Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 169: My Good List

I’m grateful to be back on the Simple podcast today sharing My Good List - 4 things (big or small) that are making my life better right now. The idea behind My Good List (formerly called What’s Saving My Life Right Now) comes from this quote by Barbara Brown Taylor from her book, An Altar In The World:

“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”

Sharing things in our lives that are good help keep us focused on gratefulness, plus it’s just plain fun to hear what other people are into right now. You can listen here or in iTunes…enjoy!

Ode to Dirty Fingernails

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Everyday, here on Kindred Farm, we witness the circle of life in all its beauty and brutality: orderly rows of lettuce heads resembling giant green and purple roses, the excitement of new baby chicks arriving, the sweet smell of dirt-covered rainbow carrots straight from the ground. Then there are dead chicks, dead chickens, dead mice and chipmunks left at our doorstep. One morning, we spent hours trying to reunite tiny baby mice with their mother, who still had one attached to her nursing. We’ve had 4/5 of a litter of kittens lost to predators and a beloved farm cat buried after being hit by a car. My body has been pushed to its physical limits by using muscles I didn’t even know existed to lift soil with the broadfork, hammer stakes, and use “the farmer walk” to haul full buckets of water on each arm up a hill. Second to naturally birthing a baby, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked.

But by making this new life and pushing through my fears, I’ve truly found my unique self and clarified what I have to offer the world. God is healing the wounded part of me that said my voice wasn’t important enough to be heard. It’s not a perfectly polished platform, but it’s mine...it’s my voice.

I can also laugh at myself now when I completely fail at something, because seriously? Life is just too short to try to be perfect anymore. Here’s a favorite story from my first month of farming last April - go ahead and laugh at me!

We had gotten our first batch of chicks in the winter and now they were big enough to be moved out of the shed into their new “Henstream” (the mobile chicken trailer where they would lay, roost, and sleep at night). My husband Steven was gone for the evening at his personal chef job. So I was in charge of checking on the girls at dusk to make sure they all made it inside the automatic chicken door. No big deal. I strutted out there. At first glance, all looked fine. Then a lone chicken caught my eye who was still roaming around. I chased it around until I finally caught it and stared at the door of the Henstream to figure out how to unlock it in the dark with one hand and without disturbing the freaking biggest spider you’ve ever seen. I took a deep breath, wrangled the door open, squealed like a 12-year-old girl, and shoved the chicken inside as it squawked. Phew. But it wasn’t over yet…as I was leaving I noticed something looked strange at the chicken door. Oh no…is it? It couldn’t be… Yes, there was a chicken head/neck hanging completely limp out the chicken door while the rest of its body was inside. I frantically called Steven and told him that one of our chickens got decapitated and it was all my fault. I told him that HE was going to handle it when he got home. Fast forward an hour…he went to take care of the dead chicken and came back inside laughing, “Um, it wasn’t dead! It was just frozen in shock. I opened the door and nudged it a little and it popped its head up and walked away.

You’re welcome.

We’re privileged to be in a community with so many hard-working and inspiring farmers, both male and female, who are out there everyday in the elements, doing hard and valuable work - caring for animals, growing beautiful and healthy food, advocating for sustainability, stewarding the earth. Here’s to you! Here's to the bug bite scars, the sore muscles, the constant need for a shower, the frustrating moments when you can't figure out why something isn't working. The self-doubt and the victories and the breathtaking moments at sunset when you can't imagine doing anything else - those are all a part of the journey. Those dirty nails aren't going away anytime soon, are they? Good. Because in sifting the soil through our fingers, we become more connected to our roots, to who we are as humans.

Farmers or not, we can all do our part in redeeming the earth, little by little. Because once you've held that privilege and joy in our hands, you can never go back. In the best possible way.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 140

Hey friends! Just wanted to share that I'm on the podcast Simple with Tsh Oxenreider today, talking about Kindred Farm and all the ways farming has personally changed me. It was truly a joy talking with Tsh and sharing my/our story!

"I had all these fears, but it’s actually been the complete opposite of everything I was afraid of. I’ve actually found myself in a lot of ways since becoming a farmer that I completely did not expect...Farming has pushed me physically and emotionally and helped me learn what I’m capable of as a woman."

Listen to the whole thing here or in iTunes - it's episode 140...

Wild + Free August Bundle - "Wander"

I'm so honored to have a piece entitled "Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" in the latest Wild + Free bundle called "Wander." Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community that has inspired me like no other - it's full of diverse yet like-minded mamas all across the world who want to provide the space and time for our children to explore, engage with the world, and have the freedom to become who they're meant to be as childhood is preserved and slowly unraveled. Each month, they release online bundles chock full of articles and tutorials to inspire homeschool mamas, or really anyone who wants to parent more slowly and intentionally. The monthly subscription includes a gorgeous print magazine as well. You can subscribe to the monthly bundles here

Here's a little sample...

My Favorite Middle Tennessee Waterfalls

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Since our little family of four moved to middle Tennessee (south of Nashville) in 2015, we've sorta become addicted to chasing waterfalls. I think we were just so starved for natural beauty, green, and rushing waters after living in big city Dallas for 11 years! So we started taking mini road trips on Saturday or Sunday afternoons to explore the many waterfalls within a 2 hour drive of the Nashville area.

I've since learned a fun fact: waterfalls release tens of thousands of negative ions per cubic centimeter - 3 or 4 times the amount of normal fresh air. Negative ions help lift our mood, reduce anxiety, strengthen resistance to illness and even keep our airways functioning well. There are literally good vibes coming out of waterfalls! Which explains why we can't stay away! 

In this post I'm outlining 9 waterfalls we've visited (and re-visited!) so far - all doable and fun adventures with our 3-year-old and 7-year-old. One day I'll be a hardcore rock climber wearing Athleta gear 24/7, but this is real life with small children, ya know?

Before you read, keep this big tip in mind: go to Instagram and check the hashtag (or location tag) for the waterfall you're wanting to visit. For example #fosterfalls. Look at the most recent posts and see how much water was flowing in the photos other people just posted. Lesson learned the hard way...we once visited Foster Falls in October with friends from out of town and when got to the bottom, it was eerily quiet... there was no waterfall, just a big silent pool. Womp womp. Since then, I always check beforehand to ensure that the water is flowing.

Foster Falls (Sequatchie, TN)

Perhaps Foster Falls is so dear to my heart because it's the first Tennessee waterfall I visited in my post-college early 20s days living in Nashville. The hike is short, and even though you're hiking downhill the entire time to the waterfall, the natural rock formations form stairs that are fairly easy to climb over. A few steps into the hike, the towering trees and mossy rocks will make you feel like you're in an ancient, magical forest in the Pacific Northwest. Before you reach the waterfall, you cross a suspension bridge and end up on a small sandy/rocky beach area with the swimming hole and waterfall spread before you. Foster is lovely, because the water is shallow near the shore, so small children can wade there. Adults or bigger kids can venture out and swim in the deeper waters along the rocky edges or, if you can brave the frigid water, underneath Foster Falls itself! There's another rocky area to the immediate right of the waterfall where you can sun yourself on big rocks and let all those wonderful waterfall ions fall on your skin. The hike back up requires stamina as you're going uphill at a pretty steep slope but there are plenty of places to hold on, or rest if you need to.

Quick overview: Swimming hole / short hike / uphill return / suspension bridge

Other tips:

  • Make a stop at Mooney's Market and Emporium in Monteagle, TN just off I-24. It's an adorable health food/antiques/garden/yarn shop with a creamsicle-orange food trailer behind it called The Crescent Cafe. I had the best pumpkin smoothie there last time.

Greeter Falls - Altamont, TN

Greeter Falls has become one of my favorite places in Tennessee - there's so much to love. Powerful waterfall. Amazing swimming hole. Lots of big boulders for sunning yourself. And CLIFF JUMPING. 

The most important thing to know about Greeter Falls is that you will have to do some careful maneuvering to get to the falls. The hike itself is less than a mile, and you'll pass amazing cliff formations, caves, and flowers. But there are narrow pathways with sheer drops without railings, so be super careful with small children. At the end of the trail before the waterfall, you'll descend a very narrow, winding staircase down to the falls. If you're afraid of heights, just be aware that it's worth it, and it'll be over soon :). After the staircase, you'll go across a kind of slanted wooden plank to get to the falls. It can get slippery, but there's a railing, and if you stay low to the ground you'll be fine.

Quick overview: Swimming hole / cliff-jumping / rock-scaling / spiral staircase

Other tips:

  • There's no restroom at Greeter Falls. You have to use the restroom at the ranger station at the Stone Door, 12 minutes away. We learned this the hard way! Before or after Greeter Falls, check out the Stone Door hike - it has easy trails, and you end up at a breathtaking mountain vista where you can see forever. There's a place where two cliffs come close together forming a small passageway to walk through, called the Stone Door. No waterfall there, but it's a must-see!

Jackson Falls - Duck River, TN

Jackson Falls on the Natchez Trace Parkway is only 14 minutes from our farm, so we've been there several times, at all different times of the year. Jackson always has water running, but if we haven't had much rain it can be a pretty gentle falls compared to others. There's not enough water to swim, but there's an upper falls that people slide down if there's enough water, plus it's lots of fun wading in the water in the lower falls and it's perfect for kids to play. You can park at the entrance to Jackson Falls and there's a paved trail with a hand rail to get to the bottom, so it's friendly for people of all ages.

If it gets crowded, head down stream to explore other areas to play and little pools to splash in!

Quick overview: No swimming hole / short hike / paved walkway / Natchez Trace


Great Falls @ Rock Island State Park - Rock Island, TN

Rock Island State Park is a gem! There are multiple waterfalls within the park, but we've only been to Great Falls so far. This is NOT a swimming hole waterfall. You can hike over big boulder rocks to get close enough to feel the waterfall spray, but you can't swim in the water because it's powered by a dam that can rise at a moment's notice. There are other waterfalls at Rock Island State Park where you can swim, but we haven't been there yet. However, there's a great sandy beach within the state park where you can swim in the lovely headwaters of  Center Hill Lake. We took a picnic lunch and spent hours swimming and wading there. Next time we'll bring floats!

Quick overview: Swimming hole / sandy beach / powerful falls / rock-scaling


Fall Creek Falls - Spencer, TN

Gonna be honest - I don't remember this hike super well. We camped at the Fall Creek Falls campground, which I do remember was beautiful with really clean bath houses. Then we hiked the trails and saw the main falls from up above and went down to Cane Creek Falls where you can wade in the water and play. This is definitely one of the most popular Middle TN waterfalls, and the area is pretty crowded, but still a popular one for good reason.

Quick overview: Swimming hole / nice campground / crowded


Stillhouse Hollow Falls - Mt. Pleasant, TN

There's not a ton of water flowing from Stillhouse Hollow Falls, but it's still a gorgeous hike to get to it, and a pretty magical place. You can semi-swim and wade in the water, and it feels very secret down there at the falls. You hike through some streams, so be sure to wear water shoes, and I remember it being a heckuva hike back up to the parking lot with a toddler on my back, but it was doable! We'll have to revisit this one soon since we live so close to Mt. Pleasant now.

Quick overview: Semi-swimming hole / quiet & secluded / uphill return hike


Cummins Falls - Cookeville, TN

This is the most crowded waterfall we've visited with it being so close to Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, but it's definitely worth it! You do have to walk/hike downstream for awhile until you get to the actual falls, but then it's multiple levels and pools and areas to play, and if I remember correctly, there was also cliff jumping! This is one I'd love to return to now that my girls are little bit bigger. One great thing about Cummins is that they provide complimentary life vests! There are tons of them in all different sizes strung on a line right near the falls. With a toddler in tow, this was super helpful.

Quick overview: Long but easy hike to falls / swimming hole / cliff-jumping / life jackets

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Other tips:

  • Check out downtown Cookeville afterwards. There are cute shops and a fun old-fashioned ice cream parlor called Cream City, across the street from which is an old train depot with train cars that kids can play on - our girls absolutely loved it.

Burgess Falls - Sparta, TN

This is a great one for small children. It's an easy hike in beautiful woods and past some neat rock formations until you see the falls. When you arrive there, there are tons of places to play in the plateau-like area and shallow waters that eventually go over the edge of the falls, so you're at the top of the falls rather than the bottom. You can even go to the very edge of the waterfall and sit on some rocks if you don't mind heights! We went to Burgess in November, so it was more for playing and just exploring nature than getting wet, but I bet it would be great in the warmer months. If I remember correctly, there was also a sweet little playground by the parking lot.

Quick overview: No swimming hole / easy hike / wading and splashing


Old Stone Fort State Park - Manchester, TN

Old Stone Fort is located on ancient Native American ceremonial grounds, so there's a museum there as well as some interesting artifacts and maps about how the land used to be. This is the most "wild" waterfall we've been to thus far - the most important thing to know is this is NOT the best location for really small children unless you plan to just hike the trails. In order to get down to the waterfall, we had to one-at-a-time scale a huge boulder that was practically straight up and down. If my husband hadn't been there, there's no way I would've been able to do it with two children, but we developed some serious teamwork skills as we each took our turn and then helped the other person get down. Our 4-year-old was just old enough to do this, but I wouldn't go any younger. Once you're at the falls, it's really a unique habitat - we felt like we'd been transported to a secret rainforest in Hawaii, and there are lots of seaweed-type grasses and moss under the water. You can stand under the waterfall and let it pound over you - so invigorating! 

Quick overview: Swimming hole / easy hike but difficult rock-scaling / quiet & secluded


Other waterfalls on my list to visit:

And finally, a few more general tips:

  • If you have toddlers, I definitely recommend a hiking backpack or other babywearing carrier (Tula and Boba are my favorites). It's best to have babies or toddlers on your back so you can keep your hands free and won't lose your balance trying to hold them up. 
  • Here's what always have in our backpacks:
    • Essential oils (Melaleuca, Lavender, Frankincense)
    • Band-aids
    • Baby wipes
    • Protein bars/snacks
    • Water
    • Natural bug/tick repellant

Bella Grace Magazine Summer Issue

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I wanted to share that I have two pieces in the current summer issue 16 of Bella Grace Magazine - available on their website and on newsstands at a Barnes and Noble near you! They pieces are entitled "Lighting Your Own Candle" and "15 Ways Farm Life Is Surprising Me." The farm life piece includes my photos and some from my talented friend Sarah B. Gilliam. I'm just bummed the magazine didn't credit her photos properly on the pages. But I'm pretty sure you'll know which photos are hers (hint: they're the best ones!). Bella Grace is more like a gorgeous mini-book (ad-free!) than a magazine, so it's the perfect escape while you're on a road trip, sitting by the pool, or just having a cup of coffee on your front porch. Happy summer reading!

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*This post includes an affiliate link - meaning that if you click on any of the links and buy those items, I'll receive a small commission. The price is the same for you, though!

What's Saving My Life Right Now: May Edition

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Our local library. I looked suspiciously from side to side to see if anyone was watching me when I found Capital Gaines, The Magnolia Story, The Road Back to You, and Boundaries all at my local library on the shelves. With no one trying to reserve them! I did have to place a request and wait a few weeks for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street but it was utterly worth the wait - completely magical. I feel like I've struck gold every time I leave the library. Even if I don't get to keep them.

Getting up early. I've said this before, but getting up early is saving my life right now. I think I'm finally in a rhythm of rising at 5:30am when the first tiny rays of light peek through my bedroom window blinds and my husband starts the coffee grinder. While we're at it...

Nutpods. I love my tiny, perfect cup of coffee with Hazelnut or French Vanilla Nutpods creamer and some Vanilla Creme Stevia. My husband and I preview the coming day before our girls wake up. It's priceless. But oh so necessary.

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Working my body hard again. With spring comes the return of the farm work rhythm here at Kindred Farm. Of course, there was work to do all winter long - tending the pigs and chickens, washing eggs, and keeping up with the lettuce growing in our greenhouse. But early spring is when things really pick up again with all the prepping of new rows, planting, cleaning up the farm, and our first farm dinner of the season in April. The first few week or so, I felt like I was going to collapse as I adjusted to the hauling, squatting, hammering, lifting, and planting literally thousands of lettuce plugs by hand. But now, I'm feeling so much stronger. I'm ever thankful to have a body that works, and I want to honor that by using it to its full potential. My wide-brim farm hat and dirty knees are back, and it feels good.

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Adventuring with my family. We all work so hard Monday-Saturday: homeschooling, freelance writing, farm chores, and my husband works several 14-hour days cooking for his personal chef clients. And then Sunday, we Sabbath hard. Usually, we've been going to the early service at church and then just hanging out at home, maybe having some friends over for dinner. But on Mother's Day, we loaded up the car early with our Keens, Chacos, cooler bags of snacks and the most perfectest ever Simple Mills chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing that my husband made as a Mother's Day treat. And we had that flutter-of-excitement-in-the-stomach-about-to-leave-on-a-road-trip feeling. Ya know? We wound our way through Tennessee backroads and then into the foothills of the mountains near Chattanooga, where we took a last-minute detour to explore Rock Island State Park, which we absolutely loved!  Powerful falls, lots of hiking over boulders, and an epic swimming hole. We even found a little beach where we swam in the headwaters of Center Hill Lake. It's at this beach where we unveiled the aforementioned chocolate cupcakes. And, ya'll. Maybe it was the fact that I was sunning myself on a rock after swimming in the icy cold lake in the middle of a stunning setting or the fact that I could enjoy a luscious dessert that was also gluten-free and dairy-free. But I actually said, "This is the LIFE" out loud after I took the first bite. Wee bit embarrassing, but it's true. Afterwards, we headed to the cutest little town in Tennessee: Bell Buckle, where we ate at a meat-n-three cafe and then swung by the local ice cream parlor. Completely in love with this town. On the drive home through gorgeous rolling hills, I reflected on how this Mother's Day was everything I wanted: exploring and adventuring with my family. We all need these moments to refresh and recharge, don't we?

What's saving your life right now? I'd love to know!

~ ~ ~

*This post includes affiliate links - meaning that if you click on any of the links and buy those items, I'll receive a small commission. The price is the same for you, though!

Eastering

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I wrote these words 10 years ago today, and they ring truer than ever. Maybe you needed to hear them today, too...

Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, "Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east." These words evoke a beautiful image of dawn, light, new life. In her book, When The Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd says that "to 'let him easter in us' is to let the Christ-life incubate within the darkness of our waiting." At the end of this time is emergence.

So the darkness of waiting and being changed does not have to be scary. It should not be, if it is a womb instead of a tomb. We will enter the cocoon and emerge again many, many times in this life.

May Christ be born in us today as we remember the beauty of letting go and, if we would allow it, coming alive again.

Lighting Your Own Candle

Do you ever let life happen to you? And then suddenly wonder why you feel so stressed, on edge, and disconnected from your own story?

Me, too.

Author Sally Clarkson said in a recent episode of her podcast, At Home With Sally,

"A wise woman takes care of her soul. And we do have agency. We have the ability to cultivate joy, to cultivate delight, to light a candle in our darkness so we can stay alive. We have the ability to roll up our sleeves and write a great story."

When I heard this quote, I actually pulled over in the shoulder of a winding country road to write it down.

Mamas of small children, I know it's hard to find time to "cultivate delight" in the middle of a crazy day where you're meeting everyone else's needs and reheat your coffee five times and barely have time to feed yourself. I homeschool 3 and 6-year-old girls, and we just started our farm, and I'm trying to foster this writing thing, and we eat three meals a day at home and...and...and...I'm with you.

But we have agency.

So, here are some ways I've found to "light a candle" in the middle of the day for myself so I can keep my soul alive, outside of who I am as a wife and mother.

  • Light a candle. Literally.
  • Put some fresh flowers on the table. If possible, go outside and see how many fresh wildflowers you can find (dandelions count!) and put them in a little jam jar on your windowsill.
  • Listen to an encouraging podcast. Since we live in the country, it takes about 15-20 minutes to get almost anywhere. I let go of the guilt and decided that every few days, it's OK for me to pop in my headphones in the car, let my girls play and talk in the backseat, and have some "me" time while driving. Here are my fave podcasts right now.
  • Invite a friend over. You know those friends who make you feel safer when they walk in the room? Those are who you need nearby. We weren't meant to live in isolation, yet so many of us stay in our own homes with our children all day, and while we love them fiercely, this can also be a breeding ground for discouragement and anxiety. All you need to do is extend an invitation and have some coffee or tea on hand - it encourages my heart so much on tough days to have another mom to talk to while our children play. It takes off the burden for awhile and reminds me we're meant to function as a community, a village.
  • Get up early. I'm so not a morning person. But lately I've made myself get up an hour before my children so I can have some time to myself, and while it's taken a lot of discipline, I've quickly seen the fruits of it.  With two children now, I'm finally doing what so many other friends have been telling me - just having an hour to yourself in the morning works wonders for your entire day.

We are able to write the story of our days - a story of frustration and negativity, or a story of delight and joy. The choice is ours. I choose joy. What will you choose?

Favorite Podcasts Right Now

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Windows down, sunroof open, podcast on. Since we live in the country, it takes about 15-20 minutes to get almost anywhere. Every few days while driving, I pop in my headphones and let my girls play and talk in the backseat while I have some "me" time while driving. When we get to our destination and I take those headphones off, I feel so refreshed, like I was in my old little world for awhile ("inner sanctum" for Enneagram 9!), and I'm so much more prepared to be present.

Listen to a podcast while doing dishes, lying in the grass, during your kids' naptime, or see if you can sneak away for just 30 minutes when your husband or other caretaker is with your children. It can make such a difference! Here are my fave podcasts right now:

What are your favorite podcasts? I'd love to add some new, inspiring ones to my list!