Three Stone Hearth Retreat: Fermenting Fun!

I’ve been taking the online course by Magdalena Wszelaki called “Cooking for Balance”. It’s a pretty intensive course about balancing your hormones through diet. She covers general nutrition, gut health, sugar detox, adrenal fatigue and much more... I’m loving it! The reason I bring this up is because she stresses ALL THE TIME the importance of daily bone broth and ferments for gut healing and health (which of course I’ve heard many times before in my healing process). I’ve been working on my own bone broths for some time and have had some success in producing a healthful gelatinous broth, but have been a little timid about trying to ferment. All I imagine is a lot of work and jars full of mold. Magdalena has a sauerkraut-making video that’s incorporated into the program, but there’s nothing like a hands-on experience to ease intimidation. That’s why I was so thrilled that Three Stone Hearth incorporated a fermenting and pickling lesson into last Saturday’s Healing Farm retreat.

The first time I went to Three Stone Hearth for a tour, I was blown away not just by their incredibly nutrient-dense whole pre-made foods, but also by their business model and passion about their vision and mission. They are trying out a new slogan, “Social Change in a Mason Jar”, and I think that sums up who they are well. They are just as passionate about the sustainable way their food is packaged as they are about customer service, local, nutrient-dense whole foods PLUS having a business model that is not only good for the business, but also good for the local community, the environment, their suppliers and their co-op team members. They are also just as passionate about food and nutrition education as they are about all of the previous mentioned too. They have so many educational programs available: kitchen tours, fermenting lessons, and detailed lectures about the Westin-Price philosophy of eating and the Three Stone Hearth business model. They are serving their community well and are a business-model inspiration for me as I grow The Healing Farm concept.

I was thrilled to offer this intimate day through The Healing Farm | Retreats and was so happy to have Healing Farm fans around me as Jessica Prentice (one of the co-founders of Three Stone Hearth and author of “Full Moon Feast”) described the genesis of Three Stone Hearth and their business structure in the “holacracy” style. Three Stone Hearth even offers new and aspiring business owners a week-long workshop on holacracy! Jessica took us on a tour of the commercial kitchens and the public areas of the business, introducing us to staff along the way and showing us the incredible process they have set up over the years for food pickup and in-house jar return and recycling programs. During the tour we had our first introduction to Andy, their in-house fermenting scientist extraordinaire, who would be our fermenting lead after our tour. He is so incredibly passionate about what he does and I knew we were in for a fermenting treat!

Our hands-on lesson (that's me in the faux-leopard print, Marge Simpson looking bandana!) included pickling Meyer lemons and making sauerkraut. It was such fun chatting, listening, cutting lemons, learning about how much salt to put in and why, learning about burping jars, and being able to ask questions along the way. As a gift to the participants, we even included their small jars of the Meyer lemon preserves to take home.  Andy made it fun, informative, AND easy. I feel like I could now go out and get some jars and begin - if only I had the room in my house!!!! BUT cheaper to make my own sauerkraut's than buy them, right? I need to make room!

We had an incredible lunch with the staff after our lesson. They were testing out a new recipe (which we got to try) and then Andy discovered that the Meyer lemon preserves were a perfect compliment to the ground beef dish we were testing out, so right then and there they decided to add it to the finished recipe. TSH in action. Jessica ended our day with a two hour lecture on the Westin Price philosophy behind ancestral nutritional health, which was fascinating. She’s so passionate and her lecture was convincing and informative.

Overall, this program by Three Stone Hearth was an A+ experience and I would highly recommend signing up for one of their workshops/classes directly. I will probably offer another Healing Farm day at Three Stone Hearth in the fall or next winter just in case you need a little reminder to check it out. Getting to order their pre-made food and take it home at the end is also an added bonus. I’ve been eating the most nutrient-dense, filling, and satisfying food, since I've been home. I even picked up some liver pate (delicious) since because Magdalena is also trying to get us, that are in the program, to eat more liver. I can definitely eat spoonfuls of pate from Three Stone Hearth. No problem there!


3rd Act Guest Blog Post: Find Out More of What We'll Cover in the 3rd Act Retreat This Fall!

I’ve been a professional photographer for 25+ years and photographing weddings for 15 – it’s a demanding job! Everyone assumes it’s all joy, gorgeous venues, flowers, and food. And it is most of the time, but photographing a wedding is not only stressful emotionally (I can’t miss a beat or a moment!), but it’s also incredibly physically demanding. Standing and running around with pounds of equipment strapped to my body for an average of eight hours on top of the mental stress has taken its toll. Plus, hours in front of a computer in a dark room has never been very joyful for someone who loves light, air, and the outdoors.

I’ve been working on transitioning into a new career for the past 4-5 years and it’s been a challenge like no other in my life. Adding mid-life crisis, peri-menopause, aging parents, and the financial burden of my husband and I both exploring new careers at the same time? Well, that’s a whole different level of challenge!

I knew I had to be ready both mentally and physically for this transition into a new life and career and that’s how the seeds of The Healing Farm idea popped into my head. For 4-5 years, I’ve been working on healing my body from the inside out, plus building The Healing Farm | Retreat business into a new career to pursue work I am passionate about for the next 20 or so years of my work life. It’s also my retirement plan (I want to live on The Healing Farm property eventually!). The seeds I started planting a few years ago are finally starting to take root and now, I want to help others prepare for the longer lives we are now living – and look forward to healthy and happy lives.

A friend of mine introduced me to Patricia Cavanaugh, founder of “The 3rd Act” and after a two-time THF retreat participant suggested I create a retreat specifically for women who are experiencing this mid-life and pre/post retirement transition, I figured these two things dovetailed beautifully into a new retreat idea. Serendipity!

I am thrilled to welcome the Third Act to our retreat at Mayacamas Ranch, scheduled for October 29th through November 2nd (my 51st birthday!). Click here for more details about the retreat, but I had a chance to interview Patricia her colleague, Ellie Klevins – who will lead the workshop and here’s what they had to say about their workshop for our retreat:

So, what is the 3rd Act?

Our work guides people (typically age 50+) to develop intentional plans for creating happy and fulfilling lives – and take full advantage of our years ahead. Living longer than previous generations, is both a challenge and an opportunity.  We need to shed old paradigms of aging, find inspiring role models, and learn new skills so we can “begin again.” Our clients are people who are approaching typical retirement age – and know they don’t want a typical retirement!

What are the outcomes participants can expect?
Realizing you are not alone in facing down the aging process. We share many of the same fears and we avoid thinking about what’s uncomfortable for us. Together we uncover those fears and identify ways to take control now.  Denying and pushing away fear takes so much energy – we free up that energy and focus it on what you can do NOW to take control.  Like healthy eating! Exercise!  And having and inspiring plan for the rest of your life!
The principles of Positive Psychology are the foundation for 3rd Act life planning.

We ask and help you answer these fundamental questions:

  • What are your skills and strengths –– and how could you  use these strengths in creating your 3rd Act?

  • What do you want to leave behind – and what do you want to bring forward as you transition?

  • How can you find fulfillment in life’s everyday pleasures?

  • Where will you find new meaning and purpose ?

  • What choices do you have now that were not available to you before?

  • How can you build community, make new friends, deepen your relationships?

And to borrow a line from Mary Oliver, explore your answers to this question: “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I hope you can join us this fall for this comprehensive retreat. I know I have a lot to learn and am particularly looking forward to the finance portion given by our other speaker, Catie Fitzgerald (look for an upcoming guest post from Catie!). The work I’ve done in the past 4-5 years has begun to change my life in profound ways and my hope is that this retreat can help you to change the course of the rest of your life too. It’s a journey that’s challenging, but challenging like a good workout that you weren’t looking forward to. Once you get going, you get into the groove and feel so good and empowered when you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness! 

Why I’m So Inspired and Happy to Announce The Healing Farm’s Next Immersion Retreat - The 3rd Act: Renewing Your Purpose and Passion Mid-Life

A couple of close friends, when viewing my “manifestation board” (detail above, plus read about this project here), asked why there was an illustration representing a girl in a bathing suit and cap coming out of a pool. It’s true, I am not a swimmer. I’m not a swimmer, but as I’ve gotten older, floating and spending time in, and under, water has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation. I just LOVE being in water. Especially warm water! In my 50th year, I want to learn how to swim. How to REALLY swim.

I was inspired last year by a two-time Healing Farm retreat participant who was embracing her 50th year by doing something either that she never tried before, or just something she loved, each month of her 50th year. She called the year her “jubilee adventures” and I was honored that two of her months during her jubilee adventures included THF retreats! You can read about her experience at the very challenging solo Joshua Tree retreat on my blog. Given my 50th year was fast approaching I was completely inspired by Stephanie to do my own sort of jubilee adventure year.

I turned 50 last November 2nd. Given how challenging the final half of my 40th decade was, I was fearful of 50 and not feeling so celebratory. Despite that, I threw myself a big open house 50th birthday party in a lovely location on the coast of California. I served healthy food, kicked it off with a little yoga session, encouraged my guests to wander and hike the property, and then danced until we had to leave. It wasn’t entirely perfect or what I had envisioned, but learning to let go of expectations has been part of the process I’ve been working through in the past 4-5 years; as I’ve explored how to transition out of my old career and into the new one, as well as how to heal my body and mind from the inside out. I was determined to learn to let go of expectations. It’s a challenge the German in me has faced all of my life. I’m a planner and I like efficiency, but to a fault. Through meditation (just ten minutes a few days per week), I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself and others when things don’t go quite as my idealistic vision has planned. It’s a good thing I figured that out because one of things I’ve read over and over about entrepreneurs is that you need to learn to accept unexpected change, learn how to adapt quickly, and to roll with the punches (not stress about the inevitable ups-and-downs of big change).

I was proud of myself for embracing my birthday party as it unfolded and realized the imperfection of it was the perfect kick-off to my 50th year. I started to open my mind to thinking about how I wanted to continue to embrace it. I’m going through huge changes physically (I’m now one month away from FINALLY being in full menopause) and I’m on the cusp of either making a go of The Healing Farm business that I’ve been working so hard to start for the past two years or letting it go if it proves too much stress for this time in my life. I’m also understanding and feeling I’m on the final leg of my physical healing journey too. All this makes it fitting that in my 50th year jubilee, I didn’t want to plan for what I wanted to accomplish. I thought I would just wait to see what popped up and inspired me.

Not long after my birthday, I walked in the door to my house and found my husband practicing his drumming rudiments. I’m always impressed that he can sit for an hour and practice the same beats over and over again. He’s been doing this for years and it has contributed to his discipline about a lot of things. Even though I recognize that he and I are very different (I’ll never be a perfectionist and I kind of despise “practicing” anything), I wanted to pick something in my 50th year to practice and really learn. I thought briefly of surfing because I know it’s physically GREAT for the body and it’s also meditative but decided it wasn’t realistic. Paying for lessons (not cheap) and driving to the ocean a few times a week was not practical - and I’m all about practical. Then I thought about swimming. It’s a bit more practical, I love the water, it’s good exercise, AND it’s meditative. Voila! I had found my 50th year goal and have been taking private and group swim lessons on and off since January. It’s really hard, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it and love looking at my manifestation board and seeing that darling woman getting out of the pool in her yellow bathing suit and cap (yellow is definitely the color of my energy AND has always been my favorite color).

I’ve done several other things so far in my 50th year to challenge myself (solo travel and camping, plus writing more!) and to continue to embrace the change I want to make in my life so that I feel like I can leave a legacy behind. I want to feel like I’ve done something to contribute to helping this world, the people in it and our planet in any small way that I can. I want to continue to explore this fascinating path of “finding myself” so I can reach for a higher purpose in my life, become a practical wellness practitioner in my own general way and inspire others on their paths to practical wellness too.

It’s fitting then that the next multi-day retreat for The Healing Farm will be with Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins of The 3rd Act. They will lead a workshop taking participants through much of what I’ve explored on my own for the last 4-5 years to get to the place of profound growth I’m in now. You can read more about the retreat on The Healing Farm’s site and I’ll also be posting a short Q&A with Ellie and Patricia on the blog so you can get a better idea of the work we’ll be doing at the retreat. I’ll also be welcoming three-time THF retreat participant, Catie Fitzgerald. With her brand-new MS in nutrition and her 20+ years of financial consulting, Catie will be covering how to transition your body and finances (I’ll be paying especially close attention to the finance portion of this retreat!) into mid and later life.

The final day of the retreat just happened to land on my 51st birthday (the retreat dates were the only dates still available this year at Mayacamas Ranch). At first I was a little bummed to “work” on my birthday; but then I let go of all of my past birthday expectations and embraced the fact that wrapping up this retreat with a group of women with whom I’ve just shared a potentially profound experience couldn’t be a more fitting end to my 50th year jubilee of unplanned exploration and learning! It actually couldn’t be more perfect and if for some reason it isn’t, I’m ok with that too!

I hope to see you in the fall and PS - that picture of me (going gray!) was taken not long after my 50th by my friend Laura Turbow who does lovely boudoir photo sessions of all women, but especially women in their "3rd act"!

 The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

June 3rd! Upcoming Intimate Three Stone Hearth Retreat: The Importance of an Ancestral Diet, Regular Bone Broth and Fermented Foods!

I'm getting more and more excited for The Healing Farm's one-day retreat at Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley! There's only room for ten and we have a few spots left, so please sign up sooner than later.

I've FINALLY been listening to an incredible hormone balance workshop called "Cooking for Balance" with Magdalena Wszelaki, the nutritionist behind the site Hormones & Balance. I just love how informative Magdalena is about the importance of gut health, liver detox, inflammation reduction, etc. in helping restore hormone balance in the body. Although the upcoming Three Stone Hearth retreat is NOT female only (we can ALL benefit in huge ways by eating a whole foods, ancestral diet), fermented foods and bone broth go a long way in helping women restore balance in the body and I would highly recommend taking one of Magdalena's workshops.

I was just listening this morning to one of the sections of the "Cooking with Balance" workshop and Magdalena brought up - yet again - how daily doses of fermented foods and bone broth (collagen) are so instrumental in keeping the gut healthy and the body balanced naturally. I've been trying to add fermented foods into my diet and through trial and error have realized that for my body, I can tolerate sauerkraut well. For a while I was adding Kambucha into my smoothies but have realized that I get bloating from kambucha so now try to limit my intake. Sauerkraut on the other hand is yummy and I can put it easily on a cooked brat (no bun!) which fits in well with the high fat eating plan I'm currently trying out (for my brain health and weight loss). Jury is still out for the Ketogenic Diet and my body (I'm only two weeks in) and I'll update as I move further along.

What I do believe in wholeheartedly and have embraced almost 100% is an ancestral diet and what better place to go to learn the basics than to Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley  - a business that has been at the forefront of ancestral eating and the importance of bone broth. Starting the week before out retreat, participants can go to Three Stone Hearth's site and pre-order whole pre-made foods, house made kambucha and of course the most collagen-filled bone broth I have ever seen! Participants can place orders starting Thursday, May 25th through Wednesday, May 31st for pickup on retreat day!

Although I try to make my own bone broth (both beef and chicken), I've only ONCE reached the level of collagen that Three Stone Hearth has perfected. It's also hard to get the organic grass-finished and pastured raised bones and chicken feet necessary to get that amount of collagen so ordering pre-made bone from from a reliable source can be key. It's not cheap, that's for sure, but if you're kicking off an elimination diet, trying to reduce systemic inflammation to reduce chronic pain and illness or want to strengthen your immune system or balance your hormones and don't have time to start learning to make a collagen-rich bone broth on your own, this would be a good place to start.

Same goes for fermented foods. Magdalena does a few video lessons in making fermented foods in her "Cooking for Balance" workshop, but we will have a firsthand demo at the retreat and will even have a little bit to take home with us! If you want more than our little bit we've made ourselves, you can pre-order your TSH fermented foods and drinks to take home with you too. 

If you forget to pre-order, rest-assured they have a tiny storefront in which you can pick up foods on-site. It's just a more limited selection.

Since I've started my ancestral heath journey, I've always shied away from doing such "hippie dippy" things as making bone broth and fermenting foods, but as I go deeper and realize how much better my body feels, I've realized that it's fun and CHEAPER to make my own. I've only gone as far as making the bone broth at home and am excited to learn fermenting and pickling on-site on June 3rd with the experts where I can ask questions and see firsthand (I'm a visual learner!) how it's done so I'm more comfortable exploring a little more at home.

I've been using Dr. Axe's bone broth recipe for my own beef broth and  Chris Kresser's for chicken. I find that I get the best results for the chicken broth by using chicken feet (I've found them at the Berkeley Bowl). I roast the chicken first via Chris Kresser's recipe and then crack and use the bones, veggies and add the chicken feet and cook for 48 hours in my Instant Pot.  For the Dr. Axe recipe I buy knuckle and beef marrow bones from Prather Ranch at the Temescal Farmer's Market.

Happy cooking and healing everyone and I hope to see you at The Three Stone Hearth Retreat! Sign up here!:

Inspired and On Fire: What One Quote and One E-Mail can do to Stoke the Fires Within

This is the magnetic board, next to my desk.

This is the magnetic board, next to my desk.

I was recently reading the most current issue of the only magazine I read (besides the Sunday New York Times magazine) and one quote really hit me hard. I believe Conscious Company Magazine is one of the most important publications out there today and it inspires me every time knowing there are other business owners and entrepreneurs who are passionate about building responsible businesses. In the about section of the Conscious Company Magazine it says they are here to , "share inspiring, cutting edge stories about business as a force for good, host educational events and workshops, and connect talented individuals with purpose-driven work, all with the higher purpose of elevating consciousness in the business world."

The current issue is about hope and features various articles about how social entrepreneurship and other “conscious” for-profit businesses can help build a more sustainable future for the earth and for its inhabitants: starting with responsible business practices. The article I was reading was “19 Social Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017”. They featured “inspirations, recommendations and recent lessons from the social entrepreneurs” they interviewed. The first person featured was Jessica Norwood, Founder of “The Runway Project”. It always seems that just when I feel like throwing in the towel I see something that inspires me to pick myself up by the bootstraps and keep moving forward with The Healing Farm concept. Jessica’s quote now hangs on the magnetic board next to my desk (pictured above) alongside The Healing Farm’s trademark certificate which is something that took WAY longer than I thought it would take to obtain, but with perseverance actually happened. It now hangs where I can see it every day to remind myself that I worked hard for it so I need to make The Healing Farm happen!

The quote they featured is: “If you believe, stick with it. Too many people give up right before the tide changes.” 

Almost everything I read about obtaining big dreams or striving for something more in life states that it’s hard and it’s full of challenges. It’s what I experience almost everyday in this start-up phase of The Healing Farm and it’s important for me to see that others struggle too, but with great challenges comes great accomplishment. I’m in a tricky place right now straddling between letting go of my photography business (but still needing the income) and trying to find the time to focus on growing The Healing Farm business and it’s really easy sometimes to think about how being a bartender in Mexico might be a lot more fun and WAY less stressful. It’s also a slow process starting this business and I get frustrated, wanting to build The Healing Farm right away. When I get overwhelmed thinking about it, I truly want to throw in the towel and pursue something easier in my middle age. Some days I truly feel that way, but then there are days when I have such a great confidence in this dream and KNOW it’s a missing link in the healthcare industry. Healing centers and places shouldn’t just be for the wealthy, yet so many are built for the luxury market. Healing places also don’t have to be just for those already dedicated to a yoga or meditation practice. Healing places don’t have to be western medicine based either. I want to create a true natural healing place for all and I don’t want to give up. It needs to happen and I’ll figure out how to make it so.

After mulling over the quote for a week or so, an email landed in my inbox and I want to share it with you here. This is not the first time I’ve received an email like this and it sets me on fire to build The Healing Farm. I’ve taken out names and paraphrased to protect privacy, here it is:


I've been following you for a while on Facebook and tonight while searching for a friend in need your site popped up. This is a random chance but do you or the community you've created offer short term healing housing opportunities (I don't think that exists as I think I made that up)...

Here's the situation: I have a friend, named ______, battling _______ disease and it feels like she literally has her last opportunity to live.

{Through my business I try to give her as much organic nourishment as I can}, but she needs so much more. She needs a place to heal. She's _____ single mother of 2, lives {in a supported situation} and is unable to care for her children. Her current living situation is very unstable and unhealthy. I feel in my heart of hearts if she could just go away and heal - she has a chance to win this battle.

That's where your site popped up in my search. I know it's a random outreach but I thought it couldn't hurt.

If you or someone you know have any leads to help manifest this idea I welcome it.

Either way... keep up the awesome work and I hope one day to be at one of your retreats and I'll remind you I was the crazy lady with the crazy idea.

Thanks for even reading this!



This reinforced to me that the tide is indeed changing. More and more people are following The Healing Farm and are inspired by the vision and want me to make my dream come true, to help others. After seeing this email come through, I’m inspired to try to create a crowd-funding campaign to get seed money from passionate people who want this property to happen. Letting go of the photography business to focus fully on The Healing Farm could be the next step I need to focus on how to make The Healing Farm a reality.

Healing myself and healing others. It’s what I’m working toward and it’s a missing link in the health and wellness industry. Let’s together make this happen! The Healing Farm. Cultivating practical wellness!

Solo Travel: Inspiring Women to be Brave and to Explore Yourself

Chatting with a man with no pants. A desert super bloom with flowers as far as the eye can see. Dancing solo by the fire under the full starry night sky in the warm desert breeze. Plus, unexpectedly learning to accept changes in my idealized plans somewhere along the way. This is living. This is my joy. I finished both “The Untethered Soul”  and “The Crossroads of Should and Must” on this trip. Appropriate reading for a solo desert camping trip. And all stemming from a decision to travel by myself before and in between Southern California photo shoots.

I camped in Joshua Tree solo several years ago when I was at the very beginning of my journey to find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Husband? I decided resolutely that he’s who I want to grow old with and since that decision, we’ve gotten closer and closer (we’ve been together for twelve years and married for almost nine). I decided about a year ago that he’s my soulmate and I said it out loud in December. Seems a little strange after all these years to finally come to these solid conclusions, but I now understand the concept of a slow burn vs. the beginning fireworks of a relationship. It’s the slow burn that ends up being sustainable and once those coals are lit, it gets stronger and stronger. Camping solo for four days can do that for you. It can show you your greatest heights and loves and passions and your deepest fears and misgivings. But mostly it can bring you to depths of understanding about yourself and your place in this universe.


The reassurance about my marriage was an unexpected outcome of that first trip, but the journey I started on that first solo trip to Joshua Tree really was that of The Healing Farm. I read the book “Fail Fast, Fail Often” in my tent and at the same time I was seeing a career counselor. I had already decided I no longer wanted to be a wedding photographer and had started dreaming of a place called “The Healing Farm”. From that trip and the work I did with the career counselor, I have started building The Healing Farm brand, I’ve held single and multi-day retreats and continue to try to grow into this new role of founder of a dream. Founder of a big dream. I needed this time alone in the desert to reaffirm. So far I still don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m on the right path for me. One of opening and healing. I’m finding the dreamer in me that’s always been there. I’ve not trusted that dreamer completely and I’m still hesitant, but I’m getting closer to letting go and letting her take over again. It’s about time after 40 or so years.

As I read more about Buddhism and meditating I’m learning to let go. Learning to be the dreamer again. I’m learning to let go of my fears and am embracing living in the moment and trusting that if I do what I love, and love what I do that success will follow. Success is a funny word though. Success to me doesn’t have a monetary meaning. Success to me is finding what my true passion is. Being excited to go to work, living and working with enthusiastic people in a beautiful setting and helping others in the process would be the greatest successful outcome of my life. I understand all businesses need to make a profit, but there’s a new movement in business in which profit is not the driving force behind the vision. Workplace culture, helping others, helping this planet, showing others the ecstasy one can find in nature and the joy and energy received from natural healing, meditation and gratitude will lead to a successful business. I’m so happy I found “Conscious Company” magazine. It’s something that has put a definition to what I’m trying to do with The Healing Farm.

As I finished “The Untethered Soul”, I was struggling with learning to let go of the energy of the spring breakers surrounding me while I tried to camp in “solitude” at Joshua Tree. There are “quiet hours” at any campground and being 19-21 year old kids on spring break I should be glad they weren’t more obnoxious and I was actually really happy they were out camping and hiking at Joshua Tree rather than participating in wet t-shirt contests in Ft. Lauderdale, but still I was hoping for the peace and joy I found the night before camping at The Salton Sea and had a hard time “letting go”. So I came up with a plan that would keep me from thinking about it obsessively and spending my precious time annoyed (which is what I would normally do). I’m sure this is not what the book had in mind for letting go --planning is really not part of it, but if I didn’t do that I would have been stressed the whole time.

Basically on the second day (my first full day) I decided I would go on a huge hike (in the plan anyway) and to go early enough that when I returned, the spring breakers would still be out hiking since they would likely get a later start. Then when I came back to camp, I would spend a few mid-to-late afternoon quiet hours napping and reading while they were still out. As they filtered back into their camps, I would go out in the car to explore some areas along the road that had some wildflowers I wanted to check out and I would come back around dusk to start my fire and dinner. Sure enough, when I got back all the spring break camps around me had their music going (not too loud thankfully), but I was prepared with my plan and therefore remained pretty zen. I cooked my dinner and when it became apparent they would keep their music going, I sat by the fire for the rest of the evening with my headphones on being inspired by my own music. Part of the plan had been to ask the biggest group if they were planning on staying the next night and if they said yes, I decided I would pack it up and move on to another plan for my last solo night. Indeed they were staying, so without upset I packed it up the next morning and went back to the Salton Sea for a little photo shoot of “kickass solo camper Julie with the axe” and moved on to Palm Springs to stay in comfort at a place called “The Nurturing Nest”. My body was craving water at that point so staying at the Nurturing Nest and soaking in their natural hot springs water was lovely and I was able to take a long shower and prep for my re-entry into the real world. Amazingly, my plan worked and I didn’t get all worked up about the spring breakers ruining my camping trip plan. Normally I’m pretty good about expressing my displeasure with other’s noise in peaceful places, but I decided I didn’t want to dampen their pretty wholesome spring break camping fun which is another reason I came up with another plan.


Learning to let go, not being too tied to a plan and accepting change is all part of the person I’m trying to be. Building this business of The Healing Farm is a constant high and low, feeling of being “untethered” and unsure and feeling like I’m all alone. There’s nothing like traveling alone (doesn’t have to be camping!) to realize that you can rely on yourself, roll with the punches, accept changes and be confident that you’re going to learn some great lessons along the way.

I would love to offer immersion retreats for women to feel more empowered to have experiences like this. When I got to Los Angeles after being out in the desert, I stayed with an old roommate. She laughed when I got out of the car and said she half expected me to be carrying the axe from my Salton Sea photo shoot. Perhaps on that future immersion retreat, I’ll get axes branded with The Healing Farm logo to give as gifts to my kickass women’s retreat participants.

Cultivating practical wellness means a lot of things to me. Reducing inflammation in the body through an elimination diet and finding what works for you to get rid of or manage your chronic conditions, building a regular meditation practice into your life (even if it’s a few minutes a day), finding a realistic sustainable exercise plan are all a big part of what I want to teach at The Healing Farm, but also finding that place in you where you feel strong and confident is important too. These are all things that are hard to start, but inexpensive and easy to maintain in the long run and in finding what works for you, you will learn to naturally thrive. I promise. It’s happening for me and I can see the light at the end of the dark tunnel of uncertainty. I’m becoming “Untethered” and ready to really live.

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness.

NeuroMuscular Reprogramming

I've written before about my chronic back pain in the SI joint area and that the work I did with Chris Kresser brought my eight year chronic pain from feeling it 60-100% of the time down to 0-20% of the time just by reducing inflammation in my body, but alas, the pain still lurks. Although reducing inflammation has been life-changing in reducing the pain, the underlying issue is still unresolved

For my 50th birthday, my in-laws gave me a gift of an initial consultation and treatment with Jocelyn Olivier of Healus Neuro-Rehab Center. I had never heard of "NeuroMuscular Reprogramming" but my mother-in-law was pretty enthusiastic so I gave it a try. From the minute Jocelyn started working on me I was amazed at her quick and confident actions. I was literally in good hands with someone I could tell could "feel" my body and what it needed. 

NeuroMuscular Reprogramming, or NMR, is an elegant and efficient protocol for figuring out and correcting the coordination dysfunctions that cause most musculo-skeletal pain, joint misalignment and degeneration. It can be done clothed or in the context of your regular bodywork practice. It fits inside your other modalities and increases the effectiveness of your work.

I'm still working with Jocelyn and one of her other therapists (Terez!) to try to unpeel the layers of years of corrections my body has made from past injuries. In my last session, Jocelyn had me in a position and started pressing on a point in my lower back that actually pinpointed where the deep pain was coming from. This is something nobody has been able to do because the pain was so deeply buried. At first it hurt a lot, but she kept pressing but then the pain diminished little by little and when finally it was completely gone I started crying. Even though I still feel the pain (we haven't quite gotten to it 100%), through all the work she's done thus far, something was finally released and the crying was an emotional release from years of pain being buried deep within.

I'm pretty passionate about the work she's doing and thought I would share this walking workshop she's offering on April 29th. I have a commitment already for that day, but I'm going to try to work this walking program into my schedule if I can and hope I see some familiar faces!

Working with Healus is not inexpensive, but if you have a chronic pain issue and reducing inflammation alone isn't quite getting to the bottom of it, maybe give it an initial consultation and see if this therapy might be a good fit for you.

10,000 Steps Before Breakfast

Hiking 10,000 steps before breakfast is certainly NOT a practical health and wellness solution to build into your everyday life, but when in Rome……

I love the morning hikes at Rancho La Puerta (I always call it my favorite place in the world). Rancho La Puerta is without a doubt my biggest influence for wanting to start The Healing Farm. Recently, I was inspired once again by a talk given by Professor Ludwig Max Fischer. He is passionate about what RLP is all about and seems to be the unofficial (or maybe the official) ranch historian. Max was at the ranch when I was here photographing last spring and shared with us the mini-documentary on the origins of RLP and Edmond ("The Professor") and Deborah Szekely (founders). Rancho La Puerta, just in case you didn't know, is the Godmother of all health retreats/spas and was founded in the mid-forties. It was thought of by some as a cult because the Professor's teaching about natural healing and meditation in Western culture was so ahead of it's time. During Max’s talk the other day, he brought up how influential RLP has been to so many modern day health gurus and how many of them are now coming to speak about natural and holistic healing at the ranch today.

I’ve been  fortunate enough to come to the ranch once or twice a year to do their marketing photography and can honestly say the ranch has been so influential in my life that it has inspired my current career change journey. It was around the time I was working with Chris Kresser and in the process of treating all of my chronic health conditions that I came to photograph at the ranch for the first time. I had already been dreaming of a place called “The Healing Farm” where one could go to immerse themselves in learning about natural healing and realized when I walked onto the RLP property for the first time that it already exists! I was instantly an RLP disciple (or “cult” follower if I were here in the 40s and 50s), but I realized that places like RLP which have sprouted up all over the world are called “spas” and are unaffordable to most people. I would love to create a place with multiple levels of accommodation (think camping to cabins!) with a little more of a focus on serious healing of chronic conditions (think on-site functional medicine practitioners and nutritionists) to guide guests on a personal wellness journey. Learn how to prevent before the chronic conditions creep in or how to manage or even cure chronic conditions that already exist.

I recently wrote about my Fitbit fitness tracker and how enamored I am with how easy it is to use and how much it keeps me on track with my fitness and weight loss goals and was excited to have it at the ranch with me this time. It’s a HUGE property and requires a lot of walking, especially if you’re in one of the outer property accommodations (which I usually am). I had heard that if you were staying on the outskirts of the property by the end of the week you would walk about 20 miles – and that’s not including the morning hikes! I love the morning hikes at RLP and couldn’t wait to see how many steps I would take this week which is why I was inspired to do this post. Yesterday I did one of the mountain hikes. I didn’t want to get up at 5:30 in the morning, but the ranch makes it pretty easy. I naturally go to bed around 9:00 here so when the alarm rings at 5:30AM, I roll out of bed, throw on the clothes I laid out the night before, don’t even bother to brush my teeth and go out into the still starry early morning. When I get to the lounge, there’s usually a roaring fire going, coffee and tea prepared and some cut up grapefruit, oranges and bananas. I have snack and some coffee sitting in front of the fire chatting with all the other morning hikers and then off we go as the sun rises. Usually I start chatting with a fellow hiker or two and end up getting to know them throughout the hike. A great way to make friends at the ranch! Sometimes, I hike in solitude. I learned from this routine many visits ago that I could repeat this at home and build morning exercise into my routine. I could get up an hour earlier, make coffee and have a snack, read a little news and then workout before I start the day.

The ranch has also been my inspiration and teacher for my morning meditation practice. During their morning guided meditation classes, I have learned to not be intimidated by meditation and have built it into my morning routine by doing a ten-minute meditation while I brew my coffee!

I’ve been having a blast this week keeping informed through my Fitbit how many steps I’m taking during a day at RLP. I laughed out loud yesterday on the 5.5 mile mountain hike when my wrist started buzzing and I realized I had met my 10,000 steps a day goal before I even had breakfast. That’s what the ranch will do for you. Maybe you won’t put in 10,000 steps before breakfast every day (or maybe not even once a year!), but you get inspired and learn new things every day, take them and then figure out how to build them into your everyday life. You start making long-term changes a little at a time until eventually you have a regular ten minute a day meditation practice and a four day a week exercise routine that you naturally do because you’ve learned how to easily fit it into your routine.

Max said during his talk the other day that part of The Professor’s vision for RLP was sort of a grand real-life test for what he felt was the future of wellness. He was onto something so many years ago and I’m so lucky to have come here during my photography career to be inspired and rejuvenated in my midlife to make short and long-term changes in my own life. I want to do what The Professor has done. I want to go out into the world bringing health practitioners and educators together in a beautiful and affordable setting to change the course of healthcare.

Stop and Smell the Wildflowers: Unexpectedly One of my Life's Greatest Experiences!

When asked to describe Burning Man the first time I went (2005), I hesitated and then said: "It's like my experience seeing the pyramids in Egypt and the animals in Africa”. It's impossible to describe and I think really hard to capture on film or in pictures. It's something you have to experience in person. How can I adequately describe walking out onto an upper terrace of the Masque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo and getting my first sight of the pyramids of Giza rising out of the desert on the other side of the city? They dwarfed Cairo. How can I describe when my guide pulled over as soon as we got into Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana and pointed out hippos bobbing up and down in the water (like Hungry Hungry Hippo!) and then a herd of elephants walking by? Seeing those animals in their natural habitat was astounding. When I saw giraffes, I cried. But really, unless you’re there, it’s hard know what it’s like. Getting out of my car and first catching the incredible scent of flowers in the air and then walking across the street to the field of wildflowers along Henderson Road in Anza Borrego during the “super bloom” instantly was added to my list of the indescribable. I decided the only way I could describe it is that it felt like I was at a botanic garden's carefully cultivated exhibit of California desert wildflowers, only on what seemed to be on an infinite scale.

Despite running my photo business and starting The Healing Farm business, I decided when I booked almost back-to-back photo shoots in southern California, that I would drive and camp in between (probably not the best use of my time, right?). Then I realized that the week before my first shoot was probably about the time of the wildflower bloom in Anza Borrego. I heard about the desert bloom many years ago and had always wanted to go. I figured I would drive a week early and if I hit the bloom, I hit it. If not, so be it. How could I have known that the very week I would be there was not just the peak of the bloom, but a “super bloom”. And this is not a crying wolf super bloom. It's AMAZING. I can't tell you how glad I am that I played hooky! Someone told me there were some flowers blooming whose seeds have been dormant for 15-20 years! I hit the jackpot! Given I’m a photographer and had my equipment with me because of my upcoming photo shoots, there are a LOT of pictures so I’m going to stop typing and start posting some pics! I’m a terrible editor so there are LOADS. Enjoy the indescribable!

Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Something wacky happened with this panoramic (some pixels missing), but you can see my Subaru parked on the dirt road in the background. SubaWOO!

Something wacky happened with this panoramic (some pixels missing), but you can see my Subaru parked on the dirt road in the background. SubaWOO!

Someone told me this is mountain lavender - it smelled like lavender light!

Someone told me this is mountain lavender - it smelled like lavender light!

Anza Borrego super bloom 2017

I hiked into Palm Canyon my second day to see a palm oasis in the desert. Not only were there incredible wildflowers along that trail too, but the oasis was incredible. I hiked above the palms further into the canyon only to discover waterfalls and little swimming holes. On a 95 degree day hiking in a desert canyon NOTHING feels better then dunking in a mountain pool - or sitting under a waterfall. I spotted a big horned sheep in the distance on my way into the canyon, but then nearing the trailhead on the way out a few of us hikers were treated to a whole herd grazing right next to the trail. The two shots I'm including here were taken with my iphone - not a fancy telephoto lens. That's how close they were. What a topper to a serendipitous stop in the desert!

This was my primary swim spot. It's deceptive. The area between the boulders was up to my chest deep and I could actually swim under water in it! Then I laid out on the hot rock and sand. It was incredible and only one person passed me by despite the crowds in the park!

This was my primary swim spot. It's deceptive. The area between the boulders was up to my chest deep and I could actually swim under water in it! Then I laid out on the hot rock and sand. It was incredible and only one person passed me by despite the crowds in the park!

Almost to the palm oasis - a hiker taking a break.

Almost to the palm oasis - a hiker taking a break.

Hiker's hat at the palm oasis

Hiker's hat at the palm oasis

Anza Borrego super bloom 2017
Big Horned Sheep
Big Horned Sheep Anza Borrego super bloom 2017

I'm getting sleepy and it's taking forever to upload all these photos so I'm going to be healthy and go to sleep, but hope to post more tomorrow! I'll leave you with a couple more....

In the shadow of the photographer ;-) Good Night!

In the shadow of the photographer ;-) Good Night!

Old Fashioned Salmon Cakes - It's What to do with Leftover Salmon!!!!

My ex Mother-in-Law used to make these and I remember going over to her house the first time she made them and dreading sitting down to eat. I grew up hating fish for dinner, between the Fridays of Lent, fish sticks, and the dreaded whole cooked fish fresh caught by my dad on Lake Michigan that day (believe me, as a kid a whole cooked fish sitting on the table is not a welcome sight.) I've never been a fan of fish for dinner no matter HOW good it is for you. But as I've aged and started learning about the benefits of Omega 3s, I've been trying to cook more fish. Especially salmon, since that's the most satisfying to me and loaded with Omega 3s.

BUT, if I don't buy the tiny amount fresh at the farmer's market (expensive for such a small amount), I buy the packaged wild caught Alaska salmon at Trader Joe's which is two HUGE fillets. Even though I would be MORE than happy to eat a whole gigantic fillet without a problem, I'm trying to watch portions, so end up with leftovers. Especially if my equally non-fish-loving husband decides to make a frozen pizza instead. Unless I put it in a salad for lunch the next day, it's not very appealing to eat leftover salmon, so remembering the old days at my ex mother-in-law's and I looked up a salmon cake recipe. I'm HOOKED!

Even if your family LOVES broiled/grilled salmon for dinner, consider cooking extra to make these either the next day or freeze the cooked salmon and make the cakes another time. I've made the recipe a little more paleo-friendly (paleo mayo and gluten free panko). It's not 100%, but it's pretty close for those of you who are not 100% paleo like me. These are really tasty when you're hankering for something lightly fried and salty for dinner and really great heated up with salad and 1/2 sweet potato the next day for lunch.

Yumskells!!!! Enjoy!