Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Get Less and Live More

Dreams. We all have them. Whether big, joyful or adventurous...they somehow become woven into a part of our daily thoughts.

Sometimes they consume us. Our dreams push us. And, other times we snuff out the glimmering dream light.

I was the latter. 

Always encouraging others to act upon their dreams, but never following my own. I worked all day long building others confidence to be empowered, but yet...I hid my own dreams and thoughts away. Honestly, I don't know why. I've always been fairly successful in whatever I set my mind to, but this just radical. What was I doing?

For years, I've been pushing away my write and homestead. But at the end of June, I jumped over the cliff. Not literally...thank goodness. But, in a reality I felt like I had taken an enormous risk. Had I really given up job growth opportunities to can applesauce and clean chicken coops all day? What had I done?

I mean really...who does that? At 42 years old I wondered if I had hit my mid-life crisis? When others were buying a dream home or the convertible they always wanted; looking at other people's dreams suddenly seemed so glamorous. And me...I wanted to farm and write. Gee.

It is easy to believe that your idea is crazy, especially when you find yourself outside of your property. This idea, my dream, was so far from the societal norm of have more and get more. Honestly, most can't wrap their mind around that...they have been programmed to find the next bigger, better thing. My dream...took me farther from that.

In the past few months I've been met with many blank stares as I explain I left my job to farm and "hopefully write the book I always wanted to". Oddly, I watch their eyes blinking like a cursor waiting for the words to form. Instead I form their words in my head..."What happened? What's wrong with her? What is she doing?"  And I breathe silently to myself...all I wanted was to get less and live more.

I am following my dream.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

All Creatures Great and Small

Caring for a homestead has its ups and downs.

There are no made-up Hollywood scenes on the homestead, instead the harsh realities of blissful moments mixed with the grit of true work; the real deal.

  • Moments of pure delight as you watch a baby chick pipe its way out of a brown egg under the watchful eye of a broody hen. 
  • Elements of the unknown and despair when you come out to the coop to realize a beautiful hen is motionless in a small heap in the corner.  
  • The shocking surprise (and shrek!) when a rat jumps up as you are gingerly talking to your goats. 
  • And yet, other times on harvest day as hold and thank each animal as you carefully complete the circle of life on the prize-winning turkeys.

This is my life.

I have always been drawn to this of wonder and awe caring for all creatures great and small.

As a child, I dreamed of being a veterinary. I remember reading all of James Herriot stories wishfully re-living each line of books knowing that one day I would follow in his foot steps. Sadly, I recall the day our local librarian said I read all of his books; how puzzled and lost I felt. Thankfully for me, my family soon moved to the country and I began my own small "collection" of rabbits, barn cats, dairy goats and a retired show horse. I was in my element, reliving my childhood stories out in real life.

Though homesteading is often romanticized by the movie industry, caring for animals also means you become your own veterinarian. And soon you find yourself de-worming, cleaning and bandaging wounds, clipping hooves, dusting birds and dealing with whatever needs arise to cut down on possible veterinarian bills. This also means you make life and death decisions of the animals in your care. Can I nurse it back to health? Do I end its suffering? What are my best options? Sometimes there are famous come-backs and other times disappointment that despite best efforts, the life has ended.

These are hard decisions.

This Christmas Eve, I find myself at a cross road for a particular, prized show bird. I am unclear why it is injured or where, but knowing I need to step in and become James Herriot for a moment. As the bird rests quietly in the comfort of a pet taxi in my laundry room I need to make a choice, of which I'm unclear. These are the tough moments at The Britten Roost, our homestead, but I am truly honored to care for all creatures great and small.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On and Off it Blinks

Hello. It's me. As I sit in the stillness of the house, no words form. Like a blank canvas, it begs me to fill the pages with words; my thoughts. Over and over the cursor, flashes on and a silent reminder that no typing is occurring. On and off it blinks. Yet, no fancy words, stories or pictures...just the raw realness of nothingness.

Where do I start? 
Where have I been? 
What do I want to focus on?

I find myself asking these questions with this new gift of time. Even as I sit and type these words, my my mind wonders about the answers to these questions.

On and off it blinks.

Having worked in an exempt role for several years, I knew I needed to step back, reconnect, recharge, refuel. And now after years of fighting a ridiculous pace...I'm almost at a lost. 10-20 hours a week newly discovered and I am uncertain what to do; where to start. 

The struggle is real. 

On and off it blinks. 

I suppose if this was during the deep of gardening season, I would not find myself in the place. But in a sense, I'm rediscovering me. I've cleaned the house, recovered the dining room chairs, enjoyed tea with friends, read a book, shopped for groceries, and organized 'the junk pile' to name a few. All in my back of my mind longing to start writing again. Nagging me, begging me. But where do I begin; what do I share? 

On and off it blinks.

How do I say I'm not sure what this new "normal" looks like? Or how do I share that I'm refocusing on what matters - my family, sharing life, working in my garden and God. I'm not sure. And then I wonder if it is the stillness that makes me ask these questions. Was my pace before so hurried, so rushed that I didn't think about me? Could I not quiet my heart to let God speak? 

On and off it blinks. 

I am finding less is more. So many things to share, to type; but still at this moment I'm watching the cursor continue to blink on and off. On and off it blinks. Like a calls to me giving me confidence to type the new word. 

I sit and stare at the blinking cursor in the stillness of my living room, Tomorrow, I hope will begin more words, stories and pictures. Tomorrow. But tonight, I cling to this idea of my 'new normal' and continue to watch the cursor.

On and off it blinks.

Monday, February 16, 2015

525,600 Minutes

525,600 do you measure a year in the life.

Nearly a year ago, 525,600 minutes, we were handed the keys to the Britten Roost. It had always been a dream of mine to have property where I could expand my gardens, my homestead and now in my hand...laid these few keys. As I reflect on that year, I'm blessed by God's provision and opportunity to grow bountifully not only in our land, but also in my life.

This was our 525, 600 minutes.

Immediately, I feel in love with the in the morning the shades of pink and oranges blended across the sky in a mural only God could paint. I was awestruck how the sun illuminated the back of the mountains making the mountain glow in a unbelievable display. And I was dismayed when the fog simply wiped away any size of those glorious mountains.

Quickly our "urban ladies" expand from 11 feisty hens to 27 ladies and 2 gentlemen while they strutted their stuff in their new "McMansion" coop. I seriously wondered if I had become "that lady with the all the chickens" as the numbers expanded through the generosity of others. Really, what was just one more chicken? But, yet...the cycle of life continued to abound as we witnessed death and life inside the walls of the coop. Life was evolving at the Britten Roost.

One of the biggest surprises emerged from the orchard as the sweetest plums of gold and purple arrived on our trees. Watching the kids slowly walk up the lane from the bus and stop to pick a fresh plum off our trees was beyond fulfilling. The kitchen created plum jam, fruit leather strips and frozen treats so we could enjoy its bounty for months to come. Contentment filled my soul as I was beginning to realize my dreams were coming to fruition.

My love of gardening took on a toiled effort as I struggled to manage my gardens with an injured knee. But, I continued on and allowed many 'rogue' fruits and vegetables make their presence known. I quickly learned that as much as I enjoyed gardening, my friendly neighborhood deer loved eating my garden as well. It wasn't uncommon to be greeted by tiny hoof prints and nibbled on plants on my morning garden walk. However, despite all of my set-backs our garden produced expoundedly. Tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and raspberries to name a few were stored away and graced our table at dinner time.

I would, of course, be remiss if I allowed the romanticized life of living off the land to overpower our struggles and toils as well. The year was marked by a debilitating knee injury, emotions of moving to a new school, survival to keep the family unified as we continued into year three of Drew's master program, and discovery that we were starting over in too many areas of our lives.

Though ending my year in review with the struggles, I look forward to the future years at the Britten Roost. I can't dwell on the past struggles but push onward as not to waste one minute on that grief. Because, I only have 525,600 minutes this year and I don't want to miss one minute.

From inside the Britten Roost,

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
-Marilyn vos Savant

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I am typically questioned about my work in my gardens throughout the year, especially in the winter months. Friends, family and acquaintances are fascinated that there is still work to be done.  Many often romanticize the art of gardening with beautiful, sweet seedlings pushing forth into the Spring air, baby chicks peeking through green blades of grass and blissful walks through the orchard with sweet pink flowers looking down. However, I remind everyone that gardening is a year round "sport". There are four season, and in the cold, rainy months of our Washington winters I regularly am out in the garden preparing for the next year's harvest, mainly pruning. (Trust me, it isn't that glamorous.)

Pruning plants basically involves the removal of a part of a plant, bush, or tree in order to improve it. Pruning plants may be done to improve the look or the health of the plant as well as increase harvest. For the past four weekends, I've been carefully tying up my raspberries (with cut up strips of old T-Shirts, so the plant can breathe) and pruning dead shoots or overgrowth. It is a slow-moving task that brings me great joy knowing that next year's harvest will be even more bountiful. Pruning is literally a gardener's labor of love; sacrificing time and effort, ensuring betterment in the year to come.

In order to bear our best fruits, we also need to prune. Simply put, this isn't an easy task in a fast-paced, "I am superwoman" world. Instead we often spread ourselves too thin, spreading the nutrients of our life among too many branches. We find ourselves smoothed, overwhelmed, undernourished, and not in best health. This is our reality. Our nation is literally making itself overwhelmed, because we aren't paring our focuses. We think we can do it ALL.

Over the past three and half years, I've supported my husband in his decision to complete a second masters degree while both of us working full-time. I am one of those women that thought I could "do it all". At times, I literally have thought I lost myself in all of the hustle and bustle of keeping things moving or simply have failed. With that, I've found myself leaning on God and learning to prune. I've had to make tough decisions on what to "cut" from my life in order to maintain the healthiness of our family, my "plant". Honestly, these cuts have been difficult, freeing, and lonely...all wrapped into one. In order to thrive, I have had to make strategic cuts in strengthening myself to reach the goal. I long for the harvest and everything to finally come to fruition.

Going in to this "season", I never thought I would have to prune. I thought I could do it all. But in reality, God didn't design me to have too many branches, neither did he believe that for you. It has been a hard lesson.

God is the gardener in our life and I have learned to trust him as he prunes in my own life. Over the years, I have had several conversations with others about the need to "prune" in their life like I needed to. Sadly, when I ask them what it would look like if they gave up "this or that" they are often too worried what others would think. They are a tangled mess...worried that they won't be able to produce fruit; they choose to cut nothing at all. They loose themselves, the "spirit of their fruits" becomes tart and spoiled, and honestly, they don't know where to begin to become themselves again.

What would it look like if we all made one "cut"? To trust; that God as the gardener knows the best cuts for our life to reap the harvest next year. And with every cut I make on my raspberries, I am reminded of that very lesson. Just like God, I am cutting away the damage, overgrowth, and dead parts of my plants to grow to their fullest potential. The Gardener knows best. And I will trust him.

John 15:2-6
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Molly and Miss Fiona Skye

As I bustled around this morning, I barked my routine commands, "Have you finished your breakfast...GREAT...go brush your teeth.", "Hey, wait a minute...where are your shoes!", "Come on guys...SERIOUSLY, we are going to miss the bus!"

I tidied Fiona's room and pulled the purple, hexagon bedspread back into place as the princess canopy fabric fell around me. "Thump!" I curiously wondered what mysterious thing just fell from my daughter's bed and thanked my lucky star's it wasn't in Keegan's room. (Ha!) I looked at the floor near my feet and there she was...Molly.

Carefully dressed in tiny pajamas, Fiona's American Girl doll stared at me. Tucked away in her bed, I imagined Fiona snuggled in and reading books to Molly before drifting off to sleep the night before. My eyes scanned the room...a mixture of childhood toys and rad, tween dress and jewelry ..things were changing.

Maybe I was in denial. But, I couldn't help but notice over the last few months how the dress, talk and conversation were changing:
"Mom, what do you think of my hair?"
"Mom, can I borrow your lip gloss?"
"Fiona, can you stop texting for a bit..."

And Fiona was changing too, but,  flashes of that cuddly, imaginative girl still broke out into song.  I was beginning to realize Fiona was caught in two worlds - one of a girl and young lady. I caught myself breathing a deep sigh, closing my eyes for a bit. trying to hold onto something as if it was a "pause" button. So there I was frozen as held onto Molly - staring at her dark eyes and manicured hair...hoping that in small way I could slow down or postpone Fiona growing up. But as any mother knows, I was holding onto the memories and postponing the new experiences and memories to invade.

This job of "parenthood' is definitely a crazy beast...exhausting, rewarding, trying and filled with so much joy. But most of all, it is a privilege to help shape, teach and experience life with Miss Fiona and Mr. Keegan. If it was only for a day or 100 years, I would always cherish being Fiona and Keegan's Mom and never regret this "career choice".

I heard raised voices in the kitchen and finally placed Molly down at the end of Fiona's bed. I knew she would soon be putting Molly to the side too. No matter what I did, I couldn't stop it.

Back to the bustle, however I walked away holding onto the hope that for today and always...she will always be my little girl, Miss Fiona Skye. And that was enough.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Finding My Loves

The mountains called to me to sit and stare at its wonder as the eagle floated on air almost like a puppet being pulled back and forth on strings. As I looked out past the large picture window, I noted how the garden lay silent in anticipation of the work ahead. However, the property held its own musical rhythm; how the evergreens blew as the wind pushed they to and flow, how quiet the stars shined that you almost swore you heard them blink and Bob and Big Foot (our gentlemen chickens)sang out their melody in tune as their "ladies" coo'ed to their farm yard chorus. The property captured my attention in it subtle beauty, source of endless potential and quietness...I knew I was home.

This was another new beginning. The Britten Roost...a place to call home, a place to explore, a place to grow in more ways than one. We were here...and it was time.

It has been almost a year ago we left the comforts and cherished memories of The Little Blue Bungalow behind. The house was small but represented a shared life, a family united, a determination to live beyond any monetary obstacle that could have easily dampened our souls. The kids were young, (and we were too) and the house had a magical charm that brushed away any real-life concern. Everything was better as long as it was at The Little Blue Bungalow.

I am not sure why it has took me awhile to get the courage and gumption to start writing again...about my life, my loves, my gardens, my "girls". I could blame it on moving, the endless changes, etc., but mainly I blame myself. Our new property is a gardener's dream; an opportunity to dabble in fruits in an quaint orchard and don't forget the official chicken "mansion" for this pajama farmer to homestead. But yet...somehow I felt disconnected as I nursed a knee injury and my soul from the move.

The move was only 20 minutes away, but we were starting all over again - schools, church, neighbors, friends, etc. But, honestly, maybe I was worried that some of my sadness would bleed onto these pages for I realized I was letting go of a sweet time in my life when my kids were little and when "leaner" times meant more "well-defined" moments.

That was then, but this is NOW.

I am determined more then ever to return to my loves of gardening, writing and chickens this year. With this determination, I start again...not a new chapter in a book but a sequel. For my cherished Little Blue Bungalow followers, the flavor will be the same with witty stories, tips and dreams...but now in an our vast, new property following our "maturing" family while we continue to follow our dreams of a simpler life.

Welcome back; welcome home...we are glad you're here to follow our family again, but this time at The Britten Roost.

KJ, a.k.a. "The Pajama Farmer"