In the Barnyard: Who are Bohemian Farmgirls?

Bohemian Farmgirl is something that has evolved over years of trying to figure out how to weave all of the meaningful parts of my life together. This is what it means to me, and if it touches part of your soul then my guess is that you are a Bohemian Farmgirl too.

1. Growing a Family--First and foremost, comes family. This may be your biological or chosen family, but whomever your family includes, it's roots dig deep and provide grounding for growth above the surface of the soil.

2. Planting a Farm--Modern homesteading is a way of life for a Bohemian Farmgirl. This may include anything from a windowsill garden to acres of land, buying local and supporting small farms to growing and raising all of your food yourself, and cultivating dreams of homesteading no matter if you live in the city or country.

3. Nurturing a Creative Life--This is the heart of a Bohemian Farmgirl and what brings us all together creating a community of ideas and inspiration. Living a creative life is the wellspring of joy that provides energy to make our dreams reality, no matter what the circumstances. And we all help each other along the way.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Homemade Butter Recipe

Note: This post contains affiliate links. 

Every time I take a tiny step towards self-sufficiency I feel great satisfaction and pride.  This week my daughter and I made our own butter.  True, we didn't milk a cow, let the cream rise, and use an antique butter churn.  We simply bought heavy cream at the grocery store and shook it in a mason jar. Nevertheless my smile was as wide as the soup bowl on the dinner table that night.  We slathered that butter on artisan bread and dunked it in the soup I made in the crock pot.  Simple pleasure.  Next time we will get raw milk from a local farm and try it from scratch (being that we don't have a milk cow of our own...). Here's how we did it.

You will need:
A pint of heavy whipping cream
A quart sized mason jar 

Pour the pint of cream into the mason jar and close the lid tightly.  Shake vigorously until the contents separate into butter and buttermilk.  I've been told this takes about 10 minutes, but it took us closer to 30.  You will see the cream thicken almost immediately and then all of a sudden you will have a mass of butter and liquid.  Pour the liquid off (our cats went crazy for it), replace the cap, and keep shaking.  Again, pour the liquid off so all you have is butter in the jar.  Add a little (about 1/2 cup very cold water to the jar and shake again.  Pour off the water, scoop out the butter, and voila!  Of course you will want to refrigerate it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary.

For the last few months, I've had the pleasure of volunteering once a week at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.  Mostly I clean up poop, and I love every second of it.  These animals (The Lucky Ones, as Jenny Brown, co-founder, calls them) now have a safe and loving home for as long as they shall live.  The sanctuary is home to chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, cows, pigs, and more.  Their stories of life before arriving at the sanctuary are nauseating, and sometimes gruesome.  Even if an animal is destined for the dinner plate, he/she deserves a cruelty free, respected life of being cared for.  These orphans were abused and neglected, made ill by a lack of proper care.  But they hold no grudges, which is more than I can say for a lot of humans.  Their gratitude melts my heart.

Clide, a rooster, greets me as I start my shift by walking me to the volunteer center and then following me around to make sure I am doing my job. Sheep look up at me and smile. Goats knock over my wheelbarrow and climb on my shovel as I work, creating mischief that can only make me laugh.   A baby pig, runs to me for some back scratches when I call her by name.  They all make me smile, and I come alive each time I pull into the driveway and pull on my muck boots. I am the one who is grateful for their unconditional love which has helped me to feel joy once again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Home Project: Inspired by The Gnome Project

Time has a way of escaping from me that is quite perplexing.  But on this cold, leafless morning I find myself alone at home with my journal and the computer.  So I will share some of my thoughts over the past few weeks of The Home Project (see previous post).

October 26, 2015
The morning is crisp.  The sun promises to bring joy if not warmth.  The light sets the brilliant colors of autumn trees on fire.  Fall has always been my favorite season.  It's bittersweet in a way that I can't quite explain.  It is a time of transition from the aliveness of summer into the starkness of winter, yet this in between season offers so much beauty.

One week into The Home Project and I already feel bored, sick of it, like it's a chore.  But is this feeling about the houses or about something else?  What other areas of my life bring up these emotions? The impulse is to quit and rationalize the decision.  A house a day has become a house every two days. The one I made today was brown and mustard yellow, so ugly that I threw it away. What other pieces of my days or myself do I find ugly and wish I could throw away? Dirty dishes beg for my attention, an excuse that also stirs up guilt. I know there is a lesson here that is being presented and instead of quitting, I'll try to remain curious about this process and keep going.

November 5, 2015
Since we moved, I have been living in the present instead of always striving, working towards something, or leaning into a better future that never arrives. It feels like a speeding train that has come to a sudden stop because the tracks have disappeared.  I am completely out of my comfort zone.  What do I do now? I've never lived in the present moment before.  How do I do this?

 The structure of a schedule seems to have helped because it tells me what to do with myself.  The act of having made room in my days for studio time has had a huge impact.  I have put down the houses temporarily in favor of finishing up several projects:  making a bunting for my daughter's bedroom, painting her wagon that I built for her birthday a month ago, sewing curtains for empty windows. These things are still part of my Home Project because they help make this rented farmhouse into a home, and they help make the present moment less uncomfortable to occupy.

November 17, 2015
As I type the words above, clarity has moved some of the fog out of my brain (and heart).  My lifelong fascination with homes has not so much been about creating a nest for my outward life to have a place to rest so much as it has been about creating a space within the interior of my self for my soul to rest.  A restless anxiety has been searching for a place to cease the internal storm and allow healing to take place.  And that place is the present moment.

Art is indeed powerful.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: The Gnome Project
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

"I've always felt that creating art is, in and of itself, transformative, but I have discovered that when you endeavor to make art every day, you add to the power of that transformation.  What this means is that no matter what happened in that day--whether you had a headache or received a bouquet of flowers--you sat down and practiced one thing in the midst of that space in your life.  One thing held true like a golden thread weaving your days together, giving you a bit of predictability through the chaos of the human experience."    Jessica Peill-Meininghaus, from The Gnome Project: One Woman's Wild and Woolly Adventure

 I immediately felt a connection to this woman and her words.  Being a creative arts therapist, I am familiar with the transformative power of art, and I have craved time to be able to sit down in my studio and create.  This little book about Jessica and her gnomes inspired me to make major changes in my daily life, changes that were much needed.  Feeling unfocused and like I was just floating through my days, I would wake up and do as much as I could as fast as I could before going to bed exhausted without really accomplishing anything I had set out to do that day.  I read Jessica's book in one sitting, and then got out some paper and a pen to see how I could arrange my day to be more satisfying and joyful.

My days now begin at dawn, when I can have quiet time to myself before everyone else wakes up.  I have set aside time with my daughter so that I can be present with her instead of obsessing about all the things I need to do (she can sense my distraction).  There is a time for chores, and a time for play, time for being outside, and a time for cooking nourishing meals.  And, most importantly, there is studio time at the end of each day, a time when I can engage in much needed creative art-making.  Inspired by The Gnome Project, I have started The Home Project.  Each day I create a plush little house by hand.  This routine has provided the grounding that I needed to be able to live the life I imagined for so many years.  Maddie even asks for studio time, and we create side by side at the art table.

When I thought about making gnomes every day, I knew that wasn't the project for me.  I'd have to learn a new skill, invest in new supplies, and cope with failure until I could complete a needle felted gnome that actually looked like more than a blob of wool.  So my criteria included making something I knew I could do and would be fun, that would offer enough variety that I would not get bored, something I could do with materials I already have on hand, and a project that would be quick enough to provide daily immediate gratification.  Little felt and fabric houses: perfect.  I have always been attracted to little houses, whether the mushroom villages of The Smurfs from my childhood, or dreaming of buying an old house and turning it into a home.  So far I have stuck with my new schedule for 7 days and I have 7 little homes in my basket.  And most importantly, I have made room in my life for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sew Woodstock: Woodstock, NY

Summer ended with a flurry of activity; swimming, picnic, hiking, getting ready for preschool (yikes!) and a visit to Sew Woodstock in Woodstock, New York. Soaring barn-like ceilings, antique furniture stuffed with buttons, yarn, notions and patterns, a wall of shelves with new and vintage fabric folded into square cubbies, books, clothes, project bags, beads, thread, sewing machines--this fiber lover's paradise enchanted both my four year old daughter and my grown up self.

Sewing tables lined the window, taking advantage of the natural light and the view of the tiny garden. Women flitted and fluttered about, making stitches and examining their work as if it were specimens for a field journal.  Racks of altered clothing divided the space between cutting tables holding baskets of scissors, thread, and tools waiting patiently for their chance to be employed.  Behind the grand piano displaying sewing curiosities, were plump chairs and couches arranged for cozy conversation between kindred spirits.  A baby in a carrier slept soundly surrounded by cloth awaiting the magic of the sewing fairies. No one seemed to mind that Maddie collected spools of thread by the armful and reorganized them by color in their box. We wanted to touch everything, senses reeling from the colors and textures.  I let her explore freely so we could both take it all in.  

I felt as though I was in the presence of the fairy queen herself when I shyly interrupted the women deep in creative activity to ask if I could pay for a book.  The Queen glowed, her long hair falling over her silk boho summer dress as she smiled and spoke softly to me about the magic of this place.  Yes, I will indeed return, I promised.  And soon.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bohemian Farmgirl Days

I awaken to the sound of songbirds when the sun has started its climb.  Downstairs, coffee is already hot thanks to the automatic timer that I set last night.  I have just enough time for a few yoga stretches, some Morning Pages in my art journal, and meditative reflection before my daughter wakes up.  In our PJ's she and I tend to the garden before the day gets too hot, morning dew on the grass tickling our bare feet.  A hearty breakfast ensures that I have plenty of energy to complete 2 or 3 projects before lunch, and then some creative play with Maddie in the afternoon.  Two well behaved dogs play in the grass, stopping every now and then for belly rubs. While Maddie naps I do laundry and prepare supper from scratch.  My husband will do the dishes as I get my daughter ready for bed. Then at last I will have an hour or two in my studio alone......

Okay, you're not buying this?  What gave it away?  The part where I have enough time to do anything, the part where I have plenty of energy, or the part where my husband does the dishes?  Actually, my husband doing the dishes is the only part that is true.  The rest was fabricated in my overactive imagination.  The truth goes something like this:

Abby, my "white" dog
I open my eyes way past the time my alarm went off for the third time, a large dog two inches from my nose breathing heavily into my face in hopes that I will be inspired to stumble down the stairs to fill up his bowl.  Although my coffee maker does have a timer, I never remember to set it the night before so that I can take advantage of this feature.  I haven't done yoga or Morning Pages in years, and there are a stack of dusty art journals on my bookshelf, with only the first page or two with any art on them.  "Meditative reflection" occurs while I'm washing my hair in the shower, an activity that should be done in privacy but is usually achieved with at least one other person and at least one dog sharing the bathroom with me.  Breakfast is luke warm coffee (light with cream, one sugar) while I squeeze in some princess play time with my daughter before the caffeine wears off.  The garden?  See my previous post.  Energy is always scarce, and my project list is way too long.  My dog and the one that stands on top of me in bed in the morning (whom we are dog sitting), are marginally good listeners.  My white dog Abby likes to roll in dirt after she jumps into the kiddie pool, creating a tar-and-feather effect that requires much scrubbing and yelling.  (See above photo.) Maddie never naps, and if she does, she's awake until 2am. Even when she doesn't nap (I poke her in the ribs if I see her nodding off) her bed time is usually 10pm, which means I'm too exhausted to sew or work in my studio.  I myself won't fall asleep until 1am, but I simply don't have the energy to get up and do something productive.  So I lay there making mental to-do lists instead.
Sigh....does your day look like this too?  If you are able to achieve the day in my imagination, please share your secrets.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Planting a (tiny) Farm Season 1

Planting a (tiny) Farm, July 2015

Despite all the research and planning I've done on gardening, despite my best intentions of implementing the Grow Biointensive method, and despite my eagerness to get started on a "real" homestead, my garden is a mess.  It's only July 8th and already weeds are threatening to swallow things whole like a venus veggie trap.  (I actually did some weeding after I took this photo...honest.) So far I haven't lost any plants to bugs or critters, but I did lose a tomato plant for reasons unknown.  Even though I knew better, I planted greens anyway in between some taller plants that would theoretically provide shade.  Nope.  I'll replant in September.  In the Grow Biointensive method you plant seedlings close together so that the plants themselves become a living mulch of sorts as they grow taller and wider, trapping in moisture and keeping sun out to prevent weeds from popping up.  Well, I've decided that my weeds will be this living mulch and possibly loosen up the clay packed soil with their roots.  I won't let them grow more than a couple of inches tall or let them hog up nutrients, sun, or water.  And we will just have to see how this lazy gardener's experiment goes.