Romanticizing the Rooster

He is a symbol.  The voice is symbolic to me. He is the ambassador to the farm.

Growing  up in the city, as children our own only knowledge of him was in pre-school songs and storybooks. In movies set on a farm.  In fine art depicting rural and culinary arts.  He is inextricably linked to farm life.

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Bad boys come with an image, even if they aren’t all bad.

Doug told me in no uncertain terms early on in this journey, “No roosters, they will wake me up!”  You can have hens in many cities, but no roosters.  Rumor #1 They are too loud. (And Chihuahuas aren’t?)  His voice sooths me.  I hear him in the morning from the chicken coop singing to the ladies.  More of a wah-wah-wah-wa-waaaahhhh.  Doo wop style.  His song becomes part of the back ground.  The neighbors from inside their houses can barely hear him.  He is greeting the day.  A prayer of sorts.

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Rumor #2 They are aggressive and will attack you, talons flying, Bruce Lee style.  Roosters are the protector of the flock.  The bodyguard.  Sometimes they get mixed up and think you want to eat Henrietta.  My rooster is quite docile.  I can’t go up to him and snuggle him but he has not turned on us at all.  He knows we are giving him food.  If a rooster does becomes vicious, then he becomes sustenance.  But, should he behave himself (which is often the case) he will warn the flock about predators, shoo the girls under bushes to protect them from hawks.  He will throw himself in the way of a coyote so that the girls have time to escape.  This is a chivalrous dude and a there is a real place for him in a back yard flock.  SAM_0807

Rumor #3 (Okay, not rumor) Roosters are a tad frisky, but as long as you keep an eye on the ladies for cuts or anything, you might just end up with baby chicks come spring.  Teenaged boys are a bit frisky too, but we don’t ban them!

There are more pros to having roosters than cons in my humble opinion.  He is symbolism to me.  He is the ambassador to the farm, the beautiful early morning operatic voice welcoming the day, the dawn, reminding me where I am.  On a farm.  I have arrived.  Rooster in tow.

Homesteading Lessons (a museum field trip)

IMG_1562We took a drive down to Colorado Springs with Rodney and Pat to see a museum that before now had escaped our attention.  The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum.  It is housed in an old courthouse (the building itself a beauty) and held rooms of homesteading lessons.

IMG_1560First, it is always good to have friends with you on your homesteading journey.

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Pat and I took these still life, serious photographs after dressing up in Pioneer clothing.  I hate to admit that I have these outfits…and wear them.  They are quite practical!  You have a pocket in your apron to put things as you are cleaning the house, hanging the laundry, or if you are a modern gal, you can put your cell phone in there.  The bonnets keep the sun from blaring in your face.  The long skirts keep the weeds from hitting your legs, chickens from pecking, and keep you warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.  Very practical.

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Make sure you can protect your family.  There are a lot of screwy folks out there.  I used to view myself as the ultimate peace keeper, the one that would not fight.  If someone should break in I would hope a cast iron pan would do.  I could never harm someone so I would just hope for protection.  Now, I look at Maryjane, my children, even my animals, and I would fight pretty hard now.

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I cannot tell you how nice this vehicle looks to me.  One or two lovely horses leading it.  A chance to feel the wind in one’s hair and see the surrounding country side.  The vehicle also looks a lot easier to maintain than our old cars!

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Make sure that you can fit everything you own in a trunk (or 82 in my case) so that you can move easily if necessary and so that you don’t get too caught up in material things.  Just the necessities folks.

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When you make something, take pride in your work.  No ho hum work.  Make it last, make it beautiful.

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Children do not need every toy that is shown on commercials.  They will grow bored, the toys will end up in a landfill, and you will be broke.  A nice simple doll is a little girl’s favorite toy.  I made one of these for Maryjane for Christmas.

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Find tools for the job.  Where can I purchase (or how do I make) these implements?  The corn husker thing would save me some time getting the corn off the cobs.  This fabulous shovel is specifically for digging up potatoes without nicking them.

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Keep your spinning wheel near your writing desk so that you can get a lot done during the day.

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Welcome everyone into your home.  Colorado Springs was home to the Cotton Club.  It was the first night club in the country that allowed any race to enter and was owned by a black woman.  She had a big sign in the window that said “Everyone Welcome” much like our sign that says Welcome to Grammie and Papa’s.  Ours promises cookies and unlimited hugs.

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This is how you avoid the gym.  Work in the fields, work hard, ride your bicycle.

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Keep yourself healthy with herbal medicines.  This apothecary replica looks a lot like mine!  I was mesmerized.

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Be inspired.  I love how the length of lace looks at the borders of this hand made quilt.  I will have to try that when I make my next quilt.

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Play music and love life.  Relax in the evenings and get your fiddle out.

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I don’t know if it’s because I have had so many homesteaders in my family history (nearly all my family dates back to at least the 1700’s) that I am so fascinated by all these things.  Could it pass down in one’s DNA?  Or is it the simple fact that I love homesteading itself.  I love simplicity, quiet, hard work, and relaxing in the evenings.  I love being a housewife, a preserver, a farmer.  I love this life of animals, and the mixture of grief and profound happiness.  The sense of accomplishment and helping the earth.

I need to be playing my fiddle more!

Farmacy-St. John’s Wort

Feeling depressed?  Anxious?  Worrisome?  Sad?  I, myself, have been a bit of a bitc…ahem…not as nice as I can be lately.  My husband would agree, but probably wouldn’t dare.  This is the all consuming time called Seasonal Affective Disorder that saddens the likes of thousands of people due to the lack of daylight.  Gardeners are particularly affected, I’d guess.  There is a simple remedy for this though.  St. John’s Wort.  Named for St. John the Baptist.

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St. John’s Wort is mild enough to give to a small child before school each day and strong enough to replace anti-anxieties and anti-depressants if desired.  Most pharmaceutical anti-depressants, anti-anxieties, and chronic pain medicines are made from a lab created derivative of St. John’s Wort.  Why don’t they just use the actual plant?

Because, you can’t patent a plant.  “I remember when I made up peppermint way back.”  Nope, You Know Who upstairs is the one who created our perfect medicines to match our bodies.  You can’t patent a plant, therefore you can’t make very much money off of it.  Now, we’re back to it.  Greed.  Your welfare is not the primary drive for the pharmaceutical companies.  For if you knew that you could drink a simple tea, from a flower you might have grown, and were completely well, folks would lose a lot of money out there.  Time to take back our own health and medicine.

There is a lot of false information out there as well (generally warned on pharmaceutical sites) about St. John’s Wort.  They say not to take it if you are pregnant, if you are nursing, if you are on birth control, if you will be in the sun, and a myriad of other ridiculous warnings all to keep us away from one of the strongest and best medicines God gave us.  St. John’s Wort is very safe.

Not only does St. John’s Wort help you feel like yourself in three minutes flat, it helps you cope with things like loss, bullying in school, death, or general distress.  It also is an amazing nervine, which means that it can help heal nerve pain and nerve damage.  I have had a lot of success helping folks with Neuropathy and severe pain from cancer and post-car accidents with St. John’s Wort.  It is also great for sleeping when combined with other sleepy herbs.

Besides its nerve and stress relieving properties, it also suppresses auto-immune diseases like Lupus, Arthritis, Herpes, and HIV.  It is a great cold and flu remedy and preventative.  Because of its blood cleansing and immunity properties, it holds a place in fighting cancer.

Here’s the kicker, if you are taking any anti-depressants or chronic pain medicines you can’t take St. John’s Wort at the same time because they negate each others effects since they are virtually the same thing.  One a robot, one a plant.  Folks, the plant is better.  If you don’t take the lab created stuff, you don’t have any side effects.  Period.  Except for healing; I guess that is the side effect we were all going for in the first place!  (There is a simple solution to getting off the drugs and quickly on the herbs with no side effects though. You can contact me directly for information.)

I am not a doctor, nor do I want to be.  I don’t even trust doctors (not even my friends who are doctors).  I am a Master Clinical Herbalist which means I know my stuff about how herbal medicines work and how to make them.  I have seen some amazing things with this herb, no more amazing then on myself.  Three minutes after taking my St. John’s extract, I will feel better.

St. John’s Wort is a powerful herb, so I like to combine it with herbs of similar properties to make it more well rounded.  You can grow these herbs, or order from a place like Mountain Rose Herbs.  You can make these into a honey like in my Elderberry Honey post, or into an extract like my Cold Medicine post.  A simple tea is lovely too.

For Pain- 2 parts St. John’s Wort, 1 part Willow Bark, 1/2 part Chamomile, and 1/2 part Lemon Balm

For Sadness- 3 parts St. John’s Wort, 1/2 part of one or more of the following; rose petals, lavender, lemon balm, borage, peppermint, chamomile

For Sleep- 1 part St. John’s Wort, 1 part Catnip, 1 part, Chamomile, 1 part Skullcap

For Cold and Flu- 1 part St. John’s Wort, 2 parts Elderberries, 1 part Echinacea, 1/2 part Peppermint

I do have a Stress and Blues and a Pain Reliever already brewed up nice and strong if you should like to just purchase it.  http://gardenfairyapothecary.com

Wishing you all great happiness and less stress!  Is it time to plant yet?

Year Round Greens

You know you are a homesteader when things like poop that doesn’t have to be composted excites you.  Alpaca poo isn’t “hot” like other types of manure so it doesn’t have to be composted for six months.  We filled a wheel barrel full of alpaca droppings and took it over to one of the raised beds to spread.

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Now in November I had every intention of getting every bed cleaned out properly, covering them with compost then mulch for their long winter’s nap.  A good kink in my shoulder decided otherwise.  It would have been nice to have it all done, but it will surely wait for me, I decided.  So, on the bed that we started putting manure on, I noted emerald green from the patch of otherwise browned kale, chard, and collards.  Tiny Swiss chard leaves, two inches high were trying with all their might to grow.  It certainly was an epiphany for me.  If I cover the greens well with loose straw next year, I could be harvesting well into January!  That is without the help of a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame.  An easy way to extend the season.

Since I did not expect any more greens after November, I had been diligently snipping greens and freezing them.  No blanching necessary.  I have no desire to eat slimy food…ever.  All you do is pack sandwich bags with greens, release the air, and zip closed.  Put in freezer.  Now, the next day it will be frozen solid.  Don’t let it thaw!  Just crush it between your fingers so that the greens are crumbles.  When you need greens, crush the ones on top more and sprinkle handfuls into whatever you are cooking.  Replace the rest in freezer immediately.

I have been putting greens in all kinds of soups, in omelets, scrambled eggs, on potatoes to be roasted, and in sautés.  There are innumerable ways to use greens and the nutrients are especially desired this time of year.  The perfect blend of calcium and magnesium to make it bio-available, iron, A, C, E, and K, full of anti-oxidants and cancer killing properties.

Greens are one of the foods that I would have with me if I were trapped on an island…along with margaritas.  Is that a food?

How to Keep Poinsettias Thriving all Year

We always thought they were plants reserved for December.  The Christmas ornament that decorated our tables.  We started with a fake one from the dollar store.  It was pretty shabby but it didn’t die.  Once we started getting a real one every year, a gorgeous free one from the large nursery that we had dance performances at during the holidays, we threw the dollar store one out.  There were just whispers of glitter on the live poinsettias and their tropical leaves stretched out as if they were on vacation in the gentle heat of our house in winter.

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Their only enemy was Ichabod.  Ichabod is a quiet, incredibly lovable black and white cat who would be the stoner friend you know should he have been made human.  He is easy going and always has the munchies.  One of his favorite delicacies is Poinsettia leaves.  Delicious.  Nearly gave me and Doug a heart attack when he was a kitten.  For animals, the better safe than sorry method of educating people goes way overboard.  Look at a list of things that kill animals during the holidays and realize your pets should probably be dead by now.  Well, turns out poinsettias aren’t that poisonous after all.  Their poor frayed edges proof.

But how do you keep them alive?  Every year after a month or so they become tired of the winter dry heat and lose their leaves.  A mini tree of the dead on the dining room table resembling the grey skies of February.  I would throw it out.

One year I decided to lop the top off and see if the stem would produce a new flower.  Nope.

Last year Bret’s parents gave us a small poinsettia for Christmas.  It was red and fit perfectly on the kitchen window sill.  It never did begin to die.  It lost leaves and grew new ones continuously.  I would clean it up, water it with all the other plants, and its leaves never died.  They turned all green and stayed that way for the entire year until, like magic, they began to turn red just in time to put up the Christmas tree once again.  It was a Christmas miracle indeed.

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This year I ordered three small ones from a fund raiser from an adorable child that I could not tell no to.  I figured I could find room for three small ones in the windows somewhere.  They turned out to be gigantic!  They adorned our living space with fresh beauty.

There is no room in the window.  They stayed on the piano.  They began to wilt and they began to die.  I had a choice, shove them in the space in the living room window where they will receive ample light that they so desire and hope they can make it until the other pots go outside to sunbathe in May.  Because in that spot in the window they will be an Ichabod buffet.  Leaving them on the piano wasn’t doing them any favors.  In the window they went and they are happy as can be.

Simply water your poinsettia every five days or so, clean up the debris on the surface of the soil from time to time, and give it a cat-free south facing window and you won’t have to buy any more poinsettias.

For the Love of Ducks!

Wouldn’t that be a fabulous exclamatory sentence?  “For the love of ducks, get in here!!”  I might start using that.

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I have been talking about getting ducks for years.  I have researched them and coveted them.  Nancy had some ducks this year that she inherited.  They were called Chocolate Runners.  They looked like Walt Disney himself designed them.  They looked like bowling pins, slightly slanted, running about in a pack.  They were so comical and so mesmerizing, Doug and I could not keep from giggling as we watched them.

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The things that have kept us from getting ducks are as follows:

1. They are supposedly noisy.  I have tested out my neighbors though and they seem to be immune to a barking dog, bleating goats, humming alpacas, clucking chickens, and an uproariously loud opera singer named Henry the Rooster.  I think they can take a few quacking ducks.

2. Do they need their own coop?  I only have one.  They get into water and may make a mess of the water bowl.  However, the chicken water bowl is my mixing bowl stolen from the kitchen.  (The dog has one, the cats have one, I really do need new mixing bowls!)  So, they can’t make that much of a mess!  I was told today at the feed store that they do eat pine shavings which is less than good for them and that I will need to use straw, which is more odorous, but I suppose I can change it more.

3. Where am I going to get a pond?  I live in town for duck’s sake.  We talked about getting the water feature in the yard fixed that has long been out of use.  It was rotted, holy, and non-working when we moved in.  A child’s swimming pool in that area though could work.  The gal at the feed store said my chickens will drown.  She underestimates the intelligence of my chickens.

4. What the heck do they eat?  I thought maybe layer feed was layer feed but water fowl have their own feed.  Keeping that separate could be an issue.

5. Are they going to catch sight of the fairgrounds and fly south?  Apparently Runner ducks like Nancy’s can only fly three feet up so they aren’t going very far.  Other breeds can have a few feathers clipped with sharp scissors on one side and that takes care of that.

6. How many eggs do they lay?  Cause I have enough free loaders around here.  Duck eggs fetch $8 a dozen at the nearby farmers markets.  Depending on the duck breed, they can lay anywhere from 50-330 eggs per year.  The meat breeds don’t lay as many.  Runner ducks range between 150-300 eggs per year.  More than some of the chickens I have.

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Feeling confident, I went to the feed store and pre-ordered my ducks.  Two blue Runners and two chocolate Runners.  Straight run.  Eek.  I asked what if they are all boys?  I can bring them to the animal swap if I don’t want to kill them myself, the clerk says.

Folks, I cannot even put my old, decrepit, eighteen year old dog to sleep for crying out ducks.  How am I going to butcher my ducks?  I will pray for all girls.

I have two choices now to think about.  I can leave them in the same coop as the chickens, keep both their bowls of food there and hope they opt for the correct one for their species.  I can put the swimming pool out by the old water feature and hope the chickens don’t drown.

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Or, I can put them in the goat yard with their own coop.  Maybe there is one on Craig’s List.  They can run around with the goats, have their swimming pool, and I can hope the goats don’t break into their food.  I can totally see Loretta chowing down on duck feed.

I have until April 11th to figure it out.  The ducks arrive then.  This is becoming more of a farm every year!

Vintage Handkerchiefs (a crochet project)

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I love many things from bygone eras, especially vintage wear.  I particularly like the look of handkerchiefs worn about the hair.  I do not wear common head bands as they give me a headache.  I do like my hair out of my face though when I am working around my farm.

I used to make the girls dresses and would sew a matching triangular handkerchief to wear on their heads.  They were adorable.

I also used to collect vintage handkerchiefs and wear them around.  Gorgeous prints, lavender flowers, one that was orange trimmed.  One day when I met Doug’s grandma for lunch some very long time ago, she took one look at my hair covered with the lovely lavender handkerchief and asked horrified, “Why are you wearing that schmatte?’

I was a little taken aback, a lot younger, and truly cared what people thought.  To her, it signified peasant wear, a poor woman, and after World War II and growing up poorer than some, she wanted nothing to do with anything that didn’t hint at affluence.  She was a sweet woman, God rest her soul, but she didn’t have a filter.  I took the handkerchief off and for years did not wear one.

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After seeing Sound of Music once again, I dug through my drawers to find the missing handkerchiefs.  I only found one and it is a bit tattered.  We go to a knitting club at the coffee shop every Monday and I had an idea.  How cute would it be to crochet one?  Not an original idea, I am sure, but original to me!

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First I bought the ribbon yarn that is used in so many scarf patterns.  I carefully crocheted the tops and then the bottoms of the ribbon creating almost a hat, a gorgeous lavender hat, that is actually a handkerchief.  Then I made one with regular yarn.  It, too, turned out cute and will look quite nice holding my hair out of my face during farmer’s markets this year.

Here’s the rough pattern for the regular yarn: (You can use the same pattern for the ribbon yarn just don’t pull all the way through.  One row is crochet the top of the ribbon, second row is the bottom of the ribbon, etc.)

Chain as many as you need for the string to go from ear to ear.  28 is a good place to start.

Then turn it, slip stitch into the first hole then chain three in the second hole.

Triple stitch into each hole up to the second to last hole and turn.

Repeat, gradually decreasing stitches until the end is a peak.

You can be as creative as you wish with this project.

Use a piece of yarn or ribbon and weave through the top.  This ties under your hair.

This came together in about 30 minutes!  Enough time to catch up with the girls, have a cup of coffee, and still get home to make supper.

I’d love to see pictures of your creations.  Katie@Gardenfairyherbal.com

Let’s bring vintage back….I actually don’t mind looking like a peasant!

Barnyard Snapshot (and goat mid-wives)

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If you were driving down the Kiowa-Bennett Road you might be distracted by the thoroughfare as it zips across the country, the rising speed limit sign ahead.  But, if you were to look quickly to your left before leaving the town you might startle yourself wondering if you just saw what you think you saw.  A puppet?  A marionette?  A Jim Henson creation?

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I, myself, walk past the back door, catch a glimpse of them in the back yard in my peripheral and have to look again.  “Dad,” I announce, “We have alpacas in the back yard!”

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They love Doug.  He is the keeper of the hay.  The keeper of the morning grain.

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They also love my friend, Kat.  When she comes over she is rewarded with kisses from Natale (the brown one).

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“Which one is pregnant?” Kat asks.

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“The white one, Katrina.”

“Then the black one is way too fat!”

Do you have anything to eat?

Do you have anything to eat?

Indeed, Loretta is a little short and chunky.  Maybe she is a stress eater, I do not know, but we are working on trimming her waistline.

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Katrina is going to kid next month or early March!  Even though I know she will likely do quite well on her own giving birth, we have to be ready as goat mid-wives, an occupation that may not be recognized on our tax return, but a job description of a farmer nonetheless.

  • Paper towels
  • Iodine or betadine (very important to dip the umbilical cord in)
  • Snot sucker to suck out their airway
  • Ob gloves just in case

This is the list Jill gave me.  I am as nervous as a first time mother!  Last year we waited impatiently and excitedly for Maryjane to be born, this year we wait on goats.  Twins perhaps?  There will be a tremendous amount of cuteness over here, folks.

A Visit To An Amish Home

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I have read a fair amount of Amish books, fiction and non-fiction, and have my own romanticized version of Amish life.  A life I think would be wonderful.  Off-grid, simple, community orientated, living for what matters, God and family.  I had never met anyone that was Amish though.  I had only actually seen an Amish woman twice in my life, once at the mall when I worked there and once at our friend’s farm for a festival.  I was excited to finally go see the inside of an Amish home, visit with an Amish mother, and see the work of an Amish father.  To live inside that world just for a moment.

My friend, Elizabeth, works at the library and requests books for me that she thinks I will like.  Over the past four years we have talked, dreamed, went hiking for herbs once, and chatted on the phone.  She is very similar to me in desires and dreams.  She kept referring to her “Amish Friends” in Westcliff, and I was anxious to tag along with her the next time she ventured down that way.

Yesterday morning I donned my homemade skirt and slip, dressed modestly, and put my hair back in a bun.  We began the arduous three hours to get there through canyons, and cities, and mountains, and just when I became quite weary of driving, we edged over a mountain top and saw in the valley a glittering expanse of land so majestic my breath caught.

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We drove into the little town and visited the Yoder Furniture Shop where the pieces of furniture make Walmart and Oak Express’s furniture areas look like a landfill.  Each piece is eloquently made, made to last, the craftsmanship is high and they take pride in their work.  As I drooled over a rolling cart with the mirror, a place for a towel, and a vintage bowl and pitcher, Elizabeth spoke with Joel and Perry about a bed she would like to have.  Joel is mid-thirties, his strawberry blonde hair cut into a bowl shape and a small beard shaped his face that held the most joyous brown eyes.  Mischievous and fun emanated from him.  His friend sat near him, uttering a word when necessary, early twenties I’d bet, tall and lanky, with blue eyes beneath his brown hair.  His brown beard telling of an early marriage, no mustache.  He reminded me of my son.

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We headed eight more miles out of town to visit with Joel’s wife.  Elizabeth swears that she is in her thirties, but Ruth looks ageless, a perpetual twenty-four.  She had a fresh complexion, big brown eyes, and a curvy frame beneath her long blue dress.  Dark hair was pushed back into her black wool handkerchief to protect from the chilling wind.  We approached her as she took the laundry from the huge wringer washer in the barn.  We shook hands in greeting, her smile sweet and secure.  Heavy dark galoshes suitable for farm work and a long black wool coat covered her modest traditional dress.

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We walked with her through the mud up to the back porch where stood her precious fourteen month old, Heidi, patiently waiting for her mother to return.  She wore a long grey gabardine coat and matching bonnet over her ankle length beige dress, brightened with adorable purple galoshes.  Her big brown eyes looking out, a tiny smile revealed two small teeth.

We looked out from the covered porch facing west over the miles of frozen white tundra glistening in the sunlight.  The fields ran right up into the jagged mountains standing so boldly, so close.  Icy diamonds and cool air created a peaceful expanse of valley.

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The farmhouse was a small cabin, fresh with new wood.  It shone with an understated elegance and rusticity against the snow drifted backdrop. We helped her hang her laundry on the ropes held snugly across the porch ceiling.  I played with Heidi and their very excited Australian Shepherd pup as Ruth and Elizabeth caught up.  Her tired son, just this side of three years old, woke up from his nap.  After a few minutes, he joined us outside.  Ruth set both small children atop a plastic storage box and they took to kicking it with gleeful smiles until they were reprimanded in German. ‘Twas not long before they were running around the porch holding personal garments snagged from the basket attempting to help their mother.  Ruth looked exhausted as we picked up the two children and the two baskets.  We took the empty laundry receptacles to the tack room and went to let the chickens out.

As I handed Ruth the basket through the door I caught sight of her shelves of preserved food for the winter.  The jars of summer bounty in their jeweled colors were not the first thing I noticed. (I regarded later when Doug asked if that is what I noticed.  For her jars of food look just like mine!)  Nay, I noticed the hand hewn shelves of strong 2x4s.  Shelves that didn’t dip in the center as mine do being cheap plastic garage shelves; mine are warped and bent and look eerily as if they will topple at any time.  I complimented her on her shelves.

We walked back towards the house and as we approached the steps Ruth stopped to grab some apples and to show us her root cellar.  3×3 panels of wood were removed from the side of the house where beneath the house and porch lay bags of apples and potatoes.  The mice had helped themselves to a few of the apples, and the potatoes along the ridge of the “cellar” were mushy, but the unique places that we homesteaders come up with for root cellars made me laugh to myself.  If I ever found a farm for rent with a real live root cellar, I would probably do some sort of odd happy dance and lease the place right then and there.  She gave us a few red potatoes to take home to enjoy.  Elizabeth had brought her a few sweet potatoes.

We went up the stairs to the front door.  It faced east and as we entered the quaint living room, we could look directly out the back door to the porch and the west mountains.  The wood stove sat warm next to the front door and peeking around the wood stove would allow a glance into the small adjoined inlet kitchen.  It did not look much different than mine, I noted.  She uses propane to fuel her stove and refrigerator and the counters were devoid of a coffee pot (as mine is) and a dishwasher (we haven’t had one in years).

An oval table sat just outside the kitchen close to the woodstove where one could look out the large south window whilst sitting in the simple chairs around it to feed the children their peeled, crisp apples as we adults enjoyed homemade jelly rolls.

Opposite the kitchen, across the small living room was a sunny sewing room looking out at those glorious mountains.  I nearly tripped over an extension cord.  Her impressive sewing machine was hooked up to solar power.  I told her about my old Viking from the 70’s.  If I had to make all of our clothes though, I would probably want a slick model like hers, solar power and all.  She dislikes sewing and waits for hand me downs.  A girl after my own heart.

She removed her wool handkerchief and replaced her white, traditional bonnet over her secured hair.  She changed the baby’s cloth diaper and showed us how her own dress was outfitted to easily nurse with secret buttons beneath the flaps.  Elizabeth was certain she could see a bopoli bump.  More children running about soon?

Two bedrooms rested to the right of the front door down a small hallway.  Ruth hoped to have a larger house built directly south, still on her father-in-law’s thousand acres.

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We all chatted easily as we took turns reading to the infants and catching up.  Ruth offering advice to Elizabeth, I taking in the homesteading ideal.  We got up to leave since she would need to start supper soon to have ready for Joel after he made his eight mile trek home by bicycle.  We waved to the horses, the calf, the chickens, the donkey, the puppy, the barn cat, and the darling children and their beautiful mother, and began the drive home.

I realized that we homesteaders are the same no matter our background, religion, or choice of clothes.  We all long for that low bills, high sense of achievement, fresh air, sunlight, and do-it-yourself lifestyle.  We are creative with what we have been given to make our homesteading attainable.

I, like so many folks, am guilty of romanticizing the Amish but I realize I am not so far off.  I felt at home there reading to a small child, visiting a fellow mother, finding a new friend that lives on a self-made farm that will continue to grow and change and burst with life…just like mine.

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Arrived)

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First things first, chickens.  A few short weeks after moving in Andy came to spend the weekend.  He went with me to the feed store a few blocks away and helped me pick out the cutest, fluffiest egg layers we could find.  We chose ten one day old chicks.  We had never held chicks before.  They are absolutely precious.  Their small, soft bodies cradle perfectly in the palm.  Their innocent chirping and small frames bring out the mama in anyone.  We brought them to our new farmhouse and set them carefully in a large plastic box with a heat lamp in the crooked chicken coop.  We kissed their heads.  We cheered them on.

Each child and adult in the household went out to the crooked chicken coop several times a day to give kisses on the head, and to see what the chicks were up to.  We held them close, we named them.  These were not going to be eatin’ chickens.

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We were sad when two passed away.  We were told that was normal.  Laverne and Shirley were our Jersey Giants (at two inches tall, this was hard to believe), Lucy and Ethel were our California Whites, and Mahalia, Peep, Violet, and Daffodil were our Golden Buffs.  Their personalities began to emerge.  Peep would stop in front of you to get picked up and loved.  Lucy and Ethel were, as their monikers suggest, always into mischief.  But, they were lovable little white chickens.  Violet kept pecking at my toe nails which quickly became unnerving.  Her antics made her stand out as the constantly in detention chicken.  She was ever protective of the flock.  The Buff girls were all sweet.  Laverne and Shirley with their blue-black feathers and lovey personalities won us over.  We saved Shirley’s life by applying a cotton ball neck brace around her tiny neck and letting her watch television with us.  She survived her injury and won our hearts.

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We ignored the boards falling down around the raised beds (we are still overlooking them) and added in compost.  We planted all of the beds and waited patiently for fresh greens, tomatoes, and farm fresh eggs.  Homegrown food was becoming an obsession and we wanted to be able to provide as much of it for our family as we could.

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The store was still busy and we were doing farmer’s markets as well with our herbal medicines so the garden was somewhat neglected but we did get some produce out of it and the eggs we were getting were the best we had ever had.

One warm autumn evening, the Broncos were playing so the game was turned up high.  I heard Bumble barking hysterically from outdoors.  Bumble doesn’t really bark.  I went to the back door and looked outside and what I saw seemed unreal.  A horror movie of sorts.  A medium sized dog was running around playfully, slightly mad, with Violet in his jaws.  Feathers were everywhere.  A dead bird lay in the doorway of the coop.  A small child, not more than four, stood in the fenced in area for the chickens, a scratch across his face, a blank look in his eyes, kicking a white chicken viciously as she struggled to get away, convulsing to her death.  I began screaming.  I’m not sure who was the more crazy.  Me, the dog, or the child.

I swung over the fence with ease in my delirium and approached the young mother.  She could say nothing but sorry and blamed the dog.  I continued to scream and cry for another two hours in my yard.  Into the night we searched for missing chickens.

Lucy died, after struggling.  Violet was already stiff with rigor mortis.  And little Shirley, who had survived an injury and won our hearts, lay dead as well.

We found Ethel running around desperate to get into the coop early the next morning.  The other chickens avoided the horrid fate.  I wondered if I was cut out for this.  I have such an intense love for animals.  Perhaps farming and animals was not right for me.  We have had no other predators since then, thankfully.

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I still wonder at times if we are cut out for this.  If Katrina delivers a baby that dies, Doug and I would be heartbroken.  We do not want to lose any of our animals.  But, that is what makes us cut out for having farm animals.  These animals live very good lives.  Spoiled, and well loved.  Well fed, and even if we sell the babies or lose chickens, we will have given them a great life until then.

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The next spring we got more chickens and dug up the entire yard to make a quarter acre of growing space.  These events I have written about.  Our farmer’s market folks started to taper off at the store.  No one wanted to drive that far and if you aren’t directly in front of people, they forget you.  New folks that walked the street looking for antique stores literally looked at our sign and hastened their pace by us.  One woman walked in the store, looked around and slowly backed out of the store.  I told Doug I was going to set up a giant cauldron with dry ice just for laughs our last day open.

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Turns out it was the best thing to close the retail shop.  We are more available to folks when they need us when there aren’t set store hours.  I have many herbs on hand growing in the yard.  The farm is taking shape with its alpacas, goats, chickens, a rooster, and whimsical pumpkin patch out front.  This year we will add many more medicinal herbs, plant more intensely, and hit the farmer’s markets as farmers and herbalists.  Our lease is up next year and at that point we may search for a bigger farm.  Baby steps.  We have about mastered this practice farm.

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We are farmers.  When a passion is so strong that you cannot stop talking about it, can’t stop dreaming about it, it is your calling.  Doug’s passion is people, animals, farming.  Mine is educating, children, animals, farming.  We want to not only bring people fresh food but teach them how to do it.  Not just heal people, but teach them how to do it.  We want to leave a lighter footprint.  Lead a simpler life.  Lead a happy, peaceful, sometimes difficult and heartbreaking, but rewarding life.

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I know I could farm on my own.  I could fulfill all of these dreams alone.  But, I am so thankful to have found the love of my life to farm with.  To follow this journey with.  Each day we turn the pages of our joint chapters together, the next book to come.  Fourteen years ago this Valentine’s Day I met my future.  Together, we are making a difference and falling in love each day with each other and with this farming life.

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This is a love story.  Not just a romantic one, but a love story about the smell of fresh soil, the taste of cherry tomatoes straight off the vine, the warm sun on your face, the smell of roses in bloom, the sight of chickens running through the back yard, of fresh food, friends, family, community, and following your passions.  I’m in love.