The Alchemy of Ritual!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Wanderlust!

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Mosey letting me know it’s time to get up!

It is definitely going to be another scorcher today. Early morning and the temperature is already wavering around 74 degrees. I am so ‘blessed’ to have a 175 pound alarm ‘clock’ let me know when it’s time to rise and shine and honestly, I want to get moving any how.  We are in the middle of high summer, and I need to get my farm chores done early; beat the heat.

Watering and feeding all the animals has its own rhythm, and it doesn’t take long to get them cared for. I check the gardens for ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash. I had just picked several baskets-full the day before, so the pickings are pretty slim. For now.

I survey the farm and the animals with satisfaction, and realize I have a good hour or so before I have to get Kayla up for her breakfast. I have been wanting to take a hike to the pond and figure, why not? Wanderlust has been whispering in my ear for several days now and I am excited to finally oblige. I grab my point and shoot camera and a handful of almonds, and set off across the barn lot.

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The path leading to one of the ponds on our farm.

This particular path is just wide enough for Farmer Matt to drive his Gator in between his acres of soybean. Matt leases this acreage from our landlord, who just happens to be my room-mate’s mom, Joy. Our little farm sits on about 4 1/2 acres which is situated within the 200+ acres Mindy grew up on. The land has been cultivated with corn and soybean even before Mindy was born.

It doesn’t take long for my pants to get soaked from the knees down as the grass and wildflowers are still covered in morning dew. I find myself high-stepping over the uneven ground, and concentrate on the path ahead of me.

It feels good to be out in the open, arms swinging, as I listen to the birds call and the buzz and flutter of jumpy, flitty, insects as they cross my path.

Weedy wildflowers grow all along the path, including creeping morning glory, Queen Anne’s lace, clover, and black-eyed Susan.

The path narrows as I continue my trek. I know I am close to the pond as I hear red-winged blackbirds call back and forth. I also hear the recognizable skronk of a Blue Heron, as it takes flight from the creek that runs just to the west of the pond. And the first soldiers of the mosquito brigade begin buzzing my head.

I make my way through the scrubby brush and wish I had remembered my Deep-Woods Off.  But the panic of being eaten alive by creepy mosquitos is quickly replaced by the breathtaking view of the pond.

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The pond located on the back north of the property.

I immediately hear the splash of turtles as they slide into the water from the fallen trees they had been sunning themselves on. Another skronk across the pond, and I hear the heavy flap of the large heron’s wings. It takes flight, circling once over the pond and heads south across the fields.

I wish I could sit and enjoy the calm coolness of this nearly hidden pond, but the skeeters are pretty much driving me crazy.  I take one last picture of the serene water, and high-tail it out of there.

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The pond dappled by the sunshine.

As I make my way back down the path, I decide to cut across one of the soybean fields (don’t tell Farmer Matt) and take a peek at the creek. Just a few weeks earlier, it was running over its bank, but now it looks almost passive and behaved.

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Middle Fork Creek.

I scamper up the bank and decide to walk the road back to our farm. Our farmhouse looks sleepy and quiet as I make my way across the front yard. I pause to enjoy this time with myself, just a pocket of solitude that energizes me the rest of the day. I know, as soon as I open that front door, kittens will be hanging from who knows what; the dogs will greet me, tails wagging; and Kayla will be stretching herself awake, ready for her morning oatmeal and berries.

My wanderlust sated for the time being, I open that door and continue my farm day.

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Ye olde scruffy farmhouse!

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” — Buddha

 

Please take a moment to check out our cottage business at Whimsical Moon Farm.

Harvesting Gratitude on the Farm.

“Tears are the summer shower to the soul.” —Alfred Austin

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Lightening bugs on a hot summer night after a storm.

It has been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and write a blog post. It has been a difficult summer so far. Outrageous thunderstorms with incredible wind and crazy rains; the bitter loss of a beloved farm cat who was hit by a vehicle and left on the side of our road; and battles with our intermittent satellite internet have all heaped frustration and stress on our farm and household.

Our creek has flooded its’ banks several times this growing season, destroying crops and causing undue wear and tear on our land bordering it. Standing pools of water in our large garden area rotted the newly planted strawberry rows and compromised our asparagus beds. Thunderstorms came rolling in one after the other causing power outages, messed up satellite reception, and downed tree limbs the size of a goat shed. Such a mess!

Kayla planting asparagus in the big garden and Kayla holding a gnarly rhubarb root about to go into the ground.

The most difficult part of farming for me, I think, is finding the positive in these difficult times. So, after taking off my grumpy-pants, Kayla and I decided to plant gratitude along with the seeds and roots we re-planted in the garden and raised beds. We created opportunities to discover reasons to be grateful (even without internet. HaHa!)

A baby cardinal in our maple tree, dandelion fluff, a bullfrog in our impromptu pond, beautiful sunsets, and the first strawberry growing in our pots on the front porch.

One afternoon, while barbecuing cheeseburgers, we discovered a baby cardinal newly fledged from its’ nest. A tiny mohawk crest on its’ head.  We listened to the bullfrog chorus each evening calling back and forth in the ‘pond’ that had formed in Farmer Matt’s soybean field. Kayla was thrilled when she discovered the first tiny strawberry growing in one of the pots on our front porch. And the summer sunsets are gorgeous.

We made it a point to slow down on our walks and listen carefully and observe deeper. We were thrilled when we discovered a cicada hiding in a basket near the chicken coop and the farm cats continued to amuse us in so many ways.

Cicada in the basket, kissing kitties, tree frog on the porch.

This summer season continues and we are grateful for satellite internet that currently works. We are thrilled to see vegetables on the vines each time we go out to the raised beds to harvest. Cucumbers, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce greens… the list continues and we are thankful for tasty summer salads. We enjoy stacking new rows of canned sauce and jam jars on the pantry shelves. We love the sunshine and we love watching the chickens peck in the tender grass for bugs and tidbits.

Living on the farm can be tenuous and difficult at times, but isn’t that just part of being a curious soul in these human bodies? That’s what Kayla and I believe.

Sunflower, romaine lettuce, cherry tomato, and Ginger-Roo, our resident rooster.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” —John Lubbok, ‘The Use of Life’.

 

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In loving memory of our beloved farm cat, Pookie!

Please check out our website at Whimsical Moon Farm!

 

OH! You’re One of Those Farmers!

 

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soul Cozy!

 

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    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