back and forth

And here she is, after one full revolution around the sun! Happy Birthday Bird!

Mini honey harvest 2014: Tulip Poplar! Dark and smoky goodness.
 Thank you bees!

The Humble Honeybee

Shameless Plug time, guys!

So, I’ve started a Facebook page to raise awareness of honeybees and native pollinators, and fill it with cool photos, fascinating facts, and the latest in honeybee research. We’re already up to 1,400 likes! Come join us if you’re on the FB. It promises to be totally informative, a tad bit cheeky and not at all intrusive to your newsfeed. Promise.

Long live the honeybee!



Better late than never!

Our ladies’ eggs with local ramp (!) goat cheese, local spinach and local spring onions; a side of the best damn local strawberries you’ve ever had and Farm and Sparrow’s new twist pastry (with local grape jelly!). It would be obnoxious if it wasn’t so amazing.

This is why I love spring.

And Asheville.

And farmers.

And keeping chickens.

And leisurely Saturday morning breakfasts.

Happy “Mother“‘s Day!

Kid insisted on doing this one herself.

     I’ve been a bit discouraged lately. We’ve been hunting for our “forever home” and real farm, and have hit a few snags. Several seemingly perfect properties have been snatched out from under us by buyers making cash offers, and a few are gone before we can even schedule a showing. With our assets tied up in the current house we own, in order to finance a larger farm and property, we’d have to sell our current house - or make contingent offers that hinge on selling our own place in the duration of closing (contingencies aren’t very sexy offers to sellers who are getting cash). To sell our house ahead of time means relocating three dogs, two cats, a flock of chickens, several honeybee hives, a bin of worms, three rabbit hutches and of course, all the homesteading equipment that goes along with each of them (not to mention all the crap that we’ve accumulated in the last 5 years). Oh, and A BABY. Exhausting just to think about, right?

     So, I’d all but given up hope, thinking we’d be stuck in our current house, our garden limited to a few small beds, our honeybees subject to foraging the sprayed fields just down the road, bla bla bla, until we went to the Mother Earth News Fair this weekend (funny story: I was feeling rather claustrophobic from the day-in-day-out child care of the last 10 months and told the hubby, “I need a vacation! Come hell or high water, we’re going to the Mother Earth News Fair, wherever it is this year,” to which he dutifully replied, “Of course darling, we’ll make it happen!” Only to learn it was going to be held in our town, 20 minutes from our house). I haven’t been this giddy or had this much fun in ages. We were surrounded by our people - baby-wearing, organic gardening, mushrooming, chicken- and bee- and worm- and rabbit- and goat-raising, fermenting, homesteading hippies. And then, we go to Sunday morning’s live chicken-processing demo with David Schafer and Joel Salatin, and like any good Sunday morning religious experience, it was uplifting. It was pure inspiration. Pure motivation. It gave me hope that we’ll find our farm, that it’s out there, waiting for us to move in, grow grass and rotate pastures (Joel’s a self-proclaimed “grass farmer,” since the pasture is at the heart of healthy livestock and a healthy farm system). Most people wouldn’t say that about seeing 8 chickens “dispatched,”scalded, plucked and dressed, but to us homesteading types, seeing it completed so respectfully and mindfully by the absolute pros in their field? Well, that’s a pretty perfect Sunday morning.

Me, Ava and Joel at the Mother Earth News Fair, Asheville, NC, 2014.

Yes, I know, there are actually three teeth in this child’s mouth, but that is less about me not being able to count, and more about the fact that mama and papa can’t really get their sh*t together to photograph our babe on time. So, let’s all just ignore the fact that she’s like, 8 years old in this photo. :)

Baby’s first duckface.

Are you getting sick of these yet?

Behind the scenes with mama and the “milestones” chalkboard + sneak peak of month 8!

Showing “midriff” in her great aunt’s vintage baby clothes. Despite the fashion sense, she would have been sent home if she walked into my middle school showing off that belly.

Montessori Mothering
     Seeing as it’s both winter and my 8th month of parenting, we are looking inward on the homestead these days. It’s been an unusually frigid winter, severely lacking in the snow department for my tastes (if it’s going to be cold, it might as well be beautiful!). We’ve had to bring the rabbits inside for several particularly cold nights (we really thought they’d die outside otherwise), but the chickens have fared well and all three hives have survived the first cold snap.

     Inside, we’re looking to the wee one’s development. Now that she’s sitting up on her own, she can use her hands to grasp and grab, manipulate and bring objects to her mouth. She can play with them, see how they work, and gnaw, gnaw, gnaw. We’re employing a combination of Attachment Parenting and the Montessori “method” at home as much as possible. I won’t go into the specifics of either, since a quick Google search will yield more eloquent and knowledgeable descriptions of both. But suffice it to say, I really resonate with both approaches. Montessori, in particular, has sparked a real passion when it comes to how I’m approaching the early education of this tiny human being.

     So, with that in mind, I thought I’d take you on a tour of her room these days - it’s much, much different than the adult-friendly nursery I put together in my prego days. Since her nickname is The Bird we call this room The Aviary.


    Here’s a wide shot of the Aviary. When applied at home to young babies and children, the Montessori philosophy encourages independence, order and building of the will. The ideal child’s room has everything at her level - instead of a crib, a floor bed that she can easily get into and out of. The entire room is, in essence the crib, and is completely child-proofed. Books are her level, simple wooden toys are at her disposal, and pictures are hung on the wall at a level she can see (childproof frames, too, by the way, with no glass and attached to the wall with Command strips).


     Here’s the Bird on her floor bed. My mom likes to joke that she’s like a parakeet with her mirror and her wooden rattle toys! The bed is an organic cotton/wool futon mattress in a full size (I won’t go into how terrible flame retardants are in this post either, but I did my research and am really glad with the route we took). I actually love having a full size - I can nurse her on the bed and lie with her, and, it provides a nice, soft landing for learning how to sit and crawl. The mirror is leftover from the newborn days and is used to get a full view of their room. The idea is that gaining a mental picture of the lay of the land makes it easier and more predictable to navigate later on, when they’re mobile.


     I absolutely love the idea of hanging artwork at the child’s height. As an artist, classically trained pianist, and art therapist by trade, it’s paramount to me to integrate the arts in her life. These frames hold 10 laminated cards with photos on the front and descriptions on the back. We have three: one of great art prints, one set of just Van Gogh’s work, and one with 10 insects and info all about each one (got these on the Michael Olaf [.net] site). They are seriously cool!

     We also have a plethora of wooden toys; we are steering clear of battery-operated toys that render the child a passive participant in play. Traditional toys require engagement, investigation, discovery and focus.


     Obviously, there will be a few modifications made when she’s mobile. I’ll remove all the paper books from the shelf, and only leave a few, chewable ones out. The plant will have to be hung out of reach, and the majority of toys will go in the closet, with just a few on the shelf within reach at a time. Most Montessori home nurseries and play rooms only have a few toys out at any given time and after a few weeks, are rotated for continued interest.


     The Bird’s absolute favorite “toy” at the moment is this treasure basket. Another brilliant Montessori concept, the treasure basket introduces a variety of items of different textures, weights, temperatures, and sounds. In this basket I have metal, wood, silicone/rubber, cloth, and natural objects. She’ll sit in front of it for an hour if I let her, taking things out of the basket, putting them back in, chewing and exploring all of the objects along the way. It is a genius idea and it’s very FREE. My next project is themed treasure baskets organized by material (all wood, all natural, all metal, etc.) and/or color (starting with the primaries, red, blue and yellow).


     And finally, that mobile. Another leftover from the early weeks and months, this kid adores her butterfly mobile! We also have two others: hummingbirds and wild North American birds. Using the Montessori method, any creature or object on a mobile should be found in the sky or in the ocean…birds, butterflies, fish, clouds, dolphins, whales… The nursery, and everything in it, is grounded in reality - the springboard for true imagination.

     Above all else, a Montessori baby’s room should be peaceful, tranquil, orderly and easily accessible. I absolutely love the Aviary - it’s hands down my favorite room in the house. Good thing, too, since we spend most of our days there!

Hoo, boy. Kiddo was not in a good mood for this month’s photo. But with the help of Tia Grande, we managed to squeeze a half-hearted grin out of her!

     I started 2013 off nauseous and pregnant but excited for the year to come. I knew it’d be a big one. In January of 2013 I was working a very stressful job, one that often came home with me and flavored an otherwise easy and beautiful pregnancy. At the time, the hubby and I were elbow deep into watching the entire Battlestar Gallactica series. The Hubs and I knew we should probably catch up on neglected series and get our fill of TV before the wee one came (and, it turns out, we were very right). I also slept. A lot.

And that was just the first 6 months.
     Twenty-thirteen then morphed into the blur of early parenthood when our daughter surprised us - healthy and gorgeous - three weeks early. We three survived the last 6 months of pregnancy, labor, delivery and the first 6 months of parenthood with a lot of mutual support, distraction (in the form of a few memoirs and novels) and lots and lots of chocolate. I couldn’t tell you which half of the year went faster, but I can say quite definitively that 2013 was the most punctuated but messy year of my life…the months were categorized into trimesters and developmental stages, and while neat and tidy by weeks and numbers, my life was otherwise a catastrophic mess of sleeplessness, sore nipples, dirty diapers, dirty dishes, a few tears and laundry. Ah, 2013.

     Baby aside, we did manage to do a few other things. The hubby started a new job and put his freelancing aside for a bit. This put me at home and on the homestead, radically shifting our roles from the last four years. I also entered a new decade of life and have the aches and pains to prove it. In homesteading news, we caught two swarms, raised four new chicks, including a rooster, to add to the flock, and managed to keep all of our furry and feathered charges alive by the skin of our teeth. I grew a squash. I kept up all of my magazine columns, started writing for TAPROOT magazine, starting writing for a local women’s magazine and secured new blog work and potentially (!) a big new writing project for next year. We met an unbelievably amazing group of mamas and papas through our birthing class, and subsequently welcomed all of their babies throughout the month of June with our own. Collectively, they’ve been an indispensable support system, village and sounding board for one of the most chaotic years of my life. I’m so grateful to have them all close by.

     And so, we begin 2014 with a messy house, lots of love in our hearts, and such gratitude for all the friends and family that have supported us this year. I’m spending this last day of 2013 with my babe, at home, cutting masking tape Xs to place on the floor where it’s safe to step without waking the baby at night. This is my life now! It’s cold outside, but all the animals are fed, watered and hunkered down. The dogs are curled on the couch and it’s only a matter of time before I’m nursing the babe down for another nap.

     Last year, I rang in the New Year sleeping soundly. Fingers crossed that’s how 2014 begins. Here’s to another year of joy, love, gratitude and, hopefully, less painful nipples. Happy New Year, friends!