Summertime Spa, Farmgirl Style

The dog-days of summer are here.  Say “Spa-aaaaaah” with the Mountain Farmgirl and her surefire recipe for pampering yourself and staying cool, in “Summertime Spa, Farmgirl Style” …

Hooooooey, it’s hot! But looking at a US weather map, it looks like everyone is experiencing some pretty intense  heat this summer, wherever it is that you may call “home”. We’re all in the same boat so to speak, tossing uncomfortably on some boiling seas. Is there no relief in sight?  Fortunately, the mountains here in New Hampshire where I live, have escaped the sweltering temps; it’s pretty manageable here.  Looking ahead a few days, we can take relief in that thought that a cold front will be sweeping in, with a low of 49 and a high of 69 on Sunday. That in itself is a refreshing thought, and I will pray that it comes your way, too, bringing some much needed rain to many parched areas of our country.

I have to admit that heat has never really bothered me, though, because I’m one of those people who, winter or summer, is always cold. There have probably been only a handful of days in my lifetime when I’ve been uncomfortably hot. I can remember one August  night when I was in my teens. I was visiting my friend Reenie Edmonds at her home on Cape Cod, and we were unable to sleep in the stifling heat. Around 2 am we went down to her backyard in our underwear and sat under the garden hose for almost an hour. The well water was very cold.  Ahhh, such relief! I’ll never forget doing that; it was great!

But when it comes to being really hot, I have a funny story to share. It was a few years ago when I was battling mid-life hormones and hot flashes. Frankly, I openly welcomed them, because it was one of the few winters that I wasn’t freezing all the time.  But my husband still jokes about how hard it was for HIM to deal with hot flashes. I’d be sleeping comfortably, all toasty and cuddly with my hot flash to keep me warm, but my body would be radiating like a furnace, waking him up and sending him flying across the room to open a window, while I slept like a baby.  I’d say that was sweet revenge for all those pregnant summers (five of them actually) when I was too hot to sleep well and he was blissfully ‘sawing wood’!

Anyway, even though I’m a self-professed ‘cold potato’, I HAVE felt pretty warm lately working out in my gardens and carting around 10 cubic yards of mulch onto the flower beds. My daily workouts with the wheelbarrow are really better than going to a gym. When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work, does it? At the end of a long day of physical labor, tired, really dirty, hot and sweaty, I admit that I have sometimes yearned for a visit to the spa, a stone massage, maybe? But alas, that can be rather pricey, and I am still on my mission to ‘live frugally’. No, the spa down the road is not in my immediate farmgirl future, but I have something far better: my own “Spa- aaaaaah”, Farmgirl Style. It’s the perfect antidote for the dog days of summer, and let’s face it: we’re worth it and we deserve some pampering!


Here’s why I’m in need:

Summertime at our inn is the busy season. My days start at the crack of dawn, 4 am to be exact, baking goodies for the breakfast buffet I serve my guests, and by noon I have already put in an 8 hour day. It won’t be over until I shut down the front desk, and close out the books at 10 pm. Thank goodness ours is a SEASONAL business! This madness only lasts a few months of the year. And fortunately, this Farmgirl is not cooped up inside all day long. My day is varied, consisting of office work, pool chemistry and cleaning, repairs (I replaced a big heating/cooling unit all by myself recently … ah-hoo-a!!!). Then there is the gardening and outdoor work. The variety makes the long days go fast. After my gardening routine, however, I am DIRTY!!  Oh, how I love to play hard in the dirt!


It’s then that  my first spa treatment of the day is in order: a mineral water treatment. Sound expensive? It is: it’s a priceless experience!  I haul myself down to the river in my backyard and wade over to a favorite rock somewhere out in the middle.  This river is fed by melting snow (yes, still!) from Mt. Washington, and is full of minerals from the beautiful geologic specimens it runs over down the valley. The water is crystal clear and very refreshing, which is verified by all the small trout that dart between the nooks and crannies of the rocks on the river floor.  I’m rather small and the current is a bit difficult to navigate for me, so to be safe I usually take someone with me (wouldn’t want to float away!!). My “water treatment” starts with a good long soak.  Sometimes I sit neck-deep in the icy water, other times I just lay on a flat submerged rock and let the water flow right over me, giving me a refreshing massage as it goes.



But no matter how long I soak,  I’m still pretty grimy from all that mulch! My next ‘treatment’ consists of an invigorating exfoliating scrub.  I reach down to the river’s bottom through the clear, sparkly  water, and pick up a handful of the tiniest gravel, sand almost, but not quite. The little pebbles rub against the black of the mulch oil that permeates my hands and feet. Scrub, scrub … it feels so good on my skin! In no time I’m clean as a whistle, which is what I find myself doing as I sit in the middle of my liquid oasis … my daily haven each and every summer day.



A mullein plant grows tall along the bank, its lanky stalk a spire in the air.  I remove a couple soft, wooly leaves from the base and soak them in water, soon to be placed over my eyes for a cool, refreshing  eye-bath.  Right now it’s time for some light therapy, and I choose one of my favorite rocks, flat like a table, to lie down upon face up, to soak up some Vitamin D!  Ah, the steady warmth of the sun’s rays feel so good as they warm me from the outside in, after my long soak in the icy cold water. I close my mullein covered eyes, listening to the gentle sounds of water rushing, bubbling, gurgling over the rocks. The wind rustles through the trees overhead.  I hear the kingfishers calling to each other, as they dive and splash in the water for their dinner.  The music of these things are collectively better than all my custom-made stations on my Pandora radio!  Any tension that might be left after a long day melts away and flows downstream.  My feet dangle in the water,  the current bouncing them gently over the smooth river rocks below, as soothing as any stone massage or pedicure. I am in a blissful state.  I am in “church”; it is indeed heavenly.


I spend close to an hour this way daily, realizing that I am very lucky to have this beautiful spot literally at my fingertips. I whisper grateful prayers of thanks. It is a priceless experience, better than any posh, indoor spa! Whether you have such a place in your backyard, or have to drive to a state park to experience nature in this special way, it is important do so, and as often as possible, (especially in these dog days of summer that test our  patience and fortitude).  Until next time, I send you cooling thoughts, Mountain Bounty, and Mountain Blessings, Farmgirl style!

Love and hugs from Cathi
The Mountain Farmgirl



By: Adrienne
On: 07/22/2013 08:19:05
Sounds like a wonderful spa-ah treatment! If you have one of those saucers used for sledding or tobogganing (or a large trash can lid), you can lie on top in the stream to soak up some sun and clean water. Enjoy!
By: Sandi
On: 07/22/2013 10:35:07
Wow.. what an amazing "spa"! I'm jealous.. I live in Dallas TX... in the city.. so I can go to any spa down the street, but your's sounds so much more inviting!!!
By: Karen Pennebaker
On: 07/22/2013 12:05:52
So I'm not the only person who is usually cold! I never even had heat flashes when people seem to think you are "supposed to" have them! Our creek here is intermittent, depending on the volume of rain (it can rain every day for a month and the creek may stay dry other than in a few pools). WV rivers are too polluted to use for a nice, clean bath - mining has left it's toll. Some are now clean enough for fish to live in them but when the state puts out "don't eat more than one a month" or "don't eat any fish" from a river, I'm not setting foot in it!!

By: Diana Henretty
On: 07/22/2013 12:15:17
We too have our own little spot, a creek in Lanagan Missouri, where we sit and soak in shallow rapids and let the cool water run over us for hours on end.
Its a Missouri Conservation Park, just 5 miles from our house, where a few families come every night to fish and play in the creek to cool off.
We packed a healthy cucumber dip and chips for supper and stayed till almost dark, its now a tradition when the Ozark summer days get too hot.
Thanks for sharing your special spot today with me! And the pictures are so lovely! Hugs from Noel Mo, Diana
By: Betty Benesi
On: 07/22/2013 14:28:48
Lucky you to be so close to the water. I grew up next to a creek, but in California in the summer it usually was all but dried up. I remember being able to sit in the water and it took my breath away it was so cold. Now, I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Not mountains by your standard, but coastal forest. We are less than 20 miles from the coast so when it gets unbearable hot, we hope for coastal fog in the evening. It gets very windy in the late afternoon so you know the fog is coming.
By: Jinx Taylor
On: 07/22/2013 15:46:52
Lucky, lucky, lucky. I want to be there at the end of a hot day of garden work cleaning up. Birdsong and nature's foot massage. Heaven, for sure.
By: Marge Hofknecht
On: 07/22/2013 16:25:10
Reading your description of your "spa" time makes me wish I was right where you are. Unfortunately, I don't have any natural haven near by where I can be refreshed. But I do have the Obed River Park close by work where I can take some time and walk along the Obed and enjoy its watery presence as I get some exercise and fresh air. Marge in Crossvile, TN
By: Joan
On: 07/22/2013 20:16:48
AHHHHH such a lovely read before bed! Thanks for sharing!!! God Bless
By: Pamela deMarrais
On: 07/22/2013 23:52:46
Cathi, your blog was absolutely, well, refreshing! I truly admire your energy and ability to get things done. It is so neat to see how you rejuvenate yourself in nature...both in the garden and in that beautiful river. You are so blessed! Happy Summer!
By: g.w.
On: 07/23/2013 13:24:15
That sound better than any spa I have ever been to and I'v been in the biz for 26 years !. I love doing things like this. I hav'nt been able to lately but I may just have to make a short journey. Thank you for sharing. :)
By: Louise Marie
On: 07/23/2013 14:37:12
WOW! i am so envious. It sounds like an angelic experience. So many tactile feelings. Actually all of your senses seem to be experiencing pleasure. Right in your own backyard! i am so glad to hear you showing gratitude to the One who created it all. i am so happy for you to be able to experience this daily during the hot spells and happy that you share the experience with the rest of us mere mortals!
By: Sandie
On: 07/24/2013 09:46:05
The river close to your home is what I dream of. If I could pick any place to live I would have a moving year round creek or river close enough to hear the rushing water. I live in the woods of northern Idaho and enjoy the cooler summers. Winters can be long though, but lots to do in the outdoors all year long. Thanks for sharing your spa.
By: Marcie
On: 07/26/2013 07:49:17
Hi Cathi,
What a trip! Just reading about your personal 'spa' experience sounds so soothing and relaxing. You are so lucky to have a water source so close by and in your yard.

We planted nectar producing plants and shrubs in our yard to feed the butterflies and hummingbirds and this year is an exceptional one because of all the rain we have had. We love sitting out in a special area we made for ourselves among Mother Nature's greenery and watching all the little creatures flitter and dart as they feed from all the plants around us. It is so rewarding to 'give something back' and we feel so blessed. This is our little spa.
By: Miriam Russell
On: 08/02/2013 10:17:25
What a lovely image you created in my mind. You are an inspiration.
By: Sukochi Lee
On: 08/12/2013 09:42:16
Sheer, God created, heaven on earth! What better place to spend some time with Him. And, what could be more relaxing then this?
By: Jodie
On: 08/12/2013 20:25:57
I live in the Ozark mountains of northwest Arkansas. I love your appreciation of all the mountains can offer us...and love your blog. Thanks for writing.
By: Cheryl
On: 09/17/2013 09:58:25
You are fortunate to have such an amazing resource (not to mention a place of peaceful beauty)so near to you each day. But I don't criticize, I don't think you doubt your blessing. Thank you for sharing it's beauty with us via your blog. Warmest regards.

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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