Today…

A collection of impressions:

Feeling : Quiet. Calm. Reflective. The rush of sudden repairs and reorganizations of this past week are past and we’re rediscovering routine.

Thinking : About the books I’m reading currently, especially The War on Boys – which rings disturbingly true to me as I watch the people around me build a culture in which men and boys are ‘canceled,’ dismissed, demeaned, or neglected. Thinking of ways to build up my boy in a world that doesn’t want him. Thinking of ways to build up my daughter to find her strength is love not in the denigration of others.

Watching : My two loves playing wild in the sunlight and soft air of spring.

Planning : for midsummer Communions, dance recitals, garden-building, new pigs, and upcoming visits from family and friends.

Praying : To the Three-Handed Virgin and the Infant of Prague.

Loving : all the green-growing world around me! The trees have finally woken up. The ferns are unfurling, the flowers are just beginning to remember themselves, and the whole woods is shifting and shaking off the cold at last!

Tell me, how are you today?

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Five Freedoms of Tiny House Living

A snow-covered, mountian bungalow, tucked beside cedar trees, or a modern, American yurt on the outskirts of the Brown Mountains: nearly everyone who spends time scrolling Instagram or Pinterest will tell you of one or two tiny houses that have caught in their imagination and started them wondering: how practical are these elvish-dwellings? Do they work in real life or would they trap you in squashed quarters for years, lamenting that decision to settle in a 500 square foot cottage instead of a sprawling suburban house?

Small spaces are practical as well as magical! Really, because tiny houses get bigger the longer you live in them. Or, at least, they start to feel bigger. My 460 square foot yurt felt tiny when I first moved into it, with my husband, almost 8 years ago. I wondered how I would ever adjust to such a small house – where would I put everything? But now, with two kids, a dog, added to the mix, that same little house feels so much bigger somehow. So go ahead and indulge yourself in designing you tiny dream home! You’ll find shrinking your walls will add more freedom to your life within!

1. Freedom from Isolation:
Tiny houses build intimacy!
Ok, tiny houses can’t exactly force you to engage with your significant other, or sit down and actually listen to your 5 year old’s story, but you can’t exactly escape them either. In a tiny house, you physically close to the people you live with. All the time. And living that close to someone everyday makes getting closer to them emotionally easier, because you can’t exactly go off into the basement and watch Godzilla movies all night. You don’t have a basement, if you want to watch movies, you’ll have to do it together.
When you spend most of everyday rubbing shoulders with the people you love, you have a chance to get to know them even better than you expected to. You realize that they have habits and expressions you never noticed before. And in a tiny house, you notice you have habits and expressions too.

2. Freedom from Hassle:
Tiny houses are low maintenance.
One of the things you have to know about tiny houses is that they can start looking messy really quickly. You just don’t have a lot of places to tuck things so they’re out of sight. But while they’ll look mussed up pretty quickly, they clean up quickly as well. I can deep clean my whole house in a day. And by deep clean, I mean washing the walls, organizing the drawers, everything. And all that without a vacuum!
Tiny houses don’t demand a lot. They use less heat than larger houses, less electricity, and a 20 minute tidy is enough to have your whole house comfortably clean and ready for guests. Don’t worry, you can fit more people than you’d expect in a tiny house! Parties aren’t out of the question, they just take a bit more planning.

3. Freedom from Marketing:
Tiny houses are a minimalist’s dream!
Your house doesn’t need to be filled with things to avoid looking empty. In fact, your tiny house can’t handle all the little bits of plastic and metal at Target. It can really only hold the few things you really love. Everything else looks like clutter, no matter how cute or clearanced it was. In a tiny house, you start viewing advertising differently. You’re like a dinner guest who has eaten her fill of an amazing pomagranate and avocado salad – she can admire all the pretty cakes on the desert cart, but she doesn’t actually want any of them.
Decorating your tiny house is so much simpler too. It needs fewer things, and it isn’t overwhelming when the whole house follows the same theme. 500 square feet of vintage, rockabilly decor is funky; 2000 square feet and it starts to look a little forced.

4. Freedom from Stagnation:
Tiny houses welcome the quirky explorer in all of us!
Living in a tiny house, you spend way more time out of doors than the average family. So you’re out under the stars -throwing garden parties or bonfires and hiking or running in the summer sun instead of working out on that treadmill or watching tv.
Tiny houses were designed to make exploration easier! Some of them are portable, and those that aren’t are easier to shut down for a season while you finally take that trip to Iceland. With a tiny (or none at all) mortgage to match, tiny houses won’t hold you back from getting to know this amazing planet of ours.

5. Freedom to Express Yourself:
Tiny houses are cool. And they emphasize your unique ‘brand’!
More than the conventional American home, a tiny house lets you be entirely yourself! From bohemian yurts to mod, re-imagined box-car houses to Airstream trailers, a tiny house conforms to your personality, rather then altering you to fit a predesigned lifestyle.
Because they’re so easy to customize and so intimately connect to the energy of their owners, tiny houses become havens – little nests of creativity and individuality to help you see just how awesome you really are!

Tiny houses don’t put limits on what you can do, they’re easy to build, easy to add on to if needed, easy to care for, and the ultimate in cozy, close-knit family living. Don’t be afraid to move in and make yourself at home!

 

How We Pared Down Our Belongs to Fit in 460 Square Feet!

When Seth and I were first married we rented a two bedroom apartment in town with a lot of space and a tiny yard. It was such a pretty place! And we filled it with all our things. The second bedroom became a pottery studio, we had a dining room with a little writing nook and a bright front room full of plants.

Then we found our beloved land and we jumped into off-grid life in a one room yurt. A lot of things had to go before we could move into our tiny new house, and we had no idea how to go about reducing our belongings!

Because we were going from a conventional apartment to an off-grid yurt, we could easily give away everything that depended on electricity: mixer, toaster, curling iron.. but what about all the clutter?

*

If Konmari had been around in 2010, I would have been all over it! But it wasn’t. And honestly, minimalism wasn’t even on my radar. But we needed to downsize in a major way.

First, we took a close look at our new space. Or, the floor anyway.. our yurt was so delayed in production that we were actually tenting on our land for a week before we could set it up, with all our things tucked in a second-hand shed we threw up as quickly as possible. But we walked the platform, and decided just what we really wanted to have in our tiny, new house: a bed, the little rattan couch, a table to eat at, some shelves, books, a counter to work at and an altar. Everything we were uncertain about, or divided on stayed in that rickety old shed or was sent off to the donation box.

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We had so much extra space in that brand-new yurt and we loved it! So many things that seemed so essential in the apartment were never moved into the new house. We didn’t want to clutter up it’s fresh interior with things that we didn’t actually miss. And so they stayed tucked away in the old shed until winter came and the snowload crushed the roof of the shed and all it’s trinkets were damaged in the rust and wet of snow and metal.

Kind of wasteful..

if I’d been more thoughtful and intentional about this move, I could have donated all that stuff and saved the mess. But I wasn’t. I was new at all this and careless. I still have some of the shed to tear down, actually.  We’re going to use the old metal to re-roof the outhouse and build a pig-shed. So we’re salvaging some of the waste!

You don’t have to know what you’re doing to move into a tiny house! You just go with it and maybe realize 3 years later that you brought in too much stuff, or got rid of too much. It’s an adjustment – most of us are learning to live counter-culturally, against the consumerism we used to know. And that can be super hard. Don’t make it harder by thinking you have to do it all at once, or do it right the first time. You don’t. We certainly didn’t!

We went tiny by giving up about a third of our belongings, donating books and appliances, gifting friends with some of our extra dishes, papering the outhouse with old poetry books, and leaving lamps for the new renters at our old apartment (we asked them first!); we moved about a third of our things into the yurt and ended up culling more than half of those original belonging again a few years later; and we wasted a third, mostly books and burnable wood furniture (thank goodness!) by storing it for a while in hopes of finding or building a home for it.

If I were to do it again, I’d give up more and save less. But that’s what houses are all about, they grow with us. They embrace our attitudes and intentions, and flourish as we truly get to know them. Journeys aren’t everything, but they’re amazing ways to learn.

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End of Winter Burnout: Homeschooling During the Dull Months

March has been such a hard month these past few years! Winter never ends early anymore, we have all the blizzards and grey skies in March now and keeping our motivation in schooling is hard when all we want to do is sleep, drink coffee, and cry over each new foot of snow.

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But we’re working through it. We’re midway through Lent – Lent is all about self-discipline and we are building ours together! But “working through it” doesn’t mean we grind all our joy down in the pursuit of a consistent education, so we do take time out to rest and restart.

We try to keep a consistent daily reading schedule: Bible, catechism, history (we’ll be jumping from early American History, which we’ve been slowly working through for the past two years, to Ancient History! I’m excited to see how the books we found work out.), nature, saints, and some small fairy stories. Or if it’s a really lazy day, at least we read the Bible and some fairy tales. The consistent morning reading helps us connect and focus a bit even if the rest of the day is casual.

But in March, we don’t always do focused work everyday. Math, copywork, grammar, etc are subjects we might chose to pass by for the sake of a tromp in the snow, a painting day, or just a slow day of reading and play. These little breaks help so much to keep our motivation up and not fall too deep into the late winter blahs.

Today is one of those slow days.

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We read in the morning, and then I left the kids alone to play for a long while. They spent some of the time outside in the snow, some of the time watching Seth build the chimney at my parent’s cabin, and then some time reading together downstairs at their grandparents’ house. Late March is a wonderful time for Seth to get caught up on projects at the vacation cabin, and my parents will be up at Easter to celebrate with us, so the more he can do in Lent, the better!

I like to give the kids a break from schoolwork on days that Seth is working because they love helping him build. They’re learning something tangible and valuable by building or painting with their daddy. And the lazy days help us renew our delight in schooling. It’s lovely to build a schooling schedule around the seasons, letting the slow late-winter times inspire a bit more hygge and a little less industry.

Do you struggle to stay motivated homeschooling, homesteading, or in some other aspect of daily life? How do you deal with burnout in the cold months?

Exploring Natural Make-up

I don’t really like natural, hippie makeup.

At least, not on me. I like lots of blacks and greys and a bit of intensity.

Not too much..I’m sort of ‘yurt-goth’, I guess.

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kinda…

like all aspects of my life, I like to classify my make-up under the term Cyganeria – a sort of artistic bohemia that allows me to be both expressively dark and grounded in nature. My make up, style, domesticity, writing, and even homeschooling all fall under this sort of impressionistic translation of cyganeria.

But back to make up… I don’t want a palette of peaches, pinks, and salmons to spread on my face. I shun beiges and taupes. I like cool colours, dark colours, and intense pigmentation. And yes, I’m finally insisting on ethical, sustainable, small-scale production, ideally from people I can see and know and engage with. People who will be mixing up their colours without the help of underpaid workers in China or Indonesia.

And so far, I’m finding some awesome products!

I’m kinda surprised., honestly.

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I didn’t expect to be so impressed. But my two favorites right now are Moonrise Creek – – and Rituel de Fille. Moonrise Creek is an Etsy shop, I’ve tried (and loved!) their liquid foundation, concealer, and powder. It’s hard to find a good, natural, ethically made foundation. Before transitioning away from problematic companies, I was using Kat von D’s very-full-coverage foundation, and I loved it. Moonrise Creek’s products are very different. They cover differently and they feel different on my skin. The texture was one of the first things I noticed about their products – the foundation feels amazing – nourishing and smooth but not at all heavy or oily. It doesn’t cover as fully as Kat von D (but really, what does!) but it does provide a smooth and consistent coverage. I use the concealer primarily under my eyes and it brightens and covers as well as the drugstore brand I used to us!

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Rituel de Fille is a more prominent brand than Moonrise Creek – I think they’re even sold at a department store – but the quality and intentionality seems impressively intact. I bought three of their eye soots a couple years ago and they’ve become staples in my little make up box. Recently, I added Rituel de Fille’s Eclipse and Ghost Light pigments to my collection, as well as two of their lipsticks. I adore these products, I can feel the quality and I’m thrilled with the simplicity and witchy-intentionality of the ingredients.

 

Both brands fit with my cyganeria style, can handle our ‘out in the elements’ lifestyle and manage to avoid violating my ethical intentions! I’m still in search of some good mascara that won’t clump or feel chemically near my eyes, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find one! The world is full of people trying to build a cleaner, kinder culture by improving all the little things!

 

(This is not a sponsored post, just a personal opinion. I tried these products, liked them, and thought you all might be interested. I get nothing from anyone if you click on any links! But don’t let that stop you. Check them out!)

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

Overall..

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.

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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.

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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!