Hot Late July: A 2016 Review

Hey Late July! Hey Hot Hot Summer!

Wow… What a year it has been on our homestead. Full of so much creation, change, learning, growth, connecting!


An off my head wings idea of what’s transpired here :

•Moved to the property in January and set up the yurt and storage tent.

•Started clearing select tree and bush sections of land. S * L * O * W l y – and glad we did (even against many a neighbor’s advice to “get a bush hog out here”) as we have hundreds of persimmons, some even 20 ft high and ample biodiversity.

•Dug beds for a garden, including planting 4 25 ft rows of sweet potatoes, 2 rows of herbs, flowers, beans and a myriad of squash, 2 apple trees, and much more! A goal of this year was specifically increasing biodiversity of the plants we’d love to have return annually. Hoping for some volunteerism… Tulsi, genovese basil, chamomile, calendula, thyme, flax are just a few to name some!

•Build a composting toilet sweetly dubbed the Fert Lab, as it certainly is a fertility laboratory converting (with the help of many an organism!) our poo and pee into a safe to use humanure after two years. To our great happiness, one of our recent guests said her mom would even probably poop there (and that was saying a lot). I’ve always said, I hate pooping (or sitting any length of time) in spaces that aren’t beautiful or that I don’t like to be in, so I thought starting now with high intention on a traditionally shitty spot would be grand🙂 we did a stud frame on top of locally collected stone foundation with lime mortar (damn rocks are heavy!) and did a slip straw infill with clay plaster. Nearly all of the wood and tin roof for the building were salvaged last summer from our friend’s old barn. Hurrah! Pooping success

•Made connections with a myriad of kind folks in the community, including our adjacent neighbors. Many a fun night was had and multiple work parties switching off on each others lands. And fabulous pot lucks full of local food! (And did I mention the supreme pleasure of eating mostly locally, grown by yourself and a handful of friends? So stoked we’re already doing this as it’s one of our deep goals.)

•on top of that, the month of July must’ve been unofficial visitor month as we had friend’s traveling through almost constantly. Indiana, ecovillages, Utah, California, cross country travelers included. It was really fun to engage people in our projects, cross pollinate and learn and enjoy together.

•swam in the creek nearly every day as it got hot- sometimes 3 or 4 times a day. We have a gorgeous creek which we praise daily.

•constructed the trapezoidal gazebo , the teahouse gazebo= teazebo we drew up last year. Roof, 1/4 slip straw walls, door and partial screen are on. We extended the deck and the building faces southwest directly into the garden. The last few nights we slept, ate, dried our potatoes and onions, read, practiced acroyoga, and sat there in the shade during the middle of the day so it’s already fulfilling its purpose. Human spaces (shade, bug free) are definitely important in the midst of the garden!

•had a 250 ft well dug and installed a manual Simple Pump ourselves. Planning to get a dc motor for the pump powered by a solar system eventually, but praises be! We have water up at the top now!

Personal accomplishments, inner growth cycles, and realizations will flush out in time I’m sure. Now we are on our annual westward migration to see friends and travel. First stop, some high alpine camping in New Mexico and a workshop led by Ini in Taos because his Sprouting book is out!

How thankful I am for our land, the connection and inspiration it affords and all of the beautiful friendships we share in our community.

Didn’t fish too much last season, but that’s a goal of mine upon my return!! Someone make sure I get a kayak ASAP😉


Cooking with grace the Wise Woman Way

Growing up my mom did most of the cooking in our household. My dad grilled on occasion, cigar in tow, yet she consistently put balanced meals on the table and even packed my lunch (with sweet notes on the napkins).

As I grew, I started to see this as a great injustice. Why doesn’t dad cook or at least do the dishes? My sister and I would complain to one another. Somewhere inside of me I made amends to never have an arrangement like that, to never be the one who has to bear the yield of daily cooking.

Fast forward to the year two thousand sixteen. I live on 18 acres with my partner, a male, in Missouri. He often cooks: indeed, his delightful sprouted meals, smoothies, teas and ferments coaxed me into relationship with him from the get go. For the first years we were together traveling, it was he who would make most of our meals. At times he complained, yet I was determined not to be the default cook in any partnership. So I abstained and told him I would cook more once we found Place.

And here we are -in Place. Tonight I am cooking red lentils on the stove. I thought I may put in a Jamaican seasoning that titillated me at the market, but a red spice (not actually sure what it is HA!) caught my nose tonight and I dosed the pot with it. Add long simmering onion and kelp, salt, black pepper and new potatoes and beet greens from our garden, and I am full on in appreciation of the creation of meals to sustain, treat, nourish, and overwhelm my family with goodness.

I loath the day I would ever be relied upon by a household or organization to cook the majority of meals, yet I am appreciating the gentle transmutation of resources (and if I have a hand and heart in growing them, all the more magical!) that takes place in cooking. It seems a wise woman thing to do. This is also a word about balancing perceived injustices we witness in our youths. Most of us have them. My mom or dad did this and I’ll never (or often) do that!

Yet what we find is a subtlety in existence. It is not always clear cut.

Because with the flick of my wrist in stirring and the tap of my pointer finger in adding a spice… In the acuity of my eye in picking a vegetable from my garden or smelling a product at the market before I buy… I am taking part in a magical act. Indeed, we put parts of ourselves into our creations

And this brings me no small elation.

Perhaps, my mother cooking for us, the way she always has, the way women nearly always have, is them putting themselves into us, filling us with their love for us… And that is what makes us grow, along with the literal food. (And i am happy to take part in that with/for my loved ones.)

In fact, I am now coming round again to see what a blessed act the preparation of food can be. Putting a bit of my energy to transform materials to sustain your and my bodies.

Ah, full circle.

Come over for dinner sometime.

Yet, please, do the dishes 😜hahahah ☀️

Creativity Anew

Ini relocated a black widow just now. From in between the screen and plastic roll up window the yurt. I know these are shy creatures, ones who aren’t “out to get” humans, yet I can’t help having a visceral reaction to their presence. Such is how I felt just now when I spotted her. Last month I found a 3 inch long fishing spider in a bin of clothes. Yesterday mouse poop on the table. This morning a mouse drowned in a bucket of water. Yesterday, again, a dead young turkey that perhaps our dog killed or just found, dragged up to a main path.

We are in and amidst all of this life. Ticks, a daily ritual of peeling them off, sometimes up to 40 (most of them are caught before they bite, as an aside for concerned readers, and I am studying and practicing Buhner’s Lyme protocol for protection).

I must say that all of these challenges wear on me, as a human who feels well in a certain modicum of comfort. The black widow 2 ft from my bed upped the ante here a bit. I don’t want to have to check in my sheets each night before bed, and I also don’t want to live in fear. Yet increasingly I am tremendously bothered by the encroachment of death (the rather smelly, putrid aspect of the cycling of life), and the seeming lack of boundaries between the waves of natural and wild life upon my own.

Deep breath. I’m writing this as a form of catharsis, in hope to shed some of my immediate, current upset response, and to create space. Space to perhaps gain momentum to better seal off the yurt. To set another mouse trap. To say a prayer ushering in peace.

And, too, I want to write more. Haha so be it if the genesis comes about because of a black widow. If one is to “read into” animal sightings (and I tend to), spiders represent creativity, the power of the word (spelling), the webs we weave. Black widows have shown up in the past in the face of unfavorable, even malevolent presences in my life. This isn’t the feeling I get here, but I will take it as a catalyst to start exercising my creativity through writing again.

Falling leaves as they come
Creating fertile forest duff
one by one

Making a Wood Fired Bath Tub

imageimageimageimageimageLiving off the grid is challenging and having a tub to soak in is paramount to health. We have a perennial spring that moves pretty fast so I wanted to utilize it for water. It’s at the base of our property near the creek, which is about a 10 min walk from the woods where we tucked the yurt. I relished the possibility of having a place I could take a bath and relax, and a tub close to the spring, so close in fact that one can not only see the creek but also revitalize in the sound of its rapidly moving water. So we set out to do just that.

Looking online, there weren’t any detailed plans, so we had to make our own. We found a free steel tub one day as we were hunting for treasure at the Habitat for Humanity Restore (of course a cast iron claw foot or any large metal tank would work too). That set the pace for the entire project, which so far we have only spent $7 on (for the caulk and the drain and plug for the tub as ours was missing one).

First we chose the site. As I said, I wanted it close to the water for the ease of getting water to the tub and also for the added benefit of the sweet environment water habitats provide. I chose a spot nestled between two rocks, proving that one can do this project just about anywhere. Flat ground may be easier, but because I bermed one side that saved me some cob fill. When choosing a site, think about how you’ll get water to it and the amount of flow around the tub (preferably not in a busy social area, so you can an soak up the peace and quiet while there).

Next I dug out of the side of the sloping earth to make a level site and dug about a foot beneath the surface of the ground. I did this so I could assure a level spot for the tub’s 4 corners. And because I planned on setting stones under the four corners and pouring gravel amidst that as a type of foundation, I wanted it low enough to just reach level after I set the tub.

Once the site was excavated, I found a host of similarly sized foundation stones and put them in the four corners of the excavation site. I filled in the spots between the stones forming a parallel channel. Of course, you want to have a channel for the fire’s heat to flow under the tub, so leave ample space (I left about a 6 in wide gap, also about 6 in high). Then I filled the space between the earth and the stones with gravel and cemented it in with a cob mixture (mix 2 part sand, one part clay, and depending on how wet your clay is, add water to make a stiff dough consistency) (also, there are many other sites you can research cob and how to find out more about making a good mix so I won’t go into that here. If, in the end, your cob doesn’t turn out right: fear not, add water and make it again. This is such a fun building project because its harkens back to your childhood days of playing with mud in the woods making pies. Mmmm!).


Letting that dry, I dug out the middle channel a little deeper. Once dry, I set the tub on the cobbed stone foundation and checked for level. We decided to allow a bit of slope toward the drain, to make sure the water would drain easily. When we eventually started filling the tub, we found that we made more of a slope than we realized and thought this may be a mistake. But as we filled the tub with water, we found that the side on the up-slope (also where the fire is, so definitely not where we are sitting) not having as high of water level as the down slope was just fine because our feet were there and so it was inconsequential that the water wasn’t high. Slope is flexible.

After setting the tub, I filled in the bermed side’s gaps with more cob, also using rocks as filler. Using rather large rocks, to small stones saved me from having to make more cob. The point here is to of course make a seal to trap the fire chamber that runs beneath the tub. One can also use cob to build up around the tub to provide thermal mass = keeping your tub water warmer for longer!

I filled in the other side with cob as well, and then set to placing the stove pipe. I chose to put a 6 in diameter pipe 2 ft long half under the tub, fit it with an elbow connecting with a 5 ft pipe going up. 5 ft is a good length (or even longer) to make sure you get sufficient draw from the fire. Essential for warming the underside of the tub!

I cobbed this in, again using small rocks also, to produce a good seal to close off the fire chamber. Smoke, like water, finds a place to escape if there are any gaps, making your firing less efficient! If there are any gaps, simply add more cob! Easy!

For the drain pipe, I cobbed the stove pipe near it to try to buffer any heat from blasting the rubber stopper in the drain. For now, we have a slanted rock beneath the drain, channeling water away from under the tub. Eventually we need to fit a metal pipe (able to withstand the heat) and channel the water farther away from the tub, but for now it flows into a gravel bed.

Next is the fire box. On the other side of the tub we are edged right up to a big rock so we have a vertical drop fire box (the only way ours would fit). Of course, if you have more room, you can make a firing area right beneath the tub. We used larger rocks to make the fire box and set and cemented them with cob. It worked beautifully and the fire drew beneath the tub just fine. The fire took about an hour to heat the water, at which point it almost got too hot. I’m sure we’ll get the hang of this over time. One thought is to get in the tub perhaps before it is sufficiently warm because it will certainly continue heating!🙂 Make sure you collect enough fire wood and set it close to the tub because you’re not going to want to get out and gather part way through your bathing experience.

Also, put a piece of wood (with some small holes drilled through it, so it doesn’t float) on the bottom of the tub, as the metal will get really hot!

The main points are making sure you have a good cob mixture (again you can research this all over the Internet), having a solid foundation for the tub to rest on, making sure your end stove pipe is long enough to make sure you get a good draw, and sealing off the fire chamber with cob. The possibilities are endless as far as aesthetics (making shapes and designs in the cob surrounding the tub and adding stones, etc), placement of tub and what kind of tub, and what type of fire chamber you decide to do.

Hope this helps for anyone endeavoring to make a wood fired cob tub! Happy relaxation🙂



Remind me of your face

Morning, here. Filled with the dreams of the past night. I awake feeling refreshed, excited. A deep excitement stirs within, laced with gratitude.

I feel it pulsing, throbbing like an underground heartbeat. Like a river beneath the surface of the earth bursting up through artesian wells, spouting out of limestone springs. It manifests through the work of my hand as dreams taken flight, birthing foundations.

My gratitude is based on knowing the opposite of this and in the sheer pleasure of being here. Like many things one has waited for, there is often a path building up to the attainment that makes that final meeting of what was once only hoped for, dreamed of simply put, Sweet.

It is sweet to be here, like a piece of dark chocolate turned in the mouth, tasted with all sides of the tongue, the thick black complexity met with quiet delight.

I remember nights on the road close to midnight as i or Ini and I searched for a place to rest our heads, away from the road, from traffic, from the noise, urgency and often violence of a culture set apart from the rhythms of nature. Oh so many nights!!!

And as we returned from a somewhat hectic trip to town yesterday, for a meeting and grocery run, I was greeted by the soft, effervescent illumination of MoonLight filling the forest corridors, making this a new territory for me. Revealing further the nurturance of this place. How it is beginning, more and more, to be Home. A place of rest, joy, sustenance. Yes, of work, too, and of struggle. Yet overwhelmingly a nest, a comfort. My type of woodland comfort.

Cold Spring Bathing

Water purifies water cleanses water makes new

Sometimes life comes through Crystal clear. In some ways I think I may be always hoping for this. Clear sight, the ability to see to the heart of things, to get to the marrow. I have long sought for meaning in life, depth, understanding.

Being here on the land, many of my dreams are starting to unfold. This morning I wanted to bathe. At first I was upset at how that would happen. With so many systems we must make I thought I may have to go to the spring, gather water, carry it up the hill and heat it on the stove. What is usually such a simple task in our modern world would be a many hour ordeal. Yet as the day unfolded and I went down to gather water to take back up for bathing, drinking, cooking, dishes, rinsing seeds, nuts and grains, I realized I must bath in the water near the spring. I also needed to wash my hair, a task I’ve been wondering how people who live close with the earth without modern ammenities have been doing forever. How do other people care for their hair? Oiling? I would like to know some other methods.

But for today, I am blessed with sun. And I was going to take water a ways from the source and wash and rinse my hair.

As I got started I realized that this was actually going to be a powerful baptism. I could feel the voice of the land meeting my conscience pulling out anything I needed to release. Actions I needed to let go of, and thoughts and other ways of being too. A time of forgiveness and preparation was in order. A way of preparing myself to join with the land, with the spirit of this place and all of the ancestors who walked before me.

It was a very beautiful bath. Not cold at all once I adjusted- the body is very remarkable in this way, and it confirmed what I read about on various Ayurvedic and other worldwide systems about cold baying practices being more rejuvenating for the body, mind and spirit, as well as boosting the immune system.

My modern head may take more time to get used to hurdling old patterns to get down to the creek to bathe, but it was one of the most beautiful and best bathing experiences ever.

Full moon reverie

Shortly after mid night
Awake Full Moon light shines
Into the yurt
Awake owl calls surrounding
Us in the casa de arboles
In this house of trees
Visions of staring dark wide eyes
Scaly talon poised, perched
Raptor of the night
Power echoes through the wind with butter cream waffle hoos
Coyotes laugh, eternal wandering tricksters caught in raucous party
Under the light of this full moon
Shortly after mid night reverie