Sarah Graham: The Five Question Interview

Sarah Graham is an educator, yoga teacher, herbalist, beekeeper, and gardening enthusiast. She owns SHAMBA Farm which is an acronym for Sustainable Homestead and Microclimate Based Agriculture. Her kitchen is the creative heart of her home. She sells her handmade herbal medicine, salves, eggs, honey, and fresh herbs at the Elgin Farmers’ Market, her website, and at various pop up markets in Elgin.

Sarah lives on her farm in a straw bale home (which she built herself) with her adorable daughters, some goats, chickens, and working dogs.

1. Why did you move to Elgin? 

I had been looking at houses in Austin, and realized that I wanted more space. On the drive out to Elgin, I thought “this is 10 minutes too far”. But the moment I set foot on my land, I knew I had found my place. I bought it a couple of months later, built a house, and moved out here in August of 2009. I moved here for the small town feel and beautiful views. Elgin’s history is rooted in agriculture, and I wanted to be a part of the sustainable agriculture movement blossoming here. I had a gut feeling that I would find a community, and the one that I’ve found is more beautiful and supportive than I could have ever imagined.

2. What compels you to spend time creating?

As a new mom, I was too exhausted to create, but as my daughter got older and she started coloring and painting, I realized how much fun it was to spend time making messes with her. I saw the value in creativity, and allowed myself to spend time creating and experimenting in the kitchen. During my divorce, I found that growing plants and using them in the kitchen for food and bath products gave me much needed creative expression. I’ve always dabbled in various crafts, such as sewing and beading, but the kitchen is my main creative space. It’s the heart of any home, and for me cooking and canning combine my background in science with a love of plants and fresh, flavorful food. Experimenting with new recipes for herbal concoctions keeps things exciting and my creativity fueled. I’m always growing new plants, so I get to try new ways of extracting their flavors and medicinal qualities. It helps me cultivate a deeper relationship with nature and an intimacy with my land, which is my ultimate goal. 

3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.

1. We are human beings, not human doings. In other words, do less, and be more. Cultivating quiet space helps ideas and inspiration to flow.

2. Mistakes are learning opportunities. How can we learn if we don’t fail? Failure is an essential part of growth.

3. I honor my boundaries by truly considering opportunities before I say “yes” or no”. This allows me to fully commit to my obligations and not overload myself. It helps me avoid over-commitment.

4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?

I’ve been experimenting with soy candles lately which has been great fun! I’m planning for the new things I will grow in the spring and for my 50 fruit trees arriving this winter. I’ve got a couple of fun ideas to change up my market stand using materials found on my land. I always have more ideas than time! I recently listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast and it was incredibly inspirational. She’s all about cultivating creativity. Also, I am re-watching Game of Thrones (thanks COVID!). I find the fantasy so compelling, as it’s the creation of an entire world and really whisks me away.

5. Cake or Pie?

BOTH! Cake for birthdays, pies for holidays.Pie, because pie is love. And it goes better with vintage country music.

SHAMBA website
Instagram @shambafarm

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Joy of Missing Out

If you know me at all, you know I am happiest at home. But even a self-proclaimed homebody can get a little squirrelly when home becomes both work place and sanctuary for an indefinite amount of time.

I have always been good at entertaining myself, and these days I’ve been happily starting new knitting projects, cooking, and hope to get my vegetable garden ready for transplants.

When this is all over and we all return to at least a bit of normalcy, I hope to report that my garden has been started, I’m halfway finished with the shawl I just started, and I’ve finally finished the plaid shawl that’s been on my loom for a year. Yes, a year. Maybe longer. Definitely longer.

It will come as no surprise that I’m spending a fair amount of time knitting. I’m knitting up all these sock yarn ends into a mash up of a Find Your Fade and the semi circle shawl recipe on this PDF.

I am loving the comforting garter stitch of this simple 4 row pattern. I love watching a project grow from 3-4 stitches and become massive wraps. It’s so satisfying.

Here are a couple ideas for keeping your hands busy and your spirit light these days.

Watch (or Rewatch) Lighthearted TV

Rewatching all three seasons of The Detectorists last week was just the sweet, slow moving non-action I needed at the end of each day while I knit.

Learn to Fold a Fitted Sheet

I’ve always just balled them up and stuffed them in the linen closet, and felt it must be some sort of witchery that gave people the power to fold these nicely. This video makes it seem so simple.

Learn to Knit

I seriously don’t know why everyone does not knit. Aside from all the lovely hats, shawls, sweaters, and blankets, it is meditative and calming. Even for those that are nearby.

I love having a project with me when waiting for an oil change, an appointment, or a flight, or just need a break from staring at my computer screen. Ask any knitter how much they love airport and in flight knitting. It’s the best.

Don’t wait, knit.

I taught myself to knit with the modern knitter’s bible Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook before there were thousands of YouTube how to videos. Search there for help or sign up for a free two week trial of Bluprint, and learn from one of their many classes.

Learn Anything

I’ve been a longtime fan of Skillshare. I’ve taken classes on everything from email marketing to hand lettering.

Fifteen Years & Counting

I cannot believe I started this blog 15 years ago today.

Bean & Noodle started as a Typepad blog in 2005 and is now a blog + online shop for my letterpress cards and silverware.

There are many reasons people blog. Some people blog in hopes of landing a fat book deal. Others blog about specific subjects and somehow become regarded as experts in the field. Some may actually have the expertise to back it, some just have experiences to share and a voice that makes people listen. Artists, designers and stylists blog because it’s a super user friendly way to show their work instead of a website.

Why did I start blogging? 

Mine is a more personal reason. I started blogging to share my life with the women in my family… most importantly, at that time, my mother who I met in 2004. My sister and I were reunited with our mother who had given us up for adoption in the 1970s. We had spent the three years prior to adoption with an amazing foster family, with whom we have always remained in contact. We had not seen my mother since I was almost 5, and my sister was almost 2. When my sister found her, we traveled to New Jersey to visit her for a week. We knew she’d been a musician and artist (my parents were folk musicians in the 1960s… I was born in ’65, my sister in ’67). We discovered that she had been a weaver.

This struck a chord with me as I had always been drawn to textiles and had no idea why. My sister shares our mother’s love and talent for photography. I taught myself to knit when I returned home and have been knitting almost daily since. I feel I am tapping into some genetic memory every time I pick up my needles and yarn to knit.

I won’t go into much more detail, because this story belongs to my sister as much as it belongs to me. I mention it only to shed a little light on why it was so important for me to embark on, what seemed to me the ultimate narcissistic endeavour. I mean who really gives a shit if I finally finished my alpaca shawl and that after a long, crappy day only the comfort of a simple roast chicken and mashed potatoes would feel like a hug?

I can count on one hand the number of people who do.

Facebook and Instagram lured me away from here for a while, but this past year I have found I like sharing here more than ever. I’m no writer, but I like to write and share things that I find funny, beautiful, or helpful. It’s also fun to look back at older posts. If you follow the link at the end of this post to my first ever blog posts…. you’ll find I still blog about knitting, cooking, and digging in the dirt.

Today I realize the real reason I started blogging was to show Toni that I have a good life. I am happy, have a wonderful husband, dogs and cats, that I am creating stuff all the time. That her decision did not destroy our lives.

And I pray every day that it did not destroy hers.

P.S. Check out my first ever post here