First Egg


My chickens have begun laying once again. A small miracle, that evidence of cycles and fertility and the gift of the seasons bringing us back to ourselves and our purpose.

We are still chickens when not laying, of course.We are always ourselves. And somehow, in the fallow, dark months, we become even more ourselves.

Then one day, an egg in the nest.

And everything you’ve always known is the same, only now you know it anew, perhaps more truly. And though it is a new year, you keep at the familiar rhythms of your sweeping and forgiving and mending, your mothering and being, and occasional prayers. You remember poetry, and all the unspoken everythings. You go more slowly. Ever more slowly.

Get the egg basket down from its hook. Soon enough it will be full.

The Road to Homefire

“Knowledge is not obtained exclusively with our brains; it is gained through our hearts and by reconnecting to life, a source of wisdom. Makers of things are in a position to understand and change the world.” Wendy Jehanara Tremayne, The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living

IMG_9550It’s been four years since I started this blog to document our journey of living with less waste, and more joy. What began with a four month plastic fast became an immersion in life-learning, skill growing, community building, culture reclaiming, and creative, imaginative living.

I like to think of those years as my PhD program in homemaking, which I define as the making of a life, a family, and a community in balance with its home-place. It has also been a nifty capitalism recovery program.

IMG_9671When I set out on this road, I had instincts and good intentions and not much of a clue. I couldn’t imagine ever being able to make wool long underwear for my kids without a pattern, or growing a garden all winter long, or for that matter going a few months without plastic. Truth is, I often struggled to place my personal revolution into a broader movement for change (but mostly because I over think everything).

Fortunately, I have not walked alone. There is the internet, of course, which has been the stand-in for a capable great grandmother and conscious collective. There is my husband, with his true-north moral compass. And there are my motherkin, the friends reclaiming skills and knowledge and connection in their own beautiful ways.


Together, we have helped each other trust that the work we were doing in our homes would ripple out, would be a force of change in our community. And lately (by which I mean over the last two years), we’ve been looking up from our children and canning pots and gardens and jobs and around at each other and the world to see where we might direct our creativity and skills next.


With a half-dozen children underfoot at “meetings,” over late night phone calls and many cups of tea, a handful of us began shifting our work of reclaiming skills and lifeways into that of rebuilding a community that reflects those values.  Just as cooking leads to gardening leads to preserving, manifesting change on a (teeny tiny bit) larger scale is the logical next step for us. We created the Santa Fe Harvest Swap, which just held its second glorious exchange. Incredibly, we have a website, and on November 10th we will host a whole new venture we are calling the “Homefire Retreat,” a day of workshops meant to inspire, empower, and connect us more deeply to ourselves, our community, and our commitment to the earth.

I hope you come to the retreat if you can, or start something like it in the place you call home. Something as simple as a few friends skill-sharing while the kids play, or as complex as a week-long regional gathering (I do like to dream).


Let’s celebrate our individual journeys by stitching our work of reclaiming and rebuilding into a big crazy-quilt that encompasses our diverse lives. Let’s get together for a quilting bee, if you will, and put our bits together into something whole. And then call the beauty that comes of it our dissertations, our revolution, our world.


PS, go ahead and read Shannon Hayes article on the three R’s of Radical Homemaking: Renouncing, Reclaiming, and Rebuilding. It has been a helpful guidepost to me along the way, and I gratefully acknowledge her language and ideas borrowed here.

27 Things to Abandon in Fall

Remorse, which will enfold you with its sweeping embrace
anyways, accompanying you on the missteps of your journey.
Those many things, 19 in total, that you are doing
with fierce determination, with impatience,
or the expectation of greatness:
mothering, getting dressed, birthday parties,
saving the world. Not getting anything wrong,
which is to say, being always right.
Wasn’t there something you meant to do?
A life made of small gestures, its shape slowly unfolding,
A quiet waiting for you to hush.
Clear away the brambles and overgrowth.
Make a space for the woman you are becoming, began as.
She is not so fierce, nor certain.
But lovely.
Gather the fruits of your heart and longing.
Stew them into a preserve for cold days.
Tally every small harvest from this year:
from gardens, from chickens, from children,
from the good, hard work of serving, of making, of resting,
of dreaming. Gather it all into your lap.
In the garden slash down the vines and bushes, the life bearers
now dead. In your days, clear a vast space.
Let a fire blaze, let flood waters come.
What stands in the way of wholeness?
Ask this 100 times a day and heed the answers.
Stay warm. Seek light.
Keep sweeping.

How to House the Fairies


To start, you’ll need labor: tiny hands, unfathomably huge imaginations.

The workforce might grumble. I hate the mountains. Why do we always have to go? Add more molasses to their bowls of yogurt. Pack two pairs of shoes each, some wooly garments, the tie dye sunhats. Honey beans are a nice name for candy covered, malt sweetened chocolate. Don’t try to get too far up the mountains without them.

The husband, where is he? Oh yes, playing the guitar. For goodness sake. Go ahead and sweep. Then just a minute of weeding and two more to forage for those seven green beans that have to be picked this instant.

He’s started another song. The kids have changed into sparkly shoes. Have you had a cup of tea yet?

Ah, there it is, the road open and rising into the hills, the peaks, the ponderosas, the firs. Then the aspens, green and good as ever. That little creek you have walked a hundred times, in all seasons, just as you remember but always better, so much better.

Thimbleberries ripening, fireweed flaming, mushroom and Russians (it’s always Russians) to pick them. The grasses have gone to lacy seed. The forest is its ripest self.

The designer/builders will want to stop at the first picnic table, the one ten feet from the parking lot. They will whine. You will wonder, who are these creatures? Somehow, you will think to start storytelling, and it will roll from your lips and you and the children and the singing man will be walking higher and higher, up to that good place where a little trickle joins the creek. Follow it.


There will be an open spot that welcomes you. Soft grasses, a view of green light and dark woods. Stop and be still. The workers will eat their honey beans, will look about and take it all in. You can get your sketch book out, your man can wander upstream.

The hands, so little and expert, will soon reach out, will take up a piece of wood, a leaf, a pinecone, will hold it and know. They will know just what to do.

And the fairies will be very grateful indeed.



Regional Herb Exchange


Well it’s a banner year for grindelia, which gringos call gumweed, here in the high desert. Times like this, the bioregional herbalist in me comes on strong and I think, hey, that’s good medicine. Let’s use that little weed like the gift it is. I basically went to the school of bioregional herbalism, the place where we were taught again and again that the medicine nearby is the right stuff to use, that the mallow in the garden is not meant to be pulled and left for mulch but dried with care and used through the year for the myriad ailments the kind creator gave us the wisdom to use it for. So I’ve got baskets of it on the counter, and horsetail and nettles and mint and mullein and all the other things that are so abundant and good.



And there’s a few things I find myself yearning for, too, things I know are as common where you live as gumweed is here. Like red clover blossoms, or black elder berries (dried or tinctured or elixired), or even things you might have an excess of in the garden, like lemon balm or comfrey or calendula blossoms or tarragon.

So I thought maybe we could do a little swapping. Maybe you could harvest what is abundant around you, and trade it with me and others who have a different sort of bounty in their life. If you have a knowledge of the weeds and herbs abundant where you are and want to join in this exchange, please do. My only request is that those participating do so with care and respect for wild plants, and use ethical wildcrafting practices.

Whether you are my neighbor down the road, or far off in an unthinkably moist land, we all have something to give. If you’d like to offer herbs, or ask for an herb or two that you need, please do so in the comments. I’ll serve as matchmaker and figure out the logistics later in the season, when we’re done with our joyful gathering.

(I’ll start: I’ve got mallow to spare, in case it’s not a weed where you are and you need a good marshmallow family member to soothe your lungs and tummy and skin, and also osha root, which is a special Rocky Mountain medicine famed for its antiviral and respiratory uses, arnica oil, and mullein garlic ear oil, and my own special blend of mineral rich tea, mint–of course, and lots of fragrant oregano.)


Home Will Do




Colorado is in our wake. Two weeks beneath the big mountains on a farm, among friends and dairy cows and a new kind of adventure: cooking for a crowd. Do you travel around cooking for permaculture classes? one student asked.  Until now, no, but I think it would suit me just fine.

Harvesting weeds for dinner: amaranth, purslane, quelites. Harvesting weeds for medicine: comfrey, yarrow,  plantain. Kids tan and happy and grown three inches on fresh milk and forgotten hats and mama’s gaze turned elsewhere. Papa playing the strings nearby. Spinning wheel always ready, and the yarn flying onto the bobbins in various degrees of beauty.

I felt like an unfaithful wife coveting every green pasture, every ditch or stream filled to overflowing. We could live here, I said to my husband every time we crossed a puddle. This would do. 

And so it was really something to roll back into New Mexico late one night and feel my heart burst with true love. Moonlight through broken clouds, road wet with rain, silhouette of beloved hills, speckled with black piñon shadows, and that smell, that smell of this land well watered and fragrant as only it can be.

As if I could ever leave this behind.

The lights of small villages twinkled every now and then along the highway, a reminder that though our landscape is wide open and dry and not conducive to what Wallace Stegner called America’s addiction to green, it is fertile in its own way. Food has been grown here for a thousand years. Take heart, desert people, this land is good land. We’ll find our way to adapt to its changes, just like everyone else in the world will do in their places.

Came home to a garden lush and big and dripping wet from rain. Full water tanks. Our young chickens laid their first two eggs. Buffalo bone broth is in the stockpot, dusting done, beet seeds in the soil, beet roots in the fridge. There are library books to read, poems to write. The page in our own story turned, a new chapter beginning.

Home, you are such a sweet place to be.

An Elegy for June

For every plume of smoke rising like a storm form the mountains, for every beloved place we witness in flames and for every burned place we have never walked, nor seen, nor imagined.

For the memory of monsoons and green sagebrush mesas, of hollyhocks bursting from the sidewalks, of the smell of sweetness in the air.


For the green forest. Have I sung often enough of the powdery white beauty of aspen skin? Of the fireweed blossoms spiking into bloom? Of the light that shines through the canopy, against rock walls, shimmers in the brief laugh that is the stream? What of the deer and her child drinking in that same place at dusk, with those eyes, that grace? What of all that is unseen, unknown?


For the dry acequias that once irrigated our valleys, and the fields they watered, the lives they sustained, the past they connected us to. For the gardens unplanted and the rivers that are dry, but should not be.

For an entire culture, a tapestry of lives and histories, stories, beliefs, and dreams that are sustained by this place. For all the love that is rooted in this land, the lives that have been shaped by it.

For all we are losing, and fear losing.




In his beautiful interview in The Sun this month, John Elder says that because of climate change we are “at the point of active relinquishment…of things we don’t know whether we can do without.” It is strange to grieve in June, but it must be done, my friends. What else is there for when the plume of smoke pops back up, when the old trees on your street are dying, when you begin to realize it’s not one bad year, but the beginning of the future.


A recently published report claims that in fifty years New Mexico’s conifers will be gone, and with them life as we know it. Maybe, maybe not. But I do know the forest closes on Monday, and that is enough to grieve for now. By the time it reopens, I’m pretty sure web worms will have eaten every green aspen leaf, no more to twist and tinkle in the breeze.

So, an elegy for this glory we are graced with, have walked amongst for these many good years, for this beauty we have been shaped by. And will never stop singing praises to in our thousand different ways.

::      ::     ::

Speaking of praises, I have a little story to tell about the tiny but mighty town of Mora, New Mexico. Poor as dirt, dryer than hell, and nowhere near as liberal as most Northern New Mexico towns, Mora recently became the first county in the country to ban fracking.


Way to go frackers for bringing the ranchers and environmentalists together!

We drove through there last week on a camping trip, and I choked up at the sight of each and every ordinary person walking down the street. At the little grocery store, it was all I could do to not tell the teenage girl ringing up my groceries how grateful I am, how proud I am of her town.

“Thank you,” I said from the heart when she handed me my plastic sack with chocolate milk and four plums in it. But I didn’t say, “Thank you for being a part of the story of how the world could be saved by people saving themselves. Thank you for reminding me that in a day in which it seems nothing is getting better and ever more obscenely and horrifically worse, we are not lost. You have shown the world beauty and reason and hope, and for that I thank you.” Maybe I’ll write a letter to the town, instead.


While we were passing through a neighboring village, we stopped at a backyard junkyard my husband has been monitoring for almost twenty years. Under a tarp, in between a Datsun Honeybee and a Toyota Tercel, sits a rusty old 1965 VW 21-Window Deluxe. It’s kind of like the holy grail for Volks like my husband. Mr. Old Recipe visits every five years or so to see if the owner might be persuaded to let us tow it home. Last week he knocked on the door and tried again.

As usual, the answer was no.

“I’m gonna be buried in that bus,” the old guy, bearlike with a long pony tail and beard, said. Standing in the rotting doorway of his dilapidated home, surveying the junked cars and detritus of his yard, the man added, “A while back a couple came up from Santa Fe and offered me $25,000. I told them I don’t need money. I love that bus.”

And so it sits, and will someday be returned to the earth.

On our way out of town I commented that the attitude of the old guy who won’t sell what he loves was likely the attitude that saved the town from frackers. Money? What do we need money for? This is the land our families have lived on for two hundred years! We don’t need your money, we need our water.

Show us the way, Mora, show us the way. And may your waters run sweet and clear.



Get Real :: Educating the Littl’uns

The real education teaches us to

be whole human beings.

Be concerned with this: that you,

your marriage, and your home

teach health and balance

and truth.

Any further discussion merely

augments this basic course.

–Vimala McClure The Tao of Motherhood

We supplement this core homeschool curriculum with three days a week of Pre-K for my 5 year old. Next year she’ll go full time. There are days when I am filled with gratitude and relief to drop my daughter off at her cozy classroom and know that it’s not my job to memorize Briar Rose and lead the watercolor activity. And there are days when I mourn this, and wish that the responsibility fell squarely on me. I’m someone who thrives on purpose and intention, and so I sometimes feel like a slacker mom for letting someone else bring forth all those riches on my behalf. But mostly I feel liberated. 

Serendipity opened up the door for my daughter to attend her school (my husband also teaches there). But I admit I also read one too many French Feminist Critiques of “natural mothering.” While they mostly piss me off big time, something in me around my willingness to homeschool shifted. Nothing big, just a feeling that it might not mean I’m an inadequate mother if my girls go to school. I wouldn’t be surprised if some phase of my children’s education ended up being home based learning–
I myself was unschooled for high school. As we navigate this journey, I’m going to pay close attention to all the signs and arrows pointing us in unexpected directions along the way.

There were a few years there when I planned to homeschool, and in fact did homeschool in the eager way of a new mom. If only I knew then that my two year old didn’t need circle time or painting time or enrichment beyond the good life we led: taking care of the home, taking time to be outside, taking time to play. Rather than focusing on my child’s education, I slowly learned to focus on my own. For no matter where our children spend their days, it is who we are, and what we bring them in our day to day lives that nurtures them as they grow into themselves. 

A few favorite posts from the blogosphere for fellow over-thinkers on the school question:
I love this post from Beth on How I nearly lost my shit trying to keep my kids in the ideal school. I forgot to mention in my You Know You’re Really into Waldorf When post that if you work three jobs and live in a basement to afford tuition, or opt out and homeschool your brood, then you’re REALLY into it. And that’s okay, if that’s what makes you feel good. But you know what, it’s also okay to send your kids to a less than ideal school. They all have problems. Channel your inner French Feminist and just do what you gotta do.

So You Can’t Afford Waldorf School? Ah, even if you’re into it, it might not be in the cards. There is so much you can still do! Eileen lays it all out.


This is the latest installment in the Get Real series, in which a handful of bloggers reflect on different aspects of their homemaking and mothering and life. I am looking forward to reading their insights on education, and their own paths on this journey. One more week still to come!

Get Real: Work Edition

What is the work I do each day, here in the life I have been given to live?

There is one task that guides all others: to create in my home a microcosm of the world I wish to inhabit. And so each day I take up the jobs of nurturing children and self, husband and community. I strive to use resources wisely, and reverently, and to give thanks and offer prayers to the holy ones.

I work to sweep and wash, so that there is order and beauty all around us. I work to make small things from scratch: a meal, a dress, a poem, a song, so that we are nourished body and soul. I work to understand the mysteries, and to honor them. I work to listen to the inner glimmers of my inspiration, to let them gestate and, in their time, be born. I work slowly, each year with stronger faith in the eventual unfolding of my dreams and destiny. I work with a compass in my hand, following it in the direction of wholeness.

And how do I do this work?

I do it by trusting in the cycles of life, which sometimes guide me to rest and be still, and sometimes move me to create and build and work harder than ever before. I do it by eating eggs for breakfast, and by getting a good night’s sleep. I do it by being curious, and by following one interest to the next, even when it brings me back to the place I started from. I do it by letting go of my ambitions to be the best, or famous, or rich, and exchanging them for the ambition to be present and in my integrity. I do it by being a little on the type-A side.

I do it imperfectly, with many small failures that, when I persist and practice, yield unexpected success. For though I have faith, I a still delighted when the spinning wheel gives yarn into my hands, when I don’t lose my temper, when the seeds I plant take root in garden soil, when the children follow my guidance, when my beloved community of friends gathers at night and our laughter fills the air.

My tremendous sense of purpose as a homemaker–a human being blessed to be employed almost entirely in bread labor, or work that is essential to life, but not necessarily paid–comes from a feeling of having both a responsibility and an opportunity. I am given the gift of living this good life, and in return I work to do it justice.

And so each day, the world I make, and that you do, too, becomes more and more the world we all seek to live in.


This is the latest installment of Get Real, a series of posts being written by a group of amazing women bloggers. Each week, we visit a different topic related to homemaking and how it is we do it “all.” The collected wisdom that has been generated from our different but similar vantages has been such a joy to read, and I’m honored to be among them. Please do visit their posts this week!





Get Real :: Housekeeping Edition


I can’t think of any other work in life that is more like Tai Chi than housekeeping. The home is a body, animated by all this energy flowing around in the form of people, movement, stuff, and the elements. There is a constant interplay between order and disorder. My job as head housekeeper of this joint is to engage with all that moving energy, and use my own life force to keep the energy of the house balanced. It is a constant ebb and flow.


Something important is happening here, and I know better than to disturb it.

I’m not a natural at this. I love caring for my home. I consider it a spiritual practice and am deeply fed by the rhythms of it. And I also get tired of it. After all, it is endless. I’m philosophical about housekeeping because I know that while my idea of bliss is two hours to clean with no one underfoot, it will look like nothing happened within minutes of my family’s return.

Our house is as much a living entity as all the people who live in it, and it’s natural flow is towards disorder. While I work daily to maintain a certain amount of order, I do not delude myself that we aren’t just one very fun afternoon away from disaster at any given moment. No matter how constantly I clean, I am trailed by two busy little children, a husband, and of course myself, and together we undo all that is done. It is the ultimate in impermanence. I am at peace with this.


As clean as it gets. No matter what I do, there’s always a mason jar on the counter with unidentifiable contents.

But enough musing! I have two time tested and much beloved secrets to keeping this ship afloat. In fact, I’ve already written about both of them, so I’ll just give the links and cross my fingers that you’ll indulge some Vintage Old Recipe. It’s good stuff!

As my friends know, I am religiously devoted to my housekeeping rhythm. I’ll update the original post only to add that last fall I got super angsty and wrote up a day by day breakdown for the month that tells me exactly when to do which job that might otherwise get forgotten in the general upkeep: mop on the second Tuesday of the month, organize the toy shelf on the fourth Wednesday, clean the fridge the first Monday, and onward ad nauseum. Those jobs sometimes happen when my calendar tells me they should, occasionally I do them early or skip them for a month. Sometimes the fridge get’s a little funky before it’s day to be cleaned comes, but for heaven’s sake, who cleans a clean fridge?

My other secret is the revolutionary Clean House 1-2-3 technique, which you can read all about here. Basically, less stuff equals less mess. Give it a go.


How nice that you can’t see the collection of dusty ephemera on top of my dresser (out of frame). Or the collection of banjo and mandolin cases behind the chair.

In parting, I just want to mention a cautionary tale told by my friend’s mother who related to me with dismay that she spent most of her life “pledging the furniture.” Is pledge some kind of polish? I think about Dee when I feel not inspired but enslaved by the constant cleaning. That’s when I stop, make a cup of tea, watch the kids play without following them around with a sigh and a broom, and do some knitting.


Where do you keep stray balls of handspun and seeds and, um, what is all that stuff?

The truth is, while we need our homes to be well cared for, we also need to plant the garden, make things with our hands, read stories to our children, go for walks, indulge a burst of creativity, visit a friend. The house will wait, life will not. I try to remember to live it. My home is most beautiful to me when it is filled with the good things we do in it. We live here, I remind myself. This glorious mess is a sign of all that our love is capable of.


If mama wants to sew and the kids want to play, why on earth would I stop them? 

Get Real is a series of posts by a group of amazing women on a variety of topics related to homemaking. Please do visit the other blogs in the series!