Visit Our New Project at GoFundMe!

Hey all, thanks for checking out my blog!  Many of you know about my travels and adventures, but I wanted to take a minute to share something I’m working on.  I’d love it if you’d support the blog by making a donation, even if it’s small at http://www.gofund.me/nomadorwhat.

I wont tell you my entire life story here, you’ll have to wait for the book to come out to hear the rest, but I will share a bit about my background, what led me to this place in my life and why I’m asking for your donations.

As a young girl, I learned at an early age that life is not always easy, and sometimes it’s just downright hard.  By my 5th birthday I had already experienced the death of two of my grandparents.  At 15 I was sexually assaulted at school by an older student.  I was devastated and emotionally scarred.  While stile trying to heal from one emotionally difficult situation, I was forced the following year to face another when my father, who had been dealing with long term depression and other mental health issues, attempted suicide. As an impressionable and emotionally fragile 16 year old, I was the one who found his nearly lifeless body that fateful day.

I became for many years a victim of my circumstances. At 20 I suffered through an extremely abusive relationship that isolated me from my family and friends, and managed to barely make it out with my life.  As I turned 21 and entered my adulthood, I was so broken and lost. Outwardly my life would appear fine as I held a job, sometimes two, supported myself, and sometimes someone else, and also went to school.  But inwardly I was torn apart by trauma and self loathing.

Through my early 20’s I struggled to find my place in the world and in 2008, fed up with corporate slavery, I quit my job at P&G in Cincinnati, and my boyfriend at the time, and I, left behind the state of Ohio.
We traveled the country for nearly a year, working on cattle ranches (one in Nevada where I adopted Eureka) to support ourselves. The journey changed my life.  It made me realize that I was bigger than my circumstances and greater than the sum of the bad things that had happened to me.  Returning back to the East coast, a new fire burned brightly in me.  We settled back into society and moved into a little country house in Kentucky with 8 acres.  There we adopted a horse and another dog and I felt that this was the beginning of a beautiful new life and adventure.                                                                                                                                                    (Weibe, my horse, giving me nuzzles)
3 months later my vision was shattered when I returned home from work to find missing, all my most valuable possessions, a safebox with $2000 I’d saved up and also my boyfriend.  After calling the police, filing a report, and trying over and over again for a week to contact him, I finally reached him only to be shocked with the news that he had been abusing drugs.  He had stolen from me and abandon me there in KY with a house, 3 dogs 2 cats and a horse.  Needless to say that was the end of that relationship.

I was forced to start over for what felt like the 1000th time.  I lived in a motel 6 in Cincinnati with 2 dogs (I had to find a home for the other) for 3 months while I worked two jobs to save for an apartment.
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Finally I made enough and settled into my new little place.  The following year I moved into a quaint little one bedroom house in Norwood Ohio and landed an excellent job at 5th 3rd Bank.  Things were looking up! I worked there and lived in my little house for almost two years, the longest I had lived anywhere.                                                                                                                                   (Eureka lounging on the couch at our new house 2009)

In the beginning I liked my job and was eager to learn, but as time went on my heart knew this was not the job for me.  With no room for creativity, no ability to be impactful and very little time to work on myself personally, I struggled internally to be there every day. I stuck with it though, fearful of following my dream of being a photographer full time.  What if I couldn’t make it?  In July of 2011 I got laid off from the bank and knew there was no time better than the present to follow my heart once and for all.

I started my photography business and haven’t looked back.  Through all the paths my life has led me down, photography has been the one constant thing that has allowed me to express and pour out into my work, the joy and the pain of my life.  Since then, I have made many sacrifices to continue doing what I love, and learned that self employment is a great challenge.

In July of 2013, the culmination of every trauma, stress or difficult time I had not taken the time to heal from, resulted in the darkest time of my life.  An over whelming cloud of darkness and wave of terrible anxiety settled over my life, with no light and no end in sight.  Fearful that I was beginning down the road my father had traveled, I became frantic and even more anxious at the thought that I was officially losing it. But somehow, even in the darkness and the midst of 24 hour a day panic, I found that little light in me, glistening like the last ember left after a fire dies out.  And through sheer determination and strength I didn’t even know I had, I began to push myself towards healing and total wellness.

I couldn’t sleep well, and what little sleep I got was interupted usually right at 4am with my heart racing out of my chest.  Though nauseous (I had lost 20 lbs from not being able to eat) I began forcing myself to get up, and walk 2 miles every day.  I felt terrible, but walking helped just enough that I knew it would ease my symptoms throughout the rest of the day. I totally changed my diet to cut out processed sugars, gluten and dairy and I read and researched and read some more about anxiety, depression, it’s causes and natural remedies. I read about spirituality and awareness, about life and the universe. And the more I read and learned and applied, the better I felt.  After one year of working hard, with no medication ever, I had reached a balance and rid myself of the crippling anxiety I had began with a year before.  I was finally at peace with myself and happier that I’d ever been.

Why am I sharing all this? Certainly not for pity.

I want others to know it’s possible.  What is “it” ? Anything!  I’ve been reaching out to individuals in my community who I feel can benefit from learning my story. Because I’m no super hero, I’m just an ordinary person, who learned that the human will is extraordinary. We are all mirrors for one another to see the parts of us that are broken, undiscovered, or forgotten, the parts of us that are beautiful, strong and perfect.  It’s time for me to take that message, and my work on the road.

For the past two years  I have been building this blog,  to share my travels and my experiences with all you guys in hopes to encourage you to go explore the world around you.  I have also been planning to create a more self sustaining and minimalistic life by downsizing to an RV that will allow me to travel to work and to speak to people around the country about humanity, strength and the will to overcome, as well as document my journey along the way.

With the funds I raise through Gofundme.com, I plan to find a safe and reliable RV.  I plan to use a portion of the money to get my materials written out and then begin a speaking tour to share my experience in hopes that I can be impactful through my words and photography, and give others hope.  Any additional money, will be invested in equipment I can use to document this journey. In the end I hope to publish a book about what I’ve learned through my journey (where you’ll be able to read all the nitty gritty details of the rest of my crazy life).

I’m ready to be a part of the solution, the answer is love. And I need your help!
If you would like to contribute to helping me spread a message of hope and strength while continuing to build a life around what I’m passionate about, please donate to my campaign.  More than you can possibly ever know, I appreciate every penny and will make sure that it is used to the fullest potential.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to thank each and everyone of you personally in my travels.

(I currently have one week to move my things from the cabin I’ve been living in, and I’d like to move them into my new RV home, so the sooner I can reach my goal the better. I’m working hard to come up with what I can through my work and plan to match as much of the donation amount as possible with my own personal money.)

You can also follow my journey at the NomadorWhat facebook page.  or view my photography work at the LiVon Photography facebook page.

Thank YOU!!!
//funds.gofundme.com/Widgetflex.swf

 

 

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A weekend at the Red River Gorge

With only two more weeks until one of my best friends leaves to go back to Michigan and then to embark on the journey of a lifetime, we decided to make the best of this past weekend with a trip to the Red River Gorge in Slade KY.  Our other friends Ben, the Gypsy Rover, Farmer Annie, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo joined us for a weekend of outdoor adventures.

I’d like to know which government agency you apply to, to receive extra hours in your day, because Friday I could’ve used at least 4.  I had planned on leaving very shortly after my one o’clock photo shoot with baby Connor and his little dog hippo (is that not the cutest name for a dog?!)  Anyway my photo shoot ran over and by the time I packed my gear and got back to the bf’s house in Mason Ohio it was 3pm! He wanted to have lunch together since I was leaving and he was also leaving Saturday morning for Disney World for a week.  So we met at Putters in Kings Mills and had a yummy lunch and a beer.

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Afterward I drove back to his house to pick up Eureka and then head back to the house to grab my camping gear and meet up with Viking Greg.  Of course once I was at the house I had to upload the photos from my session and take a quick glance through. Perfection! By the time we got the car packed and left the house it was around 6pm and we still had to stop at Krogers for food, REI for sleeping bag fabric repair tape and lastly the gas station, for gas, of course.

We bought about $90 worth of snacks and stuff to sustain us over the weekend. Basically gold fish crackers, beef jerky, trailmix and alcohol, lol.  We drove completely to the other side of town to REI, where I’d never been before, and I don’t know why not, because it’s awesome.  It’s like an outdoorsy person’s heaven!  They have everything you can possibly think of pertaining to outdoor activities.  I got tape to fix the hole in the awesome Marmot Trestles 0degree mummy bag that I found on craigslist earlier in the week. I also found a BRAND NEW, never been used or even set up Big Agnes tent for literally half the retail price! I decided while I was at REI I may as well pick up a pair of waterproof hiking shoes. We cashed out and headed towards Kentucky to grab some quick dinner and get gas.  At Taco Bell, we waited in the drive-through for literally 25 minutes behind one person, who must’ve ordered the entire restaurant.  FINALLY we got gas and hit the road.  I checked in with the Gypsy Rover (Ben) to see if he’d talked to Music Man Kyle to see where we should meet up.  After confirming with him, I entered Red River Gorge into the GPS and off we went.

Before long I realized that the way the GPS was leading us, was definitely not the way I went the last time Ben and I went to the Gorge.  Turns out, the GPS took us backroads, literally the entire way there.  While most people would see this as a pain, and become frustrated, the Viking and I saw it as an adventure. The scattered cloud cover and bright moon made for a beautiful view on the back country roads.

Greg is lost!

Greg is lost!

We decided it would be pretty comical to stop and take a photo of Greg in the middle of the road with an expression that said “I don’t know where the hell I’m at.”  As we pulled over, I saw a handful of hovering blue lights in a field.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark I realized the lights were on the eyes of horses. Cyborses!  I pointed them out to Viking Greg. I’m pretty sure he thought I was ‘effin with him, but he soon realized that I wasn’t.  After taking a couple neat pictures we hopped back in the car and I promptly googled “horses with blue lights on their eyes.” Turns out they use the lights on brood mares to put them in season earlier.  Who knew!!

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After about 2 1/2 hours of winding back roads we finally arrived at the Gorge and headed in to the Indian Creek campsite where everyone else had set up. Greg swore he could remember where it was from the last time but after several times turning around I wasn’t so sure lol. When we finally found the campsite, lucky for us they had a nice fire going, because it was chillllllyy!  After setting up my tent and spending a few minutes admiring its beauty, I joined everyone else around the fire.  My toes felt frozen and I began to regret not buying boots instead of shoes.

After warming up and chatting a bit, I decided to turn in and Eureka and I crawled in our new tent.  I laid a blanket down for the dog and the folded another blanket and laid it long ways under my sleeping bag for extra padding and insulation from the ground. Unfortunately, the blanket wasn’t long enough and though my body and upper legs were warm, my feet felt frozen and numb all night long.  For those of you who’ve never slept in a mummy bag, there’s only 2 maybe three positions you can sleep in; flat on your back, flat on your stomach or flat on your side.  No curling up on your side or bending your legs due to the structure of the bag, which is designed that way to keep you warm.  My rest on Friday night, was not great. I woke at around 7 am with Eureka curled up on my pillow next to my head. I instantly shooed her back to her own blanket and spent a moment pulling her hair from my mouth and fully waking up.  I could hear Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo chatting, the fire already crackling, the stream by our campsite babbling and the Gypsy Rover groaning from his tent. I crawled out of my tent and joined everyone else around the fire.  Music Man and Sammy Jo were kind enough to bring breakfast food to share so we feasted like kings on fire cooked sausage, bacon and egg burritos. They were friggin delicious and really hit the spot.

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Since we were meeting farmer Annie at 3 at the Shell (the only place you get cell phone reception) we decided to hike Half Moon since it’s a short trail with an awesome view.  It was my first time up there, but Sammy Jo recommended it, and that girl knows the gorge!  We walked along a trail and came to a point where we had to climb up some rocks to continue.  Since Eureka and Dhalia (Ben’s dog) couldn’t continue one the path they were instructed to stay.  We reached Half Moon and I was far from disappointed with the absolutely spectacular view.  We soaked it in, took pictures and goofed around (a safe but still scary close distance from the edge).

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The Viking and I decided to try a bound headstand, which might I add, I did perfectly on the loveland trail just a week ago.  He went first and I captured a photo (I was a proud teacher!). When I went to do mine, fear took over my brain and I just couldn’t get my feet up and get balanced.  Viking offered to help me lift my feet up but I didn’t realize he was standing behind me and when I swung my feet up I kicked him directly in the face, specifically the nose, which was red and bleeding. What an awesome friend I am! Geez.  I felt so terrible, but he was gracious and even gave ME a hug and told me it was ok, that he knew it was an accident.  Needless to say, I did NOT complete my headstand.

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We took an “Us-ie” and headed back down the path. When we reached the dirt trail the dogs hadn’t moved an inch, ok maybe an inch, but there they sat loyally waiting for our return. What awesome dogs we have and even better, they are best buds.

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We arrived back to the cars just a few minutes after 3pm and headed to Shell. Farmer Annie was there waiting on us.  After a brief food stop, we headed back for camp. We spent the remainder of the evening hanging around the fire like a merry band of woodland dwellers.  We drank under a clear crisp night sky and a bright moon. We played the “word pun” game. It was so much pun! After enough drinking, the singing began. I’d estimate we spent the better part of two hours singing acapella, every song we could collectively think of the words to, and some we didn’t know well at all. We struggled through some Madonna, Queen, Backstreet Boys and many others, but we were all smiling ear to ear.  It was so much fun, a memory I’ll keep for a long time to come.

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We started fading out and since it was super chilly we thought it would be best to tent-buddy up, especially since the Viking only brought a hammock and had nearly frozen solid the night before.  The Rover, Dhalia, Eureka and I piled in my tent, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo in theirs, and Farmer Annie and Viking Greg into hers.  Kyle let me borrow an extra sleeping bag to put under mine and let me tell you it made all the difference in the world.  I lay there in my mummy bag as everyone drifted off to sleep and thought how grateful I am that the universe aligned and brought together such an awesome beautiful unique group of people, and how glad I am to call them friends.

I woke up to condensation dripping on my forehead like chinese water torture. All the hot breath in my tent had made it quite stuffy and unbearable once I was awake, so I HAD to get out, but once I did, I realized it was a beautiful day.IMG_7853As the sun came up, the frost on the ground melted away.  I thought I was the first one up, but as I stretched and moved around I saw Viking Greg walking back from his car. Apparently he had gone to sleep in there for a few hours because he was cold in Annie’s tent.  Two nights of bad sleep for Greg fried his brain a bit and I could tell he wasn’t functioning at full capacity. So once everyone was up I suggested a Shell run for coffee which Greg gladly agreed to.  We rode with Kyle and Sammy Jo to Shell and left Ben and Annie to build a fire so we could cook breakfast.

When we returned from Shell, Viking and Music Man were much more lively and the Rover and Annie had a HUGE fire going.  Those two crazy critters were going skinny dipping and invited us to join, but you can count me out on that! I have no desire to stick my cold naked body in to close to freezing stream water. But those crazy kids went through with it! Maybe next time when its a little warmer, lol (sorry folks, no photos).

After a steak breakfast, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo were packing up to head out and the rest of us headed to Natural Bridge.

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We parked at Hemlock Lodge and took the trail up the hill, the Gypsy Rover practically running as usual with Viking right behind him and Annie and I (us old folks) trailing a bit behind.  We reached the top of Natural Bridge and sat and rested for a while, enjoying the view.  IMG_8073

After snapping some pictures we continued on the trail to Lookout Point. As I was sitting there, just a few seconds after snapping a picture of Annie, I somehow lost hold of the lens cap (which belongs to the fisheye lens I BORROWED) and it rolled over the cliff and I heard it tink tink ti ti tink tink tink, all the way down.  My mouth hung wide open. It was like I saw it happen in slow motion, but couldn’t do a thing about it.

I was determined to go look for it, so my friends, although unsure we’d find it, humored me and we hiked down Devils Staircase to the trail that wraps around the front of Lookout Point.IMG_8153

The trail is about 75 ft downhill from the rock face itself, and in between the trail and the rock is very dense plant life and fallen trees.  It wasn’t an easy climb to get up there, but once we did, we found there is another trail that wraps directly along the rockside.  Not two minutes into looking I heard Viking yell, “I found it!” I was so relieved I wouldn’t have to tell Steve I lost his lens cap over a cliff. Turns out the trail we found was pretty rad, and in a way I’m glad that I lost the lens cap over the cliff.IMG_8174

As we made our way back to the parking lot, we all agreed it was time for some Miguels Pizza!! Miguels is a popular spot to find the Gorge’s most ambitious climbers as well as some pretty darn good pizza. We all met there and sat at a Picnic table out back to have our fill of pizza and enjoy the beautiful weather. After Miguels, Annie left for home and the Rover, the Viking and I (and the dogs) headed back for camp.

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We debated on whether to stay another night or not. Final concensus; yay. We were all out of firewood so the boys spent the next hour collecting and chopping wood. We got a little fire started and as they chopped I built up the fire little by little. We finally had a nice fired going and were relaxing and conversating, when out of nowhere, it started to rain. At first it rained gradually, then pretty hard. We scrambled to get all our stuff in the tents to keep it dry.  The rain made me want to turn in early so Eureka and I crawled into our tent. Ben pulled his tent across the campsite closer to mine and him and Dhalia turned in for the night. Since the Viking didn’t bring a tent and I’m not mean enough to make him sleep in the rain, he tent buddied up with me and Eureka. It rained well into the middle of the night, but I was warm and comfy.

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the ride home

We packed our stuff early the next morning to head home. Since my tent was soaked I shook the water off and stuffed it in the trunk to lay out to dry once I got home.  We said our goodbyes and headed for home. Driving out of the gorge, as the sun rose, just peeking through the trees, I thought, “I’ll miss this, a lot.” Although I plan to have many more adventures to the gorge this year, this was the only one with Viking Greg and I’m so glad we made it!

What a lucky girl I am to have met such diverse and wonderful friends in the past couple years, people I can share adventure and exploration with, people who share my passion for life. You guys rock my socks!

Buzzardroost Rock Trail Hike with the Viking

Being an adventurer is wild and exciting and involves a lot of living in and embracing the moment, but as I told a friend the other day, sometimes the moment doesn’t feel good, sometimes it can be difficult, or unsettling, maddening, sad or just plain miserable. But, we need to be in it anyway. We can’t deny ourselves the basis of what makes us human; feeling things.

Last year at the end of the summer, I was browsing craigslist for creative gigs and ran across an ad for an individual looking for a camera person to start a youtube channel with. Although my main focus is photography, I have a strong interest in video so I figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out.  I texted the number listed on the ad, and so began my friendship with Viking Greg.

In the beginning

In the beginning

We texted back and forth for a couple months and finally our schedules aligned and we met for coffee on November 19th. We talked for hours after our coffee was gone about life, philosophy, spirituality and adventure.  Although we’ve never started a youtube channel, or hell even filmed anything, we have developed an awesome organic chemistry. As the months have gone by, our friendship has grown closer and Viking Greg has proved to be an honest, trustworthy, insightful and inspirational friend.

Greg & I at my birthday party in January

Greg & I at my birthday party in January

I’ve known from the beginning that Greg had plans to leave in spring for a grand journey, starting in Ireland and ending who knows where, but as the months have passed by and our adventures as friends have just started, I find myself struggling to prepare to say goodbye, at least for the time being.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so super happy and excited for my new found friend that he is going to follow his heart, his dream, maybe even a little jealous lol, but I’m going to miss the kid.

I guess that’s one of the things about being a nomad that I’ve disliked the most, is having to say goodbye to people I’ve bonded with, befriended and loved.

Since Greg is leaving soon to embark on his new journey in life, we’ve been trying to cram in as much adventure as possible, and Thursday we finally got a beautiful day and made the hour and a half drive to Adam’s County Ohio to hike the Buzzardroost Rock Trail, considered the best view in Ohio.  Since it had rained a ton and we have had a lot of snow melt, the 4 mile round trip trail was super muddy and slick.  The Buzzardroost Rock trail is a well rounded trail with a lot of scenery and foliage changes. challenging but still intermediate hills to hike and at the end, a 500 ft high and almost 360 degree view of Adams County’s Brush Creek valley.

The last time I hiked BRR trail, the entrance was a bit tricky to find and the parking lot was located across the street from the trail head.  Now they’ve put up a new sign on main road and although it extended the trail just a bit, you no longer have to cross the road to reach it.

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The trail is marked by orange numbered markers on the trees lining the path. There was one marking we passed that said, 37, Swing on it… Do it.  Looking around we found a long vine hanging from the next tree over and did just as instructed. After crashing into the trees a few times, we made our way to the top of the rock outcrop, stopping along the way for plenty of pictures.  Reaching the end of the BRR trail can never get old. As you walk out onto the Dolomite outcrop, you are graced with a breathtaking panoramic view of the lush green Brush Creek valley.IMG_6859 copy

For those of you like me, who don’t know what a dolomite outcrop is, let me give you a brief geology lesson. Dolomite is a sedimentary rock that contains more than 50% of the mineral Dolomite, which is both a mineral and a type of rock (confusing right?!). Dolomite is former limestone that has been dolomitized, which happens when calcium carbonate in the limestone is replaced by calcium magnesium carbonate (which is the mineral form of Dolomite).  This replacement is caused by magnesium-bearing water (normally salt water) percolating the limestone. So now we know what it is made of, but what is it? Besides just a big ‘ole rock.  The technical name for the land form that is BRR is an outcrop. An outcrop is a visible exposure of bedrock (consolidated rock underlying the surface of Earth) or ancient superficial deposits.  According to Mark Wolf of the Ohio Geological Survey Department, these particular rock outcrops in the Brush Creek valley were formed by glaciers and the Brush Creek was formed by two pre-glacial creeks.

Who knew Ohio had such a rich geological history (besides of course, the geologists)? Another one of those things we take for granted or overlook as unimportant.

After watching the sunset, we hiked back down the hill, enjoying the last bit of daylight.  By the time we reached the parking lot, the sunlight had completely vanished to expose a crisp starlit night sky.  Instead of climbing in the car right away we lay on our backs on the concrete, not saying much but just absorbing the vastness of the universe. Greg broke the silence, “I’m gonna miss ya Gypsy chick.”  And I will miss him too.

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Hopefully one day our paths will cross again and we can share all we’ve learned in the mean time.  If you’d like to learn more about Greg’s journey and support him in his adventure, check out his page at

Cabin Life

I woke up this morning with a chilly breeze seeping into the open part of my sleeping bag.  From inside the bag, I could barely see the morning light. Damn, I thought, I let the fire go out again. Since I moved to the cabin on the hill, I’ve been learning valuable lessons about how thankful we should all be for gas powered furnaces and running water in our houses and the comfortability of not waking up freezing cold with purple fingertips and having to pee outside.

The cabin is decent sized, not huge but a good amount of open space, with a small wood burning stove to heat the entire thing. I moved here after the first week of December on the 11th, thinking in my mind, I’m tough and this will be a new adventure. There is no electricity besides whats run off an extension cord (an OSHA nightmare) and  no bathroom, kitchen, or plumbing in general installed at all yet.  The walls are uninsulated and really not walls at all because they are just studs and plywood uncovered.  Basically I’m living in a construction site. But Kenny has built this cabin with his own two hands, and despite being unfinished is an awesome example of what one person is capable of.  The cabin is constructed of materials that were donated or re-purposed by Kenny’s friends, and I think that it’s neat to see it all come together in one unique place like this.  When it’s a finished cabin come spring, it’ll be the most awesome place around here.

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After short notice in mid-November that I’d have to leave the place where I was staying in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, I had begun looking for other places to live that were affordable. One day as I was sharing my plight with one of the locals, my friend, Kenny, he offered to rent me the “studio” as it’s called. He assured me that I’d love the cabin, and the view, and so I drove down the road and took a look. As usual, what one may see as an unfinished cabin full of junk, I saw as potential to be something cozy and homey as well as a way to challenge myself to live beyond the bounds of modern society while still maintaining connection with the world. I’ll be inspired by this, I thought, made stronger.

Before I moved in

Before I moved in

Before I moved in

Before I moved in

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

The Bathroom

The Bathroom

20 days later, I’m freezing, can’t feel my toes, fingertips or nose and am feeling unmotivated to dig a ditch in the cold frozen ground to run a line to the cistern. Although living without my own bathroom is the pits (thankfully Kenny lets me use his), digging ditches up hill, isn’t exactly easy, especially when it’s 20 degrees and the ground is frozen solid.

The first few days here I tried sleeping in the bed in the loft. I quickly realized that the mattress up there is a bit, uhh shall we say flexible. My back and hips were hurting so bad from sleeping on it, not to mention I was tired from crawling up and down the ladder in the middle of the night to put fire wood in the wood burning stove every few hours. So once I got a couch here, I started sleeping on it. It’s colder down stairs but I’m much closer to the stove to feed it, and the couch is oddly more supportive than the bed. I can’t wait to get my own mattress here.

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So my routine has been to get the fire going nice and hot before bed, close down the stove (close the dampers and floo to keep the heat in the stove) and crawl in my sleeping bag with it all the way up over my head. Despite the wood burning stove (which is too small for the space) its never really too warm in here, and due to the lack of insulation, there are spots where it is VERY cold and drafty. So I sleep bundled in two 20 degree rated sleeping bags (and usually a few layers of clothes).

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I then set an alarm for two and a half hours from the time (to wake up and feed the stove), then another for two and a half more hours and so on, until the time I think I’ll wake up.  That worked for the first few nights, but I’ve become so tired from that routine that I am literally sleeping through my alarms and the past two mornings I’ve woken up freezing cold with nothing but a few coals left in the stove. Last night it was 19 degrees outside and with no insulation and no fire going, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than 25 degrees  when I woke up.WP_20141231_002

Its been tough. Probably the most challenging place I’ve lived.  It’s hard work cutting, splitting, carrying wood.  Its frustrating not having a kitchen to prepare my food in or a bathroom to use. But if I can live here, and I can make life work, then I can live anywhere, and most likely, I’ll be more than grateful the next time I have running water, heat and all the modern amenities of life, and I will be more conscious about wastefulness and conservation.

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I know I’ve done a lot of complaining about life in the cabin, but I wanted to take just a minute to go over some of the things I love about cabin life.

#1 The View

Rabbit Hash is situated right on the river in the Ohio River Valley between Kentucky and Indiana and some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen right here in my own front yard.

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There is a bald eagle’s nest back in the woods behind the cabin so some days I see the Eagles flying over the house, and down to the river to fish. I’ve also seen red fox, deer, turkey, possum, raccoon, coyote and we have a handful of kitties that hang around (some who I’ve buddied up with and now let in the cabin to keep warm). Looking out the windows in the loft of the cabin is like looking out onto my own little piece of heaven.WP_20141214_001

#2 The Town

Rabbit Hash is the first place I’ve ever lived that I felt attached to.  I have been surrounded by such a wonderful community of friends here and even if it’s cold as shit, my heart is warmed by the thought that I feel a sense of belonging here among my hashians. Rabbit Hash has been kind and generous to me and will forever hold a special place in my heart no matter where in the world I go.

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#3 The Rustic-ness

I love the smell of the wood burning stove, and the sound of it crackling, or roaring when I open the floo. I love the natural feel of being surrounded by wood and not the man made materials that fill most houses. It suits me, and my gypsy life. It’s simple and beautiful and despite all my complaints, I’m thankful for it.WP_20141214_003

#4 The Challenge

I enjoy pushing myself outside my comfort zone, and find that usually in life when you are able to do this, that you are rewarded. I have had many nights where I wanted to cry, because I was cold or miserable, but I’ve also had many nights here in the cabin filled with music, laughter, and good friends, some I’d even call family.

All in all the cabin has been an excellent learning experience. Its brought me joy and misery and is a reminder that in life, and in all things, you must find balance between the good and the bad. Here’s to Spring, it can’t come soon enough! lol

I’ll be doing a follow up post about life here at the cabin on the hill soon. So stay tuned for more gypsy adventures!

Thanksgiving Madness

I woke up around 11:00 am this morning with a Thanksgiving hangover. No, not from drinking, because my parents house in an alcohol free zone, which after the months I’ve lived in Rabbit Hash Kentucky, I’m almost thankful for that alone. My hangover is a combination type, from over eating and noise. I’ve become rather used to my quiet nights on the river at Lizzie’s in the Hash. Granted my mom’s house is usually pretty chaotic, this thanksgiving was no exception.
I decided this year, since I’m single and didn’t have anyone else’s family thanksgiving to visit that I would come spend the whole day at my parents house and help with dinner preparations. My 58 year old mother was off work for the first time in 8 years. Upon her request for me to come and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade in the morning like “old times”, I decided to just make the hour drive up to Cincinnati the night before so that I didn’t have to wake up super early Thanksgiving morning to make it here in time.

I left the house with intentions of being at my moms around 9, but ya know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. After visiting a few friends from Cincy, I finally pulled into Mom’s driveway close to 1 am. After carrying in my two baskets of dirty laundry to wash and small suitcase I’d packed, I pretty much went straight to bed. I had the privilege of sleeping in the room my mom has set up for my three little girl cousins, and despite sleeping in a bed that’s made for a 7 year old, a real mattress was soooo much more comfortable than my luxury fold out couch in Liz’s living room.

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I woke up Thursday morning to the smell of baking cinnamon rolls and could foretell that I would be thoroughly disgusted with my eating habits by the end of the day. We had a home cooked breakfast, watched the parade and of course I overdid it on the cinnamon rolls (I can’t help myself). We had some educational moments. First I pointed out to my dad that the parade is one giant advertisement, and then we made sort of a game of pointing out inconspicuous brand names and logos on floats and anchor people name dropping specific companies that sponsor the parade. Dad says he’ll never see the parade the same again lol. I prepared the turkey, begrudgingly, with Mom’s guidance, and as I was elbow deep in the turkey’s rear end (and also just absolutely disgusted with being a human) I brought up that we should be thankful to this turkey for his life, since after all, he was killed and now we were going to eat him. My mom retorted with, if we didn’t kill the turkeys and eat them, they’d be over populated.

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Lol. I explained to her that us humans are the ones who are over populated, and we are not controlling the wild animal population by killing them for our food. Instead we are mass producing animals in a way that is super unhealthy for both the animals and the people that eat them, in an attempt to keep up with the greedy appetites of humanity, mainly Americans. Although I do eat meat, at this point in my life I try to not eat meat or fish if it is not ethically raised in a humane and fair way for the animal and a processed in a healthy way for me to put into my body. I’ve become (for the most part) unwilling to compromise my moral standards for affordability.

Ok, so I made it through preparing dinner, and the family politics , and finally got a shower and dressed before company arrived. This year we were short a few people, but if my cousin Heather and her 7, yes count them, 7 children show up to holidays, there’s never a shortage of noise or chaos.  Since the kids were coming, I decided to get a movie for us all to watch, but trying to get 7 kids and several adults to sit still and be quiet for a movie is like trying to herd cats.

After too much dinner, struggling through the movie, and sharing laughs and stories with the family, I was pooped and ready for bed.  I lay in the tiny twin bed and looked over at the nightlight that belonged to me as a little girl. IMG_0179.JPG

It was a gift from my grandpa when my mom was pregnant. I felt nostalgic and it swelled in my heart.  I realized that despite the chaos and craziness, these are the people I love and care for.  They may drive me crazy sometimes, and I them, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

A Visit to Dark Wood Farm & a New Friend

While in Rabbit Hash, KY, as my previous post mentions (I think…) I met some new friends. Amongst those friends were a group of farmers that came down for a beer on the General Store porch. I overheard them (nosey gypsy) talking about their farms and by their appearance, gathered that they’d been working. As I normally do when I find someone or something interesting, I investigated. I introduced myself with a “sorry to interrupt but did I hear you mention farmers markets? I’ve been really thinking of going to local farmers markets for my produce.” I chatted with my new friends, Annie and Barry, and told them I’d love to come out to their farms sometime, ask some questions, learn some stuff and take some pictures. They both gave me a card and later in the week I emailed them both.  Annie responded and I was glad to hear she was as excited as me about sharing her farm and her story. She also offered me the opportunity for fair trade, which is basically where you volunteer your time at a farm in exchange for an agreed upon amount of produce. So I’m pretty pumped about doing that in the upcoming weeks and throughout the summer. Not only will I get some awesome fresh, locally grown produce, but I have the opportunity to learn from someone who I found out is very passionate at what she does.

Annie

Annie

We arranged for me to visit the farm to snap some photos of the baby plants, before they are ready for harvest and to chat with Annie about how she reached this awesome and exciting place in her life. So on Thursday April 24th, after running some errands, I headed down to Burlington Kentucky to Dark Wood Farm. Annie was out in the field working, as she spends most of her days. From a glance the first thing i noticed is this young woman with a hat and ponytail, who’s jeans and hands are covered in earth. She dons a pair of muck boots and sunkissed cheeks. She looks whole and joyful in her fields and touches each task lovingly.

Radish!

Radish!

I joined her and sat in the grass along side the rows of tiny plants that she was caring for. Annie shared with me what each type of plant was, what she was doing and why. She verbally walked me through each step, and I snapped photos as she tenderly saw to each new little growing life. I asked her how she got into farming, and then sat back and listened gratefully as she told me her story. Annie grew up in the Northern Kentucky area and was first exposed to growing food in her father’s garden as a child. She grew up snapping beans and helping with the other produce. In high school she worked at McGlasson’s farmstand on River Rd outside of Hebron KY, furthering her experience with farming and gaining farming community. Annie went on to study biology at the University of Kentucky and upon graduating she worked for The Nature Conservancy. She furthered her education in New York at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry (what a mouthful lol) studying ecology.

Watering in the Greenhouse

Watering in the Greenhouse

When she graduated from the school who shall not be named (Harry Potter reference) she actually worked for the university at a research facility in the Adirondack Mountains. From New York she then received a job opportunity in Trout Lake Washington with Americorps doing trail work. She fell in love with the Pacific Northwest, as did I when I visited Portland in December. She later got a job with the University of Washington at a citizen science organization called COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) teaching citizens how to find and record dead sea birds. I know, I know, you’re thinking the same thing I was thinking, that’s an awesome job! (Or maybe you aren’t lol) but she went on to explain the reason why these citizens were taught to look for dead seabirds along their beaches. It’s to track the population of different seabirds over a period of time so that if something like an oil spill happens they can measure the impact it has on the seabirds they’ve been tracking. They know what seabirds die when, for what reasons (ie. during their mating season, not all baby birds make it so the birds are identified, measured and recorded). It gives the citizens a sense of purpose as well as a hand in protecting their environment. They are directly involved and come to care more about the planet and the animals they study through this process. Which I think is really awesome! Who knew identifying dead sea birds could be so purposeful?

Hard working hands

Hard working hands

By this time Annie had been a lot of places and worked quite a few interesting jobs. But farming was always in the back of her mind. She had tried to have a garden everywhere she lived and now in her 30s, she began to think more about self sustainability and following her dream of farming. Since her job was part time, she volunteered at a student run farm at the University of Washington and began thinking more seriously about when she would take the leap of faith to do what she really felt would give her purpose. She always enjoyed jobs that involved physical labor, but unsure of whether or not she could actually farm for a living, she tested it out by going to live and work on a farm called Local Roots outside of Seattle. During the cold months when there was no work at the farm, she wintered at the year round Green String Farm in California. After finding in her heart that farming was where she belonged she returned back to her hometown and leased acreage and a house. So was born Dark Wood Farm. As she finished up her story, she looked out over her fields, crouched down, crumbling clods of dirt between her fingers.

Inside the Green house

Inside the Green house

I thought to myself, this is what beauty and love is about. A person is most beautiful and radiant when they can passionately put their heart and soul into what they do each day. She loves what she does, she loves the dirt, the plants, the air, the rain, and that love is clearly expressed in her voice and on her smiling face.

A proud plant mom

A proud plant mom

This is Annie’s first year as a full time farmer, and it feels great to be supporting her by sharing her farm and her story with all of you. She will be participating in several local farmers markets in the NKY area so support local farming and my new friend! You can find Dark Wood Farm on Facebook or visit www.darkwoodfarmstead.com. If you are interested in fair trade opportunities, contact Annie through her website, or contact a local farmer near you.