Lefse

* If you happen to be a family member and on my holiday gift list (for example, if you are my DAD, ahem), kindly go away and come back after Christmas.

Mom and Leah, you can stay as long as you can keep a secret.

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I’ve been thinking about my Norwegian grandmother for days. My dad’s mom, my Grandma Katie, raised her children in the same hills where I’m raising mine. I’ve thought about her a lot, actually, since we said goodbye when Sage was just a baby.

Of her nine grandchildren, I was the only one who lived close enough to swing by each week to help out with whatever needed doing as she grew older. To plant her fall bulbs, to vacuum the living room, and (lucky me!) to share an occasional Sunday supper of roasted chicken, fried potatoes, and lemon pie.

I am still grateful for this time that we shared. I got to know her more in adulthood than I did in childhood. It was a richer relationship, too. More real, more intimate. And most weeks until she died, I drove to Elroy to chat, to help out, or both.

But the visit we both looked forward to most of all was our annual lefse date.

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Every year, sometime in November, I’d drive through these hills to my grandma’s house: first alone, then pregnant, and later with a baby Sage in tow. She would pour coffee and we would gather supplies as we talked, her cheerfully cluttered kitchen packed with colorful vintage dishes, shiny canisters, and worn metal tins filled with homemade donuts and cookies.

Despite the lack of donuts in my world, (and my pantry tins holding exotic ingredients like cassava flour and chia seeds), I see her in me more with each passing year. In my mismatched vintage dishes, my cluttered countertops, my shiny metal canisters of flour, sugar, and salt. And even, on occasion, in my own reflection.

There’s no disputing my genetics. I’m all her’s.

Sipping Folger’s (or whatever was on sale this week down at the IGA), we would get to work.

I’m not sure how many times I made lefse at her side–or even when we began this annual tradition–but we did it enough for her to teach my hands what my brain still can’t comprehend.

How small the fat should be when cut adequately into the flour; how slowly to pour in the boiling water; how thin to roll each ball of dough.

In my grandma’s kitchen we used her glittery formica counter as a rolling guide: roll them thin enough to see the flecks of glitter through the dough. Here at home it’s not as easy. Mostly because she’s gone, and isn’t here to check my work, but also because my staid countertops lack bling.

We pull out an old marble board. We improvise.

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If you asked me as a child to name the more delicious food I knew–a food synonymous with family, love, and our own heritage–this would be it. Back then we made it from  bleached white flour (“I don’t want dirty lefse!”), Crisco, and copious amounts of pale butter and white sugar.

Here at home, we modify.

We use a locally milled organic white flour (unbleached, because, obviously) and pastured pork lard from a friend’s homestead that she carefully rendered on her woods stove, then generously shared. Our sugar is organic and raw as well (“dirty” by grandma’s standards) and our butter a glorious golden-color that only comes with time on pasture. And we’re drinking locally roasted, fair-trade coffee from our friends over at Kickapoo instead of Folgers.

Would Grandma approve of our upgrades? I think so. I’m sure she’s just happy we’re making lefse again.

We pull out her lefse stick, her lefse cloths, and her rolling pin, and set to work. We long ago burned out her teflon-coated griddle with overuse, so we happily set our cast iron skillet on the stove.

I’m ashamed to say this is the first time we’ve made lefse in years.

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Why did we stop making lefse? For so many reasons. Mostly because wheat fell off of our meal rotation for so very long. And unlike potato lefse, ours is all white flour. (We tried once to make it gluten-free and it was an unabashed disaster. Thick, gummy, and not at all lefse. So we quit until wheat could be on the menu once more.) And then there was GAPS. Then Paleo.

Show me the sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free lefse. It’s just not happening. So we stopped trying.

But then last week Lupine asked me what lefse was and I’m certain I hear an audible “crack!” from my heart. What is lefse? From a child who is more Norwegian than anything else? It was some sort of colossal mothering failure.

This child who can make a batch of chai with her eyes closed, who is obsessed with tofu and miso soup, who once made croissants from scratch on her own, didn’t even know her own roots. How American of us: to fall in love with delights from around the world, yet grow unfamiliar with some of our own family traditions.

What is lefse. Uffda.

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And so it was time.

Despite our overflowing Solstice calendar and a laundry basket full of unfinished gifts, lefse would dominate this weekend. Half would be earmarked as our Christmas gift to my dad (who misses his mom’s lefse so very much, but never learned to make it himself), and the remaining half would be all ours, for our Winter Solstice celebration. (Minus the package I’ll drop off at my uncles on our way out of town. I suspect he misses it, too.)

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Without Grandma Katie to call on, I had to step up, to remember all she taught. And when we pulled out her old,  yellowed recipe card last night, it was time for me to step into the role of teacher. With no backup. With no one more knowledgeable than myself to call upon with questions.

My grandma didn’t pull any punches when teaching me how to roll and cook lefse, and I attempt the same. She was quick to tell me me when I rolled them too thick or my edges were too lumpy, and I instinctively reached out to check thickness as the kids walk by on their way to the griddle. I’d call them back to roll again when theirs were too thick.

I’m not sure how I know what I know, just that I do. Rather: my hands know, though not my head.

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That’s the way with traditions; with the things we hand down mother to daughter; grandmother to grandchild. It’s there, in our hands and our hearts, rather than our heads.

And what an honor it is to be the one to carry these traditions along.

Though we didn’t “eat ourselves sick” (what my grandma always proposed she and I should do after working ourselves to exhaustion rolling, cooking, and sugaring) we did indulge in some scraps and “mistakes” yesterday.

It wouldn’t be lefse-day without a bit of sugar on our tongues, now would it?

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I’m certain these are messy, and many are a bit too thick. And the color? Well, they’re “dirty” by Grandma’s standards, on account of that unbleached flour. But that’s just how we roll (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Honestly, I’m sure my grandma would be delighted just the same, if only in the knowledge that never again will her great granddaughter ask what lefse is, and this most treasured of traditions lives on (however clumsy our efforts).

And this year at least, we’ll celebrate Christmas (and yes, Solstice) in a way that tastes just like it should.

That tastes like family, like tradition, like love.

That tastes like home.

Merry Christmas, Grandma. Thank you for the gift of lefse. I’ll take better care of it from now on. We all will.

 

We miss you so.

 

Love,
Rachel

 

A Winter Book List

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Early yesterday morning, Lupine woke with a sore throat and a queasy stomach. It quickly unraveled into something of a mild (yet, um, productive) stomach bug that kept us busy for much of the day. Poor thing. We’re just not “pukers” (if you’ll pardon the expression) and stomach bugs are a particularly nasty surprise to wake up to, especially when the lot of us so rarely throw up.

And so the homeschooling rhythm was scrapped, and a bed was made on the couch by the fire.

There was a hot water bottle filled to soothe a sore tummy, teaspoons of water dispensed, and homeopathic remedies to take.

And, of course, a pile of favorite picture books from when she was small. Because what could be more comforting than that?

Before long the wave of sickness had subsided, a tiny bowl of brothy wild rice + chicken soup was devoured (and then a second, and then a third) and we were well on our way to health once again.

I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of our childhood-long favorite winter books, in case you’ll hoping to restock your winter book basket this season. All of the photos are clickable links (afflinks).

Most of the books listed we happily own; others we check out each December from our public library.

Wishing you all wellness this season. And happy reading!

Love,

Rachel

A Winter Booklist

Around the Year, by Elsa Beskow is one of our favorite books. Though not a winter celebration, it’s a journey through the year. We can’t get enough of Elsa Beskow, or this title in particular.

Sky Sisters, by Jan Bordeau Waboose is a delightful tale of two Ojibway sisters, setting off into the darkness to see the northern lights. We adore this book.

It’s Snowing, by Olivier Dunrea is a simple, charming story about a mother and baby’s adventures in the snow. A gift for Sage when he was small, this book has a permanent spot in our bookshelf.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, by Gloria Houston is a bittersweet tale of family, motherhood, and Christmas. A tattered paperback copy of this book found its way into our world many years ago, and it’s pulled out each December.

The Shortest Day, by Wendy Pieffer is one of the few Winter Solstice celebrating books out there! We were delighted to stumble upon the whole series at our library years ago, and continue to enjoy these seasonal books.

Children of the Forest, by Elsa Beskow is not a winter-specific tale, but a lovely journey through the year beside the charming forest children and their parents. A perennial favorite in our home since our kids were tiny.

The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader is an old-fashioned sweet story of wildlife (and people) through a blizzard. It’s charming.

We love Cicely Mary Barker’s fairy books, and the winter collection is no exception. Short poems about plants and their fairies are a simple celebration of the season.

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, and the Yellow Sled by Maj Lindman is a tale of kindness and generosity. Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Reindeer is a lovely winter tale as well.

The Return of the Light by Carolyn McVickar Edwards is a collection of winter tales from around the world. On our library reserve list right now!

The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren (yes, the author of Pippi) is a charming look at the mythical Tomten on the farm. There’s another title, The Tomten’s Christmas Porridge that Lupine also enjoys.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett is another wintertime favorite. If you’re familiar with Jan’s artistic style, you can expect this book to captivate you as much as her other titles. Beautiful illustrations and a sweet message.

The Mitten, by Jan Brett, is another visual feast. A charming story of childhood, wildlife, magic, and knitting. What’s not to love?

I would be remiss in not mentioning (one more time) my own book (ahem), Herbal Adventures for winter reading. What better time to get to know the plants that will spring up come April? And some (mullein and pine in particular) can even be foraged now for use this season. You can pick it up on my website as well!

And let’s end where we began, shall we? With another Elsa Beskow favorite, Ollie’s Ski Trip. Magic, innocence, and winter cheer abound in this charming classic tale.

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And then… snow

Our first frost had only come two days before, killing back the pumpkins, tomatoes, and cucumber vines. And then, surprising us even more than the blanket of frost: snow!

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Pete and Sage were away when it began (driving through a snowstorm of their own in Minnesota), so it was just Lupine and I who raced to find our mittens and winter hats, then set off for the creek.

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And desipte ourselves, we delighted in the magic of it all.

Perhaps “despite ourselves” is the wrong sentiment. Because the first snow always brings out our unbridled joy. I guess in saying that I meant: it’s only October! And I did some quick math and realized we had only a 178 day summer break between snowstorms. That’s less than 6 months! Mid-April and mid-October snowstorms this year. I don’t recall another season quite like it.

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But honestly… who could argue with a little magic like this? Even if it is still two weeks until Halloween.

Bonus Herbal Adventures recipes

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In less than two weeks, Herbal Adventures will begin shipping out to all of you who pre-ordered your copies. I’m so excited to share this book with each of you! It was honestly an absolute joy to create.

Since it’s been a long wait for some of you, I thought it would be fun to send out some bonus recipes now, to tide you over until the book arrives.

These bonus recipes are not included in the book, and are only available to those who pre-order.

To receive your free recipes, simply pre-order your book, then sign up through the form below or click here for more details about what’s included.

I’ll send you access to the extras right away!

20171119-DSC_3258Thanks again for supporting me along this delightful path.

Warmly,
Rachel

In the garden

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We planted our first garden in three years this spring.

And to quote Lupine and Sage, we never want to live without one again.

The magic of wandering up the hill to see what we might harvest for our dinner is a delight unlike any other. And the few sunflower seeds we planted on a last-minute whim have kept us (and a few friends) in bouquets all season long. Prolific wild things they are!

I find, too, that heading outside to tend to the garden invites more magic into our ordinary days.

One morning last week Sage headed outside and returned moments later with a barn swallow fledgling that was trapped in our shed. A few hours later Lupine called from the chicken yard for everyone to “come quick!” – she had found a baby snapping turtle!

The turkeys chatter from the tree tops, the barred owls hoot in the forest, and sandhills wing overhead.

It’s good medicine.

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We leave town in a few days for another epic road trip, so our little garden will be on its own. We’re picking all that we can now, but the rest we’ll just let go. Lessons in allowing, I suppose.

Hopefully my chamomile will be busy self-seeding for next season while we are away, and perhaps our farmsitters will make good use the abundance of zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes that these four little beds are still cranking out.

We can only hope.

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As for next year, we’ve learned a few lessons in the garden as well. Like: planting in straight compost means too much nitrogen for peas, beans, strawberries, and so many other plants. (Oh, how I had hoped for an abundant green bean harvest! Next year.)

Also: hay bales compress and break down far more than you expect, and after a month or two your raised beds aren’t quite so… raised. It’s all good. The beds are still ridiculously productive just the same. (Even if we do have to reach down in to harvest.)

We’ll make a few changes next year, add a couple more beds, and give it another go. I can hardly wait.

Because all of these struggles are just a part of learning our way back into gardening. Of making it fun again. Which it is! That giant garden was a chore. This little one is a delight.

For our family anyway, smaller is better.

What a great lesson we have learned: you don’t need to do it all, but life is better when you get out there and do something.

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What are you loving most in your garden this season?

Ten ways to beat anxiety

I’m not sure what it is about these past few weeks. But I’ve been feeling it again. That creeping tightness in core, the prevalent worry loops in my mind. The worse-case-scenario brain.

So I’ve been mindfully slowing down and turning inward, and digging into the tips below. And I can say that for me anyway, these things help. Perhaps they’ll serve you, too.

This is a repost from last year that so many of you found helpful, so I’m bringing it to you once more, to help ease whatever transitions or hiccups you’re facing these days.


Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

Are you prone to anxiety?

Me, too.

I always have been. As a kid I was anxious that I’d get a bad grade or that my house would burn down, that there was a monster under my bed or a murderer on the block. Oh, and tornadoes. Those were really scary.

I spent my college years worrying about school, money, my future, and if my little house in the country had securely locking windows. Then onto motherhood and, well, you get the idea.

When anxiety shows up it hijacks my day, robs me of sleep, and makes it feel like everything is falling apart – though I can almost guarantee you that’s it’s not.

But now, pushing 42, I’m finally getting a handle on it. Anxiety is no longer the order-of-the-day in my world. It’s a rarity, a call to action, an invitation to change.

I finally have some tricks up my sleeve so that when anxiety comes on strong I know what I need to do to get centered again.

And now anxiety has become little more than a great reminder to get things back on track.

Needless to say, if you are in a mental health crisis please seek care with a trained counselor. This is just my way of dealing with the day-to-day of an anxious mind. 

Here’s my remedy. I hope it helps you.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

1. Slow down

No, it’s not always possible to dash off for a beach vacation when you’re feeling anxious or to take a break from your day-to-day busy life. But taking charge of your agenda but cutting some obligations off of your to-do list – even temporarily – can help.

Think in terms of the flu. If your body was sick, what activities would you have to cut?

Find the courage to cancel a visit, reschedule an appointment, or simplify a meal to buy yourself a little space to slow down.

This mindful practice can help you get centered and can put things back into perspective.

Sleep is vital as well.

When I’m feeling anxious I go to bed as early as I can and rest as long as possible. Grab some herbal tea, light a candle, and tuck in (without a phone or computer). Let yourself unwind slowly to welcome sleep.

2. Limit social media

Social media can be a nice way to stay connected with far-away friends and family but it’s also an anxiety bomb waiting to explode.

Disturbing images, sharp comments, and just too much baggage are all easy to absorb when we’re feeling out of balance.

Take a media fast until you feel centered again, or simply create some limits on how much time you engage there.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

3. Cut the caffeine

With apologies to my friends who own the coffee roastery, caffeine is a big contributor to anxiety.

I had another friend once confessed, “I just can’t drink coffee. When I drink coffee I instantly turn into a really nasty mom.”

I get that. When I’ve had too much caffeine I have a shorter fuse and am more prone to anxiety. It also depletes magnesium in the body which has a very direct effect on our anxiety levels.

Cut the buzz.

Wean yourself slowly or go cold turkey. It’s your call. I love homemade herbal chai as a caffeinated tea or coffee substitute. I make a big pot of it every Sunday but don’t add the milk. Then I can drink it for several days without having to make a fresh batch.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

4. Magical Magnesium

This, my friends, has been key in my anxiety management.

After discovering the effect magnesium has on my body, I’m certain that a magnesium deficiency has long been at the root of my anxiety (as it is for so many of us).

More than 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient – thanks to depleted soils, lifestyle choices, diet, and our health. (More on the reasons here.) Getting some absorbable magnesium in or on our bodies can be a game-changer.

I have prefer to get magnesium into myself and my kids two ways: internally and topically.

Magnesium is easiest for the body to absorb when applied topically, but if you are deficient you can use a combination of internal absorption and external application.

Magnesium Calm

We love Calm. For an edible magnesium source it’s absorbable and clean. It’s also pretty sweet-tasting so I’m considering buying an unflavored bottle to cut a flavored bottle with it. Go slow with magnesium! Taking too much will result in epic diarrhea. You don’t want that. And please don’t ask me how I know. (Ahem.)

Homemade or Purchased Magnesium Oil

Magnesium oil is simply magnesium chloride that has been dissolved into an equal part of distilled water. No, it’s not an oil, but it is commonly called that because of its feel of it on the skin.

When you are magnesium deficient the oil tingles, itches, or stings after application as the body greedily absorbs all it can from the application. With continued use this sensation lessons until after a few days it feels simply like oil.

My kids hate magnesium oil. Hate, hate, hate. When they are deficient they can’t get over the tingly sensation and don’t want to have anything to do with it. To remedy this we take Magnesium Calm and apply a small amount of the oil to thicker skinned parts, like the bottoms of the feet.

To make your own magnesium oil simply boil 1 C distilled water and combine with 1 C magnesium chloride flakes. Stir to combine, cool, and transfer to a clean spray bottle. That’s it. For real.

Apply once a day to your belly or lower back.

Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths are also helpful, but not as good a source of magnesium as magnesium chloride.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

5. Get outside

Nature heals. Getting outside and away from the overwhelming business of our day-to-day life is a game changer. Biophilia, baby. Carve out even a few minutes to walk and breathe and be in nature and you will find your anxiety taking a back seat to your gratitude.

Whether that means a walk around the block, a visit to a city park, or a hike deep into the wood, find the green. It heals you.

6. Soothe with Scent

The power of essential oils on the mind is profound.

When I was a new (anxious!) mama I created an essential oil blend for my colicky, rough sleeping (read: not sleeping) baby.

I was amazed at how well these essential oils worked not only for helping him fall asleep, but also for calming my anxiety. Enough so that I relabeled the blend for adults and offered it undiluted for diffusers and baths as well.

If you are stocking your essential oil kit for the first time or want to treat your anxiety with something you already have on hand, the following scent are tops for anxiety and can be found at your local coop or natural pharmacy:

Lavender – if you have only one single essential oil let it be lavender! Helpful for anxiety, sleep troubles, and skin issues lavender EO has countless uses.

Tangerine – a wonderfully bright and uplifting oil. Helpful for those prone to depression as well.

Ylang ylang – A complex, rich, floral oil for depression and anxiety. One of my favorites.

Always use essential oils properly diluted on your skin, or put them in a diffuser or bath. Never apply undiluted.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

7. Seek connection

You weren’t meant to do this alone. Not parenting, not keeping a home, not the day-to-day grind of work and bills and life. None of it.

Find your people.

Call your mom, your sister, a friend, a counselor. Seek out like-minded people though a church, art collective, or parenting coop. People were not designed to be solo, especially during difficult times.

8. Face your s**t

Get real about what’s troubling you. Money? Relationships? Impending doom? Sit with it and mindfully focus on what you can control to remedy the situation.

Make a budget. Have a difficult conversation. Ask for help.

Because at the heart of anxiety is usually a specific fear or group of fears for the future.

Saddle up and take it on.

You’ve got this.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

9. Write a different story

Anxiety is usually one big game of make-believe.

It’s our imagination, hard at work, making up worse-case scenarios for the future.

Pull the plug on this self-defeating loop. Write a new story. One that you might not believe yet, but that you want to believe in. And then write it again and again until you begin to believe it.

And then watch it unfold.

Because if your anxiety can use your imagination, so can your optimism. Which story do you want to come true?

And while you’re at it, practice gratitude.

There is so much for us to be thankful for. But when we’re drowning in anxiety it doesn’t feel that way. We see messes instead of magic, lack instead of abundance, a cloudy future rather than a gorgeous sunrise.

Make a habit of practicing gratitude.

While you brush your teeth, while you wash your dishes, while you drive to work. Start with ten things each day that you are thankful for.

Because gratitude can change everything.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

10. Just Breathe

Some days there is barely time to get food on the table, much less to meditate.

But slowing down – even for a moment – can be a game changer.

Take a few minutes (before you fall asleep if it’s the only quiet you can manage) to sit or lay silently and focus on your breathing.

Begin with your palms laid across your belly button. Breathe deep and slow into the place behind your hands at the very bottom of your lungs.

Feel your roots and your balance coming back.

Breathe.

Now place your hands across your upper chest. Breathe fully into your upper lungs.

And feel your heart again. Yeah, it might make you cry. But that’s healing work, too.

Be well, friends. Here’s to an anxiety-free future for us all.

Love,
Rachel

Manage your day-to-day anxiety with these ten simple tips. #anxiety #naturalhealth #healthy #healing

Originally published in 2017.

Laughter medicine

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After washing the dinner dishes last night, we pulled on our boots for a walk to the creek (some of us dressed more dramatically than others).

The sun was beginning to set, and the fields and forest were coming to life with evening song. We spied an expanse of vervain in an old sheep pasture in the distance, and set off to explore.

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Do you know that moment when the sun has begun to set and the light is incomprehensibly warm and luminous in a way that only happens at that perfect moment of sunset and you feel glad just to be a witness to it?

That was the light as we stepped gingerly through the towering, volunteer medicinal garden. It was breathtaking. It was healing.

I felt awake and alive and full of light–in a way I hadn’t all day.

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We slowed and savored.

There was time to marvel and just drink it all in. No where else to be, just the magic of now.

The hummingbird moth sipping nectar from a swamp milkweed; the snoozing bumblebees tucking in to the vervain flowers for the night; the mating monarchs winging past; the barred owls conversing in the hills–we stood in awe at it all.

It was a magical hour.

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And then Lupine started counting: 1… 2… 3…

Hide-and-seek. I’d be lying if I told you I was eager to play at first, but as I lay there in the tall grass, beneath the dancing vervain whose medicine is to help us to relax, release, and unwind, I did just that. My eyes twinkling and wide open as I hid, just barely stifling a laugh, I listened to her footfalls as she searched for me in the grass.

We took turns, each of us hiding and seeking before the sun disappeared behind the western hills.

Oh, how we laughed!

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At one point during our game, I found Pete lying in the grass, and both of us exploded in laughter.

“Promise me we’ll still do this when the kids are grown,” I said.

Because, oh, my yes… laughter is medicine to my soul.

 

A new season

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When the kids were younger writing here was an easier task.

There were lambs in the barn and homeschooling projects on the table; art on the easel and tea in my cup.

And all of that felt worth sharing.

Lately though, I can’t bring myself to share the day-to-day like I once did.

In the early years of writing here, my children’s lives and mine were so intertwined, it was easy to share their stories and my own in one breath. As they grow older, however, their stories have become very much their own, and I am more selective about what I want to bring into this space–both out of respect for them and, indeed, respect for this fragile silence in which we may savor our time together.

I keep rereading that phrase: “respect for the fragile silence.” It feels deeply resonant right now.

With children 11 and nearly 16, I’m cultivating presence as a mother more than ever before.

Because this is where I want to be: immersed in conversation with my family; immersed in this moment; immersed in our life.

And yet I keep circling back to this space, this blog, and wondering what I might create here in this new chapter of life and love and learning. I have more to give! Of that I am certain.

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Life in our world is certainly not all herbal remedies, nor is it all homeschooling or peaceful parenting or kitchen magic. It’s complex, it’s rich, it’s messy, and delicious.

And, indeed, it is sacred and ours alone.

So I’m stumbling through, figuring out the gifts of sharing here–gifts for me, for my family and, yes, for you as well.

I am still strongly called to come here and share, so I ask you to bear with me as I stumble through rebuilding this space energetically, and determining what it may become. Determining just what it is that I have to offer.

Is this a midlife crisis, perhaps? Nah… it feels more like choosing a gorgeous new knitting project to cast on. Embracing the new while celebrating what came before. A transition.

The stuff and substance of life.

A new season, if you will.

20180801-DSC_4625But perhaps before that’s all sorted out, we simply circle back. Back to the basics. To this day, to family, and the simple things that bring meaning and pleasure to our life.

To the things that light a spark in my heart.

Yes… that feels like just the place to pick this up again.

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The mornings here have been thick with a blanket of chill fog. Today was no exception. We’ve pulled out the lap blankets again and snuggle up on the couch with hands around tea cups until our bodies and minds are warmed back to life.

I don’t recall the last time it was hot enough for a dip in the creek (by my standards anyway), though Lupine and I did take a wade in that spring-cold water earlier this week. It jolted me into presence, from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. Such good medicine.

I can’t help but feel that we’ve turned the calendar to September, not August.

It has the kids and I thinking of the upcoming homeschooling season, and planning our studies for the coming year.

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Reminding me to slow down and savor late summer without rushing headlong into autumn is blue vervain. She is in full bloom in the pasture, and goldenrod is not far behind.

I keep meaning to pick a bit more vertvain, but the blossoms are wet with mist so late into the morning, and by then our day has come to life and I forget to hike to the creek again to harvest.

Perhaps today.

I will make a fresh tincture for stress, headaches, and anxiety, and would also love to make a flower essence of it, if the sun comes out today. Better yet, I’d love to set up my copper still and make a hydrosol of fresh vervain. That sounds magical, indeed.

 

 

And with that, a walk to the creek is calling.

Thorough the mist we go, physically or otherwise, then out the other side.

 

 

Rustic Raft Rally & Traditional Wisdom Celebration

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This weekend Sage and a buddy loaded their (several hundred pound) wooden raft into the back of our pickup truck and we headed to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, an 8,600 acre nature reserve here in the Driftless. The event was a Traditional Wisdom Celebration and Rustic Raft Rally, and the two homeschoolers had spent the previous weeks designing, testing, and perfecting a river raft to enter in the competition.

The challenge: to build a river-worthy raft using only natural and biodegradable materials; then navigate 2 1/2 miles of winding Kickapoo river. Crossing the finish line, teams had to be on or in their craft, with at least 1/2 of their bodies above water.

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We even enticed our neighbor Alan (a traditional skills enthusiast, maker, and tinkerer extraordinaire) to come. He gave the boys most of the logs they used to construct their raft, so we dropped off a schedule of events thinking the day might be right up his alley.

We were right.

And while we drove the 45 minutes to the Reserve from our valley, Alan arrived by bicycle (of course he did)! He departed at 4 am, as one does, in order to arrive in plenty of time for the 9 am start. (Despite biking, he still managed to  beat us there by nearly an hour.)

Although we went to the Reserve for the raft rally, the day offered so much more.

From wood carving to willow weaving demonstrations; flint knapping to cold forging; beekeeping to maple tapping talks; herbal remedies to a pit-cooked traditional meal, it was our sort of day in every possible way.

Best of all, this is our community. We saw lots of old friends (and made a few new ones), and whiled away the day talking, learning, and doing.

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By mid-day, it was time to launch the rafts! Seven teams entered in all.

The entrants ranged from hastily lashed creations (enthusiastically thrown together at the last minute by scout troops) to gorgeous peg-and-beam constructions carefully engineered in the weeks leading up to the event.

And off we set, some by raft, some by kayak and canoe. Departure was chaos, as a few teams tested their rafts for the very first time and were surprised by the true buoyancy (or lack thereof!) of their craft, but within a few minutes things settled out and the peace of the river enveloped us.

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From a functionality perspective, Sage and his friend’s raft were in the top tier. These two were among few teams who managed to ride above (rather than in) the water, standing up and poling the length of the route. Along the way were clusters of family and friends, cheering on all the teams as they passed. It was a sweet scene.

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A couple of hours after putting in, Sage and his friend (and the six other teams) crossed the finish line: cold, wet, tired, and happy. Prize money was involved, keeping everyone smiling right up until the chilly finish.

Then it was time for more talks and demos, more visiting with old and new friends, and an exquisite pit-cooked meal.

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At last, it was time to head home. Nearly 12 hours after we arrived at the Reserve, we dragged ourselves back to the truck: dirty, well-fed, over-sunned, and over-tired.

We headed home and collapsed into bed… some of us still smiling from the events of the day.

All this to say: it was a near perfect way to spend a Saturday.