Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I ask my son, “What does WORK do for us?” His learned response is, “It makes us happy and strong!”

I threw myself into the work of building our chicken coop last month. It was hard labor and tested my convictions and beliefs at times, but "Work" passed the test. I enjoyed it. I also learned mothering has to stay my first work. The boys turned feral from too many treat-bribes and movies watching.

I remember when I called my Grandmother Naomi after giving birth to my first baby. I told her I quit work and planned to stay home with him. Her reply, in her Southern Florida accent: "Oh, honey, WORK just found YOU." She was SO right.

I have to interject another Grandma story. When she was pregnant with her last of six children, the nurse was taking her information at her first doctor visit. She asked my grandma her age. "Old enough to know better" was her reply. My dearest wish is that one-liners are genetic.

Meanwhile, back at the coop...

Kurt designed and created a model of it on the computer so we could do a virtual walk-through.

Yes, it IS over-designed, and yes, it IS the Fort Knox of coops...but we love it. It sits just outside our great-room doors to the south (which are glass) and we can see it clearly at all times. It had to be attractive. We spent time to love and raise these sweet chicks and can’t bear the thought of them being some predator’s midnight snack. It had to be secure.

I will let the pictures tell most of the story. What isn't clear in the slideshow is that the coop has a sliding door and will have a roof garden once the planting season arrives. I learned to weld during this project! The picture of my hand shows a few tiny burns from welding. Cool. I still need to paint the doors to the nesting box. The box has plexiglass sides. The rest should make sense.

We would all like extra points for doing this during the hot, muggy monsoons of a desert summer.

PS I just viewed the slideshow. The music cuts off before it is half over. I will try to fix it asap!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chickens and Dickens

Last night I dreamed of Little Dorrit. She's my Easter-Egger chicken. She's still just a chick but in my dream she was her beautiful, full-grown self. She ran to me to be picked up, tired of being in a coop and treated like a common chicken. I felt her soft nut-brown colored feathers and saw her puffy cheeks before she buried her head in my arm.

My pretty little chick has the most mellow and sweet disposition. I got her, along with nine other chicks (Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orphingtons, and Red Stars) from someone who ordered them by mail from a hatchery. As I drove them home in their tiny box, one chic kept chirping loudly. I wanted to pull over and hold her, but it was a hot day and they needed the water I had ready for them at home. The cry baby was Little Dorrit. For the first few days she continued to cry now and then until I carried her around in my apron pocket. Now that she is about three weeks old, she sits on my shoulder to nap, completely camouflaged in my hair. I heard her "purr" today. It sounds like a rolling, soft chirp and sounds extremely content.

I call her Little Dorrit after the Charles Dickens novel of the same name. Her calm, sweetness reminds me of the heroine of the story.

Last winter, as I was starting a sewing project, I began listening to the audiobook. As the first paragraphs were being read, I had to put down my work and just listen. My life was about to change; I knew it, and wanted to soak in every aspect of the delicious process. Have you ever been in a dark barn at noon? Imagine slowly opening the heavy creaking door to return to a meadow of brightness and fragrant grass. That is what I felt as the words were read. The words weren't revealing any profound truth. They described the heat and sun of the South of France. How could that change my life?

A while ago, I cut off TV, most movies, and even listening to the radio. It all happened gradually, in response to having watched a popular crime drama one night. After viewing it, I had to ask myself why in the world would I find that entertaining? It was a collage of the sickest aspects of human existence, sensationalized and sexualized, being play-acted by pretty people and punctuated with commercials for toothpaste, insurance and a bowel-movement-inducing yogurt. Lovely. I realized I had just wasted an hour of my life, not to mention all the previous hours wasted on the same mental garbage. It made me angry. I felt like such a fool.

Compare that to Little Dorrit. The masterpiece painted with the skillful reading of well crafted words absolutely transported me. I followed Dickens as he beckoned me to the South of France, to the debtor's prison and the to hilarious Circumlocution Office. Within ten minutes, I joined the ranks of his admirers. Within ten minutes, I felt my senses sharpen, my soul expand, my world change.

My pretty little chick is a reminder of these contrasting experiences. She reminds me that I could have missed my days with Dickens, missed that chance to expand. Had I not turned off the screaming world with all its miserable counterfeits, a new world would not have opened. It is a beautiful world, a fun world...where you can hear the purr of a chicken.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Here is my apology to the fine art world. My experience is my own, and not a blanket that encompasses the entire world of fine art. There is beauty there, somewhere, but I don't have it for myself, yet. I'm still not prepared.

I was born with a slight gift for art that I worked for a time to develop. I got pretty good. I stood on the threshold of Fine Artist and put my toes in the door. People urged me to go in.

I have not been drawing or painting for some time. This may appear to be a shame or a waste. But is it?

As I stood on the threshold I saw some things in the room before me I did not like. Now, I know that I am the only one to furnish and outfit the room I saw, and that not every budding artist would see the same scene, this is just a description of what I saw.
In the room, which was small and dark, were the tragedies and inhumanities of the world begging to be expressed. There were immoral teachers and others of authority, whose lust for my youth, beauty and talent would only be satiated with my destruction. The room was intriguing to me, I saw it as a way to prove my strength and worth. I spent many years squinting to adjust my gaze as I looked in the dim space.

As alluring as the dark room was at one time, there became, even more so, a bright world shining at my back.

And one day I turned.

I felt the warmth. I began to lean into it, until I eventually found myself running wild in the green land under the sunshine.

Out in this sunshine I saw things more clearly. The true artist was awakened. Teachers arrived bearing platters overflowing with delicious experiences. On the trays were Joy, Hope, and Laughter. Each one consumed would reveal others. Through this nourishment I began to create.

I created a peaceful home of beauty and learning. I created physical and emotional strength. I created loving relationships. I created children. Sure, lots of people create children...but do they allow the wonder of childhood to chip away their crust of pride, do they give in to the magic? Not that I can see. I created a life permeated with true art and inspiration.

Can you see how I would come to the opinion that ANYone can slap some paint on a canvas and act mysterious enough to hook a selection of weak minds? I don't know how to express that without sounding condemning. People of that realm are fulfilled. They need not follow me. But I feel the desire to let them know I am not fooled. Clearly, the emperor has no clothes. And today I pause at the edge of his parade just long enough to get a good belly laugh and think, "Whew!" It coulda been me out there in my birthday suit!

Someday, when I return to the dark room, I will have no apprehension about running through the door, for I will carry the light that reveals beauty. Someday.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Turn, Turn, Turn

"And when true simplicity is gained, we'll bend and we'll bow
and we'll not be ashamed.
To turn, turn, turn will be our delight, and by turning, turning,
we'll come 'round right."
Simple Gifts-Shaker Hymn

I left my blog alone for over a year. Life became very intense and scary stuff consumed my attention. I couldn't write anything because I needed both my hands as I was holding on by my fingernails. During that time I learned important things, helpful things, that have changed my life. I like to say I've been in Universe Law School. There I learned that there is nothing in my life, (past, present or future,) that has come uninvited. The good, the bad, and the ugly have all been of my own creation. With this understanding, and the past year's crash course in "how," I look forward to bringing happier experiences into my life.

My current creation is our big move out into the desert. It is a step toward my dream of having an off-grid farm. Getting out of a cramped neighborhood is delicious! I wake up every morning and a grin creeps across my face and settles in for the day. There are no neighbors calling an HOA because they can see my grape arbor above the fence, or for having weeds among the rocks in the front pathetic-excuse-for-a yard. No more dirty looks because my kids are playing too loudly. The only solicitors knocking on my door are scorpions looking for crickets.

Our new house is huge and sits on an acre of land. This is an area of State Trust land with free range cattle. Many mornings we have to shoo cows away from the house. Since I don't have my garden planted yet, this is still great fun. We are slowly putting up a fence. Many of our neighbors have horses, but we will stick with mountain bikes for a few more years. The horse folks share their 50 Year Trail with us. I try to ride everyday.

As soon as we feel settled, part two of my dream will begin. Homeschooling the boys has always been the plan. Charlotte Mason's approach to education resonates with me the most and should fit seamlessly into our lives. I will write about that experience, soon.

As I write this, I sit in wide-eyed (near) disbelief that this is all coming to fruition. It was not so long ago that life was down right scary. Thank God I did not give up. Thank God I did not give in.

A year ago, as I walked in my neighborhood on the asphalt streets, I would close my eyes and imagine the crisp crunch of decomposed granite and sand under my feet. I would glance at the overly manicured HOMOGENIZED landscaped yards and trade that vision for the "wildness and artifice" of the untamed desert. The smell of exhaust was replaced by the invigorating scent of fresh desert rain. Revving engines gave way to Gamble's quail couples summoning their chicks.

All this I lived before I lived it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Desert Spell

Two dozen ghost faces stared down at me from the sun scorched slope. I froze in my tracks with a gasp before my mind could tell me what my eyes were seeing. Floating skulls with black eye sockets shot a wave of seemingly shocking calm energy through me. We stood stock-still, looking at each other. Under my breath I whispered, "Oh! You're beautiful!"

Only the white faces and dark eyes of the herd of wild burros before me were visible against the rocky hillside. Time stopped, sound stopped. I felt the souls of these old desert wanderers. I quickly wondered where they found food and water, wondered who took care of them. My heart was instantly pierced. No one. They needed no one. I wanted to be with them, to run, to be free, to hide in plain sight and stand self-assured when discovered.

Slowly the spell lifted. One by one they broke away on their journey over the hill crest, without me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Food Storage Made Easy

Dent Corn for cornbread, tamales, tortillas, hominy, polenta and more.

I just added a button to my blog for the Food Storage Made Easy site. I first got the bug to develop a food storage one year ago. I had no idea it could be so fun or that I could become so obsessed. These gals break it down and make it easy. They have instructional video clips, too. I almost started a food storage blog...until I found Food Storage Made point in reinventing the wheel!

Dry pack canning at home.

Clockwise; Farina, Yellow Grits, Split Pea, and Quinoa

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

We've done "The Duke and Duchess of Death" before, but this year we added the!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beenut Milk

Our Jersey Cow at the New Hampshire homestead was named Beenut. She was more beautiful than a cow should be...dark blonde with big brown eyelashes.

Here is a gorgeous photo of a Jersey that looks like what I remember.

I can see a jug of her milk, still warm, on the worn counter in the old farmhouse. The cream is separating into a thick band at top. Soon we will start the endless yet rewarding task of churning butter.

But before Beenut there was...Beenut. Now this is a sad little thing to remember as an adult, but as a small child it was quite fascinating.

For one day only we had our first cow named Beenut. Buddy brought her home late one night before he had prepared a place for her in the barn. Mom had spent all the money she had in the world on this cow, $500.00. Considering that we lived on less than that in a year's time, it was pretty shocking to lose her.

There was an uneasy feeling the morning after we got Beenut. The air was crisp and damp as usual, but filled with a deafening silence. The adults hurried around not paying attention to me. I think it was Walt who shouted that the cow had jumped off the bridge. We all ran up the road to look. Down by the creek lay the distorted figure of the first Beenut.

Buddy had staked her in the yard like a dog. He gave her a bucket of water and planned to put her away the next day. For someone who typically had a lion's share of common sense, this was incredibly stupid. The neighbor's horses had gotten loose and scared the poor cow, forcing it into the ravine. I cannot imagine the shock and loss that mom felt.

Our second Beenut was the one I really remember. I sat on her only once to know why people don't ride cows. Mom let me try milking her, but I was just not coordinated or strong enough.

She was a sweet cow that gave delicious milk. Mom loved her.

If Beenut was ready for milking before mom had gotten to her, she would knock on the kitchen door. One time she was found eating the heirloom gladiola bulbs that were wintering in the woodshed. But my favorite story of her is not in my memory at all.

One day mom was left to do all the chores by herself. Running a self sufficient farm alone was an impossibly exhausting task. Mom said there were days that she worked so hard she would have to stop and rest on the spot, or nap in the field to keep from collapsing.

The air was chilly and dusk was threatening. It was time to put Beenut up for the night. She was laying in the grass near the carriage house chewing serenely. It was all mom could do to go over and sit beside her for a rest before the short walk to the barn. She laid her head on Beenut's warm belly. Soon the grass turned forest green, then black as the light faded. Rocked by the rhythm of Beenut's steady breathing, mom fell into the secure and satisfying sleep of a babe in arms.

I cannot tell you why that makes my head swell with tears. I picture my young strong mother with her thick long dark hair asleep with her pretty cow in the grass.

It is something I never had that I want so much to never lose.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Sippy-Nahs, My Sippy Heroes

That is how Marshall pronounces "Superman". He runs through the house jumping on and off anything he can find while yelling "Sippy-Nah!" Of course Jess is now following right along. The other day I was unable to leave the house before I tucked a blue and red shirt in his bibs to act as his cape. He points to himself and says "Jesse, Supa!" At eighteen months old, he is more sure of himself than I have been.
Maybe that changed today. While I sat in our backyard watching the boys play, I felt very strongly that I really am living my true dream. I want everything else to fall away as I turn my focus wholeheartedly upon my family. Sure, many things will change soon, and these little guys will grow, but we are here, and it is now, and I long to spend my time with my face buried in their necks and hearing their laughter.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

White Mountain Week

Jess and Marshall each grew a foot taller while camping.

Grandpa is a hit, even without the Rhino rides.

Wow, I needed that...we all did. I love to push the reset button by camping.
Arizona is such a surprise. I never would have guessed it could have so much. You can go from hot, hot, dusty desert with ghost towns and leathery cowboys to cool, breezy, pine covered mountains with hidden chilly lakes, mossy craggy slopes, and miles and miles of eye soothing green.

My Chuckleheads

It is finally HOT here in AZ. We just returned from a week in the White Mountains (pictures to follow) to barricade ourselves in the air conditioning as we readjust to the triple digits. I love AZ. These few weeks of scorch are worth it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Silver Box

     Buddy and I  crouched in the breezeway of the old farmhouse. This one-on-one attention from him was strange and a bit scary.  Mom's boyfriend was a very intense man. He had the body and temperament of an overly stretched rubber band.  I listened intently as he spoke. "You must keep this a secret. We will work on this together. It is better to put thought and effort into a gift instead of spending money."

      Money wasn't something we had anyway. I didn't know or care. Living on the farm was rich with new experiences and the type of wealth that has nothing to do with money. We had food to eat, clothes to wear and a warm place to sleep at night. Simple. Beautiful.

     The theme that permeated every minute of every day was that of economy and self reliance. Nothing was ever wasted, and what was gained was only through hard work. One day Joseph (Buddy's son) and I tore pages from a coloring book to make a pretend fire. We wadded the pieces and threw them under a quilting frame because it looked like a fireplace to us. We were pretty proud of ourselves. When Buddy saw what we had done, all our toys were taken away for a long time. I never wasted anything after that. 

      From behind his back Buddy produced a small dingy object for me to see.  Mom's birthday was approaching and this would be her gift. He handed me an old toothbrush with some goop on it and showed me how to polish the box. As I scrubbed,  ornate details of silver scrollwork emerged from the tarnish of ages. An old silver soap box eventually came back to life...and what? I don't remember. Did I give it to mom? Where is it now? Not important.

     I remember the important things from the experiences. 
Waste Nothing. Use Thought and Effort.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whoa, where did the time go?

Jess is a great help in the garden.

Tomatoes, ready to plant.

The corn is planted in my tiny garden spot....

Jess and Marshall enjoy the last of the winter garden...

If you want carrots like these, plant them and neglect to water them.

Okay, enough of the picture book. These are pics from February, so I need to update. The corn is 6 feet, sunflowers are around 9 feet tall. It is amazing what consistent watering will do for a plant.

I had a life-changing experience back in March while attending a garden seminar. Seriously. I feel I have been set free. With my new understanding of vegetables and "organic" gardening, I have high hopes for this season's plantings. The seminar was based on Jacob Mittlieder's method. Find out about it at

Now that my plants are producing, and I took care of the skunk problem...what the heck is running off with my veggies? Two bell peppers and two tomatoes are missing without a trace.
 I suspect it is a raccoon this time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Two-Seater

     I was in a restaurant one time in a small town in Arizona. It was one of those home-cookin'-ma-and-pa types. As I reached to open the bathroom door, an old woman and her daughter opened it and walked out. She chuckled as she told me it wasn't a "two-seater" and added "you are too young to know what that means!" 
As a child, I wasn't the least bit bothered by the lack of indoor plumbing at the Cooley Farm. It's probably because everything was so well done. We did have a hand pump that brought up water from the well in the kitchen. I do not remember bathing, except in the creek, which pleased me to no end. And the two-seater was very clean.

A breezeway had been added on to the farmhouse at some point and this attached to the indoor outhouse. Sounds smelly, I know, but it wasn't. Someone knew what they were doing. I think it sloped and drained away from the house.  It had two holes cut in the bench so two people could go at the same time.

My best memory involves two colors; Cobalt blue, and Whelp red. The interior of the outhouse was painted a brilliant, cheerful Cobalt. The "Whelp red" was from the butt comparison that Walt and I did in the outhouse one day after a good switchin' by mom and her willow branch.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Raising Them Right

Someday, M will be ready for pedals, and some trail riding.
 I can and can't wait for that day!

Kurt and the boys hang out while I do the 7 mile loop at my favorite trail.

where is everyone?