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I have had a bum couple of days.  I’m feeling out of balance and forgetting things like passwords to my email and bank account – things I use almost daily.  Hormones or something is amiss with me, but I’m pushing onward.  I am trying to prepare for the birthday celebration that I am having for Deladis on Saturday.  Her fourth birthday is coming up, and I want our friends and family to celebrate it here with us.  We don’t get many visitors, even family members, because of the creek being the road.  I always hold an open invitation though.  I’m looking forward to them all having a good reason to come see our place.

With that comes the food and home preparation.  I am preparing a “real” foods menu, including the cake and beverages.  I wholly believe on the benefits of eating a diet based on whole, traditionally prepared foods and I want to share a meal prepared in that way with those I love.  I’m hoping it initiates some conversation and thought as well.  I am trying so hard to keep up with the housework.  It is a never ending thing with two little people following you around and undoing all that you just did.  I’ve decided I’ll give it a good cleaning on Friday, and then spot check until the party.  I know to some of the people we love and who love us immensely, our lifestyle is a bit odd as is our choices.  I’m hoping coming into our world to celebrate the birth of one of the greatest beings of all time – Deladis – will help them to understand and know we aren’t quite “weird” –  just happily different. 🙂

I enjoy hosting gatherings as much as I am a loner.  I like it when people eat my food, sit on my couch, play in my yard, and sample from my garden.  The party isn’t going to be this big organized event.  The kids will be turned loose to play in the yard and have a big time, while the adults talk and watch them play.  I want the people Deladis loves to be there.  I’ve asked for no gifts, or for those who would like to bring something I’ve given specific ideas.  It’s going to be good.

I ordered our gifts to Deladis from Etsy – the Ebay type site for handmade items.  One day I let Deladis look through the various toys and choose the things that interested her the most.  In the final pick, she chose wooden super heroes and a sweet little lamb.  I can’t wait to give them to her.  I also bought her a kitchen helper’s baking set with cookie cutters in the shape of a horse, dog, and bear at Yoder’s Bulk Foods.  I’ve already given her those, and I hope we get to make some cookies together for her party.

I wish I were having better days on the eve of four years as a mother.  It is hard to find motivation to get things ready when feeling off kilter.  I long to do something, just me and Deladis.  I’ve been remembering when it was long days of only the two of us.  I was such a different mother, then.  A really good one too.

My sister, Ariana came to the mountains today with my neice and nephews.  I’m so looking forward to seeing her and them.  I hope it will bring me back around.

I wrote yesterday a little bit about my finding my way to yoga.  I’ve been toying with yoga for about ten years.  I’ve never really had what I would call a “serious” practice in that time period.  That is if the criteria for “serious” is incorporating all eight limbs of yoga.  I practiced more as another variation on the word “exercise”.  The closest I ever came to really doing yoga was during my pregnancies with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa and Shiva Rea DVDs along with some studio classes.  I was more about tuning in with my little beans than tuning in with God or my inner self at that time.

I really enjoyed the Gurmukh DVDs during my pregnancy, and when I realized that the type of exercise I was doing (high intensity aerobics) was exacerbating my health issues (thyroid, stress, and exhaustion), I started with her.  The type of yoga she teaches is called Kundalini yoga.  Kundalini yoga is the most ancient form of yoga and was introduced to the west by Yogi Bhajan in 1968.  Kundalini yoga suits me very well because while I need restorative exercise, I really like to exert myself.  Kundalini yoga allows for both.  It is appropriate for all people in all types of conditions and age ranges.

I’ve been exploring the different aspects of yoga and doing Kundalini and Vinyasa styles.  In my search for an authentic, traditional life, I place great emphasis on doing things the way they were meant to be done.  I have been researching the “real” way to practice yoga.  I have found that it stand aside from religion, and I have found it extremely helpful in reconnecting me with my own spirituality.  I’ve been using my yoga time as prayer time.  I am a Christian, and the original mantras work so well for me.  My favorite right now is Sat Nam – truth is my name.  It is such an uplifting thing to repeat as praise, a reminder, or a prayer.

I have bred in me an unrest.  I see impatience in many members of my family.  The impatience leads to worry and stress.  It has really affected my mothering.  I am so impatient with the girls.  For over a year now, I’ve been trying to beat this troublesome attribute with not much success.  Yoga is teaching me how to go about ridding myself of it.  Many of our problems come from alienating the various parts of ourselves.  We think of physical, mental, and spiritual parts of our being as different and often conflicting.  Yet, one part can’t work properly without the other.  We can’t know our full potential in this life without working to connect them all.  We can’t rely totally on ourselves either.  There is much more to life than us.

Gurmukh says something that I used as my mantra during my savasana time today.  “Let go and let God.”  As I heard John caring for our girls in the background, instead of wishing for peace and quiet, I embraced what was going on.  I let go of that impatience and I let God take care of me.  I can tell you right now, I was in much better hands.

* Update: I wish I could let it go everyday.  That will be a never ending goal.  Today has been a trial.

I am shifting my priorities once again as some things are becoming quite clear to me.  My first responsibility is to my family and my home.  That is all there is to it.  Always the needs there come first, and as my daughters are getting older I am needing to grow in some areas of my mothering – most importantly in discipline.  My work around our home needs to continue with added fervor.  As much as I have the grand desire to “be” a writer, I have to realize that I need to have patience with it, and make the time I spend pursuing my writing count.  I’ve wasted too much time in this area of my life, mainly on the computer.  I don’t like being on the computer much, so it’s no wonder that it makes me anxious much of the time I’m on it.  The truth is I “am” a writer whether or not I am spending eight hours a day writing or only two doing it.  As long as I am working toward something, progress will be made.

Yesterday, I harvested all the remaining scallions and carrots.  They were turning too ripe in the ground.  carrotsI scrubbed clean and topped all the carrots and washed and and chopped all the onions.  I ended up with 3 gallons of carrots and 3 pint bags of chives and a gallon of bulbs.  John is hoeing the area where these were planted as I type this, and we are going to put in some fall crops.  I have plenty of seed for the planting.

I also am putting away more cucumbers as pickles.

pickles2We ate some on our burgers last night.  They are so yummy!  Check out the newest post at Nourished Kitchen today to learn more about ferment canning and pickles.

With all the changes going on in my mind, and some regret, my thoughts are scattered over here and yonder.  I’m torn between little time and all the things I love because of this feeling of immediacy.  My children will only be small once.  My husband and I will only have this year together once.  I only have so much time to pursue all these dreams.  Time is so infinite and yet so finite as well.  I wonder if it is wrong of me to place so much value to what I do while a resident of earth.  It doesn’t matter in the end… does it?  I mean, as long as I leave the smallest of footprints, serve the God of my beliefs, and raise the next generation well.  Anything else is a side note.

Other than my family and my home, my next priority has to be to my health in both the physical and emotional aspects.  I have another doctor’s appointment coming up to re-check my thyroid.  I never thought I’d say I look forward to a doctor’s appointment, but I do.  I’m tired of not feeling normal.  In seeking health, have really developed a fondness for yoga more and more as the days pass.  It is a great form of combining the physical with the spiritual.  I feel like I am more open to hearing God, and I find myself seeking my Creator with a renewed enthusiasm.  Yoga is perfect for the busy mama in that in its true essence you are combining the physical, mental, and spiritual components of your body into union.  You are destressing, becoming fit, and praying all at the same time.  Yoga means “union”.

When my family is happy, my home comfortable, and I am at peace with myself and the life my God would have me to lead, then anything else I want to do in my life will have a stronger foundation.  It will grow from a place of confidence.  It won’t manifest out of some fear that if I don’t do it now that it will never happen.  The final product of anything I do in the creative realm will be better.

sunflowerGrowth is the ultimate goal… for all of us.

Nope, I’m not the only one.  I’m not alone.  In fact, I have found four other mountain mamas.  We all have incredibly common goals, and can be found doing many similar things.  We are building chicken coops, tending gardens, raising children, blogging, taking pictures, picking blackberries, cooking, preserving food, and making things.  When I found these mama blogs, it made me smile.  I saw worlds similar to my own.  I saw mothers making it their goal to bring up their children close to the natural world.  I saw families making a sustainable lifestyle.  I saw can-do women.  It makes me proud to be A Mountain Mama.  I wanted to share them with you.

Meet the other mamas and what we have in common:

Mountain Mama – Jenny – loves old things, raising chickens, getting rid of un-needed items, likes flea markets, was recently stung by a bee and was swollen (as was I), and picks blackberries.

Mountain Mama – Knits – our dads like the Thunderbirds, brother is gainfully employed by Wal-Mart (my Uncle loves his job at Wal-Mart), likes knitting and making things

Blue Ridge Mountain Mama – (C-re) raises chickens, Rooster named Henry (RIP Bill Henry), we are getting our first garden harvests

Mountain Mama – (North Carolina Blue Ridge mama), has sunflowers in her garden, a light haired child and a dark haired child like me, is working toward a green lifestyle

Our name is a simple one – Mountain Mama, but it is filled with hardwork, a love of nature, a striving to raise children who are in tune with their surroundings, a certain zest behind our motivations, and mountains.  Lots of majestic mountains.

The weekend held more canning for me.  Not in the way you might imagine, however.  There was no vinegar or boiling and sealing jars involved.  I used an even older method of preserving food through lacto-fermentation or fermentation through lactic acid.  It is a far superior way of canning to today’s methods in terms of nutrition.

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

-Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions pg.89

So far, all I have tried is cucumbers and of course made dill pickles.  We have eaten two jars already and I have ten more in the works.  I plan on trying to do lacto-fermentation with kraut next. Yum!  It’s really good in a bowl of soup (pinto) beans with cornbread.

It has taken me a couple of tries to get my recipe right for my pickles.  The website that coincides with Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation has been a big help.  I used the recommendations there and the recipe in Nourishing Traditions to develop my own.

pickles1

Line the bottom of some wide mouth canning jars with leaves that are high in tannins.  I use blackberry leaves as that’s what I have in my backyard.  Grape leaves are suitable as well.  These will keep the cucumbers crispy.  In the bottom (for a pint jar), place one clove of garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of dried dill.  Slice cucumbers into 1/4 inch slices and stuff the jar leaving about an inch of space from the top.  Fill with water to cover the cucumbers, but keeping it an inch from the top of the jar.  Add 3/4 tablespoon of real sea salt (unrefined), and put a smaller lid on top of the cucumbers to hold them under the water (it is important they remain submersed).  Put on the lid.  Then, leave the filled jars sit in a warm spot for 2-4 days.  My last batch had to go for four.  The first batch went three.  Taste them after a few days to see if they are to your liking.  It is normal for them to be bubbly.  Any scum that might form on the top, just skim off.  It will be obvious if something has went wrong and they are no longer edible from smell.

The pickles are delicious and the closer you get to the bottom of the jar, the more you can taste the flavor of the garlic.  It makes me happy knowing that I am eating a pickle that is more beneficial to me than a boat load of sodium, artificial colors, and other preservatives.  This experience has made me brave enough to try other fermented veggies, and I might even buy some kefir grains as I get serious about kicking my coffee habit.

If you’d like to know more about fermenting vegetables, check out this video with Sandor Katz.

Today’s post can be found at Red Raven Circling.  I am guest blogging there as part of Morgan’s Appalachian Voices Spotlight Series. I have written about John and I, and our decision to move back to our mountain home after being away for university and work.  Be sure to comment and let her know if you’d like to see more Appalachian Voices featured on her blog.  Also, if you are interested in being one of the featured voices, email her.

The following picture and words were created by my Aunt Sharon (Hansel) Sexton.  She is my daddy’s sister and has always been an inspiration to me.  Having no “human” children of her own, she has become like a second mother to my cousins and I.  She is one of the wisest people I know and extremely qualified in speaking on motherhood.  I hope you enjoy her outlook.

wren“I am sending you a picture I took this morning of a Carolina wren that has moved into one of my bird houses.  As I sit on the porch in the mornings reading my Bible, I have enjoyed watching this new mom.  She is so dedicated and watchful over her babies.  She works all day flitting back and forth bringing food to her little ones.  I have only seen a small head, so I don’t know how many babies there are.  As I sit and observe, I have noticed she never tires, and works so hard.  She is so small, but is mighty as a lion if you get too close!    God knows just what to give to moms to give them the knowledge to take care of their little ones… even the tiniest of birds.” -Sharon Sexton

Most of the relationships I have with other mothers are online.  I wish often that mothers in the mountains were more organized with one another for playgroups and those sorts of things.  It would be helpful to all of us.

When I converse with other mothers no matter where they are from, or what beliefs they hold fast too, it is obvious we are all given this extra sense – a sixth sense that was born when we became mothers.  There are strong feelings that come forth in times of great struggle and happiness that lets a mother know the right and wrong decisions for parenting her young ones.  In modern society, I find that often we are living contrary to what that intuition is telling us is right.  It has made mothers second guess that inner knowledge that all mothers in the animal kingdom have.  We are told by pediatricians, researchers, and child psychologists many times to go against those feelings, because those feelings lead us astray from what is healthy for our children.  I have been guilty of listening to those voices instead of that inner voice myself, and though not always, it has come back to bite me too many times.  I want to let all new mamas and those questioning their abilities that what is right for your family, may not be right for the next.  There is so much information out there that you can be fully informed before making any critical decisions for your family.  Empower yourself with knowledge and trust that if it feels right, there is a great chance it is.

photo by Sharon Sexton (my lovely aunt)

photo by Sharon Sexton (my lovely aunt)

I am a bit wore out from all the manifesto style writing that has went on over the last few days.  I’m tuckered out with trying to get the words just right.  🙂  I don’t usually take that tone with this blog, but I am pretty wound up about this topic lately. (See the previous two posts)

Today, I wanted to share a nice photo my wonderful aunt took, and tell you about an upcoming guest blog I’m doing.  This Friday, July 24th, I will be the featured blogger at Red Raven Circling for Morgan’s Appalachian Spotlight Series.  Morgan’s blog contains writings on nature, writing, and sustainable living which are all right up my alley.  I love it that she plans on featuring Appalachian voices as well.  That’s always a plus for us mountaineers.  Here it straight from the horses mouth.  So, in the meantime, I invite you to check out Red Raven Circling.

So many children are being raised without any real identity to guide them.  Sure, we all must search for self, but it is always a benefit to know from where you were born.  It is one of the most important reasons that John and I chose to move back to the mountains to raise our girls.  We had to submerse ourselves in the cultural heritage that has sustained the mountain people from the time they settled here, Native Americans and Europeans alike, in order to parent from a place of comfort and safety.  Appalachian is who we are, and who our girls are, and though they may find things of interest in other cultures (which I’m sure they will as I have) in order to understand themselves, they must know the history from which they came.  Plus, having spent most of our own lives in the mountains, it is what we know.

Industrialization has brought with it a resentment for hard work, for things handmade, and for the time it takes to wait for a good result.  I can’t fire off on this topic and say that I don’t enjoy some things that industrialization has brought to us.  Nothing is all bad, but it is the way in which it’s handled that is the detriment.  I see it trickling now into my mountains with the issue of mountaintop removal.

From the perspective of industry…

From the perspective of the folks that see negative effects…

This issue is setting up a battleground that is similar to a civil war amongst the people of the mountains.  It is being fought with a seriousness like nothing I’ve ever seen, and it is beginning to make me nervous.  On one hand, those fighting against mountaintop removal are seen as somewhat of a threat to the livelihoods of the mountain men employed by the coal industry.  On the other, mountaintop removal is a threat to life as we know it in the mountains of Appalachia.  It’s what they call a conundrum, and the sides are taken.  It’s hard to fall in the middle.

This effect of the disease of industrialization began with the introduction of coal mining to the mountains by elitist outsiders that touted saving a people from the drudgery of making a living by subduing the earth and depending on the good hand of nature for their well being.  Really what this industry did was give people too little money for their land, and put them to work as indentured servants in one of the most dangerous jobs in the history of mankind.  Men risked their lives with no time for working a garden and things such as that, to fill the pockets of the already rich men of the coal industry, as they watched their women and children grow weaker from a life of worry and even greater toil.  The mountain people rose up and fought for fair treatment.  We won some of those battles and lost some.

In the present day, I believe as a mountain culture we have lost so much of ourselves that we have dropped the ball in teaching our children the struggles from which they came.  We only half know the stories, like hearing them in passing, and rather than remember the rich traditions and work that grew our people, we have started fighting for the right to be enslaved by capitalism.  It saddens me to see stickers on the windshields of our able bodied, commonsensical, mountain men that read, “Save a Coal Miner.  Kill a Tree Hugger”.  I’m not sorry because I embrace the outsiders coming into our mountains pretending to know enough about our culture to try to save us from ourselves, but because our own people don’t realize that it goes way beyond a simple love for nature.  Those fighting for a better way, those fighting to save the mountains, and those that are doing it from within the mountains are also fighting to save the men that work in the industry.  There is no easy way.  No one should lose their job, but their job should be transformed and made fair.  It might be that until the answers are apparent that we might have to go back to a more subsistent way of living, and be content with that.  There is no shame in it.  We need to embrace who we are and why our ancestors settled this region in the first place.

I have heard some mountain folks comment that our land is worthless unless we mine the coal and make flat spaces for the sprawl of strip malls, Wal-Mart, and fancy housing.  They have even went as far as saying that that is the reason the mountains are here.  That is the biggest crock of lies I’ve ever heard.  It is nonsense.  It is cop-out.  You take our mountains made by a force bigger than ourselves, and flatten them and replace their structure with man made commodities and you’ll have nothing but trouble.  Our call is to subdue the earth, not to transform it (Genesis 1:28).  Our ancestors moved into this region to set themselves apart from the debauchery they saw taking place in the large cities of the coast.  They wanted to sustain a way of life that in some sense remained pure.  They wanted to live by their own code.  So many of us have forgotten that, or never have been told.  Our people weren’t the mainstream and didn’t want to be.

What we are doing today is affecting the lives of our children.  I don’t want my children to be at the beckon call of a fake culture that makes the rich richer and poor poorer.  I think we all deserve a choice.  If you are in the mountains and you want the same conveniences of the big cities, move to the big cities.  Give those of us who want to maintain a way of life that embraces the landscape and utilizes it’s resources in a sustainable way the room to do so without a fight.  This isn’t the city and it never will be.  It shouldn’t be, and trying to make it such will be a disaster.  I was raised on coal money from generations involved in mining, and I am not against the coal miner.  I just believe that there are right and wrong ways of doing things.  I believe we must work together to find a way of sustaining and building up our way of life.  Those outside of here demanding cheap electricity provided by a non-renewable resource are obviously in the dark as to what it takes and the sacrifices people make to pull it from the ground.  Let’s not continue to blind ourselves for a dream planted in our heads by those who use us for their gain.

Okay, sorry folks.  I’ve written an essay.  This is one of those times when I get carried away with words.  However, I’m not just blowing wind or trying to stir the current.  I want our people to come together with those interested parties to establish viable solutions to the environmental and economic questions before us.  It isn’t an issue that is black and white.  Read more about coal mining and the true impact it has on the state economy here.

Read my other posts on the issues surrounding coal mining in the Kentucky mountains and our future – Coal Mining Unconscious, Gravesite Relocation and Strip Mining, and Spotlight Appalachia – 20/20 and Bill O’Reilly.

As always, I welcome comments and constructive discussion.

*The following is the first part of a two part post dealing with the degradation of culture equating in the degradation of the quality of life.  This first section is about food.  Part Two is about mountaintop removal.  Both of these issues are extremely important to me, but the issue of mountaintop removal has been the hardest to address because of the weight it carries in my east Kentucky home at the present.  Please, leave your thoughts in the comments section of these posts.  Good, respectful discussion is the key to finding answers.

The most informative blog (for my needs) that I have found so far is Nourished Kitchen.  Jenny blogs about “real” food and the ways of traditional food preparation.  She writes from a place of well researched thoughts, and a recent post she made added some flame to thoughts I had been having recently.  Prisoners in the Illinois prison system are being fed a soy-based diet where they are eating upwards of 100 grams of soy daily.  This isn’t normal for any person of any culture.  What makes it even worse is Illinois has started a pilot program of this sort as lunches for children.  What is so horrible about that?

Watch this 4 part video on the dangers of soy from the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation – Sally Fallon.

Get it straight from a world renown doctor – Dr. Joesph Mercola.

As if that wasn’t enough… Have you incorporated soy as part of a low fat diet?  Do you have thyroid issues?  Read this.

All this cheap, fake food is lining the pockets of big food corporations and the Illinois governor, making the rich richer at the expense of people in need of rehabilitation and our children!  Some of you may be of the mind set that prisoners are being punished, so why not feed them as cheaply as possible.  Not every man or woman in the prison  system is there because they consciously chose to commit a  crime.  We also must think that the majority of prisoners will be released one day.  Do we not want them on the road to rehabilitation?  John and I watched this Frontline two part documentary about that subject recently.  About the children – for goodness sake they are growing beings making physical and mental leaps and bounds on a daily basis.  They should be fed the best food possible to insure their future health.  That is our responsibility as their caregivers.  It’s not our lives we are taking in our hands, but the life of another.

I could write a book of ranting on the issue of food alone, but I think this is one symptom in the disease of America and other industrialized nations.  It is the disease of the industrialization of culture.  It’s embracing the easy road like there is some kind of prestige in a life that contains too much leisure.  It is the replacing of the “real” with manufactured impressions.  It is a sad state, and it is deteriorating any joy, love, and meaningfulness that we can glean from life on earth.

We can see the symptoms all too clearly when we take into consideration the lives our children lead and the things they contend with today via the media.  Think back on your childhood and the images that filled your days.  We are quickly becoming a nation void of culture that is outside of the culture that popular industry would have us adopt.  Traditions are being lost and replaced with those that perpetuate capitalist ideas and goals.  For example, the after Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza.  What is the need, really?  Who are you benefiting by putting yourself in debt or spending your money on frivolous things?  How long will that feeling of joy last, if you even obtain it at all?

We are a nation that puts to much faith the system of gaining and utilizing monetary wealth.  We listen to what industry tells us are the quick fixes to all our problems from our looks to the food we eat.  It is not a wonder that we are becoming the most obese nation with the myriad of health and emotional  problems that come with that.  It is unnerving the many ways this diease affects our lives and the way we have become dissensitized to the effects.

Please check back tomorrow for Industrialization of Culture – Part Two (Coal).

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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