A Blue Star Life: Living in Step
About the book:
My husband Carl and I reclaimed 170 acres and built our dream haven in the rolling hills and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There was much work to be done: tilling up buried trash and concrete, designing paths and roads, dredging the ponds, finding vets and farriers and horses, learning to adapt to the temperate rainforest climate. Our citified ways did not count for much when a hurricane was on the way or the frigid temperatures froze the horses’ drinking troughs. We developed a whole new routine for keeping an eye on the sky as well as a great respect for weather, wild animals, and culverts.
And along the way, we changed somehow. We were happier, despite the challenges. We became enamored of evenings at the stone hearth and slow walks through the leaves.
This book is a collection of photos that honor our journey of self-discovery, our love of the horses and forests and wetlands, and our commitment to living life in step with nature. Turn the pages and feel yourself walking through time and space to a place sustained by what is old and true and good.
Why I wrote it:
There is something about being in alignment with the seasons and natural rhythms of this land – it soothes the soul. I just wanted to share it with you.
When we found this land, it was a parcel of 80 acres that had only a gravel road, no fencing, no plumbing, and an old, tumble-down barn that once briefly housed llamas. Over time, Carl acquired another 100 acres that bordered our acreage from a variety of locals who got word that some fool out-of-towner was buying up forgotten acreage. (We maybe got a good deal on the first purchase, but not on the later ones….).Read More
When we found this land, it was a parcel of 80 acres that had only a gravel road, no fencing, no plumbing, and an old, tumble-down barn that once briefly housed llamas. Over time, Carl acquired another 100 acres that bordered our acreage from a variety of locals who got word that some fool out-of-towner was buying up forgotten acreage. (We maybe got a good deal on the first purchase, but not on the later ones….).
We had a vague idea – make it beautiful, build buildings that belong here, add animals, bring people together, be true to the contours of the land and the demands of the climate. We described this beginning-of-a-dream to the local man who’d been caretaking the property. He listened and replied to us, ‘This land has waited a long time for you.’ We kept him on….
The first thing we built was a bathroom.
Finding good pastureland in a mountainous rain forest climate is a challenge, and we spent years tilling up abandoned fields, pulling out plastic sheeting and concrete that had been dumped and covered over with a thin layer of soil, and leveling enough earth to start to build. Most earth that got moved required rock-face walls to serve as retaining structures. We sourced all the rock and labor as locally as possible, and chose lumber, paint, roofing, and paving stones to reflect the history and raw products of our surroundings.
A wide swath of protected wetlands, which we could not legally change or develop, wends its way through the lower 40 acres. In the wetlands are streams that ultimately feed into the Tennessee River, a drinking water source, so we had to live with several years of silt fencing as we carved out pastures and leveled land to build foundations. The wetlands had made this land less attractive to commercial developers, but we embraced the rough and gorgeous wild flora that grew there, springing into swaths of yellow and lavender every June.
Placement of the buildings was a 6-month-long debate, settled after numerous gatherings of architects, builders, land-use specialists, designers, and a consulting mystic, as well as our own amateur process of sitting still at different times of the day to imagine which view our barn or our arena or our back porch might ‘want.’
Within 6 months of our acquiring Blue Star Ranch, we held a dedication ceremony on a hilltop at the site of our future home. Carl hiked to the four corners of the property and gathered a sampling of tokens: leaves, bird feathers, soil, seed pods, moss, lichen. We built a fire circle, gathered friends and neighbors, and Carl spoke simply to the fire: “From the east to the west, from the north to the south, to all of the generations before us who have been stewards of this land, you may rest now. We pledge to do what we can to preserve and caretake this land as best we can until the next folks take over.” We laid the tokens in the fire as a ritual of our promise and celebrated with hugs & (literal) moonshine as the stars came out in the sky.
A Blue Star Life: Living in StepComing Soon!