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One year ago we moved from our suburbany townhome into an 1800’s Victorian smack dab in the middle of town. As many of you know, we had originally wanted to purchase a house, but the stars wouldn’t align. So we made the financially right decision to delay home-buying and took action to at least get closer to the life we want. Andrew wanted to be closer to bars, restaurants, and shops. I wanted to be in walking or biking distance of my office. We broke our lease and moved into town.
Just because we didn’t buy a house doesn’t mean we gave up on homesteading. It’s just a different approach, one that I’ve been exploring and have found both exciting and frustrating. I got a lot of positive feedback on the last ‘Homesteading in Small Spaces’ post I did that talked about creative gardening solutions. Today I am continuing that series and discussing the value of the ‘homestead mindset’ – something that takes no space whatsoever.
Last weekend, we were privileged enough to spend the weekend in an incredible fancy cabin in the North Carolina mountains. We hiked to waterfalls and peaks, and the fall colors were gorgeous! We also spent plenty of time around the blazing fire, playing games and watching a scary movie. I love family trips! As we drove home on Sunday, we winded through North Georgia and made a few pit stops.
First, we stopped at Warwoman Dell, a WMA and trailhead for our beloved Bartram Trail. This place is very special to us, as it is somewhere we visited often when we were first falling in love. As we got out of our car, we breathed a collective sigh of comfort and agreed that it had been too long. We went for a short hike, then hopped back on the road to our next stop: Hillside Orchard.
I love visiting orchards in the fall, even if it is a little kitchy. This particular orchard had lots of farm animals! We said hi to chickens, goats, cows, donkeys, and the biggest pig I have ever seen in my life! Of course, the best part was that we scored a couple pumpkins and half a bushel of apples. I see apple butter day on the horizon!
For Christmas last year, Andrew gave me a Rosemary Gladstar classic- Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. I read it cover to cover and then some! After studying it carefully, and learning more about herbalism from other sources, I finally decided I was ready to dive in. I made two big orders of organic herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and Starwest Botanicals. Both packages came in the mail this week, and I was jumping for joy telling Andrew how excited I was to start making *potions*.
I picked out a number of recipes from the book, and ordered the herbs I needed accordingly. I have an anxiety disorder as well as chronic headaches, so I focused on nerve tonics and immune system tonics. I also ordered plenty of herbs for homemade beauty products, including herbal shampoos and hair rinses, face washes, and salves.
I whipped up my first few batches of goodies! First, I made a ACV hair rinse with calendula, chamomile, and comfrey to encourage blonde highlights. Look how pretty the herbs look in the mason! They smelled amazing.
I also made Rosemary’s Miracle Grains, which are a facial cleanser made with ground almonds, white clay, and a variety of herbs. I used to use the ‘Herbalism’ face wash from Lush, which I loved, and I am hoping the Miracle Grains will be a fine replacement. So far so good! I mixed up a toner called ‘The Queen of Hungary’s Water’ which consists of a plethora of herbs left to sit for a few weeks in ACV, then mixed with witch hazel extract.
I was unfortunately and uncharacteristically sick this week, and made a couple teas from the book. Yesterday I was floored. I took one advil and drank a vitamin-C tonic made of rose hips, hibiscus, lemongrass, and cinnamon all day long and feel much better today.
With temps still in the high 80s, I am hesitant to declare autumn’s arrival down here in Georgia, but something in the air has definitely changed. Last night we were sitting outside chatting and I declared June and October my two favorite months of the year, with December a close third. This October is already looking to be a good one.
It’s was a busy summer on all fronts. Our little homestead did a whole lot of brewing and fermenting – beer, mead, kombucha, ginger beer, and a few veggie ferments. Andrew is making turmeric soda tomorrow. He bought me lots of soy beans to try my hand at soy milk and tofu but I haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve been preoccupied with keeping the ship running – that is my gift. I make sure the kitchen knives stay sharp (sharpening them by hand with a whetstone), I make sure all the CSA food gets either cooked or preserved, I bake the bread, I clean the home, I mend the clothes, I make the toothpaste and soap and laundry detergent and an array of cleaning solutions. And of course we continue to eat delicious farm fresh meals like tonight’s eggplant, tomato, and pepper stew. Nightcapped with half a chocolate-y craft brew.
First off, let me say, I got to have Romanesco broccoli for the first time in my life at my parents house last month. This veggie was MADE FOR ME – a math loving vegetarian. I’d been looking for it for years and never was able to find it for a reasonable price. My mom and I found it at Whole Foods in the local produce section!! It lived up to it’s reptuation – nutty, wonderful crunchy texture, and beautiful. C’mon, IT’S A LIME GREEN FRACTAL!
I was talking to a coworker today about diet and they said, ‘you can’t expect someone to eat pounds of vegetables every day!!’ Um, I eat pounds of vegetables, fruits, and legumes everyday. I don’t know how to explain this to people without sounding pompous or pretentious. Eating your veggies shouldn’t be pretentious!
But the sad truth is that most Americans don’t eat their veggies. Veggies are pathetic little sides or non-existent on their plates. Many times, the veggies are highly processed or drenched in butter, fat, oil, cheese, etc. Often, these people come to me asking for diet advice, usually knowing that I’ve lost weight and kept it off. Back then, veggies were side dishes for me too. And like any change that lasts, it took years for me to re-learn how to eat.
I don’t want people to be intimidated by a whole foods diet and feel like it’s out of reach for them. So often, folks think of diet as ‘all or nothing.’ Which is scary, because under this notion small slip ups are punished and folks get discouraged and quit. I eat whole foods 80% of the time and vegan 50% of the time. But you know what, after dinner tonight I ate two – two! – peanut butter chocolate chip cookies choc full of white flour and butter. Hey, at least I bought organic flour and butter!
Old Christine would have beat myself up over this, but you know what? Life is meant to be enjoyed. I find great enjoyment in eating whole foods most of the time, because it gives me energy, vitality, and hope. It makes me feel more alive and confident in myself and my choices. But on the other side of the spectrum, a life without gelato and beer is not a life worth living in my books. Having these things as occasional treats makes them all the more enjoyable for me.
Eat your veggies and you might feel the benefits. Start small by adding something dark and green to your plate. Cook it simply with a bit of olive oil and some pepper. Eat it slowly. That’s how I started. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I honestly started noticing how much better the veggies made me feel than the cheese and carbs. I felt lighter and stronger. So I naturally started putting more and more veggies on my plate and removing most of the dairy and some of the carbs.
A few weeks back, I cut, washed, and hung big bundles of mint and nettle to dry. I like to hang them all over the house for fragrance. Seeing them all over evokes that nice witchy feeling and feels cozy in our small space – like herbs are stuffed into every corner.
After a few weeks of drying, the herbs turn brittle and are ready to be put up. I make a space on my messy desk to separate leaves and buds from tough stems, then to crumble all the medicinal plant parts into labeled mason jars that go onto my makeshift apothecary.
My apothecary is a shelf in the middle of our beautiful oak bookshelf, and it somehow feels right that the herbs are nestled between VHS tapes of the Matrix and The Blues Brothers, but also The Critique of Pure Reason and Harry Potter. It’s me. It’s us.
My fantasy football lineup serves as my altar for harnessing my herbs. Alongside sit everything from my heavily highlighted and dog eared copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living to coloring books to black metal stickers to old issues of Audobon and National Geographic that I use for making collages. All the while I’m singing along to the supreme pop of Ruby the Rabbitfoot. There is nothing solemn about it but it fees sacred in my own special way.
I’ve spent a lot of energy in my life comparing myself to others, especially via the internet. Other people have always seemed to have it more together than me, and their lives have seemed more beautiful and happy in general. I am trying to stop thinking this way by celebrating the unique things that make me – me. My home doesn’t look like it’s out of a Tumblr blog and my garden doesn’t look like a magazine cover. My spaces aren’t perfect or Instagram-worthy. But they are mine. They feel like mine, and they reflect the unique person that I am. After all, there’s only one football witch.