The Need For Magic

The Need For Magic

In order to free our world from its present nightmare of materialism and exploitation, we need a new story—a story of oneness and interdependence, of cooperation rather than competition. But to make this transition we need a power, the magic that belongs to life itself. How can we find this magic to give birth to a new story of oneness, of the earth as a living, self-sustaining whole, full of beauty and wonder?  

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee goes on to say, “The next story is not going to be just a human story, and it’s not going to be on our terms.”  It’s going to be on the earth’s terms, and it’s going to validate that we humans are not separate from or above or more important than nature. The current story that we are embedded in heralds consumerism, wealth and getting ahead as the road to a successful and happy life.  This story has a powerful pull – it has demonstrated the power to change the physical world beyond recognition in too many cases, and it has demonstrated the power to entice the collective of humanity to turn a blind eye to the cry of the earth.   We have poured ourselves into this current story with abandon and it can be hard to feel the new one that wants to emerge. Continue reading “The Need For Magic”

The New World of Winter

The New World of Winter

This winter started early with a foot of unexpected snow mid November, and then 13 days later temperatures in the 40s and 50s invited the ground to turn dry and brown again.  Then a few weeks into December, the temperature dropped below freezing, and it snowed just enough inches to cover the ground in bright white.  We got a few weeks of ice skating on the rink that my husband likes to clear on the lake, skied some loops around the field in shallow tracks, and our two year old took her first runs down the sledding hill through the wisps of grass that poked through the snow cover.  Then it got bitterly cold, and we woke up to wind chills of twenty below zero for a week straight.  And now, at the end of January, the temperature is 36 degrees, the sun is out and the snow is succumbing to the heat once again.  We made a snowman, and he’s shrinking as I type this.  I’m not sure he’ll make it a full week.  My skis are languishing by the back door, despondent in their respite from use.  The snowshoes are sitting by the door, waiting to be needed. doclist Continue reading “The New World of Winter”

Jars of Bliss

Jars of Bliss

Red Brush Farms

On the surface, there’s not much going on with gardens in Minnesota right now.  It’s January, the temperature outside has been consistently below zero and the view up the hill to the field is awash with brown, gray and bright white.  The hoses are wound and covered with piles of snow, the berry bushes have turned brittle with the cold and the garlic that was planted a few months ago lays in wait for the spring thaw that is still months away.  A few seed catalogues have arrived, some pots have been moved to different spot in the garage and we continue to add to the compost pile at delight of the opossum that lives nearby, but activities like baking bread, starting fires in the wood stove, skiing around the lake and reading books dictate the flow of the days.  There is the coming season’s garden to plan, to be sure……

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Wood Stove

Wood Stove

We put in our wood stove about a year ago, now.   One late September morning, a lanky man and his assistant rambled up to the house bearing silver stove pipes and ladders and left two hours later as we gazed at our newly installed wood stove. We got it from a guy across the river that didn’t need to have it around and was willing to let it go for a reasonable price that included dropping it off in our garage. After living for all of my adult years without wood heat, having a stove in the middle of the living room feels a bit like returning to home soil after a long journey away. I grew up in a house that was heated exclusively by a wood stove, and I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the company of slowly burning logs until I invited them back into my daily life.

And with it has come the task of operating the wood stove – something that Dad always did when I was growing up, and his administrations of which I look back on now wishing I’d paid closer attention. There’s a bit of an art to efficiently using a wood stove, and I admire the commitment my parents had to the labor and routine that is required to make such a lifestyle work.

Such a lifestyle requires chopping and splitting wood, curing the wood properly, storing it in a dry place, making sure there’s enough kindling to get a fire going, hauling the wood from the storage place into the house every day, clearing the ashes… and this is all before you even build a fire. Building the fire requires opening the damper, getting a good small fire burning, and then feeding it larger logs until the temperature and coal bed is hot enough to close the damper again to ensure an efficient use of the fuel. You can adjust the air flow too, for good measure.

As winter progresses and the air takes on more of a chill, I am thankful for the means to heat part of our home with the wood that grows abundantly in the forested land around our house. Heating with wood is, for us, part of building a life that is centered on simplicity – one of the facets that I believe to be important in living in a sustainable and life-giving way. As we move toward heating more with wood and solar power, we use less fossil fuel and take our support from the corporations that feed on our dependence to those things. We aren’t independent of them yet. But every time we make a choice that takes energy from supporting corporations that are based on profit and greed for a few, we put more energy into building a system that is based on truth and abundance for all.

This is not to say that living in a simple way is easy. In some ways, it isn’t even simple. At first glance, it seems simpler to flip on the furnace when the temperature dips, rather than going outside to split wood. It is easier to sit down with a cup of coffee and the morning news, instead of using those first moments of the day to start a fire in the stove. The culture we live in today is built on the promotion of buying convenience. Choosing to do something by hand, or the ‘hard’ way doesn’t make sense through the lens of the American Dream.

So why do it?

Because when we choose to live simply – when we see that we have enough, and usually more than enough – we live more fully and are part of the system that allows others to do the same. When we choose inconvenience over doing things the easy or quick way, we offer our work to the benefit of those who don’t have the luxury of such a choice. When we choose to accept enough, we return home. We remember what it feels like to love without boundaries and to be content with enough.

This post also appeared on enough.

Preservation

Preservation

Trays of yellow, red, orange, green and pink tomatoes shine under the morning sun. Bell peppers of the same colors are piled high and purple eggplants and beets peek out from around wooden boxes of long, slender green and purple beans. Carrots the color of a sunset fill more trays. Leafy bunches of basil, oregano, thyme and parsley provide an aroma to inspire any aspiring chef. The display table of a farmer’s market vendor in early September is much like a work of art– and it is a sight that tells a story of hard work, dedication to a piece of land and the love of a simple and sustainable lifestyle.  And it provides plenty of ingredients for a weekend of putting up the harvest.

There is something undeniably real about taking plants that were grown from local soil , chopping them up, mixing them together, cooking them down and putting them into jars to be enjoyed in the depths of winter. In an era where one can get any type of food at any time during the year, there is something more real about not indulging in the “get it now” attitude and the unsustainable way of living that punctuates so much of the “developed” world. What if growing (or knowing the grower) and perserving food ourselves was our default, much going to the grocery store or Target tends to be? What if shopping meant waking up early to get first pick of the produce on Saturday morning? What if food meant gardens, pastures, and a freezer full of frozen fruit, veggies and sustainably raised meat?  What if convenience food meant popping open a jar that spent time in a pressure cooker or snacking on fruit that once lined trays of a food dehydrator?

This past weekend was our annual food preservation family gathering – the goal each year is to preserve most of the fruits and vegetables we will need to get us through the winter and early spring before things start growing again in the Midwest. This year we succeeded in canning jar after jar of beets, salsa, tomatoes,  and apple sauce; we froze peppers, basil pesto, raspberry and plum jam and zucchini bread; we dehydrated eggplant, more tomatoes, peaches, hot peppers and herbs. The work was simple-harvest, chop, mix, jar and boil, freeze or dry. But through this simple work, a rhythm that is missing from a world of offices, supermarkets and interstates is always rediscovered. A sense of belonging to the earth, gratitude for what the earth can provide and appreciation for the hands that cultivate it is rekindled. As the shelves fill with jars, relationships deepen, feelings of accomplishment settle on tired bones and living a simple but authentic life becomes more of a reality.

What if every weekend was like that?

Farm Fresh

Farm Fresh

It’s summer in Minnesota, where I live.  And summer in mid-west America means that farmer’s markets, CSAs, roadside stands, u-pick berry farms, and community gardens are in full swing.  We tend to celebrate the re-engagement with fresh foods around here because in this part of the world, winter is long and the growing season is short.  Some of us have greenhouses and high tunnels and grow lights to extend the season, but the days when tomatoes and peppers and lettuce thrive outside with only the sun above and the soil below are days to savor.

Where are you getting your produce this summer?  What takes you into the field to pick berries instead of down a grocery store isle?  What helps you wait for market day to restock your crisper drawer?  What makes you prioritize weeding your home garden over watching television in the evening?  How do you support your local farmers?  If you ARE a farmer, how do you take care of yourself as you care for your farm?  And most importantly, perhaps, what recipes do you look forward to making when things growing outside start to become abundant? (some of my favorites are found in this Prairie Grown recipe series)

Share your wisdom, and may we all enjoy the fruits of the season as we support a sustainable way of being on the earth.

 

 

Extinct Waterfalls

Extinct Waterfalls

The other day I saw a hummingbird drink from a waterfall that dried up thousands of years ago.  This tiny creature, glittering in the sunlight, lapped up a trickle of moisture that found its way to this remnant of before, situated high above a roadway and made into a spectacle for hikers to view from a platform.

I could imagine what the cliff used to look like, cascading water falling into a crystal clear pool at the base, flowing down into the great river deep in the valley.  Water plants of all kinds probably covered the ground around the pool, and moss the hue of emeralds perhaps lined the cool back wall of the cliff, hidden by the falls.  It was a pocket of myth and moisture – a sanctuary for all creatures who need those things.  The roadway site was likely just a swath of trees and more sandstone, maybe a route for elk or black bears on their way to drink from the river.  Maybe there were people who walked there.  Maybe they walked somewhere else.  They walked more lightly than people do now, wherever their paths were.  I could see them, too.  They are us – our memories and our dreams.

All those years ago, when our memories were now and the forest was all there is, the waterfall  was still a spectacle, but of a different kind.  It wasn’t something to hike to on a day off, a photo opportunity, or an excuse to stop to rest and check for cell service.  Rather, it was an intricate part of the organic, living landscape. Not a separate point of interest, just an oasis amidst even more abundance, another piece of the paradise that lives again when we listen for it and help it to grow and harmonize with our own energy.

When hummingbirds drink from extinct waterfalls, memories bubble to the surface and transcend how we view time – despite the roadways and platforms.

We remember we are part of the ancient and still find our home in the present.