right now :: good finds

Cleaning up a pile of papers by my side of the desk, I ran into this jewel of a story, which I transcribed from the mouth of my then four year old daughter:

“So, this Unicorn has born before everything else, even before Hansel and Gretel, a long long time ago.  She didn’t even need a mom or dad, she just came out of her own belly and she could take care of herself.  She was the first creature.

She walked around looking at things, and then she walked into the jungle where Mowgli lived.  First she didn’t recognize him, then she did.  She and Mowgli made friends.

One day Mowgli realized she wanted him to j

ump onto her back, and when he did, she ran off, out of the jungle, and all the buffalos followed, and they ran out into the hills, and then they were tired, so Mowgli stretched out his feet and they rested.

The Unicorn and Mowgli went all around the world.  They could hardly stop.  They were going so fast Mowgli could hardly see anything.  They only stopped when they needed to eat or sleep. 

When they saw clouds puffed up they knew it was going to rain.  They ran so fast so the rain couldn’t get them.”

thanks colleen stewart for capturing that moment.

thanks colleen stewart for capturing that moment.  pokeberry eggplant delight.

sometimes a mess

The big moon peeks through the crack in my curtain and shines into my eyes like a spotlight. The rooster crows, and I am awake. But I don’t want to move. I feel so good, so warm, comfortable and right in myself. I will just lay still and all will be well.  Right?

There is a small but vocal part of my inner self that wishes I was a better housekeeper. A clear open space feels so good. It is a delight to the eye and restful to all the senses. But, for the most part, I am involved in the work of meal times, active parenting, homeschooling, keeping the garden, and those few hours of work away from home that always add up to more than I think they will. The house does not get the most of my attention, until it’s over the top.

Our house is small. We all sleep in one room, which is also the living room, dining room, and location of the only closet, which is also a pantry and tool shed.  The kitchen is also the laundry room and library. Upstairs is an office, a closet, and often a mess. Did you notice that I haven’t mentioned a dedicated place for the kid’s stuff?  There’s a reason for that.  We ran out of room in the house shortly after our first year of living here. This place was not designed with family and food storage in mind. There is not a place for everything, and even if there is a place for many things, their place is not tucked neatly behind a closed door. Much of the stuff of our lives is in plain view. The only closing doors we have here are exterior ones.mess 3

It’s a good thing to have company coming, first because it is precious to visit with extended family who live far away, and then also because it causes us to make this small, jam-packed house suitable for hosting much loved guests.

The new outbuilding, now christened le chateau, is finished, which is really to say just finished enough to move things into. So, in the spirit of creating a space we can share,  we began to move things. Boxes of hand made baby quilts from people we love. Boxes of old pictures and books, boxes of crafts and fabric, a box of yarn that has to stay on top so I can get to it easily.

Levon is pretty sure he's going to move into le chateau as well.

Levon is pretty sure he’s going to move into le chateau as well.

Behind the boxes, there was dust, lots of dust, and a little mold, especially in the corners. The sun was shining and I was feeling good about tackling it. It always feels good to see a mess go away on a sunny day. But by last night, I was not feeling so good anymore. I was sneezing violently. My eyes were pink and runny and my nose was dripping like a sugar maple (thank you, Shannon, for that phrase). My head felt like a hot air balloon. I was a mess.

When I am in this condition, my Fellow Man always says that I should wear a mask. I know he means well, and he’s right. If I had worn a face mask when I was down in the corner scrubbing the mold out and dusting out that nasty old dust I might not have gotten into this situation. But once my nose starts dripping, I just can’t stand the thought of a dust mask. Sneezing in a dust mask is just about exactly my idea of a bad time.

So this is why I lay in bed, with the moon in my face, holding perfectly still. Because I knew that when I moved, I would lose the beautiful equilibrium of sleep and begin sneezing again. And I was right, but that’s OK. I believe that the worst is over now.

I want you know that if are ever reading this blog and it makes you feel in any way bad, like you wish you had something you don’t, or that you don’t have it together, and our lives are pure beauty – it’s baloney. We’re all a mess sometimes, AND all our lives are beautiful – that means yours too.

Yes, we radical farmwives live in some lovely places. We spend a lot of time outdoors. We work for ourselves and live in full contact with our partners and children. And we write about it, to share it with you. None of this exempts us from the basic challenges of humanity.  There’s always a ragged edge in life somewhere.  Sometimes we just tuck it under – and sometimes we have to pull it out and give it a good shake.

J.M.W. Turner "The Rainbow"

J.M.W. Turner “The Rainbow”

One more day of cleaning, and the house will really feel better, and so will I. Knowing this, I am able to watch the light creeping into the sky and write this love note into the cyber-universe.

There’s always a choice to be made inside. I can stay down in the dark, wallowing in my feelings of inadequacy and messiness, or I can turn on the light, fetch a fresh handkerchief (and maybe a face mask), and get back to work.

The moon has set now, the sky is changing its palette from deep blue, transitioning in shades of purple and pink. Soon the morning sun will be sparkling in the frozen tree tops. After that, it will touch the hard frozen ground and thaw the day.

Today, I choose to bring on the light – how about you?

the clean and the not so clean

the cleanliness threshold, you know the one, the breaking point where you just absolutely HAVE to get down on your hands and knees and scrub. it is different for everyone and it seems we don’t necessarily marry or give birth to folks with the same threshold. so we charge through family life sharing space and knowing we might or might not kick one of our beloved over the edge with nothing but the best intentions.

before i go further with my story, i know it is time for some self reflection (and in case i wasn’t heading in that direction, my dear sister in law just read over my shoulder and reminded me to). my threshold is pretty high. paul’s is lower, madeline’s is higher. hands down the neatest member of the family is sasha, william is still too young to call. all of that is to say, i don’t love cleaning. i put it off. my daily to do list can be so long, once i power through each day, (which does include lots of said work: in addition to the basics of keeping a family of 5 fed and cared for, we milk a cow, lots of washing and sterilizing there friends!) i settle in to other, non tidy tasks. i am guilty of letting  the piles get bigger. the deep cleaning, the floor washing, the wall scrubbing, that sneaks further and further to the list’s bottom. i am not necessarily proud of this part of myself. i work hard at keeping a tidy home, really i do, but not as hard as others might like.


enter family time. each february our sister and brother-in-law with their daughter come for a mid winter break kentucky style. sometimes we are trapped indoors, but this glorious week past we have had near perfect conditions and tons of tasks have been made fun and delightful with our big family group. today, a sunny sunday, phoebe entered just past the crack of dawn, awaited the requisite hot coffee and got right to it. of all my friends and relatives, phoebe’s threshold is the lowest. she LOVES cleanliness and order so much, she even enjoys cleaning for others (or at least for me anyway). no family vacation is complete without an aunt phoebe do-over and boy has this been a good one. it was thorough. it was fun.


i think it takes a special amount of love in a relationship to handle some of these daily life issues. i am lucky to have a sister in law i know and love so well. i take no offense as she mercilessly scours my home for outdated toys, single shoes, dust bunnies. she judges me not when she finds and disposes of these horrors.


lest you think this family time was all scrubbing, there was plenty of farm based get dirty kind of fun.


we bid these dears a sad farewell tomorrow morn, they leave us with a heart full of love, another delightful collection of memories, and a clean house.