First and foremost, Johnna Holmgren is a mother to three girls named straight out of a fairytale—which is only fitting considering her family of five lives a life most dream of. She lives in an A-frame in the woods of Minnesota with her chalk-artist husband, two dogs, two cats, ducks and chickens. When not baking or gardening with her girls Luella, Minoux, and Juniper, Johnna can be found foraging the countryside for wild berries, mushrooms, and anything else mother nature produces.
Cabin Life: For starters, tell us a little about your whimsical life.
It’s pretty quiet out here: we tap the maple trees
in the Spring, forage through the summer, harvest pine through the winter, and the girls love running and exploring through the woods! We like to tell our girls, “We do not just ‘own’ these woods. We are here and they are ours to care for just as those who lived before us cared for them also.”
CL: As a mother, how do you hope your lifestyle influences your children?
JH: Wow, this is an important one for me. Everything we do stems from this. I think maybe all parents hope their lifestyle influences their children, yes? We decided to pursue entrepreneurship to be able to spend as much time with the girls as we can. Currently, they are homeschooled and I hope they feel a sense of peace and slow living woven into their childhood. We like to honor feelings and emotions, and my hope is that they feel our presence and love. That’s all I could ask for them.
CL: In a recent Instagram post, you wrote: "Imagine a world filled with grown-ups who never gave up their sense of curiosity and wonder and intrigue and discovery.” How has this mentality changed your perspective on the important things in life?
This is something I strive for every day. How can we maintain a curiosity and wonder amongst the world’s pulls to “do this”, “do that”, “BE this”, “BE that”. There is a constant struggle feeling the pressured question of: Am I doing enough? I hope to combat that every day with an essence of play, imagination, wonder, and childlike expression. Simmer into the goodness that this life offers [and] slow down to appreciate the beauty around us. Say no to more and let your time be replaced with presence for those around you. Keep asking questions even as an adult and never get stagnant.
We have so much to learn from children and these days it sometimes seems like as a culture we have it all backward: that we are there to raise them and they must listen to us. We sign them up for so many things to keep us all busy, but if we settle back a little and spend more time playing than cleaning, we might find a new beautiful corner of our own hearts that we haven’t visited since childhood. There can be such a peace when we realize we are enough, just to be alive and breathing. We are enough and we can show our children what it means to be truly thankful for this life we have been given. Each morning we get to wake up to a new set of possibilities, a new perspective, a fresh possibility to connect or love on another human, whether stranger or friend.
CL: Let’s talk about that A-frame. How do you see this cabin lifestyle changing the world your children grow up in? Yours? Those who follow you?
Well, for starters we haven’t had air conditioning
in two years and I think that kind of changes a person, you know? We’ve have a lot of days over 95 degrees and I absolutely need to teach my children about what it means to be thankful and grateful for what we have. That aspect of the cabin lifestyle has the ability to teach that. Each aspect of the home can be created as an environment for gratitude and connection. The space inside our home embody connective living. We took [the] doors off the first day we moved in to open up each space [and make] a welcoming world for our children. Their play spaces meet our eating spaces, their homeschooling room meets the office, butterfly wings hang in a permanent spot in the living room and I hope they feel fully welcomed and integrated into the space. Joining energies can be so powerful and can communicate such a thing to a child. Simply stating: you are welcome here.
CL: What exactly is this “foraging” lifestyle, and what are the things that embody it?
I wanted to introduce a new perspective on foraging. Yes, it is gathering edibles from the earth but it can be a perspective we carry with us wherever we go whether in the woods, small town, or city. To be a forager, you must be open-minded. By shifting our perspective toward foraging and being open-minded in the woods, we allow intrigue back into our lives.
In the woods, the elements can shift. I could hope for sun but instead encounter rain. I could prepare for wind and still be caught in a snowfall. I could plan for cool weather and end up stripping down layers to do the awakened heat of the sun. The same is with life—we get so caught up in the ever-shifting elements around us, that we forget to breathe in the incredible parts of this earth.
We forget to stop and remember those childhood memories that so many of us have had that included some form of life-changing nature experience. We need to bottle that up and carry it with us into adulthood. I hope we can reopen that sense of childlike wonder and discovery and open-mindedness for the new and the magical and bring that into our kitchens and into the lives of our children or others. It can be so simple to connect with others’ hearts and braid imagination and curiosity into our plates. We can engage in imaginative conversation with others and open up an entire world of goodness and life-giving ingredients. We can gather from this earth, give back to this earth, and open up our eyes to see the glory in this life that we have been given. There is good on this earth. There are earth-grown goods available to us that can inspire our minds and hearts but ultimately nourish our bodies and souls so we are able to nourish others.
CL: You post often about hosting friends and families for meals (in that gorgeous glass house!). How does eating together cultivate relationships?
When you’re preparing a meal for someone, you can’t not engage with an intentional energy or anticipation for that group of people. The preparation, no matter how simple, can be performed with gratitude and intention for the person receiving it. Connection can take place if we allow ourselves to be fully human and open-minded towards another’s journey in life.