Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 6)

I don’t know why I was annoyed that day, but I was.  I needed to go to the health food store in Parker.  Emily wanted to come along.  She wanted her boyfriend, Bret, to come along too.  However, he couldn’t get to our house.  He was seven miles east of our town at his friend’s  house.  It was out of my way and he needed to be picked up.

SAM_0639

Emily and Bret had been dating for months now.  He was a really nice kid and they seemed to bring out the best in each other.  They had a miscarriage and in that dreadful event, Emily seemed to snap back into my old Emily.  They had grown closer through it and were now practically inseparable.  I drove to Kiowa to pick him up.  Muttering to myself the whole way.  As we pulled out of the drive to the trailer park after picking him up, I saw it.  A derelict yellow house.  Empty.  For rent.  It sat on two lots.  One of which held a compilation of dilapidated raised beds.  I called the number and left a message.

IMG0129A

I went home and looked at Craig’s List, again, to see if anything new was available and there in front of me was the derelict yellow house in Kiowa!  I perused the pictures posted there, the claw foot bathtub, the nice open living room, the old bedrooms and fell in love.  I called again.  Turns out it was one of my customers, Mary,  that was the go between for the landlords living in Oklahoma and us.  She gave us a rave review and we were in.  We met Mary at the house to be shown around.  Doug had not yet seen it.  We drove into the driveway next to the raised beds.  Visions of fresh soil and multiple varieties of vegetables filled our heads.  A two car garage stood bravely ahead.  The doors didn’t open well and it was quite old.  Our cars wouldn’t actually fit in there, but it was a nice space for…whatever!  As we entered the fenced in area behind the house we caught sight of the very old chicken coop.  Slightly crooked, but begging to house feathered friends again.  The old well was covered.  The history of the house whispered to us as we walked gently through the yard.  The long clothes line had me smitten at first glance.  The wooden swing that sat under the giant elm hemmed in my lilac bushes set my imagination awhirl as I envisioned morning coffee and writing on the swing taking in the intoxication of the lilacs in spring.  The deck in the back was fine for entertaining.  We both loved it, and we hadn’t even seen the house yet.

My grandma and I when my grandparents came out to see the new place.

My grandma and I when my grandparents came out to see the new place.

Shyanne and her friend

Shyanne and her friend on the swing.

Back of the house.

Back of the house.

The two bedrooms and two baths would suit our purposes.  The girls had to fight over who got the basement.  Shyanne won.

Andrew was by then in an apartment in Denver going to college and pursuing his music career.  My old Andy again.  Shyanne had relaxed a bit too, becoming bored with being in trouble.  She quickly found a job nearby and was consumed with school, work, and friends.

IMG_1546

The old farmhouse kitchen was enchanting.  Larger than the one we had before.  I envisioned the farmgirls before me working swiftly around the kitchen in their aprons.

Doug and Emily setting the table.

Doug and Emily setting the table.

The house had been built in 1920 and was on highway 86 on the main drag before the devastating flood in the 1930’s where it presumably was moved or floated to its present location here.

Emily and Grandpa

Emily and Grandpa

It even had a front porch.  And a crooked pine tree out front.  My, we were in love.  We could have a huge garden, herbs, and chickens.  We backed to the fairgrounds so it seemed our property went on and on.  Our neighbors were all friendly and they didn’t know a thing about us.  Perfect.

our house

We painted and two weeks later we moved in.  Then the real journey began…

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 5)

Our landlord that owned the house was so sweet.  We were instantly drawn into long conversations every time we saw each other.  She wanted to come out and garden with me that first year.  She would come to the farmer’s market and visit with us that summer.  We loved so many of the same things.  Wine, food, farming, and she was interested in the herbal medicines.  I asked her jokingly one day when she was picking up some medicines if she needed a Love Potion Tincture.  She said matter-of-factly, “I am not sleeping with him, he’s an asshole.”  That was the first time we knew something might be amiss.  We had met her husband each time we met with her.  He was fairly quiet.  It had been his house until they got married and moved into hers in Parker.  When she announced that they were getting a divorce my first reaction was, “Uh oh.”  She got her house in Parker and he got to keep his house in Elizabeth.  The one we were living in.  He couldn’t afford the mortgage payments, so we were able to stay there.

baby deer

Meanwhile, Doug and I were busy patting ourselves on the back.  Congratulating ourselves on raising the most amazing children.  What was this teen thing everyone spoke of?  Geez, our kids were 17, 14, and 13.  Lovely children.  Polite, intelligent, gorgeous young people.  We were really something as parents.  We agreed we had such fantastic children because we homeschooled.  They had freedom.  We had interested them in the arts.  We filled the house with singing, musical instruments, and painting.  We drove them and all their neighborhood friends two to a seat to youth group every Wednesday in Parker.  We took them to church.  We raised them to be considerate and to be able to hold adult conversations and to be passionate and compassionate.  Pat. Pat.  Man, we were great.

Andy

So one day we found ourselves standing in front of the house, arms linked, jaws open, contemplating whether it was proper to move out until the kids became themselves again.  We were shell shocked.  Never had we heard of anything like this before.  When folks have teenagers, they joke when they are past the stage.  They never really tell you what it feels like to be a parent to a teenager who has come into their own.  Not only did the kids start to rebel, but they all became rebellious at the same time, fueling each other.  An inferno within the walls of our supposed sanctuary.  It was terrifying.

IMG0153A

And they tried and did everything.  They knew all the police officers by name and not in a good way.  The court house was becoming a regular date on my calendar.  While we were doing markets every day, our house had become the neighborhood hangout.  Pot smoking, drinking, cussing, drag racing.  Our neighbors glared at us in the grocery store.  My mother called to tell me to take charge.  Short of tying them all up and keeping them in a closet for two years, I was unsure as to what I could possibly do.  I had already attempted bribing, begging, crying, ignoring, and every other reaction I could possibly come up with.

Emily disappeared for three days.  We thought she had been kidnapped and feared the worst.  Shyanne began to sneak out at night and go who knows where.  Andrew’s temper made a fierce appearance and he eventually moved in with his girlfriend for awhile.  We did not recognize these children.  Emily was helping herself to our money, a lot of it.  The kids had no desire to listen or be around us any longer.

One night Emily had a lot of food in her room.  Doug told her to take it out as we were beginning to see a mouse problem.  She squinted her eyes, gave him a glare, and did not remove it.  He threw it all away.  The next day we went to the farmer’s market.  When we returned (that is when we contemplated moving out) we were shocked and crushed by the result of three children’s tempers.  Eggs were broken in my shoes.  Antiques had been thrown off the second story deck.  Things were broken, thrown away, and I think I have blocked out the rest.  But the three little (used to be) angels looked at us with insidious smiles and said, “We didn’t do it.”

Oh, that was a time.  Even though we are past it now, it feels like a wound that will never fully heal.  A rejection and a stab that no one tells you about.  Five years off my life easy.  Doug’s beard half grey.

The landlord without his wife was becoming a problem.  He hated gardens. (He even sued us when we left for $15,000.  The garden a part of the damages listed.)  Turns out he hated cats.  He hated life.  And he certainly would not let us have chickens.  He was losing a battle to Hepatitis C.  He lost his job.  He needed us to pay him the rent two weeks early every month.  We did so for over a year which is probably what gave him the idea that we had money.  (The case was dropped by the way.)  We expected a foreclosure notice on the door any day.  We could not fathom how he could be paying his bills.

The house had bad vibes.  Haunted.  Whatever you want to call it.  We don’t usually mind the here and there spirit.  We live in exceptionally old towns.  It kind of comes with the territory.  But, this was evil.  I hated getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom.  I flew there with my eyes closed.  I was terrified.

The house was quickly losing its charming and promise.  Bad memories, bad mojo, and a real possibility of being out on the street was staring us in the face.  The shop was doing great but at home, hell had broken loose.

Two years after we moved to the house, we needed to get out.  I could not find anywhere to rent though.  I was getting scared…but as fate would have it…

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 4)

IMG0534A

It was a lovely spot.  It was built in the late 1800’s in the parking lot at the end of the block but in the 1970’s was taken down and rebuilt at the end of four circa 1800’s store fronts.  Large windows with the cross window panes and old wooden floors, cracked and creaking, bead board on the bottom half of the walls, and high ceilings.  It was spectacular.

IMG_1542

We bartered medicine and a hundred bucks for the jeweler’s cases and instantly had a shop.  I had bought a large (now my pantry cubbies) piece of furniture that held all the tincture bottles perfectly.  We bought a hutch to put the beauty products in.  Two rocking chairs for setting in and visiting rounded out the charming shop.

I stood on a wobbly ten foot ladder and hand painted our sign above the front door.  We placed large pots of mums outside.  We added rugs and classical music and opened.

newspaper photo

Our farmer’s markets clients from all over came to see us.  Our opening was a huge success.  We almost instantly were in the press.  The local papers did write ups on us as did the Denver Post.  That was a huge boost for us.  We stayed very busy in our little shop on Main street.

IMG_1541

IMG_1539

The yard behind the shop was a huge empty space.  I envisioned an amazing Apothecary garden.  Spirals and walkways of lovely plants.  Bees dancing to and fro from medicinal flowers and educational walks through the garden.  The owner of the entire building set had died rather suddenly.  She had owned the toy store and antique store there for decades and her loss was felt throughout the community.  When we moved into the shop it was shortly after her death and her husband was beside himself with grief.  He did not venture to the shop.  In fact, I did not meet him for another two years.  The shops were his wife’s and they were a part of her memory.  I was not able to change anything.  No garden.  Just leave it be.

Katie store

It was like we had never done anything except for herbalism.  We were naturals.  I had been taught by a few medicine people very briefly that I had met here and there and all of them spoke of a grandmother of mine.  Native American, Cherokee or Creek, their descriptions of her the same (even though none of them knew each other).  She wore long skirts (like me) and was an herbalist in secret.  Our family was given a gift of plant medicine knowledge.  But when the Indian religions were outlawed, they had to practice healing in secret.

I was also told about my Celtic ancestry where the herbalists in my family were charged as witches.  A trip down genealogy lane confirmed the places and names that I had been given.  Multiple Native American grandmothers appeared in the documents.  Fascinating.  Herbalism is quite literally in my DNA.  I know it so well.  I used to plant dandelion seeds around the neighborhood as a small child and was always fascinated by flowers and plants.  Once I started studying them, it came so quickly and so naturally that I just instinctually knew what to do.  Show me an algebra problem, I have issues.  Show me a broken wrist and I got this.

Doug is so empathetic that he cries at Folgers commercials (oh, I do hope he doesn’t get mad for me saying that) but he is very sensitive to folks’ suffering.  He understands the science of the herbs.  He enjoys harvesting side by side with me and watching people be well again.  He is the business mind that can help me retrieve my email.  He creates labels and logos, email lists, and keeps our books straight.  I would be flitting around smelling roses all day.  We are perfectly fit together for this job.  A job that is much more than that.  It is a lifestyle.

IMG_0662

Wanting to be self sufficient encompasses so many aspects.  Food, heat, water, shelter, and being able to take care of oneself.  Plant medicine is essential wisdom for homesteaders.  It goes hand in hand with everything we strive for and do.

But, I needed an apothecary garden.  And, a real garden.  Not a deer buffet!  We were in need.  Homesteaders pressing on the door for the next area to open.  We needed a farm to grow our medicine and grow our food.

Meanwhile, money was missing from my purse, eggs were broken in my boots, and the landlord got a divorce….

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 3)

It was not worth it for him to keep working in the field he was in.  Our lives were short, we realized.  There was no time to waste.  Even though we battled morally within ourselves about it, we gave our house back to the bank with our condolences and good ridances.  We gave the mini-van back to its bank.  We moved to a place where our bills were nearly half.

IMG00122

It was a charming, little house built in 1950 and moved from Denver at some point.  A rescued brick house set on a walkout basement on a quarter acre in Elizabeth.  We needed rescuing too, and the house was a welcoming beacon.  Doug put his two weeks notice in and at the beginning of January we were free.

IMG0016A

The view looked out across fields and woods.  Cows roamed peacefully across the street and deer rested easy in our open yard.  It was not fenced in so a makeshift dog run was put in for Bumble.

Those were sweet days.  I kept one of my dance locations open for another five months to help us get through the winter before farmer’s markets began.  I only taught one day a week.  Doug spent much of the first few months in a chair in a corner in our room with books.  Decompressing from years of stress and enslavement, he sat and did nothing.

DSCF3096

As he relaxed, and we found ourselves with so much time, we walked hand in hand exploring the town.  We visited the library and met new people.  We enjoyed the little shops that lined the quaint main street.  The antique stores, and the toy store.  The clothing store and the empty buildings.  We walked to the grocery store, and the hiking path.  We talked and got to know each other again.  We laughed and hoped.

Our homeschooled children enjoyed the new adventure and spent their days discovering the graveyard, ponds, forests, and fields.  They reveled in each other’s friendship while meeting other kids.

DSCF3021

We sat on the deck overlooking the cows and the line of pine trees and took in the mornings.  Cups of steaming coffee and birdsong.  Writing, poetry, and breathing filled my days.  We talked about simplicity and our desire to make it a part of our life permanently.

We read homesteading books and planned what we could do.  I learned to successfully bake bread.  I water boil canned almost a hundred items that summer and lined the basement walls with bounty.  We created a ten by ten foot garden in the front yard and bought tons of seeds.  The garden wasn’t a huge success because of time and lack of water.  What did grow (sunflowers, pumpkins, corn) became a marvelous buffet for the deer.  They were fun to watch.  The infant spotted babies.  The enormous antlered bucks.  The families of deer were part of our afternoon entertainment.  We didn’t mind losing the garden to them.

Instead we bought a CSA (community supported agriculture) from our friends at Miller Farms and took home a bushel of produce each week to eat and can.  We bought a freezer and started to freeze vegetables.  We dehydrated more vegetables and fruits.  We went vegan and Doug lost forty pounds.

There was no reason to shave, we didn’t go anywhere fancy so slowly his beard started to grow in.  A look most people in town do not remember him not having.  I love it.  He looks comfortable and sexy.

We went to the library instead of buying endless books at the book store.  We bought from the thrift shops and bought only what we needed.  We were on our way to self sufficiency.  A life we so craved.  We dreamed of making the plot a farm.  Oh, the food we could grow in the large plot.  Fruit trees and plants danced in our heads as we planned how to afford putting up a six foot fence.

We wanted chickens.  Our neighbor had chickens and we loved their “laughing” in the mornings.  The little girls next door played with their chickens all day.  They delighted in swinging them on the swings and sliding them down the slide.  The chickens were so calm and our neighbor was so enjoying her fresh eggs, I became instantly smitten with the idea of having chickens.

We put in a lot of hard work that summer.  Six to eight farmer’s markets filled our week.  Week after week.  Our clientele grew exponentially.  We were tired, our children were running amok while we worked markets, but we were succeeding at being full time herbalists.  Winter was coming though.  What would we do this winter once farmer’s markets ceased for the season?

As we were walking close together, speaking of this and that, entranced down Main street, we noticed that the jeweler across the street from the library was moving out of his store.  We found the number of the owner of the building.

Doug’s ninety-two year old grandmother passed away.  She left us the exact amount of money we needed to open our own Apothecary shop…..

Journey to Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 2)

SAM_0354

We loaded the children up the first week of December in 2009 to find adventure and a new life in New Mexico.  I had already scouted out a few rentals in charming adobes for us and we were going to stay a week near the plaza in Santa Fe.  A week of rejuvenation is just what we needed.

As the snow fell softly outside the window, we sat in front of the kiva with its fire burning brightly and made a plan.  For me it involved a farm, a new life as an herbalist, and happy children living and playing in the land that we love.  For Doug, it was an effort to keep from crying or withdrawing.  He was still reeling from his final straw at the office.  Should he put his two weeks notice in?  Are they going to fire him?  What are we going to do?  He stressed and fought within himself the entire trip.  We weren’t sure if we could make it solely as herbalists.

IMG00014

We had just completed our first summer of farmer’s markets on the weekends just for fun.  We had a small line of products that we had made and that worked for our family.  We didn’t expect them to take off the way they did and be so accepted at the Parker and Lone Tree Farmer’s markets.  It gave us hope.  Still, we didn’t have a huge clientele. (Partially because we forgot to put our phone number on the labels that first year!)  We had fallen in love with the herbals though and wanted it to be more of our life.

It had began simply enough.  A book on natural beauty.  Which led to herbal gifts, a class held at the local nursery.  Which led to picking up a book there called 101 Herbs that Heal by Tammi Hartung.  Which led to, “What?! That heals what?”  And the mission was on to learn everything I could about herbs.  Doug followed along.  He enjoyed the farmer’s markets and that we were helping people.  He learned through me.  I got a certification as an herbalist to offer some credibility to customers the year before.  We had a new career.  But one that really only made $200 a month outside of markets.

DSCF3104

IMG00125

Then the door closed.  On New Mexico anyway.  We received an email stating that there was a rather long waiting list for herbalists to get into the markets.  I wasn’t unique there.  I tried then to get my dance company into their schools as I had done in Douglas County.  Someone had beat me to it.  Then the clincher.  No one would return my calls about the rentals.  Not a single one.  We loaded the kids back up and headed back to our home we were about to lose.

“How about Elizabeth?” Doug asked.

“Elizabeth?” I responded.  (That’s not even close to New Mexico.) “Why there?”

Doug had grown up going to and working at a summer camp in Elbert (not far from Elizabeth) and had fond memories of the whole area.  It was only thirty minutes from where we currently lived and secretly he had not wanted to move so far away.

I was thumbing through a newspaper, actually looking for a job, when I came across an advertisement for a house in Elizabeth.  Four bedrooms, 2 baths, on a quarter acre.  I called.

I said kind of snottily, “Is your house still for rent?  I have nine cats.”

“Oh good, I love cats.  Yes, when can you move in?”….

Journey to Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 1)

IMG_1527

A long, long time ago in a magical place called Denver, two people met.  In a seedy bar.  It was not romantic in any way, nor was it a place one would imagine meeting their soul mate.  It was, however, a convenient place to work after my very small children went to sleep so that I could be sure to be home with them all day.

And there he was.  So easy going, so funny.  He exuded a sort of quiet confidence without being conceited.  He was cute, and sweet, and a gentleman.  After years with someone with zero confidence and an abusive spirit, this man was a brilliant relief.  We had such easy conversations even though we were complete and total opposites.  He was Jewish, I was Catholic.  I had been married.  He was still single.  I had three children. He had none.  He was a Democrat (folks that know him now would be a bit surprised to know that) and I was Republican.  I was also a seemingly towering five inches taller than him.  Plus heels.  So, there was never a thought of romance, just friendly banter.

Which turned from evenings to email and chat.  Then to breakfasts at 2:00 am after work.  Then to phone calls.  Then, as he says, I came over and never left.  And that was that.  We simply could not imagine living without each other.

IMG_1532

We had three children camped out in his living room in a one bedroom condo.  We began house hunting.  A daunting task. He worked for a software company in Colorado Springs and needed to commute.  We needed an affordable house.  We ended up moving to a lovely house in a wonderful suburb called Parker.  We were in love, getting married, he adopted the kids, and we now had three bedrooms and a yard.  We put up window boxes, raised beds and grew our children in that house.

We did not see that the house had been patched together so that it would sell.  Nor could we have ever imagined the intensity and speed that it would deteriorate in materials and value.  At the beginning when the housing market was great we refinanced to its peak.  Trips to the Caribbean with the children, credit cards, new car, new life, a successful young couple with everything.

IMG_1530

We built raised beds out of cinder blocks and fenced them off from our new greyhound.  We tried to grow many different plants.  We forgot to water though and everything died.  I tried my hand at canning with a fair amount of failures.  We were just beginning our interest in more natural living.  We stopped taking pharmaceutical drugs when our dear brother-in-law who was a popular doctor, a young forty-nine years of age, died of cancer despite all of the top of the line treatments he was offered.  We had already started our journey into herbalism by then.  We stopped using chemical body products the more we read about ingredients.  We stopped using household cleaners.  We just stopped.  We wondered where our life was heading.

IMG_1533

Doug was now working in a job he hated.  He was overweight, unhealthy, and depressed.  I was no better off.  Teaching dance in my two dance companies, tired, overworked, and wondering what we were missing.  We figured it was money.  We went about our daily life thinking that was all there was.  All the time gaining interest in homesteading and becoming more self sufficient.  What would it be like to not have so many bills?  We were about to find out.

The balloon rate on our house was coming up.  It was jumping to a ridiculously high rate that would put our mortgage payment way out of our already stretched budget.  We tried to refinance.  Our house was worth almost a hundred thousand dollars less than what we had taken out on it.  Houses everywhere in our neighborhood were foreclosing daily.

Doug’s nervous breakdown at work was our final straw.  I was tired of having a husband that came home every night so depressed he just went to bed.  The house was falling down around us.  We were broke.  We were not happy.

Nearly eight years after moving into the house we decided to move.  I decided we were moving to New Mexico…

Seed Catalogue Addiction (a very serious thing)

IMG_1501

Seed catalogues in the mail

they come now every day.

I sit with a pot of tea,

four more months till May!

 

I pore over every page

and circle everything.

I make lists of what I need,

I cannot wait till Spring!

 

Pretty purple cauliflower

I must have some of them.

Yellow, speckled melons,

oh my, what a gem!

 

Warty, orange pumpkins,

a delight for the eye.

Giant purple peppers,

those I have to try!

 

I’m up to eight hundred dollars,

a problem, that’s for sure.

I need every type of lettuce,

an addiction I cannot cure.

 

Ten foot high colored corn,

tiny dried beans with blue spots,

Raspberry bushes that bloom all year,

or mini-cabbages, I need lots!

 

I’m out of room, I think, to farm.

Now this certainly can be hard.

I could start a farm on the roof,

or in my neighbor’s yard!

 

I have a list, I’ll make it do.

I have a lot to grow this year.

Early varieties, tried and true,

Oh look, another catalogue is here!

To Go Back in Time…

outhouse

I wonder what Laura Ingalls Wilder must have felt like at the end of her life.  To have seen the wild west as truly that.  To have only used candles, wood stoves, and root cellars.  Then to watch as electricity took the nation by storm, coffee makers and dishwashers plugged in, refrigerators and stoves.  I am sure it was amazing and something to marvel.  A woman’s life made easier.  But, I wonder if there was any mourning for the way things were done.

wood stove

Fast forward and we see that feminism brought with it the ability and expectation to not only work full time but also get to take care of the entire household at the same time!  Chemical cleaners, packaged poison food, and quick medicines with side effects, day cares where someone else can raise your child, and all the electronics you can handle are our everyday life now.  All to make a woman’s life easier.

Many folks want to go back a little.  Get a little land, live a lot simpler.  One overwhelming comment that I always here is, “But I want running water and electricity!”

woods

My Aunt Donna has a cabin up in the mountains built circa 1800’s.  I used to take my son there when he was small.  It sits nestled in a canyon with a sloping, giant of a mountain as the back yard.  Tree houses and forts dot the landscape from family members past that played in those woods.  A small meadow with a pond and a stream is in front of the house.  The sun rises over the meadow and brightens the landscape.

At the time I stayed there, electricity was not present.  There was water, gravitationally pulled I imagine, a well I don’t remember, for there was a shower outdoors in the back.  Water ran from the sink.  The outhouse was a small walk away through the fresh pines and the smell of clean air.  Birdsong escorting you there.  The peacefulness that the cabin bestowed was something that I wish for in my everyday.

At twenty one or so years old, I never even considered the fact that it had no electricity.  Oddly, I took to the woodstove instantly.  I started a fire and cooked meals on it without problems.  The smell of sweet wood.  Fresh fish.  I kept the cabin warm in the evening.  I also started a small bonfire by the pond and cooked potatoes and corn over the fire.  My son and my wolf by my side.

I know that running a full household that way day in and day out may grow old, particularly if one were to have several children.  It’s just me and Doug now.  The children skip in and out, mostly out.  And our house is getting quieter and easier to run.  I can cook on a wood cook stove.  I can heat the house with wood.  It certainly would be less shocking than the electric bill I got in the mail the other day.  I could use the water from the sinks to water the garden.  I could use a root cellar.  I could….

There is a small farmhouse with my name on it out there.  And a cook stove waiting to be lit.

Remember When….

‘Tis the beginning of the year and my eye for decorating seems to intensify.  The beginning of Autumn and the beginning of the year is when I start nesting.  I redecorate in the fall, but in January I have time to deep clean and paint.  My closet was cleaned out this week.  So many clothes were in the small farmhouse closet that I could not find my shoes.  Two large trash bags went to the thrift store of clothes I do not even wear (but might someday!).  The girls’ bathroom is on my radar this week.  A light cheery yellow, I think……

IMG_0393

You have seen my decorating style in my posts about home and design.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously.  Whimsical, a bit of humor, infusions of our love of New Mexico, and farming posters line the walls.  We have antique furniture from family or Craig’s list, and lots of cats to make everything cozy.

SAM_0058

I have begun pairing down which magazines I receive.  Magazines are my vice.  I need monthly shots of inspiration.  I have noticed that my magazines that are supposed to be country or cottage style are all becoming very modern.  That isn’t country.  There is not enough fun in that style of decorating to me.  Hard angular chairs and pristine blank surfaces make me nervous.

I picked up some old Country Living magazines from the library that someone dropped off.  I was a subscriber in the 80’s and early 90’s but I recycle magazines as soon as I read them.  I could easily keep two hundred magazines to look at later, but I would rather not.  So, coming across this old magazine was like rereading an old friend.  It gave me the giggles as well.  I think we begin to forget things like style and design, remembering select events and fuzzy faces only.  As I opened the pages of this magazine I was instantly transported back in time.

laura ashley

A time when my best friend, Susan, and I were drinking pots of raspberry coffee in front of foreign films, trying to be ever so sophisticated.  Curling our hair and listening to classical music.  Talking about boys, and school, and life as we knew it.  Going downtown on the bus and perusing the stores, loving the Laura Ashley designs that were so popular.  Watching romantic movies and wanting to be beautiful like Helena Bonham Carter in A Room With a View. 

helena

Gunny Sack dresses and books full of beautiful floral fabrics.  Of big curls, and romantic design.

gunny

I still love that look.  I do not think I will go with the flow into modern decorating and sleek outfits.  I am going to curl my hair big, put on a pretty dress, and decorate with soft florals, books, and roses.  And paint the bathroom yellow.

Homesteader’s Risotto

Delicious Italian risotto is an elegant dish to serve for dinner or simple and cozy enough to eat on the couch curled up in a blanket.  It is easy to make as well.  I am giving you the shortcut version, but not the too short cut version.  The too short cut version is essentially making rice with a little wine and broth all at once.  The time involved (30 minutes) is to create a flavorful, authentic, and satisfying dish.  Instead of Arborio (which I can never find anyway) or other long cooking rice, we will use  a quicker cooking Basmati rice.  Any rice that cooks in around 20 minutes will work.

Risotto is a great homesteading food because it uses staples like rice, homemade broth, spices as well as long lasting cheeses like parmesan, and leftover vegetables and proteins.  It is a cost savvy food and makes use of what we have.  It is easily adjusted for the amount of folks coming over and is filling and delicious with just a salad on the side.

IMG_1482

Homesteader’s Risotto

1 cup of rice (to serve two or three)

2 Tb of butter

1/2 cup of Sauvignon Blanc

4 cups of broth (homemade preferable)

A good sprinkling of parmesan

Sauté the rice in butter stirring often until rice is just starting to brown and is fragrant.

Add the wine and stir almost constantly over medium high heat until liquid has mostly evaporated.

Add 1/2 cup of broth at a time and stir until almost absorbed then add another 1/2 cup of broth. (You may or may not use all the broth depending on quickly the rice cooks.)

IMG_1480

The idea is to slowly cook the liquid into the rice over moderate heat to create a thick, creamy result.

I used my own onion broth that I put up from the onions that were left at the end of the season in the garden that were too small.  I did not add very much salt to the broth so that I would be able to spice things as I go.  If you are using a store bought broth, it will be quite salty so adjust your seasonings appropriately.

After a few cups of broth, start to add seasonings.  I like a little Italian seasoning, and a bit of red pepper.  Maybe some smoked salt and black pepper.  Add a little, wait for a few minutes, then taste it to adjust.

IMG_1478

When the rice is cooked through, add the cheese and any vegetables or protein. In another pan I sauté shrimp in a blend of olive oil, parsley and garlic and serve along side.  Enjoy a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc with it.  Perfect pairing!

Variations:

Use Chardonnay as the wine and mushrooms sautéed in near the end.

Use Pinot Grigio as the wine and sautéed greens like kale or spinach or asparagus.

Use Cabernet Sauvignon as the wine (and a wonderful purple color) with leftover steak.

Use a flavored olive oil instead of butter.

The sky’s the limit!  Buon Appetito!