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Wednesday, January 25

Real wealth is:

"Homesteading, and gardening in particular, is the best way I know to be rich without spending a dime. You might be swiping a credit card at a giant grocery store and eating expensive food till your fullest is overflowing, but that's just plastic and gluttony. If the power goes out and the store's cash registers won't run, you're not eating a grain of rice. In that same blackout, though, you can walk out to your backyard with a flashlight, eat a fresh organic salad for free, and watch the stars.
True wealth is not about money; it's about independence. Gardening gives you back that basic freedom."

--Jenna Woginrich Barnheart

"Food, a French man told me once, is the first wealth. Grow it right, and you feel insanely rich, no matter what you own."

--Kristin Kimball The Dirty Life


Thursday, January 19

"Do not motivate out of fear--motivate out of love, hope, passion and desire"

Needless to say, that 2 week hiatus turned into something much much bigger--and longer.

A LOT has happened since I last wrote and in typical fashion, I'm going to sum it up here as briefly as possible.

Biggest news (after announcing my leaving Sterling--I know, we'll get to it but in brief)--Steve and I are engaged!

The ring is his great-grandmother's from Germany--it's a place holder for now because he wants to have one custom made that we design together and to ensure that I love it forever. Isn't that awesome!? How often does that happen, that a man wants to design the ring with his forever love but maintain the element of surprise?! It's gorgeous, I love it. And the one we've put together for design ideas is simply to die for, I can't wait!

Okay, starting over from Sterling where I last wrote--Long story short I experienced several emotional break downs. The weather up there and my seasonal affected disorder needless to say didn't really get along. Aside from the grey skies and rainy dreary weather, my home, my family, my Steve-o were simply too far away. I was completely and utterly homesick. It was quite literally debilitating multiple times--depression is a bitch.

My mom--being the wise and wonderful woman that she is--got the brunt of the tearful phone calls. Without question, she supported my desire to leave with one condition: that I find a college educated, trustworthy person to talk through all of my freak-out, break-down issues and then make my final decision. I immediately emailed my favorite instructor Mr. Brinkley Benson. What an amazing and genuine human being! Without hesitation, he spent a morning with me--tears, frustrations and full on "please, I'm desperate to figure this out" dedicated time (there was never a point in our time together that day that he looked at a watch, the time or whatever letting me know he needed--or wanted--to be somewhere else). I can only assume he had other things planned to do that morning but had no issues what-so-ever helping a friend and respected student.

I learned 4 invaluable things that day:
1. "You are 28 years old, you are so young still, who are you to think that you would have your whole life figured out by now?!"
2. "It took me 16 years to get my bachelors degree..."
3. "You deserve, above anything else, to be completely happy no matter what."
4. "Do not motivate out of fear--motivate out of love, hope, passion, and desire."

This has become my life motto since--and Brinkley my forever friend and mentor. I never thought I'd need or want or find one of those for myself but boy, when it happens, it's literally life changing!

So, here I am now. I decided that day to definitely take a leave from Sterling--there is a very small possibility that I might consider attending a summer semester there but for now, I am home and very contented in my choice. I finished my semester out strong and with mostly A's on the report card (a B- in Environmental Science which is stellar considering how much I just "love" science!) and have since decided to take a semester off from school in general.

There were many more factors that played into my choice to leave, it wasn't nearly a simple emotional reactionary choice. I did make some solid friendships there, people I plan to keep in my life forever (aside from Brinkley) and for that I am very grateful. I simply wasn't getting from the school what I expected going in, and bottom line, college isn't a cheap price to pay to not get what you or need out of it. Additionally, I learned that although schooling and education is obviously a life long endeavor and something that I truly enjoy, I don't need a degree to do the farm community life-style thing that Steve and I dream of doing (honestly, multiple farmers that I met through my favorite Brinkley class--Exploring Alternative Agriculture--point blank told us, "you don't need a degree to do this." Okay, I got the message).

So, I packed my room (an insane amount of stuff, what was I thinking bringing so much out there?! Oh right, that I was going to be there for almost 3 years, gotta make it cozy) and drove a straight 12 hours in one day from upstate Vermont to Cleveland, OH where I spent the night. And knocked out the remaining 7.5 hours the next day to Fort Atkinson, WI to spend the Christmas holiday with my family--oh, and surprise new fiance!

So here I am, having chosen to take this semester off to refocus on my life's journey.

At this point, I am not so degree focused anymore--it may come eventually but right now, it's no longer the top priority in my life and even when it does come, I'm not 100% sure what it will be in. What I am most interested in right now (as far as future degree) would be alternative teaching--like Montessori or Waldorf certifications programs, not just a typical teaching degree.

I have also been granted permission to tear up a dear friend's backyard to convert it into the most epic kitchen garden he has never had. And he and Steve are so wicked excited about it, I never expected that kind of support or reaction!

Additionally, I have been gifted my old job back (full-time with a raise I might add)! I am so blessed to be able to spend everyday in the Colorado sun back with my Little Bunny! She's grown so much in the 4 short months I was gone--not much in height though, she's still tiny and cuddly! So intelligent and so beautiful, my days with her never cease to amaze me!

Finally, the epic plan for 2012 and the adventures that lay before Steve and I--again, lesson learned in VT, I can't, nor do I ever want to again, be so far for so long from Steve. He's truly my partner and I want to experience life with him by my side forever. What is in the works thus far is a trip to Oregon to explore the area, experience the winter there (to see if my s.a.d. can handle it--with Steve) and see if we could build a life together there. If not, then it's on to the South--North or South Carolina, the Appalachian region of Virginia or Kentucky/Tennessee area to see if Steve could handle the hot, humid summers there and if we could build a life there. Unfortunately, we're pretty determined to leave CO, it's gorgeous here and we love it here but there's no water and that makes for farm living quite challenging--more so than we already expect it to be. There are several options available to us to support these adventures so we're both really excited for what our near future has in store for us!

So... here is a photo mega-load of my life since October:

Little Bunny's Birthday present--2 years old!

3 skeins of cotton plied threads--learning how to spin on the
wheel! Not as easy as I expected, big surprise

Then ply all those skeins into one fatty skein--to be knit
into a dishcloth for the end of term gallery show

First skein of hand-spun yarn--spun on the drop spindle
White sheeps wool and black and whit carded sheeps wool
completely hand processed by me!

Pig shit: farm chores for a week and the shit literally hit the fan!

Beautiful New Hampshire scenery on the way to D'Acres--
A place that will change my life

D'Acres welcome sign

I know, it's hard to see but those are Khaki Campbell ducks--
those are my ducks!!!

Hand built adobe-style green house with nothing
but passive solar heat--this field trip was at the
end of October if I recall correctly and even after
bitter cold nights had set in and a full on snow
storm hitting the weekend we were there, they
still had fresh gorgeous kale, lettuce, peppers, and
many other weather sensitive produce thriving
in this beautiful space!

Grapevine arbor

As stated, D'Acres changed my life--and this is pretty much what the remainder of my Sterling life consisted of: immense amounts of knitting projects and anything fiber related, watching movies curled up on my "couch" for the weekends, and reading, reading, reading anything that I felt was ag and farm start-up and my dream life relevant.

And Fiber Arts class took over the rest of my life--but I LOVED every moment of it!
Commercially spun, citric-acid dyed yarns

Fiber to be spun--colors are merely exhaust baths (meaning,
someone already dyed their fiber or yarn, I just cleared the cook
pot and still got wicked intense colors!) 
"Space dye"


Purple exhaust that caught blue and purple tints separately!

My fiber arts box approximately mid-term

Space dye on the right--gorgeous! 
Dyed yarn even began taking over my bathroom

This is one of my favorites--white sheeps wool dyed with
onion skins, epic army green color

Luscious alpaca fiber with citric-acid dyed "carrots" (just
yarn waiting to be spun)

What began as a "ruined" batch of black sheeps wool dyed
with onion skins and turned to muck. Interesting though,
all throughout this dyeing learning process, we were told,
and I read, that getting a vibrant full colored black is nearly
impossible to do with natural dyes. Well, I did it and absolutely
hated it (just use black sheeps wool with an iron mordant
and the result should be oil colored, muddy, disgusting wool--
congrats if you want that)! So I soaked the ruined batch in
peroxide for a night and got this beautiful bark color! I LOVE IT!
Yellow citric-acid exhaust, Orange all natural madder root dye,
Brown is the "ruined" onion natural dye after peroxide and
spun--looks super cool on my vintage wool blanket!
Fiber Arts box nearing the end of the semester!

Wednesday, October 19

Not that this is any different than normal timing

Hey everyone,

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for being a part of my life here at Sterling through the readings posted here. It means a lot and feels really great to hear from you in response to postings, especially the support and kind, motivational words.

That said, I also wanted to just shoot a line letting you know that the proverbial $#!% has hit the fan so I'm taking a minimum of a 2 week hiatus (I'm so fried right now, I didn't remember how to spell "FAN," no jokes).

School demands have finally caught up to me. Mostly it boils down to a HUGE time demand which leaves, well, no time for anything else (figure out how to get homework done when there's literally no time left in your life for 2 solid weeks, please, I welcome advice)!

So much love to you all, hope things are riding gorgeously in all of your pretty pieces of the planet and I'll catch you on the other side--of school work that is.


Thursday, October 13

Beautiful community

I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing school, this beautiful community, and surrounded by so many impactful and aware people!

As you'll read in the blurb below, a group of Sterling students are heading down to NYC to lend their support and voices to the causes being fought currently on Wall Street (I wanted to go but actually have a class all day Saturday that I can't miss... timing. I'm sure there will be another opportunity for me though, I've already heard other students who also aren't able to make the journey this weekend talking about putting together another group). These students, in just 4 short days, have acquired food, warmth, and hope to hand out on the streets of New York--there are currently 3 rubbermaid storage buckets overflowing with warm clothes and blankets that they'll bring; they'll be picking up the food donations originally set out by a local farmer for the VT food bank but they have graciously agreed to send it with the students, again for the protesters; and finally, they've also been donated over 100 seed packets from another local farmer and with them, they'll be handing out the following Manifesto put together by us, the students of Sterling along with faculty and staff (several of the lines are actually mine too)!

This is our perspective of our life and community here. This is what we hope to inspire into others and future generations.

This is Sterling.

A Sterling College Manifesto

Tomorrow, a group of Sterling College students plans to travel to New York City to join the Occupy Wall Street protest. Eliza Mutino, ‘12, (pictured above right) produced the following ‘Manifesto’ of Sterling culture to distribute among the protesters. The Manifesto consists of statements offered up by the Sterling community of students, faculty, and staff.
Sterling College brings you a mini-manifesto of our culture,
with hopes it will inspire the one you are building.    
o    We strive for health, nourishment, and justice.
o    We make eye-contact, and greet people
      using their names
o    We know there is value in that which others may
      deem valueless.
o    We learn that truly knowing one another allows
      us to trust one another.
o    We know the people near us.
o    We teach by example.
o    We learn by reading, discussing, doing and reflecting,
      so we can apply our reasoned thinking to our lives.
o    We share. Share work, share food, share respect.
o    We are intentional in our planting and harvesting, for learning purposes and for sharing with others.
o    We appreciate the simple things.
o    We fight apathy!
o    We recognize we are all part of nature!
o    We practice what we preach and we teach what we are taught.
o    We give nature a voice.
o    We try to be honest and kind and to take care
      of the land, water and air around us.
o    We are resilient through the energizing synergy
      of youth, wisdom, and “plain hard work”.
o    We are willing to be wrong, to correct ourselves,
      to take risks, to speak out and to learn from others.
o    We accept that perfection is inherently imperfect.
o    We look out for each other. 
o    We choose to spend our money locally, supporting our neighbors instead of      far-away corporations. 
o    We return to our grassroots to once again
      appreciate and respect the earth
o    We live and practice responsible consumerism.
o    We seek to understand the world as a whole, to accept its gifts and give our    own back to it
o    We practice voluntary simplicity
o    We are conscious of how our choices/actions
affect the world. 
o    We cultivate personal responsibility and accountability
o    We pay attention to how we grow our food, how we prepare it and how we   distribute it
o    We are learning to break away from what has
      become the typical American lifestyle
o    We learn how to live, work, play, learn
      and evolve together.
o    We know that there is safety without policemen.
o    We work together as part of one big community.
o    We work hard on building this community.
o    We are change, opportunity, love, wisdom
      and strength, embodied.
o    We are preparing to educate and inspire the world!
     We stand in solidarity with you all.
Brought to you by: the Sterling College Community,
Craftsbury Common, Vermont.