Winter Reads to Devour.

Winter is upon us. Last Sunday we had a few wet snowflakes fall from the sky. It was almost like the heavens opened up and decided to throw small, wet snowballs our way. 

Regardless, I loved it. 

I really, really enjoy winter. Well, I enjoy every season in Eastern Iowa, but I am fond of winter. At work, we have many acres of native prairie. When I have a moment to walk the trails I see evidence of fall on the way out, ushering in the new season. 

The grasshoppers and butterflies are gone. They've moved on, leaving a few spiders is all.

The woods are still alive with activity. Birds, squirrels, deer, and mammals of every sort. The blessing of being able to work in such a place where I can enjoy the change in the seasons is surreal. For the last 10 years I've observed the change in seasons from a window, or enjoyed it only on weekends.

Welcoming winter means enjoying fall. We participate in communal silent meditative walks with others, I pull my yoga mat outside, and John keeps busy with new chores.

Our Jotul wood stove is our primary heat source, and because this is our first winter in the cabin we have no idea how much wood we will need. John is splitting wood almost daily, slowing chipping away at the very large pile of logs that accumulated when we cleared a half acre of timber for our cabin.

Other preparations for winter include strategically stocking our small deep freezer with veggies from our CSA, chickens from a local Amish family, and beef from my dad.

I'm also stocking up on winter reads. Books to keep my mind sharp and stimulated, even when my body is cozy and more sedentary.  One thing you should know about my reading choices is that they are very eclectic, and I'd like to share some of my favorite odd-ball titles with you:

Enjoy this transition to winter, friends. We sure will.

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When I was 32 I Built a Fort.

One Saturday I got this guttural urge to build and create. Usually I head to the kitchen or grab a power tool, as the last year of our lives has been prepping and building this cabin. This time was different. I wanted so desperately to be outside in the crispy, autumn-scented air.

I built a fort.

Will I use the fort? Maybe. I don't know.

Do you remember building forts when you were a child? All of my favorite play spaces were outside as a child. My dad built a tree fort for us when my brother, sister, and I were children. It was simply a platform cradled in a huge tree in our cattle pasture. No guard rails. No roof. Just a sturdy platform and a homemade ladder constructed of 2x4s in which to ascend to our palace in the trees. While my brother preferred the tree fort, I drew near to a stump fort in that same cluster of trees. This stump fort was simply an old tree stump, roots intact, that my dad (or someone before him?) turned over. It laid just so, allowing me to have a window through the roots, a flat place to make mud pies, and a nook to hide away with flowers I found in the pasture.

When did I lose my playfulness? When did I lose my imagination? I know I'm not alone here.

Building a fort of branches and vines in the timber surrounding our cabin was one of the most fulfilling 'projects' I've done to date. My lungs were burning in the cool air and my heart was pumping hard as I searched the ravines nearby for the perfect long branches to serve as the foundation for my fort.

I have no idea if this fort will withstand the winter, let alone a snowstorm. I see it as a tribute to the childhood that I had, that we all had. Where we could be creative and dirty and build things and wonder and make something colorful from our minds come alive.

It's time to reclaim our spirits! It's time to find our inner child. It's time to say goodbye to the routine and procedure and system and order that stifles the fire in our bellies. Preoccupation and busyness for the sake of busy have no room here anymore.

It's time to play. Grab a chicken. Give her a snuggle. Talk to animals. Talk to trees. Build forts. Sing out loud. Make up rhymes.

Do it all because it feels good.

Then, like me, go to work on Monday and bring a small piece of your inner child with you. 

Simply Living Simply.

My oh my, how things have changed for John and I over the last 4 months. We began building our dream cabin in March, moved into our camper on the property in June, moved into the cabin in mid-July, and have been simply living simply for the last two months.

Every night, and I mean every night, one of us makes a comment about how blessed we are to have found this property, connected with each of the subcontractors on our build, and have the ability to work to pay for this dream cabin. It was hard work. Very, very hard at times. We don't take a moment of that for granted and are grateful that everything worked out relatively smoothly.

Now, we live simply. We have peace and quiet. We savor moments on this homestead. While we both still work 'in town' daily, it doesn't tarnish this experience at all. If you thought we lived simply before, I can't wait to see your comments about how our lifestyle has transformed in the recent past.

For example, we are producing honey right here on our homestead. This year was a small harvest of about a gallon of raw honey since our hives are just getting established. I am proud of the beekeeper I've become, especially because my confidence in working my bees alone has grown.

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