A Simple Life Folk School

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a new project! I’ve been working with the fine folks at the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum for a couple of months now – dreaming and making plans for our First Annual Simple Life Folk School. It’s a wonderful partnership because my friends at the museum have the perfect venue for this event and have the knowledge and access to some of the best teachers we could ever hope to bring on board.

Where else can you go and learn how to drive oxen, keep bees, learn log cabin building techniques and shingle making, cook on the hearth and make bread in the bake oven, learn about natural dyeing for cloth and fiber, study medicinal herbs, hook an early rug, sew a woman’s pocket and decorate it, learn the value of canning, make fried pies and hoecakes, or learn the art of blacksmithing or woodcarving? Or make a split oak basket or chair bottom? And that is only a fraction of the endless options!

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The Folk School is an ALL INCLUSIVE weekend that includes your choice of up to four workshop classes, 3 nights lodging, 7 meals and lots of nightly entertainment!  Participants will get so much for one low price – classes taught by the area’s best experts in early crafts and old-timey ways, wonderful food, accommodations, and more fun than you can begin to imagine. Fellowship with other like-minded folks will be worth the price alone! Small class sizes ensure a quality, hands-on experience but also means you need to sign up early to get the classes you want! They will fill up fast!

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The Folk School is July 28th – July 31st in Ferrum, VA – approx. 35 minutes from Roanoke. It’s centrally located so you can get here easily by car or plane. I want to start at the beginning and tell you what you can expect from the Folk School from the minute you arrive. We will be waiting for your arrival on Thursday afternoon and depending on what time you come you can go over and tour the Blue Ridge Farm Museum and get a glimpse of the farm where most of our classes will be held. That evening we will all meet up for an ice cream social (homemade ice cream from a local dairy – YUM) so we can get to know each other and visit about all the fun we are going to have the next three days!

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Each morning we’ll all have breakfast in the cafeteria together and then head out to our first 3 hour class. We’ll all meet up again at noon for lunch and plenty of visiting about our morning experiences! Our afternoon round of workshops will begin after lunch, and each evening  we’ll have a big  dinner at the farm, among the log cabins and heritage breed  animals. There will be live old-time and bluegrass music. We’ll have flat footing dance lessons, Appalachian Storytelling and more.  A tin type photographer will be on hand each day so you can have your likeness made – a wonderful keepsake from the event. On Sunday morning we’ll gather in the old log barn for an old fashion singing, and afterwards have a group visit sharing with each other about our experience and making plans for the next one!

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After coming up with many, many class topics, we finally whittled down the list to twenty old-time subjects that make me want to take them all. You’ll have a hard time choosing just four!  We have:


Prillaman Barn at Ferrum College's Blue Ridge Institute & Museum
The three-crib Virginia-German bank barn at Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute & Museum. The barn was originally built by the Prillaman family, circa 1790, in Franklin County, Virginia.

So if I haven’t convinced you to join us – give me a call and I will certainly tell you why you can NOT miss this once in a lifetime opportunity! Where else can you come to a log cabin farm museum in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and learn old-timey craftsmanship and experience life in the 1800’s – all for one inclusive price among like-minded folks who share your love of early things and a more simple way of life, fellowshipping  and having fun while learning. I WILL SEE YOU THERE!

You can see all the details and even Register online at:







Who in the world would drive 800 miles round trip to watch an 80 minute film?

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ME !!! But only if it was the film, “JOSEPHINE” at the Nashville Film Festival.

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Filmed in Virginia, “Josephine” is about a woman who poses as a man and enlists in the Army near the end of the Civil War, in an attempt to find her missing husband, John Robison.  It stars Alice Coulthard and Boris McGiver and is based on actual events, taken from letters shared between Josephine and her husband during the war.  Directed, co-written and edited by Rory Feek and co-written and produced by Aaron Canahan, Rory’s cousin.

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Every single mile driving was worth it AND MORE to see the debut of “Josephine.” I had built up so much anticipation in my mind for this film and it far, far exceeded every possible hope I could have for it. It was AUTHENTIC (which is THE most important thing for me in a historical movie), it was moving, it was beautiful, it was exciting, it was tender and funny – and gut wrenching. The second test for me is, am I crying at the end? No, I was sobbing.

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And I was proud – so proud for Rory and Aaron and the entire cast and crew of this movie because the audience loved it every bit as much as I did. There were cheers and whistles and standing ovations. There was a Q&A after the film with Rory and all the people involved, along with Alice (Josehpine) and Boris (Tally) and several more of the actors from the film. Rory endearingly told how he is a, “story teller.” That is why he is a songwriter, a blog writer, soon to be a book author, and he wanted to be able to tell a story that was longer than the typical three minute song. “Josephine,”  was made on an insanely small budget (a million dollars when it should have cost fifty million) and he had never written a movie before, he had never directed a movie before, he had never even been on the set of movie being made before. He laughingly told how they literally “Googled” everything they needed to learn as they needed to learn it. Rory is the most humble man on the planet and is quick to give God all the glory. He had a dream and he took a step of faith and made it happen. He didn’t know how, he didn’t know when, but he just knew he was going to fulfill what was on the inside of him. He says, “Sometimes, not knowing what you don’t know is a blessing. We had an incredible cast of actors that I pray our little film is a blessing to, and that the world gets to see their talent the way that we have. And the crew we had worked tirelessly on this project… knowing like us, that we didn’t really have enough money, time or resources to pull it off. But together, we did. I always believe that, in the end… the ‘work’ should do the work. Magic doesn’t happen because you plan it. It happens because you believe in it. And I believe in the magic of telling a great story… like Josephine’s. One that’s hard at times, and rough and scary, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Just like this story… where some first-time filmmakers have a dream of making a movie and the road is tough and scary… and you don’t know what’s going to happen!”

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Will the movie make it the big screen? It’s hard to say but it’s nearly impossible for an independent film to do that. But as Rory says, “I’m a big dreamer, and Joey and I are living proof that amazing things can happen if you just believe and trust in His plan… things that you never dream of… that you never hoped for or ever even knew was possible.”


And I’m believing for it too – because the world needs to see this film for so many reasons. Not only to honor Rory and the people who made it, and not only because 625,000 men died in the Civil War, but also because 1000 women fought in the Civil War on both sides and this film was made in tribute to all of them.

See the trailer for the movie here:          http://www.josephinethefilm.com/trailer

I hope if there is a dream on the inside of you and you feel there is no way to make it happen, today you will step out in faith, and figure out how to make it happen. Even if you have to “Google” the answers as you go. Honestly, that is how I started making books and the magazine,  “A Simple Life.” They both started with a simple “Google”  search …



What Shapes Us

It seems so many of my posts these days start with the passing of an icon in our world – and here I go again. I was so very saddened by the passing of Merle Haggard yesterday.  I can think back on so much of my growing up years with Merle always in the background. My mom, as I’ve mentioned, loved country music and she had one of those huge consoles that housed a record player in the top, a television in the bottom and big speakers on the sides of the t.v. It was the biggest piece of furniture in our house. We’d have the great old country artists coming from the top and the Walton’s coming out the bottom. (A side note, that I just thought of when picturing this in my mind was that for a time, she also had one of those things next to it that you stood on, strapped  a wide band across your back and when you turned it on it it jiggled you to death to lose weight!  Do you remember those? ha!) My mom was always super petite and tiny and exercised a lot so I’m not sure why we had one!  OK, back to Merle – when I was in High School I was blessed with a pickup that my Uncle sold my dad. His name was Spanky (my truck, not my Uncle) and once I had wheels my life was never the same. I had a very independent will.  So those truck speakers were always playing something and usually it was Merle. “I turned 21 in prison doing life without parole,”  “Muskogee One, Two, Three!”  My favorite though, is “Diana.” If you really listen to the story, it’s so beautiful.

The memories of my life have always had a soundtrack.

When you think back over your life – your growing up years, your first independent years, college, careers, marriage, loves and deaths, you start to see how it all fits together in a progression, one thing built on another. You begin to see the Master’s hand at work and how each detail brings you to the next part or next phase of your life. And without each building block or stepping stone, the outcome would be completely different. I often ponder this – if my Grams hadn’t moved her three sons to New Mexico in 1956, I might have grown up in New York City. Or, I may never have been born at all (but my parents were High School sweethearts in Iowa before they moved to N.M. and were later married).  But not only do our choices shape our future and our whole lives, the choices of our ancestors did too. As we make what we think are little choices or decisions in our life each day, we don’t realize the impact each one might have on the big picture, on our future or the future of someone in our life.

Big thoughts to ponder … but it all started with a song and has become the soundtrack of my life.