Category Archives: Thoughts

Most Important Life Decision EVER

There is one decision that affects everything in your life for the rest of your life in almost every aspect of your life.  It affects your work life, your ability to live a simple life, and live the life you want.  If this decision is made correctly it won’t actually be a decision, as all of your body, soul and mind will want/need this to happen.  It’s not about where you live, go to school, your diet, your job or even if you have kids.  This “decision” is who you marry, or the decision not to marry until you find the right person for you.

Built in Support

Marrying the right person means you have a built in support system.  By built in support system, I don’t mean someone who agrees with everything you say.  If you want that,  buy a trained parrot who says “Yes”.  When I say the support system, I mean someone who will be your calmer mind when you are crazy.  Someone who helps your remember your real, long-term goals.  However, you are part of your spouse’s support system, too.  But when you are with the right person, you are happy to be able to be their support.  You with both need to be strong for each other at different times.

There will be moments that you don’t feel like being the support, but you will have to push through.  There will be times when this person does the same for you.  Getting support and giving support is a true blessing and makes a lot of life’s difficulties easier to deal with.

This support also means you always have a soft place to fall.  You still fall.  And you still learn life’s lessons.  But you have someone to run to.  My husband doesn’t solve all of my problems, but we are a team.  We brainstorm, or we listen, or we even just laugh together.  If someone is awful to me, and I tell Chris about it, I know he will be there to agree with me.

However, a good partner is also that mirror that we all  need.  He points out that maybe I am at fault for somethings that have upset me.  Granted, this doesn’t make me feel great in the moment, but it allows me to become the best person I can be.

Working Towards Common Goals

Chris and I have some goals that are separate.  We also have some goals that are the same.  We want to heat with wood.  Heating with wood is very time consuming, but for us, it is worth it.  Chris and I work together to make sure we can accomplish this.  He is the one who does 95% of the work with this.  And I appreciate it, and I try to help as best I can. In all things, I am his biggest cheer leader and he is mine (although I look better in the cheer-leading skirt).  This is true of goals we share for the household and goals we personally have.20141112_215646

Disagreements Allow Personal Growth

When we have a disagreement, we may argue in less than productive ways, but most of the time we approach our disagreement with open minds.  When we disagree, we have an open discussion which allows us to be aware of the other side of the argument, and also allows us to solidify our own side.  There are times when we don’t agree at the end of the discussion.  At that point, we both walk away and discuss at a later time.  This allows our thoughts to mature a little more.  Sometimes, this time allows us to mull over what’s going on, and either one of us changes our mind, or we are able to outline our thoughts more clearly so the other one understands.  Being able to present your side this way allows for personal growth.

There are something that Chris and I are on the same page on, but we are reading different paragraphs.  As time goes one, we may either 100% agree or not.  BUT I know that no matter what Chris loves me and I love him.  Our love is something that I know is always there, but I never just take it for granted.  Multiple times a day, I think about how blessed I am to be able to share my life with such a wonderful human being.

All of this is due to the fact that I married a wonderful guy.  If I had married someone else, someone perhaps who wasn’t supportive, or loving or open-minded, I would not have this opportunity for growth.  If I were married to a different person with a different personality type, disagreements may cause me to shrink as a person instead of grow.  I’m not sure.  But I do know that having a partner who I can trust, who trusts me and who helps me be the best me is the biggest blessing anyone could ask for.

Your Home is Your Sanctuary

When I pull in the driveway of my house, I am excited to see my husband and my child.  My favorite place to be in the world is with the two of them.  The idea of spending the rest of my life with Chris makes me smile.  When I am with him, I am home.   It struck me years ago, driving home from work, that I was so excited to get home.  More excited to get home than when I was single and no one was there.  Being married to an amazing partner who was meant for me helped turn my house into a home.

I’ve also heard the other side of things.  That one spouse makes life tough.  Or they just want some time away from a partner who is overly judgmental, negative or harsh.  Being away from their spouse is like a breath of fresh air.  I’m not saying I don’t enjoy some time to myself, but that’s speaking as a mom of a toddler, not speaking as a wife.

How does this help with my quest for Simplicity?

Oh my! So much.  We both want to live in the country.  He eats my recipes and other experiments with food.  When we first met, he was on a Burger King and Beer diet.  We both wanted chickens, so we both take care of them.  We both are invested in our son and are very active in his life and in the decisions we make to raise him.

For Mother’s Day, I spent all day playing in my garden.  It was wonderful.  He honors the person I am.  And he always makes me feel like I’m enough.

Granted sometimes Chris doesn’t like my recipes, or he thinks something I want to try is weird.  BUT he always says it with love.  Sometimes it hurts my feelings, but because I know the man he is, I am able to grow from his constructive criticism(**Note: this is most of the time, sometimes I react a little less than graciously**).

I can’t imagine being on my journey in life with anyone better.  Having the loving support of my husband positively touches all parts of my life.  I also believe that if I would have chosen to marry someone else, my life would not be the fairy tale (at least in my opinion) that it is.  Chris wouldn’t be the perfect husband for everyone, and I wouldn’t be the perfect wife.  But I believe we are perfect for each other.

SO…   …What’s your point?

My point is that marrying the right person, someone you love and cherish really does make your life better.  BUT marrying someone just so you can be married is going to be a mistake.  The person you marry is the person you are probably going to spend the majority of your time with.  The decisions you make will affect both of you.   And staying single can be a VERY GOOD decision.  This allows you to be open to a relationship that will nourish you and help you be the best you you can be.  And I think you owe that to yourself.

Why This Most Important Decision isn’t Really a Decision

I needed to marry Chris.  I wanted to be with Chris for as far into the future as I could see.  It wasn’t a decision, or the “logical next step”.  It was something that I knew was meant to be in the deepest truest part of myself.  Having a great partner to enjoy your life with is fantastic.  Having someone on your side during the most exciting parts of life, your lowest parts of life, or just to share a story with is part of what makes my life what it is.

I actually have to say that I never thought I was going to get married.  I was pretty sure I was going to be single forever.  And I was certainly proven wrong.  So if you are dating the person you KNOW isn’t right for you, I beg you not to waste your time or energy on that anymore.  Spend your time on making yourself the best you you can be.  That way, when that person who is meant to be your partner for life comes along, you can be the partner they deserve.  If you are single, don’t worry, I know there is someone, somewhere who is single and will add to your already wonderful life.

Marrying the right person won’t make a crappy life wonderful, but it will make your pretty dang good life, pretty dang great.  However, marrying the wrong person can make your pretty good life absolutely awful.  So just make sure that when you decide to commit your life to someone else, you don’t even have to think about it.  You already know that they are your future.

Thank you.

 

Here’s my purpose, what’s yours?

Recently, Jack Spirko over at the The Survival Podcast had a contest.  The winner of the contest won a ticket to the Permaculture Voices 2 conference.  This is the second annual conference and the only conference of its kind.  This conference is a meeting of Permaculture farmers, teachers, innovators and Permaculture fans.  It is a place I want to be.  The contest was an essay contest. In 300 words or less, the contestants had to tell Jack why they should be selected to go to the conference.  I entered.  I did not win.  However, writing the essay allowed me to think deeply about my purpose and about what going to this conference would do for me.

I consider it a blessing anytime I get to examine myself and my motives more deeply,  It allows me to re-calibrate my actions so that I can be of the best service to myself and others.

I wanted to share my non-winning essay with you:

Helping and Healing.  This is my purpose.  Once one discovers their purpose, one discovers their passion.  Once a passion is discovered, dreams quickly become a reality through work and through doing.  Permaculture encompasses both helping and healing.  By healing the land, I can help heal people.  I am in the process of healing my own land, and I am working to help others heal themselves and their land through my blog.  I will continue to help others by holding workshops at my local library, granges, and farm to table restaurants and eventually at my homestead.  I want to spread knowledge and skills while leading through example.

I am a perpetual student of permaculture.  I continue to expand my knowledge base through books, podcasts and PDCs.  To me, permaculture is a way of living, thinking and doing.  It gives a person a new lens in which to see and evaluate the world around them.  Permaculture has also given me hope, drive and a realization of what my life’s purpose truly is.  Realizing my life’s purpose has been the strongest driving force I’ve experienced.

Investing in someone with a purpose, and someone who is driven to take action to make a real change is always smart.  This type of investment will certainly show a return on the initial investment.  By attending Permaculture Voices, I will be able to learn from others’ successes and from their mistakes.  I will get to meet with like-minded people, and make connections that can help me achieve my life’s purpose: Helping and Healing.  I may also be able to help others with their goals and life’s purpose.  This is an opportunity to help me help others, an opportunity for me to learn and improve.

I have not started any workshops yet, but I am in the thought process of who, what, when and how.

This leads me to two questions: What I can do to help you or your land heal?  What is your purpose?  I would love to read your comments!

Views Around Our Home

I love our home.  I love the location of our home. I love the land our home is on.

Recently, I wrote about how I was treated to a Bald Eagle in our back yard: here.  Being treated to a beautiful natural view around here is part of normal life for us.

I went for a run around my block and it started to snow.  It was so beautiful, I had to stop and take a picture (thank goodness for small camera phones!):

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So then, I hopped of the road to enjoy the snow coming down on the creek.

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I even get to see healthy foxes by my home.  I always see him about a half a mile away from my house and my chickens.

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And in the morning, I get to see this sunrise:

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By moving out into the country, I have one day a week that I spend 4 hours commuting, 2 hours to work and 2 hours home from work.  The rest of the time I work from home.  It is worth every second of every minute I spend commuting to have this sanctuary be my home.  I love it here.  I love the people here and I love my life here.  I can have chickens, a huge garden, and a wood stove.  While it’s not perfect, it’s my home.

As time passes, I will continue to make updates to our home that will make it more and more ours.  We’ve lived here just over two years, and have spent all of our resources on the outside: Planting trees, bushes, shrubs, a garden and creating a home to have happy chickens.

I look forward to continued growth in our home and ourselves.  Thank you for sharing in our journey.

My Great Coop Coup

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about getting stuck in the chicken coop for an hour.  I came to a lot of conclusions, one conclusion I didn’t include in that post was how I escaped.

While I came had some powerful realizations about my life while in the coop at the end of the hour, I was ready to get out.  So I was relieved when I heard my mom letting the dogs out of the house.  They came to the edge of their fenced in yard and started barking.  They were just within sight from the window of the coop.  I was so happy.  They were my Lassie’s.  I started banging on the metal roof of the coop.  But I didn’t start making a racket soon enough to catch my mom’s attention before she went back in.  That’s fine, I knew I could get her attention to release me from my impromptu meditation chamber once she came out to let the dogs in.  At least I hoped so.

So I strained and I watched the dogs’s movements, hoping I would see them scurry to the door when my mom came to the door let them back inside.  When my mom came out to let the dogs in, she noticed that one of the dogs refused to move away from the fence.  That dog was Tuxy.  Our old Border Collie/Collie mix.  (He looks like a black Lassie.) 20141215_142907While she was goading him to come inside she heard the ruckus I was making in the coop.  She rushed outside to release me.

I was free.  I got a big hug from my mom, and then went on to give a big hug to my son.

Since then Chris has added a safety release string on the inside of the coop which he tested.  20141215_145514

It consists of a long string and a drilled hole.  Simple and Effective.

The Dandelion Mind: Do you have it?

Do you have the Dandelion Mind? I know I do.  What is the  Dandelion Mind and what does it mean?  First let’s talk about a dandelion in real terms.  I’ve talked about why these weeds are a blessing before. I love this plant which others deem a weed.  I love it for so many reasons:

  • Dandelions are dynamic accumulators of nutrients.  A dynamic accumulator is a plant that mines nutrients (micro and macro) and minerals from deep within the earth and brings these nutrients to the surface.  This helps with overall soil health.
  • The dandelions break up compacted soil.  They make the soil more habitable for other plants.  They are paving the way for other plant life.
  • Dandelions are resilient, and spreading the seeds of the dandelion is fun and easy ! (think of blowing the beautiful white fluffy head and making a wish)
  • All parts of the plant are edible or useful.  They even have medicinal qualities which aids digestion.
  • It is a beautiful flower.

But others can see Dandelion as a nuisance:

  • It’s not grass.  It grows wildly and spreads easily.  It is therefore a weed.

What does the dandelion mind mean to me?  The Dandelion Mind means you try to mine value and bring that value to the surface to help the beings around you.  Whether that’s cooking a healthy meal, teaching someone a skill, or just leading by example.  Being the best you you can be.  You try to be useful.  You ask yourself what you can do to help.  Spreading your way of doing things can be fun, much like spreading the white fluffy seeds of a ripe dandelion.  Dandelions add beauty in the world.  You might add beauty  through music, art or by modeling kindness.  You have your own unique beauty to add.   But beware, not everyone sees the beauty of the dandelion.  That doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful, it just means that there are some folks who don’t see it.  And that’s okay.  The dandelion will still bloom, providing nectar for the bees, and flowers for a child’s bouquet for their mother.  The Dandelion Mind celebrates the differences.  The Dandelion Mind is not mad at the grass for not being a Dandelion, it still mines the nutrients and breaks the compacted soil, making the land more fertile for other plants to grow, including grass.

The dandelion will continue to live and thrive where it is needed most.  So if you let your beauty shine, and contribute by being true to yourself, no matter what the surrounding opinion, you have the Dandelion Mind.  So bloom on beautiful Dandelions, bloom on.

My Hour in the Chicken Coop

Last week, I got locked inside the chicken coop.  Not my finest moment.  I stepped in the coop to check on the chickens’ supply of food, water and any potential eggs.  The wind pushed the door closed and in an instant, I was shut in the coop.  There was no clear way to get out, and I didn’t have my phone.

It really wasn’t that bad.  There is a window, and I could sit on one of the roosts.  I wasn’t too cold either.  Luckily my mom was inside with Jaxson, so I didn’t need to worry about his safety and I knew Chris would be home before dark.  At that point, I figured I could make enough noise to get his attention, and I would be freed.  So I was at peace with the fact the I was stuck inside a coop by myself  with the company of some chickens.

At first I sang some songs at the top of my lungs.  Why? Because I love to sing.  Singing these songs made me happy and passed some time.  When I had sung everything I wanted, I was left in the quiet with my thoughts.  I was trapped, there was nothing else to do except reflect, meditate and ponder.  I have been derelict of having quiet time for reflection, and now I had it.  I had no distractions to keep me away from my thoughts.  This was a true blessing.  A blessing that needed to happen.

Sitting in quiet with the occasional cackle of a chicken, a few thoughts/realizations/insights flowed into my mind.  My first realization was that  I need to be more grateful.  When this first thought came to me, I sneered.  Me!? More grateful!!!?? I’m so grateful.  How can I need to be more grateful!!!!???

Well, before being trapped in the chicken coop, I was focusing some of my challenges instead of solutions.  I am so grateful for my family, but I tend to lack gratitude in other areas of my life.  I focus on what I could do if I had more land, when I would feel so much better if I focused on the fact that I have 2.25 acres.  I can have chickens, I can have a huge garden and oodles of trees.  And eventually, I can add goats and honey bees.  I have a lot more possibilities when I have a grateful heart.  I see possibilities and feel empowered, instead of seeing barriers and feeling like a victim.  This change, I wove into my life right away.  And when I find myself feeling down, or overwhelmed, I bring my attention back to gratitude. This helps me to refocus my lens.  I have seen a large change in my life since I cleaned off the lens in which I view the world.

My second insight was that I need to devote more time to being in the moment.  The advent of smart phones have allowed us to have our minds distracted every second of every day.  If we have to wait at the doctor’s office, we pull out our smart phone.  If we are waiting for a class to start or waiting for the train to come, we pull out our smart phone.  We play with them until we go to sleep at night and check them first thing in the morning.  While I think smart phones are a very powerful tool that have a positive place in society, we need to handle them with care.  We need to be there for our friends, our families and ourselves.  Constantly allowing ourselves to be distracted from the “now” impedes our abilities to enjoy the moment and enjoy those who surround us in the moment.  I know this has been my weakness.  I am working on being in the moment with my loved ones and with myself.  I am also working toward giving myself some time to be alone in my thoughts.

These realizations have positively changed my life since my time locked in the coop.  I am very thankful for this hour I had to myself.  My time in the chicken coop allowed me to review and rethink some of how I handle myself.  And it allowed me to realize we need to install a mechanism inside the chicken coop so that I can open it from the inside.

 

Never Give Up – Another Lesson from Trees

There are times when all feels lost.  When it feels like nothing will work, and I feel dead inside.  I know, depressing.  To deal with this, walking around outside always helps me to feel grounded.  It also gives me some hope.

You see, last year, we planted a Chicago Hardy Fig Tree.  We put it to “bed” over the winter by covering the whole tree with straw to to keep it insulated from a cold, harsh winter.  In my typical fashion, I got excited at the first signs of spring, and uncovered the tree before the risk of frost had passed.  Frost came, and it seemed all was lost.  I thought our fig tree had died due to frost.  So I cut the trunk about two inches above the top of the ground.  I figured the fig tree was nothing more than mulch.

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After a month or so, that small dead stump started to sprout branches.

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And now the tree which I had written off as dead is now sprouting figs.  We have over ten baby figs on our tree.

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We thought we lost another tree.  One of our paw paws started to die.  The leaves started to shrivel up and we started to give it lots of TLC.  However, we lost it.  Our small paw paw tree was transformed into a stick.

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We were okay with this.  When you plant trees, some are bound to fail.  But time passed and nature worked another miracle:

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Our paw paw tree sent up shoots from it’s roots.

From what we thought were dead trees came healthy shoots.  Not only did our fig tree astonish us with leaves, it blessed us with fruit.  This is such a beautiful metaphor for life.  Sometimes when we feel like all is lost, we need to take a break and walk away.  When we come back to our problems, who knows what life may have been regenerated within us.

Your Mission Statement

I recently took an Medicinal Herbal Class at the Rodale Institute.  It was wonderfully informative.  They opened the class up with a 15 minute introduction to the farm and how it was started.  Within the introduction, the presenter told us about the founder’s mission statement: “Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People”.  The foundation, itself has its own mission statement: “Through organic leadership we improve the health and well-being  of people and the planet”.

Everyone, every business, every club benefits from a mission statement.  A mission statement allows you to measure your progress and stay on track.  Schedule time every week or month to seriously think about your mission statement and whether your actions over the past week/month have stayed in line or strayed from it.  This will give you deep perspective as to whether you are heading in the right direction or not.  You can also re-write your mission statement to evolve as you do.

Why do you need a mission statement?  It is a way to keep yourself focused and on track.  A mission statement is more encompassing than a simple goal.  Goals are hard and cold, a mission statement is flexible and hits more of your emotional side.  A mission statement is not something you check off your list.  It is something you constantly make sure you or your business aligns.

For example, J.I. Rodale’s mission statement tells us that whatever he does, he wants to work towards a healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people.  So when he worked on any project, be it his own garden, an article, book, or publication, he knew the direction he was heading.

How do you make a mission statement?  Take a life’s mission statement.  Think about what you want to leave behind.  Do you want to help restore soils by planting trees?  If so, think wider than that.  Why do you want to restore soils?  For healthier foods?  To stop degradation of the land?  To promote diversity.  The key is to be wide enough that you can grow with it, but not so wide that you can easily ignore it and justify yourself. You don’t want to become something you hate.  A mission statement works to keep you true to you (or true to the business you are building).

I, personally, have three mission statements in my life.  My first mission statement is very broad as it applies to my life, and my life is very broad.  My mission is to: leave the world a better place than I found it.  This is in the line of “No Trace” hiking.  Where you pack out what you pack in, and take out at least one piece of garbage.  Probably no one else will notice that the trail is just a little better, but if everyone adopted this attitude, you can imagine the change we would see in the world.

My second mission statement has to do with the most important undertaking in my life: parenthood.  I actually didn’t realize I had a mission statement until I wrote this post.  My mission as a parent: To raise a kind, truly happy person.  Kindness is important to me, as I feel “being nice” sets one up to be taken advantage of, and also feels a little fake.  Whereas, being kind seems more genuine and loving.  It implies empathy, and respect.  And truly happy.  Not so that he has that instant gratification going from one hand out to the next, but so he can be happy when times are hard or when they are great.  So he has resiliency, self-confidence.  That he can go to bed at night, and examine his actions from his lifetime and smile knowing he is a good person, knowing that he is true to himself no matter what adversity that brings.  That seven word mission statement sums up a lot for me.  This has been the most personal thing I have ever written on here, but I think it serves a purpose, so that is why I share.

This brings me to my third and last mission statement.  My mission statement for my blog, the site  you are reading right now: To provide informative, entertaining and inspirational posts to help folks live a more simple and fulfilling life.

Hopefully I have done that, or will do that for you.  That is my mission.  That is why I write this blog.

Thank you for taking the time to read.  What is your mission statement?

Ode to the Dandelion

When most folks picture a beautiful lawn in spring time, they picture beautiful green grass with flowers tastefully decorating a few flower beds.  Since we are into simplicity, when I say some thing is tasteful, I generally mean in my mouth, not so much to my eyes.

One of the most tasteful things in my lawn is the beautiful dandelion.  I’m not sure why folks have such a strong dislike of the dandelion.  Aside from the fact that we are told dislike it, it is quite a pretty plant.  The flower is a beautiful happy yellow which turns into a cloud-like bunch of fluff which are ideal for wish making.  Children pick them and give them to their mothers.  And I find them to be aesthetically pleasing.

But they are so much more! In the beginning of spring, when the greens are still tender, you can pick them and eat them as an addition to a salad.  They have a bit of a bitter taste, but the younger you pick them the sweeter they are.  There is a traditional meal in the Pennsylvania Dutch region, that I used to abhor as a child, but with more grown tastes, I enjoy now.  You can enjoy with hot bacon dressing: Hot Bacon Dressing Salad Recipe
The Dandelion greens have phenomenal nutritional density.  They are: high in calcium, high in fiber, a great source of minerals, yummy, and cheap (free) in your yard.  One man made over $900 selling this “weed” he harvested from his garden to fine dinning establishments.  I recently saw it for sale at our local grocery store.
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The yellow flowers are more than just pretty, they can be transformed into wine! This link will take you to a great instructional video on how to do this.
We’re not done with all the wonders of this plant (which some call a weed).  The roots are useful, too!  They make a coffee substitute.  You harvest them and roast them and grind them up to use as tea.  I have not tried this, as harvesting the roots is a lot of work, and I like to use all of other parts of the dandelion so much, I don’t see the use.
Finally, they are awesome for your soil.  That long, thick root which seems impossible to remove fully from the ground helps break up compact soil.  It brings nutrients that are deep in ground up to the leaves.  When the leaves die, these nutrients are now at the top of the surface, and more accessible to the surrounding plants.  Dandelions are an ideal companion plant in your garden.  I wouldn’t plant any, but I would let few flourish to help feed the soil.When I look at the yellow heads popping up in my yard in Spring, I don’t get mad or reach for the weed killer.  I lick my chops for the free greens, give thanks for the beautiful flowers and smile to myself knowing that my lawn is getting healthier naturally.