Friday, January 2, 2015

Planting Seeds in Happytown

Happytown: a little community bridging the corners of Ellsworth, Dedham and North Orland. Filled with neighbors who labor as farmers, artists, poets, teachers, lobstermen, lumbermen, librarians, carpenters, small business owners and everything in between--sprinkled with more than a healthy dose of fun-loving musicians. It is a special place that has a rich history of developing connected community that waxes and wanes (and waxes again!) with the ages. The news here is that we are really coming into our own as we seek to ward off big business and future environmental problems through our  Friends of Dodge Hill project and through the recent community acquistion of The Bald Mountain Community Center. We already have a giant land trust (Great Pond Mountain Wildlands) in our backyard and a snug little town nearby for groceries, local made items, and light entertainment ( , but we needed a place to invite others in-- to begin to grow our little community into its potential. Happytown isn't a secret to you keep for yourself, it bubbles up in you and you just want to share it!  More than a year ago, we had started organizing to take over a defunct grange hall-- the one pictured above, The Victory Grange. Hosted at our home, we had an exciting turnout from the Happytown area.
Here is us, starting small, at our first meeting, held at The Nancy Place
We thought hard, imagined big and took many challenging steps to bring the Grange Hall under new management. However, for the aged population of members, the time for revitalization had come and gone and nothing could be done to sway them as they turned the property over to a nearby Grange in Blue Hill. We even got the state involved to try to halt the transfer, but little could be done and the Halcyon Grange, aware of our troubles but in the midst of a capital campaign, promptly put the property on the market. Knowing the property was received at the cost of nothing, we borrowed money from family, put it in the bank and made an offer as individuals-- hoping to get it paid off and then turn it back to the community. However, at the same time, Halcyon received another offer, slightly larger than ours and that was that. What might happen next was anyone's guess. However, there is just no question that Spirit moves in mysterious and generous ways-- because now, at just about a year later-- here  we have it! The most amazing luck; the greatest gift! A community member was the purchaser and although no one really knew him, he took a risk on this little part of the world and began working to manifest the Victory Grange's return to the community-- now known as The Bald Mountain Community Center. So much gratitude, such a generous spirit, and my, aren't we having fun (!) raising money for fixes and upgrades, meeting new friends, dancing, playing music, having bonfires & EATING a ton of delicious, shared, food.
We are still so under-organized and all a little confused about how it will all work, but we are fueled by endless ideas and so, SO, much gratitude! Concerts, community gardens, game nights, Grown-up proms, HS throwbacks, playground games, winter soccer, sliding, yoga classes, art classes, music classes, service window for snowmobilers, our own gas station (come now, that is getting out of hand! but, yes, it was mentioned!). We know well that when we plant the seed, and dream a little while it sits cold in the soil, then we nurture it as it struggles to emerge-- we know well that this creates strength, resiliance, health, and abundance. We will nuture it well, to be sure. We can't wait to share it with you!

A Brand New Community Center
by Maizey

The day before yesterday we had a New Years Day party at the Bald Mountain Community Center.We also had a Solstice party a few weeks earlier. I think a party can be a lot of different things for different people. For instance, to some the meaning of the party is the most important part, like dropping the ball or throwing the Yule Log into the fire.To some a party is just a party-- but to me its about hanging out with your friends and having a good time! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

toward winter

We are fire huddled and weary, but looking back with gratitude and forward with deep anticipation.Winter, once a cold thought-- a dreary prospect to weather through-- has become a sought after respite; a desperate yearning. Although the projects are incredibly back-logged, winter will still enforce its morning and evening curfews and its slower moving days. We will fire-huddle, all together, in one room. We will share read-alouds and quiet and the cabin-fever annoyances that will create the stir-crazy energy. March will help us use that energy to boil sap to syrup and start our greenhouses. The cycle of life and seasons on a homestead, predictable and predictably unpredictable.

This summer we were caught off-guard by the amazing success of using airbnb to sell our temporary rentals.  We were unprepared for the interest in our homestead generated by these customers as well as our pick-your-own blueberry customers. The garden suffered and projects continued to wait. It was all hands on deck from July 1-Nov 1, when harvest season was finally called quits by an early snowstorm. 16 inches of wet, heavy snow that left neighbors without power for several days and snapped trees and fencing without effort. (we have added storm clean-up to the to-do list)

My pantry shows that my energy was swept up by other duties. We have no applesauce this year, fewer pickles, less salsa and zero pressure cooked soups. Still, we somehow managed to stock the freezer with all those 5 am days and 10 pm nights. The fall harvest took a lot of energy, but that too, is in. We could feel a little sad for ourselves about all those missed chances to swim, canoe, hike or join with friends and family for some relaxation. Instead, we see that this is the time in our lives where we CAN make sacrifices AND be totally stoked about it, knowing that we are creating something that we cherish, learning from mistakes and moving forward to create a better world.

We are looking ahead and are hoping to make some changes next season. We will be adding a farm apprentice to our mayhem to help with the animals and gardens. We hope to get at least one more airbnb up and running, as well as fix/finish/add on to the cabin. We want to fence a large section of forest and get some bacon piggies to help us clear it. And we'd really, really like to get organized enough to start a farm stand.  Tall ambitions, but the winter is long and our energy will be well-stored!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blueberries! Yum!

Come on over, the handpicking is awesome! 

Support local farms and come on over to harvest some blueberries! We can pick or rake you some if you are unable to get here during open hours, but we are happy to make individual picking/raking appointments to suit your schedule.  Give us a call, send us a text, shoot us an email! We'd love to have you here at our homestead in Orland, Maine! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pick-your-own wild blueberries

We have a sweet little secret here on the homestead that we are sharing with you all for the first time! The contents of this delicios little field usually heads right to the factory, but this year we are shaking things up a bit and trying something new. We are offering pick your own berries on our remote field-- many wild varieties, they taste the best all mixed together.
Handpicking is open by appointment now, Raking will be open weekends or by appointment August 1st.
Please call ahead and for directions 207-949-0880 or email us at

chicken littles

Today the chicks arrived! They were unexpected, brought in by this stork mama hen who (shame on us) we hadn't even noticed was missing. TEN little chicks, peeping and learning all kinds of wonderful chicken habits. Mama hen didn't hold it against us that we hadn't sent out a search party, and let us hold them and feed them. One was having trouble keeping up, but the girls surmised that her/his weakness was just that s/he was last hatched. By afternoon s/he was doing great. They have now disappeared back to their forest nest. Be well, little chicks! Welcome to the homestead and good night!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bottomless 7/21/14

The endlessly broken car. The frantic to do list. The f-bombing teenager. 
Backache. Weight gain. Lice. Lyme. 

This. Is. Nothing. 

Thank God I know and recognize this nothing and more, am filled with gratitude for it. What a blessing. I am so, so grateful for my sassy teen. The conversations with my littles while combing through licey locks are always interesting. My body, in all its shapes and forms, illnesses and aches, is here, working as hard as it can, feeding my family and caring for my homestead --and it is healing. My to-do list has great, exciting, reasons to keep me running around frantic. 

This week, two nearby strangers will put their babies in the ground. Two small towns with two great tragedies. These two strangers have affected me, even with my news media boycott, because they have impacted people I love. Friends with my friends and my childhood community, close to my sisters-in-law, school-mates with my niece and nephew. The loss these families, and their communities, are holding is bottomless. 

I touched the edge of this emptiness once. I hope and pray fervently, with every cell, that I never touch it again. It is vast. An empty, roaring, dreadful, power. My parenting lapsed for a moment. It is easy now to say, hey, I'm human-- but then, I don't know. I was sure the ocean had swallowed her. I screamed, this scream that exists in a world between, through the ocean, to the ocean, with the ocean-- connecting with a world of screams, chorusing with separated mothers around the world. Ancient, archetypal. . . endless. 

My friends ran the beach in all directions, my friends-- holding me with tears as I screamed. My baby was alive and well. I will never stop being thankful for it and being awed by that narrowly avoided fate. We all avoided great tragedy that day, but I have never been, nor would want to be, the same. 

I forcefully choose to live life as fearlessly as I can. My baby girl, now 8, swims in my brother's pool, in ocean waters, mountain rivers and at her grandparents camp. She's not a great swimmer, and I worry. But I refuse to live fearfully. I let them all adventure, my wild children. 4 wheeling, hunting, skiing and snowboarding-- experiencing deepens us, makes us-- and sometimes destroys us.  

We must choose to LIVE, while we are here. We must flip off our worries and fears and dive in. Comments like "an avoidable tragedy" or "was anyone watching" or "those things are so dangerous-- I would never let my child . . . " are not only unhelpful and shaming, they speak to a culture with its head in the sand. Shall we keep our anxious, fear-ridden, selves in a bomb proof home eating survival food with a high shelf life? 

The truth is, sometimes life just deals us a wicked hard hand. These families will find a foothold in the depths of their loss-- and they will steady. They will do this for their other children, if not for themselves.  

As we live it and feel it, here in this earth-plane, goodbye feels definite and resolute. Too often, goodbye catches us unprepared. But worry and fear are the opposite of its message-- instead reach out. Reach out to live fully and without regret-- do what you love, and encourage your children to do the same. Swim, 4-wheel, fly, and walk in the forest.  Yes, understand and connect with the devastation --or with the desperation in the case of Central America-- and keep judgment in check. Especially, though, especially, wake each day and look around at your loved ones. Embrace the opportunity, each day, to BE better, BE healthier, BE happier, and Be MORE filled with LOVE. And tell your kids, spouse, family and strangers, that you love them and wish them well. And remember that separation is illusion, if it helps. 

Do not stand at my grave and weep 

I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die.
                           -- mary elizabeth frye

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Snowball Effect with Wine

This is the nature of the snowball-- this post was begun in the winter and is being posted just a few days before the SUMMER Solstice. At least the snowball is starting to melt! Here is our story, begun so many months ago-- it is the classic story of what the old timers call "getting drawed off". We are pros at this, maybe it is a part of the multi-tasking homesteady nature of things here.

The Snowball Effect, With Wine. . .

We have an incredible knack for organizing our lives here on the homestead by the "Snowball Effect".  Yes, one thing inevitably, for better or worse, snowballs into our own little perfect storm.

Here is the latest series of snowballing adventures:

You can see part of the shed here, with the attached greenhouse
We have been working to transform a poorly built shed, originally a three-sided shed designed for horses made from slightly rotted reclaimed timbers and never leveled, to a lovely little combo of a Air B& B shack with an attached sugar shack and greenhouse. Here is our snowball story:

After reaching a point in the transformation of this shed that called for some flooring, and having no funds or means by which to acquire some, we decided to remove our cork flooring in our kitchen that was slated to be replaced someday anyhow.

After removing most of the cork flooring we realized we would have to remove the refrigerator in order to complete this task.

After removing the refrigerator, we realized that we hated the refrigerator in the kitchen and wanted it back in the pantry where it stayed cooler and kept our unnatural noises to a minimum.

After deciding to put the refrigerator in the pantry, we realized we would have to remove the pantry door, as the refrigerator is larger than the original one we had there.

After removing the door, we realized that some cupboards would need removal. Perfect! We will re-use them in the shed's kitchenette!

After we removed the cupboards, we realized that the space needed reorganization, so we reorganized all the empty canning jars and gave them a space of their own.

After moving the canning jars, we realized that the fermented wine was taking up too much space.

And so. . . it was time to bottle the finished wine and get the grape, elderberry, and strawberry into secondary fermenters. All because of a "snowball".  At this point, all else is put on hold while bottles are scrubbed and disinfected.

The blueberry, ready for bottling, is decanted into bottles. The bottles are corked and labled. The strawberry, grape, and elderberry-- sitting for too long with all their fruits, are strained and placed back into a clean fermenter.


Following the wine-making, we realized that our floors, without the cork (remember, the cork removal started this whole snowball) just wouldn't do. . .  so we began a project of papering our floors:


It's pretty easy to google a tutorial on DIY paper flooring, and that is just what we did. We got a nice leathery look with it that satisfies us, but without a mudroom and with the farm life just outside the door, it hasn't held up in high-traffic entries and busy areas as much as we'd hoped. Still-- it's CHEAP, it's DIY, it looks great, and we'd definitely recommend it and do it again ourselves!

Finally, back to the shed! We are working on a little kitchen area (complete with the removed cupboards from the kitchen and pantry) and laying down the recycled cork flooring. Short-term rentals are a part of our sustainable homestead business plan here. We currently have a solar powered basement apartment-- so this little shed will be our second off-grid solar rental. We haven't tried Air B&B yet, but folks we know have had good luck. What do other homestead folks do to make ends meet? Do folks have a mortgage and fuel bills or are you debt free and free of fuels that you don't generate yourself?

***AND now, that it is actually just about summer, we have LISTED on space on Airbnb and are still working on that shed!! We actually hired for barter a friend & neighbor just yesterday! We love Airbnb thus far-- highly recommended!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Sweet Spot

We were in the garden, Maizey and I, last Sunday.   Tension seemed to be mounting as we fought off the cucumber beetles-- the little newly transplanted squashes and melons were succombing quickly. Already riddled with holes after only a few hours of lapsed attention, we squished the bugs between our fingers and dug around the little plant stalks looking for the ugly squash bugs (which are too big for finger smooshing, so they are placed with a little prayerful thought, under our shoe).
Agnes Nancy Place Litter #2,
Double-wattled Kune Kune boar Jenny x Mahia Love
To temper this violent scene, I should let it be known that we are a pretty non-violent family. We let the squirrels nest in our eves. The birds return each year to their mud nest on the side of our home. The bats have a huge family just under some trim boards. We remove all spiders to the outdoors, or more often, just ignore them. Snapping turtles dig our gardens to lay their eggs.  Still, we make an exception with cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and tomato hornworms (we even typically remove slugs rather than squashing, which I think is pretty generous of us)-- so we sat there, in the evening sun, as the black flies swarmed our heads, the mosquitios buzzed our ears, and the no-see-ums chewed visciously at our ankles--  we sat there squishing bugs.
Then we were both looking in the sky, craning our necks into the glare of the setting sun. We could hear them before we saw them-- a redemptive flock of geese overhead--we called to Shawn and Ella to witness this beauty, this perfect V, flying over our perfect life. How often we let the little things ruin an otherwise wonder-filled day, failing to be amazed by irritations and imperfections. Amid this unhappy chore of protecting plants and being a meal for others, there was stunning beauty, holding the balance amid the unpleasant, creating the sense of deep perfection-- made only better because my girl knew it-- looking at me in awe, she said, "THIS has been the best day!" 
My girls playing midwife on the homestead-- learning is everywhere!
And it WAS a great day-- and aren't they all??  This one, punctuated by our first baby-bat rescue (to be followed by many more), an anticipated skit at church, some family down time in Bar Harbor, the doula experience of newborn piglets and then, the geese overhead!

How awesome is it that Ella is out here doing her non-fiction
homeschool reading for the day while covered in piglets?

Our summer days have been filled, thus far, with long days in the garden, work that is exciting, lounging with farm friends (including the newborn piglets), visiting with, and sometimes living with all manner of wild creature--to TODAY, when a swarm of bees flew directly to our home, swirled above our barn, then next to it, and then, like a little tornado, swarmed right into the empty bee hive from last year's attempt at bees. This, only 1 hour after ordering new bees-- and a day before sending payment. 

Here is our little tornado-- I told Shawn that I ordered money to fall from the sky on Father's Day, just for him.
The world is amazing. The small miracles that fill each day abound, if only we are there to honor them. When each day is filled with a sense of  gratitude, when awe and wonder become normal, when each day we search out the thread that weaves love, light, and abundance-- that is the sweet spot. We are so lucky to have found it most days-- and we will keep striving to find it in each moment.

At one week old-- outside sniffing the earth at the Nancy Place Homestead

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gratitude and Nourishment

It has been a slow melt and a slower thaw in the Northeast-- the snow left, only to be replaced by a long mud season, a late rainy season, and black-fly season. On the bright side, when the sun shines, EVERYONE notices this spectacular treasure, and that, I think, really matters. What if we allowed that gratitude to enrich and nourish us each day, realizing the positive side to each frustration?

I think gratitude comes more easily the closer you live to the earth. When you look for and depend on the elements, when you watch for the return of seasonal mainstays like blossoms, pollinators, and wild foraged deliciousness-- gratitude fills first your soul, and then your body, each day.

There are set-backs. There are slugs, there are destructive beetles, there are losses-- but always the balance returns after the scales are tipped. It is easy to forget, during hard times, that the scale is fair. It tips in both directions-- destruction is balanced with abundance. Everything has a place.

Thursday, March 6, 2014



Winter keeping its hold strong in early March.

Although the weather is still cold, and the fires are still burning hot each day- the sun has changed, and it keeps changing. It is time to be renewed with the energy of emerging spring-- to work harder on bringing projects and healthy commitments to fruition, to create space in our lives by eliminating what does not serve a higher purpose or deeper self, and to clean house, so to speak!

The Catholic season of Lent, the 40 days leading to Easter, began yesterday. Our church, a Unitarian Universalist, had info printed in their upcoming events, so I was clued in. The reason we are observing it this year, however, is because the girls were intrigued. Ella, our youngest, noticed 'Ash Wednesday' written on the calendar. This prompted the question, "Mama, is tomorrow a holiday?" and so, several conversations later, here we are, with our lists of what we will let go of in order to make room for Spirit to grow and our creativity to flow.

Although Lent is a relatively new celebration, (it is not mentioned in the Bible)-- it lines up pretty well with seasonal detoxing, fasting, and spring cleaning around the world. Passover is observed in Judaism, Spring Navarati in Hinduism, and the Baha'i celebrate with a nineteen day fast-- to name just a few. In early spring, the traditions in China dictate a period of  house cleaning to sweep away "bad luck" (followed by a break from house cleaning to allow the "good luck" to gather.) From Persia to Saudi Arabia, spring cleaning is well documented.

Timing wise, fasting, cleaning, and detoxing align well with the rebirth of the world, with changes in our lifestyles that trigger natural detox, and with the available food in the natural world. In Northern climates, this time of year brings a couple things. Traditionally, the wood fires in our homes have left dust and the closed windows, a stagnation. Spring brings the first days warm enough to let the breeze in-- hence the tradition of Spring Cleaning (which turns out to be another way of getting the toxins out).

It is also an especially empty time of year, in many ways, again with a nod to the time before grocery stores. For all you other homesteaders out there, maybe you see what I see when I look in my pantry these days. Pretty much nothing except pickles and applesauce is left. My shelf after shelf of carefully preserved winter food has been replaced with clean, emptied jars awaiting refilling. The freezer has some lingering fruit and a few chickens. It is a time of leanness in northern parts of the natural world -- so fasting makes sense. It is a natural time to allow the body to have a break and clean up.

Outside, in late spring, dandelions, fiddleheads, nettles, mustards, milk thistle, burdock, and young potherbs will be growing soon and all are supportive detox foods-- leading us from fasting to detox.
At the the site yogi mir, the article "Why Dextoxification is Essential" offers some great information to help you align with the natural urge to clean up.

Our list is pretty simple. We have each given up something that was consuming us a bit too much, or perhaps something that was shaping us in a way that we no longer wished to be shaped. I won't call out any one person in our little home, but here's what we are aiming for-- every goal is the goal of an individual, not all of us together.

  • No sugar, no gatorade
  • No being mean to my best friend
  • No games (apps)
  • No social media
  • Avoid obsessive thinking
  • Eat healthy, eat small, eat often
  • Smoothie fast a few days each week

I am pretty happy with this list. I believe that even these simple changes will create important ripples in our lives that will have a lasting impact. They say it takes about six weeks to break a bad habit/ form a new habit-- just about 40 days, the length of Lent.  40 days has special meaning in Christianity and is used often in Bible stories-- and it is always associated with a transformation. Will we expect transformation? Why not? With dedication to emptying and freeing ourselves from bad habits, and committing to some new ones we can create new spaces in our lives. The creative and renewing energies of spring surround us, inspiring and offering. The very seed is beginning to swell into life from dormancy-- and soon these very seeds will burst forth into green sprouts and shallow roots. Coccoons overwintered are rearranging molecules and will soon fly into the world. Wild animals, following the seasonal cycles, mate and give birth in Spring. The wild geese fly home and peepers peep. With such magic everywhere, why not let it grow within? Letting go of what is not needed is cleansing, like the spring rains. Being mindful of our health is detoxifying and renewing, like spring's new life. Join us--it's never too late to clean up~

Monday, February 10, 2014

Edges of Wisdom

At the edge of great sadness, at the edge of great suffering, at the edge of great emotions, at the edge of great desires and yearnings, at the edge of great loves and great accomplishments, wisdom grows.

Out at the edge of nothing, when all has been laid bare-- that is where we can see its tenacious grasp on us-- believing in us, even here at the edge of our own worlds. Wisdom is risky; edgy-- in so many ways. Earned by a risk-taking or life shattering moment, it teases you with small understandings or crashes you with deep insights. Sometimes it hits you over the head, sometimes it vanishes as you reach for it-- begging you to stir, to seek. When we wisen, we are gently pushed into deeper awakening. Through a clearing fog, things crystallize.

Deeper awakening brings deeper responsiblities -- deeper relational understanding, and deeper awareness of the infinite connections of everything. EVERYTHING.  With wisdom, we watch more, listen more, understand more-- no longer able to close ourselves to what has opened inside. Each piece of wisdom, each small understanding is integrated, and we cannot turn away. 

At the edge, we can make choices, without the tornado of life swirling around us. We can let go of what does not serve our wisened selves, we can see the lightness in letting go of material burdens, old patterns, and trapping grudges and resentments. When we let go, wisdom fills us. It balances the burdens of responsibility with the wings we grow --when we let go.

An edge brings us clarity. Seeing clearly allows us to let go of what is not needed, be it old patterns, material things, grudges and resentments. This lightening of our load balances the heaviness that wisdom responsibility can bring-- balance enables us to act on our wisdom. Wisdom is personal evolution. It is slow enlightenment.

Walk to the edge of your world. See the flowers clinging wildly to the cliff.

The Desert is Fertile
by Dom Helder Camara:

"Do not fear the truth,
hard as it may appear,
grievously as it may hurt,
it is still right
and you were born for it.
If you go out to meet
and love it,
let it exercise your mind,
it is your best friend
and closest sister."

Friday, January 31, 2014

Flying Pigs

 In response to a query on flying pigs, Wikipedia responds:

"When pigs fly" is an adynaton, a way of saying that something will never happen. The phrase is often used for humorous effect, to scoff at over-ambition. There are numerous variations on the theme; when an individual with a reputation for failure finally succeeds, onlookers may sarcastically claim to see a flying pig. ("Hey look! A flying pig!") [1] Other variations on the phrase include "And pigs will fly," this one in retort to an outlandish statement."

Here at the homestead we are making our own way, figuring out how to carve a life that fits us pretty near. We aren't striving for perfection, but satisfaction-- not success but contentment. Perfection and success do come, in ways that we can interpret ourselves, but they are such subjective goals. To visit our partially finished home, our wild and messy yard, our sunkissed daughters with unkempt hair-- maybe it seems we haven't found a groove. Some days it sure feels that way. That is what homesteading is to us. A mess of projects and inspirations-- a yearning and striving to grow and become, a sense that everyday, anything is possible. Even flying pigs.

Truth is, here- our pigs do fly! And we've sold yet another-- Leo this time. He will also be flying westward, landing, and staying, in Detroit. It doesn't appear that Agnes has fallen in love with Gidion at this time, so our next litter's arrival is a mystery. We will keep you posted. Thanks for the well wishes-- come see us and our flying pigs anytime!

Thanks to Brewer Veterinary Clinic
for snapping this pic and for the shout out!
 Hope those of you finding your way here through their link will stay and look around!