Category Archives: DIY

As a Child, Divine

(And aren’t we still all children, deep inside?)

A couple of months ago I began a spiritual quest, trying to pull out of the negativity I felt to be surrounding me (surrounding so many of us). I wanted to get back to a time when I knew, with every fiber of my being, that magic (which to me means LOVE + WONDER + ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE) was absolutely, 100% REAL.

It hasn’t been easy, but I’m getting there. I now spend about an hour each morning meditating and writing, reading, feeling deep gratitude. And my life is changing for the better, every day!

The quote below came from one of the books I’ve been reading, The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. I know that some are not into some aspects of “The Secret” that focus on materialism (I get it), but most of what Byrne writes about centers on positive thoughts, love, and gratitude. This particular book instructs the reader on how to create “the magic” through gratitude in all areas of life (through daily exercises and keeping a  gratitude journal). I liked the book so much I bought extra copies of the book for friends.

Byrne writes: “There is an exquisite feeling many of us had as children, that everything is good that every day promises more excitement and adventure, and that nothing could ever thwart our joy for the magic of it all. But somehow as we grew into adults, responsibilities, problems, and difficulties took their toll on us, we became disillusioned, and the magic we once believed in as children faded and disappeared. . . . I’m here to tell you that the magic you once believed in is true, and it’s the disillusioned adult perspective of life that is false. . . .”

That resonated with me. A little later, I read this, and connected with it deeply (so I wrote it on a white board).

 

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I choose magic and love and work that is play.  I hope you do, too.

 

Piotruś_Pan_p0081grafika z książki PL-Przygody Piotrusia Pana- publikacja Wydawnictwo J

Illustration from Przygody Piotrusia Pana, published by J. Mortkowicz, Warsaw, Poland, 1914.  Via Wikimedia Commons

 

I’ve also just finished The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. Highly recommended. As is a course I’m taking via Sounds True: Powerful Beyond Measure, by Marianne Williamson.

How is your aura these days? I hope it’s as bright and beautiful as you are.

XO,

Sandy

 

 

 

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Please Don’t Piss on the Petunias—a Memoir

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My memoir is coming out this month!

Yes, I know. I announced that it was coming out “soon” in JUNE (over six months ago). This baby is late, very late. As some of you know, I’m a self-taught publisher. Over the last eight years, I’ve published six issues of Greenwoman, a YA novel (Zera and the Green Man), a book of short stories (Fifty Shades of Green), a few e-books, and many articles and posts. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with many talented writers of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. I’d published so many things, but I’d never published a memoir—so here, once again, was another huge learning curve.

I thought I had all the material, all the stories I’d written over the years, and it could be easily put together. Oh, ha ha—wishful thinking! Luckily, my daughters (thank the heavens for them, always bringing me back to reality and keeping the bar set high) told me that the first draft was too incomplete and too inconsistent.

Those were not words I was hoping to hear.

My daughters urged me to rewrite several of the stories in past tense. A significant undertaking.

Then I discovered that the book, about our menagerie of pets over the years (among other things), really needed a story about our dog Chancho.

More importantly, the book needed an “origin” story.

That story took another month of writing, but first I had to time-travel back twenty-five years. (And let me tell you, time-travel is not easy!) The process was difficult emotionally, reliving those days, the tough times back in the early days, before all the fun started with raising kids, chickens, and a garden. Andy and I were just starting out in business and in parenthood, paying student loans and the mortgage on two houses for an entire year, living paycheck to paycheck (having to borrow money at times from his brother Danny to keep the utilities on), as Andy worked seven days a week to fix up a beautiful yet humble home with (finally) a space to garden . . . Oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with Lily and we had no health insurance?

I wrote the origin story. We went over the manuscript, again. And then again, reading it aloud this time and making over 600 more editing changes.

Two days ago I received what I hope will be the final proof. One more fine-tooth comb reading and a only a few (I hope!) minor edits.

I was reminded: Anything worthwhile takes time and thought and care. More than you imagine!

But today, finally, a sneak peek! Here she is. Almost born!

(Consider this an invitation to the baby shower.)

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Now for the backstory on the title, because some of you might remember that it was going to be titled The Chicken Chronicles. A good friend alerted me (thank you, V. G.!) that there was already a memoir with that title, by the illustrious Alice Walker (the Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Color Purple). Her book was also about chickens. So . . . I had to think of another title. Not easy, as that was my “working title” for years.

For a while I was stuck on Mother Hen . . .  but no one seemed thrilled about that one, and the only male beta reader (hello, Geno!) gave it a thumbs’ down in appeal to male readers. A clever friend (again, G. V.) , suggested a few alternatives. Her favorite was Chicken Scratches, which had its charms, but as I always prided myself on good penpersonship, it didn’t connect with me the way it needed to.

Sidenote: Wow, while writing this, I just thought of another title . . . Clucked Up. Ha ha! Maybe that will be the title of the sequel! Goodness knows there have been many more challenges and harrowing adventures this last decade— and especially these last two years!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand: One day I was rattling off title suggestions to Lily, including “Please Don’t Piss on the Penstemons,” the original title of one of the stories about our dog, Broonzy, and his destructive puppyhood. The back story on that title is that it’s a play on the old book/movie title Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, a work I’d never read, but I remembered vividly from childhood.

Lily said, “I like that one.”

Image result for please don't eat the daisies

I said, “I do too, especially the alliteration, but . . . I don’t know. It has a swear word. And I think there are a lot of people who don’t even know what penstemons are!”

Lily said that readers could look up penstemons—and that it wasn’t a big deal about “piss.”

I still thought it could be a dangerous move, a title with both “penstemons” and “piss,” so I decided to change penstemons to another “p” flower. What would sound best? We asked friends their preference: poppies, pansies, petunias or peonies?

“Petunias” won.

Now, to take a look at “piss” (ha). I researched: “book titles with swear words.” It seems that it can actually help sell a book these days!  Who knew? I brought it up to a media-savvy friend (hello, Mary Ellen!) a decade older than I am. She was, to my surprise, very enthusiastic. She said, “Our book club chose to read The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu  because of the title. Do it, Sandy!”

Still searching for a bit more reassurance (this was a big move!), I brought up the subject of swear words in book titles in Facebook-land. My mother immediately commented that she would never have a book with a swear word in the title on her coffee table! (Protecting the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you see. I didn’t even disclose what the colorful word would be, but she was against it.)

So “Piss” it was!

The book is very sweet (and only slightly pissy). More than anything, it is a love letter to our home and garden, our family, and Nature.

I hope you’ll make a note to buy a copy this month. I’ll let you know when she is born!

With much love and appreciation to all who have helped bring yet another dream to fruition,

— Sandy

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Orange Monsters*

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“The morning of the Weigh-Off. Carefully lifting a giant pumpkin.” Taken on October 1, 2010 by David Politzer, via Wikimedia Commons. This photo was under the categories: “Giant Pumpkin exhibitions,” “Agriculture in Ohio,” and “Fairs in Ohio.” 

(*No, the title is not a reference to our president.)

I’m going to be crotchety today. Since Halloween is on the horizon I thought I would post about kids and jack o’ lantern carving (with super-cute photos, if you don’t mind seeing kids with knives, which I don’t), but then that seemed too “ordinary” so I thought I’d do a little research on giant pumpkins.

What I discovered is how much the idea of “giant pumpkins” has changed in recent history. It used to be, if a baby could fit inside of a pumpkin, that was one big pumpkin! Now the pumpkins have to be picked up by forklifts to qualify as giants. Now, at pumpkin competitions, the pumpkins lie there like beached whales looking all flat, deflated, and, to me, forlorn. 

I think it’s gone too far.  

Sometimes when I’m at the gym, I see that “My 600-lb. Life” is airing on a few of the dozen TV monitors. (Yesterday, it was “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.” Hmmm. I sense a theme.) When I see “My 600-lb. Life” playing, I feel a little heartsick. Some days (most days?) it seems that our whole society has turned into a freak show. Affliction as entertainment.

Maybe it’s crochety-ness, but I thought of “My 600-lb Life” when I saw these pumpkins–and I can’t help seeing them as another affliction. They make me think of the madness of over-competitiveness and about obsessions, especially obsessions with all that is

BIG.

But mostly, with these pumpkins, I thought, Where does it end?

Last year the largest pumpkin in the world (grown in Germany) was 2,624.6 pounds. Congratulations go to  Mathia Willemijn, the prize-winner, who seems to wear a very satisfied look that says (to me, anyway), “Look at me, I am the KING of pumpkins!” 

I blame Howard Dill, in part. Dill’s famous ‘Atlantic Giant’ seeds are what really got the super-sized pumpkin competitions going. Dill patented his seeds after breaking a world’s record in 1981 for a pumpkin that weighed 493.5 pounds (rather petite by today’s standards). I found it interesting to note in the description of the seeds for sale: “These pumpkins aren’t suitable for much but novelty, though some do attempt to carve them, they make a spectacular and fun addition to any garden (if you have enough space)!”

Aren’t suitable for much. As a gardener, I always think of the water it takes to grow one of these monsters. (Yes, another bah-humbug! Apologies to all of you who love the idea of giant pumpkins.)

As to,”Where does it end?”–more research took me to a Smithsonian article where I learned that the potential for size (for a round pumpkin) is 20,000 lbs. You read that right, twenty thousand pounds. The article also explores one grower’s desire to mess with the DNA to go even bigger.

Now that’s scary!

Here are some, IMHO, ugly giant pumpkins for your contemplation, all found through Wikimedia Commons.

(If you have some thoughts on this issue, I’d love to hear them in the Comments!)

I would name this photo “Gee, Those Porta-Potties Look Small!”  Another by David V. Politzer – “A view of the line-up at the Weigh-Off, pumpkins at an Ohio county fair,” October 2, 2009.

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“Giant Pumpkin,”  by Alex1961, dated October 8, 2004.

“Twin contestants at the Weigh-Off,” October 3, 2009, by David Politzer.

 “Pumpkin Exhibition, Jucker Farmart in Aathal-Seegräben (Switzerland),” October 13, 2002, by Roland zh.

 

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“Giant pumpkin fan and Weigh-Off spectator’, October 2, 2010, by David Politizer.

“A giant pumpkin in the patch, early morning,” David Politzer, October, 2, 2010. (I have to confess, I LOVE this photograph.)

A Twist:
After posting the photos above, I discovered that David Politzer was not a farmer (as I had assumed after finding the first photograph) or simply a man obsessed with giant pumpkins who takes great photographs.

Nope. David V. Politzer is an artist in Houston, Texas, a photographer obsessed (for a while, anyway) with the monsters. I agree with critic Kelly Klaasmeyer, who describes Politizer’s photographs as capturing “views of ‘nature’ that are decidedly unnatural.”

I love it. 

 

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“Documentation of David Politzer’s ‘Heavyweights’, an exhibition of Giant Pumpkin photographs at Houston Center for Photography,” January 12, 2018.

My daughter Lily, who just read this post, thinks I am a party pooper. She also argues that pumpkins-as-monsters is fitting for Halloween!

I guess it depends on your point of view.

I hope you all have a fabulous “Pumpkin Day”/Happy Halloween on the 31st.

— SK

 

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Monthly Museletter – August 2018

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“Lunar Libration” by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons

Hello everyone!

Karla sent me her wonderful newsletter well over two weeks ago, yet I’ve only now published the bits that I feel connect the best to the Flora’s Forum audience. For this delay, I apologize.

I also had a realization. Instead of going through the whole newsletter and creating an online version once a month . . . why not just parcel out these videos, quotes, book reviews and other interesting tidbits, through the month and post more often?

(Why didn’t I think of this before?)  I think it will be more fun to do a few posts throughout the month, and then I won’t be late, and perhaps you won’t be overwhelmed with too much content at once.

That is what I shall start in September. For now, the last Museletter!

(Today, I’m especially excited to share “The Death Cafe” video, which I found to be both heart-wrenching and beautiful.)

Thank you, Karla, for once again sharing your Wisdome News!
❤ —SK

P. S. If you’re from Colorado Springs and would like Karla’s full newsletter that includes local events, you can write her at karlaann45 @ gmail.com.

Love to you all,

Sandy

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“The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I’ve been blessed with. I choose to be happy.” —Charles Schulz (Peanuts creator)

Designed with the Earth in mind, the gentle washer, Monono (Japanese for “empathy for all”) washes the equivalent of 12 tees with 5 minutes of hand-cranking, uses no electricity, fossil fuels, or dry-cleaning chemicals, and much less water than our washers (only 18 liters).

Two Colorado College students who came to Death Café last winter made this 10 minute documentary film. Everyone’s welcome to join the conversation; FMI contact Susan Coffey goingmywaydeathcare (at) gmail.com.


Also pertinent: THE GREEN BURIAL GUIDEBOOK by Elizabeth Fournier (2018) is in libraries now. It includes information about non-toxic “green embalming fluids” and alkaline hydrolysis, a non-fiery way of cremation that produces earth-friendly cremains.

Sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith of Appalachia Rising sing “Resilient.”

“Realigned and on point,
Power to the peaceful,
prayers to the waters,
Women at the center,
All vessels open to give and receive,
Let’s see this system brought down to its knees.”

You can read more about their music here.

What are “STRANDED ASSETS” & why do they matter? They appear to be a mirage, a Ponzi scheme on the part of big oil/coal/gas companies.

A wiser approach?
“The biggest problem for the climate change fight isn’t technology — it’s human psychology.”

Ecological oyster shell “living shorelines” restore habitat and build up beach edges!

Good News for Colorado! 
Sierra Club got Denver mayor Michael Hancock to commit to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. 

Shea Moisture (established 1912!) is an ethical, fair-trade, family-owned, women-supporting business that will leave you soft, clean, and smelling great!
(I love their Peace Rose soap!)

Another by Charles:
“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” —Charles Schulz

BRILLIANT!
Biologist Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry movement champions the idea that we should take cues from the natural world, because what better teachers exist? This hour presentation, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, is worth listening to — the only thing that would make it more exciting is if we could see the pictures she sees.

A final note from Karla:
“I’m ‘guerilla gardening’ golden raintree seeds in alleys & empty lots in memory of my little sister Elise Marie Clarke. Soon I’ll harvest bee plant seeds to scatter around on my morning walks, then marigolds, cosmos . . . To me, SEEDS are symbols of the ‘unstoppability of Life’.”

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling), via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Until next time . . .

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Monthly Museletter—July 2018

 

Lunar_libration_with_phase2

“Lunar Libration” by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Thank you, Karla, for sharing your Wisdome News!❤ —SK

P. S. If you’re from Colorado Springs and would like Karla’s full newsletter that includes local events, you can write her at karlaann45 @ gmail.com.

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“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” —MLK

YAY for COSTA RICA—no fossil fuels by 2021! (Share if you think your country is capable of great things!)

“The noblest art is that of making others happy.” —P.T. Barnum (in The Greatest Showman movie)

No gas, no license, no insurance, no plug-in . . . a covered pedal & solar-powered trike. ELF- SHARING webs are being formed among friends, family, neighbors, students & co-workers. Hmmm—shall we get Tangerine or Lime or Zebra?

Scientists project that without intervention, there’ll be more plastic than fish by weight in the oceans by 2050.

“We did not leave the stone age because we ran out of stones. Why are we waiting to leave the fossil fuel age until we’ve consumed the last coal, oil, & gas?” cleoinstitute.org

“When your enemy is making mistakes, don’t interrupt him.”— Brad Pitt
(Does this go for presidents?)

“ . . . the larger the animal, the more it has to be fed, and a goat produces five times as much milk in proportion to her body weight as a cow.” —MILK, A 10,000 YEAR FOOD FRACAS by Mark Kurlansky. (Is it time for us to give up raising cows?)

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“Milking an Artificial Goat at Grubighütte” by David Short from Windsor, UK, via Wikimedia Commons

Is your sunscreen destroying coral reefs, which are the supermarkets of the oceans ?

How does the Volcan de Fuego volcano in Guatemala and the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii differ? CBS gives an excellent science lesson about two types of volcanos!

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Photograph by E. Klett on 27 January 1994; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons. “Snow-covered Kanaga Volcano in Alaska erupts a small column of tephra, gas, and steam. Kanaga is a stratovolcano. View is toward the west.”

A MUST-SEE!
SING THE WATER SONG with Algonquian Elders & Women & Girls.

Did you know?
CORAL REEFS cover only 1% of the ocean floor, but are home to more than 25% of marine life.

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“Coral Reef, Elephant Beach, Andaman, India,” by Harvinder Chandigar, via Wikimedia Commons

Bee hives and solar panel farms make happy partnerships!

“It may feel dangerous for a woman to actualize her full potential because it may mean risking some form of rejection by her mother.” A friend shared with me she’s taking HEALING THE MOTHER WOUND , an online course from Bethany Webster. Their free 18-page e-book is an excellent way to get the flavor of the course.

Until next month . . . have a beautiful July!

 
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On Being “Normal”

This meme made me think about all that we are facing these days, especially with our beleaguered Earth’s health (which is inextricably tied to our health).

It takes courage to throw off “normal” and embrace activism, but if we don’t work to solve the world’s problems, who will?

X and Os to all,

Sandra

dear-girl-wild-woman-sisterhood

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The Chicken Chronicles book is About to Hatch!


(One mock-up of a cover design—not the final version!)

 

Big Announcement: I’ve nearly finished a project I started on two years ago!

It feels great to finally get to this place. And, as this project is a memoir of our family’s “country in the city” experiment over nearly two decades, I’m happy that these adventures are soon to be in book form.

For those of you who haven’t read stories from the collection that have appeared in Greenwoman Magazine  or on this blog, here’s the book description:

THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES is a collection of essays and stories written by an unapologetically quirky plant and animal lover who dives deep into creating a “country living in the city” experience for her family. Engaging, erudite, and often hilarious, THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES follows Colorado author Sandra Knauf as:

She and her young daughters meet neighbor Grandma Ruby, an 80-something-year-old cottage gardener/chicken raiser, who inspires Sandra to start her own backyard flock of exotic breed bantam chickens.

She confesses and explores her shocking and insatiable lust — for seed catalogs.

She becomes involved in a garden tour fundraiser for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and gets a close look at her city’s partisan politics — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

She examines 21st century lawns, “the biggest waste of water in suburbia,” and shares her experiences — from working as a teenager at a lawn care company in the 1980s to becoming an ecology-minded gardener hell-bent on getting rid of the bluegrass.

She introduces us to unforgettable animals: an ill-fated Neatherlands dwarf bunny, Puff; an out-of-control black Labrador puppy, Broonzy; a coop full of exotic breed bantams with the names of Greek goddesses, and more.

She gives the lowdown on her city’s green fringe through other adventures that include: capturing a swarm of bees, joining a garden club, and becoming a gardener-for-hire in her city’s richest neighborhood.

She ponders life and discovers that the most important lesson is to love it, participate in it, and live it exactly how you want to.


A picture taken during The Chicken Chronicles era: Daughters Zora (with chick “Kayley”) and Lily with “Jessica.” As we bought unsexed chicks, the girls were hoping for egg-laying hens and named them accordingly. Their two favorite “hens” turned out to be roosters.

 

While I’m writing today to announce this upcoming collection, I’m also here to ask: Would any of you be interested in being beta (test) readers? I have a PDF ready and I would LOVE to hear what you think of this book!

If you’re interested, just send me a note at maefayne(at)msn.com. I would need your comments by the end of the month and I’ll include a list of questions to guide your critique with the PDF.

I hope you can participate; I would love for you to be a part of this project!

Sandy

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