eli:tilly“…. And maybe you realize that …. in your distant past, back in the realm of TiVo and cubicles, of take-out food and central heat and air, in that country where discomfort has nearly disappeared, that you were deprived.

Deprived of the pleasure of desire, of effort and difficulty and meaningful accomplishment.”
― Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love


THESE PAST COUPLE MONTHS, I’ve been reading a lot and all of the books I’ve been reading have had a common theme: facing some sort of enormous challenge, having the strength and courage to move through it and emerging with greater strength and clarity, a new person in a way

I read 4 of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s books [she wrote Pay it Forward] and they all had this same common theme. Her books are fiction however and sometimes, at least for me, a little far fetched though still inspiring and helpful.

thedirtylife_coverLast week I started rereading a book I had read several years ago and didn’t finish, The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. This time I read the book very carefully, not wanting to miss a word….I felt so much in common with the story. Though I don’t have a working farm and never planned to, I do live off the grid on 31 acres with horses, chickens, rescued wolf dogs, several cats. and a greenhouse. And I have encountered many of of the same experiences mentioned in this book.

These are very challenging times for everyone living on this Earth. As I was writing this, the Austin, Texas bomber was caught and killed, the day before there was another school shooting and I read a story about a young teenager who shot and killed his sister over a video game..that’s the news..everyday….all the time. I cannot imagine what it’s like for the young people who have to grow up in these times.

A few days before I had written a story/blogpost that I titled Is this Completely  Insane??    I had heard a PSA on the radio which featured a father talking to his son about the dangers of underage drinking. Immediately following the PSA, the song, Getting Drunk on a Plane was played. Combing a PSA about the dangers of alcohol with a song promoting getting drunk as a solution to everything… seemed absolutely insane.

I went on to say that [in my opinion], the violence, insanity and ugliness of this world will not be solved by taking away the guns and making more laws. As long as violence is promoted, worshiped and adored on TV, in the movies and in the news, there will be ever increasing violence.


The solution lies elsewhere I believe: In a connection to the Higher, to the Creator as the Native People say, in disconnecting from the fear based ‘news’ and focusing on acts of Kindness which make the World a better place, in expressing Creativity, through Art and Music.

And in Returning to the Land.

What we should be doing as educators, as teachers as parents…is to ensure that our children have more opportunity to be very much on the land…more land based experience …i would even suggest that the majority of the education of the child be felt on the land …. The land will speak to the child.

~Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene

jody:eli spring

EIGHT AND A HALF YEARS AGO, I bought property in northeastern New Mexico.

los hueros rdIt was off the grid and I really had no idea of what that meant but when I saw photos of the place on the internet, I knew it was the right place

..I had been looking for quite sometime.

church:san juan bautistaNot only would I be off the grid, I was moving into a kind of old world Hispanic community which I also knew nothing about.

I don’t speak Spanish and though I lived ‘on the land’ in the Texas Hill Country for many years, I had always, throughout my entire life, lived with or around anglos, the white race.

But I didn’t think about these things….. I just wanted to get out of Texas. It didn’t occur to me that I might need help and that I knew absolutely no one in the area. Even though, in my trips to look for property, I had driven through this very area several times and thought to myself “You can’t live out’s just big ranches and no people.”

Somehow however, the place and the land were calling to me.Norte_mountains

I moved in late August and in spite of my ignorance, things worked out fairly well though it was somewhat scary that first year….snowed:moon jan 26

I had not seen snow since I was a child and

corgissnowthere was a whole lot of snow






my road in snow

My Road in Winter

that first winter after I moved.











early morning brand“I was forced to confront my own prejudice. I had come to the farm with the unarticulated belief that concrete things were for dumb people and abstract things were for smart people. I thought the physical world – the trades – was the place you ended up if you weren’t bright or ambitious enough to handle a white-collar job. Did I really think that a person with a genius for fixing engines, or for building, or for husbanding cows was less brilliant than a person who writes ad copy or interprets the law? Apparently I did, though it amazes me now.”
― Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love


The 2nd year, Jody Armijo [ the Brown Piglet in this blog] came into my life. He had been born and raised in the community and he had been taught by his grandparents how to live off the land…. And by the time he appeared jody wings:woodI had realized that I REALLY NEEDED HELP.


Jody had left the community when he was in high school, had moved to Colorado JODY-close-pastand gotten into trouble selling drugs.

He had spent quite a bit of time in prison and jail, moved back to the area and after getting stabbed-almost fatally, he moved back to the community, advised by MACLOVIA-LOVE-JESUShis grandmother who had raised him.

jody:redman:tipiComing back home, to the land has been a great healing for him. He has been able to return in a way, to when he was young, remembering the old traditions and a way of life that his grandparents taught him.

And he has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I had never known anyone who had been to prison, never known anyone who even got into fights.

jody-don't come here

This is kind of a joke..emphasizing cultural differences

From vastly different cultures, walks of life, economic and educational backgrounds, it’s a huge challenge but I guess it depends on whether you believe in past lives…whether you believe that people are brought together in mysterious ways, maybe because of a promise they made in the long distant past… to come back and help each other.


“Silver died in the winter…..I sat close to him and stroked his velvet nose and tried to convey my gratitude to him for everything he’d taught me, for laboring so hard and so willingly and for all the times his presence had comforted me….Dr. Dodd arrived….there was absolutely nothing she could do for him. He stretched his neck out then and laid his head on the snow. If we needed a sign, that would have been it. Mark walked back to the house, got the gun and through the haze of his own tears, laid the muzzle against Silver’s broad forehead and put him down.”

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

tilly bear

I’ve experienced a lot of deaths in my lifetime-deaths of both family and pets and because many of the losses happened early in my life, I don’t get so attached to people or animals as might be expected.

I learned very early-the year my mother died when I was 9- how fragile and impermanent this life is.

Since I’ve been here in New Mexico, all four dogs that I brought from Texas–one wolfdog, a very ancient German Shepherd and 2 corgis have died of old age and one very old horse we rescued died too.


And then there was TILLY.



Tilly was our milk cow for 2 and 1/2 years and for 2 and 1/2 years, she gave us milk:stilllifeseveral gallons of milk each day. But she gave us much more than milk. She brought to us a teaching, an understanding that’s difficult to put into words.

She had one calf, JODY:SENOR SUNGLASSESSenor El Torro Armijo, while we had her and she was due to have another in just a few months.

She died completely unexpectedly..she wasn’t old, she wasn’t sick but one morning she laid down and she never got up.

I wrote her story the day after she died and put into words as best I could all that she meant to us. Even now years later, it’s hard for me to write about her but there is one thing that I’ll never forget, that I want to mention:

When Tilly came to live with us, her former owners told us that whoever milked her would become like her calf. And it was Jody who milked her every day–early in the morning and late in the afternoon but not very long after we got her, Jody had a serious accident- thrown from a horse, breaking several ribs, needing a lot of stitches, he ended up in ICU for a few days.

A friend came to help milk Tilly and when we put Tilly in her stall, I saw a big tear roll down her furry cheek….grief for her missing ‘calf’. How could anyone believe that animals don’t have a soul, that they don’t feel things like humans..Maybe they do even more so…that’s what I think.

TILLY GATE WAITINGCompassion, humility, kindness and unconditional love..that was the essence of Tilly, that was what she taught us and I’ll miss her forever.


“And this is the place where I’m supposed to tell you what I’ve learned. Here’s the best I can do: a bowl of beans, rest for tired bones. These things are reasonable roots for a life, not just a window dressing.They have comforted our species for all time and for happiness’ sake, they should not slip beneath our notice.

In times of upheaval, I read somewhere once, people go back to the land. As economies plunged around the world and wars droned on, on two fronts, we watched our summer volunteer staff grow and grow, filled by high school and college students eager to learn how to plant, to weed, to harness a horse, to put up a case of tomatoes……”

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball


As I’ve lived this way, out here in this mountain community..far from ‘the madding crowd’ my life has become more and more simple and my interests and the things I think I need..have changed.

Once I traveled the world and now when I do go out it’s usually no further than Taos..just 65 miles away. me:weddingI remember shopping at Neiman Marcus and having a closet full of beautiful long dresses.

And now nearly everything I own-jeans and overalls, sweaters and sweat shirts..have holes in them.

Dry firewood for the winter, composted cow manure [one of the great gifts Tilly left us] for the greenhouse and a bowl of pinto beans–these are the things make me happiest now…or maybe thankful is the word.

When I think back about my life, my greatest memories have always been on the land-me and grandpain my grandfather’s garden when little me:bridgeI was very small and beach familyat my grandparents summer cottage on Lake Michigan–rescuing monarch butterflies that washed up on shore, playing capture the flag in the woods with my cousins, riding a beautiful white horse along the shoreline, beach parties in the dunes when I was in a teenager.

I did try to live that other life but it was never where I belonged.


Below are 2 film clips–the trailer for our documentary, ON THE LAND_Together with the Earth and a clip from our First Nations documentary, Manitou Api~Where the Sun Rises

and a slideshow called, The Way We Live

*If you would like to contribute to the continuation of this blog, you can do so here.

Because I am no longer able to do the work I did for so many years, this is my way of contributing, of maybe bringing some light to this dark world and so I really appreciate help of any kind…however small…

Thank you and May the Force be with You

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