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My Medicine Chest

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I’ll be traveling this week. It will be a bittersweet trip as we will be saying good-bye to my grandmother.

But this will be my first autumn in southern Illinois and Missouri in 10 years.

I’m looking forward to visiting some of my favorite trees in their fall costumes. I hope to collect some persimmons and pawpaws. I want to show my boys about sweetgum and hickory. White oaks and red buds. There are many more.

Plants have always seemed to be part of my well-being. In many situations, I have developed relationships with sycamores and poplars.

As of lately, I’ve developed a new relationship with plants. They help me maintain my wellness. I am not well without plants. They are the only medicine I can trust.

This spring I had some terrible unexplained allergic reactions. It turned out my allergy medicines had one of my allergies in it. Somewhere between that realization and this summer, I realized that I don’t need to rely on prescriptions to feel okay. I have the plant knowledge to guide me.

Last night I prepared my medicine chest for the trip ahead. Some herbs will be used in cooking- like rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage. Others can be used to brew calming teas- like rosehips, lemon balm, raspberry leaf, yarrow, licorice, and elderberry. I have my root tea prepared which consists of burdock, dandelion, rhodiola, and eleuthero.

I have herbs prepared into a salve that can be used on dry and cracked skin. I have a plantain liniment that can cleanse and relieve scrapes and cuts on the skin. I have a tincture (or potion as my kids call it…) in which I soaked devils claw and willow bark for pain relief and another with tart cherry and ginger to help reduce inflammation. Finally are the oils, rosemary, tangerine, and bergamot which I dilute with almond oil and use for massage.

My medicine chest

So there it is! I’ve got my medicine chest ready to go- all natural and allergen free. Just what I need to take care of myself on a long trip!

If all goes well, I’ll be able to post more about my experience introducing my boys to my tree friends.

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I’m Afraid of What is in My Freezer

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I’m afraid.

I’m afraid I have addiction problems.

I know I have addiction problems.

Often associated with work, accomplishment, and success.

That high that I achieve when I just work a little bit harder.

When I do just a little bit more.

Over the past two years, I’ve made great strides in overcoming my workaholic tendencies.

I don’t let the tasks control me.

I don’t lose sight of my priorities.

I don’t over multitask.

I clean up in between projects.

I strive to start everyday as a new day.

But yet, I am still afraid.

It is autumn in North Dakota.

The instinct to squirrel food away for the winter is strong in this part of the world.

Harvesting, hunting, freezing, drying, canning, preserving.

If you took a look at my Facebook feed everyday, you’d be amazed to see what friends are preserving.

At times they look like super heroes.

At times I feel a bit like a super hero myself.

When I know that we have chicken stock, tomato juice, pickled beans, apple sauce, and even ketchup in the basement.

We have been busy filling the larder.

But along the way,

Amid the finished gleaming jars,

Among the produce waiting to be canned,

Somewhere between the pressure canner and the stove,

There is a bit of disappointment…

A bit of sadness…

A bit of feeling that comes when an recovering addict realizes they are living a “sober” life.

While we’ve been busy,

I haven’t caught the buzz.

The drive to make one more recipe,

The high that comes when you are so deep in the process that you forget about everything else.

The only thing that matters is the finished product.

Forget dinner, forget dishes.

This is awesome!

THAT- I haven’t felt that this year.

Yet.

I’m about to tap into the goods in the freezer.

I’m about to embark on my favorite process of preserving.

Making jam and jellies.

I have a freezer full of fruits.

Hand picked luscious fruits.

Chokecherries.

Blackberries.

Blueberries.

Juneberries.

Black Currants.

Wild Plums.

Buffalo Berries.

Amazing goodness waiting to be unlocked.

And yet, I am afraid.

I’m afraid this is where I will “fall off” the road to recovery.

I’m afraid that after 7 jars of juneberry jam and 10 jars of blueberry jelly,

And 14 jars of blackberry jam,

And 21 jars of chokecherry jelly,

That I will not know how to say no.

I’ll dig into the Black Currants,

“Just a small batch.”

And the wild plums.

“I’ll have to prepare to more cases of jars…”

And more blueberries.

“We have so many! Let’s do pancake syrup.”

And more blackberries.

“Maybe I’ll make a pie for after dinner…

Wait, dinner? Did I eat lunch? What did the kids eat for lunch?

What day is it anyway?”

So wish me well,

As I venture into the basement.

As I open the freezer.

And I try to say,

“That’ll be enough for now.”

I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

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I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

It’s been almost two months since I’ve written a post. You must have been wondering where in the world I have been.

I wish I could answer that question with something fun and light-spirited. But alas, my fun and light-spirited parts of myself have been in hibernation.

Only my serious and intense parts have been seeing the light of day… as well as the dark of night.

I’ve been struggling. I’ve been sore and sick. I’ve been in the clinic, seeing doctors, getting tests run, and filling prescriptions. I’ve been hurting at my very core. My muscles, my ribs, and my spine. All the way down to what my children call “the spirit heart.”

For the first time in my life I have been able to sit with discomfort, tend to it, listen to it, comfort it. Just like I do with my young boys when they wake up in the middle of the night ill and out of sorts.

Recognizing and listening to the pain has been nothing short of terrifying. I lay on the couch, propped up my pillows at 3am, listening to meditative music, sitting with the pain. Suddenly some other sources of pain surface. I want to deny them. Tell them they aren’t welcome. But I resist. I try to treat them with compassion. I try to listen to their story.

This second kind of pain was deeply emotional, and buried for nearly twenty-years. It was my source of self-hatred that emerged during my early teens. It was the most destructive and loathing part of myself. It was the darkest part of my being. It is a part of me I have been ashamed and afraid of, keeping it hidden, deep within.

Why would this inner-yuckiness surface now? I’ve been “doing so well.” I’ve been healthy. I’ve been happy. What gives!?

Well, during the daylight hours, I have been sharing myself with others. I’ve been building vibrant friendships as well as professional partnerships. I’ve been accepting myself and others as they are, in the moment. I’ve been striving for excellence in place of perfection. I’ve been learning to love myself. Truly, truly love myself.

It’s not an easy task. But when my 4 year puts so much energy into describing the scale of his love for me, “All the way up to the sky, Mom” or “Down the river and to the bottom of the ocean, Mom,” I can’t help but realize how big love is. Truly.

And to make room for the magnitude of energy that love occupies, it might make sense that I would need to clean out my inner closets. I need to recognize the times in my life that hatred was bigger than love. Times that I didn’t believe that I deserved to be loved. I need to shine light on those dark times. Recognize them as a part of me… but not a defining part of me. I need not to fear them. I need to grieve the sadness this part of me feels so deeply. I need to know that my actions, no matter how destructive and painful are in the past.

It’s not an easy task. Not at all. When I wake up in the morning to have dreamed of people I cared for deeply and knowingly hurt… it makes it hard to want to get out of the bed. It makes it the physical pain all that worse. But somewhere, within all of this, I know there has to be truth. Throughout those years, as a scared 12 year old… as a suicidal 15 year old… as an idealistic 18 year old… I was learning about myself. I was learning about the power of relationships. I was learning about how to share myself with others. I slipped and failed many times… but now as I begin to understand the magnitude of love. How big it is in the universe and how big it is within ourselves. I know that was what I was missing.

In those spaces where the pain resided, I imagine a little hope held on. After all, that’s how I made it through, right? And all those places where fear took hold, I imagine there is space for love to grow. Love that extends throughout the present, but also into the past.

For those I cared for and clung, I can now extend love to… truly and fully.

For myself, who was broken, shattered, and scared to go on, I can now extend the love… truly and fully.

It is with these roots, deep within my core, that I know my love can grow into the future… for myself, for my family, and for my place in the universe.

Where the Story Left Off

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Here I am warm and safe at home after a long weekend networking and strategizing with many other local food growers and advocates from around North Dakota and beyond. The Dakota Grown Local Foods Conference is always a such a delight. I have been attending for the past 4 years, each time in a different role. Each time with a new understanding of the challenges facing the development of a locally-based food economy within the state.

But that’s not why I came to my computer to write tonight. I came to follow up on an area that I just keep thinking about. Yesterday, for the first time, I presented to a full audience about telling our story. I used by story as a springboard to discuss content marketing, especially in the local foods.

This audience you see, they have a vision. They follow their hearts and their dreams. They follow their passions and are only sometimes slowed by the voice of reason. But yet, they are small business owners, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sons, and daughters trying to make a living in a way that brings them happiness.

We discussed ways they can better convey the stories of their business by uncovering the story and finding a voice. We explored what success means and how our vision and actions may or may not reflect our values. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 11.08.04 PM

I shared the values I identified as I uncovered my story. I encouraged the audience to pair up with someone and complete these three sentences:

My passion is to:

My purpose is to:

Someday I would really like to:

The room filled with dynamic chatter. Dreams were being shared. Connections ignited. It was a wonderful sound. But some how, in the excitement, I remained silent. I didn’t share that part of my story. I talked about how I got to where I am, through mishaps and intense life changes. I claimed responsibility for most of my husband’s white hair, mostly because I wanted to quit my job to “be happy.”

But I realize now, I didn’t share my dreams with my audience. I let my dreams be muted. I didn’t breathe life into my next steps by saying them out loud! And I apologize! I suppose, as a creative person, my initial phase of creation is through writing. For me, writing brings ideas to reality.

So here is my chance! To share these ideas that are just coming together. Here is your chance, to witness my dreams take a closer step to finding a place in reality. Here I go, telling my story, just like I encouraged others to do this weekend!

My passion is to grow. I nurture ideas. I cultivate relationships. I have the courage to try new things. 

Who says I can't climb a tree?

My purpose is to share my experiences with others, to build connections and be grounded in the present. I raise my children to be curious and aware and I raise myself to embrace creativity, openness, simplicity, and peacefulness. 

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Someday I would really like to have a farmstead with several animals, a great garden, and several greenhouses. We’d run a bed and breakfast, providing guests with learning opportunities and amazing meals with real, fresh foods. I’d have a comfortable rhythm in life and enjoy fresh air everyday. Someday. 

For now, I raise chickens for eggs and ducks for butcher. I tend a garden. I make and sell jams and jellies. I am learning to make cheese. 

DSCN7158Just last week, I completed the Farm Beginnings course through FARRMS. It’s hard to believe I have a plan in place! It doesn’t seem real yet. But you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Why not start here? 

For the past year and a half, my venture into the business world has become deeply intwined in my endeavors of personal growth and health. I have learned to respect my skills and talents. I have redefined my perspective on work, play, creativity, and success in ways that promise to help me maintain balance and honor my strengths. My business plan relied on seasonal variation and various incomes in hopes to have a way of life that benefits my relationships with my family, community, culture, and nature. 

But now there is a farm plan in place! And its not just mine! It emerged through discussions between me, my husband, and sons. 

As a family, we want to develop our small venture in backyard gardening and poultry livestock to respond to opportunities in our local community. Our passion is to grow fresh food, while balancing quality and diversity. Our purpose is to share not only quality product, but also our experiences. 

Family Photo 2012

Family Photo 2012

We want to begin raising poultry for egg and meat production and grow vegetables for direct sale and use in value-added products. In the next month, we’ll be building local relationships, making our orders, and enhancing our technology and tools. We’ll then be busy through November raising chicken, duck, goose, turkey, lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard for direct sale. We’ll be building a greenhouse and designing cold frames.

Winter Density Lettuce

Winter Density Lettuce

We’ll be growing beans, beets, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes for salsas and pickles. And for the preserves, we’ll be picking wild and cultivated varieties of currants, chokecherries,  juneberries, apples, and grapes. We’ll be continuing our sales at farmers markets and consider opportunities to grow through partnerships in our community. 

Variety of veggies from the garden, ready for pickling.

Variety of veggies from the garden, ready for pickling.

It’s going to be fun! It’s going to be a learning process. It’s going to be hard work. But best of all, it’s going to be ours. Our story. Our farm.  

And perhaps you wonder what we’ll be calling our business? Well, for now, the poultry operation falls under the name of Four Feather Farms. And our garden and greenhouse? It will be known as Green Leaf Gardens. 

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&

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Will it all come together just as we imagine? Mmmm, probably not quite. Will we encounter challenges and get discouraged? You better believe it. Will we see this as a great opportunity to grow? I am sure. It is our story after all.

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