Where do you stand on the ‘Behavior’ scale? The Mountain Farmgirl is not so sure whether she is a Creature of Habit or a Wild Woman of the Moment … as she’s been known to inhabit both camps. There’s something really comforting and grounding about daily rituals; then again, spontaneity can be wickedly good for the soul. How about it, Farmgirls … which mood are you in today?

ROAD TRIP, Ladies … ‘Just got back from a good one!!! Yee Haa, it was fun!  After working 7-days a week at our inn all summer with nary a day to call my own, I’ve been through 8 states since we last talked. F-R-E-E-D-O-M!!! I felt like William Wallace as I pulled out of the driveway, and I wanted to scream it from the rafters! As I drove from our Lodge in New Hampshire, I went through Vermont from top to bottom, and covered territory in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, finally making it over the Chesapeake into Maryland, where my destination was Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Our second son, Noah, is a sophomore this year majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics. (He says he loves mathematics because it’s such an exact science. He’s really smart, so who am I not to believe him? -- but what I want to know is: ‘If this IS true, why do I get so many different answers every time I try to solve a math problem?’). Anyway, Noah has his own car to get down there, so he really doesn’t need ‘mom’ to tag along each time he goes back to school, but it’s become a mother/son ritual I wouldn’t miss for the world, and we’ve shared some wonderfully special moments together in this way. I crash on the floor of his dorm room (Yes, he did offer me the bed, I’m just more of a floor person). We often play a word game called Banagrams (where we’re pretty evenly matched), and we usually watch a movie together on his laptop before my trip is all-too-soon over and I fly back home. I look forward to several more such adventures before this ritual is replaced by another one TBD by future circumstances. During the long bus ride home from the airport on my return trip back to Jackson the other day, I had plenty of time to think about all the other rituals that play a part in my life as well, and how special and important each one of them is to me. I realized there are many more of them than I would’ve guessed at first glance.  I’ll bet the same is true for you, too … or are you perhaps a seeker of spontaneity, more of a Spur-of-the-Moment sort of gal? 

In my life there seem to be a lot of seasonal rituals, the kind we all encounter, like birthdays and holidays. I classify these as People-type rituals. To give you an example, my sister and I both share spring birthdays, just one month apart. Never were two people on the face of the planet more different (in every way) than we, and yet we love each other to pieces and are extremely close. Maybe that’s how it works: the old ‘opposites attract’ thing. Perhaps we’d kill each other if we ever had to share a bedroom again and borrow each other’s clothes on a regular basis, but the truth is, we are Best Friends Forever and have made it a ritual to try to get together each spring, on the coast of Florida where she lives. Sue treats us to pedicures, I take us out to lunch; we both get massages. These are splurgy things I wouldn’t think to do on my own, and they evolved rather unconsciously for us at first, but now they have become an important link in our sisterly bonding. Only 7 ½ more months to wait until we replay this ritual …!

Another important ‘People Ritual’ for me involves a phone call to my mom almost every day.  At 82, being so far from her is one of the hardest things I’ve had to adjust to since moving to New Hampshire. However, I think e-mails and cell phones, when used responsibly as a communication tool, are two examples of technology at its best, and we always seem to make good use of them. Mom and I check in with each other to see ‘what’s going on’ … Sometimes I rant and she listens with a sympathetic, motherly ear if I’ve had a particularly hard day and need to vent. Other times I’ll hear about her latest happenings (she’s still a really active retired teacher) or her next trip with her friends or the latest recipe experiment and how it turned out. We each also clip out little articles from our local papers and drop them in the mail to each other regularly. These have become little rituals that neither of us ever planned, we just fell into them like comfortable shoes, and now if we miss more than a day, we definitely feel like a big piece of the daily puzzle is missing.

There are seasonal rituals that are non-people oriented, rhythms we all anticipate and participate in so naturally we almost don’t even think about them. These include things like spring cleaning, switching out our wardrobe from one season to the next; putting by the garden produce for winter, whether it be canning, freezing, or drying; tapping my maple trees and boiling  up sap; or cutting and stacking the firewood that will warm us twice as we heat and cook with it each winter.

My personal day has evolved to include some daily rituals that really work for me, and getting up early is definitely one of them.  ‘Mothers’ in general may have invented this sanity-saving device, even though when our children are small, EXTRA sleep is what we really need. However, I find that I have always been able to get by on much less slumber-time, if I have carved out some ‘still and sacred’ moments of peace and solitude. During these times I am usually able to center myself, finding my purpose and setting my course for the day. This culminates (of course!) with the daily To Do list. I wish that Yoga was on that list as well, but alas, it is still on that other “Someday” list that City Farmgirl Rebekah Teal blogged about earlier this week. Yoga has always had a simultaneously grounding and rejuvenating effect on me, and yet since my college days ended, I have had a hard time making it part of my daily ritual. That’s one for the ‘Want To’ list I guess, but I’m not gonna beat myself up about it till it happens. In the meantime, a steaming mug of hot tea on a cold morning, or a frosty glass of iced tea with lemon on a day like today (when Hurricane Earl has pushed up the humidity and temperatures to a much higher degree than we like up here in the mountains), my tea helps me get my day started in a sacred and ritualized way. So does some quiet time with my bible each morning.  These little things have become automatic, and once savored and completed, I’m ‘good to go’!

Walking is another biggie for me in the ritual department, and it clears my head, although I can rarely work it in early in the day. But when I can, such as in my current simplicity experiment (my “Year of Living Frugally”), in which I am trying to see how long I can get by without a car, it juices me up to a fantastic start of my day. It takes only 20 minutes to walk from my log cabin to our inn --- all downhill fortunately—and I save the return trip for my electric bike. I feel so much better on days that I do this; the physical and mental health benefits are many.

Of course there’s the daily e-mail ritual, a category almost unto itself, that many of us have to contend with in this modern world. I spend a lot of time on mine because so much of it is business-related, but this is a ritual that can get out of hand quickly, so a good spam-blocking program is essential and worth every penny.  Like anything else, emails, texting and the internet can become addictions, not to mention time stealers, but properly used, they are great tools, and wonderful ways to keep in touch. (Truth be told, however, I still prefer hand-written letters and good, old-fashioned penmanship).

Much as I hate to admit it, a quickie nap plays a big part in my life these days and charges my batteries like nothing else! I don’t know why I’m so embarrassed to tell you that, because I don’t attribute the need for one to ‘getting older’. (I learned how to power nap when my oldest was a newborn) Five minutes, ten tops, is all it takes though, and I’m a new woman! I can feel the tiredness coming on, and when it does, its pointless to fight it. My power nap is almost better than a good night’s sleep.

Speaking of little children reminds me that in our neck of the woods this week, public schools are starting, and that of course is connected with LOTS of rituals. When I was younger, my mother and grandmother would take me shopping to get school clothes and new shoes, and all those lovely school supplies!!  Strange kid that I was, I loved getting notebooks, pens and paper.  As a writer, my favorite stores of all, even back then, were the old-fashioned  Stationery stores, and there were TWO of them on the same block, each relics from the previous century. As a ‘browser’ in those days, I would be in my glory there, leafing through papers of every description (where you could actually buy them one sheet at a time!), the fountain pens and lead pencils, the earthy smell of leather bound journals, sterling silver letter openers and beautiful hand-bound dictionaries. Purchases were wrapped in brown paper and tied with string; such lovely memories from a totally by-gone era.  I was in heaven, proof that even then, I was a bit of an oddball compared to your typical fourth grader! After having my own children, we never felt the urgency as a homeschool family to perpetuate this rite of passage from one grade to another, by doing the typical “back to school” shopping thing … a fact that was pointed out to me by a New York Times reporter who did a big homeschool story on our family. In a way she was right, in the same way Meg Ryan was right in the movie, “You’ve Got Mail” when she waxed poetic, saying, “Don’t you just love New York in the fall? Bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils…” I knew exactly what both Meg and the reporter were talking about, and from that moment forward I always made sure that my kids were in on The Ritual so they didn’t miss out.

As homeschoolers, we worked out our own rituals that created a natural flow to our day.  We lived on a beaver pond, and almost every morning we’d go out in the canoe before breakfast, rain or shine, then back home for a hearty breakfast.  While the kids did their chores, I’d put soup on to simmer, bread in the bread machine and then we’d have our nature walk, followed by entries in each of our nature journals. While the two youngest played, I’d homeschool our two oldest boys until their academic subjects were done (as well as our lunch by that time) and then eat. The days were somewhat predictable in a nice way … we weren’t always re-inventing the wheel … but we also had what I’d call “Zinger Days”, when some totally unexpected opportunity would present itself and off we’d go at a moment’s notice to follow that particular rainbow! We NEVER let our habits and schedules rule us no matter how well they worked in the long run.

I have much less spontaneity these days as a business owner in a public service industry that is open 24/7, every day of the year, that I used to. And more than once in awhile that frustrates me. Creating a schedule for myself that allows for some playful serendipity in my day, and even some wacky/wild spontaneous behavior when the urge strikes me, is something I’m very much working on! But right now if I can steal in a little hike in the woods, or sit on a rock in the river and play my recorder, read a book (NOT in bed or I drop it on my head, Zzzzzzzzzzz!!), do some knitting or write a letter, these are my little diversions and I thoroughly enjoy them.

So how about it, my Farmgirl friends … what are some of the rituals that are meaningful in YOUR lives? And of course, we’re all dying to know aboutsome of the things you like to interrupt that lovely order with ... when the urge strikes you to throw all caution to the wind!! Looking forward to hearing from you.  Until next time, my friends, Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings,

The Mountain Farmgirl, Cathi Belcher







By: Debbie
On: 09/08/2010 06:35:57
What fun Cathi!
Your post puts me in the mood for a good road trip myself!
We have one in the works for this fall... We're headed to Washington D.C. with our two homeschooler's! It's neither a ritual or spontanious, but we're looking forward to it!

It's the start of a new homeschool year and we have a few rituals of our own to get us over the hump of too much summer fun and time to buckle down road. I say buckle down, but what I really hope for is a gentle entry into a new year of schooling. I make sure we have sharp pencils, bright colored hotebooks and each childs reading list ready.. we dust off the math books from where we left off and start to tune up...We have always done our " table work" in the am, but have been known to abandon assignments, for a sunny day of walking by the Cape Cod Canal to watch shore birds or a spontanous trip to a local museum, art gallery or a performance!

As for me alone, I have three ritural's I do each day... I start each day with hot coffee as I gather my thoughts. I and look at my to do list... I'm a power napper too! I have to each day between 3 and 4.. or I'm worthless the rest of the night! I lay down across our bed with big pillows piled under my legs ( my mom showed me that trick), close my eyes and rest.. I take 30 minutes... and I'm ready for anything after that!
At night just before lights out, I read something uplifting and inspiring, or write something myself to welcome a peaceful nights sleep.

My mom and I share the same birthday month... one day apart.. We always do something fun, colorful and silly for our special day! Last year, she was recovering from a hospital stay during our birthday so I ran out to one of our favorite stores and got us each bright red nubby scarves and matching gloves! That put us in the mood for celebrating!

I'm in the process of creating a " farmgirl" foot bath for my new END OF SUMMER ritual...

Recipe: One galvanized tub large enough for one pair of tired farmgirl feet filled with hot water and half a cup of sea salt.

Toss in your favorite essential oil ( I love lavender ) Read your Mary Janes Farm Magazine while you soak for 30 minutes.

If you can, prepare your soak outside in a favorite spot and have plenty of fluffy towels for drying...This is the cure for too much " barefoot" gardening and " beach walking"...

If your feet resemble a prehistoric animal like mine do, I recommend a once weekly treatment until your feet look human again!

I guess you could say this farmgirl likes the comfort of a routine, but is up for a little adventure if the time is right!

As always I love your posts Cathi!
Thanks for sharing your wonderful view from the mountain tops!

Beach Blessings to you!
Deb~ ( a beachy farmgirl)
By: Tammy
On: 09/08/2010 17:57:22
Hi Cathy,
I loved this post. It was wonderful to know I am not the only one who some rituals. I am a tealady to the max so it is a ritual that is infused throughout my day. I love the waiting on the tea kettle and being still while waiting for the tea to steep and then pure enjoyment. I too try to make reading my bible a prioty although lately I have had a bit of trouble with that.

I am wroking on getting exercise in my week. Yesterday I took a beautiful evening walk and saw the most beautiful sunset. I was thinking I would have missed that had I not realized I needed a time out from the day's chaos.

I so enjoy reading your blog. Have a great day.
By: KimberlyD
On: 09/08/2010 20:07:38
I'm a caregiver, I moved my dad in with me and I too enjoy the early morning hours, before he wakes up, its my "me" time. Also going to church every Sunday it renews me for the week a head. This may sound strange but also when I am doing laundry, I go to the laundry mat and I take a book and I sit and read, a few hours once a week, it helps.
By: Ruth
On: 09/09/2010 09:11:12
Dear Cathi,

As usual, sure enjoyed reading your blog today. Brought back many similar and good memories for me. I remember the Stationary stores, too! Like you, I loved to go there and immerse myself in all the wonderful treasures of paper, pens and pencils. I still linger dreamily in those sections of the bigger super-stores we are left with these days.

I have a box full of journals that at the time I bought them, I thought I couldn't live without them! I still love to pull them out every once in awhile and hold them, dreaming of the words and thoughts I'll entrust to the pages between their covers. Some day...

I have morning rituals as well that set my tone for the day. Without them, I'm a ship without a rudder. But once those have prepared me for the rest of the day, I love the impromtu surprises that flash into the remaining hours of sunlight! It seems to be a good balance...not too much of one or the other.

Thanks for sharing. You are a true kindred spirit!

By: barb
On: 09/09/2010 12:48:21
My sisters and brothers have a ritual. Every fall, we and our spouses rent an entire bed & breakfast in Cripple Creek CO. We talk, play cards, and just generally hang out together. Dinner is a restaurant that has been agreed upon by all, and the owners on our inn serve a delightful breakfast in the morning. For years, I was too busy to join them every year, and oh, how I wish I had taken the time! Two of my sisters are gone now, and one brother is disabled with a severe stroke. How many of those fun times I missed with all of them together because I had something more "important" to do. Take time, girls. Savor each moment with friends and family. The years go by oh so quickly.
By: Melissa
On: 09/09/2010 13:21:54
I too love shopping for school supplies. Even though I have been out of school for 20 years I still pick up tons of paper and pens during the back to school sales.
By: meredith
On: 09/09/2010 16:58:57
Dear Cathi,
The rituals of fall, the rituals of each day- they keep us grouded, dont they? I am a new homeschooling mom (44 years old with an 11 year old daughter)- and I am finding after only our first week that there is a whole new set of rituals just waiting for us to discover them. I cant wait! We had our science class yesterday on horseback- I taught her about all the trees in our woods- this is what I had hoped this homeschooling would be!
I hope you keep finding your rituals and giving yourself the time to enjoy them- we all have to work to eat, but we eat to LIVE- so LIVE! God Bless!
By: Keleen
On: 09/09/2010 19:42:32
Rituals?? Well....morning stretches, evening walks, reading before bedtime....and a steaming hot mug of herbal coffee while savoring Farmgirl blogs!
By: mellee
On: 09/10/2010 13:45:48
I love to read your entries Cathi. You seem to have such a full and abundant life, and I love to live vicariously through some of your experiences. I am very much a creature of habit; ritual is balm to my soul. I am not really "awake" until I have my big mug of coffee in the am. After getting my little one delivered to school and seeing that my teen is working on one of her subjects--she is home schooled--I then find that I need to check my computer on several fronts. Email, what coursework i need to tackle that day (I am once again a college student), setting up the progression of school work to get done before I pick my son up from kindergarten. Then i tackle the laundry and the dishes, then what pressing housework is there for the day. My husband works very longs days, so I have to have order and structure to my day or there would be chaos. I try to have little pleasures snuck in during to day for sanity maintenance; maryjane's farm is one of those. I have a big change coming, for the first time in 25 years I will be moving back to country and am just over the top with excitement. My husband and children have never lived anywhere but a city life, so I cannot wait to introduce all there is to offer on the other side of the fence. I am looking forward to some of the most inane things; a chick coop, a milk cow, walks in the woods, esp. in the spring to the creek for fishing. my husband and son may take a bit of orientation, but I think my son is going to fall in love. Thank you yet again Cathi for suck a reflective post; it has created another one of those special moments in my day where I do something just for me.
By: carolj
On: 09/11/2010 05:17:26
Dear Cathi,

God's timing is perfect. I read your blog today (Sept. 11) while waiting for the rest of my family to get ready to go to the memorial service for my much loved father-in-law. It has been a long week for all of us, and being reminded of the daily rituals of your life makes me anxious to get back to mine. Somehow this week I have been able to keep my early morning routine of writing in my gratitude journal (an ingrained habit now thanks to an MJ merit badge) and reading my Bible. God has used those two "rituals" to strengthen, guide, and love on me this week. As always thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.


Leave a comment

Commenting is restricted to registered users only. Please register or login now to submit a comment.

Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir