Well, it's been a while. Clearly I'm not very good at this blogging thing. Turns out, raising a 3 year old and a 1 year old is pretty challenging. But, here I am--trying to dive back in and let folks know what is going on with the farm. Last year, Jonathan was the local foods coordinator in Sparta and worked with the Cooperative Extension office to help other local farmers sell and market their products. While it was only a part time job, it left little time for what he really wanted to be doing on our own farm. He enjoyed meeting local producers and he enjoyed the concept of the job; however, he also felt conflicted.
This position was grant funded and when the grant ended, it was not going to be renewed. So this left us with a big decision. To search for another job or to take the chance on farming FULL TIME. I knew what Jonathan wanted deep down so I supported him and encouraged him to follow his dreams. It is quite terrifying, though. We know we have people here who support us but will it be enough?!
So now here we are in January. We are diving in. We are planning. We are putting things in place to go full force when March arrives.
Chickens have been ordered.
Modifications have been made to our "barn" to make chicken processing easier. (We are planning to process THOUSANDS of birds this year.)
Seeds have been ordered.
Lambs have been born!
And we bought a VAN to transport our produce and poultry to anywhere and everywhere we possibly can.
It's going to be a challenging year but one that I'm sure will be full of so many rewards. We want to change the way food is grown. And we want you to be with us on this ride.
In our society we do a lot of things that aren't really necessary. Driving a brand new car, wearing name brand clothing, buying the newest gadget or toy, shaving, and WEARING MAKE-UP. But guess what? You don't have to. You don't have to wear make-up. You really don't!
Trust me. I stopped wearing make-up about two and a half years ago. It's scary. It's liberating. It's empowering. This all started when I began learning and understanding what kind of chemicals are put into the "beauty" products we use each day. Lists a mile long of words nobody can pronounce. And we are smothering our skin with it multiple times a day. As you know, our skin is the biggest organ. So WHY are we doing this? But let's get this straight, I'm not here to shame anyone into feeling bad about wearing make-up or to throw guilt around--just offering up my experience to say-you don't have to.
I wasn't ever really one to wear a ton of make-up in the first place. I wasn't/I'm not much of a girly-girl but I did think that wearing make-up was something I had to do in order to look presentable. It was part of my daily routine and something I never really thought about getting rid of. Well, then we had our first daughter. That was when my family started re-thinking the things we were using throughout our home. My make-up and other bath products were on the list of things to dig into. I started with deodorant and learned how to make my own. I tried making my own powder foundation out of cocoa powder and a mix of other natural ingredients. I never could get the formula just right. I did successfully make a blush out of beet powder, though! However cool that may be, it takes time to make your own. And like I said, I had a baby to take care of. So then my journey led me on the search for a make-up brand that was more natural. I found a few but SHEESH, they were a little pricey for my budget.
And I decided to just say--f**k it. I wasn't giving up on making myself presentable each day, I was just giving up on feeling like I HAD to wear make-up for others to think so. Nobody should feel pressured to do something because of being afraid of what others may think. When I did this--it was GREAT! I didn't have to waste 10-20 minutes each morning worrying about perfecting my eyeliner or mascara. I saved a ton of money by not buying make-up every other month or so. And I didn't have to wipe the crap off every night just to start all over again the next day. I realized that my face is fine the way it is. And now it's even better off because there is NOTHING on my skin except skin. I had one person come up to me and say something about my lack of make-up, and that only fueled my fire. Shut it lady, who cares?!
I hope my daughters see me and choose to be brave. I hope they go out and show their faces to the world. My dad has always told me, my sister, and my mom that we look better without make-up. I think, maybe, he is right.
We have a new motto in our house-"you do you". So, whether you chose to wear make-up or not, you do you!
Be a beautiful person, be a kind soul.
(And for those of you who may have been wondering--now you know the story behind my make-up-less face)
Jonathan and I have been married for seven years. SEVEN.
For our anniversary, he got me a basket full of goodies from our local health food shop, Journey Wellness (the best place in town!). The basket included all kinds of dried herbs, almond oil, rose water, bees wax, and Moon Juice! It was a great gift and so thoughtful. I was having a hard time figuring out what to get him, though. I searched Etsy for a unique gift but couldn't find anything that he would really be interested in. But I remembered...
One day he texted me from school and said his new "idol" was a man named Joe Hollis. So, I looked him up. Turns out, Joe is the owner of Mountain Gardens, a botanical garden that specializes in native and Chinese medicinal herbs. It is located in Burnsville, NC. Only a few hours away! I decided to plan a trip to see Mountain Gardens as Jonathan's gift. Since we are in the process of beginning our own herbal apothecary, I thought this would be the perfect place to get some inspiration.
So, we planned the trip and decided we would go to Burnsville first, drive to Asheville (where we spent a lot of time and have a lot of good memories), then spend the night at my aunt's lake house on Wolf Lake in Tuckasegee, NC.
Driving up the mountain to Mountain Gardens was quite the experience. Sparta is located at a pretty high elevation, but the curves going up that mountain were unreal. The snow on the mountaintop was getting closer and closer as we drove. Not the best day, I admit, to go to a botanical garden. Nevertheless...we finally made it. The pavement ended and gravel started and there it was. Not much of anything at first glance. Everything was nestled into the mountain side. The signs for the entrance were scrap wood with handwritten lettering. It looked like it had been abandoned and there was nobody in sight. We started up the path and started to see small little cabins, mud yurts, solar panels, greenhouses, seedlings, ducks, small ponds, and a garden that was waiting for warmer weather to bring it to life. At the end of the path, a man came out of a cabin and introduced himself. He invited us in. This cabin was the home to their "store" and "pharmacy". On the wall was hundreds of books, bottles full of Chinese medicinal herbs, salves, and tinctures (see pictures). I had emailed him prior to our trip because I was interested in buying some seeds. He opened the seed cabinet and there were tons of plastic bottles full of seeds they had harvested from their plants.
We ended up buying St. John's Wort, motherwort, ashwagandha, and tulsi seeds. We spoke to the man for a few minutes and learned that he and Joe were the only ones who lived there year-round, but during peak months they have as many as 6 apprentices that live there with them. It was like a little community living and learning with the land. Unfortunately, we did not meet Joe. The group was planning a trip into town so we walked around a little longer and decided to leave.
But the short amount of time we were there showed us that a simple life can be rewarding. It showed us that we have a lot to learn but it gave us inspiration and ideas about how we need to proceed in our own lives. I have been feeling lately that nature is choosing me and that I need to stop and listen to what she has to say.
Anyway...on we went to Asheville. We stopped for lunch, got doughnuts, had a beer and started walking back to our car. On the way we passed a seed store I had been wanting to go to--Sow True Seed. They package organic, non-GMO, and heirloom seeds. We ended up buying some bee balm, wildflowers for bees, wildflowers to attract beneficial insects, pole beans, and lavender. Also, Jonathan has been wanting to start cultivating mushrooms. Turns out, they sell mushroom spores at Sow True Seed as well. So, of course, we got some--Shittake and Oyster. Oh, and let's not forget the t-shirt I bought :)
The trip, unintentionally, ended up being a seed buying trip. But we both had a great time and we were excited to get back home and start planting. Stay tuned to see the fruits of our labor. The seeds are currently snuggled up in their raised beds waiting until the time is right. Let's hope our chickens stay out long enough! Ha!
A good friend sent me this poem--a reminder that new life comes every year.
When the sun comes down to earth, so to speak, we get into it.
When the sun lies long against the ground and gets warm into it
then we come out of the rooms and lie down,
bandaged here and there like warriors.
When the sun comes warm and clear down to the ground
then we crawl on our bellies or backs or otherwise into it.
When it comes down hard
touching beyond equivocation
when it is not lost head-high in the air
when the sun comes down hard enough to mean spring
then it invites us into it as it invites the leaf out of its dark twig
and pigment pleads its passion in the sun.
I know and reknow this every year.
1. Strong, beautiful violet bursting through the gravel.
2. Tiny sprouts of broccoli emerging
3. Our daughter, Sallie, checking on progress.
This idea began (for me) about 2.5 years ago when Jonathan and I purchased 30 acres of family farm land. But really, I guess, it began long before...
This land was the pride of my late grandfather and it is the land where I was raised. My parents did not farm but my childhood home faced the rolling fields of hay that smelled of fresh manure every summer. The air would be filled with this scent--something I grew to love. This home was nestled in a patch of tress that provided endless hours of exploration (and endless hours of leaf clean-up in the fall). This home was outside of town limits and when my childhood friends would come over to play, I would laugh when they had never made a mud pie or played in a creek. These friends would almost never return home in the clothes they arrived in.
As I moved away to college, some of these memories faded. But each time I came home for a visit and brought a new friend with me, I was like a kid all over again. I would show them the beautiful farm where I lived and I would burst with pride. I don't think I ever dreamed of living on this same land after earning my degree.
My husband's story begins in the same home town. His childhood was similar to mine yet very different. His grandfather, too, owned a farm. This was an actual working farm where they raised cattle and tobacco for a period of time. Jonathan spent a lot of time helping his grandfather but spent little time truly appreciating the work. It was at that time in his life that he decided he would NEVER be a farmer. Well--fast forward a few years. Jonathan's grandfather fell ill and passed away. It was then that he began to truly appreciate what he learned from his grandfather growing up on the farm. This would be the part of our story that would inspire a new life for Jonathan.
Let's back up a few years. Upon graduating high school, Jonathan decided to follow me to Asheville where I was attending The University of North Carolina at Asheville getting my Bachelor's degree in Psychology. He was unsure of what he would study at the community college there but he was trying to please his family by getting a college degree. My husband is NOT studious. He realized quickly that going to classes that he wasn't interested in did not fulfill him. This was not his path. Because of this, he felt called to a higher purpose and decided to join the U.S. Navy. I supported his decision, reluctantly, and we jumped in to this new life. In July of 2009, Jonathan left for boot camp. Before he left, he proposed in our tiny (and I mean TINY) apartment in Asheville.
So, there I was, in Asheville finishing up my degree while Jonathan was in Illinois at the Recruit Training Command. At this time in our lives neither of us knew what the future would hold. We knew there was potential to go anywhere. After boot camp, he was sent to another training school in Groton, Connecticut. This training was for those men (and women, now) who agreed to join the elite silent service. SUBMARINES! How he was talked into this I will never know. His job after completing this training would be a sonar technician on a submarine and he would be stationed at one of the several submarine ports around the world.
During his time in CT, we decided to get married. We were very young and it was not how we planned. And never in a million years did I think my marriage license would say Connecticut! But it was a perfect April day with only the most special family and friends in attendance. At this point, I put my life on hold. I finished my undergraduate degree and then we played the waiting game. Education was always important to me so I decided to pursue my Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology. But not knowing where we would be stationed put those dreams on hold for a short time. Soon after his completion of the training in CT, we found out we would be stationed in Norfolk, VA on the fast attack nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Newport News. We were excited but scared shitless. We knew it would be a rough road ahead. We were both at the young age of 20.
To make a long story a little bit shorter, Jonathan got to his command and started learning what it meant to be a submariner. They were in port long enough for us to get settled into military housing (NOT recommended). And shortly after the new year in 2011, they were deployed for 7.5 months. It was a long time but it was a time when we learned our strength. I met some of the best friends I have ever had and if they are reading this, I hope they know who they are and how much they mean to me.
Jonathan returned home and was never deployed again. In 2014, when his 5 year enlistment was coming to an end, we decided that this was not the life we wanted and we said 'goodbye' to this chapter and 'hello' to a new one--and a new baby on the way! Oh, and I forgot to mention that I DID earn my Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Old Dominion University.
So back home we went. Back to the home I grew up in. Jonathan decided to use the GI Bill and go back to school. This time he had renewed focus and renewed passion. He began classes at Appalachian State University in the Sustainable Development department with a focus in Agroecology. And from here, our dreams and attitudes changed dramatically. From here, our entire worldview and outlook would be different. It sparked a new passion.
We purchased a piece of the family farm from my grandmother and built a house. Oh, and we brought a beautiful baby girl named Sallie into the world.
As I began writing this, I did not intend on sharing our whole life story. But it was necessary to lay out the path that led us to this point. A point in time when we can see how our actions directly affect our earth, and when we can see how our actions from this time going forward can help to mend it. We can see how our current food production system in the United States is doing more harm than good. We have decided to say enough is enough and begin our journey of living our life as sustainably as possible.
Our family and friends may think we are foolish or crazy, probably both. But we think it is a dream that can become a reality. A life that will yield so many benefits outside of monetary values and material possessions. A life that will allow us to take care of ourselves without relying on someone else. Thus the beginning of Blue Feather Creek Farm. Our adventure has already started so stay tuned for more.
Thank you for reading--