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


Power Distribution Station with Lightning Strike.

“What Will You Do When The Lights Go Out? The Inevitable Failure Of The US Grid”

“Without electricity, all forms of fuel that our society relies on will stop flowing. All of our vehicles will be dead in the water, and more importantly, the trucks will stop delivering food. The grocery stores will be stripped bare in hours, and will not be replenished for a long time.”

“MIT Warns Trump to Secure Electric Grid”

For the last couple weeks, I’ve wanted to write something but nothing seems relevant. The world we live in is self destructing, its destruction helped enormously by the world governments.

It’s difficult to find the balance, some ray of hope.

I don’t sleep very well and I often wake up about 3:30 am in a panic. I sit in my fake fur covered rocking chair for a while and drink a glass of wine to calm myself and then I can usually go back to sleep. I feel fear and dread and I feel hopeless.

In the morning, in the early morning light, I usually sit on my deck for about 30 minutes. blue latticeI drink a cup of coffee, as I listen to the rooster crow, the horses calling for their breakfast and I watch the wolfdogs play and the cats frolicking……feeling hopeful3

And everything is beautiful.karen's chairsalmon colored tire pot

petunia boxpuck:red grazingEverything is perfect.

The past 2 years have been the most difficult in my life and I’ve had some very difficult years in the past, surrounded by death, loss, grief…. having to climb out of the darkest hole.

My greatest teacher, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross often told a story about a time in her life when she was facing tremendous obstacles. She was very much in touch with her spirit guides [guardian angels if you want to call them that] and one night when she felt she could not go on, she asked for their help. She asked for a shoulder to lean on. The answer came back: “Thou shall not be given”  She asked then for a hand to hold and again the answer came: “Thou shall not be given”  And she understood the message: that she had the strength to go through all the pain, the loneliness, everything…alone

So that’s how it’s been for me these past couple of years..asking for a sign, for a message, for a reason which would explain so many difficulties…. and hearing “Thou shall not be given” or  not hearing anything at all…only silence.

But as I watch the world self destruct…..from the quiet here in this place that I live, I start to think there is a reason so much has been taken away.: Why we’ve had to learn to live with almost no electricity, depend more on the greenhouse for food and natural medicine…and why hard as we try, there’s been so little money. Because maybe we’re entering a time when there won’t be any….money. Why we’ve had to use barter a lot..maybe barter is coming back….has to.

Last night I was thinking of another difficult period in my life and how years later, I came to think of it as essential part of my life’s journey, the greatest blessing although at the time, I felt as I have these past 2 years: stuck in a deep dark hole of despair and hopelessness.

I was in my mid 20s, totally lost, drinking continuously-day and night and I decided to sign up for an Occupational Therapy Assistant course at Houston Community College. The class which was made up of about 25 women of all ages, went from 8am to 4pm Monday through Friday and was held in a dreadful, dark building in downtown Houston. I hated it from the beginning.  I had thought that Occupational Therapy was a type of Art Therapy which I was interested in but I soon found out it had nothing at all to do with art therapy.

As the year went on, I became more and more miserable and I decided to drop out.  I told the woman who taught the class, I was finished but she begged me to stay, to finish the course. It was pretty close to the end of the year and she was very encouraging so I completed the course and got my certificate as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.

It meant absolutely nothing to me then but 15 years later, I got a job providing Occupational Therapy for a hospice and I found what became my life’s work: working with terminally ill patients, taught by Dr.Elisabeth Kubler Ross. If I had not completed that Occupational Therapy course, none of this would have art

So there is a reason why things are as they are…just very hard to understand at the time.

Now in these times, maybe we are being prepared for what’s coming..maybe we will be able to help others learn to survive in the times to come….because like or not, they are coming.

I made this slideshow about the way we live and the way we live is off the grid..depending on the sun for electricity, wood from the forest for heat. It will seem in this slideshow that we aren’t lacking for anything and we aren’t..only money.

Usually when I mention anything about the grid going down, people give a sort of nervous chuckle and then quickly change the subject. Or they don’t even believe it’s a possibility. Life will go on as it has.  So be it.

Last night a neighbor brought over some homemade wine and it reminded me of the  Hank Williams Jr. song “A Country Boy Can Survive”

homemade wine

Homemade peach wine and a wine glass from The Dollar Store

I can make this wine I need to buy it. I don’t really like Hank Williams Jr. or the song but it is true…country folks can survive:

“We grow good old tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive”

I don’t really care about trying to convince anyone else to live this way. For the majority of people, I imagine it would be very unpleasant but I do think some very difficult times are coming and it seems wise to prepare in some way. And there are ways.

Following is a short article on what will likely happen when the grid goes down and also a short video of the children’s artist, Tasha Tudor who was famous not only for her art, but for her beautiful gardens and her choice to live in the old way without electricity…an inspirational teacher for the times to come.

*If you care to contribute to this blog, it’s much appreciated. It’s my way now of contributing as the work I did in the past is no longer possible.   we appreciate contributions also to the welfare of our many rescued animals


1. All commerce will cease. The ATMs won’t work, the banks won’t open, and the cash registers won’t…well, register. For a while cash will be king, but if the crisis goes on for more than a few weeks, then people will view it as worthless. We’d be back to a barter economy in short order.

2. Communications will shut down. If you think you can rely on your cell phone to work in a disaster, think again. In a crisis, when everyone instinctively reaches for their phone, that limit is quickly surpassed and the radios on the tower get sluggish, thus causing the fast-busy signal. Mobile analysts estimates that a cell site can handle 150 to 200 calls per second per sector. When a large group are making calls at the same time, the network can’t handle the amount of calls. More importantly, communications with police, firefighters, and ambulance services will cease. Many of the workers in these positions will try to soldier on, and keep doing the best job that they can for as long as they can. However, without ordinary citizens calling them to report crimes and emergencies, they’ll be helplessly watching their communities burn down around them. It won’t be long before they give up, ditch their posts, and return to their families.

3. Without electricity, all forms of fuel that our society relies on will stop flowing. All of our vehicles will be dead in the water, and more importantly, the trucks will stop delivering food. The grocery stores will be stripped bare in hours, and will not be replenished for a long time. Even if you live in an area that is rich in agricultural resources, there may be no food to be had, since those farms rely on fertilizers and farming equipment that must be delivered by trucks.

4. And of course many of those farms will lack water, as will your plumbing. For a couple of days after the power goes out, you’ll still have running water since water towers rely on gravity to feed the water to your home. However, electricity is required to clean that water and pump it into the tower. Once it’s out, that means that you won’t be able to flush your toilet. So not only dehydration be a major threat, but without the ability to remove human waste or wash your hands, every community will face daunting sanitation problems.

5. When the grocery stores are stripped bare, the pharmacies won’t be far behind. Millions of people who rely on life saving medications could die in the weeks and months that follow. But perhaps more shocking is what would happen to the people who aren’t using drugs that are immediately life saving. 13% of Americans are using opioid drugs, which are highly addictive and cause horrendous withdrawal symptoms. Another 13% of Americans are on antidepressants, and likewise, the withdrawal symptoms are pretty problematic. In other words, within a few weeks after the grid collapses, about 25% of your neighbors are going to be in an awful mental state that is not conducive for survival.

6. And finally, one of the most shocking things that people will have to deal with, is the lack of GPS. The GPS satellites will probably keep running, but eventually the devices that read those signals will give up the ghost. These days people are pretty reliant on GPS for directions, and there aren’t as many paper maps lying around. The average person is going to be utterly lost if the grid goes down.

In summary, law and order will break down at every level, and death will be around every corner. It’s one thing to grow up and live in an era that lacks electricity, but to be sent back to such a time on a moments notice would be one of the most challenging things that a person accustomed to modern amenities would ever face.