Lenten Reading

Lent is such an idea time for more serious reading, don’t you think?

This past weekend I started up a couple new books and began rereading a long-lost favorite. It’s so nice to have new books around, they’re kind of distracting and – while only two of them actually fit in my purse, they all end up in the car with me where-ever I go, just in case I have a moment to sit down with one of them.


Full Moon Feast, by Jessica Prentice, was recommended to me by Sara B, in the comments here when I first started exploring traditional diets and fermented foods. I’ve had it on my list of books to read ever since and only just now scooped it up. It’s a fantastic Lenten companion because of the emphasis on seasonal eating – slow, local foods, and the earth’s own shift from feast to fast to feast again. We’re in a fasting season and the author’s words of patience and calm anticipation are helping me appreciate the nourishing, late-winter feel of Lenten meals.

The rituals of Lent revolve around prayer and almsgiving as well as fasting, and Prentice’s words bring all those disciplines into the world of food. She reminds us just how important the quality of life of farmers and migrant workers is in our food culture. How devastating the huge agri-businesses are for the people growing and harvesting the food, as well as for the environment. And while we are not in a place to give alms in any large sense right now, we can choose to buy from local farmers, buy in season, and use our own, home-grown produce and meats as much as possible. (though obviously meats have to wait until after Lent. Prentice also highlights the value of prayer in our relationship to food. Not in the same way I might, but by building rituals of intentional, grateful, hospitable eating into daily life she is giving her readers an opportunity to “pray without ceasing” through a consistent attitude graceful receptivity.  I am only at the second chapter, The Sap Moon, and I already feel so at home with the author’s image-laden, poetic style and gentle reflections. It’s a beautiful book.


Woman and the Salvation of the World, by Paul Evdokimov, is my other entirely new book this month. It was recommended to me in Michael Martin’s The Submerged Reality and I’m fascinated even as I slowly work through the introduction. It’s not an ideal book for reading while small children play “The Floor is Lava” all around you, but Evdokimov’s writing is exciting enough to make it worth weathering the distractions. The writing itself is delightfully readable – if you’ve wandered through John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or Tolstoy’s final chapters of War and Peace you won’t find any trouble with the text. But if you happen to be a bridge between two safe spaces in a sea of lava..you might have to go over a few paragraphs more than once. Evdokimov’s book reminds me of John Paul II in a lot of its emphases and in its general presentation of the complementarity of men and women. He writes as an Orthodox Christian and his book is overflowing with the wisdom of the early Church Fathers, something the western Church sometimes tends to neglect in favor of later thinkers. I’m excited to see just how much his book continues to remind me of John Paul II as well as his presentation of Matriarchy, Patriarchy, and Feminism.


And my long-lost favorite: The Desert Fathers, selected and translated by the amazing Helen Waddell. I love the desert Abbas and Ammas.. I love the wisdom and gentleness of these solitary ones. I love most of all St. Macarius who helped robbers when he caught them stealing his few belongings and sent them on their way with his blessing and all his possessions. This book gives me so many little icons of holiness to meditate on this season and so much guidance in the turmoils of our place and time. It’s my favorite book to settle down with in the mornings, while I wait for the coffee to steep.

What are you reading this season, and how is it forming you? I’d love to know!


DIY Face Wash and Other Projects

I’m working on becoming the homesteader I’ve always dreamed of being.

You know, the one who doesn’t sleep in her make up.

The one who buys sustainable, ethical brands and mixes up her own facial products.

The one who actually follows through on all these goals and doesn’t get distracted by drugstore products and pretty Sephora brands.

Yeah…I’m a work in progress.


But this weekend I cleaned out my makeup box!

I don’t have a ton of makeup, but I only wear about half of it anyway, so I purged the unloved products and made plans for sustainable replacements for well-loved but less-than-ethical options. I’m in search of a new foundation. There are all sorts of DIY recipes online and I’m planning to play around with a few of them this month. I’ll let you know how it goes!

As for face washes.. I’ve found something I love!


It’s honey. Well..honey and apple cider vinegar. It makes a gentle scrub/mask and I when I add a bit of coffee essential oil it’s a gentle waking up sort of formula as well!

The great thing about honey and vinegar is that they’re so nourishing and moisturizing, but at the same time they’re deeply cleansing and my skin feels soft and clean but not at all stripped.

It’s also a super forgiving recipe. I’m really into forgiving recipes:

1/2 cup honey

1/8 cup vinegar

5 drops coffee essential oil

2 drops frankincense essential oil

More honey and less vinegar will just make it thicker, more vinegar and less honey will make it thinner and a bit more toning. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to make it even more moisturizing. Blend it really well and you can store it for months without a problem..honey and vinegar just don’t go bad!

I massage it into my face for a few minutes and then rinse it off in warm water. Then I moisturize with a calendula-infused olive oil balm. It’s pretty addictively indulgent, in my opinion!

Check it out! And let me know how it works for you!

My Whole 30 Experience

I did it! I completed a Whole 30 two days before jumping into Lent! And wow. It was a pretty incredible experience.


Big salads with eggs..a huge part of my Whole 30 meal plan! 

I loved Whole 30. I loved it so much, I’m already planning a May or June repeat…and possibly September. It was a great experience!

So what exactly did I love about it?

  • I loved the food! We eat pretty well most of the time, but I learned how to work with veggies to build a base for my meals in a whole new way! All the supportive functions I used to assign to grains translated so well to sweet potatoes and greens, and I loved how the over-abundance of veggies made my meals look  – as well as how good they tasted!
  • My asthma – yep! My primary reason for doing Whole 30 – it actually worked to help improve my lung health in a huge way! I could feel a difference within the first two days. By day 8, I was seeing an 80% improvement in my breathing. I hardly needed any of my extra lung supports and I had so much energy. By day 15, I could carelessly forget my mullein tea in the evening. I am not saying Whole 30 cured my asthma, it just made dealing with it easier for me and helped my lungs recuperate after a brutal month of winter-cold.
  • The structure. I loved knowing what was and wasn’t compliant and being able to just say ‘no.’ It’s kind of thrilling to explore food within a system of rules for a while and see what you come up with! Without access to sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy, I found myself playing with spices more often and piling caramelized onions on everything!

Coconut cream, nutmeg, and last summer’s blackberries. It was amazing.


And the challenges, well…

  • No alcohol also means no vanilla; no sugar also means no elderberry oxymel (honey); and I could not find Whole 30 compliant bacon anywhere. It was so sad! But I got over it, and now I’m in Lent and Lent has no compliant bacon at all – except maybe this one – which, by the way, I’m probably going to make soon!
  • Jumping into Whole 30 and then not being able to make it to the store for 3 days…planning ahead is a good thing! I pretty much lived on eggs, goat, and lettuce for my first weekend. Luckily I was all gung-ho about it and so I pushed through..but make sure you have all the sweet potatoes and onions handy when you dive it! That said, you don’t need all the crazy lists of expensive ingredients either! You can do a happy Whole 30 without almond or coconut flour, sparkling water, and compliant jerky! Just eat what’s pretty and easy to work with!
  • Fellow women, fair warning..Whole 30 might mess with your cycle. Maybe a lot, maybe a little, maybe not at all. When your body is adjusting to a super-clean diet and missing out on all the sugars it used to turn into hormone-storing fat..those hormones have to go somewhere! Just be prepared, and if Whole 30 is giving you the longest period ever or month without a cycle, soak in a nice, hot epsom & baking soda bath as often as possible – every day is ideal! If you have burdock root, throw it in the bath too, and drink some burdock in tea with milk thistle and red raspberry leaf while you’re soaking. Lavender, Clary Sage, and Yarrow essential oils can help in the bath as well.  If you’re pregnant, talk to your midwife before starting Whole 30.

I started making my own sausage too! So much fun!


I. Loved. Whole 30. I lost about 10 lbs of unwanted weight, cleared up some of my respiratory struggles, and ate great food! It was a pretty awesome month.

Have you done a Whole 30? I’d love to read about your experience in the comments!

Becoming Acquainted with The Night

The darkness here is soft and quiet.

Sometimes night is so still we can hear the voices of faraway neighbors over the snow – soft, murmuring voices without words. Sometimes the night is loud: pouring rain on the yurt-roof, coyotes howling, owls, foxes, the wind in the tall pines.

Out under the moon the darkness is gentle, but it carries a hidden power. And sometimes, the night is just a little unsettling. I feel it walking down to check the goats, or searching the sky for Cassiopeia – there’s a waiting feeling in the trees, or in the shadows beside the woodpile. I can greet the darkness and move through it, but my little ones aren’t ready for that yet.


cozy beds with little lights, herbs, and blessing hands make the Night kinder

When they feel the cold shadows, when they wake up all wrapped in darkness and loneliness, that’s the time to introduce them again to the motherhood of Night. To be there – close, warm, gentle – to whisper ‘sleep’ and hold their small bodies in my arms.

I think the night is like a mother, like a dark womb making all of us small again. Children especially become tiny within her. They’re babies again, and the comfort they find as they wake makes it possible for them to develop a new intimacy with the darkness. To fall in love with the moon and greet all the stars in friendship.


It’s funny how our dreams change us. How the night makes everything inside our minds grow wild like poppies in a field. It’s so tender to find that big-kid curled up small under the covers. And it’s so good to give them that gentle intimacy with the nighttime dark. To sing them to sleep in the certainty that their cries will be heard, that the darkness can’t muffle their voices. That there is plenty of time to become acquainted with the night – slowly, and together.



Monday Reflections: Needing Others

Our goal has never been self sufficiency.

Partially because we really like coffee and coffee doesn’t grow in Maine. Primarily because we’re Catholic – Body of Christ on earth – it’s a community. Even the Desert Father’s wove baskets and brought them to market. Self sufficiency makes humility difficult.

We don’t want to be self sufficient. We want to be sustainable. We want to be a place of quiet and hospitality, not a pillar of isolation.

But even so, we’re used to making do and getting by on our own efforts. We’re not used to saying “we need you” to the people around us. Yesterday was different. We said it: we need you.

We set up a Go Fund Me to help with overwhelming car repairs. And something crazy happened.

People responded.

They not only donated money to help us with our car, they sent little messages of prayer. They said “I’m glad you let me know!”

And I cried, just a bit. Because seeing Jesus in the face of every other person around me just got a little bit easier. I realized someone was seeing Jesus in me.

That’s pretty overwhelming too. But in a good way.

We still have a long way to go on funding our car repairs. But in a way, it doesn’t matter.. I’ve seen people reach out to me and I’ve felt that deep comfort of being part of a whole. I’m so grateful to the people who have given, who will give, who want to give but can’t quite make it work in their budget (Believe me I know the feeling!). I’m so grateful for every little prayer. For being tucked on little altars under the Infant of Prague or beside some acorns.

And I appreciate that generosity more than anything. It feels lovely to need and be able to call out. There’s a dignity in it that is easy to see in man on the street but so hard to see in the mirror.

Self- sufficiency is over-rated. I’m hoping this year takes us closer to a sustainable homestead, but one that never forgets the beauty of hospitality, of humility, and of community.

If you want to help us pay for our repairs, please visit our Go Fund Me and know that you’ll be included in all our Lenten prayers! Thank you all!

Spring Cleaning

It’s not spring here.


Not yet anyway. Last night our temps fell below 0 yet again and I could hear the squeak of deep cold against my boots when I went out in the early morning. But Candlemas has passed and Lent is fast approaching – so I’m pretending it’s almost spring and preparing!

How do you Spring Clean?

For us it’s become more than just scrubbing soot off the beams and washing beneath the wood-stoves. Spring cleaning is like Lent – a time to tidy up our home as we tidy up our souls: fast, pray, give.. but in the domestic sphere!


The first thing I like to do is take stock of what’s around me. Too much…way too much. I have a tub under my bed that ought to be holding ingredients for homemade salves and balms..and while it has some ingredients, it also holds envelopes, photos, old letters, empty jars and an old chainsaw chain. Nice housekeeping, huh?

Once I’ve seen just how many places I’ve managed to tuck things, I’m going to pull them out, bit by bit. The Konmari method (which I love) insists on doing this by category, and while that’s wonderful for some tidying, Spring Cleaning is something different! I like to go clockwise around my house and meet each space as it is, reflect on its role, and help it grow. I’ve started with my bed, obviously, and so I’m pulling out all the things tucked beneath, thinking of my intentions for this space, and removing what stifles those intentions. My ingredients, and all their sundry companions will have to go somewhere else. But as I’m going through them, I’ve noticed a lot of them could be used right now..so I’m making salves. Calendula blossoms and comfrey leaves steeping in olive oil; coffee beans steeping in shea butter and coconut oil; I’ll be adding essential oils and beeswax later and whipping them up as they cool for Easter basket beard or body balms.


You can’t see all the things tucked under the bed .. but they’re there. Waiting.

The point of Spring Cleaning isn’t merely to wash and de-clutter and make all the things orderly, its to create something fresh in the new season that’s approaching. As I work through the spaces of my home, I try to apply the pillars of Lent to each area (or room, if you have rooms.) I greet each area with a prayer, incense, and reflection – How can I make this space new? – then as I clean it out, tend to it, shape it’s atmosphere – I can find the things that ought to go to a new home, or have reached the end of their lives. I find projects I never finished and sit down with some of them for a day or two. I try to de-clutter with an eye to giving – and finish up projects for others before sitting down with something for myself. And most importantly for me, I’m Cleaning, not redecorating. During Spring Cleaning I’m not going to buy those baskets that would be so perfect for storing potatoes and onions, or a lovely bunch of clear glass spice jars. Instead I’ll be cleaning out without taking in and allowing my mind to rest in the space I’ll create.


It stayed like this for all of 5 minutes before Ilya went rummaging through the kindling basket for a “sword”.

It’s a long process, but I’ve got a small house and 40 days to work through it! And I’ve stocked up on lemon, lemongrass, and yarrow essential oils! I like to put lemon in my dish soap, lemongrass in with my Murphy’s Oil Soap for all the wood-washing, and Yarrow in with the laundry – though it’s blue so add it to the wash after there’s a lot of water in there, or put it on one of those wool dryer balls if you have a dryer.

I also mix lemon into a Scrubbing Paste with baking soda and castile soap for scrubbing the tub and the white stove. It works wonderfully and the scent is fantastic! Usually the ratio is:

about 5 drops lemon EO

1/2 cup baking soda

1 tablespoon castile soap (unscented)

and about 1/8 – 1/4 cup warmish water

then I scoop a bit up on a rag and start scrubbing! It’s gently enough that I can, on warm days use this on my plastic-yurt-windows as well!

My Spring Cleaning tends to be overdone and enthusiastically obsessive, like me..it extends outward from the house and suddenly I’m purging my email and social media.. sweeping out all the clutter from my car, and before I know it, Spring has actually arrived and I can start cluttering up my world with flowers and muddy boot-prints all over again. It’s all part of a delightful cycle that never quite arrives at perfection, at least, not in this life!

Happy Cleaning!


Bookish Thoughts: The Quotidian Mysteries

It’s no secret that I adore the writing of Kathleen Norris. I found The Cloister Walk to be such a rich work of poetic reflections and gentle spiritual imagery. Dakota is an equally compelling look at rural life, and in The Quotidian Mysteries, the blend of lectio divina; a deep, quiet feminism; and joyful domesticity earns it a cozy place among my beloved books of inspiration.


The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and ‘Women’s Work’ is the text of the 1998 Maleleva Lecture in Spirituality, given by Norris at St. Mary’s College, in Notre Dame. In it, she explores ‘the quotidian’ or daily things, that “ground us in the world”.  A deeply personal and reflective little book – full of poetry, stories, spiritual reflection, and scripture.

All of Norris’ writing is grounded in experience. She fills her books with life-details and snatches of memory. The Quotidian Mysteries is no exception. We begin with an account of her first Catholic Mass, and her enthusiastic recognition of the priest’s domesticity “puttering about the altar, washing up after having served so great a meal to so many people. It brought the mass home to me and gave it meaning. It welcomed me, a stranger .. after the experience of a liturgy that had left me feeing disoriented, eating and drinking were something I could understand.  That and the housework.”


She goes on to acknowledge the ways in which “those daily chores..[have] come to seem the root of women’s oppression.” but while doing so, consistently brings the quotidian out of the realm of oppressive duty, ‘women’s work’ in the dismissive sense, and into the realm of the holy. It is “the work of the priest at mass” – and so a priestly role. But because we are a culture that has turned away from household gods and the quiet power of dwelling within the household, the work of the home-priest or priestess is abandoned. It is “precisely because it is so important, so close to us, so basic, so bound up with home and nurture [that] it is considered to be of less importance than that which is done in public.” 

In “Laundry, Liturgy, and ‘Women’s Work’ ” Norris rebuilds the domestic altar, grounding it in her experiences in both Catholic and Protestant worship but extending it beyond Christian circles through reflections and poems by Buddhists, secular feminists, Jewish women, and others. The domesticity of men is not excluded, and Norris highlights the need men have to experience the grounding of quotidian tasks as well as women: “What I do, must be done/each day, in every season,/ like liturgy.” Though her focus is primary on the relationship of women to these daily tasks: “I pray/ to Mary Magdalene, who kept seven/demons,/ one for each day of the week./ How practical; how womanly.


Kathleen Norris also explores, briefly, the despair of the daily: acedia: the noonday demon who plagues those “called to a vocation that is inner-directed” – who, “because of the lack of distraction in their daily lives” can fall into ennui. Throughout The Quotidian Mysteries, the realization that “dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation” is explored in relation to both acedia and the Incarnation of Christ. Norris emphasizes that Christ’s Incarnation subjects Him to the daily as well, as well as the evidence throughout Scripture that “God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things..the meaningless workings of daily life.” and that in stepping into the domestic, in taking up the roll of priestess within the home, we embody God Himself, bring in order out of chaos.

It is a rich and delightful little book, with only one small warning. Norris herself is childless by choice: “whatever I was destined for, it was not motherhood” she write, and while she employs birth and mothering imagery well, she also uses the concept of barrenness within her book. It is not entirely problematic, but – especially for those struggling to conceive and/or longing for children – her reflections on her own conviction against motherhood are painful and though she acknowledges the sensitivity, it’s obvious she’s speaking from the outside in this area. So if you are or have experienced the pain of infertility, read with care.

If you read The Quotidian Mysteries, please, let me know what you though of it!

Blessings and happy reading, all!

Candlemas Lights


We’ve been making a lot of candles this winter.  Thanks to a generous hand-me-down from my mother-in-law – 15 lbs of beeswax! – and a recommitment to avoiding those careless trips into town for one or two things, like lamp oil, we’re been needing to just ‘make do’ for a night or two with candles only. And so we’re spending more time pouring wax into molds (read that: toilet paper rolls and grapefruit peels) and adjusting the blend of waxes in our family candles.

We have about 5 lbs of paraffin, which is inexpensive and adds burning-life to the quick burning beeswax without reducing either the scent or the beauty of the latter. Church candles – and ideally, home-altar candles – must be 51% beeswax at minimum. Our current batch is closer to 80%. They smell amazing and I love the connection with these essential creatures, the link to their nourishment of the green-growing earth. Beeswax candles remind us that spring will come again to the Earth, and as they, like tiny Christs, wait to rise again and renew the world, I burn their votives in the dark nights of winter and wait as well.


This Candlemas we hope to make it into town for early Mass, with homemade tapers and hope-filled prayer for an early spring and a renewed greening of the world.

This winter has been hard on our little homestead in some ways. The deep cold, ice storms, car troubles: we lost our guineas to the cold, and one of the younger chickens seems damaged beyond hope – frost damage on her feet. We’re figuring out this transition to sustainability and home-based incomes, building new rhythms within the home, and longing for the warmth and light of springtime! In Candlemas we greet the growing light, welcome the warmth that is not-yet strong enough to overcome the cold, but is growing slowly.


This year on candlemas we will bless and decorate our candles, set them out in sand on the altar, pray for warmth and spring and abundance in the new year. We’ll drape the Infant of Prague in something lovely – blue or gold silk maybe, or red wool..and put him in a place of honor. And when the night comes, we’ll burn a candle through the night before the Theotokos to keep away the wild night creatures and the spirits of darkness that lurk in unswept corners and hidden trails.

There are so many celebrations in this season! We welcome light and Christ in Candlemas, but St. Brigid’s Day is today’s feast-day, and Imbolc is a similar, beautiful, preChristian welcoming of the light. How do you greet the last full month of winter? What does the coming of Spring mean to you?