Music is alive at the homestead! The homesteading kitchen doubles as a music room and Mitch has been giving the music component a run for its money this year. Last year Mitch founded and played with the band The Odd Wednesdays, now a band no longer, but a door opener for meeting Central Vermont musicians. One of those musicians, is bass player John Ryan. John and Mitch began playing together and getting a feel for each other's rhythms and style, which led to a couple of gigs covering John Prine with singer/songwriter, Wes Hamilton. Guitar virtuoso, Doug Perkins, was invited to play and the groovy Americana sound the foursome was starting to kick out of our basement got the musicians thinking about forming a band, and The Woodshed Rats was born. The Woodshed Rats are currently gigging in Central and Northern Vermont with plans for a demo and expanding their reach in 2017. They play originals and covers like this personal favorite by the Grateful Dead. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming gigs!
I love the spirit of Christmas. To me, it has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with a combination of seasonality and a variety of feelings and beliefs. The "holiday season" marks the end of being outside and working on the homestead and the beginning of serious cooking and baking. It marks lower levels of light outside and the lighting of candles, plants, and trees inside. Solstice to me marks the beginning of a magical time of warmth, family, giving, and gratitude of the abundance we have in our lives - especially the fruits of our homestead labor which manifests itself into our larder.
Creating a magical space inside the home leading up to Christmas is one of my favorite times to explore my artistic expression in the home. Mitch and I get to slow down and find rest and respite in the home and keep with us the traditions we love from Christmas and discard the ones that don't serve us well. We enjoy music, food, resting, elves on shelves, Christmas trees, homemade wreaths, decorating plants and other natural spaces inside the home, candles, sparkly flare in the plants, and scents of balsam and pine. We try not to engage in outside pressures that create stress or pointless purchases for the sake of consumerism. We see family if it works, but do not put pressure on ourselves surrounding holiday norms. We give gifts from our larder or homemade creativity and reflect on the year with peace and focus our energies on the hearth. We listen for sleigh bells and believe in Santa and watch bad Christmas movies and talk about what we are grateful for. Our home is definitely a portal to the North Pole and visitors are always welcome.
The Danish term hygge has gained popularity in the media this year and when we first learned of this word and the feeling is is supposed to invoke (rather than be a stand alone definition), we realized this one word encompasses all of what we create at the homestead during the Christmas season and well into February when we begin planting seeds and starting the cycle all over again.
Our Christmas card this year was a video which captures how Danish hygge lives deeply within our Vermont home.
Vermont spring (May-June), summer (July-August), and fall (September-October) are magnificent times to visit and we invite friends and family to come stay with us. We schedule these visits in late winter/early spring since we plan months in advance so we can work with our budget, ensure all of our homesteading projects get done, and work around our summer vacation.
Visiting someone who lives on a homestead is not like visiting someone in a neighborhood with a garden. Read more about our lifestyle in Mountain Folk Part 1. Homesteading chores on the land, in the gardens, or in the kitchen must go on whether we have company or not. So, we thought we'd offer a checklist to help you prepare:
What To Expect
What Not To Expect
What To Bring
Homesteading, by definition in Wikipedia, means "a lifestyle of self-sufficiency."
We enjoy sharing the MitchaRachia Homestead on our blog and with friends and family who visit. Homesteading is a choice we make and self sufficiency is a value we live by. Some people choose to raise a family, some to travel, some to build wealth, some to live off the grid, and so forth. We choose to live in the mountains away from a consumer-driven society where we grow and produce as much of our own food, fuel, and other products as we can while both working full time jobs.
We strongly believe in reducing our consumption and waste, reusing all that we can, and recycling what we can't reuse. We are not farmers - a farmer produces or aims to produce for their primary source of income. We produce for our own use at a much smaller scale than a farm and we barter our surplus or time with friends and neighbors before heading to the store. We do not believe a stronger economy is based on being a consumer of more stuff we do not need, but rather supporting local farms, businesses, companies, and services for what we cannot make/do ourselves. Rachel does have an affinity for clothes, but has primarily only shopped at thrift stores and reusing/recycling other people's purchases since she was 16 and only throws away what really doesn't fit anymore - hence the big closet.
Yes, we do think a self sufficient lifestyle is the best way for us to live on a planet that does not have the resources or capacity to sustain its outrageous population growth or societal demands. However, we know the ability to make the types of lifestyle decisions that we make are not feasible for everyone. We try not to pass judgement on individuals, but rather work towards more system level societal shifts and help educate those we are connected to along the way. We judge the system and not our friends and family and we ask that we are not judged in return.
We live in Vermont to be in Vermont which means we do not often travel out of state. This is hard for some folks to understand. Why you may ask? Because it takes a lot of time, energy, and resources to develop and manage our homestead. Working full time leaves us with most weekends to work on the land - we do not have the fortune of unearned income sources. It is also very expensive to live in Vermont and wages do not balance the cost of living the way they do in other states. This presents us with a minimal leisure budget outside of nature, which is our primary source of leisure as it is of sustenance. We are able to plan a few visits in the late fall and winter, but must balance visits with homesteading responsibilities, finances, and days off. We also do not have a credit card by choice, which means we really have to plan for extra travel costs as we keep our debt limited to cars, mortgage, and insane student loans.
Lastly, in spring, summer, and fall, we WANT to be in Vermont - to work our land and to play here and anywhere nearby. A common phrase Vermonters use to share this sentiment with their out-of-state family and friends goes like this: "We don't live in Vermont to vacation in other state." Stick season, winter, and mud season are just too long. Although this year, winter did seem to skip us over. All good, all the more to get done now for summer enjoyment.
Come visit us!!!!
And smile is exactly what I did the whole time Rachel and I were in Chicago for the final Grateful Dead shows at Soldier Field July 3rd-5th. Much has been written about these shows leading up to and afterwards. And much has been talked about in regards to overall band performance, song selection, individual musicianship, and the scene itself. I know that what I write about my experience will echo many others, and I feel inspired to express the magic that Rachel and I both felt - specifically to us as a couple - and as individuals.
Not knowing exactly what to expect, we both jumped in and began to navigate through Chicago. With help from family and technology, we manged to make our way to Soldier Field by walking and public transit. Friday, July 3rd was the first night, and we were more than ready to start this adventure. Soldier Field is one enormous complex with many parks and walking paths. We had no idea where to go at first, so with some fine Chicago brews in hand, we set out, jumped in, and joined the circus. The sights, smells, and sounds of such an immense gathering as this, was so welcoming. The long awaited time for us to be with this family was finally here. As show time approached, we followed the masses and upon entering the stadium, all of us were handed roses, giving us a wonderful feel and vibe right from the start. We are in! Seats fill up, anticipation mounts, and then you hear it....70,000 people screaming once the band takes the stage. There really is no way to describe the feeling that we had when they came out, other than that is was spine tingling. A guitar click here, a drum test there..........bam.....right into Box of Rain for the three night run opener, being that the last time they played this song was at Soldier Field in 1995, it was great indication of what was to come.
From there, it just kept getting better. Jack Straw was brilliant and then they went into Bertha and Trey unleashed with guns blazing. Towards the end of the song, he let it loose just enough to get the crowd into a frenzy, and just as the true professional he is, he melded right back into the band to deliver a good ol' fashioned Grateful Dead rock and roll ending. Other highlights from that night included Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain and the ever psychedelic Help On The Way>Slipknot> Franklin's Tower for a 2nd set closer. Wow! The band said goodbye to us that night with a Ripple encore. After that night, Rachel and I both agreed that we were seeing the BEST rock and roll of our lives.
After a good night's sleep, we were right back at it, this time though, we had a plan and knew where we were going to go. We settled in for a bit and just kicked back until show time. It was July 4th, night two, and the crowd was in great spirits. First set opener was a blistering Shakedown Street, and boy did that get everyone in the mood for a party! Trey again seemingly knowing exactly how to let it rip and then come right back flawlessly with the band. Third song in, we were treated to Standing on The Moon with Trey on vocals. This is a song that when you hear Jerry sing it, it can move you to tears. Trey did the same thing. "I want to be here with you" rang out from him as his guitar swelled along. That set ended with a screaming version of Deal which then transitioned into the set break during which I shared wonderful conversation with a couple from Columbus, Ohio. We were all in agreement that we were indeed blessed to be there in the moment. Second set opener was Bird Song, which gave the crowd an ever pleasing smile and universal vibe. Highlights for me were West LA Fadeaway.....so slinky and almost dirty, Drums>Space, and Stella Blue.....Bobby went for it and I must say he captured the pure emotion that the song demands and gives out. And, as it was the 4th of July, the encore was U.S. Blues followed by fire works. "My God" I thought as we walked out..."How are they going to top that show?" A wide eyed Rachel cried, "Did that just happen?" Feeling spry, we headed over to the House of Blues to spend a couple of hours with moe., and following our late night music journey, were not so spry anymore and needed much resting.
Sunday. We were two shows in and ready for the final night that the Grateful Dead will ever be playing as a whole band again. The vibe was remarkably happy, magical, wonderful, etc, etc, however, there was a sense of sadness and raw emotion that I know the crowd shared collectively with the band. They took the stage, hugged each other, bowed to all sides of the stadium, and went right into China Cat Sunflower>I know You Rider, followed by Estimated Prophet which was a first set highlight for sure. That set ended with a pounding version of Throwing Stones (no pun intended), which helped maintain the spirit of the event. And here it was, the final set of music, what a feeling. Highlights for me were again Drums>Space, this was beyond tribal, it went to the core of my guts and made me ponder what being a human being is.......and the set closer of Not Fade Away. This is where I truly felt the magic, of what not only what music can do, but what this band has done for so many years. As the band slowly stopped, 70,000 plus people kept the "No our love will not fade away" chant going for what seemed like ten minutes or so. We were all singing this back to the band and giving them the most heartfelt thank you for the three nights we had just witnessed and also for so many years of wonderful art. I also felt we were all singing to Jerry as well, thanking him. The last ever encore was Touch of Grey and then into Attics of My Life which was accompanied by a video montage. While Bobby was singing, we were shown pictures of the band through the years and then pictures of the current line up, one by one, and then a whole band shot. When Trey's picture came up, it seemed almost everyone in that place screamed their hearts out in appreciation for a job well done. Same thing for Bobby, he pulled it out...he really did. Then the whole band pic...that led to tears, I could not help it.
The crowd emptied into the streets still keeping the Not Fade Away chant going into the hot summer Chicago night air. Much love and peace again to Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzman, Mickey Hart, Jeff Chimenti, Bruce Hornsby, and Trey Anastasio and THANK YOU FOR A REAL GOOD TIME!!!
And thank you to The Burlington Free Press for including us in your Grateful Dead 50 Chicago article.
Mitch and Rachel are a groovy, retro-fit couple stewarding
7-acres of woodlands halfway up Spruce Mountain in Plainfield, Vermont.
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Farm to Plate
Vermont State Parks