Friday, December 31, 2010

Cottage Door

I got out of bed early because I heard our neighbors' dog attacking the trash bag I left on the porch. I threw on my boots but he had already dragged it down into the woods. AND I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: Sometimes there is not enough land, and there are too few snipers. Immediately following, Caramel started mooing since he saw I was up and wanted his fresh morning hay. Who needs an alarm clock?

SO! This has been a weird week for me. It's usually my big goal planning week- one of my favorites of the year; but basically this year I just need to scratch out '2010' on last year's list, and put '2011' minus the things I've already crossed off. We know what we want, we just need to get it done. Most of the week, I have spent quite a bit of time drafting some final design stuff for the house so that I could finalize everything and spec out the glass panes for the windows and doors I want. That's right ladies and gentlemen. The little lady is adding millwork to her list of dive-in-and-do-it-yourself absurdities.

Monday, for under $30, we bought a pipe clamp and a ten foot iron pipe. The door in this picture is on one of the cottages that Hugh Comstock designed in the 1920s for his wife, which spurred the look of what has grown into an entire storybook cottage town- the town of Carmel, California (type in Carmel Cottages in Google and sit down with a cup of tea to have a really enjoyable afternoon). I read about the cottages in the one magazine I ever really enjoyed- Cottage Living- which is now out of circulation...I'm still not over that. Anyway, I copied the design of this door in a larger scale for my front door. I have begun to glue wood together and clamp it with the pipe clamp. It will form a panel from which to cut the arch. See- you can do anything if you break it down into tiny steps. No big whoop, as Linda Richmond would say.

I still have leftover hardwood flooring in the garage so I am fabricating the door with it. The price tag to have it made was more absurd than the thought of doing it myself; and unfortunately, living with a generic door is more absurd to me than that. See the logic? Some people are into clothes, jewelry, cars, hobbies... I am into doors and windows- cottage-y ones. I am currently waiting on a quote for the panes from the glass fabrication shop. They need to be double pane, Low E since they are on the exterior of the house. The glass for the interior doors I can buy and cut myself from Lowes. This will be my first door. I have a slew to do after this one, so I hope it goes well.

I have been reading about passive solar heating for a year or so since a friend let us borrow a book about it. I have also been reading about masonry stoves. The back room that will be expanded to be the family room is on the south and east sides of the house. With the window and door design, roof design, proper materials, and a masonry stove, we should be roasty toasty in winters without having to pay ridiculous energy costs to a power company that very often burns fossil fuels to provide electricity.

Masonry stoves are fireplaces designed to burn wood very efficiently and store heat to be released radiantly from the brick work. The wood box only needs to be loaded once every day or two. Passive solar is simply designing your house to be heated by the sun during the winter when it is low in the south sky by having a ton of windows there and a material (like the brick of the masonry fireplace) that will absorb that heat and continue to radiate it out at night. During the summer you can prevent overheating a number of ways, but I like high eaves that act as a visor in the summer when the sun is high in the sky. Both are very earth- friendly and cost efficient.

Did I mention already how intimately God loves us and how well He knows us and how He truly does work all things together for our good? The back left corner was all that was needed to get the look I want, so he set us here in a house with the least required to get the look and function I wanted instead of letting us get our plan (which I begged him for)... which was to build a house. I guess He knew the little glitches of where to live while we were doing it and how to find the time when you are so busy were more than little glitches. I also like how He included a lot of efficiencies I couldn't fit in myself.

I have a lot of hopes for 2011, but mostly I want to finish the house and homestead, so that we can nestle in, get set, and be ready to fly out with the confidence of knowing the nest is in tact for us, friends, and family. What are your hopes for 2011? I want them to come to fruition too. Kelly Carr told me once about something God showed her and I hope she won't mind if I shared it with you, though I couldn't be as eloquent as she was in the telling. She saw people marching along in darkness and drudgery looking down and right next to the path was a waterfall of light. When you stepped into it just a little, the light and beauty and joy were overwhelming... but so few would even look up to see that it was there. The scripture says that in God's presence is fullness of joy and my prayer for you this coming year is that you step into it more and more and more and more.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Arthur Miller, Noel Perrin, and Mrs. Wilder

My favorite children's book was given to Quinn before he was born. It begins like this: "God knows all my secrets, He sees into my heart." Each rhyming line has a scripture verse that it was drawn from written at the bottom.

My favorite line is, "He's just around the corner, He's up above my head. I'm not afraid of monsters, God's underneath my bed."

It's no literary classic. I just like it.

Books were never really a big part of my life. I grew up on a steady diet of TV and textbooks from school. Without God's word interfering with my path I would no doubt be a full-fledged blubbering liberal idiot by now. My gosh, looking back, the number of books I had to read for school from the first to the twelfth grade was ridiculously low, and I was in what they called "Honors" classes. If I had to venture a guess, though, I would generously put the number at no more than thirty. Quinn just put down the twelve volume Living Forest series by Sam Campbell in four days flat. I have to force him to put his book down so that we can eat and do our schoolwork.

About three or four years ago I purposed to grow a library for the kids. In my last blog, I referred to a quote from C.S. Lewis, who was one of the catalysts for such a desire. He is one person whose writings and perspective I admire a great deal (a gross understatement). Through a complexity of thought venues he draws out of you a stronger mind and spirit, better sharpened and more humbled in praise for our Creator, at the same time.

While cleaning up last Friday I found one of his books and the quote. It is so good, I wanted to share it with you in its entirety:

I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kind reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.

I, very soon after the desire for a library bloomed, found that the local public library held an annual sale where they removed from the shelves old books, to make room for the new books that were coming in. They were 25 cents each, and on the last day they dropped them to 10 cents each. I got a great start that weekend. I pulled everything I saw of value and left all of the useless mind mush behind. You would be amazed at what they removed- classics, great history books, etc.. I am not saying they didn't replace them with newer prints of classics- but a quick walk through the library wouldn't give you the impression that they had at all.

I say all of that to say this: I think God is so involved with the details of our lives that he has been placing books for us. Maybe he doesn't do this for you- you are a different person than I am and he may do totally different things for you.... but of this thing he has been doing for me I am starting to become quite convinced.

One of the books I happened to pick up at the library sale was a book by Arthur Miller called In the Country. It is his writing about moving, you guessed it, to the country. I remembered from high school that he wrote Death of a Saleman- but I never read that book (though SWEET MERCY based on my adult life experiences I want to if the title lends any hint to the content; but I digress). What struck me about it was his observation, as an 'educated' person purposefully going back to a rural area, that the remnant of people who hadn't left for one reason or another yet were literally embarrassed about their way of life. The "modern, industrialized world" had led them to believe that farming and rural living was nothing short of a backwards bygone way of life to be ashamed of....sad.

My sister Charlotte later told me, when we were discussing this, that Dad felt that way. She said that he was always happiest farming...until buddies would come around and talk about their great paying industry jobs; then he would get unsettled and dissatisfied... feeling like he needed to go into that world to "get more." Dad had an eighth grade education but could fix anything with a motor and knew quite a bit about farming; and many other practical things for that matter. He was a smart man who worked very hard and used his hands for a living as well as his mind. The notion that the employment of the one is best independent of the other is a notion that is rooted in utter stupidity.

The other book I happened to toss on my pile was a book by someone I had never heard of before. His name was Noel Perrin and the book was Last Person Rural. If my gut had teeth in it like a bike chain, the stuff in this book was a set of gears that laid perfectly against it and moved me along on the path toward this life. Mr. Perrin was a Dartmouth professor who spent all of his other time on his farm in Vermont, and he loved every inch of it... all of the ways that it moved with the seasons and all of the people engaged in the same thing that he met. I loved reading about his days, his ponderings, his experiences, his work, his integrity, and his disdain for some of the things that he saw from the culture, from the caldron of marketing, and from the throne of 'progress.' I can't even tell you how much I liked this book... for the sentimental things it conjured up from my childhood, to the things that are innately a part of the way I think, to the simple enjoyment of reading how someone else believes that stillness is an event more worthy of attendance than most anything else. I just stumbled across it again and have been meandering through some of the pages. It has the absolute best book review on the back of the cover, by the way, that I've ever read. Roy Blount Jr., from the New York Times Book Review wrote, "This is a dangerous book. It almost made me decide to go ahead and get pigs." I remembered loving that quote the first time I read it; and now that I am so close to getting pigs, I love it even more.

For my third and final book of evidence, I submit this...about a month or so ago I stopped at a yard sale, and picked up some books. I saw a book called Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Now, despite the huge fan base for her Little House on the Prairie books, I have never really had a desire to read them because, quite frankly, the television show was so disgustingly sappy. If there is anything I can't stand is sap- you know those shows where they pre-craft some overly sentimental situation where everyone is blubbering? It makes me sick. BUT! Given the title of this book, I picked it up. It is about her husband, Almanzo, when he is a ten year old boy (Quinn is ten) and what all of his activities and experiences are like on the farm. My gosh, she explains so many things in depth that we are going to be doing over the next year that it's practically a reference book! I love it and Quinn loves it. The timing for him and for us at this season in our life is perfect. I already read the ending and I welled up with tears, I admit. Not because of anything sappy... but because, well, you should read it.

I guess God knows all my secrets, and He does see into in my heart; so He sends me books that resonate in it too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nutrition and Health- Part 2: tailored weight loss

Typed 2 years ago as well, here are all the things that worked for me, after years of trying things that didn't....

Nutrition-oriented Weight Loss Precepts

1.) Ingredients goal: Organic, unrefined, whole grain, unprocessed and sugarless is what I strive for- it is hard to hit that mark with every ingredient. What if you hit 2 out of the 5 categories? That’s better than what you used to do. Proceed from there. I buy almost everything organic now; I try to make up for the cost in some other ways:
a.)cheaper toiletries
b.)by using basic ingredients (not already mixed stuff). For ex: I buy eggs, flour, butter, meat, pasta, fruit, and veggies. With some good fats and some good spices you can whip basic ingredients into many, many things.
c.)I don’t eat so much now! Sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. When I eat now, I’m feeding my body. The quality is better so the quantity can decrease.

2.)Eating every 2 ½ to 3 hours keeps your metabolism going strong and steady. You never want to let yourself get hungry or it will go into starvation mode and think it needs to store your fat instead of burn it. This is one of the truths that you will read consistently in every good weight loss plan out there. People say to eat 6 times a day, but a lot of times 5 is plenty for me. As long as I didn’t let myself get hungry, I don’t try to cram in more food just to say I ate 6 times- that’s missing the point (and adding calories that aren’t needed).

3.)Portion size: try to keep your portion sizes of meat and carbs smaller than your fist (stole that from BFL book). I actually try to make them a little smaller than that. I want my meals to be in the range of 200-300 calories. If you do that and eat 5- 6 times a day, you will still lose weight…even if one of your meals blows that out. (Blown out does NOT mean because it’s full of garbage, but because it’s full of calories- good calories). It will all kind of balance out. Portion sizing isn’t so hard once you stop letting yourself get hungry(see #2 above). If you wait until you’re hungry, all bets are off and you will pig out. Portion size is a huge key to weight loss!

4.)Cravings- I am thoroughly convinced that the other reason we “get hungry” is because of a false hunger induced by the chemicals in our food. This hunger is really masking the severe cravings caused by a sugar/refined carb addiction. Kick those and your hunger gauge (the hypothalamus gland) LITERALLY resets (I think I read this in the book UltraMetabolism).. I used to be ruled by cravings and I don’t really crave anything anymore.

5.)Carbs: Carbs are essential- it’s the quality of the carbs, and their portion size that will trip you up… and carbs are the #1 thing that trip people up. Eat the best quality you can. I still like mashed potatoes and biscuits and I still eat them. What is life without biscuits??? I just don’t eat 6 biscuits with dinner like I once did. I will eat 1 or 2 small ones with my chicken and vegetables. All carbs turn into sugar in your body. You want the best quality ones so they do it slowly. (I make my biscuits with unbleached flour, butter, stevia, sea salt, baking powder and organic milk).

6.)Veg your way to a dessert. Most desserts are carbs. If you are going to eat a dessert for 1 of your 6 meals (see note below on desserts), a great way to “save up calories” to offset that dessert that may have more calories (even though you made it with the best ingredients you could) is to have a salad sometime that day or a dish that is largely vegetables. Vegetables are so low calorie that your overall calories for that day (that you consumed) will still be in weight loss target range. Note- I do not recommend or any longer “need” dessert every day- another benefit of getting off ‘sugar crack.” You will start to really get psyched up and feel empowered when chocolate cake no longer has control over you. This year is the first time in my life that I can say that.

7.)Fitness note-muscles you rip from lifting weights need protein to rebuild themselves. Muscles that are rebuilding themselves speed up metabolism= burning fat! I throw raw sliced almonds or peanut butter on A LOT of things just to add that little bit of protein. A good rule is that if you are eating a carb, eat a protein with it- trust me, you need it. Keep in mind that yogurt, cheese, eggs, and nuts are proteins- so this isn’t as hard as it sounds.

8.)Dessert note #1: If you are going to have a dessert- do NOT have it directly after your meal, because that is really 2 meals; and you, therefore, just pigged out!. Oink. Wait the 2 ½ hours and then have it as its own meal (one of your 5 or 6). I also keep a good quality chocolate bar (I get the organic chocolate truffle bar at Trader Joes) and eat only one block if I get a desire for a sweet taste in my mouth. This sounds like a craving thing; but now that I have so drastically reduced sugar, I can tell you it’s not. Sometimes I only eat ½ a block. It’s the taste that I like to have remaining in my mouth after dinner sometimes. One block is only 45 calories!

9.)Dessert note #2: Still try to get some protein in with that thing! (I spread some of my full fat French vanilla yogurt on my apple pie or throw some almonds on my piece of cake… stuff like that- if you can). Note- the one time I made cake so far, I didn’t make icing. Top it with yogurt, strawberries, almonds, coconut…etc. Or, if you eat icing (which has more sugar and calories than the cake itself), recognize it and make up for it- or just call that day a break even day. You will probably maintain where you are or add a ½ lb; but it won’t be the end of the world. The kids put some of the organic chocolate syrup from TJs (the kind you make chocolate milk with) on theirs instead of icing.

10.)Good fat is good for you and will not impede your weight loss: butter, coconut oil, and olive oil are the 3 major ones I use all the time. They add a LOT of flavor in place of what you used to get from sugar and chemicals. The reason the Body for Life diet stunk is because you cut out sugar AND fat. Talk about bland (and nutritionally in error)! The NT (Nourishing Traditions) book goes into a lot of explanation of why we need good fat.

11.)Work your recipes: If you really like something, and we all do… take it and work that recipe til you can have it and not be screwing yourself up. Replace ingredients, search for a recipe version online that will work, whatever. I now have a version of strawberry shortcake and apple pie that I eat whenever the heck I want because I cleaned up the ingredient list and I balance it out with protein.

12.)The inner voice concept- I heard this somewhere and thought- what a bunch of New Age Crap!! But, the inner voice is really your body saying: “I’ve had enough. I don’t need anymore. You can stop eating now (til we meet again in 2-3 hrs).” I thought my “inner voice” was broken……but when I started paying attention, sure enough- it was there. I get to a point and know that if I keep eating past that point, I am now gorging. Gorging screws up all your fine tuned steady metabolism progress- you don’t want to do that. People typically are in the habit of gorging because it’s their natural response after getting hungry. Your body thought you were starving and now it’s saying “EAT!” Something in the back of your mind is saying, “you don’t know when you’ll eat again! Stuff it all in now!” But, if you have a plan, you now can turn that message off! AN interesting tidbit I also heard and learned was true: If you are watching TV, or have company and are involved in entertaining conversation, you won’t be paying attention to the voice. You’ll ignore it! It’s happened to me several times. I’ll be blabbing and realize I just ate WAY more than I would otherwise. I use this more than calorie counting or portion sizing, especially at dinner now.

13.)Compromise is different than cheating. I think success is in the compromises- at least it has been for me. I eat a little sugar- I make sure it’s organic evaporated cane juice and that it’s in small amounts. The yogurt I eat has that kind of sugar in it. It’s so good I feel like I’m eating dessert when I have it. If we go out to eat and I end up eating more than I probably should, I wait a while longer until I eat again. Eating a little more than you should is different than eating a whole pizza or half a cake. Sometimes I have pasta, but I don’t eat a whole plate of it like I once did. If you eat somewhere and have food full of goodness-knows-what, just do the best you can and know it’s a bump in the road. With a stable metabolism, your body can burn through something like that without throwing you off. I think the “cheat day” concept is very flawed. One meal can be handled. If you eat garbage for a whole day it’s another story.

14.)Make your calories matter. Calorie estimating is a basic way of losing weight that everyone knows works. But the critical thing that goes with that is making them the absolute best quality food (calories) as you can.

15.)Staple Starters are a must. Find 2 or 3 breakfasts, snacks, and lunches that work for you. Make them simple, something you like, something that hits your calorie range/ nutritional targets, and can always have on hand. An apple with peanut butter is something I like so I always keep that on hand. You want to have a basic foundation of “go-to meals” when you start or you’ll flounder. You can experiment from there. Liking your food is critical!!!!!

16.)The goal is for food to stop having such authority and control over you. To get rid of that control you need to keep from getting hungry and get rid of the addictive substances in your diet. Chemicals and hunger are what will take you over, no matter what your intentions. Whip those two and you will succeed.

17.) So, flavor is really the goal. I have made food one of my hobbies, spices make a huge difference so I’ve had to learn how to actually cook. I can’t cook instinctively much still, but I have worked enough recipes to keep a decent variety rotation going of things I know are healthy and that we like. I try to find a new recipe or try a new technique (I swear until recently I had never sautéed anything in my life). You don’t want to get bored with your food! That staple stuff from step #14 above will get really old if that’s all you eat. Keep it interesting and enjoy seeing your thin and energetic self again.

18.)Your body’s special needs: I have been blessed to find a natural health professional who is trained in muscle testing- a very accurate way of testing your body to pinpoint what it needs as far as supplements. Since I had more than one issue (which is an understatement) than I or a doctor could sort out by a blood test or guessing (and they all led to a ton of fatigue, it wasn’t just an iron issue), this was crucial for me to start feeling better and for my body to let go of the weight. I highly recommend this type of help. Interestingly, on my first appointment she encouraged me NOT to exercise. She said my body needed time to get what it needed from the supplements and heal- the stress of exercise would use all the effort it should be using to rebuild and clean up to facilitate the exertion. Thus the next tip:

19.)Don’t exercise unless you know you are well. There is always time to get tight and firm, but you need to be whole first.

20.) Exercise: I am no expert on this but I have to say I agree with what I read in the book, The Power of 10 (thanks Melody!), which is to do high intensity, short interval stuff. I also believe various forms of stretching are all very beneficial- yoga etc. I am still getting better so this will be something I know more in practice once I am stronger inside. Sex, by the way, is a great way to burn some calories and husbands are always willing to be supportive in that way, I have found.

21.)Water- drink it.

22.)Your spirit and heart: stress, anger, unforgiveness, all of those other nasty things create tension and keep your body from functioning at it's peak. Let go of them and you will be letting go of some weight too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nutrition and health part 1

I just sent these notes to a friend and decided to post them here. I quickly typed these up about two years ago (so forgive the errors), but they were the compilation of what I learned from multiple books. I hope you benefit in some way from them:

#1 Rule: If it was made in, modified in, or sprayed with something made in a lab, don’t:
Eat it, drink it, breathe it, cook on it, clean with it, drink out of it, or rub it on your skin (especially under your arms).

2. Cleaners: Basic H from Shaklee for cleaning. One bottle makes a gazillion cleaning bottles (it’s concentrated) and the stuff works for just about everything. The bottle lasts forever. Also, vinegar, peroxide, and baking soda are inexpensive ways to clean most anything. Good detergents for the dishwasher and washer are expensive, but there are easy recipes to make your own on the internet if you have the time.

3.Lotions, shampoos, cosmetics (especially kids products like baby soap!): look for paraben free (parabens are a synthetic estrogen and are in almost all commercial toiletry products as a preservative!) and lauryl/laureth sulfate free(linked with cancer). Burts Bee’s website has some additional stuff that they say they will never put in their products (and I think they list why- but I don’t remember them all). I know anything that says PEG and then a number is bad… There are a lot of alternative options for things like sunblock and bug spray if you look them up.

4.Replace Shortening with coconut oil or butter in recipes. I use Spectrum Expeller Pressed Organic Coconut Oil. They sell it at Food Lion. This stuff can be heated and used as a liquid oil too.

5.Replace any margarines, other sprays with butter (good quality butter is very good for you and I have been eating plenty of it while losing weight) or olive oil. There are other oils that are okay but I stick mostly with these 2 for everything.

6.Stevia is an awesome sweetener that is an herb. It has no calories and is literally the dried herb ground up. It works great in ice tea (it’s an acquired taste- give it a chance for your taste buds to adjust) and can be used in recipes in place of sugar where there’s small amounts. In recipes where there is a big volume of sugar which adds bulk to what you are making, it won’t work as a substitute (at least not totally- you could try half stevia and sugar or another sweetener- discussed below). Note: Not all Stevia tastes the same- try different companies. I get the white powder from Trader Joes. Grocery stores are now marketing two products: Truvia and Purevia. I am leery about these. They have stevia in them, but one has dextrose (which is a form of sugar!) and the other one I remember reading something questionable on the label…

7.Buy organic absolutely as much as you can. This is a financial commitment, but when you read what they spray food with you will realize how incredibly bad the non-organic stuff is. I had to phase this as our budget allowed. If you have to pick and choose, remember that fruits and vegetable with thinner skin likely have more chemicals in them. Things with an outer peel that you take off before you eat probably are a little better (like bananas).

8.Sugar is poison. This is not an exaggeration. It not only jacks up your blood, your brain, your mood, your metabolism and your skin; it robs your body of the nutrients that you thought you got from the other food you ate. I use Stevia, real maple syrup, honey, and unbleached organic sugar in small amounts when needed.

9.Don’t eat fried stuff as a rule. There is a way to make all things breaded by baking it.

10.If it’s white, don’t eat it. White flour, rice, etc. What you want to avoid is bleached, processed stuff. You want whole grain as much as possible. This stuff is very bad- right under sugar in that regard. As a matter of fact, it turns to sugar rapidly after entering your body. Potatoes are ok because they do have nutrients and aren’t processed; but if you are dieting, you want to keep them to a minimum.

11.Don't begin embalming yourself while you are still alive. Preservatives preserve food, but they also preserve the fat in you. They make food last longer on the shelf by killing it and putting chemicals in so it won’t rot. They do the same stuff in you.

12. Artificial anything: dye, color, flavors should be avoided. They’re chemicals. All chemicals mess with your brain and constantly more and more research is showing the overwhelming links to cancer and other diseases.

13. Water: filter for drinking (see NT book). I have a good well so I haven’t gotten a purifier yet. If you have city water you might want to also get a shower filter as you are bathing in chlorine. You know, the stuff that kills everything…. pouring over your skin that absorbs stuff so easily..

14.Meat: you want organic, free range, that is pesticide and hormone free (Poly Face Farms has good info and books). You want to get dairy products and eggs from these animals.

15.Herbs (they sell organic ones now) are awesome for flavor. Learn to cook with them. They have all kinds of healing and health benefits too!

16.Avoid MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). It’s in a LOT of spices. Jacks up your brain too.

17.Plastic leaches into liquid. Glass bottles are always best. This is even more of a big deal as it relates to temp. You don’t want to make ice tea in a plastic picture. The more I read the more I avoid plastic baggies and saran wrap too. I just flip a saucer upside down and cover most of my stuff. You wouldn’t want to drink water from a plastic bottle after it has gotten warm- but who knows how hot it got in transport?... find a good water bottle- glass or stainless steel- and use that.

18.Microwaves are bad. Good stoneware plates can heat up in the oven. Food designed to be microwaved is usually total garbage.

19.Pans- Use stainless steel, glass, stoneware, or cast iron. They coated stuff is very bad and aluminum is terrible.

20.Certain Fats are good (they talk about this a lot in the NT book) and needed by your body. I went back to full fat milk and yogurt and lots of butter!

21.Purify what you like- take recipes and switch out the bad ingredients for good replacements. This has worked well for me in a lot of instances.

22.Buy toothpaste without fluoride.

23. Water- you need it, drink plenty. It’s better without ice for digestive reasons. It’s better not to drink any or much with meals (it dilutes your digestive juices).

24.Avoid Soy- it causes reproductive harm!

25.Avoid Protein Powders/shakes/bars- bad. Exceptions: energy bar at Trader Joes: Greens Chocolate bar uses awesome real food ingredients. Cory uses these. Another exception that I’ve found is Jay Robb’s stuff. I am using his egg white protein right now. The chocolate kind mixes up in milk to make chocolate milk.

26.Cell phones can cause cancer. There’s plenty of research out there showing this. Use caution.

27.Shoe inserts are wonderful things. I got cheap ones at walmart but one day want to go to the “Good Feet” store where they will make you a custom one.

More in depth topics that are important to research and understand:

Thyroid Sugar Adrenal connection (adrenal exhaustion. Thyroid problems, diabetes)
Gut: flora balance
Yeast (and yogurt)
Blood panels and muscle testing
Resetting your Hypothalmus and appetite
Resetting your taste buds
Brain/ Gut connection
Food, herb, chemical affects on behavior/mood
Period as indicator
Pharmaceutical and food companies
To the extreme in a good way:
Grains: Sprouted
Dairy: Raw
Meat: grass fed only
Veggies: fermented

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

C.S. Lewis, Aunt Jemima and my deceitful heart

Happy Thanksgiving! We've been busy here the last two months getting the animals settled in for the cold season and working on more clean-up. Now that it is fall and the snakes have gone away to hibernate, we can trek in the woods without worrying about them. We've taken off two more truckloads of junk from the woods and cleared out even more brush and saplings. I think we'll be doing a full-fledged bonfire this weekend.

We may even finally start clearing some area for pasture- yesterday I flagged some pines for Cory to get with the chainsaw. My brother brought up his four-wheeler and trailer so we can haul heavier loads, which has already helped a lot. We want to buy seed and disk the existing pasture but that may have to wait until spring. The truck has needed even more repairs, and we still haven't fixed our plumbing yet. I even broke my camera. During such times, I look at my kids and the land and don't think about the plumbing or the ceiling or the bathrooms or the new noise the truck is making. It is also helpful to cover your ears and eyes and sing la-la-la over and over to yourself.

Fall has brought lots of family visits, and I've been working steadily with homeschooling. After five years I am finally in a groove and it is going well. We are getting solid days in each day and the kids are making great progress. Quinn is catching up quickly after being my practice child and Sam is so far ahead of where his age group normally is (with no prodding or pushing at all from me) that it's starting to become obvious he will graduate at least two years early and maybe more if I make any effort to keep him challenged. Quinn exhibits a level of understanding and maturity far beyond his age. Each child is so different in their gifts- it's so clear to me that, though templates are necessary for the basics of education, it's what happens outside of the templates that determines if their gifts will flourish.

I read about C.S. Lewis' childhood once and the image has stayed in my mind. The country place he summered (I think it was a relative's home) had books everywhere and he had endless time just to read... in quiet halls inside, and in quiet country outside. That is one of the reasons we have no television or video games. I want their minds and their spirits to develop unfettered. Do you understand what God can do with a mind and spirit unfettered? It is beautiful just to think about.

I noticed out the kitchen window the other morning one of my two little hens scratching away for bugs, as she normally does. They have become part of the landscape. I was worried there would be chicken poo everywhere when we got them, but there is enough room here that is isn't noticeable at all. What is noticeable is that they've really kept the number of bugs down. They are like little busy mamas always keeping the outside clean for us. I wish I could dress them in little aprons or little Aunt Jemima bandannas. They are our pest control and the cows are our lawn crew. (I haven't mowed since April).

The two hens are putting out two amazingly good eggs per day, which is just about perfect for a family of four, except when Cory wants an omelet and throws my numbers totally off. The rooster, however, is getting more annoying. He flogged me recently and then I proceeded to teach him a lesson with my rake. I don't see a long life in his future but Cory said he will trim his spurs, so that might help him see a few more days.

Overall, things have been relatively quiet here. We still have one vehicle, so it's just the kids and I during the week. They are finding more and more trees that they like to climb as we clear out the underbrush. Physically I do a lot of the same things over and over- teach, cook, clean, wash dishes, do laundry. My mind and spirit are busy with other things- things that are not yet but I hope will be soon.

This month marks my five year anniversary since I left the corporate world. Five years is a segment of time often associated with the word 'plan,' as in, five-year-plan. Though they have been the best five years of our lives so far, I still get very frustrated about things I haven't yet accomplished. In Revelation there is a section where God talks about people who still would not stop worshiping the work of their hands... things that they wrought themselves that they trusted in and worshiped and looked to instead of God. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" A deceived heart seems to always lead to the worship of the work of your hands, doesn't it? David asked God to search his heart. I also have to ask God about my heart. As much as I want, and I desperately want, to accomplish certain things I have my heart set on, there is nothing worthy of placing my hope in above God Himself, whom I already have.

We already have Him. We, believers in Christ, already have Him. It was in the language of all of us over-achievers with deceived hearts that Jesus uttered His last words, "It is finished." He rescued us from ourselves and is giving us daily what we need, even working to bless us with some of our wants- but I believe those wants always are being checked against the state of our heart. So I am trying to daily quit striving and let my heart be conformed by gratitude. If I feel strife, I immediately know that I've pushed into the realm of trying to take or earn what God had freely given, or is withholding for His perfect purposes, or will freely give... in His perfect timing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The beginnings of fall

We closed out August with the arrival of our first egg from the hens, and with Cory finishing his fancy chicken coop just in time. We then crossed the 1 year mark of closing on this place and I wrote out a list of all we've gotten done in one year. Looking at it on paper, it was easy to see we've come a long way and made huge strides in shaping the grounds, house, and plans we have- it was a rewarding exercise since it's easy to concentrate on all that's left to do.

Sam decided to become a Christian. I prayed with him the morning of September 1st. There aren't really words to say more about that. Cory will baptize him.

Around here, we have been working on cleaning up the grounds and taking care of some essentials. We had gravel delivered for our mudslide of a driveway right before Hurricane Earl was scheduled to arrive and got a pick up truck load of the wood chips the electric company left on the land loaded up and spread between the front flower beds. Hopefully this will reduce the amount of mud that we drag in each time we enter the house. Never name a room "mudroom," by the way- you are prophesying over it. I also called a scrap metal crew, who came and literally filled a pull-behind full size trailer with metal from all around the grounds.

My brother Mike came up for a visit last week and we had a great time showing him the area. Saturday we picked up some steamed crabs and ate them outside on a makeshift table of sawhorses and siding. We then all geared up and did some clearing. Mike dropped three large trees for me with his whopping chainsaw and then we cleared out a lot of saplings before grilling out burgers. We got the firepit going just as dark arrived and had s'mores- all in all a productive and fun day.
Sunday Cory and I drug out a lot of the saplings and piled them up, then loaded up a truck bed full of shingles the previous owner left on the ground to rot. We are slowly but surely cleaning the place up.

That's the update: one full year and lots of plans for next year. Cory's vacation is coming up so we will be constructing some type of winter shelter for the cows during that week. They have already had to switch to hay because the grass is no longer sufficient.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Yuppies, school, and fall

Cory smacked me on the forehead with the heel of his hand the other night and said loudly, "Yuppy out!" I was telling him how a little piece of me sometimes still wants to do things associated with yuppiness, so he felt an immediate exorcism was in order to cast out any remaining yuppy. I'm glad I can count on him when I have those moments.

The air is finally starting to cool off and it feels wonderful to be outside. We've been shifting gears for the start of the school year. It's another year of choosing hard things so that good fruit comes later. I've been improvising with materials I have on hand. Our world isn't rocked when school time comes, we just pick up our books and start. So many people tell me they could never homeschool because it must be so hard; but I am always amazed at what people and their kids have to deal with who don't homeschool. Surely, I've got it easier. The kids memorized John 1:1 and 2 last week. We had a wonderful little discussion about the trinity and how big God's brain is compared to ours since it's hard for us to understand how "the Word was with God and the Word was God." They've been outside more since it is finally cooling off some- it's baseball and swinging and reading- just they way a kid's day should be.

The other night Cory came home exhausted, and helped make the gravy seasoned with basil and sage from the garden. We sat down and ate dinner while the kids told him about their science experiment that day; and he told them how good the green beans they picked were. Sam went on and on saying, "Now I know why you wanted a garden Mom! You can just go pick your food and it's free! This gravy is so good, I bet it's because of the stuff in it from the garden! Dad showed me a carrot when we were outside. I bet you can't wait to make those carrots for dinner, Mom!" I was encouraged that they are growing an appreciation for good food and independence.

We recently looked at our project list for the fall:

Make a hoop house hayshed
Weatherproof the house for winter
Clear several new areas for fields
Get plumbing issues straight
Address driveway problems
Clean out the garage
identify and install alternative heating

I think our collective eyes rolled back in our collective heads at that point. One day at a time. One day at a time. We'll see you back here when we can grab a minute; in the meantime enjoy this weather and these days.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Sometimes I happen to notice that I get angry easily... at people.... at the whole culture. As I was thinking about this today when pondering another completely disproportional response I had to a particular situation, I noticed that the word 'agriculture' is almost a smooshing together of the words describing my disposition. When I have to deal with people in any type of stressful situation, I cannot wait to retreat back to my patch of dirt. Having to interact with (most) people tires me emotionally. The exception is when the person isn't trying to get something from me, or persuade me, or sell me something, or assume something about me, or manipulate me, or judge me. As you may guess, my friend list is short; despite what Facebook says... and I am okay with that.

Mom and Dad had some sort of weird gene that passed to a lot of us. I can't name the gene, but if I had to I would call it the "extreme-need-to-make-other-people-comfortable-that-often-backfires(except with the most virtuous of people) because- they-get-so-comfortable-they-feel-empowered-to-do-things (like those described in the preceding paragraph)-that-cause-a-major-anger-reaction-after-they-are-no-longer- present" gene. If it weren't for observing it in some of my siblings, I would think I was the only one with this problem on the planet. That's because no one with this problem ever lets anyone see the anger...that would defy the first part about making them feel comfortable, despite what they do to you.

I don't really have this problem as much with people I actually love. Somehow I seem to extend them more grace, to give them a little more slack, the benefit of the doubt. It actually seems the people I love don't do these things- at least nowhere near as much... maybe I am just good at picking awesome people to love. Other people...I am still learning... trying to figure out how to love them. I guess this comes naturally for some really wonderful Christians out there... but I am still clinging to the verse that covers step one in the love-them process: "Be angry, but do not sin," which might as well come out and say, "be angry, but don't punch them in the face."

How does one go from step one to step two and finally all the way to truly loving people who do such obnoxiously offensive things? I don't know. Keep trying I guess. Recently I got a little bit of an idea from one of my sisters. She shared an example of how many times there are reasons behind why people act a certain way; and if we knew their hurts we would give them way more grace then they would even know what to do with for the way they are acting now. It would be helpful to know their stories up front, wouldn't it? But they won't tell us unless we love them first. Maybe they never tell us. But I think I am starting to see that no one starts out a jerk and no one has to end up one. If we only love people who aren't jerks, love will never be there to penetrate the hearts of the jerks so they stop being jerks. The bible says, "While we were yet (jerks) sinners, Christ died for us." Loving is the only commandment in the New Testament. God knew what we'd be dealing with out here. So it has to be done. Loving jerks, that is.

If you find yourself angry with the culture while you are doing this, though... may I suggest a patch of dirt? While you are out there tending to the trees or bushes or gardens or chickens you can work out all that anger so that when you do have to go back in (to the culture)-- you can do what you need to do. I think this is a wonderful, wonderful secret that has been held by farmers for ages. It's probably why just the word 'farmer' still makes people feel good... like something is right with the world. That's because all this time those men and women I imagine have taken their brothers' offenses (and their own anger about them) and cast them to the sky or ground or water--- anywhere they were working that day---- and then came back, loved them, invited them onto their porch, and gave them a glass of tea. There may be other ways to do this, but I don't know any other way that works for me.

(Special thanks to all the people who have done this for me).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bigger, Faster, Shiny

Last week I wrote a blog about how we got this house; and about God showing me how my design matches up with this house after all if we just work together to make some changes and line a few things up. I was sure and I believed it. Down to the inch.

Then my faith faltered a bit... over the weekend something came along that was shiny. You know how something shiny catches your eye and distracts you? Well I don't count myself as the type who gets distracted by shiny things anymore. As a matter of fact, much of the peace and happiness I've enjoyed over the recent few years could be linked to disregarding shiny things; or simply put, saying no: no to an activity, no to a commitment, no to an opportunity (oh so many) and no to even some relationships. I was starting to think I was invincible to shiny distractions, but I'm not. A really big shiny one came along.

It caught my attention because I thought maybe we could fast forward a bit and mostly because I thought we could have more time together as a family. I miss my husband a lot. I am grateful for his job, but he works really long hours.

We were informally offered a partnership in the very type of food we are starting to do for ourselves (grassfed beef, etc.) with a farmer who has a massively large piece of property. All of the sudden I decided maybe all the design stuff was something I misheard, because goodness, how shiny this was. I spent the entire week doing my thing that I do... market analysis, profitability margins, feasibility studies, structure options, cashflow and capital considerations etc. etc. (ad nauseum). That's sort of what I do even when I don't want to-- business modeling in my head. Some people lay awake at night and think about the show they just watched on TV. I lay awake and run a feasibility analysis for my latest idea. It's true. [side note: just so you aren't confused, I have two core businesses: my art business and my idea business. The idea business will launch multiple sub-businesses but I will not manage those long term... oh, and then there is the farm business which will be Cory's, should we do it].

So anyway, we are admittedly enamored by the farmstead lifestyle and the lure of self-employment for both of us. It's what we are working toward. This opportunity looked like that, but bigger and faster. So I took a week. Today was my meeting. I'm not sorry I took a week. Sure, I got behind on a few things, but now I know. I had dismissed the opportunity earlier in the year but the lure of Cory being included was, I think, sufficient grounds for the time it took to give it ample consideration. When all is said and done the terms won't make sense for us. We don't do risk like we used to, we are a little older and a little wiser. We also don't burn time like we used to because we are simply...older.

I pulled back into my driveway at the end of the day today and couldn't help but smile to myself. Our cows were there waiting on us, everything was still lovely and peaceful...and smaller and slower.... and it seems that's just the way I like it. The work on the house that needs to be done didn't seem so bad after all, and I felt at ease again. I am reassured and still believe God has designed this house, this place and plenty of good plans for us, down to the inch. I will get to the work I need to each day, and Lord let it be just enough so that I don't miss a day of my babies growing or an evening of putting dinner in front of the man I love.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Roosters. I don't recommend them. As I've mentioned, this term "animal husbandry" was a polite way of addressing what animals do in their bedroom, or on your front yard, as it stands. I don't like to know about these things and I sure as heck don't want to witness them when they become strange. My rooster has decided that the five female ducks are more attractive to him than his two hens, and he has been attacking them. I don't particularly enjoy, run-out-and-shoo-the-rooster-off-the-duck patrol. As if I don't have enough to do.

I say rooster needs to lose his head. Cory says we need a rooster if society goes awry so that he can fertilize some eggs to hatch and replenish our flock. Me: You think it will be so bad we can't find a rooster? Cory: We're not getting rid of the rooster. Me: Okay I am starting to think we are a little bit out there like everyone else thinks. Cory: We're not getting rid of the rooster.

I hate arguments with him. You can't get him to stop saying the same thing over and over unless you splash water in his face. I don't recommend this. In summary, I don't recommend roosters and I don't recommend splashing water in your husband's face. If you do the first, you may have to do the second so just don't get a rooster. Unless you don't have ducks. Then it might be okay. But slapping and splashing are still out.

I should have realized the thing was going to be getting frisky soon because he obviously just went through puberty. He started trying to crow and just got out one scratchy syllable. Over the last several weeks he's added one syllable at a time, and volume, until he finally reached a full cocka-doodle-doo. So, every morning, instead of just my neighbors' co-dependent insomniac roosters' crowing (there's one on each side), there are now three. We call it the A.M. crow-off, though it happens randomly throughout the day too.

Other than that, I am sharing some pictures from our last week or so. We harvested our first basil...the boys found a frog and a bluejay's nest with babies that were almost ready to fly, judging from their feathers. Cory cut down a dying. leaning tree and chopped it up for firewood after replacing the chainsaw blade. Fall is now just around the corner and I am wondering how that is even possible.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Four Brothers- part 1, brother 1

That was a title of a 2005 movie starring Mark Wahlburg. It was about two black and two white boys who had been adopted and raised by the same woman, and how they handled things when someone killed their mom. (I caught an edited tv version several years ago; I'm pretty sure the unedited has some bad parts...too bad because it was an awesome movie otherwise). I have five brothers, but three of them I don't know very well- that's just how things pan out in a large family. The other two I am close to. Add Eric and Hinton and there are my four. This post, I will introduce you to Kenny.

Kenny is 45, nine years older than me. I thought Kenny was so cool when I was little that I thought he invented certain cool words like jerk and puke. If Kenny took Mom to the grocery store and I got to ride along I would get to listen to Quiet Riot all the way there. I still know all the words to Mental Health, a classic. Kenny was probably one of the only kids on the planet, when they quit school, whose parents were told, almost in an embarrassed regretful tone by the school administration, that he was so intelligent that he was bored. He made Star War X-wing fighters out of the cardboard from the Lipton tea bag boxes and when he was done, they looked better than our neighbors' manufactured toys. Kenny also took me fishing when I was a kid and let me play Dungeons and Dragons with them every once in a great while. (I was always the woods girl whose card had an archer on it).

He joined the army when I was in the fourth grade and then was exalted to untouchable cool status because he had amazing basic training stories- which were nothing short of exotic to a bunch of kids who barely ever left the hollow. Not only that, but he worked on Apache helicopters. While he was in Texas for his four years, we all moved to South Carolina. When he came back to Pennsylvania after he got out, we weren't there any more. This has always bothered Kenny... but I've learned that all of us have places we can never go back to in life.

When I was in the twelfth grade, Kenny called down to SC and said that if I really wanted to go to Penn State, I could come live with him for the rest of my senior year so that I could get in-state tuition. I packed my bags and left SC like a man who had just wrapped up a prison sentence and was going home (though I am grateful for the friends, bible belt influence, and sweet tea I found there). Penn State wouldn't give me in-state tuition, so Kenny encouraged me to join the Air Force. It was very good for many reasons, probably more than I even know. I almost didn't go when it actually came time to leave for boot camp, but I decided I couldn't let Kenny down after all the help he had given me. I met Cory while I was in the Air Force and was stationed here, in my beloved Virginia.

Kenny is an avid history buff and when he starts talking about the Franks or the Goths I either just nod and smile or come right out and tell him I have no idea what he is talking about. Dumb it down for me, bro, they didn't cover that in the 2 paragraphs my public school text book offered on the subject. There's hope, though, because since I have been homeschooling I am finally learning history. Whenever I visit I try to drop key words to show off and impress my ample-brained sibling. It's kind of amusing and insulting at the same time when the engineers at Harley happen to ask what Kenny thinks of something in the plant and then they present it at one of their management meetings and get promoted. He also knows all about politics- way more information than I could ever handle sifting through- and is decidedly conservative, though his blue collar union dues are funneled to exclusively liberal candidates every damn election year (emphasis and cursing added on his behalf).

All of this bragging is being done completely behind his back, he is not prideful at all. If your car breaks down he will lay his colossal brain down on the dirt and look under it for you to see what is the matter. Kenny is the type of guy that everyone in the family knows they can call if they need anything and he will be there. To be that person is sometimes a burden, but he accepts it because, try as he might, he can't seer out of his make up the good qualities that make him so loyal. He's been working at Harley Davidson for many years now and is about to step out into his own niche business. He carries the same weight most of us in the family have had to carry- the inability to shirk responsibility to pursue our dreams. We've all known since we were very young that there were no free rides in a family of fourteen, and we had to make sure there was food on the table. That makes for a painfully, painfully slow dream pursuit... but the turtle in the story always gets there, doesn't he?

Kenny restored a convertible Firebird and likes to drive it down through the hollow. He loves the hollow more than any of us, I do believe. When he researched our family tree a few years back he found out that our great grandpa lived right around the corner from where we grew up and probably played in the same creeks we did as kids. History, childhood, and natural beauty... no wonder he likes it there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A note from the non-omniscient

Well, as it turns out, I don't know everything I thought I knew. My last blog was about God and this house and His plans and workings; and yesterday I discovered that I really don't have it all figured out at all. I guess it was the wise Mark Mroz who told me once that sometimes God puts things in motion to get you to a certain place, not because that is the final destination, but so He can take you to the next place. He has to get you to one point in order to launch from there to the next. You live too far away, our long-bearded friend.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting Here Part 2: The best house hunter

So that messy, rambling last post described how we finally got the guts and the opportunity to leave the rat race. This one is about this last little leg of the journey.

I've been interested in homes for longer than I can remember. Sometime in elementary school, I remember my sisters redoing mom's bathroom with strawberry wallpaper, and I wanted to hang a little Strawberry Shortcake picture I had in it.

Mom never had what most women had. She turned 75 yesterday, and as I was thinking of her, one word came to mind that always comes to mind- contentment. Mom knows how to be content with whatever. Maybe she didn't learn it gracefully; maybe at some point before the period I can remember, she felt restless or like striving.....but I've never seen it. I've never seen that woman strive after anything. I can't say I take after mom in that respect, though it is something I'm striving to do. Woops. Anywho, the thing I've probably strived after the most is my idea of a home.

A lovely little cottage is something that's been in my heart for a long time. Whether you realize it or not, there are many aspects to a home that affect your sense of well being. There is an art to making a home lovely and it, in my mind and heart, involves a whole set of experiences that has less to do with what you hang on the wall and more to do with your overall sense of comfort, space, balance, and light.

When Cory and I bought our first house I started my first great striving project... I mean, remodeling project. We just got the bones of the thing finished when we had to put it on the market because the coffeeshop was pulling us under. Right before we left there I remember starting to think about building our own house... the idea was wonderful to me. To have something exactly the way I wanted it was more than alluring. Fast forward past many rentals, a house we bought and sold in less than a year, another rental, then our move to the country, and two more rentals. It was during the first rental after the move to the country that I started drawing.

What can you do when you are renting a place with an oven handle that looks like it came off a Buick? Draw. I spent a ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous, amount of time drawing the floor plan and elevations of the house I wanted ... every free second I had for an entire year to be exact. I not only had the house in my head, but we wanted to build it for cash on a large piece of land in the country... kind of a lofty plan, I admit, when you are living from paycheck to paycheck; but that's how a zealot rolls (at least, in their head).

I researched construction loans, garage apartments to get us on the land, living in a yurt (that's a round tent), etc.etc. It's a conflicting experience when on one hand you know you have to have a set of quad arched french doors in a jamb as thick as an English built manor, but on the other hand you want to be totally debt free and minister to orphans. Hmmm.... a bit of a quandary. God listened as I wrestled with him over these things. I even talked with him about how foolish I felt for caring about something that seemed to matter so little like beauty in a home. He straightened me out on that one though. It seems God likes beauty too and doesn't feel it's a waste of time at all. He sort of invented it. He is it.... if you want to be totally accurate. He patiently walked me through what was really behind my ideas... seeing the beauty outside that He created, feeling His peace... I wanted a home that emanated Him.

In the spring of last year when we were ready to start looking for land, I spent an inordinate amount of time on the internet. We had a huge area we could look in and it was still like finding a needle in a haystack. I had no idea land was so hard to find. It seems that every piece of decent land is bought up by a "developer" who destroys it and turns a small fortune by building a "community." I was getting discouraged. It looked like all we would be able to afford, with financing, was a garage apartment with a ridiculously termed construction loan. So I go back to God. What's the deal God? So I've made this place sort of a little, teeny, tiny idol. It's okay to want something, right?

TTTHEEENNNN, after wrestling a little more, I say, "Okay God. If you want us to just buy a place, I will do that. I want this house that I've drawn, but if you have something different, I give you permission to override my wants." Did you know God is a gentleman? A lot of people don't know that. That's why Jesus says "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." He doesn't kick in your door. You always have a free choice, free will. He had this place waiting for us all along but would not override my efforts without my permission. Of course His plans for us are always better than what we can do; but, even so, He is a gentleman; a gentleman who also happens to not want His lady having any other gods before Him. So I go back to the computer and find an ad on Craig's list for this place on all this land. I love this place, this gift from God. He even made sure my beloved beech trees were here. But it gets better.

Cory and I bought it feeling sure God gave us the land and the place to stay in while we built the house I designed; as sort of a giant addition (how we would pay for it and find the time, I can't tell you). I started wrestling again recently with my drawing, and our finances, and this place...wondering how we'd ever make that happen. The other day after I broke out my drafting paper and starting working on version gazillion, everything started to click into place. God started giving me eyes to see that it's almost all done. I can have almost exactly what I wanted by making some modifications and adding less than 200 square feet. LESS THAN 200 SQUARE FEET. At one point I calculated 7 feet and 10 inches to fit in the french doors on the west side exactly where I want them. I went inside the closet to measure how much room the air handling system was taking up on that wall and... surprise surprise...7' 10" exactly.

I can't say we're totally done but I'm pretty sure I see how it all will fit together now. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't have been able to fit everything in such a small place on my own. I had tried and my drafts kept ballooning up into megahouses instead of the small cottage that I wanted. It looks like I have a good designer though. I think it's gonna be good.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Step off Canero (Latin for Cow)

Did you KNOW that a bull (or steer for that matter) can smell when you are ovulating and try to mount you? It's a good thing I am always on my guard to ensure Caramel doesn't lick my head. I'll let him lick my hand or arm, but not my face- absolutely not. That's where I draw the line. I have this animal spit phobia. Yesterday, dude starts to move his head toward me while I'm pulling up his stake right next to him and I step back (to avoid a cow lick) just in time to see Mr. Cow isn't trying to lick me, he's raised up on his back legs. Um. No.

So, I ask Cory what the deal is- the cow has no "hormonal storage areas" remaining, I say. Cory says it doesn't matter, they try it anyway. This is a problem for two reasons. #1: Buttercup is a petite little thing and she can't have Caramel on her when they can finally dwell in the same pasture (if that ever happens- right now they still can't stop assaulting each other in other ways). #2: Caramel is going to get a LOT bigger. I can't be having a 1000 lb. steer coming after me. Huh-uh. There is a term called animal husbandry that means the practice of raising and breeding livestock. I always thought that was a weird vocabulary combination to choose- why animal husbandry? What about wifery or couplery? Now it all makes sense, though, because, at least in our household, I've decided it means that when the animals get too big or dangerous, your husband's going to have to do all the work. Somebody call Webster so he can add definition number two.

These are little things you don't think about ahead of time because you just don't know. Our plan was for the ducks to go to the creek and dig it out, eat the bugs, and make that their home area. While they were growing, though, we had them in the field with the cows. We didn't know that the ducks would think Caramel is their mama. If he moos, they quack back. "MMMOOOOOO!!! QUACK quack quack!" is sort of the system they have set up. It turns out the ducks don't want to be far from their mama at all- they want to hang out in the field burrowing little holes in it all the time instead of the creek. Great.

The gardening thing isn't exactly going as planned either. We've got nice looking basil and corn growing, but something keeps eating the bean leaves. The carrots seem to be doing well from what we can see of them. Many of the other things either got scratched up by the chickens or choked out by the weeds before we knew they were weeds. Maybe some of it just never germinated, I don't know. After a snake showed up in the lower garden last week, I lost a little zeal for tending to it. The basil appears to be ready to harvest so I need to figure out how to dry it. It's on my to do list. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. You can't learn unless you get started.... this being our first go at everything, I think we're doing all right.

The wild blueberry bushes that are strewn down the ravine have started to fruit so the boys and I went picking last week. We didn't even plant or tend to the things and got a harvest from them- very nice. We had picked a few blackberries earlier in the month too but I know now that those bushes need to be better tended to- the drought and heat got to them. By next year I am going to have them cleaned up and plan to keep them watered. It was still fun picking what we did. There is no other smell that reminds me so much of being a kid than blackberries. In Pennsylvania they are along almost all the country roads in the Hollow. Have I mentioned it's only by God's protection none of us ever got bitten by a snake when we were kids? Looking back, it's really amazing. In case I never sent a shout out to my guardian angel, props to my angel. You are wildly under-recognized, my friend.

It looks like I will be finishing up Sam's floor today. I only have a few more rows to go. The rest of my time I have been using to prepare for the coming school year- we are starting early. I guess I am a glutton for punishment or, more than likely, an idealism zealot, because I am sticking with my classical trivium baseline for their education. That means we are going to start getting our feet wet with Latin this year- alphabet, phonograms, pronunciation, vocabulary, and some phrase memorization- no grammar- not yet. I found an awesome site:

You can go to it and see any verse of the bible in Latin. It looks like Latin is beautiful. The Bluedorns, in their incredible book, Teaching the Trivium (no darn underline feature in this Blogger site!), said that 80% of the vocabulary of the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian,etc.) is Latin... "It is like having a ticket to Europe or to South America with an 80% reduction in price." Wow. The Bluedorns taught their kids Greek, Latin, and Hebrew; used original sources to study history and literature; and basically wrote an astounding how-to for teaching in the classical model from a biblical perspective. They show clearly how the three components of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) weren't begun in Greek and Roman culture at all, but in the very word of God...called knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Amazing stuff. If I were ever to kidnap anyone, it would be the Bluedorns. Oh, and they have a Jersey cow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Put up or shut up

There was a lady named Ellen that worked at Cox when I worked there. She was probably the age I am now, though at that time I thought she was quite "middle-aged" aka "old- er." Once I got to that job and did my little I- have- this-mastered routine, I started whining about how I hadn't been promoted and how I was being undervalued and how another company would love to have me as an asset. One day Ellen just said, Well, then go. She wasn't rude about it... which is probably why it was so profound to me.

There have been times since then when I can hear Ellen, Ellen Cavitt was her name, telling me to put up or shut up in her tactful way and I realize that I have been running my mouth about something for WAY longer than anyone (namely Cory) should ever have to listen to (even if he is contractually obligated). Today is one of those days.

I have been whining and complaining for years about how I don't have the resources, or the time, or the money to do what I want to do. First I needed the time. Now I have the time. Then I needed the place. Now I have the place. Now I need the money and the ability to juggle everything. Unfortunately, most of my time is taken up whining about how I don't have time to juggle everything, which is precisely why I don't have the time to juggle everything. You know, I don't remember another word Ellen ever said.. but there she is. again. Either do it or shut up about it, Jackie.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

McGyverWalden and Cottage Industries

Do these blogs often seem like random thoughts all crammed together? Well imagine what is still IN my head and have a little grace.

Along with the outside stuff, we still have a serious amount of work to do in the house. I finally got back to working on Sam's floor. My brother Mike gave us a massive pile of leftover wood from miscellaneous hardwood floor jobs he had done last summer. We spent a day sorting it into types and sizes. I had enough to do the kitchen and mudroom, and still have quite a bit left. I didn't care if the sizes were varied (I like that actually) or the grade of wood because I am painting them... so what would have probably been trashed is now free remodel material. I love painted floors, they're very cottage-y.

This past weekend we couldn't do the projects we had planned so I set out to continue my woods thinning in the area that you see out the kitchen window and Cory set out to tear down the shed extension (please nobody mention I posted a picture of him in his holy work pants, and I don't mean consecrated unto the Lord). I knew Cory was smart when I married him, but I can't overerstate the vast array of things he has been able to take on and figure out since we've been here. He has fixed, made, and modified more than I could begin to tell you. Even though our funds are so dried up it's laughable, I still like to say things like, "Do you know how much it would have cost to have hired someone to do that? Then in our minds we are SO ahead. That's called McGyver compensation psychology.

I like this duck picture. How can you not like this?
These little birds were looking out of their birdhouse today hungrily waiting on food, but too tired to stay awake. I can totally relate. We also found this dung beetle carrying off some crap. I can also totally relate. I know. Get out more, Jackie. Touche'. As a matter of fact, since the van has been broken and I haven't gone to karate (or anywhere for that matter) during the week I feel myself really nestling in- like I am hitting my stride a little bit or something. [Cory and I have decided I am the anti-Oprah).

Quinn, ever the naturalist, was ecstatic with our findings. He knows all about most of the things we find and tells me all kinds of facts. I haven't read extensively about wald kindergarten (, but what I have read is very much in sync with what is in my gut. They know there is a difference between wissen, "to know about something," and kennen, "to know by experience;" and they have sought to reclaim kennen for their children. I love that.

Two weekends ago when I was in Pennsylvania, my brother Kenny gave us a tour of his shop. Quinn is interested in the models Kenny will be making, so Kenny gave him a very kennen experience. He single handedly put together a plastic injection mold facility and is preparing to start his own company. He bought his own used equipment, repaired it, taught himself how to use it, and modified it for his needs. He also is teaching himself the CAD interface to make the molds he needs to cut the models he will make.

That is called a cottage industry. They are what this country was made of before the industrial revolution. It's what I want to do with the business I hope to open. I think, along with the revival of the family farm, it's the best path for our country's citizens to take from where we are economically and environmentally. I do.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Getting here part 1: freedom and feminininity

Part 1 A:
This picture was taken three years ago on the 4th of July. Cory and I had gotten into the habit of stealing away with the kids every weekend we could to be in the country and talk about where we could live. He had started to get familiar with a lot of Gloucester and the surrounding area because he was running those routes for UPS. This particular weekend we decided to venture into Urbanna. What I loved about Hampton (where we lived ever since we were married) was that it was a water town. We could walk to the end of our street and see Chesapeake Bay. Urbanna is a gorgeous little water town nestled in the country and just the ride to get there is beautiful... lots of beauty, lots of space, lots of air. I could breathe.

I don't know for sure if it was this weekend or one close to it, but we started to really like the area and talk about maybe moving to it someday... but it was such a long drive from Cory's job. Sometime the next winter I became sure I was ready to leave our life in Hampton. But, we found out that UPS does not allow transfers. There was no way. Then God worked his Godness, and that spring UPS moved the country routes out of Newport News to a country center; and asked for driver volunteers who wanted to go with them. We only had a few weeks to decide. We left within 30 days.

We rented around his center, which is north of here, and when we were finally ready to buy we decided we wanted to be half way between his new location and our old life in Hampton... so here I sit, 3 years later- a hop, skip, and jump from Urbanna.

I had at least one friend that was concerned for me during that time. "What if," she said. What if I needed to re-enter the workplace? In other words, what if Cory failed and I had to provide for us again? It took many painful years and God pulling us through a mess so that I could be home and begin walking toward the life I wanted. Having to go back to that was one of my greatest fears and a well worn road in our past. But I had been home for a year and a half... God was providing...What to do?


There are a million reasons this country is beloved by those in it. The one I usually think of first is that I can lay down to sleep at night without fear. There are places where mamas have to lay down at night, not knowing what type of militant psychos are going to act up at any given moment; and I can't imagine getting any rest like that. My mama bear instinct would be all flared up ALL the time. Putting your kids safely in bed at night where they are warm and fed is something many, many, many men bled so that I could do and I don't take it lightly.

Many of us have watched as, in just the short years that we've been alive, the government of our country has changed. It has started to morph- the philosophies on which it was operating are changing at breakneck pace. Part of me really understands that the people behind these changes believe they are doing good. I even understand the reasoning. I used to be a liberal back in school- from around late middle to early high school and I was quite vocal about it. Sure I was young, but I had positions on issues.

Looking back now it's embarrassing. I believed I was espousing what was right, which just happened to be in line with what the news channels and educational mainstream thought. It was nice to be on the majority "winning" team. I thought the women who were leaders in the conservative arena appeared weak. Most of them wore motherhood like a crown. I wanted to be a mother but it wasn't the only thing I was capable of doing. The subservient wife role I saw the women around me play as their husbands neglected them and left them with no options was something I never wanted to repeat. I wanted to be sure and have my own money, my own career, my own life.

A lot of the positions I held could be rationalized, but I hit a brick wall one day and couldn't get around it on the issue of abortion. Nothing in my brainwashed little head could rationalize killing unborn babies. At that point, despite my political bent, I had been a christian for a good 7-9 years. The Holy Spirit, known by many names, among which is the Spirit of Truth and the Great Counselor, knotted my stomach on this. I loved children. I always had. I looked at the scripture. It refuted what these well-educated progressive thinking leaders were saying. Then I started looking at the other things they were saying in light of the scripture and started to walk into understanding.

There is no treasure map more intriguing than the bible. It says things like those who lose their life will find it. Those who seek to preserve their life will lose it. How does that make sense? It doesn't with a carnal mind. The scripture actually says that the Holy Spirit is necessary to be able to interpret the scripture. That, until you believe by faith, it is impossible to have your heart impressed with the understanding of what the words are really saying. They (the words) are speaking to our spirit and the Holy Spirit, which we receive when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, is the secret decoder ring. No decoder ring, no understanding.

Femininity is something gifted to our gender. It came under assault during the decade I was born. I haven't researched it, but I think feminism (have you ever noticed women who are textbook "feminists" are anything but feminine?) was rooted in a response from women who were mistreated by men. They decided they didn't need men, didn't want men, were an equivalent to men, were better than men. Then, irony upon irony, they decided they would reject men ultimately by becoming like men.

Trusting a man isn't easy and I advocate extreme measures of evaluation before you marry. I also am most definitely NOT advocating that a woman stay in an abusive situation. But, let's talk about the married rest of us. We've all seen husbands trample on their wives. I can't say that I've never felt trampled. But closing your life up to protect your heart imprisons you. If I had insisted on staying in Hampton so I could be close to employment to protect myself from all of the what-ifs that might happen, we would have never come here; and I'm so glad we did. Any person who loves someone (and I still loved Cory) must make themselves vulnerable to that person. You cannot escape it. There is always the possibility that you will be hurt. And sometimes even someone who does love you very much hurts you because they are imperfect, just like you.

So the secret-decoder-ring truth that I found about femininity (irony upon ironies) is that it is strength, not weakness. It is essential to love a man. Femininity is unique to a woman and essential for her man to be fully masculine- exactly what she wants him so much to be. It frees you from trying to be for him what he alone can be. This is scary, I know. But, the scripture says there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. Casting out fear in your own heart takes much more strength than battling the essence of masculinity. The rewards are much greater too.