Ceremony: Braiding Sweetgrass

_Braiding Sweetgrass_. By Robin Wall Kimmerer. copyright 2013

Sitting with this book, sipping hot cocoa, and watching the land sleep and slowly, ever so slowly, begin to awaken was the absolute best way to begin 2021. This is a favorite book and I have reread certain sections of it many times over the past years. This year, my approach was different. I sat and soaked in her words, her thoughts, and her teachings . . . I sat with notebook (see turtles above?) and pen. I sat attentively watching for the word ‘ceremony.’ I approached it as I do Lectio Divina — and it made such an impact.

There aren’t going to be lists and lists of quotes from the book. You should probably own a copy and if you don’t, I cannot recommend reading this book enough. The audiobook is perfection since she reads it herself and you get to hear bits of Potawatomi language.

Here, in a nutshell, are the principles of ceremony from an Indigenous perspective:

  • Ceremonies are the way we remember to remember
  • Ceremonies draw a circle around our family
  • Ceremonies have the power to focus attention
  • That, I think, is the power of ceremony: it marries the mundane to the sacred. The water turns to wine, the coffee to a prayer. The material and the spiritual mingle like grounds mingled with the humus, transformed like steam rising from a mug into the morning mists.
  • Rooted in gratitude and reciprocity
  • To have agency in the world, ceremonies should be reciprocal creations, organic in nature . . . They should not be cultural appropriations from Native peoples.
  • To honor the cycles of the seasons
  • Include human and the more than human world.
  • Honor the land and our connection to it.
  • A second time she says: ceremonies are the way we remember to remember

My takeaways from this are nature based, gratitude based, family/community based ceremonies are the most important. I don’t need to keep a running list of saints’ days in my head, I just need to be observant of the Earth and all her rhythms. Those are worth remembering, those are worth gratitude, and those will knit our family/community together around this place.

Ceremony: A Study

27 Jan 2021, snowstorm

I wasn’t seeking a new project. In fact, I thought I had more than enough on my hands as it was. And yet, here I am six weeks into a project that has already worked its way deep into my being. It started, as all good things do, in a conversation among companions. We were discussing little rituals that we have and how creating a ritual can help with grief, remembrance, and celebration. A quote came to mind from RWK’s book _Braiding Sweetgrass_ and so I shared it with my companions. The rest of the day I began to remember more quotes from her book and from others. By the next morning I decided to spend this year reading, writing, and creating ceremonies.

The quote that started it all: That, I think, is the power of ceremony: it marries the mundane to the sacred. The water turns to wine, the coffee to a prayer. The material and the spiritual mingle like grounds mingled with the hummus, transformed like steam rising from a mug into the morning mist. _Braiding Sweetgrass_ by Robin Wall Kimmerer, pg 37/38.

My hope is that I will be able to create meaningful ceremonies that reflect the wheel of the year and my own personality.

Imbolc / St. Brigid Day

Ceremony > Imbolc

Imbolc is a Celtic festival day, a fire day. It is half-way between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox — a cross quarter day. In an agricultural sense it is the time of lambing, udders swelling, sweet fresh milk, and adorable little lambs. It is the time when the winter wheat begins to green up again, the woods begin to stir with critters coming out to check the weather, and I find myself anxious and eager to get outdoors among them all.

Imbolc is the time when seeds come out of storage, clay pots get washed, filled with rich soil, and tiny seeds get tucked into the pots. They’ll live with a heating pad under them and a plastic dome over them until they find themselves strong enough to live in sunny windowsills.

Imbolc is a time of growing light, and so I celebrate by lighting candles to help call forth the brightness. It is a time to evaluate the woodpile. Will it make 6 more weeks? Likely not, but we’ll have a celebratory fire anyway.

Imbolc is one of those seasons when the Phos Hilaron seems to joyfully leap from my lips each evening and I mean the words with all my being.

Hope

Sunrise, 20 Jan 2021

Sustainability > Gardening > Yearly Rhythms. Simplicity > Possessions > Yearly Rhythms

One definition of hope is a confident expectation. When I stand on the porch and see the sun rising just at that utility pole, I know that Imbolc / St. Brigid Day is close. Very close. I have a confident expectation that Winter is waning — no doubt, it will still pack a punch in February though.

This is the time when I feel the urge to clean everything starting at the top the wall and working my way down, every book, every knick knack, every baseboard. This time of cleaning reminds me to hold my possessions lightly and to be prepared to part with anything that I don’t know to be beautiful or useful.

This is the time when I go over the seed list and garden plan one more time. I put dates beside seed names so that I remember when to start seeds indoors, when to start putting them on the porch to get used to the great outdoors, and when plants and seeds can go straight into the ground. I have a confident expectation that Spring will come and food will be grown once again.

Herb Garden Preps

I have a stack of Herbal books I am hoping to read this winter. The herb garden planning is coming along nicely with ideas for the beds, pots, fencing, flooring, etc. I am compiling a pretty good list of seeds and plants that would be helpful and that grow well in our area. I am thinking about how to grow those plants that need protection from the cold weather.

One thing I am considering is a small walled garden inside the larger herb garden, likely as one side of the garden. There are many herbs that do well in cool, shady conditions. I could even put some mushroom logs in this area as well. I am beginning to suspect that this herb garden project will take multiple years (5 years, maybe) to come to completion.

The first book I read was The Green Witch Herbal. It was a pretty good introduction and included things like indoor plants, cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and then remedies. She reminds us that most herbs are both culinary and medicinal. I created a list of herbs, spices, and essential oils that she recommends. I really liked that she laid our an herbal medicine cabinet and a traveling herbal kit. Very handy information!

Next up in the reading list — Herbal Antibiotics

Qi-gong, a new practice

My Qi-gong practice is brand new. From reading, I learned Qi-gong is a moving meditation, slow flowing movements, deep rhythmic breathing, and a calm state of mind. Originally the aim was to promote the movement of Qi by stretching and twisting the three energy channels. The key seems to be relax and breathe.

I started by practicing with 8 Pieces on You-Tube while I learned the breathing pattern and motions. I go back and rewatch her once a week to make sure my practice is staying on track. After two weeks of careful watching and even taking some notes I felt ready to try it on my own. I think 25 years of yoga helped with the movement + breath learning.

Every morning for the past three weeks, I have rolled out of bed, and placed my feet very deliberately upon the ground. I begin with a moment of quiet, just counting breaths, and being thankful I can do this practice.

I will continue practicing this form for as long as possible. I know there is a longer one, but these 15 minutes are still new and feel like sand that could slip between my fingers if I try to move on too quickly.

8 Pieces of Silk Brocade Form

  • Warm up: Deep Breaths
  • Warm up: Swinging Arms
  • #1 — Two Hands Upholding the Sky
  • #2 — Pulling the Bow
  • #3 — Crane Stretching Wing
  • #4 — Looking Backward / Wise Owl
  • #5 — Left and Right Swing / Bear
  • #6 — Up and Down Stretch
  • #7 — Diagonal Knock
  • #8 — Heel and Toe Bounce
  • My addition: Mountain Pose — Centering

Sustainability: Chickens + Winter

Our current chicken ark faces due west and is open on that side. I have rugs that hang over the opening, leaving a little gap for the girls to go in and out. Outside the ark, but inside the fence, is an area about 4 feet by 4 feet. This is where we keep their water.

In the summer, I hung an old sheet on the western fence to give them some shade. I was debating about what to do as winter approached. I didn’t want to rebuild this ark since they will be moving into a new coop this Spring.

As the guys were splitting firewood an idea occurred to me. I asked them to stack the firewood around that open area outside the fence. It has created a wonderful windbreak and the girls really seem to enjoy a space without wind. It is convenient for grabbing logs as they are needed too. We have a couple more months of cold, wood burning weather, but hopefully the wall will last until either the bitter cold is over or the new coop is ready for occupants.

Hello, 2021. Nice to see you.

Aberdyfi, Wales

I did not take the picture above. I haven’t been to Wales (yet), but I wanted to use it to focus my thoughts on 2021 and what I hope to accomplish. I don’t make New Year resolutions. These are the same four areas I work on every year in some form or fashion.

Wellness — At 54 and on the other side of menopause, I am quite content with my body and my body image. I am not going to diet or work out like a fiend. I am not going to shame myself by using a scale. I am not going to reward myself with food. Been there, done that. Older and wiser now.

There are a few things I would like to change this year to help with my auto-immune anemia and lupus. One: I will be going no coffee, tea, chocolate, and gluten and instead will learn to love turmeric latte, peppermint tea, and homemade gluten free scones and cookies. Two: I have been learning Qi-gong and practicing the 8 Brocade every morning. I would like to continue that and add 22 minutes of additional intentional exercise (following RBG program of 5 minutes HIIT, 8 minutes strength training, 5 minutes HIIT, and 4 minutes stretching). I will still walk, but it doesn’t count as exercise anymore. It is something I do because I love it.

Simple-ness — At 54 and with medical debt, a mortgage, and a credit card, I am not content with this situation. So I am planning on not purchasing anything this year except to replace what breaks and cannot be repaired, books for my Welsh study, and my Spiritual Companion Group. There are some farm projects that will be carried out using stimulus money and our tax refund. I have a budget and a plan, and we’ll see how it goes. The thing with an autoimmune disorder is that you are always going to have medical bills. Always. So I need to be at peace with that and just do the best I can.

I had debated stopping our Washington Post subscription, but it is sanity in a world of Twitter news. So instead, I am maximizing it. I am removing news from my twitter feed — what’s left, not much. I do like to keep up with what my Members of Congress are doing (never anything good) or I would just delete the whole thing.

Favorites —I am planning on a reread of my favorite books, listening to my favorite audio books, and rewatching my favorite tv show — Rosemary and Thyme. I don’t enjoy watching tv or movies very often anyway. I am sure if there is a movie I absolutely must see, Hannah or Michael will make sure we see it.

Welsh tuition will continue because — JOY!

Garden / Herbs / Animals— I have a stack of Herbal books I borrowed from Hannah and I hope to study them this winter. I’d like to add a fenced in herb garden this year. I saw a really cute design that I think would work well here on our farm. Building it will be my big project this year.

The vegetable garden will get the first four raised beds this year. We’ll be growing potatoes in them as a way to create the soil we’ll need to fill them. I do have a lovely pickup bed worth of homemade compost that we will alternate with chicken bedding in the potato beds.

We will finish a couple more chicken yards so they can be rotated during the grass growing seasons.

I think we’ll add another rabbit too. Ours are both getting a bit old and it might we wise to get ahead of the age game. Their manure is absolutely priceless here on the farm. I’d like to put the new rabbit on the pasture system, so that will need to be built before bringing one home.

Review of 2020

BookNotes: A list of what I read and listened to.

  • New purchases indicated by a ^
  • Repeats indicated by a *
  • All others borrowed

Non-Fiction

  • An Other Kingdom^
  • Walking in Wonder
  • No Contest (passed along)^
  • The Sacred Enneagram^
  • Life in Christ
  • Life Together*
  • Welcoming the Unwelcome
  • Earth Wisdom*
  • Braiding Sweetgrass *
  • How to Be an Antiracist^
  • If Women Rose Rooted^
  • The Quaker Way of Living^
  • Essentialism*
  • The Future We Choose
  • Kiss the Ground
  • The Third Plate

Fiction

  • Circe*
  • Spying in High Heels (series)*
  • Whose Body?*
  • Dog’s Body
  • Still Life*
  • A Fatal Grace*
  • The Cruelest Month*
  • A Rule Against Murder*
  • The Dark is Rising (series)*
  • The Brutal Telling*
  • Bury Your Dead*
  • A Trick of the Light*
  • The Beautiful Mystery*
  • How the Light Gets In*
  • The Long Way Home*
  • The Nature of the Beast*
  • A Great Reckoning*
  • Glass Houses*
  • Kingdom of the Blind*
  • A Better Man*
  • The Ministry of the Future^

Audiobook

  • Harry Potter series*
  • Twilight Series*
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series*
  • The Best of All Possible Worlds*
  • The Raven Boys series*
  • The Crystal Cave series*

Things I Bought For Me (not farm):

  • See books marked ^ above
  • Handcrafted small plate and bowl
  • Face mask (x3)
  • 2 spiral notebooks for Welsh
  • 3 packs of index cards for Welsh
  • journal
  • Berne farm coat

Farm + Home Purchases:

  • Fence for chicken yard 1 — $100
  • 2x4s for chicken house 1 — $40
  • Plywood for chicken house 1 — $20
  • <chicken house 1, rest was reused from other projects>
  • <chicks were free>
  • Chicken yard 2 materials –$100
  • Chicken grains –$100
  • Rabbit pellets — $60
  • Garden –$24, heirloom/organic seeds
  • Gas for mower –$40 = 13 gallons

Jasper Purchases:

  • food –$100
  • Flea and tick — $75

Sustainability: Carbon Footprint 2

Four areas to focus on as you consider your personal carbon footprint: 1) how you move around, 2) what you eat and how it is grown, 3) how you use natural resources in your home, and 4) what stuff you buy and how you get rid of it.

How You Use Natural Resources in Your Home — I am defining natural resources as fossil fuels (and their derivatives), water, wood, minerals, etc. It is a loose definition, but it makes it easy for me to remember. First let’s talk electricity. In my area coal is what most power plants use and therefore it is what you are using when you plug something into the wall. My part of Indiana is 38° north. That means we have four true seasons. I am also in a hilly area with inconsistent winds. Passive solar works pretty well on sunny winter days in the rooms with south facing windows. Solar panels on the roof should, theoretically give you sufficient power on the sunny days. The key to that being true is to minimize the amount of power you require. I read a report that there is enough “power” for each person to use 48 kWh per day.

Our family uses an average of 300-500 kWh per month and we buy green energy that comes from a cooperative of solar fields, wind turbines, and methane burning from landfills. At this time we don’t have solar panels on our home. The start up investment is just a bit much for us right now. Our biggest electric users are hot water, the refrigerator, and in winter the heater (when we use it). Our hot water heater is on a timer so that it runs during non-peak hours and that really helps lower the amount we use. The tank is very efficient and will keep the water hot for 12-15 hours. To keep our usage low we do things like: keep the lights off when not in a room, use smaller & more efficient appliances, got rid of most of our electric appliances (like the washer, dryer, air conditioner, dishwasher, etc), hung insulating curtains in all the rooms (closed during summer days, closed during winter nights, open during winter days, open during summer nights). These are just a few examples. We don’t use any natural gas, propane, kerosene, etc to cook or heat our home. In the winter our favorite spot in the house is beside the wood stove. We burn down/dead wood and never take down a living tree. Our woods typically have 3 or 4 down trees a year and that is sufficient for our heating needs. This year we are not using the chainsaw at all and are carrying up all the branches we can find. So far we haven’t used the wood stove at all, but we have had to run the heater on days when the high is only in the 30s (about 10 days so far). We must decide what to do about getting a new chainsaw for next year.

Let’s see, water usage has already been chatted about a few times. So I guess that is about it for natural resources. Although in some respects, what we buy

What you buy and how you get rid of it — For me, I try to choose natural materials first. I want everything to either be reusable (to infinity . . . ) or compostable. This eliminates a lot of stuff.

Sustainability: Carbon Footprint

Sustainability > Carbon Footprint > How You Move Around

The Climate Crisis is so big and so multi-faceted that I do not (and could never) claim to be an expert. What I am is someone who cares deeply for this place and therefore for the whole beautiful place we call Earth. I have been making real efforts to reduce our personal carbon footprint to below 50% of the average American since 1997. Since 2020 began, I have been working to shave off a bit more each year hoping to be carbon neutral in our own home by 2030. Along with these personal actions, I also write and call my Members of Congress regularly and speak to my community whenever the opportunity arises.

Four areas to focus on as you consider your personal carbon footprint: 1) how you move around, 2) what you eat and how it is grown, 3) how you use natural resources in your home, and 4) what stuff you buy and how you get rid of it.

How you move around— We’ve all seen the science on driving and flying. I am not here to rehash that. Right now, even if we all drove electric cars, there still is the problem of how the electricity is generated. Living in a rural area means even fewer options until they come up with a better battery (which I know is in the works), a charging station system, and a clean way to produce and distribute the needed electricity. So for now we drive a vehicle that gets good gas mileage, keep it maintained, and plan for errands along the route that is between workplaces and home. For my part, I don’t ask for stops that are off of that route, and I do not drive at all. Secondly, I am transitioning to doing as many errands as possible in the small village that is within bicycle riding distance. I can ride there and back with no issues and plans are in place to allow me to carry a larger load. I don’t travel anymore either. I am content to stay home or close to home.

The average American uses 500 gallons of gasoline / person / year. In 2020, I used 5 gallons. In 2020 , we used 15 gallons to cut the grass. In 2020, our commuters used 1000 gallons. So — 51%

In 2020: I walked — 1040 miles and I biked — 250 miles.

What You Eat and How It is Grown — I feel like I have talked and talked about this piece here on the blog. However, I realize that I’ve talked about how we grow our food and what I prefer to eat. I haven’t really been clear about what I look for when purchasing food. For me, organic is really just the beginning. When purchasing meat I look for organic, grass fed, and humane slaughter methods. This makes meat quite expensive. That is ok with me. I am happy to pay the true cost so that my local farmers are encouraged to use regenerative agriculture methods. We eat eggs that our hens lay or we do without. I cook in a manner that stretches the meat as far as possible. For instance a whole chicken will make 2 pot pies (=8 servings), 1 pot of soup (=12 servings), and a pot of broth/stock (=24 servings). Where I need to do better is with grains and beans. I hope next year to begin growing more of our own dry beans. It will probably take several years to get a system in place and actually meet our needs. It is doubtful that I will ever try to grow our own grains. I can get organic, but have yet to find a regenerative farmer that sells in small bulk quantities.

If you have any leads on the grain front, please leave me a comment.

Simplicity: Emergency Bag

Simplicity >

March 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm.

The weather shifted from far too warm for March to dangerous in the space of just an hour. I could see the storm front pushing in and did what I always do: move anything that could blow around into the shed, tuck the animals into their homes and hope for the best, and check my emergency bag.

Being an USAF wife taught me to be ready to leave my home in 10 minutes if the alarm sounds. I have never been able to set that bit aside. So I always have an emergency bag packed — just in case. It came in very handy on March 2. My. Emergency bag isn’t the kind you could live out of for three days, it is the kind that will give you some comfort while living out of the 72 hour kit.

My Emergency Bag contains: my sleeping bag, a change of clothes, a USB powered fan, a solar charger, a spare charger for my phone, spare glasses, important paperwork on a USB drive, a Turkish towel, and a spare leash/collapsible water bowl for Jasper. My backpack sits ready for any adventure. It carries (in an emergency) a water bottle, snacks, purse, Welsh stuff, Kindle, flannel robe, and my 3-1-1 kit. Oh, and I always grab my yoga mat. I can be out the door in 5 minutes with this set up.

My Secondary Bag — The majority of my seasonal clothing will fit into my travel duffel. My garden seeds also fit in this bag. If I am given an additional 5 minutes, this bag can be packed and out the door too.

Family Kit — One thing I would like to do is to pack a family kit into plastic tote. I think it would work well to pack the tote like a camping kit. That’s a pretty easy way to think about what should go in it. I may start working on this one after the new year.

Simplicity: Possessions

Simplicity > Essential > Possessions

I have compiled a comprehensive and ever-changing list of the things I consider essential to my living a very small, very good life. I edit it about every three months. It doesn’t number the actual possessions, it just gives me a feel for the “rightness” of my surroundings. I fully adhere to the view that “the root of war begins in our quest for more.” — John Woolman.

  1. Living at Home
    1. Bed: frame, mattress, bedding, duvet in winter, cotton blanket in summer, throw blanket for extra warmth or napping, 2 pillows
    2. Dresser: cabinet my dad made with 3 shelves + baskets for underwear, bras, socks, Fountain pen supplies, home only clothes, and movement clothes.
    3. Closet: wooden hangers that hold all clothes, tote that holds off-season clothes, and other tote that holds my duvet + cover and coat in the warmer months).
    4. Bookshelf: 2 shelves of my favorite books, 1/2 shelf with farm resources, and 1/2 shelf with Welsh books.
    5. Fan — cannot sleep without the white noise
    6. Chair and sheepskin . . . Where I can be found when I’m sitting down.
  2. Transportation
    1. Schwinn GTX3 with Ibera rack and trunk, bike helmet, cable lock, tire pump.
    2. Shoes — Merrell vapor glove (barefoot shoe)
    3. I don’t drive
  3. Movement
    1. LL Bean UV bike shirt + puffer vest when cool
    2. Yoga: Manduka Pro yoga mat
  4. Learning and Spiritual Life
    1. A5 learning journal
    2. Fountain Pen — TWSBI eco blue + ink bottle
    1. NOAB (Study Bible)
    2. Welsh notebook (simple spiral bound)
    3. Kindle Paperwhite (with case and charger)
    4. Welsh learning books
  5. Food and Kitchen
    1. Bowl
    2. Snack plate
    3. Mug
    4. HydroFlask, 12 oz olive
    5. Utensils: spoon, fork, butter knife, serrated paring knife, chopstick, silicone straw
    6. Blue soup mug for food storage + Stainless steel lunch tiffin
    7. Cloth napkin
    8. cutting board
    9. tea infuser
    10. kitchen washcloth (1) + towels (3)
    11. Pantry— filled with glass jars holding staples (+stuff to make snacks) and bowls holding produce (shared)
    12. Mixing bowl for making bread, making big salads (shared)
    13. Glass jars and bowls for storing cooked food in refrigerator (shared)
  6. Leaving the House
    1. Tom Bihn Everyday Carry (Mars red)
    2. Inside Everyday Carry: Tom Bihn ghost whale organizer (super-mini, island blue) = wallet + pouch with travel spork, napkin, collapsible straw, hand sanitizer + pouch with mask
    3. Tom Bihn Luminary 12 (dark blue) which holds everything for a long day out including water bottle, everyday carry, with room for a sweater and hat)
  7. Traveling
    1. Tom Bihn Yeoman Duffle (Mini, Verde)
    2. Tom Bihn 3DOC Ultraviolet + clear (3-1-1 bag)
    3. set of packing cubes
  8. Technology
    1. iPhone + case
    2. IPad + solar keyboard
  9. Emergency Bag
    1. Sleeping bag
    2. solar charger for devices
    3. USB fan
    4. Jasper extra leash, food dish and water bowl
    5. spare glasses
    6. One outfit (in case there isn’t time to pack a separate bag with clothes)
    7. List of things to stuff in when tornado warning is issued.
    8. I can be out the door in 5 minutes.
  10. Clothing — simple, small, and comfortable clothes

Simplicity: Simple and Small Home

Simplicity > Essential #5 > Simple and Small Home

As I wrote before: I think houses should be smaller so gardens and lawns can be bigger. I think we need less time indoors and more time outdoors. I believe everyone should have a right to hang their laundry outdoors and grow food. The other advantages of a small and simple home are: easier to keep clean, less chemicals required when you can hand scrub surfaces frequently, less electricity/oil/gas/wood needed to heat the home, less furniture (and other stuff) to off-gas into your lungs, less stuff in general, and . . . I am not convinced that we all need super large ovens, stoves, refrigerators, freezers, hot water heaters, washing machines, dryers, etc. I think we should choose the smallest size that works for us, even if that size is not to have one at all.

Our household is four adults sharing a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, with a common kitchen, living room, and laundry facilities, 1400 square foot manufactured home. At times it feels much too large.

My perfect home would include:

  • 12 inch exterior walls, with large southern and eastern facing windows, with small and high northern and western facing windows, working shutters, greenhouse attached to southern wall, and next to it a screen porch with benches for removing and storing shoes.
  • Rain water harvesting system: roof, tanks, pump, and manual pump delivering water straight into the kitchen and bathrooms. Solar hot water tanks. Overflow pond.
  • Gray water wetlands and composting system for composting toilets. Septic for black water.
  • Small kitchen, large pantry. Solar food dehydrator, outdoor bread/pizza oven and grill (wood, not gas or charcoal), root cellar system.
  • Small solar energy system (or bio-digester). Transitioning to fewer electrical items so the system can be small and affordable. Solar battery chargers for small electronics.
  • Heat sink/ masonry by southern windows for winter passive heating — maple trees planted in front of house for summer passive cooling. Small rocket stove for heating and cooking in the cooler months.

The coming years will be filled with mini-experiments with each of the above systems. It will allow us to grow accustomed to the ideas and practicalities of working with these systems. In the meantime, as things break I have to ask myself, “Is this what I want in the future? Is this sustainable? Is this simple?” If the answer is yes, then I repair or replace it. If the answer is no, I let it be and we begin putting an alternative in place.

Horehound

Sustainability > Gardening

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a flowering plant in the mint family. It grows quite well here in Zone 6b. I just have a couple of plants, but they produce quite enough for our needs.

In the late summer, when it is flowering, and late in the day I go out and pick the leaves. I am always careful to leave the youngest leaves and enough leaves so that the roots are fed and ready to survive the upcoming cold.

The following is how I use horehound. It should not construed to be medical advice.

Use 1: You can dry the leaves and then steep 1 tsp of leaves in hot water for a sore throat.

Use 2: You can mix a leaf with honey and chew on it for a sore throat or cough.

Or Use 3, which is how I prefer . . . Horehound cough drops

Make no mistake, this is not candy. It is quite bitter, but it is an effective cough drop. You can suck on it, like normal, or let it dissolve in a bit of hot water, add honey and drink.

Recipe:

  • 1 cup fresh horehound leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • Let boil for 20 minutes
  • Let cool and then strain out the leaves, I squeeze the leaves to release all the oils. I normally get about a 1/4 cup liquid.
  • Put liquid into a sauce pan, add 2 cups of sugar, and boil to the candy stage. ( I test by dropping a drop in a glass of cold water, if it stays together, it is candy stage. You can also use a thermometer.)
  • Put a silicone mat in a baking sheet and pour the horehound mixture onto it. Place in refrigerator until solid. You could also use small candy molds (and those are on my wish list for next year)
  • The next day, remove from tray (or molds), break into pieces, wrap in wax paper, and store in jars.
  • I keep most of mine in the freezer, but leave a jar or two in the fridge.

Stability: Cynefin

Stability > Welsh. Simplicity > In knowing

Sometimes while learning Welsh, I stumble on a word that just makes perfect sense. Usually it is one of those words that you really can’t simply translate. It means too much. Cyenfin is one of those words and it fits so perfectly with my whole being.

Cynefin: belonging to place, a place to “stand”

Cynefin comes from and leads to understanding that the earth is animate, all life is sacred, and harmony is found in living in the rhythm of cycles and seasons.

Related words are ‘cyfenw’ which we translate as surname, but it really has the meaning ‘place name.’Also ‘cyfeiriad’ which is address or ‘place you are.’

Simplicity: Clothing

Simplicity > Essential #8 > Clothing

If I own it and wear it, it is one of these colors.

The reality of my pre-Covid life was that I was at home six days out of seven, go to church (where we dress casually), run a few errands, and a book club meeting two to three times a month. The reality of my mid-Covid life is that I am home except for the very occasional trip out. When at home, my tasks fall into a few categories: farming, walking, learning/reading, cleaning, and sleeping.

This makes it pretty easy to keep my wardrobe simple and small.

  • 5 long-sleeved t-shirts
  • 5 cardigans/sweaters (2 are at home only)
  • 3 flannel shirts (1 at home only)
  • 2 big sweatshirts (at home only)
  • 5 short-sleeved t-shirts (summer farm shirts/winter “apron shirts”)
  • 2 short-sleeve shirts + 2 shells
  • 2 yoga pants (at home only)
  • 3 jeans
  • 1 trousers
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 pair shorts (at home only)
  • 1 pair trainers, 1 pair boots, 2 pair loafers, 1 pair sandals, 1 pair flats
  • Everyday Carry purse + backpack
  • A few pieces of jewelry
  • Rain coat, parka, gloves, sun hat, winter hat, scarf
  • puffer vest, farm boots, farm coat (at home only)

As you can see, my wardrobe is super simple, super casual, and super comfortable. I have a couple of options that are specifically for dressing up. Honestly though, I avoid that as much as I can. Weddings, funerals . . . That is about all I am willing to be fussy about.

Simplicity: 8 Essentials

Simplicity > Essentials

I believe that if we each just took “enough” for our needs then their would be “plenty” for all.

Clean and beautiful environment — Our shared home is truly a marvel. We all have a right to enjoy her beauties. I believe Federal, State, and Local parks should be funded by taxes and free to visit. I also think we should be expanding our park system and striving to provide green spaces and community gardens in every urban environment.

Clean water supply — There are calculators out there that will tell you how many gallons of rain water your roof can “catch” per inch of rain. Combine that “catch” with your average annual rainfall and you have a number for the maximum amount of water you should use in a year. Some of us live in reliably wet places — for instance we average 48 inches of rain per year here, although lately that number has been more like 60 inches of rain per year. If you choose to live in a desert area, it will be harder. This is one reason why traditionally very few people live in actual desert conditions. Our modern exploitation of ancient waters and an intensive use of electricity is the only thing that allows for so many people to live in desert areas.

A clean and balanced diet — To quote Michael Pollan, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” To quote myself, “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat.” Local, organic, fresh/frozen . . . The sliding scale of best choices in my opinion. Michael Pollan also defines food as 5 ingredients or less, food your great-grandmother would recognize, and with words any beginning reader could pronounce. That is a guideline that is easy to remember!

Basic clothing — Clothing appropriate for your weather, your job, and always ethically sourced. I maintain a very small wardrobe, in colors I like, and most importantly are comfortable. I also choose natural materials.

A simple and small home — I think houses should be smaller so gardens and lawns can be bigger. I think we need less time indoors and more time outdoors. I believe everyone should have a right to hang their laundry outdoors and grow food. The other advantages of a small and simple home are: easier to keep clean, less chemicals required when you can hand scrub surfaces frequently, less electricity/oil/gas/wood needed to heat the home, less furniture (and other stuff) to off-gas into your lungs, less stuff in general, and . . . I am not convinced that we all need super large ovens, stoves, refrigerators, freezers, hot water heaters, washing machines, dryers, etc. I think we should choose the smallest size that works for us, even if that size is not to have one at all.

Basic health care —If Covid teaches us one thing I hope it is that we all deserve adequate, accessible, and affordable health care. All. Of. Us.

Simple communications — At a minimum a functioning Post Office, a phone with texting ability, and internet even (and especially) in rural areas. I also think if we all said what we meant and meant what we said, we’d be a lot better off. I have stopped reaching for showy words when I write and instead choose the word that accurately and easily says what I mean.

Well-rounded education — Reading, writing, maths, and logic at a minimum. Free public libraries, teachers paid well, resources and skill sharing libraries . . . But also an understanding that a degree does not mean you’re smarter, wiser, kinder, or a better person than the less educated neighbor.

Simplicity: Choices

Simplicity > Choices.

Many of my choices have already been made: I will remain on this land (stability) and I will take care of this land (sustainability). That already narrows down so many choices like “Shall I buy the cheap chicken grains or the organic chicken grains?”

If I am staying here and taking care of here, then I can only buy the organic grains. Why? I want my chickens to be the healthiest they can be, I want any grain that sprouts to be a true seed (not some hybrid that won’t breed true), and I don’t want to introduce any pesticide or herbicide residue into my soil.

So my first two vows make my third vow easier. Then taking my previous post about cycles and rhythms, you can see that I don’t have to make too many choices about my days. The rhythm of the year and the day will lead to a simple day. I move through my days without thinking too much about “should I’s”.

My main choices these days are about how to use our resources when bringing things onto the property or removing things from the property.

A Case StudyThe Laundry. The washer broke on 5 September 2020.

  • Fact 1: We already made the decision not to have a clothes dryer.
  • Fact 2: We already have a clothesline (for outside) and drying racks (for inside).
  • So — we are used to thinking outside the standard American box for laundry.
  • Query: It is 25 days to payday. Do we go to a laundromat ? Do we hand wash the small things and save heavy items for the laundromat? Do we put a washer on credit?
  • Considerations for Query: In 2012, an EF-4 tore our house apart and pulled the utility poles straight out the ground. We were without a washer for 3 weeks while we waited for the electric to be reconnected. I did laundry in a bucket. It was not so bad, just chaotic because, no roof, tarps for walls, etc. . . .
  • Considerations for Query: How much water and electricity does the washer use? How much water and electricity will it use to do laundry by hand? How much will a load cost at a laundromat? How much will a new washer cost? Are there non-electric options or low-electric options I am comfortable with?
  • Exploration: I did laundry in buckets for one week. It was not bad. I even was able to do sheets and jeans. Sweatshirts would have been more difficult and autumn and winter are on our doorstep. The biggest issue was wringing out enough water before hanging. In this summer-y weather, I could simply carry them out and hang them on the line. They watered the grass. In cold weather, they would have to drip all over the house. Not great.
  • Exploration 2: We purchased a small “spinner”. Washing the clothes continued as we’d done for a week. Wring out the clothes and place them in the spinner. Each spin cycle takes about 2 minutes. No dripping mess and clothes that could hang indoors in winter.
  • Exploration 3: A basket in a bucket system for washing, a second basket in a bucket for rinsing, and the spinner.
  • Conclusion: A mostly non-electric system that can handle all our laundry, takes 5 gallons to wash a day’s worth of laundry, takes 5-7 gallons to rinse a day’s worth of laundry, and 2 minutes to spin each load. It is an easy system, and it is a pleasure to use.
  • Conclusion 2: The old washer was taken apart. The metal will be used for roofing either the chicken arc or a new rabbit hutch. All other usable parts were cleaned, labeled and store. The things that can’t be reused will put in our garbage for the week. It will nearly double the week’s garbage, but it could be worse.

Financial costs + energy costs:

  • Spinner (a gift)
  • First Levario/bucket + basket (a gift)
  • Second Levario —$130
  • Water per day — 10-12 gallons. This is a savings of 30-60 gallons per day.
  • Electric usage — Our daily usage dropped 6 kWh/day.

My washing system:

I begin by putting less than a Tablespoon of soap in wash water. Into the basket, I place clothes that go next to the body and are relatively clean. The basket is closed and “agitated” 15 times, then the clothes soak for 10 minutes, then they are agitated for another 15-20 times, then the basket is removed from the water and left to drain for 10 minutes. Then I squeeze out as much water as I can by hand.

I do 1) relatively clean clothes that are next to the body, 2) relatively clean clothes like sweaters, trousers, and hand towels, 3) kitchen towels, 4) dirty stuff. Potty wipes are soaked all day in a bucket that lives in the shower. Those get washed in their own bucket.

Meanwhile, I have gathered 5 gallons of clean water into the rinse bucket. The load is then moved from washing to rinsing bucket. I agitate it 20 times and leave it soak for a bit. Then I lift the basket out of the bucket, drain, and squeeze.

Finally, things are layered into the spinner. It takes just 2 minutes per load for them to be “indoor hangable.”