Rocks and Pine Cones

Happy New Year Farmgirl sisters!

I hope this finds you all well and enjoying these days of growing sunshine.  I just read Dori and Nicole’s posts from the last two weeks and they are so inspiring.  Their outlooks, commitment and encouragement are infectious.

I might not be quite as inspiring, but I feel like my story might help those of you who maybe haven’t acted on your inspirations and motivations.  I stand here in solidarity with you.  Plans are easy, execution of plans is hard. We are not in this alone, sisters!

Sisters! Sun! Snow!

Sisters! Sun! Snow!

Anyway, this story begins with Opal’s third (!!!) birthday.  We have many January birthdays amongst our friends and family, so January is a month of celebration.  What a joyous way to begin the new year. For her birthday celebration, Opal requested only a few things: A chocolate cake with blue frosting,  blueberries, blue O’s for Opal, and a pink elephant on top; and to have a few friends over to enjoy the cake with her.

Opal's finished cake--the pink thing on top is a pink marzipan elephant that Ava sculpted.

Opal’s finished cake–the pink thing on top is a pink marzipan elephant that Ava sculpted. Opal put on the candles…

Unfortunately, whenever we have people over I/we have to frantically clean…or at least I feel like we have to because of social norms and gender biases and fear of judgment and all of those bothersome things. This time was no different save for the fact that it felt like we had even more clutter than usual as a result of post-holiday stuff.

A sad fact of life (or at least my life) is that “piles happen.” And I HATE piles.  They are energy blocks, they are distracting and messy and they make me want to burn them in a barrel fire.  I know, I know–a bit extreme.  I am very fortunate that some of the most stressful things in my life are piles of things that we own.  Maybe it’s the English major in me, but I am a believer that the appearance of one’s home is a metaphorical depiction of what goes on in one’s head and psyche.

Ava drew this "Different Places Hippo" It takes things and puts them in different spots even though you know you left them somewhere else.

Ava drew this “Different Places Hippo” It takes things and puts them in different spots even though you know you left them somewhere else. We definitely have a different places hippo in our home.

In the days before Opal’s birthday I planned on tackling cleaning projects one by one. However, as many days go with three young children, most things beyond the day-to-day take much longer to accomplish than they “should.”  So, come the day of her birthday there were still piles of stuff around, laundry to be tended to, bathrooms to be scrubbed, fluffs of dog hair and who-knows-what collected in corners, general stuff everywhere–Oh, and of course Opal’s birthday cake to be made!

In a mad caffeine-fueled rush to get the common spaces presentable I gathered our piles and cleaned up hot spots where stuff collects and confirmed something that I already knew–we have an inordinate amount of “outside” objects inside our home.  We have pounds and pounds and pounds and pounds of rocks! We have enough pine cones (we actually don’t have pine trees in Alaska…but saying “spruce cone” or “alder cone” is weird for most people) to start a new forest grove.  I found several tufts of moss, countless sticks, dried flowers, intricate pieces of lichen, huge hunks of dried shelf fungus, curled reams of birch bark, and plenty of other organic materials.  I’m sure all of these things were super special when we found them.  I actually do limit what we bring back on our individual outdoor ventures, but it all adds up over time.

That boot is full of very special rocks.

That boot is full of very special rocks.

Guess what I did with all of these things that I could have just brought out into the woods and bid adieu? I brought them all upstairs…into our BEDROOM.  What the heck? I’m a crazy woman!  Am I a hoarder?  Are we hoarders? I think we are…We are hoarders of natural objects.

I wish I could tell you that I have found a solution to these caches of rocks and pine cones, but I cannot because I have not.  They are still in boxes and containers…in our bedroom.  The solution is a simple one, really–walk into woods, empty boxes, walk back into home and put boxes in recycling.  Too bad simplicity can be easier said than done.  What if we want to build that fairy city? What if we need to paint rocks for everyone we’ve ever met? What if we actually do start and complete those myriad art projects and home improvement projects that involve said found objects? What if we never find another awesome stick again?  What if? What if? It’s not like we can just go to Home Depot and find that perfect piece of drift wood that’s been leaning in the corner for months.

This very special cow parsnip almost made it inside...but I did not let it cross the threshold!

This very special cow parsnip almost made it inside…but I did not let it cross the threshold!

Like I said–the inside of one’s home is a reflection of one’s inner most workings.  Just imagine what my inner most self is like.

While these sticks and stones and rocks and pine cones collect dust and get in our way, we are in the beginning stages of simplifying our home. We have begun to remove the excess, to keep that which we want to bring into our future…to hang on to that which “sparks joy.”  We are loosely following the tidying up process touted by a certain someone who has a book and a new motivational Netflix show. Since I’m inherently a skeptic and a rebel (some of my favorite Farmgirl qualities!), we are not wholly following her guidelines. There’s no way we are going down to thirty books…how about 300? Plus, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have guidelines for farmers.  I like to use some of my clothes that no longer “spark joy” to work in the wind and mud and sun. She also offers no tips for Mason jar storage…I’m just hoping that we come out of this in a more manageable home with domestic responsibilities that are shared a bit more equally among the family.  I have a dream that one day the other people in my home will be able to find things without my help. A Farmgirl can dream, can’t she?

My mountain of all the clothing I own--not too bad, really!  The pile of sticks and rocks and spruce cones would be stiff competition.

My mountain of all the clothing I own–not too bad, really! The pile of sticks and rocks and spruce cones would be stiff competition.

Have you been sucked up into the tidying craze?  Perhaps you are already organized and tidy or have a way to manage all of your things-if so, share your secrets with us!  What do you do with those prized rocks? those sentimental sticks? those unique tufts of moss?

Perhaps next time I will be writing from my newly minimized home…but I think this project will take longer than that!

Until Next Time, Farmgirl Friends, Take it easy and be kind to yourselves!

Sending peace and love from Alaska,

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

p.s. it is my SEVEN year blog-iversary!  How amazing it has been to share these years with you all. Thank you 🙂







  1. Gail Pederson says:

    I started to embroider this poem when I was pregnant with Evan. It never got finished❤️ Happy birthday sweet Opal! Love, Grandma Gail

    Babies Don’t Keep

    Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
    Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
    Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
    Sew on a button and butter the bread.

    Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
    She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

    Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
    Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
    Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
    Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

    The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
    And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
    But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
    Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
    Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

    The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
    But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

    Author: Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

  2. Marlene Capelle says:

    Happy blog-iversary. I have followed you the whole time. Love that poem.

  3. Emily says:

    Kentucky home has same …. um,…. I’ll call them qualities and stuff rather than junk. Good to know another mother/English major/farm girl shares much the same world.

  4. MJ says:

    I laughed out loud reading this episode of your blog – loved it! I’ve also been following you the past seven years – it was the same year my husband and I moved into our little old farm on 4 acres. We, however are at the grandparenting stage, but as we moved from the home where we raised our kids, I finally said a fond farewell to many items, (including some “get organized” books), good riddance to many more, and actually hauled along some of our favorite rocks. We have now added more. I also brought along bark from a beloved birch that fell years ago, bits of driftwood treasures picked from the debris along the shores of Lake Michigan, and despite having returned a collection of pine cones to the forest floor, I now have a fresh and growing collection from the white pines and spruces around our place. I could go on. Maybe it’s got something to do with being a girl of the Great Lakes…forever enchanted by the world around me, I surround myself with priceless jewels from nature, finding nooks and crannies to stash them in our house. Whatever the fetish is, I share your enthusiasm for rocks and pinecones. Thanks for a smile on this COLD Michigan afternoon!

  5. Amanda says:

    Yup! We got the case of the piles, too! Mostly laundry, but have the occasional rock, pressed four leaf clover, feather, of butterfly wing(from already dead, not live!) piles have caught my eye a few times. While my girls haven’t tried to bring in anything big (yet), and they’ve managed to keep their tiny object piles out of my sight, but I still know they’re around somewhere… And, like any other farm family, we track in who knows what onto our floors! So, I’m in a constant state of tidy up! I’ll share a sneaky trick with you! If I see someone coming who I know is a clean freak, I answer the door holding my broom. Instead of criticism, she gives me a hug of understanding from her past farming days! Happy Birthday Opal! and Happy Blog-iversary Alex!

  6. Lise Wichert says:

    It is hard to minimalize when I am a collector at heart. I do not have the wonderful help from precious little ones carrying in nature’s gifts. I am the guilty one toting them home and not wanting to part with the perfect piece of bark, or acorn, or branch that would complete an art project? I call them the “what if’s.” “What if” I can’t find another ideal pine cone? It has happened before! I do not have the plethora of mason jars but I have fabric that I am constantly fighting the mounded stacks that accumulate quickly. Scraps from left over projects that I hate to turn loose of, the “what if” pieces. I love sharing “what if’s.” Thankfully. I have a friend that is honing her crafting skills and has been eager to recieve the stacks. Somehow that has made it easier to part with my “what if’s.” Good luck fighting the minimizing battle.
    P.S. Loved the picture of the clothes, it made me smile! I had a folding chair, sometimes the couch, that was seldom empty when my children were still home.

  7. Marilyn says:

    Happy Birthday to Opal. May she have a year of happiness and blessings.

  8. Rosalyn Schultze says:

    I, too, am a collector of rocks, pine cones, shells, leaves, etc. Rocks may be painted with words, funny faces, designs or painted to look like animals or houses. One can also ‘wrap’ rocks with handwoven bands of string, yarn or leather. One can also crochet covers for rocks. Rocks make wonderful paperweights or decorative elements in a home. ‘Pine’ cones make wonderful wreaths, fairy homes, Christmas decorations, etc. I could go on and on… I think it is a wonderful gift you are giving your children by allowing them to use their imaginations and creativity while making things from natural resources.

  9. Cat Livingston says:

    After being married for 45 years, my husband and I began the incredible tackling of our storage room. 45 years plus of accumulated stuff! We bought special heavy duty shelving, totes, and organized it all. It took us 3 days. It was amazing the memories, old papers, things we didn’t even know we had. We got rid of all those old receipts, and tons of other paraphanalia that we didn’t need. Our children will thank us someday! It is so nice to be able to finally find the things we need. What a great feeling to get it all organized. Now, on to tackle our closet!!!!

  10. Gail, I’ve always loved that poem! Alexandra, so well spoken! . I was at a stage in life when we didn’t have little ones around and yet I kept finding random rocks on my living room floor?! One day I discovered Lilly, our pug, was collecting them and bringing them inside. My solution to that one was when she’d bring a new one in I’d add it to the line up on the deck railing. Made me laugh every time I walked by.

  11. Pauline Gladstone says:

    Dear Miss Alex! First, don’t be so hard on yourself. Everything you said about is accurate. Especially the “energy sucking” part. Sometimes life is more about clearing a path than it is about moving a mountain. Clearing anything involves tackling one thing at a time. It’s similar to weeding the garden. We are constantly working at removal while other forces are constantly working on regeneration!!! Piles are a force of nature, they have a mind of their own. Better yet, a firce of nature fuels by everyone who lives in the house!

    I love the picture of your outside clothes. My abandoned, deserted, lost, wandering, forsaken, lost sock pile is that big! We have on occassion taken to wearing mismatched socks out of a desire to have on a pair of sock. A colourful expression of companionship with just one of our piles.

    Rocks and all things nature that small children live (& love) to collect. My daughter loved to collect rocks. I still wonder why rocks? Having travelled to far parts of the world, I’d find myself home, unpacking to find a bounty of rocky treasures. After finding a pile big enough to start building a small wall, I needed to come up with a better, get them neater, storage plan. (I am hopeful my pictures will attach to my comments.) I found two huge pretty glass containers, one is actually a crystal vase, the othere an enclosed candle holder. I filled one with rocks, the other with things from the water. Something unique happened. Once the items were put on display and I struck up conversation about the items, my daughter slowed down her pace of collecting to accommodate the space left in the container. Recommendation, find sturdy, cool glass containers to contain and limit the pile size. Fill and enjoy for years to come!

    Here’s to longer and warmer days (it’s -32C here today.) Be well my friend and pair down that huge outside clothing pile. Put on all the clothes, at the same time, see just how many you can wear at one time. Make sure they are all your favourites from the pile. When you can’t out on anymore, donate the rest! I promise you’ll have a good time doing it and a great selection of working outside clothes.


  12. Sue says:

    Keeping tidy is hard! And what brings you joy may not be other people’s joy. 30 books? I am with you 300 is a much more reasonable number. Rocks,well most of them are in a pile on the back porch imitating a Gaelic cairn sort of. The large ones also make great bookends. I have learned over the years that what really matters is family and friends. As the as the above poem states, “babies don’t keep”. As an empty nester now the memories of messy houses are not important, they have faded into non importance. But the memories that were created with family and friends shine. Enjoy the chaos, as it goes away, kids grow, people move on. House work can wait.

  13. Denise says:

    I read a book that has really helped me it is, “Decluttering at the speed of Life” and it spoke to me so well. I read something that said “I” don’t have to find a home for what I don’t want either. for a while I was trying to see if my friends or family wanted my “things” and then after reading that, I can now feel free to donate it without finding it a home. but if you get a chance check out that book by Dana K. White. Good Luck!

  14. Sandi says:

    Alex, I thought when I was getting ready to move I would be able to get rid of a lot of stuff and have a clean clutter free new home. Hah! It didn’t happen. I did get rid of a lot of clothes, two huge bags full donated to the county free store, and I cleaned out a few dishes I didn’t need, (that was hard for me as I love dishes, kitchen things) and a few things got stored in the garage for yard sale weather, but I still have so much that I didn’t declutter, like my binders of genealogy and family history classes, things my mother left me like loads of albums of pictures of a lot of people I don’t know along with those I do know. I do have a lot of them on my computer, but I don’t trust technology to not fail and lose everything so I keep originals. I noticed as technology keeps improving on itself that things you have on computers that are becoming obsolete may not transfer well to a new updated model. Also a lot of software will not work on newer computers and I have gotten rid of a lot of software because it doesn’t run on newer operating systems. I also bought a lot of new stuff for the new house but I can’t seem to let go of the old stuff either unless it’s worn out, then it becomes rags or craft maybe’s. But I love my home even if it is a bit cluttered still and I am sure someday I will declutter more, hopefully, maybe, oh, I don’t know. I love reading your blog and Happy blogiversary of 7 years. Until next time.

  15. Janet Kynerd says:

    Only my husband and I live here, so I am happy to learn about the Different Places Hippo. We certainly have one hiding in this house. Hope Opal enjoyed her birthday. Who knows, you might build a house with all those rocks someday. Well, at least some fairy houses. Always enjoy your blog and hearing about your lovely girls.

  16. Joy says:

    You’ve got that right! We all have collections that make us happy . I have books, yarn, fabric, canning jars, feathers from my chickens, cups and dishes with chickens on them, tiny figurines from red rose tea boxes , iron frying pans, boxes are crayons,some unused, table clothes , linens , some antiques, just to name a few! I’m lucky enough to have an extra bed room to store all the fabric, and yarns, table clothes and linens. Feathers I put in flower decorations and make wreaths out of them. Iron frying pans hang on my wall behind the wood burning stove ,you can use a lot of your collection by using heavy rocks to make book ends,sticks put in a canning jar filled with stones, will make a great place to display the dried mosses or hanging Easter egg display for the girls to make. I think of this as our own little museums ! Your imbracing nature ! It’s all wonderful .

  17. Laura R. says:

    Hi Alex,

    This is a timely subject, as awareness of clearing clutter is at an all-time high. Worldwide, or just in my world? I have 2 boys, now 22 and 24 and i have been spending last couple years working through 20 years of accumulations. I have kept A LOT in the name of sentimentality. Symbols of my boy’s childhoods are rampant in the piles of bins of Stuff that I own. As my children leave the nest and start their own lives, I am hopeful that some of this stuff will move on with them, however, I have learned they are not interested in most things I thought were so precious to me. I am learning how their childhoods live on in my heart and not in all this stuff ! Anyway, as Evan’s mom’s poem illustrates, what is important is the living, the playing, the loving of our children. The mess is secondary, yet because of your awareness, perhaps you can start the clearing/organizing/recycling process earlier than I did. Seeing your happy, joyful, creative children, I would say you have your priorities straight.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *