What a feeling…

Tomorrow morning we hit the road for Vermont!

Emotions are riding high, especially amongst the micro-homo-sapiens in the family. ¬†If I remember I’ll snap a picture or two of our “caravan”.

We move forward into the future…both laying down and taking in hand our destinies…knowing only that it will be quite a ride.


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Last night was our last in the Silver Spud, marking a year of living unconventionally in the Airstream. Wow! We are settled into a house on Sylvan Lake, IN for three weeks while Nate finishes his building project. It’s crazy how used to the small space we were, this little house seems like the Taj Mahal ūüôā Two toilets, who knew? A washer and dryer without coin slots…oh my gosh!

This traveling season is coming to a pause (I dream of someday eating my way across Europe) and we’ve made a handful of decisions.

1. We are moving to Vermont, November 1st. ¬†We will be living in a friend’s country house in the middle of the Green Mountains, during their winter travels.

2. I have enrolled in an intensive holistic nutritional NTA program in order to get my Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certification.

3. I have also entered Immunitrition’s¬†CHFS¬†Program to get my Certified Healing Foods Specialist certification. A smaller program based on the same principles of NTA but more focused on cottage industry.

Out of contemplating these decisions and the future I’ve had a few thoughts on livelihood. Specifically about how one procures a livelihood…even if not directly “earned” by you…as in the capacity of a stay-at-home-mom.

This summer my lover and I celebrated fourteen years of union with each other. Together we have worked hard, loved each other despite, grown up, built homes, fed our egos, cradled babies, looked deep, let go, sold homes, talked long, questioned worldviews, faced fears, and pushed the limits of what it means to us to live on planet Earth…the girl of eighteen who married her childhood sweetheart is nearly unrecognizable to me. Today, at thirty-two, I have these thoughts –

First,¬†I am moving away from the idea that I am a receiver of my husband’s income without thought to HOW that livelihood is earned. There was a time when I all I wanted to do was create a beautiful, peaceful home atmosphere for my kids and husband.

Today I want to extend that beauty and peace not just to my home but also to how we procure our livelihood. Just as nourishing food has a lot more dynamics than merely tasting good and filling our stomachs, so too with HOW we fill our bank accounts. I want to be sustained by a livelihood endeavor that is honestly good, Just in its stewardship of the earth’s “resources” and filled with life giving reciprocity. Going for nutritional therapy certification is part of this.

For us this also means making choices about what we buy…like buying second hand clothes so that we are not supporting sweat shops, and spending more money on ethically produced food. By asking less out of life materially I hope to be involved in a livelihood that gives life instead of taking it.

Here is a thought from a¬†Transition Vermont¬†blog by¬†Ran Prieur¬†that I think is relevant “This world is full of people with the intelligence, knowledge, skills, and energy to make heaven on Earth, but they can’t even begin because they would lose their jobs. We’re always arguing to change each other’s minds, but nobody will change if their survival depends on not changing. We need to decouple our survival from the system that commands us, so we can say no to it“.

Second,¬†while we’re in the heart of the Green Mountains we hope to scout for our own four walls. In this part of the country we feel we can learn¬†certain skills…like herbalism, survival skills, foraging, permaculture, local economy, etc.

Third,¬†we’ve had success healing and energizing with food. The GAPS protocol has been the most helpful for us. When I complete my NTP training I can then go on to take training with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and be a GAPS certified practitioner. I will be able to more professionally help others who wish to use the GAPS protocol as part of their healing.

This is a glimpse into our decisions right now. What do you think about livelihood and how it congruently fits into the rest of life as a whole?

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.¬† Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that.¬† Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”¬† – Harold Whitman

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Yellowstone to the Great Lakes-Update Part I

It has been over two months since I updated. Yikes! But life has been full and happy and changing again. I will recap in two parts with Part II to follow in a few days.

Part I

After leaving the Nasvik’s in Idaho, we arrived on May 2nd in Yellowstone’s winter wonderland. We knew it was going to be cold but had been assured that Yellowstone was worth it. It was just warming up to mid 40’s during the day and 20’s at night.

We experienced beautiful, clear weather.

Yellowstone is vast, beautiful, and unique to anything I have seen yet.

We saw hot springs, geysers, fumaroles, bison, elk, coyote, and bald eagles.

And…we were done.

Like sponges that had soaked up too much water, we had soaked up so much beauty and experiences in the space of six months that any more was not going to be absorbed. The “moving” part of our travels had run it’s course (temporarily anyway) and it was time to sit somewhere and let the beauty drip out and be processed. So I did so, in my beautiful hometown of Traverse City, MI. The kids and I were near family and familiar things for a month, while Nate was away from us at Yestermorrow Design/Build school in Vermont, taking his eco design build course. We push at our future, but first…

Here is a quick recap of our last fast-moving travels before our more stationary days. Part II will be about where we are now and will have some of my thoughts on the present/future…

Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming, Idaho and Montana


The bison’s favorite activity was seeing how much traffic they could hold up by walking down the middle of the roads.




Charlotte pointing to Old Faithful a’ blowin


The kids were able to participate in Yellowstone’s Young Scientist program and use some equipment. Cade was our temperature guy with the thermometer gun. His highest temp recorded was 185 degrees, from a distance.


Jeff Schluckebier’s Off-Grid Homestead in the Black Hills of South Dakota

In my last post I introduced Jon and Katy Nasvik, and I related how they recommended we stop by the home of their friend, Jeff, in South Dakota. We took their advice and are so thrilled that we did. Always a bachelor, Jeff lives alone on a beautiful off-the-grid 7 acres in a no-electricity Black Hills valley. A complete stranger, he shared with us a gentle hospitality, welcoming us to park in his driveway for a couple of nights on our journey east.


His home is of cordwood masonry and is complimented by a greenhouse, a cordwood masonry sauna house, a rough sawn timber garage. Also tucked away in the woods are a yurt and an outdoor kitchen. Jeff heats his home with firewood that he splits himself, heating his water either from the fireplace system or from solar power. There are too many neat little systems to mention, nooks and crannys full of thought, ingenuity everywhere. The place is bursting with character and pleasant surprises, like an outhouse in the woods that smells better than most flush toilets:-)


Fresh, flushed out, clean, electric. That is how I felt after enjoying Jeff’s sauna. Time and time again in our travels, our best experiences have been people, and what they introduce into our lives. Like Jeff’s European style sauna treatment. Hot sauna with essential oils, cold plunge in an outside tub, hot sauna, cold shower…it purges and renews.


Chopping firewood for Jeff.                                             

Crazy Horse Monument and scale model. Based on the Lakota Indian chief.

Badlands National Park


Badlands National Park was our last national park and the last junior ranger badge earning for awhile. With a couple stops to see some friends on the way, we headed to home territory – Indiana and Michigan.

First paid work in a year (!) and a garden planted

We stopped in Wolcottville, IN to visit Nate’s brother and sister-in-law for a long weekend before heading up to our birth town of Traverse City, MI. Over that weekend in Indiana, we planted a garden. My husband has agreed to help manage construction of his brother’s new house for a time (thus the first paycheck in a year). I am exuberant that we were able to put in a garden. The kids are exuberant that they get to be like fish in the water all day, as well as have a trampoline and swing-set to play on.


A few shots of our month in beautiful Traverse City, MI 


The girls “Prince hunting” with Meema (my lovely and vivacious mother)

A rare moment…Jack painting Maggie’s toenails at our campground in Michigan.


These are pictures of a cookout at Nate’s family’s place near Charlevoix, MI. We had great times with family again, and my loving in-laws gave me overnight kid breaks every week we were in Michigan.

Stay tuned for Part II…

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From California to Wyoming, with Love

In the last three weeks we have been in five new states…with an extra country thrown in for good measure.

Tripping state to state and kindling sparks of friendship…here are some people and places I’d like to show you.

Last of Northern California

Just before we hit the border of Oregon we hopped out of the truck and took a hike in the rainforest of northern California.


Florence, Oregon

This was quintessential rain-filled wild Oregon coast. We visited Sea Lion Cave, one of the biggest sea caves in the world. Inside, with the crashing waves, were hundreds of sea lions and a cacophony of sea lion communication.


We finished up Florence with a hike down to the tide pools by the beach. With rain boots on, we ran and splashed in the cold driving rain, delighting in wild winds, starfish, sea anemones, shell litter and white foam from the crashing waves (which we dubbed whale toothpaste). Have I mentioned that I love rubber boots? There’s nothing like them for walking through sheep poop or tide pools.


Salem and Portland, Oregon

In Salem we met up for a hike with the venerable, Errin Chappel (see her below pointing out to the kids where we are at on the map). A friend, formerly from Michigan, she took us hiking to our first Oregon waterfalls…and then gamely shared our GAPS lunch at the Silver Spud and said it was good;) Thanks for being a great sport, sharing the day and lunch with our brood, Errin. Good conversation, good adventuring.


After hanging out with Errin, we settled in to a campground near Portland. I try to make my raw milk runs when we are settled somewhere so as to avoid the comical grumpiness that settles over my husband when we have to pull the Silverspud on some gravel farm road. While near Portland I visited another small raw milk farmer…where the funnest attraction was not the Jersey cow but the camel named Bethlehem. The gentleman I purchased the milk from is supplementing his real estate income with raw dairying, holding it all together for his family while his wife deals with leukemia.


We also took an awesome hike at Eagle Creek. ¬†The combination of waterfalls around every bend, and ravines, rivers, mossy trees, and wildflowers was intoxicating. I couldn’t keep a grin off my face the whole time. Of course the pictures don’t do it justice.


Lastly in Portland, I chanced upon¬†Salt, Fire and Time, a traditional healing foods community kitchen. With plans to leave the area the next day the boys and I hopped into the truck to check it out. We met the lovely chef/owner, Tressa, and toured her kitchen in downtown Portland. She sent us out the door with a gift of sauerkraut! I love Tressa’s business concept and I am thrilled to have met her and have a resource to draw on.

Hoh Rain Forest, Forks, Washington

From Portland we drove on to Forks, Washington and entered the Twilight zone:). ¬†I will guiltily¬†admit that I saw the vampire movies when they came out. It was very funny to see all the Twilight posters and even entire shops dedicated to Twilight paraphernalia. Better than vampires though was visiting a Pacific Northwest rainforest one day and grilling steaks over a beach fire for lunch the next day…and then watching the tide wash away our fire when we were done!¬†

Olympic Peninsula and Port Angeles, Washington

New food of the month – Fresh, wild nettles from the Port Angeles Farmer’s Market. I love them sauteed in ghee. Here also are a few pictures of us playing “winter” in the Olympic Mountains.


Alan and Sandy’s house in Duncan, Vancouver Island, B.C.

One of the best aspects of traveling has been meeting perfect strangers and making new friends. Through a cousin we made contact with a couple on Vancouver Island, ¬†Alan and Sandy Philip. One thing leading to another they invited our brood of six to stay in their home. They would have let us stay longer…but we like to leave a place with people still liking us:) They showed us interesting features of the area like an eco village called O.U.R Ecovillage. Alan & Sandy have a lot of interesting things going of their own…like a solar powered¬†cistern for irrigating their permaculture gardens, the beginnings of a food forest, and homemade wines. Being experienced grandparents, our kids had a ball with them and were very reluctant to leave their (and ours) new friends, Alan & Sandy.

Ferry rides to Vancouver Island, B.C. and Seattle, Washington

We took one ferry ride with just our truck…to stay at Alan & Sandy’s home on Vancouver Island. A couple of days later we took a ferry across the Puget Sound with truck and trailer to cross over to Seattle and start our trek back east.


Jon and Katy Nasvik, Sun Valley, Idaho

My husband has proven he has a knack for finding interesting people. Back in January, when he attended the World of Concrete Convention, he met and talked to a guy named Jon. Again, with one thing leading to another he told Jon of our travels and also told Jon he’d like to visit him sometime in our travels…

So several months later we are driving up to another home of somebody I have never met, someone I haven’t even talked to. I will admit that I had some reservations about the people who lived in this gorgeous, concrete, piece of art, house. My fears were quickly allayed as I felt the warmth coming from Jon and Katy, and their kids, Sophie & Nate. Their home emanated love, fun and peace. A pioneer of decorative concrete as far back as the 70’s, Jon is a concrete artist. Nate was thrilled to observe some of his techniques and to see a concrete craftsman at work. Their home is a featured cover article in Concrete Construction Magazine, February 2011. A bonus of our stay there was that Katy is interested in nutrition and we got a kick out of trying new things in the kitchen and eating them together as two families. There were a few tears on our kids part when we left, they had so much fun playing with Sophie and Nate.

So here I leave you, as we explore Yellowstone National Park. We are also entertaining thoughts of visiting another current stranger/future friend on our way through South Dakota. I’ll be in touch. ūüôā

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Chaffin Family Orchards

Three wonderful weeks at Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, CA have come to a close. After over 2 months in California we are now exploring the wild coasts and farmlands of Oregon.

Chaffin Family Orchards, just to recap, is a 2,000 acre northern California farm. On those 2,000 acres they have 100 year old olive trees, citrus trees and many other fruit trees. The farm has a butte called Tabletop Mountain and it’s own lake. They also raise goats, chickens, sheep and beef. Everyone has more than one job. For instance, the goats serve as both brush control in the orchards as well as meat on the table. ¬†The family’s son, Josh, has his own chicken breeding program and hatchery setup. Of particular note is that the farm is Certified Predator Friendly, meaning that their farming practices don’t infringe on the native mountain lions, bears, coyotes and other critters. They protect with electric fence and guard dogs that are raised and live with the livestock.

Our time at Chaffin flew by. Nate seemed to be an asset with his carpentry skills. Under his hands, and the boy’s, eight chicken yurts were repaired or built from scratch. He also constructed a special egg-mobile (see pictures below) that will be able to go between the rows of orchard trees instead of just around the perimeter.

The kids were able to have their fill of wide open spaces, tree climbing, fort building, cuddling and caring for animals of all sorts, catching salamanders and squirrels, earning money in the garden, and seeing another family that is eating the same healing diet we are:) We also celebrated Animal Lover’s 4th birthday up on the Tabletop Mountain with a cookout and bonfire.

Carol Albrecht is third generation Chaffin and is also a Chapter leader for the Weston Price Foundation. It was thrilling to have easy access to amazing food. In the “traditional food” world Chaffin Family Orchards is a shining light and they have hosted some of the great minds of biodiversity like Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan. I was also able to collaborate with Carol on her GAPS class…and fumble my way through being interviewed for her class, about our experiences on GAPS. (You know…the part about 6 detoxing people in an Airstream:)¬† Carol and her husband Curt, and their son Josh, have been on the GAPS protocol for a couple of years and have improved some serious health conditions in their family. Our visit to Chaffin seems to have been providential. We were further educated in GAPS, able to collaborate on recipes and share meals, boosted and encouraged, given work that was fulfilling in a beautiful setting, given access to really good food…and Nate helped them get over a few construction hurdles that were holding up some of their projects.

Here are some pictures of our stay at Chaffin with descriptions below. Enjoy!


Charlotte enjoyed the baby acrobats (i.e. lambs) and the boys construct the skeleton of the chicken yurts, which allow the meat chickens to roam in the orchards and have shelter at night. A guard dog also lives with the chickens and a solar powered electric fence surrounds their movable area.


Momma goat with new babies. A picture of some of the goat herd, who are also protected by movable solar powered electric fence and live-in guard dogs (who think they are goats too because they were raised with them as puppies). The goats will eat the suckers at the base of the trees and also harmful plants like poison oak, etc.


Charlotte with 1 day old baby goat. Nate at the beginning stages of building the California Animal Welfare approved egg-mobile.


Charlotte with Josh’s baby goats. My Carpenter Extraordinare, still working on the egg-mobile.


One of the momma sheep with her babies. Chickens converting bugs into glorious eggs!


Jack gets to lend a hand in building the egg-mobile. Jack and Maggie trying out the egg boxes.


New broiler chicks. Charlotte and Maggie get to try their hand at milking Shasta.


Norma, one of the very valuable farm hands at Chaffin…she is a milking machine! Charlotte loves rubber boots and what they allow her to do.


Charlotte’s mountain top birthday party…the kids caught some tadpoles.


Nearly finished egg-mobile with the roof hatches raised…the roof is low profile so that it can fit under orchard branches and raise so the birds get plenty of ventilation…the egg boxes can be accessed from the outside of the trailer. The chickens roam freely eating grass in the orchard during the day and take refuge in the egg-mobile at night, which is moved to a new area every few days.


Cade and Josh climbing an avocado tree. Me, picking some of the most incredible tasting tree-ripened oranges.


Charlotte picking oranges and a shot of the citrus groves.


More shots of Charlotte’s birthday party. The lake on top of the butte used to provide hydropower to the farm (1st generation era)

  Shasta, Queen of the Pasture and another one of those amazing creatures that transfers green grass into liquid gold.

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If this is medicine, can I overdose?

Three times a day I give our six family members a dose of our “medicine”…

We have now been on the GAPS¬†healing foods protocol for over a month. Feeling awesome. Here are a few scenes from our Airstream kitchen. If you are inclined to look at pictures of food, click on the pictures, as they don’t show up very well in their small size.

Scenes not included: Nut-butter pancakes and bread, daily vegetable chopping, soaking nuts, pickling garlic, bone broth making (I’ll spare my vegetarian friends the pics),¬†crock-pot¬†yogurt making, cashew ice cream making, picking citrus in the orchard, local market hounding, egg-fridge raiding, milking Shasta the cow, trimming the goat’s hooves (the goats are orchard brush control and future meat), moving cows from one pasture to another, building chicken yurts, building an egg-mobile, sharing a Thanksgiving like feast with our GAPS-eating farm hosts, and many other food related tasks…including eating:) Now if I could just put the puzzle together to bring in income from what I love doing…

Soon to come: Fun on the farm at Chaffin Family Orchards

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California-Travels, Thoughts and New Ventures

Dear Readers,

So I left you quite some weeks ago in Dixon Lake, CA. Since then we have criss-crossed the center of California – Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Madera, Fresno… Hearst Castle on the central coast was also fascinating, although we forgot the camera so we couldn‚Äôt document being at a mountain-top castle, overlooking the Pacific Ocean! Then a good decision was made to go to Sequoia National Park (Pictures below).¬† After thrilling to the giant Sequoias and a winter wonderland in the mountains we then moved up the coast to Monterey, Santa Cruz, and finally outside of San Francisco.

In February we recieved many positive responses from California farms, but for one reason or another none panned out. So we took the time for self examination and dreaming for the present and the future.

Out of that planning came a decision we made for the present. We decided that we would take the plunge and embark on a healing protocol I have studied and ruminated on for three years now. It is the GAPS protocol, short for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, created by Russian neurologist, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. When she moved to the UK and started a family, all of her medical training and degrees still left her ill-equipped to help her son who was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old. So she dove into studying nutrition and through her trial and error was able to CURE her son of autism, largely through healing his gut with diet. She has subsequently healed many children and their families from her clinic in the UK. Her premise is that healing the gut (our ‚Äúsecond brain‚ÄĚ) can therefore heal numerous diseases and illnesses. If I am stating this correctly, her belief is that abnormal gut flora manifests itself in many ways, as the bacteria in our bodies is diverse and different in everyone, therefore abnormal gut flora in one person may manifest itself as depression in one person and Crohn‚Äôs in another. For more on her protocol look here.¬†For a list of conditions that GAPS has addressed look¬†here.

There is a lot going on in the Airstream Kitchen

So we are now almost done with the Intro Phase. In the first week we felt the detoxing effects pretty miserably, especially the poor kids. I felt some minor effects, but I had been off grains/carbs for a while, so I think that helped. It was hard to do right now, but the more we are into it we feel there couldn’t have been a better time to start. We have no commitments, no job to report to, and can be stationary if we need to. I am glad we stuck it out and even though we had some crappy days I have thoroughly enjoyed the chance to learn new skills…like making ghee, squash and cashew butter pancakes (they taste like ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ pancakes), improving my lacto-fermented sauerkraut, learning new ways of preparing certain foods and new soup combinations, chutney making, juicing… For a long time I thought it would be impossible to do the GAPS in an Airstream travel trailer, but we just keep our little kitchen humming! Even the kids have taken an interest in making foods. Our eldest, 11, now makes our nutbutter bread and has learned a couple of baking tricks.

We have a little piece of the puzzle for the near future as well. We were invited to come work/learn at Chaffin Family Orchards in northern CA. This has been a farm that has been on my ultimate list for a couple of years. It‚Äôs a third generation organic family farm on 2,000 acres, with features such as 100 year old olive trees, a lake, waterfalls, fruit trees of all varieties, cows, goats, sheep, chickens. They are into old ways of eating, Nourishing Traditions, and the lady of the farm also teaches classes on GAPS (healing protocol mentioned above). So they connect stewarding the land and the food they grow with the nutrient dense feeding and healing of our bodies. They want us to come (yeah!) and help out. I am excited because they are a busy organic farm that is established and making a living from their farm…hard to find these days. We anticipate arriving there in about a week…meanwhile we finish up being tourists. San Francisco, watch out for our soup thermoses!

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