The Alchemy of Ritual!

SONY DSC

A recent thunderstorm caused our power and internet to go out. The farm got quiet and calm, even during the storm.

Alchemy: (Noun)

  • The medieval forerunner of chemistry based on the supposed transformation of matter.
  • A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

Ritual: (Noun)

  • A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
  • A series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.

“Life is the ceremony. How we live it is the sacred ritual” — Wind Hughes

SONY DSC

Oops! There’s a peeper in my tea cup.

I was recently chatting with a friend of mine over a cup of Earl Grey tea and munching on some tasty scones. We were laughing over some of the habits we find ourselves doing as we move through our days. For instance, I often turn on  music when I am doing my housecleaning, even though I can’t hear it over the vacuum cleaner. And she rubs her Saint Christopher medal she keeps in the console of her car before driving to the city (for protection), even though she’s not Catholic.

As we sat there shaking our heads and sipping our tea, we both paused at the same time. “What if we looked at our daily habits and practices and called them rituals? How magical would those moments in each day feel?” my friend asked.

A few days later, I paid attention to my daily chores and routine and looked for the rituals in each moment.

Sunrise close-up

Sunrise on the farm.

I am almost always up and stumbling around at the (ass) crack of dawn. Ginger-roo, the rooster, usually crows until he sees that I am upright and semi-alert. The first ritual I perform is to look out the door and check the sunrise (or cloud layer), shush the rooster, and determine how I’m going to dress that morning. Then, I fill the tea kettle and put it on the stove medium-low so the water will be hot by the time I get back from chores.

After all my morning jobs are finished, I always sit down with my hot cup of tea, light a candle, and write in my journal. This is my daily writing practice, no matter what. It does feel more sacred when I call it my daily writing ritual.

Bella insists on helping me with my farm duties.

Bella has her own rituals. Each morning she greets me as I step out onto the side porch and follows me everywhere I go. She enjoys helping with the chickens. Although she can make the rooster a bit nervous, she can be counted on to participate in the feeding, watering, and cleaning of the chickens. We have two working coops at the moment, and she takes her responsibility seriously.

Her most import ritual as the farm cat is to rub against my legs and make sure I admire her soft fur and fill her cat dish full of kibble.

SONY DSC

The fresh baked apple pie ritual.

I didn’t realize it until my daughter Kayla pointed this out to me one day, but whenever I bake, I usually hum. Nonsensical humming. It doesn’t matter if I am kneading bread dough, rolling out pastry pie crust, or scooping cookie dough, I hum. Kind of like a baked goods humming mantra. I especially enjoy the repetition of kneading bread dough and often find my mind wandering through a possible blog post or story plot while I push the dough back and forth. And hum. It’s therapeutic.

The ritual of baking: turning yeast, water, and flour into a fresh loaf of bread. Alchemy at its finest.

SONY DSC

My writing nook.

Writing, for me, is practically a ritual all in itself. Mostly a forced ritual, if truth be told. I have to actually talk myself into placing my butt in the chair and working on a project. Half of the time, I am staring into space. The other half, I am putting words on paper or on my computer screen and hoping that somewhere in all of these sentences and paragraphs there is actually a line or a thought that lights up my imagination. Or sounds profound. Or at least, makes sense.

Writing consists of much pacing back and forth, furrowing my forehead, and copious amounts of ice tea. Or coffee. It just depends. And I can find so many other things that need my immediate attention beside actually meeting the page head on.

The thing is, I have found when I take a moment to light a candle, have my beverage of choice already in place, and give a quiet nod to my muse, I create an inner space around my writing nook that kind of transports me to this notion that it is now time to write. This ritual of preparation sets the focus for my writing. Usually it works!

SONY DSC

Sunset on the farm.

The alchemy of ritual is finding the magical transformation that each moment can possess when we look at our day with renewed perception. Who knew that humming, or pacing, or even greeting the morning with a hot cup of tea could take on the quality of a delightful ritual? Certainly, there are some days that are full of tedium and frustration. I can easily succumb to gloom and doom. But when I find myself humming while I roll out that pizza dough, I can practice the magical art of ritual, right in my kitchen.

 

Please take a moment to gander at our hand-crafted herbal soaps at whimsicalmoonfarm.com.

 

A little side adventure:

Several weeks ago, I found a most amazing sight right there in the parking lot of our local Tractor Supply store. I don’t usually get all giddy over such things as this, but when you are used to seeing beat up farm trucks, tractors, or hauling-ass grain trucks rolling along your narrow rural road, something just lights a spark of delight when you espy such a sight as this (well, it does for me):

BEAUTY!

This gorgeous, mint condition, 1977 Chevy Corvette belongs to Randy Hill. He was most generous in letting me drool (on myself, not the car) and take pictures. He told me it has a factory 4-speed 350 under the hood, but assuredly the headers, cams, and other enginey things he’s upgraded gift it with 450 hp.

Big thank you to Randy and his companion Jessica for letting us enjoy (while ogling) this treat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly Mooching!

Morels

Freshly picked morel mushrooms.

My roommate Mindy and I picked our way through the woods, carefully stepping over fallen tree limbs and budding brambles. The morning was warm and the sound of bird call echoed through the trees. Mindy knew these parts of the woods well, pointing out a slight rise as she explained to me what I was looking for. You see, Mindy has been roaming these woods since she was knee-high to a grasshopper and she was about to share with me one of her family treasures: the coveted morel patch.

The previous evening we had a warm Spring rain and this particular morning was clear and bright. Perfect conditions for the tasty morsels to make their appearance. Mindy explained to me that they were a rare find because they require such specific conditions including old growth hardwood forests; the deer enjoy dining on them, often before we can find them; plus, they are only harvestable for about three days.

Mindy showed me areas around the rotted wood and spongy lichen where they are usually known to grow. Dried brown leaves from last Autumn still littered the forest floor, so we gently pushed the leaves aside as we walked hunched over like a couple of elderly nuns.

Suddenly, Mindy let out an excited squeak as she reached down between some flowering wake-robin and pinched off a small, wrinkled, knobbily gnome shaped fungus. “Got one”, she said as she held it out for my perusal.

Within a few minutes, she had discovered four or five more of the mushrooms in the vicinity. I had yet to find one myself.

Molly mooching, as morels are often called in the Appalachians and West Virginia are actually Morchella esculenta. They are a highly prized delicacy by both professional chefs and home cooks. Currently, you can purchase 16 ounces of these dried mushrooms for $305.40. From Walmart.

I had read earlier that mushroom ethics mandate a mesh bag for gathering the gems, so the spores can scatter to the ground as you carry home your harvest. This time, we were not quite as technical as we carried our small bounty back to Mindy’s mom’s house in a grocery bag. Mindy’s mom, Joy, submerged them in a bowl filled with water and placed a plate on top of them so they would stay submerged for a period of several hours. This was to purge them of dirt and crawly things.

When it was time to cook the mushrooms, Joy placed a couple of eggs lightly beaten in a shallow bowl and whole wheat flour in another bowl. She melted half a pound of butter in a large skillet on medium low heat. The morels were sliced in half and Joy first dipped them in the eggs then dredged them in the flour before placing them in the skillet to fry. She seasoned them with a little salt and cracked black pepper and allowed them to cook just until golden on one side before turning them over. She then cooked them a few minutes more on the other side, until lightly browned, and then scooped them onto paper towel to drain.

Fried morels

Fresh batch of butter fried morels. YUM!

There is nothing I can compare these tasty butter fried mushrooms to in flavor. They are uniquely mild and earthy with a savory umami deliciousness. Crispy and crunchy, they are a delightful treat.

Our harvest this time provided Mindy, Joy, my daughter Kayla, and I a taste of an elusive prized delicacy. After we were done licking our fingers and exclaiming our pleasure to one another, Mindy informed us she would be going back out again tomorrow morning.

SONY DSC

Nessie’s pond located in the middle of the woods where we picked the morels.

We would love it if you took a gander at our handcrafted herbal soaps made right here on Whimsical Moon Farm.

Winter on the Farm!

Snow plow

The snow plow moving Winter out of East Cornfield, Indiana.

Winter has descended upon Whimsical Moon Farm. The skies can change from gray to baby blue then gray again in a slight moment. The snow falls in tiny sparkling ice chips or fat fluffy flakes and I find myself moving through the chilly day determined to get from one farm chore to the next in the most expedient manner. The temperature usually hovers in the teens and muck boots, wool gloves, and thick layers are now the norm. My baseball cap has been replaced with a heavy knitted cap pulled down over my ears. My breath comes in silvery puffs and my glasses fog up as soon as I come back inside. Yes, Old Man Winter has made himself at home once again.

We have the chicken coop fortified with straw bales blocking the wind and holding in some of the heat produced by a warming heat pad hidden under the straw on the main floor. A heated water feeder keeps the chickens’ water flowing, but there have been a couple mornings I have had to scrape a rim of ice off the edge of the container.

Straw bales encircle the chicken coop. The girls peek out at me from their opened attic.

Neither of our Chihuahuas nor the farm cats want anything to do with the snow and frigid temperatures, but one of our beasts is totally in his element. Mosey, the St. Bernard, loves the snow. In fact, he often begs and whines to romp outside so he can plow through the drifts and sniff every little scent. He is certain the snow is here just for him as he claims every pristine area with his snuffling and galloping footprints.

SONY DSC

Mosey loves, loves the snow!

Although the Winter season has never been one of my favorite times of the year, I do appreciate the excuse to bake home-made bread and keep hearty soup warming on the stove for a quick bowl. The days are shorter lending themselves to getting chores done fast and then hunkering down with that good book I’ve been wanting to read. Piping hot chocolate steaming on the table next to me, a warm blanket tucked around my legs, and shivering Chihuahuas burrowed underneath.

Garden seed catalogs come in the mail regularly and I find myself dreaming of that new flower bed next spring and more raised beds closer to the house. I know, I still have a long cold slog ahead of me, but those seed catalogs can be a life-line to somebody that appreciates warmer days and abundantly bursting gardens.

SONY DSC

The Winter sunsets are remarkably beautiful even with the bare trees accenting them.

I try to greet each morning on the farm with gratitude. Winter provides opportunities to count different blessings as I appreciate a toasty warm home, the messy pile of books next to my futon for my reading pleasure, internet when it is actually working (unfortunately we can only get satellite here on the farm. Ugh!), hot coffee percolating on the stove, and rousing board games on the kitchen table with my daughter Kayla. She is a Candy Land maniac beating me 3 out of 4 games regularly.

I do look forward to Spring, but right now Winter has us in his grasp and we will continue to snuggle with puppies and stay cozy warm.

Hope you have a toasty warm Winter!

Please check out our handcrafted herbal soaps at Whimsicalmoonfarm.com

OH! You’re One of Those Farmers!

 

SONY DSC

Harriet greeting the morning, “I’m a farmer!”

So, there I was standing in line at the local Tractor Supply store, my cart loaded down with a 50 pound bag of Layer Pellets, a 50 pound bag of Scratch Grains, a small bottle of liquid wormer for the farm cats, and a diet cherry cola.

“Are you a farmer?”

I turned around and there sat a bright-eyed, smiling little girl in the basket of a shopping cart. Her mom was impatiently paging through last months issue of Capper’s magazine. “Don’t bother the lady, Cindy Lou.”

“Well, yes I am,” I told Cindy Lou and winked at her as I turned back into the line.

“Do you grow lots of corn like my pop-pop?” Cindy Lou asked.

I turned again and smiled at this darling girl. “No. I grow vegetables and herbs for the farmer’s market and my family, and I have a small flock of laying hens.”

I heard Cindy Lou’s mom snort from behind her magazine as she mumbled “oh, one of those farmers.”

“Next please,” the cashier said. I really wanted to ask Cindy Lou’s mom what she meant, but it was my turn to check out. I pushed my cart up to the register and moved the heavy bags around so the cashier could scan them. By the time I was finished paying for my items, Cindy Lou and her mom had already moved to a different register and I needed to get out of the way for the next customer.

By the time I got back to the farm, I had worked myself into a dither. What did Cindy Lou’s mom possibly mean with her snorting comment? Did I own or lease 250-300+ acres of land and plant it in agri-corn and soybean subsidized by government programs and supplemented by herbicides and pesticides? No. My tiny farm sits on 4+ acres right smack dab in the middle of those vast corn fields and I grow vegetables and herbs. I prefer not to use chemicals but rely on permaculture techniques, crop rotation, and just plain weeding and observation. Did that make me one of those farmers?

353

One of many raised vegetable beds.

I continued to consider my position as a farmer. What are the requirements and standards? Did I have to be raised on a generational farm to call myself a farmer? If so, I was again out of luck. I grew up in a small mill town on the banks of the Columbia river in Washington state. I grew a scrappy little herb garden in my mom’s old iris bed. I did want to grow up to be a farmer, though.

 

SONY DSC              The Columbia River gorge as seen from the Vista House near Corbett, OR.

How did I decide to call myself a farmer?

Well, I roll myself out of bed each morning at the (ass) crack of dawn with several of my chores staring me in the face. Mosey, the St. Bernard licks my hand while the two Chihuahuas, Winter and Autumn dance around my feet, eagerly waiting to be fed. The cats need to be let outside as they chase each other from one end of the house to the other, and I must put a pot of coffee on the stove. Strong (fair-trade) coffee just makes sense on the farm. For me, it’s a necessity, not just a fancy.

The mornings are cold now and I have to make sure the chicken’s water isn’t frozen. I grab a couple scoops of layer pellets and grain scratch to toss in their bowl, and I gabble and cluck at the chickens as I clean their nest box and check for eggs.

During the summer time, I try to get my garden and outdoor chores completed early  in the morning while the temperatures are moderate. Now that Winter is knocking at my door, I still try to get as much done in the morning as I can so I can get back into my toasty kitchen and determine what needs to be done for the rest of the day.

As one of those farmers, I have learned how to tolerate dirt under my nails, random chicken feathers stuck in my hair, and ‘farm fresh’ as my new favorite fragrance. Work gloves are my go-to accessory and muck boots and garden clogs now sit  forefront in my closet while the designer heels and loafers are piled way in the back gathering dust. Heavy duty Carhartt pants and t-shirts or flannel shirts round out the ensemble topped with a baseball cap; my hair pulled in a long pony-tail sticking out the back.

SONY DSC

Dusk on the farm.

More importantly, being one of those farmers isn’t about what I can take from the land, but what I can give back. How can I make this tiny piece of earth a better place than it was before I began calling it my farm?

I have chosen not to use herbicides or pesticides on the land, but choose to restore the earth with compost and manure, cover-crops, and vermiculture (earth worms). I plant only heirloom and traditional (open-pollinated seeds) so I can both save the seeds for next year’s gardens and be assured that I am not eating genetically modified organisms. I consider rebuilding the soil on the farm just as important as feeding my family and my animals.

I grow a variety of different types of vegetables, herbs, and even flowers in my gardens as I follow a permaculture system of maintaining diversity and building miniature eco-systems in each bed. This means I try to create habitats for the birds, beneficial bugs, and butterflies to help me sustain a healthy, co-operative farm. With permaculture I tend to plant my seedlings closer together so that as they grow they create a canopy that will reduce evaporation and block the weeds. (Generally.) I rotate my crops from season to season to maintain healthy soil and hopefully fool the invasive insects into thinking dinner is no longer available here. Plus, I grow many different types of crops in the same place. For instance, I have learned that I can grow sweet corn with pole beans and squash in the same bed. As the corn grows taller, the pole beans grow along the corn stock and the squash with its broad leaves ramble around the base of the plants which again hinder weed growth and reduces water evaporation. This technique is often called planting ‘the three sisters’ and is credited to our Native American elders.

As I focus on what I can do to create a healthier farm, I attempt to maintain mindful consumption and conservation. Waste is such a huge issue for me and I find myself not only recycling every little thing that I can, but trying to figure out other uses for items that would ordinarily be tossed in land-fills. Admittedly, this is not always possible to do, but I limit my purchases of items that I realize will end up being tossed and try to use things to their maximum output. If I must throw it away, I want it to be as small, used up, and compact as it can be.

As I work towards a simpler lifestyle, I have found so much stuff that no longer benefits me. As I decide what needs to go I always try to ask around to see if somebody else could use it. If not, I pass it on to Goodwill or one of the many ministries at the local church.  When contemplating a purchase, I spend time determining if this is an absolute necessity or just a passing whim. I have come to realize that each purchase I make has an impact on the planet. Will my money benefit or diminish resources on this tiny piece of earth I leave for the next generation?

SONY DSC

Wildflowers growing in our barn lot.

I have found that this farm has helped me to reconnect with the land. It has challenged me to learn new skills and to create a more socially responsible lifestyle. Whimsical Moon Farm has pushed me to be more creative and passionate about what I value and how I display those values to my family, friends, and community. I am absolutely doing what I love while I live in alignment with nature and the seasons. If this makes me one of those farmers, than I embrace that calling wholeheartedly.

 

Please feel free to check out our new Whimsical Moon Farm website featuring hand-crafted herbal soaps and products crafted right here on this farm.

Whimsicalmoonfarm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just One of Those Days!

bare-trees

Our changing landscape: the harvested corn fields and fall trees look bare against the Autumn morning sky.

I woke up early this morning and knew it was going to be one of those days. A fabulous day! The sun is shining, the air is fresh and crisp, and I feel like I can conquer the world. Well, at least my tiny, tiny corner of the world.

I practically skipped as I did my chores, my steps light-footed, and my off-key singing barely bothered the chickens. What is it about some days that allow you to feel like everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be?

My schedule is full with necessary activities that I have to get done, but I felt optimistically confident that creativity and calm will reign supreme. My daily writing practice has been swept aside lately with the accumulated tasks that have piled up, but today is the perfect day to make my writing a priority again. I fired up my lap-top as I sat on the front porch, listened to the ‘girls’ softly cluck, and spent pleasant moments as I revisited my story in progress. I even got to share the calm with a deer as she crossed the barn lot. Thank goodness we always keep the camera handy and ready to roll for moments just like this.

A deer wandered into our barn lot, the chickens keep me company while I write on my porch, and the day-lilies always make me smile.

Monday is always clean house day, and usually I drag my vacuum cleaner around like it is a torture device. I grumble and sneer. Today I decided to open up the house one last time before the weather turned cold and give the place a thorough once over. Cobweb patrol, chasing dust rhino’s from under the furniture, and even washing windows gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. A good spit-shine can lift the spirits of an old farmhouse and it just feels good to sit back and ’embrace the clean’. This is a fabulous day!

 Kayla standing in front of our ‘Gandalf’ scarecrow, newly canned applesauce, and dinner: big ol’ chopped salad.

Maybe it’s just the Autumn season that provides this feeling of exuberance. The cooler temperatures and the shorter days give me many reasons to spend time ‘nesting’ and slowing down. Life doesn’t feel nearly as frantic and things get done as they get done. I have crossed many chores off my to-do list, like canning applesauce and dilly beans and freezing summer corn. Most of the outbuildings are secured and ready for the harsh Winter weather ahead. The chicken coop is almost ready for Winter and we’ve stocked up on bales of straw and feed. Being prepared does provide much impetus for a fabulous day!

My daughter Kayla has decided she would have a fabulous day today, too. Her special needs and her battle with schizophrenia can often cause her anxiety and stress, but how can anybody be ‘down-in-the-dumps’ when you have a friend like ‘Gandalf the Scarecrow’ to protect your pumpkins and make you smile? She decided to help me make our main meal and cheerfully began chopping vegetables and tossing in handfuls of walnuts and dried cranberries. Soon our salads will change over to thick, hearty vegetable soups but since today is so fabulous, chopped salad it is.

toad

Ninja toady. Can you see him?

As I brew a pot of coffee on the stove-top and look out the kitchen window, I notice the drain spouts full of dried leaves, old clay pots that need to be stored in the shed, and fallen limbs that need to be stacked on the burn pile. I will save those chores for my next fabulous day. Right now, I need to go take a peek at the big toad Kayla found next to the smoke house and have a mug of hot, fresh coffee.

It’s just been one of those days! I hope you have a whimsically fabulous day, too!

Soul Cozy!

 

SONY DSC

    Cozy! Fluffy socks, flannel pajamas, a good book, and comfy chair.

There are times in our daily lives when we need to remember how to relax and just do cozy. Maybe it was a rough day at the office or the plant or on the farm, or a child woke up with a fever. Maybe your bad dog just piddled on your favorite rug, or the farmer next door loudly rolls into your yard from the cornfield with a combine spewing black smoke and wants to borrow your garden hose (true story). These are moments that require the practice of what I call soul cozy.

Starting a small farm from the dirt up, raising a special needs adult fairy child, and creating a cottage business from scratch has provided me many opportunities to breathe, let go of expectations, and just say, “okay, I surrender”. I have developed several options that I may choose from when I desire to refuel and nourish my soul. I would like to share some of my favorite soul cozies with you.

Fresh baked black raspberry pie, a hot mug of cocoa, a hearty bowl of potato soup.

I have found when I am troubled or frustrated getting in the kitchen and cooking or baking helps me to unwind and focus on simpler things. Whether it is something as elaborate as a home-baked black raspberry pie or as simple as warming up a mug of hot cocoa with whipped cream on top, the act of measuring, stirring, preparing, and then enjoying tasty food is a fulfilling soul cozy.

I believe a thick, hearty soup contains more than just vegetables, stock, meat/and or bacon, and cream. (Yes, I did say bacon!) For me, soup is the perfect accompaniment to warming the soul and rebooting my attitude. It possesses nourishment, many good memories, and can be easily shared with family and friends who also may be in need of a good soul cozy.  Throw in freshly baked yeast rolls and you have the perfect soul food.

Autumn snuggled in her blankie, Winter looks for loves, Mosey cozy on his couch, Sweetums and Bella Boo are relaxed and comfy.

Animals fully understand the concept of cozy and comfy. I have found I can learn a lot from my dogs and cats in both the easy attitude and the many forms that soul cozy can take. It seems my pets have a built-in soul radar that knows when I need a rub on the leg and a loud purr, or a big head in my lap to pet, or a puppy who will wiggle under the blanket and snuggle while I read. Animals are soul cozy in action.

Simple rituals like lighting a fragrant candle, picking up a favorite book of inspiration, or just sitting on the porch for a moment and taking a deep breath, often help me soften my attitude and count my blessings. Gratitude is my favorite soul cozy. I try to practice it often.

What do you do when you are in need of a good soul cozy? I would love to hear about them. I hope you are enjoying many whimsical blessings and moments of soul cozy.

Potato soup picture courtesy of http://www.happybellyfoodie.com