Balloon Flowers - Great for Bees, Great for Beauty, Great for #easy #gardening

Once upon a time, our lawn had a kidney shaped island with no plants. I tried a few annuals in the space, but really tired of having them die each fall and require replanting. Then on a random trip to the nursery, I found some badly dehydrated clearance priced perennial flowers. Balloon Flowers!

They were planted right before winter, and by the next spring I was sure I had made a mistake. Balloon flowers take their time starting up each spring, and they start out so little. I was wrong (thankfully!) and they took off in no time. By mid summer they look like the photo above.

They do produce seeds that will drop and make little seedlings. Again...little. They are easy to pull out or relocate. The flowers are so fun - they start out as puffy little balloons and open into adorable stars. Bumblebees seem to prefer them compared to honeybees but I have seen both bee types on these flowers. They have a very light pleasant scent and the petals are edible. They taste like nothing - rose petals maybe.

The plant does exude a glue colored latex. If you want them for cut flowers, you have to sear/burn the edges before bringing them in the house. I have found that if you chop off all the old flower heads, (they will be ball shaped) new flowers will grow and it will flower until the first frost. At frost, the leaves turn a burnt red - almost as red as a blueberry shrub.

They are gorgeous and I have since divided these to bring to our farm. They do not divide easily - they are really a mess of tangled roots underneath - but I have read that they will regrow from root sections so I buried one division and a bunch of roots. We will see!




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How to make your UGLY evergreen trees look GREAT!

Ten years ago, we planted 6 Colorado Blue Spruce trees in our yard. They were the runts of the bunch, so we got them at a discount. Just in case you ever find yourself in this situation, I do not recommend buying sick/diseased/weak trees. They are usually cheap - sometimes free - but they very rarely make it.

And even when they do survive, they often look horribly ugly. I am trying to dig up a photo of the trees from the beginning, but haven't had any luck yet.

The bottom line - they were short (4 feet maybe?) missing needles, one was twisted, one was almost entirely needleless, and 2 turned out to be black hill spruce. So we had a hodgepodge of ugly trees.

I watered them every spring and fall for the first 2 years. They grew a little but still looked terrible. I splinted two of the trees (The twister and one where the top started bending over). I shaved up one of the trees that was really asymmetrical (not generally okay to do with evergreens but in moderation it can really help - just be sure to leave a lot of uncut branches on the cut side so it can continue to put on new growth.)

Around year 5 - the trees all got infected with a needlecast fungus. They started dropping all their lower needles and the insides were dying.

So stressful! I bought an anti-fungal spray and went to town spraying them. To spray 6 trees took 5 bottles! And I didn't even cover them all the way. I don't know that it really helped, but it did lead to better  research about tree health.

It turns out - just like us - if the trees have everything it needs nutritionally it is less likely to get sick.

We have hard yellow clay in our backyard, so the trees were probably not having the best time. This is when I started the following regimen (Year 5).

It turned out to be super easy. Every spring (whenever it's just gotten warmer and is really raining - for us that's April) I give each tree two fertilizer spikes. I just hammer them into the ground within the drip line but NOT right up next to the tree.

Then in the fall, I empty our rain barrels to the trees with a slow soaker hose so they are watered in nice and deep for the cold windy winters.

The results:






All the trees are symmetrical, healthy, and actively growing. They are over 13 feet tall and have really bounced back from the first 5 years of misery.

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Halloween Candy - The good, the bad, and the ugly


Halloween has always meant one thing to me....candy. We went out in the 1980-90s blizzards, slogging through knee deep snow, freezing in homemade costumes, spurred on by a burning desire for bags of candy!

It seems most of my childhood was motivated by candy. I am drawn to it, and I still really like it.

But that begs the question....why do we like it? And who does it benefit? In the pre-industrial years, poor people would spend any discretionary income on candy and sweets, forgoing more healthy fare. Why? Because it gives a quick dopamine rush, and to people that have very little pleasure in their lives, just a bit is enough and it calls to them. And big food knows it. They use it against us to drive their profit margins!

Think about it - every holiday involves sweets, candies, treats. All require shopping and spending money.

Is eating candy inherently bad? No. But it's not good either. It is devoid of nutrients, save for calories. Calories are important and necessary, but calories without vitamins/minerals that displace those vital ingredients cause disease. Calories outside of meals, interrupt a proper meal timing and cause a cascade of hormonal destruction. And besides, many candies aren't "just sugar." JUST SUGAR is probably okay in moderation. Hydrogenated oils, artificial dyes and colors, and who knows what else lurk in so many candies.

What can we do? Be selective when eating candy. Only eat the candy that's really good. For example, I will not eat most candies. I realize they taste bland, gross, or just not right. I do, however, have a soft spot for Mike & Ike, sour patch kids, Baby Ruth, Turtles and Butterfingers. So I will eat them or save them to relish later. M&Ms can suck it. Gross gum can forget about it. Chocolate that tastes like wax (I'm looking at you Hersheys!!) is a no go. Twizzlers - YUK-O-RAMA. And I will NOT be found eating a tootsie roll. Good candy or no candy.

And here's a hint for Halloween. Since the kids are going to want to go out and collect it, and you will most likely need to hand it out - buy it the day before the holiday starts. I know that sounds stressful and last minute, but it will save you from wanting to eat the candy beforehand.

You could also buy all the candy you hate, but I personally find that distasteful for the following reasons: why should I want/expect other people to eat things I find unpalatable AND I don't feel like financially incentivizing those companies that make gross candy.

See if you can make the candy haul last all year long. Space out the treats and reserve them for right after dinner and see how long you can make it. Any other ideas? Add them in the comments below.




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My 2nd Lucid Dream - What I've learned, How to do it, and What it means....

It was almost one year ago that I had my first lucid dream. Thankfully, I blogged about it, so I have a preserved record of what happened and when. I can cross check my memory and have the truth.

It turns out, my memory of the event is exactly as I wrote. I have not embellished or changed details in my mind. Perhaps because it was such a striking and unusual experience - or because only a year as passed. I was so afraid to go to sleep after that experience. The unknowns. The possibilities. The spirit world.  All of it made the idea so terrifying. But then nothing happened. I dreamed like normal and never went lucid again.

Until the other night, I had my second lucid experience. It was very similar but very different. Having just checked the date of my first lucid dream, I'm starting to wonder about both happening mid-late October and hope it's not annual event. After my second lucid dream, I am no longer afraid and I would like to continue.

Here are the details:

I went to bed between 10-11pm and fell asleep quickly. Around 2:20 my husband went to bed and engaged me in conversation. I hate when he does this. He gives no thought to my need for sleep. He talks to me about things that get me riled and awake. We have a lively conversation until around 3:30am. I realize I am not going to get back to sleep after this. I am fully awake. I start thinking about emails I need to send and around 4am decide to just get up and write them. But then I realize it might people their phones and wake other people up at such a horrific hour. So I lay there for a bit and decide to see if I could lucid dream again.

These events - getting woken into full awareness and going to be productive are similar to the first experience. I am doing nothing else, so I think "what the hay." I lie there and attempt to meditate. I always say "attempt" because I am so very distractable that I have never successfully meditated. I hear my husband snoring and get mad.

He rolls over and I can focus a bit. I start seeing images as my body relaxes. Not the fast moving ones, but random images, some bright with tunnels and doors but I can't get them to stay in focus. Eventually I am out.

The dream begins with me walking barefoot, carrying my shoes and trying to put them into my neighbor's house. I look at my shoes and realize this is so stupid. Why would I be putting my shoes in someone else's house so I turn around and start walking home. I hear my husband calling my name. I am surprised he is here. We meet at the cherry tree in our front yard and I realize it is bent over to the ground. He had hung a baseball mitt in the tree and it bent the tree over. I am mad. But I am also in shock that the tree is bent in a "bendy" way. Smooth and stretched like taffy. That just doesn't make sense but I am so concerned about saving the tree that I ignore it.

We work to lift the tree up and it snaps in half. Dead. I'm not happy. Then I realize there are apples growing on the top of the tree. How are apples growing on my cherry tree. This should have snapped me into reality, but instead I decide I have to try to graft it and replicate it instead. Such a rare cherry/apple tree. They are not even in the same class of plant, so this is unheard of. I must graft as many of the limbs as possible to save this rare tree.

While I am trying to figure out what to do, I notice a very tall (infinitely tall) tree has grown in its place. I try to figure out how it got there and what species it could be. I decide it must be a poplar for growing so columnar and so quick.

At this point my subconscious must be getting irritated with me. I am really so dumb sometimes. Every time I have went lucid, I was given multiple inconsistencies to snap me into awareness and it seems to take me so long to figure it out.

So my dream brings in my mom. She starts saying things that really bother me. She's being a jerk. I listen to her for awhile and then she comes into my house and continues with the drama. That's when I stop and think "why is my mom at my house? She has never been to my house (read: she ran away 11 years ago and we have basically been estranged every since.)

Oh my gosh - this isn't real. At that moment, every cell in my body vibrates. It buzzes - very strongly - almost kind of painfully - like it burns. I purposely throw my body through the floor and the lucid dream begins.

Initially I must be flying, though I am not doing anything to make movement. I am high in the sky, moving quickly toward a tropical location. I see aztec type temples and get excited. I think I am going to learn something about that ancient civilization and I'm really liking it. So the dream drops me into the water. I am cold and wet.

Annoyed but not scared, I just lay back - knowing that the dream will just move me along to the next scene.  This is a sharp departure from my regular experiences. If I were in water - in dreams or real life - I would be afraid of drowning, especially ocean water with currents. But I am not worried, I just float along until I see a large object in the sky.

It's spaceship like - but I know it is not a spaceship. It is a command center, a warehouse/distribution kind of thing, and drones are leaving it in all directions. They are delivering things. Everything is white and silver and these are not drones that look like helicopters - they look more like pods - like the shell body of a jet ski but of course white/silver. I try hard to read the name on the pods. It's a company/brand name. I do successfully read it but I forgot the name after I wake up. It is not a company/brand I am currently familiar with.

The dream brings me along past an open mall type place and I see people sitting on stools eating something they bought from a type of cafe. I don't see their food.

I am brought into an office where two women are working. They talk to me about nonsense things.

I should mention that I am not walking or flying. I am maybe hovering but I am moved by something else. Almost as if I am grabbed by my back and taken places, but without any sensation of being held onto.

I want to leave the women because they are not very interesting to me and as I start to leave one of them stops me and pulls off my hair. My real hair is underneath and looks like my normal hair. I guess I was wearing a wig. She gives me a cat to put on my head. An actual cat, no longer alive. It zips open underneath and is worn as a hat. Weird.

I look up and see the drone structure but realize it's connected with a larger system that moves people. And then everything goes black.

I sit up in bed. "I guess that's it this time," I think. I look over at my husband's clock and can not see the time. This is normal, as I sometimes can't see the clock over his body. I got up and looked at the time on the alarm keypad. It was all jumbled. "Just great", I thought. This keypad had always functioned well but it was not jumbled like the keypad we have downstairs.

I went down and make breakfast for my children. Then I packed their lunches. Then my alarm went off and I woke up. Tricky, tricky. I had just been dreaming. Somehow, I had lost the ability to be aware during my dreams. Maybe my mind was bored of the cat hats and weird people. Maybe I have a limit to the amount of lucidity I can experience.

Either way, I was quite annoyed when I made my way downstairs to once again make breakfast and lunches. I was quite pleased to see the keypad in working order. Home ownership is one big repair after another and I was not interested in fixing anything else.

But I was not in awe after this lucid dream. I did not wake up wide eyed and gasping for air. I think maybe since the dream didn't begin with fear and did not include any fear, it helped. Maybe because I blacked out and ended with an irritating but normal dream it wasn't a shock to my body. I don't know. I just know that I want to do it again.

Here is the way I am choosing to view lucid dreaming:

Our mind and body are separate yet intertwined. Even scarier,  our brain is divided. Please take the time to look up the split brain experiments. Read about them and watch the videos of the experiments. The bottom line - you are not what you think you are!

My interpretation of the split brain is that we are divided into two beings - body and spirit: subconscious and conscious. Rubbish, you say? Let me give you a few examples. Beyond the basics of breathing, heart beat, sweating, digestion etc, your body controls a lot without your input.

When I was in college, I walked along the river to get to work one morning. I heard someone behind me and was negotiating with myself about whether I should speed up, turn around, or flat out run. Too late. While I was thinking about it, the man grabbed me from behind and covered my mouth. My body was not thinking about all the garbage that was running through my brain. It screamed the loudest, most blood curdling scream I have ever heard. It was not from ME. I did not do it. I have tried to repeat it, but can't. My body protected itself!

My body also drives itself. It also does all the walking. I never think about lifting each foot or bending my knees. While I drive I am busy thinking about what I'm going to say to my husband when I get home, what I need to pick up at the store and various other nonsense. My body drives and eventually I notice that we have arrived. Sometimes I pay attention while driving, but mostly if my eyes can see the road, my body will do the right thing. Scary, huh? Maybe you are just thinking I need to have my license revoked. These are just a few of the instances. If I am mad or stressed out or overly thinking about something, my body does it's own thing - sometimes with disastrous results. My body will fight back without thinking it through and will say hurtful things to people. Let's switch the term "my body" to my "subconscious." Scientists have found that our subconscious is programmed from 0-6 years old. These are survival patterns learned from our parents, caregivers, and anyone we interacted with during that pivotal time.

If my parents lashed out in anger, my subconscious (aka my body) will do the same when I am not consciously choosing to act with tact/patience/thought.  The subconscious and conscious are both part of ME. But who I really am is the conscious part. It should stress you out to realize we do much more subconsciously than consciously. We are so lost in worry and random thought that we are not often living our own lives. This is sad. It's time to be aware and to choose more of our actions in life. Knowing that our subconscious is often running the show, we know that it is responsible for a lot that happens in our life. Why do we keep choosing the wrong type of guy to date? Why do we have a gut feeling about something? Why do the same patterns keep happening in families - addictions, abuse, affairs, and even personalities and career choices?

So in the split brain - are you the left brain or the right brain? Or neither and it is just a redundant system designed to make sure you can survive if damage were to occur? If one side is the subconscious and the other is holding your conscious, it leads to some very interesting ideas. Even still, we know your body can and will run without you.

And that's what it does at night. Your body needs to sleep. It is when all autophagic repair and healing occurs. It is when your hormones cycle to stay in time with your circadian rhythm and in tune with time itself. While your body sleeps, your mind may be active or not.

I believe your subconscious mind is responsible for dreaming. Your subconscious mind does not speak like your conscious mind and that may be why your dreams use metaphors, jump from place to place, or other oddities. Your subconscious creates an alternate reality from it's perspective. Kind of groovy.

So when I have a lucid dream, I am not looking for answers to the universe. Any answer found would most likely be my own body's view of the answers. May it know why we are here and what our ultimate purpose is? It's possible, but not likely. My body is just animated matter - with a very sophisticated software program. But it does hold clues to myself. Why do I self sabotage? Why do I cling to sadness? Why can't I feel or give love? What the hell is wrong with me? You know, that type of stuff.

So the drones I saw were probably my body's feeling about what the future will be like. Perhaps my body knew I wanted to see the aztec civilization and realized it knew nothing about it. It just wanted to lie on the beach and sip pina coladas, so it dumped me into the ocean.

My goal in future lucid dreams will be to meet my subconscious. Not in nonsense cat hat ladies, but with someone who can tell me what really happened when I was younger, why do I hold the opinions I have, and what can I do to convince this other side of me that it's okay to fail. It's okay to try. It's okay to love other people. What does the subconscious know that it thinks I should know? What secrets does it know?

Keep in mind, it might lie to me. It might tell me nonsense riddles. We may never find a productive solution. Hell, I can't even stay lucid long enough to maneuver how I want and ask the things I want to know. But I am willing to keep trying.

Wish me luck!



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How to Become Better Acquainted with Your Hope and Faith


How to Become Better Acquainted with Your Hope and Faith

Have you ever felt yourself struggling to uphold what you believe to be pure and true? Do you find yourself drowning in heartache and sorrow because you have lost the light of your hope and faith? No worries—your heart and soul can be full and light again. You can restore and become better acquainted with your hope and faith, but you have to want it. You have to believe that there is good in you and in the world, then invite that goodness into your heart.

Take Time Out to Meditate and Reflect

When you have a bad day, you probably lie in bed for hours, reflecting on all of the negatives. However, if you meditate on the positives and reflect on the good aspects, then you can go to sleep with a lighter, brighter outlook on tomorrow. Hope and faith effects every element of your life. When you believe that tomorrow will be great, you can move towards positive, uplifting perspective for your future.

Be Thankful for Your Blessings

Do you have a roof over your head? Family and friends to love you and care for? Good things to eat and nourish you? These are blessings and you should be thankful for every good thing you have. Sure, you might not have everything you want, but you certainly have some of the things you need, like love, compassion, nourishment, and a warm, dry place to lay your head and dream at night.

Read Your Bible and Other Inspirational Texts

Hope and faith moves beyond you. God and the goodness of the world are your guiding lights, so embrace the hope and faith that comes from the Bible and other inspirational texts. Find quotes that make you feel lighter and better about yourself. Highlight passages that speak to your spirit. Re-read these often.

 If it helps, invest in a few sessions of verbal behavior therapy to learn how to better communicate your feelings through love, positivity, and hope.

Be Creative in Your Expressions

Creativity and the ability to express yourself are blessings. Draw hope and faith from your writings, artworks, and other creative expressions. Pour your feelings, dreams, and woes into your creative flow, then express them with a crafty medium, like paints, drawings, poetry, and stories. Getting your negatives out on paper will help you achieve a happier, hopeful perspective.

When you feel that you have lost your hope and faith, it can be easy to belittle those that have turned their negatives into positives. Instead of feeling jealously and resentment towards these people, invite their wisdom and good spirits into your life. Draw hope, faith, and inspiration from them through friendship, and keep an open mind to their life lessons.

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The New Motto...

Today I will eat food, not poison. Plan for success, not settle for failure. Live my real life, not a virtual one. Move and grow, not sit and die.



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The Chicken Chick's Guide to Backyard Chickens


Having been obsessed with chickens for most of my life, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the The Chicken Chick's Guide to Backyard Chickens. The book did not disappoint.  It is loaded with great advice and lots of chicken pictures.

The pictures show chickens "in action" and are labeled with the chicken breed. These are details I appreciate. The book has many tips on housing, care, feeding, and emergency situations. Most of the information is good advice, but I did find a lot of it to be heavily edited to CYA (cover your ass.) It's very unfortunate that we have such a litigious society, and I couldn't help but be annoyed by Kathy's suggestions to trust the big chemical/agricultural companies when it comes to feeding/treating your chickens.

I suppose she has many sponsors among those companies and also wants to provide information to the lowest common denominator. It's not safe for a new chicken owner to make their own feed mixes based on random internet information or their own "intuition." In that regard, it's probably best to follow the conventional wisdom. But suggesting that big ag knows best on what to feed anybody is like saying fortified cereal (extruded grains full of chemicals...very similar to pet food kibble or chicken pellets) is the very best scientifically formulated food for humans. It's hogwash.

On the other hand, she is shown in the books doing her own veterinary work - cutting off bumble foot, bathing dirty butts, etc.

Over the years, I have enjoyed Kathy's website and find her chicken knowledge to very helpful and often unique. The book is a condensed/sanitized version of her blog. It's a very useful reference guide and a great conversation starter.





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Can you really improve poor sandy soil with Comfrey

Before we purchased our farm, I read almost every book on permaculture designs and soil improvement techniques. That knowledge would come in handy when it came time to improve our poor sandy soil.

The farm had been continuously cropped for 136 years. There is no topsoil - just sand. Many, many feet of sand. Like a beach. We started out planting trees and even though we mulched and had a rainy spring, the ground was still dry and hard. The trees suffered.

Fortunately, I came across a woman selling perennial plants and when I went to check out her plants, I spied a rare type of comfrey. It had blue flowers and grew well in our climate, so I bought a few plants from her. Then I planted them - and they wilted and flopped on the ground.

Checking in with Dr. Google, I learned that comfrey is one of a few plants that grows easily from root pieces. Meaning - every chunk of root should grow a new plant. So those floppy plants should regenerate from the roots below the surface.

Walking through the woods, I came across a stand of the pink flowered comfrey. I dug out 3 plants and cut the roots into 58 pieces. These were planted all around our farm. Since our soil is so dry, I planted them along the forest edges (as they were originally found) and near our wetlands - so they could suck up the nutrients from that fertile area.

Why did I do all of this? Well - Comfrey is a hardy plant that put out a lot of vegetative growth. It can have deep roots that will draw up micronutrients from below the surface. In many climates, it can be cut 3-4 times per season and used as a fresh mulch to add nutrients to soils - or can be made into a compost tea.

Hopefully, a great percentage of those 58 roots will create plants. I will cut them down once they are nice and tall and use those leaves to mulch around our trees and garden plants. They will break down, providing nutrients and organic material. If they multiply, that's even more free mulch! But will it work?

Time will tell!!! We may see sprouts coming up from the roots this summer yet. I just planted them on 6/17/17 - (yes, you can even plant the roots in the summer and they are supposed to survive!)

As they pop up, I will update this article and keep it updated as I use the comfrey leaves to improve our sandy soil. We have a large garden space, so it is going to take a lot of leaves - and a lot of years, but it should be self sustaining in the long run. Fingers crossed!


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The Grandparent Pattern

Are we operating under free will? That is, of our own accord? I can say with absolute certainty that I spent a large portion of my life operating below the conscious level. I let my body control my action and it did some amazing things. And some horrible things. For the past 8 years, I have felt much more in control of my actions (also...my emotions, feelings, life path.)

Now, as I am leaving my fourth decade of life, I find myself very insistent on building our research farm and spending the rest of my days in the scientific pursuit of edible endeavors. Why am I drawn to this? Is it what I really want or is it programmed into my body to want this?

It may be both, and I um unsettled with this answer. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a scientist. I enjoyed roaming the earth, interacting with plants and animals, and freedom above all. Those are the cores of my being. But they were also escapes.

At this age, am I still attempting to escape? Or am I beyond trying to escape from my own life? Is it simpler still? Could it be that as I enter this age and my children quickly become adults, I am programmed to consider grandparenthood?

My own history with grandparents left much to be desired, but there were glimmers of beauty.

I thought of my paternal grandfather today as I greedily gobbled up every ground cherry in my garden. As a child, I wandered his garden frequently, not always sure what was growing or not interested in the contents (raw vegetables....)

But he showed me the ground cherries one summer and let me taste one. It was amazing. It came in it's own alien wrapper and tasted great. They were everywhere. He said I could eat as many as I wanted. I ate them all.

I was never allowed in the garden again.

Visiting my paternal grandparents mostly sucked. We went every year at Christmas and once or twice to help with chores.The adults were always complaining, children were not allowed to speak (or run!) and they were always smoking. Aunts and uncles were inevitably there as well, and also smoking....and complaining. It was gross, so I spent most of my time outdoors. At the time of my youth, my grandparents had a few hundred acres of land - much of it swamp and forest. I journeyed to the edges of it all.


When I was really young, my grandfather let me collect eggs from his chickens. And he took me fishing a few times. It was he that taught me to fish with nothing but a stick and a hook - a method I would use on my own in far flung creeks on to bring home fish that my mom refused to cook (instead, she buried them around young trees.) It was also my grandfather that taught me how to cook an egg. Not out of love or interest, but out of disgust that I didn't know how "at my age."

He grew mushrooms under the boards in his house and tomatoes in water in the back room. He had a dog he abused and a bird that never stopped yelling. He was drafted in WWII and spent his service fixing fighter planes. His oldest son ran away at 16 because of his abuse and was drafted into vietnam. He came back to the US but never came to see his parents again. When his next son was drafted, he said ENOUGH and shot off his trigger finger.

Alas, two more sons would join the armed forces. One uncle to the navy and my father, the marines. Together, they had 12 babies, 10 survived. My grandfathers family had 12 children, his father's had 18!! - all surviving. My grandmother was part native american. They survived the depression. They were mostly self sufficient. They refused to talk about any of it. Maybe because I was a child and not allowed to speak unless spoken to, or maybe because the past is painful. Or maybe they just hated me. Either way, I asked them and they told me this -

In regards to the depression - "We were poor before, we were poor during, and we were poor after. Nothing changed."

In regards to the war - "Why the hell would you want to talk about that?"

And those two statements summarize nearrly half of all the conversations I had with my grandparents.

With my mothers parents, it was even less. I remember visiting them twice. One, the green pants incident. The other, the sock monkey excitement.

I have pictures that verify the green pants (meaning....I wore green corduroy pants on that visit - I was maybe 3 or 4) and a photo of me visiting them as a baby. The sock monkey event happened when I was 8. So I saw them at least 3 times. My father had always forbid us from seeing my mother's family. Why? Because he was a controlling asshole.

But as an 8 year old, I saw their world in a very interesting light. Both of my maternal grandparents died in their 50s. My grandfather died when I was 5, and the green pants incident was the last time I saw him. He had an oxygen tank and tubes in his face. He had emphysema. He looked like he was 90 something.

When I was 8, my mother disobeyed my father's orders not to visit her mother and we went at Christmas time. We brought her presents. I don't know what we brought her but it took her years to open the gifts, and she folded and saved the paper.

We sat in her one room house and I was in awe. She had one light bulb that was connected to a string that went outdoors. She was  proud of it. I think it was new. There was no running water. My mother showed us the basin in the kitchen that was their bathtub. This was the 90s and my grandparents lived off the grid their entire life. No solar. No electricity (save for the new lightbulb that was now in my grandmother's room). No running water. Nothing. How did they survive?

The house was small. More like a shed. It had wood floors - bare wood and you could tell that it probably used to be dirt. There was a bunkbed type bed where the children used to sleep above their parents bed and an attic of sorts that held the older children. Wow!

She opened her gifts and was embarrassed. She had not planned for us to come. She did not have gifts for us. Not then, not ever. So she hastily went to the box in her room and pulled out a sock monkey. She gave it to my sister. She must have pulled out something for all of us but the sock monkey stole the show. It was the grossest thing we had ever seen. It wasn't dirty or anything like that. It was just so weird. We grew up in the country and very rarely (well...probably never at this point went to stores.) The sock monkey was something we had never seen before or even imagined.

We were never to speak of going to her house. The next year she died.

My mother was distraught - having lost both parents at the age of 30, but she was also apathetic. They were not very good to her - and a big part of the reason she found herself pregnant (trying to escape) at 15 and now stuck in the situation she was in.

For some reason she allowed my sister to see the crime photos at the age of 7, but would not allow me to see them at 9. I was morbidly curious about them and dug through all her things for years in the attempt to find them. My grandmother was decapitated. I never saw the photos, but I did look for the stitches at the funeral. They had sewn her head back on.

Not long after she died, the fighting began. As I would come to realize in later life, people fight over your stuff when you die. It's disgusting. It makes you look at people in the worst light. My parents did not fight over any of their parents things (not my moms parents or dad's). They just let the other kids have whatever they wanted and stayed out of it. I suppose that was honorable.

But we did visit the farm. This time with no grandparents. It seemed so small but I know that it entailed acres of land.

I spent almost the entire time digging for treasures. My mother had once shown me two old coins she found them while digging around the old silo as a little girl. That was all I needed to know.... (For the record, I found nothing.)

I did also poke around the outhouse (wow!) and stand on the fence over looking the dairy barn where I imagined my mom flying off the cow that bucked her off and resulted in her getting a stick in her eye. I also examined the trash heap. That was also amazing. So many metal appliances, parts, machines....all thrown into the ground as if that would take them away...

My other "grandparent" memories involve them not being at any of my school events or "grandparent days." I remember having to share a grandparent in 4th grade because I was the only kid without one. They might have came at the end of camp once. Or they promised to come and didn't show. I can't remember.

I called my grandfather once as a child because I was babysitting my siblings and a crazed man was trying to get into our door. He called the police.

He did attend my graduation party, but probably didn't talk to me. And I called him up once as an adult to invite myself to dinner. I wanted to introduce him to my fiance (it seems appropriate) and he criticized me for being a salesperson when my brother was a doctor. It should be noted that my older brother was the first person in our entire family tree to finish college. I was second.

My dad's mom died instantly of mitral valve prolapse when I was about 13. I touched her skin at the funeral and was admonished for my disrespectful behavior by my aunts. My grandfather eventually succumbed to alzheimers, the longest living of them all, in his 80s.

All my childhood, I felt estranged from my grandparents. As if they didn't exist or didn't care. I knew that it was wrong. I was determined that things would be different for my children, but they weren't.

My dad was pretty much never trustworthy, and my mom ran away just a few weeks after my second child was born. She was not all there when my son was young (and watched him maybe twice.) She had other things on her mind. Boyfriends, it turns out.

She ran off and it was 11 years before I talked to her again. I met up with her to discuss my dad. He had been a disaster all my life but became exponentially worse after she left. A problem she knew she was leaving for us to deal with.

My father has been arrested more times for public disturbance, suicide attempts and that genre than I can even remember. He as been in and out of at least 8 mental hospitals. At least 8. He was homeless off and on and lived with me and my family each time he worked to get his life back on track. But he just couldn't get there and was eventually institutionalized at the ripe old age of 58. His story is sad, tragic, and disgusting. I am forever warped by the experience.

So...it's safe to say that my children got some version of "estranged from grandparents" just as I did. I tried hard to break that pattern but it was not my pattern to break.

In case you are wondering, their other grandparents live across the country and see them once or twice a year. It's usually a big event with lots of kids and it doesn't afford much bonding. As they are now older, though the grandparents my try, they have to compete with screens, friends, and teenage moodiness.

But this brings me to the very long conclusion of all this. Am I driven to have a farm where my grandchildren can come and feed chickens, eat all my fruits, and collect honey with me in order to break the pattern? Is this my main motivation. I can consciously say that I think it's a good idea, but am I driven by a subconscious need to make it right? If my subconscious is fueling this desire, is it even my own? Does it matter?

In any event, it feels right for me to put down roots. Roots for my family to start a new legacy - a new generation of parents/grandparents that stay with their families and care for their children. All the while, I can feed my internal passions of discovery and exploration (passions that eerily mimic those of my mushroom growing grandfather and possibly my "unkown" off-grid grandparents.)

Something to ponder.




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The links in this post may be affiliate links and products are often received for review purposes. Read the full disclosure.
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