his dolly and noticed their friend.  He smiled and shook his hand, it was then that Mike told their friend that he and his wife would be feeding people again at Christmas this year.  Mike told him it would be similar to the meal they hosted at Thanksgiving......anybody and everybody could show up for food, companionship, warmth.  Mike said he didn't want anybody to go without at Christmas.  His friend told him he wouldn't miss it for the world, cuz the meal they made everyone at Thanksgiving was wonderful! 

   After Mike loaded my piece, he walked over to the store to make change for me, but before he did, he asked me if I was thirsty, would I like something to drink?  I declined but thanked him anyway.  While Mike was off getting my change, his wife and the man came over with a rope and tied my "piece" down in the truck, although I think it would have been fine without the tie down, it was a very kind gesture.  It was something they didn't even think twice about doing for me. 

   After saying my good-byes, and slowly pulling out of the mud hole of a parking lot onto the county road, I reflected on those few precious moments.  In fact, I was so moved by these three people, that tears welled in my eyes.  To look at these three people, a person could/would certainly assume they were very poor, lacking the basic material goods we all take for granted.  Yet the spirit with which these three people moved in, in their daily lives, was so much richer and gentler than anything I have ever witnessed.  The compassion, concern, and care they showed to perfect strangers was almost surreal.

   And it wasn't because of the "holiday" spirit.  No, this is something much bigger, I feel it in my gut...........these people move in this gentle spirit daily. This is who they are! 

   This experience will stay with me for along time, this was a wonderful gift I received.

Proverbs 22:9 "A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

~ Walking Amongst Her ~

     I'm very much "in love" with nature!  It is when I'm standing in her grace & beauty, that I most feel at home.  Personal problems either large or small, become very insignificant when you stand among her.........she is healing.

    Nature affords me the chance to follow my interests and reduces pressures, fears, introjects and social expectations.  The natural world affects my values and aspirations..........mostly my intrinsic aspirations. When I spend time in nature, I place a higher value on community/connectedness values and a lower value on self-oriented values.  Full contact with nature has humanizing effects on me.

   For me, a call to understand that nature is not inert, passive or limited in intelligence, lends creedence to the fact that we humans are not more intelligent than nature and vice-versa.  There is nothing that happens outside, which is not inside us. Nature is spiritual, we are spiritual beings......the two go hand in hand.

    And so..........I reach for that intrinsic connectedness, for that smell of life, for that beauty, for peace.........for my life!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

~ On Any Given Day......~

Our granddaughter Kiley, and her girlfriend at a Fall concert.

Two of my childhood girlfriends attending a BBQ at the ranch.

Rick (aka Bampa), helping Brady load a pumpkin at the Willis Farm

On any given day, I could be:
1. Pickin' pumpkins with my grandkids at a local farm.
2. Hosting a big party or gathering.
3. Dressing up and driving 20 miles to attend a grandchilds concert.
4. Hangin' in my favorite jeans to attend a grand childs soccer, baseball, or softball game.
5. Making a  healthy lunch, and taking it to the elementary school my daughter teaches at, so we can have a lil' mother/daughter time.
6. Booking a flight to Washington state in June with my daughter, to spend a few days with good friends touring wineries.

A lone coyote hunting in the field outside my kitchen window.

Canning heirloom & organic food from our garden annually.

Watching a lambs curiosity when it sneaks away from it's mother, only to find the grass IS greener on the otherside of the fence.

7.  Tending to a sick animal, losing sleep over it, until it's nursed back to health.
8. Creating a large, organic garden annually, so that we might partake of the finest in vegetables.
9. Seeing wildlife around our ranch, ( lil' feral cats seeking warmth and respite in our barns on a cold winter day, raccoons, deer, elk, antelope, coyotes, owls, hawks, eagles, ducks & trumpeter swans.....and snakes).

My beloved spinning wheel.

A #300 pound hog, heading to locker.  Certainly not for everyone, and by far, not easy.

My artisan yarns, sold in boutiques here in the White Mountains.

10.  Fiber art.
11.  Raising animals on our ranch, all with dignity and respect, then taking that life so that it may nourish us.
12.  The meditative art of spinning & knitting.

Attending all day BBQ's hosted by friends.

Having to say "good-bye" to a beloved pet.

Time spent with friends.

13.  Blessings for the many good friends we have.
14. Sharing years with a pet, loving them unconditionally, then making a heart-wrenching decision.
15. Good food, raised well.

The simple joy of watching our lambs.

Annual wood-cutting.

Sunrises & Sunsets

This month, when so many have "blessings" in the forefront of their minds, I can tell you, I have many.  I'm thankful for the life my mother gave me, thankful for my family & friends, thankful for the dream I aspired to reach and obtained, I'm thankful for so many daily things that it would bog the mind.  Take heed to the smallest of things in your life, sometimes they're all you need, the very essence that keeps the heart loving and pumping.