Just Another Love Affair

One of my oldest memories is planting sunflowers and pear tomatoes at the bottom of a steep hill where my parents had built a garden. Everyday I would climb the fence (because gates are boring) and run down the hill to see what had happened since the night before. I loved the dirt squelching through my toes, under my nails, and seemingly embedded in my scalp. I would go inside after a day of mud houses and reading in trees to hear, “Kate, did you roll in the mud or are you just magnetically attracted to every floating piece of dirt?”

As I grew older things didn’t change. In school I was the first one with my shoes off running through the fields of weeds during recess. I could never stay clean. A smudge of dirt on my face, streak of mud on my knee-highs, and busted knees constantly betrayed me. In high school, my teachers realized that it was better to just let me study and write outside on sunny days than to watch me pine for the fresh air and fidgeting in my seat. I would stand in the rain, read in the tallest trees, weeded the wildflowers in April, and picked them all in May.

And I read – Caddie Woodlawn, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and many biographies about prairie wives, missionaries to India, and adventures. When my body wasn’t having adventures, discovering Jerusalem crickets and rattlesnakes, my mind was surviving in the arctic tundra or saving slave girls in the slums of India. I never wore shoes and built worlds of my own in dugouts where I would spend afternoons reading.

Wild, idyllic childhood gave way to a more calm adolescence. I spent most of my time reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. I loved the outdoors and spent much of my lunches reading outside, but the pull of words was too strong. Fortunately, my English teacher understood my thirst for knowledge coupled with wanderlust. He expanded my mind with a biblical perspective in every area of writing – theology, history, philosophy, literature, science, and the arts. This was what drove me back outdoors.

I found myself needing space to think and absorb the knowledge my teacher and parents had given me. I could sit outside for hours dangling on our tire swing watching the world spin around me, completely lost in thought. I would read and then go outside and think. Sometimes I would walk around the school grounds alone or hide in a tree during breaks just to process. The land became my sanctuary.  I would read and think and read more. I loved hammocks, porch swings, grassy hillsides, and high rocks.

Then I graduated.

I had worked since junior high, so I knew the reality of getting more work was coming. I dreaded being locked indoors for days on end, limited on reading time, and slowly losing my mental agility. I drifted from job to job enjoying aspects of many and being mostly miserable for a solid year. Then, on December 14, 2010 one of my best friends and I decided to go on a mission’s trip. We worked on a farm for three months which I loved. I thrived there – Learning a new language, working with in dirt daily, walking miles daily, and focusing on others.

I came home and thought I knew my direction – dirt. I started working towards my degree in Anthropology and soon after got a job on the farm I work at now. I read as voraciously as ever and the hours of silence in the field gives me time to think deeply about everything.

My writing is just a by product. In my case: Reading + Dirt = Grounded Thought

Its a system that characterizes me. I am so grateful for it because it not only brings fulfillment but peace, a peace only found in dwelling on God’s Word, the framework and foundation of my world. I work the land He created and think about what he created it for.

Thats my secret to happiness.

-W

Mountain Girls Eat Nettle

Nettle for BreakfastNo Four Letter Words Were Used in The Making of This Post.

If Eskimos have a hundred ways to define snow and the Yanomamo in Brazil have at least that many ways to say death, then farmers have twice as many ways to describe pain.

There’s the good kind –  the deep ache after hand plowing a field, the sunburn on the back of your neck after the first day in the fields during spring, and the slight splintery feel all over after spending a day chopping and stacking wood.

Then there’s the bad kind – Plowing straight into a red ants’ nest, the raw feeling when you have to rip a strand of thorns out of your back, and the feeling that you’re not quite as young as you once were when you stand up after harvesting rows of lettuce.

I know I am absolutely, irrationally, in love with what I do. Who other than a love sick girl would wake up in the morning with a smile, knowing that she was going to spend an hour and a half  harvesting stinging nettle?

I remember crawling under trampolines or picking berries in the summer only to have my arms and face suddenly erupt with bumps and stinging. Personally, I would rather get stung by a bee than deal with stinging nettle. Bees come and go, even the most vindictive little devils. (I would know. I’m bee-nip.)But, stinging nettle is always there. It grows, hides, and is easily forgotten.

This morning, however, I was searching the stuff out, so I could finally dig that ditch for the fingerling potatoes. The nettle has taken over part of our garden, so in an effort to exterminate it… we are eating it.

securedownloadAct of Idiocy #1: Wearing Bad Gloves

I hate wearing gloves. I can never find my size; they never last more than a month. Currently, I have a pair of leather ones I use for everything, but the holes in the grip and seams meant it would be unwise to try to harvest nettle with them. So, in an act of pure brilliance I grabbed a pair of gardening gloves with a cloth back and plastic front. Within a minute the nettles had worked their way through the cloth section, every time I turned my hand wrong they bored into  the back. The plastic was alright for grabbing the plant, but after a while it wasn’t enough to repel the persistant ones. The moral here is to wear elbow length, leather gloves that, if possible, repel everything.

Act of Idiocy #2: Wearing the Wrong Type of Sleeves

If I can impress anything in your memory, let it be this. There is a special level of annoyance when you start pulling off your favorite worn out, second hand, sweatshirt and time released burrs bury themselves into your arms and neck. Cotton is the wrong material. Also, polyester and rayon combos because they are tacky. Your best bet will probably be a barn coat, heavy, thick, and canvas on the outside like the Carhart I was too lazy to go get.

Act of Idiocy #3: Touching

This was possibly the biggest failure of common sense that occurred during the whole debacle. If your nose itches, don’t touch it. If a hair falls into your face, don’t brush it out of the way. And, if you have the urge to brush the back of your neck and face with a prickle filled glove, SQUELCH IT.

If you haven’t figured it out, my family has been forging into the world of foraging. B makes wild camomile teas, mom likes purslane salads, and C pretends to not be “weirded out” by our strange interests. As a mountain girl, I know my poison ivy, oaks, and nettles. Still, I made a rookie mistake and now sport a line of white bumps on my neck and chin. Fortunately, the layer of nettle on my hands is more annoying, so I can ignore it.

A post on the facts, processing, herbal remedies and usage of nettle will be coming on Homestead Revival shortly.

-W

There Once Was a Swing Under a Tree

309719_4287168978279_228805857_n     There is an old swing in my grandma’s yard. I remember my grandfather pushing me on it, swinging with my sisters, reading Nancy Drew and Dickens, and accidentally getting trapped under it once. It sways slightly as I breath, a gentle wind is helping it along a bit.

It sits under a large shade tree with smooth glassy leaves, smooth splotchy bark and long branching limbs I scrambled up as a child. There is a cool breeze drifting over the Birdhouse where my Grandpa’s wood shop and garage are. The late afternoon sun peeps through the oaks on the far side of the yard, glinting off the rusting blades of the tall windmill and casting the mesquite tree in a better light than I will see it when I will go inside and end up with thorns in my foot.

A large red fence is in front of the swing and I can see children running around and jumping on a trampoline. They are laughing and screaming in the most jubilant manor.

I  keep glancing in my grandmother’s window catching the glint of the T.V.

There are so many memories here. I lost a toenail on the rock rim of one of the tress. In the sandy corner by the wood shop my little sister and I painted a child’s table yellow, so that grandpa would have something pretty to put his tools and spare nails on. That was in the same wood shop where we, Grandpa mostly, built a heart shaped footstool based on one my mother painted.

The best part are the mockingbirds whose constant chatters fill the yard with a variety of sounds.

I love this spot. It has been my spot since I was little.

I keep expecting B or C to come grab my book away or mom to tell me to come set the table.

-W

Be Still

There is something incredibly beautiful about silence. Words detract from the fullness of a silent moment. It is more intimate than a casual conversation and there are no barriers to hide behind. Honesty, sincerity, and intent are in the eyes and whole conversations can be had without saying one word.

I was once in a botanical garden full of tropical flowers and rose gardens. I dragged a friend of mine to a hot house claiming to have cacti from the Mojave desert. The entire atmosphere inside was different, outside was humid, inside was arid. We were part of a group of about twenty who had been together constantly for months and for the most part there was never much silence; everyone was trying to learn and grow together. I loved it all, but in the moment I stepped into the hot house I noticed the stillness and silence, not even a bug chirped. My friend didn’t hear it for a minute until I pointed out the silence in a whisper. We walked through the room silently and stood there a minute before going back to our misadventures.

I have been thinking about the phrase, “improving the silence.” Silence says so much, in some ways more genuinely and honestly than we can with words.

-W

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

My favorite time of the year is here! I woke up this morning and the air was brisk, the leaves were changing, and I heard whispers of butchering chickens and chopping wood.

Yesterday I chopped pumpkins off of vines, preparing to store the hard squash. I have been ripping out fields and preparing them for cover crop. Mom and I are working on a winter crop of beets, chard, parsnips, and carrots.

I am ready to be done with summer. Frantic canning sessions, human eating squash plants, and prolific tomatoes all have there place, but it is time to pull out the rakes and axes, put on the plaid jackets and scarves, and go everywhere with a cup of tea.

– W

I Just Need A Moment

When I was sixteen, I had an awful doctor’s appointment in LA. Just bad in general: running back and forth between buildings, basement complexes, and labs, waiting hours for a doctor to follow up on his interns work. Dashed hopes, bad coffee, and sixteen different tones of white. I felt like a patient in a medical tellanovela.

Instead of taking  me straight to the hotel and crashing on fast food and an in-room movie, Mom took me out, knowing exactly what I needed.

First came dinner at a tiny corner Italian place – the best Chicken Diablo and gelato in LA.

This was followed by a walk across the street to my own version of retail therapy – Borders – complete with Seattle’s Best and their fall specials

I spent two hours meandering through three stories of literature, history, philosophy, and poetry while  drinking apple cider.

I left with a stack of books.

Today, I was leaning over rotting squash plants covered in the mosquitos from the nest I just crashed when I had the insatiable urge to drink apple cider.

Nostalgia is its own type of drug.

After work, where I wasn’t my typical self, I caved and went straight to our local used book store. As soon as I walked in Chris Botti’s trumpet and Maddy Matilda, the store cat, greeted me.

I realized the best place to be truly alone is in public. Everyone else pretends no one else exists.

My poor mother. Her eldest daughter enjoys cats, jazz, dead writers, and cider… She is never going be able to marry me off even if she gives me two goats and ten chickens as a dowry.

– W

Singing, Woodland Creatures, and Playing Goldilocks

Work was fantastic for two weeks. First, came a week full of advertising, marketing, and research. We took purslane, a plant we had been weeding for hours, and turned it into a cash crop. Then, the week before I left for Texas, I went on a Broadway run, singing every song from every musical I could think of.
I am starting to think there may be something to singing and animals. First, the mocking birds started singing back. Then I found a baby mocking bird in my weeding row. We moved it back into the nest in the olloliberry patch only to have a toad family replace it.
Before we arrived in Texas, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel. Of course I had to try all of the rocking chairs and C put it all together.
The mystery plant, the singing, the woodland animals, the reenactment of traditional fairy tales…. It’s Disney princess syndrome.
-W