Artful Homestead at Windrush Farm

I’ve been home for over a week now and my suitcase remains packed, including bits of California grass, Pacific scented sand, exotic leaves and seashell shards my daughters carefully collected and studied. We’ll get to it.

The first ever Artful Homestead took place on Windrush Farm in Chileno Valley on May 28. When my best friend first asked me to be a part of something with her there, I spent a lot of time imagining what that might look like. It’s fun to day dream about Windrush Farm, about collaborating with my old friend, about pushing myself into something new.

Paige’s mother in law owns the farm and Paige has hosted many photography workshops there. Her husband, Arann Harris, is a musician and leads Farm Camp and Animal Music. Arann’s mom, Mimi, has written several books about gardening and farming and now teaches workshops about dying and spinning wool. All of this is to say: the space is an educational and creative oasis.

We dreamed up a day full of

writing,

creating,

gathering,

wandering,

eating,

nurturing,

noticing.

And the 24 of us did just that.

I loved wondering, thinking, creating with Paige. We work so well together, with similar work styles, senses of humor, ability to rally, love of process.

The afternoon before the workshop, we were driving all about the rolling hills of grapes and rosemary, nasturtium and live oak to collect bendy branches for wreath making, discarded burlap coffee bean bags for tablecloths, wild plums for decorating. And it was extremely, blissfully unstressful. It was a blast: the thrill of it all coming together, the inspiration that comes from Deadline. Also she good and gently nudging me toward letting things go when I get excited about adding things to our plates. (Next time I will allow for more time to make those berry pies!)

The day.

A tremendous group of strong, smart, creative women.

A chef that knocked our socks off with things like roasted vegetables and salad greens with farro, feta and roasted chili Green Goddess dressing; blistered shishito peppers with roasted mushrooms; roasted baby beets, onion, turnips and carrots with potatoes and herbs tossed in a cilantro pesto; preserved Lemon and garlic chicken from the wood­fired oven. Yeah, we ate well.

 Chef: Joe Ferraro (chef.ferraro AT gmail.com)

Thinking, writing and snuggling with sheep under a canopy of singing cottonwood leaves.

Exploring and photographing.

Swimming in the jungalicious garden pool.

Foraging and wreath making.

Sharing in experience, ritual, place, song, food, time.

We’d like to do more, artful homesteaders. Hope to meet you all. xo

* Two group shots so that each photographer could be included! All the most beautiful photos in this post are by exceptional, lovely photographers Paige Green and Laura Schneider.

Comments (5)

Switch turned on. Or off, which ever.

Ah May! You’ve zipped right by. I caught you by the tail just as you were walking out the door. Full of company, rain, baby chicks, green grass, soccer games, raging creeks. The arrival of hummingbirds, dandelions, ticks, tank tops, salad at every dinner. No offense, I am ready for June. The end of school, the beginning of the dog days.

There was a comment on my instagram feed from @chantetay in reaction to that video.

I would love to hear your wisdom about staying intentional and “slowing things down”. I had it in me years ago. And it comes out now and again but I’m In a season of life where especially Sunday nights, feels like I missed so much. I admire that you seem to always have your switch turned on. Or off, which ever.

I was thoughtful about her words because I was on that mountain top, struggling. Indeed, trying to find peace and muscling my way through some tough stuff. I was overwhelmed and tired. I felt like I wasn’t pulling anything off. My husband pretty much made me go for a hike. “Babe, go do something for you. GO. Go run up the hill,” he’d instructed after I’d thrown a fit from feeling needed by every human and animal all the time, from feeling like I’m 10 minutes into 50 projects that’ll never see completion.

Mama, I’m still hungry. Can I have another snack?

Switch turned on. Or off, which ever.

How do mothers write books? How do lovers make art? How do humans find time to birth poems, weave songs, practice headstands, listen to the sea, watch the wind?

Mama, how did the first hummingbird come into the world?

Here’s the thing. Nothing I was experiencing was epic or fatal or dire. Nonetheless, it felt heavy. Suffocation can happen in a puddle. So, a message to you and me: feelings are real and stuffing them down because they’re ‘first world problems’ is about as helpful as soleless shoes. Yes: keep your wits with a universal perspective and Yes: feel what you feel so you can truly move on.

Moving on.

Mama, I just always want to snuggle with you.

So what was holding my attention? Well, lots of things, big and small. And many things that are wonderful! Like:

1.
The first ever Artful Homestead is happening on Saturday! I’m nervous and thrilled and all those feelings that happen when I care about a thing. It is sold out and I am thinking to do another in Missoula this fall? I cannot wait to meet all you brilliant, rad people. And also for a little vacation in California! My family joins me after the gathering and we will spend a few days with our best friends.

2.
I have been working on the launch of my new online marketplace: DIG + CO. Everything from product development to setting up relationships with other markers to photographing to writing so much copy to actually making the website look the way I desire…it’s been a lot. I’m saying this not to complain but to announce the work behind a thing; we so often see a venture materialize (on social media etc) and it seems effortless like *poof*. It isn’t (at least it isn’t for me). It’s less like a sprint and more like an ultra marathon with a few resuscitations in there. Anyway, it’s live! From our family to yours: thank you so much to all of you who went shopping. We have big plans for making more things and giving back.

And, right now: our first sale! Use code DADDY to get 20% off everything in the ‘Father’s Day’ section of the shop.

DIG + CO. is an online market that features my handmades as well as other’s handmades. Everything there is crafted to love and last, to support your adventures, homesteads and artful lives. I hope you love it as much as I’ve loved gathering it all together. I’ll always be open to working with you. Please reach out if you have ideas for how we might do great things together.

3.
I am planning another big trip with my girls this coming fall and am thinking of the desert. Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California, maybe even Mexico…give me your ideas.

(I spied them marrying in the field last week which about made my heart bust right open.)

4.
It’s garden season! And I want to spend every spare moment out in my plot. Or thinking about my plot.

Mama, you’re a weird dancer. But I still like it when you dance. 

So, in response to @chantetay’s asking me about staying intentional and slowing things down. Her question made me think about what works well for our family and – when I was in my funk, focusing on what doesn’t work – I really appreciated the exercise. Some thoughts.

First and most important: Everything we want to do or be is a practice. Nothing is ever achieved; we are always striving.

It would be many years before I began to understand that all of life is practice: writing, driving, hiking, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes, making beds, cooking dinner, making love, walking dogs, even sleeping. We are always practicing. Only practicing.

― Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life

  • Stare at my people. When our plates feel too full and I am running to get stuff done, I make myself be with my kids without distraction. I study them. I listen. My phone is nowhere in sight. It’s like a brain reboot that shines light on what all that hustle is really for. Them. Us. The lifestyle we want now. Right now, not the thing we are working towards. We often get out on a hike or something but this practice can happen anywhere.
  • Exercise. When Andy and I have regular, heart-pumping bouts in the mountains by ourselves, we are better at everything. Our kids too.
  • Be Home. Our kids do one scheduled after-school activity per week. I treasure our slow time together at home after school. I want our home to be a place of peace and comfort and find that, for us, the post-school hours need a tender, unstructured vibe. Time to run up the hill into the flowers or lay on the couch and talk or have a pile of friends over. No matter what, every night: time together as a family around the dinner table.
  • Nature. Getting out in it often. Paying attention to the abundance, the seasons. Feeling humbled that we are but one tiny component of this vast universe.
  • Use my soul-fueling outlets. I practice gratitude through writing and photographing. I think a habitual creative practice is so important. I document mundane things that are beautiful to me and the practice deepens my appreciation and heightens my awareness. Conversations between my kids, the birds that visit our feeders, my pets snuggling, nourishing food, my husband’s love…it’s the little things that are the big things.

My daughter wrote a letter to her principal:

In my opinion, we need more art and here is why: First of all, there would be more art in the halls. Second, art is good for us. And, lastly, art makes our place a better place. 

I challenge each of you to make a list of things you do to be intentional and slow things down. You have them. You know what works. You are your own best self-help guide. And if you want to share with us, please do! I think you are doing such a great job.

With love,
Nici

Comments (22)

nuggets: moonshadow

Andy and I woke at the same moment. 4:17am, the glowing moon washing our room with ghost-blue light. We don’t have curtains and every full moon, it seems our space is washed by celestial illumination. How is it possible that a rock that is 230,100 miles away can light my bedroom from the inside out? It’s magic and I can feel it. I am always sleepless and stirred in a way that is bigger than me, tossing around in lunar dust.

Andy got up, wide awake. I entered into a hazy, in-and-out sleep for a few hours where I thought about the things. How I want to make all my own clothes, I missed soccer sign ups, I need to get my plane ticket to San Francisco, I look forward to next fall’s road trip with my kids, I am frustrated that I had to fire my web designer and start over, I am so pleased that my garden is off to a great start, I ought to read more books.

Lately, when I wake in the middle of the night I have a song in my head. Every single night around 2am I wake up with lyrics on repeat. I started writing them down last week: Beyoncé’s Halo, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, Pearl Jam’s Daughter, Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands. On the full moon night: Cat Steven’s Moonshadow.

And if I were to do a mashup and make my own soundtrack perhaps it’d go something like this:

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through my darkest night
She holds the hand that holds her down
She will rise above
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
It’s like I got this music in my body and it’s gonna be alright
Yes, I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow
Moon shadow
Moon shadow

One of the things on my mind on this morning was wanting to share about our spring break. The one that happened several weeks ago. I’m getting used to this — the documenting things well after the fact. When I first started writing here (nine years ago!) I would feel like it was too late to write about a thing that happened last week. My life doesn’t allow for me to write here as often right now. And the practice of remembering, looking back at my notes (I make notes all the time about what I want to write about) and telling a story is a good one.

I actually wrote quite a bit while in our cabin in the woods. The old fashioned way: by a raging wood stove, raging pen and paper. I managed to spook myself pretty good that night and I hope to get that whole story out one way or another sometime soon. Boo.

Spring Break nuggets. We stayed home mostly, with one little adventure away.

:: Andy has a new painting on exhibit at the Brink Gallery in downtown Missoula. We went to the opening briefly. Although only there for 12 minutes, my kids managed to eat a cupcake and two fistfuls of licorice. I had wine.

:: Last days of skiing, first bare feet in the creek.

:: Long, tiring days in the garden. Planning layout, planting seeds (early April: radish, peas, spinach, arugula, lettuce, onion, beet, carrot). My kids still love to count worms and millipedes, to dig in compost and hang out with me all day in the dirt. And this mama still loves those days so very much.

:: I rented a forest service cabin for a few days but the girls and I ended up only staying one day. Long story short: I had some fear, ignited by neighboring campers and decided that even though my fear was likely way out there and even though I wanted to stay, I realized that the whole reason I get out into the wilderness with my kids is to relax and run free with them and I wasn’t doing that. I was uneasy and having wild, dark thoughts. So we stayed one night, went for a great hike and then left.

 

:: We then drove to a different forest service cabin our friends’ had rented (that was luckily only 1.5 hours away!) and stayed a night with them instead. It was the perfect elixir to remedy my previous night’s head trip.

:: On the way home we picnicked on the Big Hole River, stopped and swam at Fairmont Hot Springs and hit this giant slide in Anaconda. When we showed up there were two teenage couples making out under the slide. At first they didn’t stop so I gave them a compassionate mama stink eye where I communicated Just ease up a bit, friends. We will be outta here in no time. They understood but acted put out. Goodness I remember being a teenager so well.

:: The kids taught me about the brand new thing the kids are doing at school. When two people say the same thing at the same time they say Jinx! Pinch! Poke! You owe me a coke! Isn’t it amazing that these rites of passage swell up at the exact same times, generation after generation? Same handclaps, same games, same side ponytails and jump rope songs. Anyway, they are REALLY into this Jinx thing and I listen to it approximately 17 times an hour. Lots of hypothetical cokes owed.

:: Ruby made markers for the carrots and beets.

:: One day, I was in the garden while the kids played in the field. They went inside the house and came out with lunch for me. Margot said, “It seems like you are working so hard and that you need to feed your body.” She had made me a sandwich of hummus, pickles, bean spouts and tomato. And a tangelo. It was delicious and heart-melting.

After days of the sisters playing outside at home, I overheard Margot say to Ruby, “Isn’t is so fun to just play just you and me? Like, we really don’t need toys or anything but each other.” I quietly smiled from the hallway, enjoying that moment and those words I happened to hear. And of course knowing that quite soon feelings of boredom or annoyance would surface. They do because that is life: moods and feelings are like the moon’s pull on the ocean. Rising and falling, reactive and strong.

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?
*

*from Cat Stevens, Moonshadow

Tagged , | Comments (22)

nuggets: finally it’s the first day of spring!

I started composing this on the first day of spring, adding thoughts and photos over the last few weeks. And then adding thoughts and photos just before spring and it’s quickly grown to monstrous size but I’m rolling with it. Welcome to the giant nugget post.

(I was reading this to my kids and Ruby has asked if I could change her name to Bob for a while)

Bob emerged from her bedroom, a halo of yellow bed-headed hair. I was on the couch, drinking coffee and reading. She fell into me with her toothless smile. “Finally it’s the first day of spring!” she yawned as she fell onto my lap completely unaware of the coffee.

Question to those with older children: do they ever notice the cup of coffee in your hand before diving into a morning snuggle? I’ve become incredibly skilled at keeping the hot, caffeinated liquid inside the mug with a wiggling child on lap.

Indeed it’s spring. Finally! I think we always feel a bit that way with every season. We love winter. We ski and sled and ice skate. We eat oats my the fire and resist getting out of our warm beds in the morning. And we look forward to spring. We dream of that day when will be able to stand in a non-breezy spot and, if the sun is directly on us, it actually feels warm.

Springish nuggets.

:: The girls designed and made little creatures mostly all by themselves. Margot has decided that even if she doesn’t make enough money she wants to work with owl research and rescue. Specifically she’d like to “study them and cure them when they are injured.” Bob wants to BE a kitty when she grows up.

:: Moody spring hikes with friends have taken us up mountains. Our kids used to be on our backs and shoulders and now they run ahead of us begging us to hurry up.

:: I shared this on instagram but want to share here too because it’s my new favorite trick: you can place the white roots of spent green onions in water and continue to harvest the greens for weeks and weeks! They just keep growing.

:: Andy has been planning to build a bench to sit on Alice’s gardenside grave. We went to Home Resource to find materials and instead found an already-made bench. It’s constructed from salvaged materials and is just perfect. We all sit there often, especially the kids. Here playing a game in caves. I heard Margot say, “Quick! Hide! Wolf 12 o’clock!” as Mabel ambled up to sit. Our dog is quite good at pretend play.

:: Our ski season is wrapping up. We went almost every weekend. We plan for the expense of ski passes all year and it is always a stretch to make the purchase. And it always feels so worth it when we get to spend our days together, outside, enduring all kinds of weather — both literally and metaphorically. The chairlift conversations with my kids are among the best I’ve ever had. It’s what we do and I love it.

:: The secret sister snowball ambush.

:: Andy and I had a ski date, just the two of us, on one blissful, powdery, sunshiney day.


:: Margot, Bob and I made these little birdie biscuits. The recipe is HERE. They were great fun to make and eat. They are slightly sweet and wonderful with butter and apricot jam.

:: Full moon walk with my baby girl. My favorite part was our conversation about the big, bright moon. On the still, dark trail she found a round rock and we used the flashlight on my phone to show how the sun shines light on the big rock in the sky. “Mama, it’s really pretty amazing.” She’s so big and strong and capable now. I like that she still fits in the bike trailer and falls asleep on me.

:: Garden bits.

:: Easter bits.

:: Sisterly bits.

:: Bob loves to help with dinner every night. Completely unassisted, she chops and sticks sticky notes on chairs with our names. She finds great joy in directing where we sit and how we dish up. On this night: she made a salad that looks like a monster and a desert surprise in those muffin cups (marshmallow with chocolate chips). I made polenta with toasted pine nuts and green onion.

:: Our Artful Homestead Gathering has changed shape. Paige Green and I had originally planned a 3 day gathering but received valuable feedback suggesting people didn’t have enough time to plan for a big, expensive trip. This is our first time doing this and we greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to make suggestions! Thank you. We listened and simplified it: One day: May 28 / Windrush Farm / Chileno Valley, CA / $200. There are just a few spots left. Join us? Read all about it and sign up HERE. (I know that is a ridiculous photo of me but Bob took it and suggested it when I mentioned I didn’t know which photo to use.)

top left photo by Laura Schneider, bottom right photo of Windrush Farm by Paige Green

My kids have spring break this week. We plan to mostly stay home with one little adventure in there. The girls and I are heading into a cabin in the woods for a few days. I am so excited to be unplugged from to-dos and plugged into my awesome kids. Bob plans to collect things, play house and snuggle with me. Margot plans to write a book or two, practice headstands and snuggle with me. Mabel plans to relax and eat and snuggle with me. I plan to be a part of all of that.

 

Comments (15)

Let’s go swimming.

Andy’s alarm goes off for a full minute. It takes him a while to reach his phone to turn off the chirping because he threw his back out. He moves slowly, forcing inhales through the pain. I offer to help and he declines. The rain taps the metal roof just above our dry heads as we lay under down and linen in the dark. The furnace kicks on.

He gets up first, he always does. I hear the click of our espresso machine button. I feel around the floor for the hoodie I took off last night. I walk gently down the hall, avoiding the three floorboards that creak. Andy tunes the radio to NPR. Another terrorist attack. In Brussels, he says.

The familiar words reach our ears. I hate that they are familiar. Isis. Extremist. Suicide bomber. 26 dead. 30 dead. Retaliation. War. Terror. Terrorist. Terrorism.

The rain lets up. I feel the wetness in my bones. The heaviness of rain sinking into soil. Washing the streets clean, adding volume to rivers, feeding gardens. Relentlessly nourishing. Pure love. Steadfast. The cool, clear, generous liquid that gives everything life. Water is the antonym to Terror.

Our daughters are still asleep. Andy leaves for work, kissing me on the forehead with a sigh. Be sure to change the radio station when the kids get up, he says. I nod. He climbs into his old work van and drives away.

I wake the girls, as I often do on school mornings. I spoon their warm, alive bodies. My fingers trace their faces. I coo and hum. I kiss their eyelids and ear lobes. For a moment I forget that moms are wailing 4753 miles away because their daughters were murdered. Just for a moment — and then that information pushes on my chest and my eyes fill with tears. Water pooling, spilling.

They shuffle down the hall, landing on all three squeaky boards. I make egg burritos while they check their hardboiled eggs that have been immersed in dye overnight. We all agree the yellow onion skin and red cabbage leaf dyes are superior. We decide we should dye more eggs. Ten thousand eggs! Piles of beautiful, colorful eggs!

I wonder what our world would look like without guns or bombs. I wish I could sit down and talk with a suicide bomber who believes killing people is his god’s will. I want to understand. How else will this change? I fantasize about a group of moms who conduct a terrorist intervention. Does that sound silly? What’s your idea? When we arrest terrorists they kill more people. When we bomb them back, they bomb more. What is this pushing us toward? What next?

Let’s go swimming. Naked bodies of every skin color and faith, floating in the cool current. We’d realize how little control we have. How beautiful it is to not know what happens when we die. To feel buoyant and blissed out. We’d inhale a deep breath and submerge and hear all the gods of all the religions telling us stop trying to dam the ancient canyons of another’s heart. They’d sing a lullaby about a great flood that sweeps us all up and sets us down on a mountain top to dry. The great flood sunk all the weapons and all the hate to the bottom of the deep, new sea. We are left with only each other. We listen and learn and love, unarmed.

Laying in bed with Ruby last night, she told me she missed being a baby. She feels sad when remembering nursing and being held all the time. She didn’t blink when she told me this, her eyes steady and serious. Like, if she concentrated on her words enough, if I understood enough — we could rewind time. I’d hold her tiny body to mine and she’d gulp milk from my body as she fell asleep.

I think about keeping my kids home from school today. If they even suggest it, I am ready to abandon work and spend our day playing memory and baking bread. If this life is to be so painful and short and so stunning and expansive, maybe I ought to do this differently. I daydream about walking deep into the woods with my family and living an intimate life, holding hands with the season’s quiver. I like that daydream and I know I am meant to do more. Maybe.

But my kids are excited for school. Margot ties her hair in low pigtails – one with a crooked black bow – and wears her favorite black leggings and talks about plans to finish the story she is writing about the dog named Ranger who is lost in China. She tucks her lunchbox into her polka dot backpack and jumps rope in the kitchen. Ruby is excited to get a new library book and to hand out clementines for snack. She wiggles her loose tooth with her tongue as she tries to master the double knot on her new sneakers.

The house is quiet after my daughters leave. I watch two magpies build a nest out our living room window. The male and female take turns flying away and returning with a single twig to tuck into their home. They’ve been at it for weeks. Driven by instinct and survival, they just keep building the nest as strong and warm and secure as they possibly can, tucked deep into the high branches of a blue spruce. They see the raccoons and hawks and me. They build it anyway.

Comments (34)