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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Homegrown & Handmade
I just finished reading the book Homegrown & Handmade: A practical guide to more self reliant living by Deborah Niemann.  This is a fantastic handbook that covers just about everything for the beginner homesteader.  The only thing I found missing was a chapter on beekeeping.  The author's no nonsense approach is truly practical, as she shares her hands on knowledge that she gained from her own experiences (including mistakes).  Of course, if you want to have sheep on your farm, for example, you should do more reading than this one book and get as much experience as you can before you bring them home.  But this book will give you an idea of what your in for if you do want sheep, so you can decide if you want to go ahead and do further research.  Once it is my turn to have a homestead, I feel like I've gotten a little head start from learning what this book has to offer!  No doubt I will make mistakes of my own, but I have a few notes on what not to do as well as what to do that I must credit to Niemann.  Thank you! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I'm only a hundred pages into this amazing book, but I had to share it now instead of waiting til I finished it.  Barbara Kingsolver is my favorite writer, and I have read her fiction books.  I happened to find the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on our building's free table and I snatched it up.  It's a memoir of a year in the life of her family during their eat only what food is in season (and preferrable local) project.  Yes, it's somewhat of a cheerleading book on eating local and the slow food movement. But she writes truthfully about her family's struggles and triumphs with the year long commitment they all made.  Kingsolver and her husband Steve have two children, one in third grade and another entering college.  They made this commitment together as a family, not as parents enforcing a rule that must be obeyed.  So their daughters were invested in the process too, even though they had to give up some of their favorite foods, or at least not have access to them all year round. The project is somewhat enlightening to them all, to say the least.

The book offers insight into the factory farms that fill most of our supermarkets with what we Americans generally call meat and produce.  But the information is supplied in such a way that she does not tell you what you should do;  she merely offers the facts and then lets you decide.  She also writes about just how much of an adjustment it was to make the switch to in season food, and how the family celebrates new recipes and enjoys food so much more.  They do have a large garden where they grow their own food, and watch it in anxious anticipation of the harvest that will fill their cooking pots.  They supplement with trips to the farmer's market.  Kingsolver's older daughter contributes essays on her perspective as a young adult to the book. Her younger daughter even starts an organic egg and chicken business so that she can save up to buy a horse. 

And the best part is, there are seasonal menus and recipes in the book and on the website so that you are not lost in a mountain of collard greens and eating corn til it's coming out your ears (no pun intended).  Check it out at

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bohemian Farmgirl in the Big City: Morningside Heights Farmer's Market

Sundays and Thursdays are farmer's market day in Morningside Heights, and I think if she had any concept of time, even my baby would look forward to it.  I'm not even sure she notices the coincidence that after we make our biweekly trip, she enjoys her meals more.  Last Sunday we bought an 8oz container of chevre from Ardith Mae Farm and she and I devoured it before my husband even knew he was missing out.  We ate it on everything from honeycrisp apples to muffins from Meredith's bakery in Kingston.  When we lived in Ulster county, we would actually shop at the Kingston Farmer's Market.  So Sundays and Thursdays also become a little swig of tonic for my homesick Barnheart.  As I type, I am eating a burger (started eating them again for health reasons...) made from organic beef from Sawkill Farms in Red Hook, where we used to live.  I appreciate that even though these farms are no longer local for me, the farmers travel to the city a couple times a week and I can purchase their goods locally.  Every dollar spent is ingested with love and I enjoy the food so much when it is direct from the farmer whose hands planted and harvested it.  I don't think it's my imagination that the food just tastes better than what I get from the organic section at the grocery store either.  When the food spends less time on a truck and on a shelf, the flavor doesn't fade.  And of course, you gotta love that you can get things like purple broccoli (yes!  purple broccoli!) at the farmer's market.  I'm sure that even kids who hate to eat their greens would get a kick out of that. 
And for shoppers who are on a fixed budget or low income, the green markets even accept food stamps. In fact, for every $5 you spend in food stamps, the market will give you an extra $2 for free to be spent on produce.  Bon apetit!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: Greenhorns

Go to for info on the film
If you've ever thought about becoming a farmer, love food, or simply wondered what goes into the day to day grind growing of our food, this book will give you a voyeur's peek into the life of the new farmer.  If you weren't already, you will be mighty grateful to farmers everywhere and may even speak your gratitude to the ones at your local farmers' market.  Choosing to be a farmer is a career full of muscle aches, never ending stress, battles against culture's ideas of farmers and food, and very little money. And it seems that many of  today's new farmers are educated environmental activists that have to beg and borrow for a patch of tillable earth, as opposed to the farms of generations past that were handed down through the family.  Hooray for farmers, "new" and "old" and for whatever path lead them to grow the food on my table and yours!  Truly, you are among the heroes that walk (and till) the earth. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Farmgirl Fashionista: The Joy of Sewing your own Clothing

Loulouthi Clippings in Lichen
While the rest of the city dwellers are either sitting on cloudy beaches in bikinis or at their favorite chain store soaking up Labor Day sales, I am seated at my sewing machine crafting a vintage inspired skirt for myself.  If you make your own clothes, you do not do it for thrifty reasons.  Sewing garments for oneself is a labor of love.  For the price of the 2 yards of fabric that I purchased on Etsy for this skirt I made, I could be taking my place on  long checkout lines with savvy consumers with a small armload of bargains.  True, the clothes I would buy at the retailer would be "disposable" (only survive one season due to poor quality) and the skirt I am crafting will last at least a decade.   So I suppose it is less expensive to make your own clothes if you look at it that way.  But this is not the reason I do it.
The skirt I made today was with a velveteen fabric with a garden pattern of flowers and butterflies in colors that make me drool designed by Anna Maria Horner.  The pattern is a vintage inspired one that I picked up at one of the aforementioned chain stores for about $3.99.  So far I have made 2 skirts from it, and it is now one of my favorites.  Four bucks well spent.  But the thrill for me in crafting this skirt is 1. my addiction to beautiful fabric and 2. knowing that this is the only one like it in the whole world.  Unlike the items I could have bought at the mall, it is also not likely that I will step out onto the sidewalk and see someone else wearing my exact same skirt. And oh yes, there is great satisfaction in the art of sewing itself.  :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hello My Name is Christina, and I have Barnheart

I just finished reading Barnheart, the follow up book to Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich.  There were passages in this book that made my heart ache because I could empathize with her longing.  I read the entire chapter on gardening with my vision blurry from tears.  Do you have Barnheart?  Woginrich writes:

How to Tell If You're Infected:
"......It's a sharp, targeted depression, a sudden overcast feeling that hits you while you're at work or standing in the grocery store checkout line.  It's a dreamer's disease, a mix of hope, determination, and grit.  It attacks those of us who wish to God we were outside with our flocks, feed bags, or harnesses instead of sitting in front of a computer screen.  When a severe attack hits, it's all you can do to sit still.  The room gets smaller, your mind wanders, and you are overcome with the desire to be tagging cattle ears or feeding pigs.....The symptoms are mild at first.  You start reading online homesteading forums and shopping at cheese making supply sites on your lunch break.  You go home after work and instead of turning on the television, you bake a pie and study chicken coop building plans. Then somehow, somewhere along the way you realize that you're the happiest when you're weeding the garden or collecting eggs from the henhouse.  It's all downhill from there.  When you accept that a fulfilling life requires tractor attachments and a septic system, it's too late.  You've already been infected with the disease...." (page 8)

Sigh....I don't even have a garden to weed or a henhouse to collect eggs from and I know I have a bad case of barnheart.  I devoured this book in 3 days because I wanted to know if there is a cure.  There isn't really.  Just the surrender into the disease and moving forward towards your very own barn.  Some days I just get really sad when I look out my window overlooking Amsterdam Avenue in New York City.  Some days I wish like heck that I was a city person so I wouldn't feel so sick with longing all the time.  I want to be one of those people who are happy with what they've got and lives in the present moment.  But I feel like I am betraying a part of who I am when I deny that I want more than anything to be breaking my back in a vegetable garden  (MY vegetable garden), hanging up clothes to dry on the clothesline (barefoot), and watching my daughter learn to walk in the grass as she chases the dogs we don't have yet. All this while dinner's on the stove in a cast iron dutch oven, I'm wearing one of my home made farmhouse dresses from a vintage pattern, and just finished planning my next outdoor workshop on expressive arts. I can see it.  I can smell it.  I can hear it.  I can taste it.  If I close my eyes I can even feel the air on my skin.  Yes my friends, my heart is swollen with Barnheart.  But let me tell you, if Jenna Woginrich can do it, so can I!  (And you too!) It's not a matter of if, but when. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Natural Bath & Body Care Recipes

Alongside my Green Housekeeping recipes, I would like to share some skin care recipes as well.  Of course they are au natural, and use simple ingredients you may already have in your kitchen.  This one is one of my favorites!

Gentle Facial Scrub & Cleanser

1 cup oat bran
1 cup of clay (see below)
1 tablespoon of almond meal (to make almond meal, grind some raw almonds in a coffee grinder)
2 tablespoons dried crushed herb blend of equal parts lavender, calendula, comfrey, and chamomile (throw these dried herbs in your coffee grinder too)

Mix all ingredients well.  Store dry in an airtight container.  To use: mix 1 tbsp of scrub with enough water to make a paste.  Gently scrub skin with the paste.  Rinse well with warm water.  Best to use it in the shower to minimize mess.

Types of clay:
For dry or sensitive skin use french green clay
For oily skin use red clay
White clay (kaolin) can be used on all skin types and is particularly mild. 

My favorite place to buy organic herbs and clays is (They also sell the essential oils needed for my Green Housekeeping recipes).  Oat bran is available to buy by the scoop at your local health food store. 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Mary Jane's Farm Farmgirl Sisterhood

Mary Jane of Mary Jane's Farm is perhaps Queen Farmgirl.  She has started a Farmgirl Sisterhood that you can join (for $20) to connect farmgirls all over the world with each other.  I remember being a young girl and seeing ads for clubs like this one in the backs of magazines.  Boy was it fun to join!  This was before the internet and all you got for your membership was a card and maybe a newsletter.  But I felt like I belonged to a group people like myself.  Networking has come a long way with the invention of chat rooms, email, blogs, and websites. But my favorite part of The Farmgirl Sisterhood is the old school notion of  earning  merit badges just like in Girl Scouts!  You get your first badge with your membership and can earn badges for anything from knitting to kitchen know how.  I just joined and can't wait to start earning badges and connect with other farmgirls.  I invite you to join!  Visit Mary Jane online at and join the sisterhood at .  Mary Jane also publishes farmgirl books and a monthly magazine that promotes the "Everyday Organic Lifestyle".

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Green Housekeeping vol. 2: Free Recipes

Baking Soda and white vinegar have multiple uses around the house. Vinegar is a natural disinfecant and baking soda absorbs odors, so they make a great natural cleaning duo.  Here are just a few recipes:

Drain cleaner
1 cup baking soda plus vinegar (about a quart)
          Pour baking soda down drain.  Slowly pour vinegar down drain.  Allow to fizz and then continue to add more vinegar until you've used up the quart.  Let sit for about 15 minutes, then flush with hot water.  This is a good maintenance cleaner for drains and it will assist with clearing up soap residue that contributes to clogs.  However, it will not clear big clogs caused by hair.  The best way to tend to hair clogs is prevention!  Use a drain catch and empty it daily.  You can also use this recipe on kitchen sinks.

Soap Scum Scouring Cleanser
Spray bottle filled with white vinegar plus 1 small box of baking soda (this will last you quite a while...)
         Spray area to be cleaned heavily with vinegar (sink, tubs, tiles, showers).  Vinegar is a solvent, so allow it to do some of the work for you by letting it sit for a few minutes before scouring.  (But not so long that the vinegar dries up or you will have to spray it again!) Then sprinkle some baking soda on the area to be cleaned.  Using a wet scrubbie pad (you can buy "green" ones in the store now) or a loofah*, apply elbow grease to the area to scrub off the soap scum.  It will come off just as easily as if you had used a toxic cleaning agent. Rinse well to remove all the baking soda.  You may even want to wipe the area down with a little all purpose cleaner (see vol 1 recipe). 
*A loofah is the inside of a gourd that has been dried out.  Commonly used in the shower on skin as an exfoliating device, it can also be used as a household scrubbie.  To get more use out of your loofah, slice a piece off about an inch or 2 thick and save the rest for later.

Laundry Booster
Add 1/2 to 1 cup baking soda to the wash cycle with your soap.  Add 1 cup vinegar to your rinse cycle in place of fabric softener.  Note:  your laundry will come out smelling mildly of vinegar if used in the rinse cycle.  To combat this (if you are offended by the smell as I am) add about 10 drops of essential oil as well.  I like to keep a separate gallon of white vinegar aside just for laundry and I pour a few tablespoons of lavender essential oil directly into the container.  I just shake it up each time before I pour it.  This makes my laundry smell like lavender and vinegar, but the vinegar is less offensive!  It will fade nicely if you dry your clothes on a clothesline outside in the sun.

Litterbox Deodorizer
Clean out empty litterbox with vinegar.  After you add your litter, sprinkle some baking soda* in the box and mix.
* Save an empty plastic jar with a lid from your grocery shelf and poke some holes in the lid.  Add baking soda and 1/4 tsp essential oil.  Stir well to mix.  Sprinkle onto litter to freshen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Green Housekeeping vol. 1: Free Recipes

Did you know that essential oils such as lavender and lemon contain antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties?  This means they are perfect for cleaning naturally without all the harsh chemicals and artificial scents that go into conventional cleaning products.  Here's a recipe for an all purpose cleaner that you can use in any room of the house on any surface.  No rinsing required, just shake, spray and wipe!
In a 32 oz spray bottle combine:
1/4 tsp lavender essential oil*
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 to 3 tbs castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner's)
Enough water to fill bottle

*Note:  Essential oils and fragrance oils are NOT the same thing!  Fragrance oils may be diluted essential oils or artificially scented and will NOT give you the antiseptic cleaning properties of pure essential oil..

Other essential oils that are great for this recipe: lemon, orange, eucalyptus, patchouli, sandalwood, thyme, tea tree.  Try mixing your own unique combinations of scents!  I like lemon and peppermint, rosemary and thyme, or orange and patchouli. 

Stay tuned for more Bohemian Farmgirl Green Housekeeping recipes...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Urban Farming: Eagle Street Rooftop Farm

Who says you can't be a farmer in the city??  I just discovered Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn, NY and can't wait to visit when the season opens once again to visitors. Their website describes the farm:  " On the shoreline of the East River and with a sweeping view of the Manhattan skyline, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is a 6,000 square foot green roof organic vegetable farm located atop a warehouse rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.During New York City’s growing season, the farmers at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm supply a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, an onsite farm market, and bicycle fresh produce to area restaurants."  All this in New York City!!