The Benefits of Hobbies

When we were young, we had plenty of time for play and sports and hobbies. Remember? Having grown up in the country, I used to ride my bike down to the creek and hunt berries. We had a basketball hoop (just the metal hoop, the “basket” had long since worn off) and used to bounce the ball around. I loved to draw. What did you love to do when you were young?

Now that we’re grown it seems that work, raising children, lawn care, farm work, and housework stretch out to fill our time and wear us out. Then we spend our evenings watching tv or scrolling thru Pinterest (or whatever social media you like). Or doing laundry and emptying the dishwasher.

We’ve forgotten about play. That’s for children isn’t it? Not necessarily. I’m not suggesting we all play a round of hopscotch, but there is something to be said for the grown up version of playing – hobbies.

There’s nothing wrong with vegging out. Sometimes our brains just need to coast. But do you feel a longing for having a little fun? For something meaningful to do with your time? Do you long to create something? Is there something you used to do that you never quite forgot…that you’d like to get back to?

Maybe you do, you say, but you don’t have the time. A hobby doesn’t need to take all of your evenings. Maybe just once a week, or a half hour a night, or whatever. You can manage that. And you know what? Once you squeeze a little time in your schedule, and you start enjoying your projects, you’ll fit in more time for it. It’s a fact, we all make time for what we deem important. Make time for yourself.

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Five Benefits of Having a Hobby

  • Hobbies can help you make friends. Some hobbies get us out of the house, where we can meet people and connect based on our interests. It’s nice to share a passion with others who feel the same as you do. And social connections make life meaningful, and make us happier. Social hobbies could be bowling, exercise classes, a book club, or a charity.
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  • Having a hobby helps you cope with stress. After having a rough day at work, picture yourself grabbing that paint brush or saddling up your horse or heading to your pottery class. Remind yourself that you are talented in many things, and work is just one part of you. Also, getting into a project takes your mind of your troubles.
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  • Hobbies help you organize your day. Whether you work, run a business, or are retired, setting time aside for your hobby helps you plan your time. If you have a club that meets twice a month, and you have a garden to tend 3 evenings a week, you have a plan. Once you find a hobby you really love, you’ll find yourself looking forward to the time you spend at it.
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  • Hobbies promote flow. Flow is a zen like state where you forget about time and just get into what you’re doing. Very few of us have found an occupation that we truly love. But all of us can certainly find a hobby that we love enough to lose ourselves in. And when you do, you may just find yourself truly absorbed in the moment. And what a wonderful break in the worries and problems of the day.
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  • Having a hobby gives you added energy. Finding a hobby that you enjoy, that makes you forget about everything else, charges your battery so to speak. And that will help you feel more energized thru the rest of your day. You’ll be excited to get back to it, and it will make your days more enjoyable.

So, the next step is to decide what kind of a hobby you want. Do you want a social hobby or a solitary one? Do you want an active hobby or a sit-down one?

You could reconnect with a musical instrument you played in school. Or learn a new instrument. You could join a softball team. You could take a pottery class, or learn a new language. You could start raising goats, or learn to ride a horse, or kayak down the river. You could start sewing or quilting or take up knitting. There are as many hobbies as there are middle-aged country women.

Think about photography, dog sitting, wood working, rug making, painting or drawing, making wall art, playing guitar or piano, raising sheep, growing berries, making wreaths or floral arrangements. You can make things to decorate your home, and then for family and friends, or even to sell. Your hobby could even grow into a part-time business. Look at everyone selling handmade items online, like on Etsy or Ebay. Etsy is a good place to look if you’re wondering what you could make.

Find something that interests you, and check it out. See if there are any groups or clubs around you that you’d like to participate in. But remember, your hobby is for you. So make sure it meets your needs. If you work a hectic schedule and need down time, maybe grab a pad of drawing paper and some pencils and start doodling. Or listen to your favorite music while you stretch out in your hammock. Or buy a new cookbook and start baking.

If you work a desk job and long to get outside, try gardening or raising animals. Find some friends and go camping. Try growing vegetables or roses. Or take up jogging. Or get out and walk your dog. Whatever level of activity fits your life.

There are many benefits to taking up a hobby. Find some time, find something that lights you up when you think about it, and give it a try. You might just find yourself feeling a little lighter.

5 Reasons to hang laundry outside to dry

Remember back in the days of our youth, when women hung their laundry out to dry? Of course, many of us still do, but a lot of women found it quicker and easier to toss a load into the dryer and go on to the next chore.

My mother loved to hang her whites (well, she hung all her laundry) out on the line, and let Mother Nature do her magic. Remember the smell of freshly hung sheets? Mmmmm. I love to hang my sheets and blankets out on the line.

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Have you gotten away from hanging clothes out to dry? Maybe it’s time to dig out those old clothespins and carry that laundry basket out to the line. Don’t have clotheslines? I’ve got some options for you further along.

Right now, let’s talk about 5 reasons to hang your laundry outside to dry.

5 Reasons to Hang Laundry Outside to Dry

  1. Saves Energy – use the sun and wind instead of electricity (or gas or propane) to dry your clothes. I read somewhere that the dryer uses about 4% of your home’s energy.
  2. The dryer beats up your clothes a little at a time, wearing down the fibers with each tumble. Make your clothes last longer by carefully hanging them on the line.
  3. You get some exercise and sunshine! Carrying a basket of wet laundry out to the line and hanging each item used muscles in your arms, core, and legs. And you get a little Vitamin D via sunshine in the bargain. A win win!
  4. Sunshine sanitizes your clothes. It also makes your whites brighter. My Mother swore by this back when she had diapers and dirty socks for 8 kids to dry. She prided herself on clean laundry. While I don’t do a happy dance when I bring my socks in from the line, I do appreciate the clean. And the fresh smell…it’s like a fresh air deodorant.
  5. A task as simple and low tech as hanging clothes brings us in the moment, slows down our thoughts, and makes us realize how blue the sky is, how comforting a small breeze is on a hot day. It connect us to our Mothers (including Mother Nature) and Grandmothers, and makes us think about how much labor went into keeping house in their day…and how lucky we are to have automatic clothes washers and dryers. Gratefulness is always a good thing.

So there’s my 5 reasons to hang your laundry to dry.

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Now let’s look at some tips to make sure you get the most out of the experience.

Laundry Hanging Tips

  • Don’t hang your clothes under a canopy of trees. I’ll just say 2 words…bird poop. Yuck! So much for sanitized!
  • Hang jeans, pants, and skirts from the waistbands, and tees and blouses from the bottom hem. Highly stretchy knits do better when draped over the line, rather than hung by one end or the other. They tend to get out of shape.
  • Don’t line dry sweaters – lay those flat to dry. Again, they get out of shape if hung.
  • Do hang sheets and towels, either drape over the line (like in halves) or hang from one end, as your space allows.
  • Try hanging blankets and quilts out on the line even without washing for a freshening up. I do this. You can also do this with your winter wool coats. One of our neighbors hung hers out on hangers each fall to freshen them.
  • Shake clothes when you take them out of the basket to hang, it helps eliminate wrinkles.
  • If you have neighbors, remember not to hang anything you don’t want the neighborhood seeing…like unmentionables. Just saying.
  • Hang dark things inside out to prevent color fading.
  • Check for dryness often. On a hot breezy day they’ll dry in a matter of minutes.
  • On a particularly windy day, put enough clothespins on to hold them. You don’t want to chase your towels as they fly thru the field. Or into your neighbors pool.
  • Hang socks by the opening, not the toe.
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So there’s some tips on hanging your laundry out to dry.

If you don’t currently have clotheslines, but you’d like to try hanging laundry, or get back into it, here’s some ideas.

  • Ask a hubby or friend or brother to install some clothes poles and lines for you. You may have to bribe them. Just a thought.
  • If you don’t want clunky posts in your yard, or don’t have room, check out one of those instant outdoor laundry hangers. It’s a metal pole with 2 or 3 layers of clothesline circling around the top. Look in Walmart or Amazon.
  • Try hanging a line between your house and garage, or between porch posts, or trees if you have to. Get creative.

So, give hanging your laundry out to dry a chance. Get some exercise, save a few bucks and some energy, and just get outside and breathe a little. Watch the clouds roll by. Sometimes simple acts leave us feeling more productive.

Real Farmhouse Style

From Wayfair.com

I’m sure everyone is familiar with HGTV’s show Fixer Upper, with the Gaines and their style called Farmhouse. The picture above is an example. To me, their style, while pretty, is more Industrial than Farm, and the grey-washed interiors lack something…you know…color..warmth. It can be striking, for sure. And I know it’s a very popular style. I’m certainly not knocking it.

But when I think Farmhouse, I think Farm. At least a little grass and trees around the house, if not barns, pastures, and fields. I think hard, dirty work and muddy boots trudging into the kitchen. I remember my relatives in South Dakota, Iowa and Washington…my Great Aunt’s huge wood stove, the old hand pump in the garden, quilts and tablecloths and curtains, all handmade. I think sturdy workworn kitchens, dining rooms with fancy lace tablecloths set for company or Sunday dinner, comfy living rooms.

Bedrooms upstairs with iron beds or wooden bunkbeds covered with colorful old quilts, cotton curtains rippling in the breeze of open windows. Toys and books and momentos laying about. They usually had a room off the kitchen (called a mudroom) with pegs by the door holding worn Carhart coats and muck boots parked beneath them. And I don’t mean those bright yellow rain boots worn by suburbanites as trendy accessories. I mean muck boots, rubber boots that have been thru mud and manure. My pair have lived thru many a stall cleanout.

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My version of Farmhouse style reverts back to those times in my past, and the simple homes I remember. Homes handed down thru generations, but kept up and supplemented with homemade touches that lent the homes a personal, welcoming, comfy touch. But…that said, I also like a few modern twists from the current style trends.

So here’s some of my favorite elements of a warm, welcoming, hard-working Farmhouse.

My Farmhouse Style Elements

And these are in no special order.

  1. A warm front entry – even if it’s just a stoop and stairs, this is your first chance to provide a welcoming touch to friends and family. A wreath on the door, a cool welcome mat, and some potted flowers say, “Hey there, glad to see you”.
  2. Comfy furniture and plenty of personal touches. I don’t want to see ‘planted’ vintage books and candlesticks that are just for looks. I like personal touches – books you’re actually reading, your latest crochet project, fun pillows and throws, family photos, and real items that are used – candles or oil lamps for when the lights go out for example.
  3. Wall art that reflects who you are and what turns you on – like the horse painting on wood above my couch. For you it may be floral prints, a painting of chickens or heifers, a Farmall tin sign, or an enlarged photo from that week at the lake that makes you smile every time you look at it.
  4. Wood paneling – I know…some people hate it. But I love wood touches, so weather it’s old timey pine paneling or updated reclaimed barn wood, I like at least a partial wall of paneling.
  5. Color. Whether it’s painted walls, carpets and rugs, furniture patterns, or additions like drapes, pillows, and accessories, I don’t want to feel like I’ve gone color blind when I walk in. I don’t like overdone…but white and gray decor says urban and industrial to me, not country or farm. Think nature, greens and browns, reds and yellows.
  6. Vintage accessories – graniteware coffee pots, oil lanterns, boot jacks, egg baskets, galvinized buckets, vintage furniture and linens.
  7. Find new uses for outdated things. Use an old bucket as a flower container, or a childs wagon can hold flower pots near the front door. I have an old leather horse collar on my wall as a wreath. Get creative. However, try not to ruin the item, just find a new use for it.
  8. Animals. No Farmhouse is complete without animals. Now you may not be able to have real chickens, cows, or horses where you live, but you may have a dog or cat. Don’t be afraid to add a little whimsy with a few stuffed or ceramic farm animals around the house or garden. A cute cement pig would look cute in that flowerbed, don’t you think?
  9. Let your home looked lived in…ever walk into a house where not a thing is out of place and there aren’t any personal items anywhere to be seen? I think, is this just the front of the house where they let visitors in? Where do they LIVE?? Don’t be afraid to USE your Farmhouse. Don’t decorate for show, decorate to be used.
  10. Display memories. My Dad’s pipe, Mom’s apron, an old metal lunchbox , a stuffed horse my sister gave me when I was hurting…I like things around me that remind me of good times or special moments.

There are as many ways to decorate as there are people decorating. These are some things that I like. Fill your home with what makes you happy. What are your essential farmhouse style elements?

Attracting Bees to your Garden

As you probably know, pollinators are rapidly declining in the U.S. One reason is the rampant use of chemicals in yards to control weeds and pests.

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We can do our part to increase the numbers of bees and other pollinators if we provide them a safe place to nest and feed. I know a lot of people hate bees, or are afraid of being stung (especially if you’re allergic to stings!) but if we give them a place to gather and be on the lookout for them, we can all live together peaceably. If you are highly allergic, however, this is not for you.

Pollinators are essential to the continuing growth of all your vegetable plants and fruit trees. In laymans terms, as they land on a flower and collect pollen and nectar, some of the pollen from the stamens (male reproduction organ) sticks to them, and as they go to the next flower blossom, it is spread to the stigma (female reproductive organ). This makes reproduction possible, which is then how the fruit develops, which provides the seeds for the plant to continue.

Without pollinators like bees, we would have to do the pollinating ourselves. Awkward. And impossible in large fields of crops.

By paying attention to what you plant in your yard, you can provide bees and other pollinators plenty of food.

  • grow flowering plants in our yards to provide food and habitat for honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
  • choose single flower tops over double flower tops, because there’s more nectar and it’s easier for them to extract. Single flowertops would be like marigolds and daisies. Some impatiens have double flowertops.
  • Skip the hybridized plants – they’ve been bred not to seed, and produce less pollen.
  • Plan for year round blooms to provide season long food for the pollinators. For example, in spring you could have crocus, hyacinth, calendula, and lilac. In summer you may have bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons, foxglove, and hosta. In fall, you can have zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel, or goldenrod.

In addition to providing food for bees and other pollinators, you can provide homes and habitat for them as well.

  • leave a patch of yard uncultivated for bees that burrow and bees that need soil surface for nesting.
  • make a pile of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks of untreated wood for bees that nest in wood.
  • Remember flowering shrubs provide habitat and shelter.
  • Mason bees need water and dirt to make mud for nesting.
  • Many bees are attracted to weedy untended hedgerows as well, so leave a bit of yard natural for them.
  • only use natural pesticides and fertilizers in your yard as much as you can. And don’t use any in the spaces you’ve set aside for them. Don’t worry, lady bugs, spiders, and praying mantis will do the job for you in these natural areas.
Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

Now that we’ve taken care of their needs for food and habitat, let’s talk about water. Bees need fresh, clean water. Fill a shallow container with water, then add pebbles and/or twigs for them to land on while drinking. Keep it full. They’ll thank you for it.

As an added bonus, let’s talk about the kinds of flowers that bees love.

Flowers that bees love

  • plant a variety of shapes – from flat to tubular flower heads
  • plant for spring thru fall blooms
  • leave dandelions and clover in your yard
  • don’t use herbicides or insecticides or pesticides
  • don’t buy hybrid plants (don’t seed, less pollen)

Here’s some suggestions for flowers per season:

Early Spring – pansies, pussy willow, snowdrops

Spring/Summer – peony, milkweed (also needed by butterflies), bee balm, lavender, phlox, zinnias, marigolds, goldenrod, chives

Late Summer/Fall – mint, sage, nasturtium, black eyed susans, thyme, oregano

Also research the native plants in your area for ideas of what to plant in your bee garden. Even if you only designate a small area of your yard to a bee garden, you will be providing our pollinators a safe place to nest and food and water to sustain them. Your vegetable plants and fruit trees will thank you.

For more information on this topic, visit TheHoneybeeConservancy.org.

Summer in the Country

A lot of people consider Memorial Day the beginning of summer, but for me it’s when the swallows return in June. I love swallows. First of all, they’re bug eaters. What’s not to love about that? But they are also nature’s little jet pilots. Ever have them buzz around you when you’re mowing? Zipping and diving around you and each other, they grab bugs disrupted by the mower. I’ve seen one catch a bug in flight, too. Pretty cool.

I’ve been around them close up. In the barn. I’ve noticed they’re timid, or maybe they just prefer to be left alone. You might think I’m a bit nuts, but hear me out. The swallows had built a nest above my horse’s stall, and were sitting by it, waiting for that ‘special moment’ I guess. Then several sparrows came and sat on the rafter right by the swallows, actually surrounding them.

A couple days later I noticed that the swallows were gone. I’m quite curious…were the sparrows intimidating the swallows? Or am I just reading a lot into it? You know, giving human characteristics to animals? I tend to do that…but when you really pay attention, you’ll find that a lot of animals are a lot more intuitive and can read us and connect with us. Or maybe I’m just a wanna be Dr. Doolittle.

Anyway…back to summer…

Pretty soon the flowers are all blooming, the trees are leafed out, and the fruit trees bud out. The sparrows and robins and doves are nesting. The weather warms, the skies blue, and the crickets start serenading the evenings with their chirping.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Summer days are spent working in the yard or garden, taking in a local ballgame, heading out to the lake, riding your horse or 4 wheeler thru the fields or woods, or just enjoying a book or a chat with friends on the deck or patio. It’s time to be outside. By mid June, the farm fields are planted, but there’s still much to do. Cultivating, spraying, baling hay, maintaining cattle and other livestock, cutting wheat, baling straw…a farmer’s work is rarely done.

I live on a small acreage, and grew up on a small farm. I’ve driven a tractor, and disked a field, baled hay and straw, and loaded it into the barn. I’ve mucked stalls, taken care of horses, cattle, ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigs. It was fun when I was young, but it’s a lot of hot, sweaty work.

It’s time to think about taking a break, and maybe doing some camping or taking a trip to see relatives. I like going north, where it’s always cooler by the lake.

We always had a big garden and we canned and froze what we could. I quit having a big garden a few years ago. But I like container gardening (less work) and I especially like stopping by the local farmstand for what I need (a lot less work). I do plan on canning some things again this year. I like knowing what’s in my veggies.

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So by July, my plain, drab yard has filled in, and suddenly my home is surrounded in green splendor, shrouding the yard in greenery, some shade, and privacy. Unfortunately, the weeds are also filling in and trying to gain a foothold in my flowerbeds and along fences. But the hotter drier days of summer slow things down, and I can take a breather.

I can enjoy sitting on the deck and just enjoy the show, without feeling the guilt of ‘I should be weeding’. (If I lower the volume on my inner voice) Another thing I love about summer in the country is that I love to have the house open. Fresh air is so important to me. I love working at home with my patio door open…hearing the wind rustle the trees and the birds chirping away.

Just last week I heard my first locust of the season. As I recall, 6 weeks after the locusts start singing is the beginning of Fall. (old wives tale but pretty accurate) So I’m looking forward to an early Fall this year. By then I’ll be tired of the heat, but for now I want to be warm and enjoy being outside without a jacket on, free to walk barefooted and enjoy a good book on the deck.

I remember as a kid, riding my bike down our country road, to our church, and the creek that ran next to it, where my brother and I would pick mulberries. Sometimes we’d head another direction and help one of our neighbors pick pears. He was old, and he drove our schoolbus.

We’d walk out to the woods beyond the fields sometimes with Dad, and have a little adventure. Or we’d find a bare spot in the cornfield, and set up camp and hide for a bit. There’s always plenty to do when you live in the country. I sometimes miss the days of being young, with nothing to worry about and nothing on my mind but ‘what adventure will I have today?’ .

But middle-age has some perks, too. Like I can have ice cream for lunch if I want to. I can sit outside past dusk, and enjoy the fireflies and the crickets and the cool night breezes. There’s something restorative about cool night air after a hot day.

Summer in the country.

Just Start

So here I am, on the brink of a new life so to speak. Some days I feel excited, some days I want to crawl back in bed for a while. There’s been so many changes in my life lately, and that happens to us as we get into middle age, and I was feeling pretty frozen. Stuck. Immobile.

Then I bought a planner (still not sure what I’d be putting in it), and there was a little paper sign inside, and it just had these two words on it…Just Start.

How profound. Don’t overthink things, don’t keep dragging your feet, just start. Whatever. Just start weeding that overgrown flowerbed. Just start sorting thru your beloved parents belongings after they’ve passed. Just put one foot in front of the other after a spouse has passed. Just go to that job interview and give it your best shot. Just put that exercise video in the VCR and start moving. Just start that blog you’ve always wanted to start. Just start eating that brownie…no, seriously…just start taking time for yourself, doing what makes you sparkle.

Just start.

If you feel stuck, too, think about it. Just start. What doesn’t really matter, just as long as you get up and move forward. What makes you feel stuck?

In a short span of time, I lost my mother, my dog, my job (and my work friends), and my horse. Not everyone bonds with animals, but I do. Not having children, my pets have taken their place, and losing one is truly heartbreaking. Yes, they had lived long lives. But it’s never easy to say goodbye. And my mother had lived with me into her 80s, and we’d gotten so close.

I don’t really believe you ever stop grieving, you just get to a place where you can be grateful for the times you had and the memories will always be in your heart. My Dad died when I was still a teenager, and I can still start to tear up just thinking of him. He was a good person, so kind, and funny, and strong.

Losing a job in middle-age is hard, too. Businesses sell out, shut down, owners retire. It’s out of our hands. There’s age discrimination in the workplace, and it’s hard to find a new position when you’re over 40, let alone over 50. I was lucky, and found something. But the transitions get harder when you’re older, and I struggled with leaving friends behind and trying to connect with new coworkers. Yeah…that hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped. Oh well. You can’t have everything, right?

I consider myself lucky to live in the country, and I’ve always considered myself to be strong and independent. I have family, and hobbies, and a new dog who has a spirit and character all his own. Bless his ever active, affectionate heart.

So, middle-age is a time of life in between child rearing and old age, right? I’ve read about people shifting over into new careers (something they like to do versus just making money) or starting their own business (tired of working for someone else). I think that’s great. It’s time to do what you want to do. Ok, but I’m not wealthy, and I still have a mortgage to pay. (are you with me on this?) So how can I start a new profession or start a business? And what do I want to do?

I searched the web for stories about middle-aged women for some inspiration. And you know what? I didn’t find much. The web is full of 30-something mommy blogs…and urban fashion blogs…not much for the 50-something suburban/rural woman who likes fresh air and a relaxed style. And doesn’t have a pension plan with a half-million dollars in it. (wish I did though)

And I wanted to connect with women like me…middle-aged, live in the country, want to look good but not obsessed about it, looking for purpose and meaning in this stage of life, love dogs and horses, gardening, working in the yard (or just sitting on the deck enjoying the breeze and a cold drink). Women who are coping with grown children, aging parents, job burnout, menopause. Women who find themselves alone and need to find new friends and activities, or, on the flip side, wish they had time alone. Women who want to accomplish something with this time in their life, enjoy themselves, and maybe give something back.

Maybe it’s time to think about what you’ve been meaning to do. Whether it’s cleaning out the freezer or taking guitar lessons or finding a new job or starting your own business, maybe it’s time to just start.

So, here’s to a little sign in a planner. Just Start.

And here’s to a new beginning, a new online magazine for the middle-aged country woman. Strong and capable. Loving, generous, awesome.

Here’s to us, you and me. It’s time to do what makes us happy.