My escape from the city, the Columbia River Gorge.
My escape from the city, the Columbia River Gorge.

Born a city girl, I grew up in the grime and noise of an old mid-western American city. My family was not an outdoor kind of family. No one in my family grew food; one grandmother grew some flowers. My mother cooked meals but she wasn’t a fan of fresh vegetables; iceberg lettuce was our mainstay fresh vegetable. Most of our food came out of cans and we ate our fair share of Hamburger Helper. As far as I knew, the source of food was the grocery store. 

During my teens, I desperately wanted to be a back-to-the-land hippie. Alas, I was born a few years too late. But I am a late bloomer and thirty-five years later, I’m a back-to-the-land hippie leaning into her crone years. Proof that you can achieve your dreams if you are open to the concepts of change and reinvention.

Before moving to my Sleepy Hollow homestead, my journey had several detours: rebellious teenager, sarcastic waitress, young mom, older college student, compassionate college advisor/instructor, and then, the mid-life question of “Is this all there is?” began to haunt me.

While chasing the American Dream for three decades, I began to feel trapped and lifeless at age 50. I was weary of workplace meetings, bumper-to-bumper commutes, and the constant pressure to be on, to achieve, to be more than what I was. I wanted more control over the days, weeks, and remaining years of my life. I wanted to spend my days doing things that I truly enjoyed. I wanted to reduce my ecological footprint and increase my inspirational footprint. I also wanted a life of creativity; I wanted to explore and expand my abilities to create and learn.

A bountiful autumn harvest of squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers.
My second growing season produced a bountiful autumn harvest. PHOTO: SK

A meditation from writer Annie Dilliard triggered a longing for change:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”

~ Annie Dillard, Writer

Making the Leap

It’s always wise to have the stars aligned when making life-changing decisions. The timing was perfect: my late husband and I sold our home and his business. I left my 20-year career at the college. We settled on a 5-acre semi-forested parcel in a small rural community in Washington State – tucked into one of the most gorgeous natural landscapes to behold, the Columbia River Gorge. 

Over the last four decades, I discovered that I loved – no, needed to be outdoors every day. I developed reverence and respect for the natural world and plants were the focus of my passion. I learned how to grow plants and because of my utilitarian nature, I focused on edible and medicinal plants. It was my study of herbalism that altered my overall perspective of how to live. Moving to a rural setting had a learning curve but my understanding of living freely started with the plants.

My first summer of wildcrafting and herbal medicine making.
My first summer of wildcrafting and herbal medicine making. PHOTO: SK

As I learned more about herbal medicine, I learned more about the native and non-native plants right outside my door. My camera accompanied me on my daily walks and I was seeing the details of nature, the subtle changes of seasonal light, the pollinators, the pests, and the sometimes harsh realities of living within a natural setting every day. I remain a keen observer and a thirsty learner.

A developing Douglas Fir cone
A developing Douglas Fir cone. PHOTO: SK

My formal education is rooted in social sciences, ecology, literature, and education. But my most practical achievement? Completing my Permaculture Design Certificate! Yes, permaculture offers holistic design ideas for the garden and the homestead but it is so much more. A framework of ethical thinking and decision making, permaculture offers a way forward in a culture that desperately needs one. I plan to share what I have learned with you.

Certificate of completion from the Permaculture Women's Guild
Certificate of Completion from the Permaculture Women’s Guild.

Adapting to Reality

Since moving here in 2010, I have focused on creating a homestead, a place of refuge and domesticity. Like many people, I met permaculture in the garden. The more I learned about permaculture, the more I became convinced that it is the pathway to an ethical and resilient lifestyle. Each year, I witness and read about the effects of climate change. I believe that it has become a climate crisis. Sooner or later, we will need to adapt to the unpredictableness of change. As I write this, my PNW homestead is under an extended excessive heat warning in June. Records will be shattered as the temperatures in my region hit a high of 110°F and then hover in the high 90s for the next week. This is in June, in the mountains.

Mountain living does have its challenges. Our whopper of a snowstorm in Jan. 2022 suddenly changed my view of the world...and Stache the Cat was not amused.  BTW - the pile of snow is what came off my roof.
Mountain living does have its challenges. Our whopper of a snowstorm in Jan. 2022 suddenly changed my view of the world…and Stache the Cat was not amused. BTW – the pile of snow is what came off my roof. (PHOTO: SK)

In nature, plants and animals adapt to evolve. We will have to do the same. I believe developing a homesteading mindset, regardless of where you live, is the way forward. With this website, it’s my desire to offer positive ideas, strategies, and actions to empower you so that you can live a life of resilience and empowerment.

An Invitation

Are you interested in growing some of your food, using medicinal herbs, learning about nature, and developing a resilient and creative lifestyle? Do you want to be proactive rather than reactive? Are you looking for ways to take back control of your life? Are you looking for ways to be a bit more self-reliant?

Then join me in my journey by subscribing to my monthly newsletters.

Each month I send a couple of newsletters with my latest ideas and thoughts on developing both a homestead mindset and homestead. Whether you live in a high-rise apartment, a suburban lot, or on 40 acres, a homestead is a state of mind as well as a place of refuge and security.

Meanwhile, you can check out my current articles on a diverse number of topics on this website.

Thanks for dropping in!

Photo of author, Sue