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Today I gathered the three of you around

to apologize

Not a new path, but a re-commitment

To your youth

the path we now walk together

until your womanhood

forging your own

A re-commitment to your soft skin

your innocence

the sweet knowing that peers out from behind your eyes

An acknowledgment of the importance of

now

that Spirit entrusted me with your well-being

The original intent

going back to the ground from which I was formed

you were formed

To learn there

in the warmth of a sun cut by the limbs of trees

A re-commitment to out foremothers

their well trodden path

not a new path

 

Today, Confluence Herbals and Spiritual Coaching is born, and I feel the relief and exhaustion that comes after the labor that is listening to Spirit.

Trail to Bad Branch Falls

Trail to Bad Branch Falls

I vaguely remember being aware of this show “thirtysomething” that ran from 1987-1991 as a kid.

I’d love to be able to watch it now.  All my life, I thought that when I reached my thirties I would have become comfortable in my skin, and be able to just live through the ups and downs without worrying about trying to discover myself.  Almost 3 years into my thirties, I have found that this is not the truth.  In fact, I sometimes feel as if I’ve lost bits of myself that were/are really, really important.

It seems like Oprah or somebody said that 50 is the new 30.  I sure hope I don’t have nearly 20 more years before I’m settled in who I am and am supposed to be in this world.  Lord help me if that’s true.

I haven’t been writing here much because, honestly, so much has changed.  I don’t want to disappoint my readership.  There is no garden to report about.  No exciting adventures for the summer.  I haven’t been hiking this year.  It’s simply the daily grind, and I’m struggling even with that.  I’m searching.  I’m in search party mode.  Flashlights out.  Calling… calling a name with no answer… not giving up.  I won’t sleep until I’m found.

I am very much enjoying my work and the folks I’m working with.  It is a light in this time, and I think its important work.  I’m pretty dedicated to it.   John is opening a tattoo parlor and fine art gallery on Main St. in Whitesburg beginning tomorrow!  That’s exciting.

Otherwise… everything is up in the air.  I’m wondering when I am able to break the surface and reach that air, who I will be.  I’m wondering if I will be brave enough to write about it here.

 

I’ve been holding out on a new post to wait on getting the camera back from John.  He is teaching now and has been doing photography with his students the past few weeks.  It doesn’t look like he’ll be done before too long, so I’m going to post anyway.

We got our spring garden in!  Cauliflower, Broccoli, Lettuce of several kinds, Swiss Chard, Potatoes, Onions, Garlic, Shallots, Peas, Italian Parsley, Dill, Cilantro, Rosemary, and Chives.  It felt so good to be outside in the dirt.  There is such peace there in most cases.  The girls were much more helpful this time around.  They are getting older.  All the plants are perked right up and growing.  Hopefully the seed will show sprouts soon.  I’ve been craving good veggies after a pretty rough winter.  It is hard to find good produce in the groceries here.

We also had some homeschool friends give us 5 hens and a rooster in order to make room for their upcoming 4H projects.  There were two little bantams – hen and rooster, and some large mixed breed hens.  The little bantam hen, we called Little Lady.  She had blueish gray feathers along with some tan, and she was so very gentle.  We even brought her in the cabin to eat macaroni and cheese.  I did away with her body yesterday.  The larger hens had pecked her to death.  😦  There was no sign of them bullying her.  She stayed in the coop most of the time, but I thought she was just getting used to things.  After loosing 4 entire flocks, including all the grown diddles from last year, you’d think I’d be over caring.  I’m not.  Well, especially when a hen will let you pet her and will sit in your lap like a dog.  We are getting eggs daily from our free-ranging flock.  They are healthy and roost on the front porch.  It makes a mess, but Lars (our dalmatian) sleeps there with them and keeps them safe.  It would be nice for these new hens to eventually be free ranging too.  It seems we have better luck that way.  I told them though, they better start laying or they’ll be in the pot for killing Little Lady – barbarians.

It is so close to warm here.  We had a week of 70 degree weather and the girls were so happy.  We will be getting new water soon, and I won’t have to take them to my mother’s for baths any longer.  Deladis graduates from kindergarten on May 26!  Our homeschool group has a great ceremony planned and I’m going to cry like a baby.  I just know it.  I ordered her 1st grade curriculum yesterday on sale.  I can’t believe it.  It’s funny that Ivy still seems so small.

I’ll try to get some pictures up soon, and some exciting news.  I hope to start hearing from folks again.  I’ll do my best to comment back as well.  My computer reading time has been kind of limited lately.

This is a pen and ink drawing John did of me picking through the carrot harvest in October.  It was close to my birthday I think.  I’m ready to take this stance any day now for planting season.  It was spitting some snow today though, after a glorious weekend.  Deladis can’t seem to get over our “family time”, and honestly her mother can’t either.

It seems like our “family time” is too here and there.  This weekend I think we were all ready just to be there for each other, and it felt perfect.  Saturday we went to the Mexican restaurant to eat, then to play with some ferrets at the pet store.  After that, we went to the Isom Vendor’s Mall where I found a book that I had checked out from the library, hadn’t finished, and was hoping to buy at some point, for two dollars.  It was one of those things where the Creator is putting things and people in my path to show me that this new path I have come across is ok and worth exploring.  I now own a copy of the book.  Then, we went to an ice cream shop in Vicco where Deladis got chocolate chip cookie dough, and Ivy birthday cake ice cream.  Deladis said, “This ice cream sure tastes fresh.”  Next, we went to a music store for John some strings.

Sunday, we went to church, came home, had supper, then walked up on the cemetary hill for a sweet snack.  Lars and Lucky followed us as always.  We sat, talked, and enjoyed the moss and the view.  Deladis said, “I just love our family time.”

While it seems so simple, it isn’t.  It feels new.  It feels good.  John and I both got a little more regular paying/scheduled jobs after Christmas this year, and this has allowed days like this weekend.  This change has put us both to thinking, as change can often do, about what is possible, and what our priorities are.

Family and faith should receive most of my time.  One day I’ll be eye to eye with two grown women, and I don’t want to wonder where those days in between went.  I can scramble and fight, and try to do my thing, but if the thing isn’t the right fit at the right time, no amount of scrambling or fighting will get me anywhere.  The time I gave to that goal, will be for naught because I was too set in my ways to think of an alternative route.  Or a more favorable goal.

I’m excited about the days ahead.  The possibilities and even getting out of this tight coat I’ve been wearing for far too long.  Spring has sprung.  The bushes outside have buds.  There are more activities to be found.  And we are renewing ourselves – as a family.

One new thing I’m doing is offering online Lamaze Childbirth Preparation classes and Early Pregnancy classes for any woman anywhere with any schedule. 🙂  Thinking outside the box.  For more information http://birthtrue.wordpress.com/online-classes-e-courses

I call it just a day.  A real day.  I spent time away from the computer.  I opened and learned the new pressure canner I bought.  We have so many tomatoes, and I know I need to learn to put things up.  It’s part of it.  Though I have heard the stories of pressure canners blowing people up, I know they must be relatively safe, and it is time I got acquainted.  Tomatoes are supposedly easy to put up.

I hate reading manuals.  I like my reading to have a narrative quality even if non-fiction.  I’d much prefer learning my being taught by a breathing being, but time has not allowed me that, and none of my family that lives closer to us cans.  I withstood the reading, working through the text step by step, trying to be hands on instead of reading and then doing.  I readied 7 quart jars.  I knew I’d fill those and have left overs.  Yet, when I smashed in the tomatoes as instructed by the manual, I found that I could only fill 4 of those.

As soon as the jars were prepared, the girls and I got the best surprise.  At my back door, stood my daddy.  He had come just in time to be present for my blowing up the house.  But, it all went off without a hitch.  The best part is my daddy was smiling and seemed at ease.  He has a job that carries with it a huge responsibility, and sometimes I wish he could leave it behind.  I always remember my happy daddy fondly.  Nobody else can be happy like him.  When he is happy he can hold the world on his back and go with simple movements, unhindered, laughing.  Oh, the laughing.

Dad helped me fix the air conditioner away from the stove.  Our little wall unit blows the flame on my gas stove, so I had turned it off.  It was like a sauna in the cabin.  He couldn’t stay long and we were alone again.  The jars finished processing.  I did my yoga practice.  Ivy napped.  When I got the jars out of the canner, I got this…

Floaters.  I should have poured off the juice I got after packing and put in more tomatoes.  The jars are sealed though, and John’s Mamaw – canner extraordinaire – says they are going to be just fine to eat.  They will be used for soups and sauces this winter.  I’m so pleased that the blight didn’t wipe them out this year like our last year’s crop.  We are making progress even if baby steps.  We’ll eventually walk with few stumbles, then glide.

Yesterday, we went on a trip spearheaded by illustrious Nathan Hall to tour the Abingdon, Virginia Farmer’s Market and the organic farm of Anthony Flaccavento.  He is the director of Appalachian Sustainable Development, an organization that supports local economy, especially in the form of sustainable agriculture and local eating.  Flaccavento along with others in the area brought about a change in the local economy of a region of Appalachia that is an inspiration to folks living in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky.  Opposed to common thought, not all of Appalachia is filled with coal nor is dealing with the results of surface mining (strip mining or mountaintop removal – all other words for it).  The questions for us in the coalfields being whether a coal economy is serving us now, or whether it will provide an economy for us in the future.  However, many Appalachian towns are looking to rebuild or redevelop their local economies in order to provide opportunities for their citizens and to keep their towns alive and thriving.  Some see the answer as being the urbanization of Appalachia, or the move to a more universal American pop culture for all.  Others see Appalachia surviving on a more modern version of going back to its roots, and that is where the Haywood’s fall.

Hello, this is me, and I will be your tour guide for this adventure showing some of the possibilities for a future for the residents of eastern Kentucky.

Not feeling well. Sorry I'm not the picture of health on such a healthy outing.

This is Nathan Hall, the brains and organizer of the adventure without which folks like me would not be able to focus enough to pull this sort of thing off. 🙂

He’s fixing to be a world traveller soon, to learn more about sustainable economies throughout the world.  He’ll be leaving the holler on July 22nd and will be blogging about his adventures at There and Back.  My greatest wish for the year without him is that John and I can continue to move forward with all the biggness that has come about at The Confluence this year.

Our first stop in Abingdon was the Farmer’s Market.  It was lovely to see such a bustling place in a small town.  There were about 60-80 vendors.  It warmed my heart to see that many of them were family operations with the children fully involved and content to be there.

All of these were area farmer’s, merchants, food businesses, and crafts people.  One farmer recently said he makes $30,000 a year off of a little more than an acre of veggies.  That would be a nice living for our family.  The ownership of your own livlihood is a great thing.

There was a wide variety of things represented there both organic and conventional.

Aren't these huge!

 

Purty, purty

 

Meeting the needs of yourself and others through special skills.

The market is completely ran by the growers/vendors, but is supported by the city.  The market is its own entity with its own board.

Next, we took a lunch at Harvest’s Table, a restaurant running on the influence of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  In the foyer, local artists, writers, musicians, and crafts people are supported through the selling of their wares.  The food is all local and seasonal.  I had the corn and tomato salad with a garnish of fruit and goat cheese.  It was so yummy!  I didn’t expect it to be when I saw it, but it was.  Another interesting thing was all of the soups were chilled for summer – cantaloupe, cucumber, and gazpacho. 

After eating, we went out to Anthony’s farm.

hoop house tunnel

 

grass fed livestock

 

garlic drying in the barn

The farm was not tremendously large, but it was much bigger than what we are attempting at this time.  Flaccavento has employees and interns on the farm.  He is certified organic, and uses methods that I have never seen before to achieve store quality results.  I’m used to traditional, personal gardening techniques, and it was all a little overwhelming and intimidating.  We are definitely not ready for large scale production, but we can work up to producing for more than just our family, learning as we go and following the market.

Flaccavento and other farmers sell to area grocery stores, restaurants, and at the Farmer’s Market.  They have developed a distribution center called Appalachian Harvest that works with grocery stores and some restaurants.

It was most definitely an motivating trip.  John says we’ll be old before we see any kind of business result from our work.  He insists we must build slowly, and on that point I agree.  But, I think with focused work, we can begin to broaden our views sooner rather than later.  I have dreams, and a lot of the time they leave me pining for the grass is greener rigormoroar.  I see us working side by side on something that brings us even more together.  Making our living through our own two hands, enjoying the land, and using our talents in a more relaxed way.  Creating something to pass on to our girls.  I try to live in the present.  I try.

It’s hot here folks, and I am enjoying the rain today.  I finally have the pictures I promised.

The garden that is furthest along growth wise. We have 3. This is the only fenced one.  We are already eating spinach, swiss chard, and broccoli from this plot.

Aren’t these peas just gorgeous?

I can’t wait for the pods… well, if it means loosing these blooms I can wait for a little while. 🙂  They make me think of Alice in Wonderland.

We bought fencing yesterday for the other plot by the barn.  For the plot by the house (last year’s only garden), we are doing the low string and pie pans again.  I’m hoping to get to work out there tomorrow.  John’s uncle Ben suggested some barn repairs, and I hope that is underway soon.  I am also waiting to hear about Farmer’s Markets to participate in.

In other news…. Deladis is still going strong on her start to her kindergarten year.  I can most definitely say these few weeks have opened my eyes and made me realized that I have a lot to learn about teaching little ones.  We are using a curriculum that is for preschool, but it is akin to kindergarten.  The regular curriculum starts with Grade 1, but I haven’t seen a sample to know if I will use it for next year or not.  I like it because it is nature/domestic based and spirituality has a part.  The illustrations are non-commercial, but beautiful and real.

Deladis has been enjoying herself very much… when mommy isn’t being too uptight.  One of the parental instructions suggested in the book is that children should complete work neatly.  Proper posture and holding of the pencil should be practiced.  She is just learning to write.  Here we have dotted lines, and examples to trace.  For me the instructions translated into when making them on her own the characters should be as large as those she traced.  This especially came into play with the 3.  The top should be at the top line.  The middle in the dashes, and the bottom at the bottom line.  She would make lovely, perfectly legible 3s that were much smaller.  We’d erase and try again.  Before long, she was crossing her arms and looking at me.  I felt kind of ridiculous erasing her 3s that were out of proportion, but for some reason felt the need to make sure directions were followed.  I went to message boards for advice.  I found what I needed from the unschooling community ( I am looking into some application of that philosophy for our experience).  The next day, we did 3 again.  This time no erasing.  Just reading directions.  Deladis practiced on her own, and before I knew it, she was making a 3 similar to the one she traced.  I had decided that I wouldn’t care.  That I would let her explore the writing on her own after reading the workbook directions.  She loves the workbook.  She made me draw the riders on the horses in the picture.  As you can tell with her coloring, nothing is outside the reach of her ability to imagine, create, understand, and transform. 🙂

This is what I have to remember.  She learned to potty on her own.  It happened when she was ready.  On her own time.  All I did was explain how we went about it, and gave her encouragement and help as she needed.  There was no “training” involved.  No, she wasn’t 18 months old and wearing underpants, but she was using it on her own in a reasonable time frame.  After 2 weeks, there were no accidents.  Why should learning anything else we need for growing up or adulthood or creativity or spirituality or work be any different?

Others suggested that she is too young to learn to write.  They said I’m expecting too much of an almost 5 year old.  Deladis asked to learn writing.  She asked me to show her and help her to learn.  She showed signs of academic readiness that I read about in my study of Waldorf education, though before her age.  I had determined I’d follow her cue and embrace her eagerness as an opportunity for learning.  I just need to supply her with resources, be there to read directions (until she can read them herself), offer ideas, demonstrate things, answer questions (or help find answers), and offer my help as she needs it.  She will learn.  She will learn because that is what we do, and because I as her mother and teacher am nurturing that ability in her.  Not by erasing her 3s until they meet the criteria, but supporting her practice until they meet the standards that she sets, that is her personal best for her age, or until it is time to practice something else for awhile.  I learned to let go a little of the thought of “teaching”.  I watched that letting go help Deladis to learn through her own hand and observation.  The “teacher” in me was impressed with her.  Who knows where this journey will lead?

Pictures coming as soon as John comes home with his banjo case where the USB cord for the camera is located.  Why?  We don’t know. 🙂

It has been quite awhile since I have written anything about our efforts with the homestead.  The Confluence (the name of our homestead, homeschool, and educational organization) has grown since last year.  Instead of the one garden plot that we had next to the cabin last year, we kept it and added two more down by the barn.  The two new plots get full sun, so our corn, tomatoes, peppers, berry bushes, watermelons, peas, broccoli, cabbage, onions, swiss chard, and spinach is there.  Here at the cabin plot, I have put in the potatoes, carrots, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, cilantro, basil, and dill.  We still have some more tomatoes, lettuce, lavender, pumpkins, several bean varities, and sunflowers to plant.  I haven’t decided exactly where they will go.  They will be in the ground either this evening or tomorrow.  However, I will not be planting while the sun pours down across my back.  My shoulders and forehead are sunburned and I have the hot chills.  Our planting takes quite awhile, because we do it all by hand, scooting across the ground, pinching and dropping seeds.  Someday, we’ll have more equipment.

We hope to have enough produce to sell a bit this year.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that John will get a chance to work on the barn so we can get a chicken flock that will be protected from predators, and eventually a few goats.  I’d like to be able to sell eggs as well.  John has mentioned wanting to spend more of his time on the homesteading, and for it to work as we have dreamed, that will have to be the case.  Our friend Nathan has been helping us along, but he will be leaving on a year long, around the world trip in August.  Another friend Brett Ratliff has been helping as well.  He is a musician and travels quite a bit as John does, so his time exists a bit of everywhere.  Both of them are bachelors with nothing tying them down – free spirits those boys, and huge helps as they can be.  So, then there is me – mountain mama of two under five. 🙂  I can get a lot done, but not enough.  If John is able to be here a bit more, then it will be a huge help for the homesteading dream.

The Confluence in it’s current existence is our home and Nathan and Brett call the cabin at the mouth of the holler home.  The four of us are working on this project together as our time allows.  We are planning to bring it into a place where we offer workshops on sustainable agriculture and traditional music.  John’s art studio is here, and he plans to open that to the public.  We may host some small group events as we are approached to do so for traditional music, arts, sustainable living, natural family living, and childbirth preparation.  Eventually, when Nathan comes back from traveling the world, we may apply for non-profit status.

So, this year, we are slowly moving forward, and we are happy with that.  John is so good for me in that regard.  I’m like a wild filly out of the gate.  I want to do everything in short order.  But, we are moving just as fast as we are supposed to.  Any faster would be overwhelming.  We have heard rumors of Farmer’s Markets organizing, so my goal is to participate in those as we can.  I am prepared to do a lot of preserving food too.

I’m excited about the opportunities this brings to my life.  I am scattered all over the place right now, and if you asked me what I wanted personally, the list would be ridiculous.  My goals are in some sort of transition period.  I started simple when I began this blog, and then at some point realized that something wasn’t working or wasn’t enough.  I’m still trying to set on what that something is, and at this point it is taking the form of many projects.  I will figure it out.  It’ll be a dang good thing when I do.  🙂

Things are so busy here!  I’m going this weekend to beautiful Asheville, NC to get some prenatal yoga training for pregnancy and labor.  I was on the radio last night.  I’m working on another radio piece to air in May.  Preparing for some upcoming classes.  Then, Deladis starts real kindergarten in August, so I am ordering the curriculum because we will be staying home for school for sure.  I am so darn excited!  Our school is The Confluence Homeschool, and we are eclectic homeschoolers with a seasonally inspired curriculum that fits in with our lifestyle really well.  And to beat it all – the curriculum I have found is only $50 for the whole year!

Our garden is going well, though I haven’t gotten to work it much myself. 😦  Spinach is ready for eating and the broccoli has sprung up real nice in the last week.  I hope to plant some zucchini and squash when I get home and maybe some corn and beans.  Ivy has been sick and where we moved the garden away from the cabin, it has been hard for me to get down there to work.

We had our first collective meeting for The Confluence, which is what we are calling our project here.  We are looking to organize our educational efforts into a real opportunity for us and anyone interested.  We’ll have art, traditional music, history, sustainable living, childbirth education, food ways, and so much more. hehe

I hope to be able to write more as we get into May.  Things are really clumped up after the hard winter, but I think it will slow down again soon.  Hopefully, I’ll have more pictures. 🙂

The last week (well, since Tuesday) I’ve felt like Death warmed over.  Now, I ain’t been too far from home, so I don’t know if that is strictly an Appalachian expression, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were.  Us mountain folk love to discuss our ailments.  I don’t know when that came about, but as long as I have been alive, it has been true.

It usually goes a little something like this….  You see Linda’s, Mamaw Flora at the grocery store.  You go to church with Linda, so you feel you should say a hello.

“Hello  there, Flora.  How you today?”

“Aw, not too bad.  I got the arthritis so bad in my hip I can’t hardly get up and down.  Linda can’t help me none… much.  She had the stomach virus this week, and Fred (Linda’s husband) has been down in his back.  He’s too old to be working underground, but he can’t retire.  Not right now.  But, we ain’t doing too bad.  Can’t complain.”

So, I’ve felt like Death warmed over, folks.  I’ve had the whole sinus thing going on, and I’ve just felt plumb wiped out.  John’s been off his feet because of swelling and blisters from all the hard work he’s had to do these last weeks.  Winter was rough on us this year.  But, we can’t complain.

This week we’ve had visitors from Princeton University who said the trip to the cabins here to talk to John and George were the highlight of their trip.  I haven’t felt like keeping up with the girls, but they kept up with me. 🙂

Ivy found the dress up clothes that Deladis never bothered with, and was a Princess for two days.

Deladis had to get in on the picture taking fun without really playing dress up.

Today, we were all feeling a little better.  The girls went to stay with John’s mom last night, and husband and I got some much needed sleep.  The sunshine this morning lured us out to the barn and the garden plot we’ll be sharing with our friend and now neighbor, Nathan Hall, for some work.  Nathan has huge ideas of the real learned variety.  He has somewhat of a degree in agriculture.  We’ll have a nice organic garden this year. 🙂

This morning we spread nice wet and aged poopy throughout the area where we will plant over the next few weeks.  The aged poopy came from the barn, and the nice fresh stuff, Nathan brought back from some where off.

The barn door.

This area will be disced and more manure spread as we go along.

Soon, we will be adding more animals to the mix.  We’re looking for meat goats and some larger chickens for egg laying.  We did get six eggs from our house hen yesterday!  Crazy!  They are tiny little things too.  She isn’t setting though, so they’ll be breakfast.

It’s a beautiful day, and John’s Mamaw is celebrating her 82nd by cooking her family a nice old time dinner.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and being a little better than not bad. 😉

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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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