The Living Without Series

This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2006 on living with less stuff. Check them out: liv011Living #2liv031liv04

Coal Creek Farm on Facebook

The Chicken Doctor


The Architect


A Year of Change

I’m about to show you a pictures that I have only shared with my daughter, best friend, and husband because I know they will love me no matter how I look, smell, feel or act.  I also wanted to make sure I was serious about the changes I made in my habits and it wasn’t just a passing interest and coping mechanism that would dissipate once our lives started to settle back down and I was content with my pant size.

Last year I read a lot about nutrition.  I listened to an absurd amount of lectures and I watched all the food documentaries, all of them.  I kept going back to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his studies on heart disease.  That led me to his son Rip Esselstyn who has a little less strict eating plan than his dad.  Rip also had a 4 week plan that I decided I could follow called The Engine 2 Challenge.  The challenge leads a person to eating a plant-based diet.  I won’t go into why I decided this would work best for me because I know everyone has their own thoughts and feelings on proteins, dairy, and oils and it can lead to strong opinions being voiced about how a person eats.  I knew this would be a good change in the way I was eating and I was ready for a change.

The other change I made was training for a half-marathon.  Clay, Ellen and I signed up to run a race in the fall and that meant I had to start training through the summer.  I had never run more than 3 miles and I was incredibly slow.  I also had a lot of mental hurdles to overcome in my running.  I had an evil twin sitting in my ear whispering things like, “You’re tired, stop running, you need a drink, you’re dying! You can’t do this! Walk, walk all the time. You’re in pain, everything hurts!”  and on and on and on.  I used earphones to drown out her negative talk and I listened to an absurd amount of pop music.   I also packed anything I thought I would need that would cause me to stop like tissues, chapstick, gum, water, sweat bands and hair ties.  I was basically running with a purse because I’m a mom and old woman.IMG_1352

This was sometime in late June 2013.  I had finally forked out the money for good running shoes because my feet were hurting so much from running in an old pair of volleyball shoes.  I went to my local running store and they helped me get a pair that fit right and met all the needs of a very needy person.  I loved those shoes because they were so bright and colorful and I needed a lot of bright things in my life at that moment. I was also very chubbalicious and could only fit into one pair of jeans that I owned.

I used a run/walk training plan which means I would run a certain time or distance and then walk for a certain time or distance.  It was a 13 week plan that built up to 10 miles before the race.  IMG_1730

This was in September 2013.  As you can see my body was appreciating the changes I had made. I had turned into a complete plant-based eater by this time and I was eating all the time. My energy increased, I was sleeping well and I was calm through a storm called Chemotherapy.  Running and eating were the only things in my life I could physically control and that was very helpful in a helpless situation.  I didn’t start this journey knowing my husband had cancer, so I’m most thankful for God showing me what I needed to do to cope with what was about to be a very long summer.

I was running four times a week.  I didn’t do any cross-training or other sports.  The only thing I had time to do was follow the training plan which had me doing shorter distances three times during the week and a long run on the weekend.  I also had to get a second pair of shoes because I ran through the first pair.  I still use them, they are great shoes and totally worth the money, although it’s really painful to spend that much money on a pair of shoes.  Running is the most expensive free sport I’ve ever participated in, ha!



I know it’s silly to get excited about shoes, but they were carrying my very tired body over more miles than I’d ever thought was possible for my body to run and to me they were magical foot fairies that helped my legs keep moving.  They also hated my evil twin and kicked her out of my head many times.  I love my running shoes.





This was late in the half-marathon training when Ellen and I decided to run the river trails or dance the trails, whatever would get us through it and sometimes we had to really get goofy to keep from quitting. I think this may have been in late September or early October.  I remember telling Ellen that my calves were sore all the time. You can see my belt that carried all my stuff.  It also carried all of Ellen’s stuff, because even though she’s an adult she still considers me her pack mule. IMG_1831

Clay decided he was going to run the race with us no matter how long it took him.  He made this design for our t-shirts.IMG_1830 IMG_1828 IMG_1836

The longest training run he had completed was 4 miles and that was before his treatment.  I thought for sure he would have to quit.IMG_1843

Ellen and I decided we would stay with Clay through the race which meant we weren’t going to run for time and that was okay with us.  This photo was at the four mile marker and he was still going strong.  We walked through all the aid stations and after mile 8 he needed to stop and walk more.  IMG_1847

The race was more of a vacation through Kansas City than an actual race, but it was a lot of fun.  This photo was taken in front of the Nelson Atkins Art Museum.IMG_1851

This was mile 10 where I was still running, but Clay’s knee and ankle were throwing a fit.  So, we walked most of the last three miles.


This was our post-race victory picture.  Four months of training and treatment done!  After the race I felt invigorated, but I also felt like I hadn’t run a half-marathon.  I knew I wanted to do another one for time, but I decided to take some time off.  I ran a few times in November and once in December.  I was contemplating if I was going to train for a spring race and on December 31st, I decided I wouldn’t run one spring half-marathon, I would run THREE!!

On January 1, 2014 I started a new training plan.  I ran outside when I could, but most of my training was inside on a treadmill.  I used Hal Higdon’s training plan.  It was much more intense than my previous training.  I added cross-training and weights to my routine.  I also did speed training to help break up the monotony of the treadmill.  It paid off, I got stronger physically and mentally.  I no longer had a training partner since Ellen started classes and didn’t have time to run with me and Clay was still recovering.  This time I was on my own.  I learned a lot over the winter.  I shed more weight and I shed stuff.  I could run without headphones, I could run up a hill, I could run in the wind, rain and cold.  My evil twin finally fell out of my ear and I left her in a ditch with all my other insecurities and excuses.IMG_2979

I signed up to run the Heartland 39.3.  It’s three half-marathons in five weeks.  Rock The Parkway was the first race.  I ran a safe race with a pacer because I wasn’t sure how fast I should run.  I was nervous because I had started my period the day before which in my case means I’m bleeding to death and really shouldn’t leave the house.  I had to stop at mile 9 and use the restroom and then I spent 3 miles catching up with my pacer, passing her, and finishing a couple of minutes ahead of her.  I really wish I would have run this race faster.

The second race was Garmin, it sucked.  It poured rain, I injured my Iliotibial Band on mile three and ran in pain for 10 miles.  At mile 6 I was considering dropping out, but an elderly woman kept passing me and I decided if she was running I was running.  We ended up running the last 5 miles together and becoming acquainted. She was running for 90 second and walking for 30 seconds and that’s the only reason I finished. When we crossed the finish line I gave her a hug and thanked her for getting me there.


Running with the Cows was the third and final race.  My tights are covering the KT tape on my leg.  This wasn’t the greatest race for me, my hip was hurting and I hit a wall at mile 8.  I finished, but I was done.  My times for the three races were consistent 2:28, 2:29, and 2:32 which means I can run a half-marathon injured in two and a half hours.  IMG_3260Clay drove me to all the races and cheered for me, it got him excited to start training again.  I still don’t feel like I’ve had my best race.  You know what that means?  I have to run another one!  Except this time I’m training for a full marathon.  Chicago is my destination, October 12, 2014.  I’m still eating a plant-based diet, yes I’ve cheated some, I don’t mind being a little flexible. I’ll keep running until I feel like I’ve had enough.  I think I’m just getting started, so it might be a while until I’m done.  I’m almost to the point that I can call myself a runner.

The Latest on Coal Creek Farm


I was sitting on a decrepit wicker love seat that I bought at a garage sale many years ago when I took this photo.  I had just finished planting 100 sweet potato slips and my back was whispering it’s disapproval when I eased gently in the wicker seat that is in no way comfortable, in fact, it is horrible, it’s scratchy, it creaks as if it’s going to spew splinters and collapse the second any weight is on it.  It’s one of those things that I’m keeping just until I need something to burn, but for now it’s nice to have a place to sit in the garden that doesn’t allow me to get comfortable so I’ll get back up and work some more.

As I was sitting there I noticed Preacher, our farm dog, sitting upright on the squash bed looking out over the cornfield.  I took my phone out and zoomed in to take a photo of him.  He’s such a sweet dog, but he has no ability to distinguish lawn from garden, plant from weed, grass from mud.  He was sitting right on top of a summer squash plant and he totally squashed it.  Get it?  He squashed it.  It’s a squash plant and….he squashed it.  I know, Comedy Central is missing out on this.


I’m in the process of caring for the largest garden I’ve ever planted.  I’m not saying it’s successful, but it’s growing.  I lost my peas and the first planting of beans to a late frost, it seems no matter how long I wait I never wait long enough to plant.  I planted 100 sweet potato slips (pictured above) then I pulled out 50 of them the next day to space them a little farther apart.  This is how I garden….chaotically.  I move plants until they finally find the right spot.  I still have so much to learn.IMG_3402

This is part of my potato patch, I planted three varieties.  It’s the largest bed I’ve ever planted and so far it’s doing great.  The green bushy thing in the raised bed is Chocolate Mint, it’s invasive, it smells fantastic and it’s really fun to use in baking and cooking.  Behind the bush is part of the garlic patch.  Garlic is so easy to grow, you can throw it on the ground and it will survive and spread.  And there is Preacher, being Preacher.  IMG_3369

These are garlic scapes.  The scape is the top part of the plant that will bloom into a flower with seeds.  I picked half of the scapes and made a garlic paste and a garlic/spinach pesto.  It’s really wonderful to have early in the season.  It has a milder taste than the garlic bulb and is easy to add to any recipe that calls for garlic, which is every recipe I use.IMG_3367

Last year Clay built the two beds on the far left.  I had him make them 2’X16′ and I loved them so much more than my beds that are 3’X16′ because I can work entirely from one side.  I also had him put the beds closer together so I wouldn’t have such wide paths to weed between the beds.  This year I added three more and put a wide path for the wheel barrow and truck to travel through.  I arched two 16 foot cattle panels between two of the beds and planted peas and beans to trellis up them.  I’m also going to cover it in plastic this fall and try a hoop house.    The white sink you see sitting on the ground is my washing station.  I set it on the edge of the bed while I’m picking and throw the greens in the sink with the hose sprayer washing off the dirt, the water and dirt travel through a short hose that I put in the bed which waters the plants while I wash the greens.  I bought it at my local Salvation Army store for $5, it was a great find.  I like that I can move it around the garden, I just wish it wasn’t so white, it sticks out a bit.IMG_3364

Easter Egg Radishes are one of my new favorite crops.  I am loving these, I eat them like candy and I’m throwing them in everything I cook.IMG_3347

This was the second picking of spinach.  I had a banner year with this stuff.  Now I’m sick of spinach, but the ants have taken over, so I think I’m done with it until this fall.  I’m so in love with my garden this year.  I’m trying a lot of new things I’m certain some will fail and some will succeed.  I find such joy in watching things grow, it’s exciting to see a tiny seed grow into a plant that feeds my family.  And speaking of family….IMG_3117This picture was taken on Easter this year.  My oldest son was taking the picture and I have no idea where Ellen was, but this is pretty much what my home looks like now that my older two are off working and becoming adult humans.  My family is growing up.  Also, if you look closely you might find Salt the Barn Cat, she can’t stand not to get attention when we are outside.  I hope you are having a great summer so far.  I am enjoying a healthy husband this summer!  We are busy catching up on all the things we set aside when he was sick last summer.  It is amazing how much can pile up on a little farm when the fake farmers aren’t paying attention.