Every day by default is Earth Day here at the Confluence, so we didn't do anything out of the ordinary to celebrate. For me, today has been one of those weirdly productive days. Those are few and far between. School went beautifully - even math! I cooked three meals. Dishes are washed and kitchen is swept. I've done a load of laundry and changed the bed linens. I've fed the chickens and goats. I bathed all three little gals and myself. I submitted a manuscript. And... we dug another lasagna bed.
When you are homesteading (sort of) and the partner isn't home long enough to mow grass on most weeks, you become industrious. The goal is to grow most of our vegetables ourselves. Organic produce is hard to come by in these parts, and that is what we desire. I love growing things and always have. So, I came up with a plan to do it myself with the simple garden tools we had on hand. Lasagna beds cost nothing.
Step One - Be ready to work and don't be a whiner. Oh, and grab your tools.
We found this shovel in the hills. I have no clue what type it is, but it makes the work simple and easy on the back.
Step Two - Get down and dirty... remove the sod layer and set it aside to use later. I remove it in rectangles. You'll end up with this.
Step Three - Make a trench. You can make a deep or shallow one. I have beds where I have done both. The deeper ones will require more filling and I save those for when I have cardboard to use. I'm starting to believe all that isn't necessary though, so this one ended up 5 inches deep all around. I make the trench by loosening the dirt with the hoe and shoveling it out. Put the dirt aside. This is your topsoil and you will use it later.
Step Four - Fill your trench with organic debris. I gathered mine from the forest floor. It's sticks and leaves mostly. The girls wanted to put in some goat poop, so I said "have at it." Deladis added a rotting plum too. Whatever. As long as it will contribute to rich, healthy soil. One of the buckets you see next to the bed is composted chicken manure. We will use that in a later step. Yes, sometimes good food requires playing in poop.
Step Five - Top the debris with the sod. Turn the clumps grass side down to kill out the weeds and grass.
Step Six - Mix your manure and topsoil on top of this and spread evenly. Use the hoe to break up clumps. Surround your bed with some kind of barrier to set it apart from the yard. Voila! You're done.
Let the bed rest a day or so and then plant it. I plant veggies much closer together in these beds than a traditional garden and still get good yield. This bed took about two hours to make. We'll see how well it does. The point is that it is doable for a lone mother with littles around all the time. The girls loved helping. Gweneth thought the wind was going to blow her away, but she hung tight. The goats ate the buds off of all my irises too. It's a give and take. Good luck if you give it a try!
Here's my yoga body.
Here's its backside - in leggings!
Let's review some stats on this yoga body.
Oh, and despite doing yoga 6 days every week, being strong and toned, and being within its normal weight for its height and frame, this body isn't America's ideal for beauty - far from it. Using your body to grow and birth beautiful and big baby girls can cause some modifications. Here is all of the flattest, most awesome abs this yoga body has ever had.
Imagine the reaction if this body donned a bikini on the beach this summer at its pinnacle of health and physical fitness. Scandalous!
The truth is that this is the first time I have ever exposed my midriff in public in my whole life. I'm extremely modest. Also, the truth is that I have never worn these pants without an over-sized t-shirt in public. I hate feeling exposed. However, recently, I heard about a Montana legislator introducing a bill that would ban the wearing of yoga pants. I wear yoga pants in public all the time. Half my life, if it weren't for yoga pants, I wouldn't have any clothes to wear at all. I thought it had to be a joke. It wasn't. It was an indecent exposure proposition. I knew there wasn't any way it could possibly pass, so I thought not another thing of it. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, one of the yoga teachers I follow on Facebook posted a link to an article titledThe Politics of Yoga Pants: Dignity, Spandex, and Dysmorphia - What a Load of Goods are Being Sold?. The article refers to the bill proposal briefly and then begins to discuss the issues of yoga as a corrupt, western, billion dollar industry, how it has morphed from its origination in India, and how yoga pants are causing self esteem problems in women. The yoga teacher who posted it called yoga pants - "yoga porn".
For yoga clothing manufacturers specifically, it’s about cradling that cute ass in spandex. And it's not just legislators who are up in arms. Consumers are arguing right, left, and everywhere in between about our cultural love of exhibiting the back bump.
The author, Susan Stringfellow, goes on to discuss how the big business of yoga in the United States caters to women of a certain income and body type with well known companies like Lululemon not carrying plus sizes and hiding their size 10s and 12s in the back of the store. Then, Stringfellow goes on to write:
Keep in mind that the myth of Narcissus predates American culture, which proves that the conundrum of our self-amazement has been around since antiquity, probably before. Yet, what can be argued is that the fashion designs sold by the yoga clothes companies are playing on human vanities and insecurities. And, as Klein contends, these repetitive presentations of "health" and "beauty" are capable of warping our sense of realistic expectations about who we should be.
And, all this means that yoga pants are really something to get our panties in a wad over? Yoga pants objectify women's bodies? Tasteless advertising makes us fantasize about a body we'll never have and therefore we are pressured to wear yoga pants that don't fit or accentuate our perfect for us bodies?
I'm not buying it. I've seen people of all sizes and shapes wear yoga pants and leggings. I've seen them worn in all kinds of beautiful and bizarre ways. One thing I have never been is shocked by the body wearing them. I'm a mother, and I have to say that I'm not speaking for myself when I say that when we are out running errands, feeding chickens, or taking the little gals to dance class, yoga pants are the most comfortable attire. Even the Yoga Body Image Coalition highlighted by the article has people doing yoga in yoga pants with all body types on their website. I have seen an upsurge in more realistic advertising on yoga sites I frequent and have for several years. I also recall seeing an ad of a completely nude athletic woman and not thinking twice about it. What's the deal?
I think reactions like this bring up great questions, but can tend toward the illogically radical like the Montana bill proposal to ban yoga pants. After reading this article, it was obvious what problems in American culture we should be addressing, and it isn't yoga pants. Yoga pants aren't causing a whole slue of people to feel poorly about their bodies. No, the problem is a huge one and multifaceted.
We've went from one extreme to another in this country in terms of our display of the human form and sexuality and our ways of living and economy. Our cultural norms formed in a way that was heavily influenced by prudish Puritanism. Now, we are at the opposite end of the spectrum where every day from the time we are born we are inundated by hyper-sexualized images of the human body that aren't even representative of reality. Those of us who exist in the in between are confused and silent.
The article also highlighted the conundrum of, Veronica Partridge, who vowed to not wear yoga pants or leggings in public again. Her husband honestly revealed to her that sometimes he couldn't help but to look at women when they wear yoga pants. I feel for her and her husband and the realities of this issue. I feel for women who have felt those less than respectful eyes on their bodies. The issue is not the woman's clothes. It is our culture's portrayal of the female form not as something to be admired for its beauty, but for something to lust for. There is a huge difference in admiring beauty and lusting. I can see someone and their beauty and enjoy looking at them without wanting to be with them sexually. In a culture where that cannot be separated, the problem is not in form fitting clothes enticing looks. The problem is in perversion. I would bet that in a culture where women regularly go topless don't have this issue in this same form.
The other issue is with unethical corporations and mass consumerism. To discuss these topics would take more writing than I want to do here. My main concern in this is the issue of the female body image. I have three daughters who I hope to raise with confidence and respect for their bodies. I have a husband who is an artist and has drawn nude women from life. He also tattoos people of all walks of life five days a week. So, the issue of body image speaks to me profoundly. If we cannot look upon another person's body without making a value judgment or it producing lustful thoughts, the issue isn't theirs. It is ours.
Yoga pants aren't shaming women. Our society is shaming women through airbrushed advertising, hyper-sexualizing, hiding tasteful representation of the human form, and all but forbidding self expression through means of dress, hairstyle, and body modification. Our society has a double standard. No issue with putting a 10 year old in booty shorts and bikinis in such a sexual climate, but takes issue with a fully covered body in yoga pants. Beauty, health, and fitness come in all shapes and sizes. I have spent my life learning to be separate from my body because of low self esteem. Yoga has connected me with this temple that is my body in wonderful ways. I'm not ashamed of it. That's why I can post these pictures in this context. My body was created to serve my essence in this life, and it is doing a fine job of it. Through yoga, I can worship Creator with my body while making it strong and healing it where the doctors cannot reach. If America has a bastardized form of yoga and yoga pants are nothing but yoga porn, that speaks to our priorities as Americans being VERY skewed. Nothing more.
Wear those yoga pants. They're comfortable for crying out loud. Oh, and one last thing. I typically don't wear yoga pants to do yoga any way. Here's the head of that yoga body saying farewell for now. Yes, it's that serious.
The rains came washing the cold away, making all things new.
When we moved back to the mountains after seven years of being away, our ambitions were high. The plan was to homestead. John was going to paint and play music. We'd travel as a family to festivals to sell his wares and talents. It seemed a simple plan at the time. Implementing it was another thing all together.
Plans have changed now and yet things are slowly progressing toward the original vision. I handle most of the homesteading duties as I tend to homeschooling and homemaking. Our garden is not a huge plot with a bounty to sell at market. It is now several raised beds and lasagna beds in our side yard. It produces enough for our family for two seasons and a bit to can or freeze. The gardening doesn't take me away from the cabin and is manageable for the girls and I.
This week we put in strawberries, a variety of lettuces and salad greens, and spinach. We also joined a program in our region called Grow Appalachia that will support our efforts this season.
Gardening in your pjs is a technique we've mastered.
We also added two new farm friends to our two cats and twenty chickens. Snow White and Sunflower are Kiko/Boer mix nanny goats. They're less than two years old. Their breeds are good for both milk and meat, however, here they will be lawn care and pets. I'd love to have fresh, raw, goat milk, but I also dream of traveling. Asking a friend to milk your goats is a little more than I think we can pull off at this point. Trying to take it a step at a time. Thinking manageable.
Plans evolve. The spring rains wash away the heaviness of the winter and life moves forward into rebirth. The blessing is that we can adapt as our heart leads.
"Is where we live a kind of lost place, Mama?" my Ivy Pearl asked.
Without thinking, I answered, "Yes, it is, Ivy."
In the few days since she asked, I've been thinking of all the ways that we do very much live in a kind of lost place. Beginning with our cabin being located through the creek and in the woods. People don't visit often. It is like a world all to ourselves if we want it to be, until the summer comes and more people come to visit our landlord and our hearts race when we see someone walking up the road and are unsure where they came from. We can do yoga on the porch in our jammies. We can run and scream like wild banshees. We can fall asleep in the grass and feel safe. We can hear the birds chirping, the creek running, the frogs singing, and the coyotes dueling it out for the alpha factor. It is easy to feel alone and lonesome.
Southeastern, Kentucky is that kind of place the rest of the country/world only hear about in terms of coal, poverty, drug addiction, or bluegrass music. It is still perfectly acceptable to publicly make fun of the "hillbilly". Tolerance and equality preaching folks have done it to my face on numerous occasions and I'm supposed to laugh as if it is a funny joke. Many times I haven't the energy to explain to them what they have just done to me and mine. It isn't worth the conversation. Other times, I'm too angry to speak. It seems to the rest of the country that we are good for entertainment, slave labor, and self perpetuated stagnation.
Nevermind our beauty, kindness, deeply meaningful art, old and rich culture, and the way we insert complexities into the English language that are older than the country itself. We are a kind of lost place. Only known to ourselves. Visited mostly by ourselves. Praised as home by many and few. The world knows us not.
I read an article not too long ago that talked about a study which found that there is a human gene that induces the need to explore. I sit here in this lost place with my children and ache to explore the world with them. These hills are in my blood, in the dust that made my being, in the air I breathe, and they inform every cell of my body. The Kentucky mountains will always be home. Maybe because of that I long to understand the places that aren't lost. I long to understand the other lost places as well. I want to share this world with my girls. It is thought that those people whose ancestors traveled the farthest to inhabit the world have the largest presence of this wanderlust gene. Our ancestors were the Native Americans, Scots-Irish, and early eastern European paid explorers. They came here to find home. They explored the known world before settling here. We have the wanderlust gene.
This winter was a rough one for most of the families in the mountains. It kept us home for weeks on end and behind closed doors. Spring is the busiest time for my husband's tattoo shop, and it will be awhile before we can travel as a whole family. The girls and I ventured out on our own to visit my grandparents in South Carolina. With our modern day compass plugged in, we set out like a burden had been relieved of us. My Papaw has been diagnosed with bone cancer. It won't be long for him. He made ready awhile ago. Love and the wanderlust gene made this mother brave enough to travel alone with three small children. A drop in the bucket to some, and yet to those who reside in a lost place it can seem the pinnacle of excitement.
I even took the girls to a Cultural and Kite Festival in a city unknown to me. That is something I can't remember ever doing before.
We'll travel and know the world as home. Starting out small for now, as finances allow for small, we will go. The limit is through all space and time. We'll come back to our little lost place when we want to feel grounded again and know what's familiar and as connected as our soul. We will be free.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.